Hull City starting to reap rewards of Academy

Grant McCann has been delighted to draft three quality players into Hull City’s squad this month, but insists there is “nothing better” than bringing players through the academy.

Keane Lewis-Potter of Hull City. (Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

So far this month the Tigers have loaned Gavin Whyte and Dan Crowther and picked up free agent Jordan Flores but their most significant signing has been tying Hull-born 19-year-old Keane Lewis-Potter to a new contract.

The forward is one of a slew of home-grown players to have made an impact on the first team this season.

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Earlier this month Andy Smith became the eighth academy graduate to make his debut in 2020-21, after James Berry, Harvey Cartwright, Billy Chadwick, Jacob Greaves, Jordan Hickey, Callum Jones and Ahmed Salam.

Smith was born in Banbury but moved to East Yorkshire at a young age. Berry, Chadwick and Salam were born and bred there, as was Greaves, son of former Hull player Mark. Cartwright is born in Grimsby. Hull-born Brandon Fleming has continued his progress too.

“I think it’s really important,” said coach McCann. “You’ve seen this season the amount of young players who have come into the team this season, all from the academy.

“(Hull-born) Jake Leake, the young left-back is another we think very highly of, he’s been training with us (the first team) constantly.
We love nothing better than bringing boys through the academy because this is their club.

“The football club’s invested heavily in the academy in the last few years and there’s some good work goes on there behind the scenes. When they come up here into a different environment with the first team we give them an opportunity, an environment where they can grow, they can take the hits off the older players, learn from that and get better.

“We love nothing better than to give young boys an opportunity in the first team to come in and show what they’ve got.

“They’re all good friends. They’ve all come through the system together and they push each other every day. When they’re with us (the first team) they learn from Richie Smallwood, Josh Magennis, George Honeyman, Callum Elder, boys who have been at the top levels.”

It helps the League One leaders’ finances too, which will hopefully see more youngsters emerging at their local clubs in these difficult financial times, but McCann is loathe to overplay that.

“It is important but I don’t think it’s about budgets,” he insisted. “If they’re good enough, they’re old enough and probably Greavesy is one that stands out in how he’s developing and growing. The loan he had at a good club last season in Cheltenham was very good for him and he’s progressed.

“You have to take budgets into account but if the young lads are better than what we’ve got, they’ll play, there’s no question.”

The club had been in a stand-off with Lewis-Potter over a new contract until last week he agreed to a new deal until 2023. On top of the three signings from outside, McCann says it has lifted spirits and quality.
“It’s a big relief for everybody because the kid’s a special talent and we’re delighted it’s done and dusted,” he said.

“It’s been a bit of a process but it’s over the line, done, he’s signed the deal. We’re really pleased.

“I’ve got a really, really good relationship with Keane and I just want to continue helping him along the way in his development and making him a better player because in turn we will be a better team.

“It’s always nice to add quality to your group. It’s not easy in January but it’s nice to do, especially in the position we’re in.

“Jordan, Dan, Gavin and Keano getting sorted with his contract has made us stronger.

“It gives us more opportunities to give people a little breather and not flog them, which is key to any good season. If you want to be up at the top of the division and you want to stay there, you just can’t go with the same 11 players, it has to be a squad game and people have to understand when they train well or play well in certain games that there’s opportunities for them. That’s the way we go about most games – we pick the team we feel is ready to go in that game.

“The January transfer window has made us better equipped to do that.”

It cannot be one-way traffic, and McCann will not stand in Martin Samuelsen’s way if interest from Scandinavia firms up into a possible move for the Norwegian playmaker, who has only made three starts for him, all last season.

“I’ve had a really good chat with Martin and he’s a really clued-up kid, he wants to play football and I won’t stand in his way,” said McCann of the former Manchester City and West Ham United youngster.

“I think that’s progressing a little bit but nothing concrete.”

Samuelsen’s hometown club FK Haugesund are thought to be interested, as are five-time Norwegian champions Valerenga and an un-named Danish club.

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