Hobbs can prove point as he links with Tigers chief again

As Hull City today prepare to take on the Championship’s most expensive strike force, Richard Sutcliffe talks to new signing Jack Hobbs about memorable previous meetings with Cardiff City.

MARKING Robbie Fowler in front of the Anfield Kop would be enough to test the mettle of any teenage debutant.

Throw in that Jack Hobbs, the player in question, also broke his nose on the back of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s head during that bow for Liverpool and it is clear Hull City’s new signing is not easily intimidated.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Such a trait is one of the reasons why Nigel Pearson moved quickly earlier this month to snap up the 22-year-old when he was surprisingly made available for loan by Leicester City.

It is also why the City manager is unlikely to have any qualms should he need to turn to Hobbs today against the Championship’s most expensive, and potentially explosive, attack.

“Craig Bellamy, Jay Bothroyd and Michael Chopra pose a terrific attacking threat to any team,” says Hobbs ahead of today’s meeting with Cardiff City at the KC Stadium.

“It means it will be tough but what we have to do is remember the great run the team has been on lately. The lads have done brilliantly to get up the table and within touching distance of the play-offs.

“There is a lot of momentum behind Hull City right now. It is one of the reasons why I signed.”

Cardiff will today provide perhaps the stiffest test yet for a City side who have lost just once in 18 games.

Hobbs, who is likely to start on the bench after making his Tigers debut as a late substitute in Tuesday’s 1-0 win over Derby County, faced Dave Jones’s men five times last season in Leicester’s colours.

He was also in the line-up when the Foxes beat the Welsh club 2-1 at the Walkers Stadium earlier this season so knows all about the danger posed by a frontline that boasts England international Bothroyd, one-time £5m signing Michael Chopra and Bellamy, whose career transfers amount to £45m.

Not, however, that someone whose debut came against two of the Premier League’s most deadly marksmen is likely to be overawed.

“It was definitely memorable,” says Hobbs of the October, 2007, night he helped Liverpool knock a Cardiff side featuring Fowler and Hasselbaink out of the Carling Cup fourth round with a 2-1 win at Anfield.

“I loved every minute of it, even if it did include me breaking my nose when I headed the back of Hasselbaink’s head. Nothing could have spoiled that night, especially as we won the game.

“It was a dream to play in front of the Kop at Anfield. And for me to be marking Robbie Fowler, who is a ‘God’ at Liverpool, made the night even more special.”

Hobbs’s debut in the famous red shirt of Liverpool came a couple of seasons after he had moved from Lincoln City in a deal reputed to be worth around £750,000.

While at Sincil Bank, he made just one appearance – coming off the bench to play just three minutes of a 1-1 draw with Bristol Rovers – but it was enough to earn the accolade of being the Imps’ youngest player in history.

Once at Anfield, he quickly became a mainstay of the reserve team while he also played an integral role in the Reds lifting the FA Youth Cup in 2006.

The first-team debut against Cardiff that proved so memorable came the following year but, still, chances proved to be few and far between.

He went on loan to Scunthorpe United before the moment that changed his career arrived via a loan switch to Leicester in the summer of 2008. The Foxes had just been relegated and new manager Pearson was desperate to add some quality to his squad.

It proved an inspired decision with Hobbs missing just two games as the League One title was won at a canter.

A permanent switch followed and last season he was again the mainstay of a side that reached the Championship play-offs, where they lost on penalties to Cardiff after winning the second leg in Wales 3-2.

Pearson’s shock departure for Hull last summer initially made little impact on Hobbs but all that changed when former England coach Sven Goran Eriksson started to bring in his own players during the January transfer window.

Hobbs said: “My time at Leicester went really well. We got out of League One as champions and then I captained Leicester to the play-offs.

“Unfortunately, we lost in the semi-finals and that was tough. We played Cardiff five times in total because we were also drawn against them in the FA Cup.

“They are a good side but we were unlucky to go out. To put in so much effort and then miss out because of one penalty kick was hard to take.

“The dressing room atmosphere afterwards was awful. Everyone was so frustrated and disappointed. Losing like that is probably the lowest you can feel in football.

“But I try not to dwell on it too much. It is in the past and only useful in that you can learn from the experience.

“As for this season, things have not gone as planned. I spoke to Sven about me not playing and said, ‘You are bringing in your own people so can I go?’

“He said ‘yes’ and as soon as I found out Hull were interested, I knew this was the move to make.

“I have settled really quickly. It probably helped knowing a couple of the lads from Leicester, Matty Fryatt and Nobby Solano.

“I also, obviously, knew the manager and coaching staff from Leicester as well and I am really looking forward to helping Hull City.”

With his focus now firmly on the Tigers, Hobbs believes he could be in for another eventful end to a season.

The defender, also a target for Sheffield Wednesday, said: “I had the chance of signing for a few clubs after Sven said I could leave Leicester. I chose Hull because they are a good club and could have an exciting end to the season.

“It should be an interesting couple of months. Hopefully, we can keep piling up the results and make a real push for promotion.

“The run the team has been on has been excellent.

“The lads have been telling me what a slow start they had and how they are determined to make up for that.

“I see a lot of similarities with Leicester last season and, hopefully, we can reach the play-offs with me playing my part.”