HULL CITY head coach Nigel Adkins believes the club’s supporters have every right to start the new year in excited mood after a stirring end to 2018.
The Tigers moved to the top of the Championship form table by beating Leeds United at Elland Road.
Two goals from Jarrod Bowen were enough to take Hull’s points haul from six games in December to a hugely impressive 16.
Bolton Wanderers today stand between Hull and a victory that could nudge Adkins’s men into the top half of the table.
Considering the Tigers started December in the relegation zone with just four wins to their name from 19 league outings, the 53-year-old is rightly proud of his team’s efforts.
“Be excited,” said Adkins when asked if he had a message for supporters now that Hull are closer to the play-off places than the drop zone.
“That is what we are after. The Leeds United game was a special day. To go to Elland Road and win was a great way to finish the year. We say (to the players), ‘keep believing and put a smile on people’s faces’.
“Keep being positive. We are enjoying this run, but we are also aware of the challenges that lie ahead. I said when I first came to the club that I want everyone to do well. I want every player and member of staff to have great careers and progress.
“I want supporters to love coming to watch their team and know that they will see passion and a group of players working their socks off. Sometimes that does not always work, but with our experience I would like to think we do a lot of the right things.”
Asked about his objectives for the rest of the campaign, Adkins replied: “The objective before the season was to make sure we stayed in the division because everyone had us tipped to be relegated. There is still a lot of work to do, but everyone is pulling in the right direction.”
Hull kick off the year in buoyant mood. The upsurge in form that began with a win over Bolton in late October has brought cheer amid the ongoing uncertainty of whether a planned takeover can be completed in the coming weeks.
A successful resolution would suit all parties, but the next step remains with the would-be purchasers. In the meantime Adkins has to get on with the task of extending a four-game winning run that has not been bettered since the League One promotion winning campaign of 2004-05.
“Bolton will be a very different game to Leeds,” said Adkins about today’s head-to-head game with one of his predecessors in the home dugout, Phil Parkinson. “But it will be tough. We have got to work as hard as we can to be physically prepared.
“It will probably be a different team that starts against Bolton to the one that started against Leeds because it is such a short turnaround between games.
I want supporters to love coming to watch their team and know that they will see passion and a group of players working their socks off. Sometimes that does not always work but, with our experience, I would like to think we do a lot of the right things.Hull City manager, Nigel Adkins
“There is another game after that in the FA Cup (against Millwall) so we have got to utilise the squad.
“I might want to start a player, but you can’t risk him. You have got to try and make the right calls.
“Our momentum is good at this moment, but there is no complacency. We are well aware that we have got to be at it against a team like Bolton. There is no greater example of that than when we last played Bolton. That was tough.”
Fraizer Campbell is one of those Adkins is keen not to rush back after the striker missed the Elland Road triumph with a hamstring injury.
Jackson Irvine remains absent on international duty with Australia at the Asian Cup, but Evandro could be included after playing 45 minutes in the 2-0 win over Leeds.
“Everyone will get the opportunity because this is the Championship and it is tough,” added Adkins.
“It will never just be 11 players who help you achieve your goals. We lost several players ahead of Leeds, but the players who stepped in were brilliant.”
One of those who have had to be patient this term is Kevin Stewart.
The 25-year-old has started the last three games and Adkins believes the midfielder typifies the ethos he thinks can keep driving Hull up the table.
“Kevin Stewart was brilliant again at Leeds,” added the Tigers’ chief. “He has been out of the equation and he has had a difficult time since he has been at the club with the games he has played.
“But he comes in and he works his socks off. I said to him after the Leeds game that I was so pleased for him. He has performed again and he has grown in that position in the middle of the pitch.
“That comes down to attitudes and behaviours. Everyone puts their individual egos to one side because it is about the team. That is what we keep talking about.”
Last six games: Hull City WDWWWW Bolton Wanderers DLLLWD.
Referee: T Harrington (Cleveland).
Last time: Hull City 4 Bolton Wanderers 0; August 25, 2017; Championship.