AS Phil Parkinson prepares for a first return to a club where he once described a short spell as manager as “the big disappointment of my time in football”, current Hull City incumbent Leonid Slutsky is hoping to bring to an end a hugely trying start to his own stint in the East Riding.
The Russian, through a mixture of big-money departures and dreadful luck with injuries, has seen the squad he inherited in June decimated.
So stretched had his resources become by midweek that he sent out the youngest team in Hull’s history to do battle with Doncaster Rovers in the Carabao Cup.
The youngsters impressed at the Keepmoat, but, in the end, experience told as the Tigers slumped to a third defeat inside eight days.
Slutsky admitted yesterday that such a poor run has, together with the exodus that this week saw Sam Clucas become the latest to leave in a £15m switch to Swansea City, dented morale. “That is normal because if you lose dream, you lose everything,” he said.
The arrival of left-back Stephen Kingsley and Jon Toral in the past 48 hours, however, has left the Hull chief believing the tide is turning with further signings expected in the coming days.
It is not important if it is on loan or a buy. For the club, though, it is important to buy players who will continue to stay here, like with Toral.Hull boss Leonid Slutsky
“This is a very good chance to come back and to recover,” said the 46-year-old, who is understood to be closing in on a season-long loan deal for Watford forward Isaac Success.
“Bolton are a good team with a very stable squad. Ninety per cent of their squad played there last season and they have that advantage.
“But this can be an important game for us and we must remember the situation can change very quickly. In the first two matches, we had a squad for promotion. Then, after five injuries and Clucas out, we have another squad. Again, though, please (show) patience and everyone work hard.”
Victory would, of course, send Hull into the international break – and, more importantly, the final days of the window – in a much more positive mood.
Asked about the club’s recruitment plans, Slutsky added: “We need four players more before the end of the transfer window.
“We have three more loan options and, for me, the level of the players is more important (than if signed permanently). If possible, we will look to bring in more high level players.
“It is not important if it is on loan or a buy. For the club, though, it is important to buy players who will continue to stay here, like with Toral.
“We have a chance (to challenge for promotion) but we must see our final squad.
“Two matches ago, we had five more players at an unbelievable level. Clucas, (Abel) Hernandez, (Fraizer) Campbell, (Markus) Henriksen and (Kevin) Stewart – all international level players.
“We will see if it is possible (to strengthen sufficiently), but we will know the players coming in will be targeting promotion with us.”
Tonight’s game, brought forward to avoid a clash with the rugby league Challenge Cup final at Wembley featuring Hull FC, brings a first return for Parkinson to East Yorkshire since his dismissal by the Tigers.
Brought in during the summer of 2006 after leading Colchester United into the Champoinship via two promotions inside three seasons, he lasted just five months before being replaced by Phil Brown.
Speaking to The Yorkshire Post ahead of leading Bradford City out before the 2013 League Cup final, Parkinson recalled: “Basically, I picked the wrong time to go to Hull.
“Maybe the right job, but at the wrong time. Hull showed what potential they had by reaching the Premier League not too much later.
“I found that I had inherited a team suffering from ‘second-season syndrome’ (Hull had finished 18th in 2005-06, their first year at Championship level for 14 years). That was hard.
“We needed a complete rebuild. I brought in Michael Turner, Dean Marney, Sam Ricketts and a few others that summer. They did well for Hull, in the end.
“But at the time, maybe it was a bit early to expect them to carry the mantle of what I was trying to do.
“It was the big disappointment of my time in football. But I learned a lot from the experience.”
Parkinson clearly put those lessons to good use by reviving Bradford via promotion from League Two and that historic appearance in the League Cup final. He then took Bolton up in his first season at the helm.
Wanderers, who knocked Sheffield Wednesday out of the Cup in midweek, could face both former Swansea left-back Kingsley and Toral, a £3m arrival from Arsenal, as they look to claim a first league win of the campaign.
Last six games: Hull City Hull City LWWLLL Bolton Wanderers LWDDLW.
Referee: O Langford (West Midlands).
Last time: Hull City 1 Bolton Wanderers 0; December 12, 2015; Championship.