The Tigers entertain MK Dons this afternoon and will take to the field without their skipper, who is expected to miss all or most of the remainder of the season having sustained medial knee ligament damage following a collision with team-mate George Long during last weekend’s defeat at Burton Albion.
The experienced Smallwood has played a big part in the East Yorkshiremen’s title challenge this term, starting 23 of the 24 League One fixtures that he has been available for since joining the club last summer.
He has added steel to the City midfield and led by example, and although McCann described the ex-Middlesbrough man’s loss to injury as a “kick in the teeth”, he believes that there is sufficient character within the group to compensate.
Lewie Coyle took over the armband against Lincoln in midweek, but he is just one of a number of strong personalities whom Hull’s head coach expects to stand up and be counted.
“The other players need to step up in Rich’s absence, and they will do. We’ve got good leaders in the changing room,” McCann said.
“We’ve got Lewie Coyle, Greg Docherty, George Honeyman has captained Sunderland, Josh Magennis is never quiet and always wants to voice an opinion –which is brilliant.
“I think Jacob Greaves is developing into a very good leader, you know. He’s a young boy but he’s starting to come out of his shell a lot more and is talking, barking orders. It’s brilliant.
“Matt Ingram, George Long – whoever plays in net – so, right through the spine of the team we’ve got good characters and they’ll all step up to the plate.”
The aforementioned Greaves may only be 20-years-old and still be finding his feet at League One level, but City’s head coach has already identified him as potential future captain material.
Asked if he thought that his highly-rated young centre-half is a natural-born leader, McCann replied: “I think he’s going that way.
“He’s still young, obviously, and still quite new to playing week in, week out at this level, but you can see the way he trains, the way he plays that he’s got those credentials, definitely.”
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