FOR someone very much regarded as the forgotten man at Everton earlier this season, Oumar Niasse’s ability to take centre stage for Hull City at the KCOM Stadium has been nothing short of remarkable.
Since swapping one end of the M62 for the other in January, the Senegal striker has netted five times in eight home games for the Tigers. It is a tally made all the more impressive by only half of those appearances having been starts.
Niasse’s most recent outing in front of the Hull fans was also notable, the striker being dismissed courtesy of a truly dreadful decision from referee Bobby Madley that Marco Silva’s side made light of by going on to beat Watford 2-0.
The Football Association rescinded that red card a couple of days later, meaning Niasse has another opportunity today to make a big impression against already relegated Sunderland. It is one he plans to take.
“From where I came from – five months in the second team with Everton, playing in empty stadiums – to coming here and playing has been great,” said the 27-year-old loanee, so out of favour at Goodison Park that he was not given either a squad number or locker last summer by the Merseyside club.
“I was in a difficult situation at Everton. I knew it wasn’t me doing something wrong. It was life and football can be like that. But Hull gave me a chance.”
Maybe, you never know, I can have a good contract in the summer with Hull and play in the Premier League for the next three years. I don’t think that I am just on loan, that never passes my mind.Oumar Niasse
Ronald Koeman, newly appointed at Goodison Park, took just 45 minutes of a pre-season friendly last summer to make up his mind about Niasse, whose arrival six months earlier in a £13.5m deal from Lokomotiv Moscow had been as Everton’s third most expensive signing in the club’s history.
Asked if he felt to have proved a point to the Toffees, the Tigers loanee replied: “Not yet. I have a long way to go, compared to the money they paid for me. I have to keep going and give my best. I need to show that I deserve to play in the Premier League.”
A similar task is facing Hull right now. Two points clear of the relegation zone with three games remaining, Hull’s fate is in their own hands.
Victory today against Sunderland would be a major fillip to those hopes of survival, not least because it would pile the pressure on Swansea City ahead of their tea-time game with Niasse’s parent club Everton at the Liberty Stadium.
“I spoke with Idrissa Gueye earlier this week and said to him the only way he can help me now is to beat Swansea,” said the Senegalese striker. “We are going to win our game, my worry is by how many goals.
“We need goals to change the goal difference a little bit. Everton lost the last game against Chelsea so I know how they are going to prepare against Swansea. Hopefully, they are going to do a job and we are going to do it also.
“With all the respect I have for Sunderland, my worry is about how many goals we are going to score. I live my life with this confidence and we have the same mentality in this team. Especially at home.
“We showed that mentality against Watford. Even with 10 men for 65 minutes, we did it. So, with all respect, I am not going to worry about Sunderland.”
On paper, a home game against an already doomed opponent is a fixture for any relegation-threatened side to welcome.
Hull, however, have tripped up in front of their own fans before against a near-demoted opponent at a crucial stage of the run-in.
Burnley were the visitors in both 2010 and 2015 who sprung those major late-season surprises, winning 4-1 and 1-0 in the East Riding to help condemn the Tigers to the drop alongside the Clarets.
Iain Dowie and Steve Bruce were in charge for those pair of damaging defeats, but Silva knows only too well how important it is to guard against complacency ahead of a fixture such as today’s. It is why, when informed of Niasse’s comments about the need to boost Hull’s inferior goal difference, the Portuguese promised to pull his striker to one side for a quiet word.
Still, if the loanee can maintain the form that has brought a key role in four victories on home soil for Hull then maybe Swansea’s current two-goal advantage can be reined in.
“I am doing my best to enjoy my football,” added Niasse. “Things are going well, but we need more from the next three games. We need more points and I know I can do better. Three more games to go, three more 90 minutes to show myself and give goals and assists.”
Niasse’s influence away from the KCOM has been nowhere near as evident. He has, in fact, missed some big chances on the road, most notably at Stoke City three weeks ago when he squandered gilt-edged opportunities either side of half-time.
Last weekend, he was also largely anonymous in a goalless draw at Southampton, but there can be no denying just how pivotal a figure he will have been if the Tigers can stay up.
His efforts may yet open the door to a possible permanent switch in the summer. “Coming to the club as a loan is the same as a player who comes here as a permanent signing,” he said.
“I am feeling 100 per cent a Hull City player. My only worry is to help the team to stay in the Premier League. This is a good club, I have enjoyed myself with the players and staff here. I have two months to think about where I will be after the last game.
“Maybe, you never know, I can have a good contract in the summer with Hull and play in the Premier League for the next three years. I don’t think that I am just on loan, that never passes my mind.”