Swansea City v Hull City: Clock is ticking as Tigers strive to add necessary strength in depth

Hull City caretaker manager Mike Phelan. Picture: Barry Coombs/PA.
Hull City caretaker manager Mike Phelan. Picture: Barry Coombs/PA.
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MIKE PHELAN had hoped this would be a big week for Hull City.

But, seven days on from that stunning victory over champions Leicester City, very little has changed at the Yorkshire club.

Southampton's Jay Rodriguez has been linked with a move to Hull City.

Southampton's Jay Rodriguez has been linked with a move to Hull City.

No new signings, no clarification over who will be Steve Bruce’s permanent successor and no official comment on whether the much-touted takeover of the Tigers by a Chinese consortium has moved forward. So, very much a case of ‘as you were’ ahead of today’s long trip to Swansea, with even Phelan adding to the apparent status quo by continuing to park in the slot reserved for the assistant manager at City’s Cottingham training ground rather than the one previously occupied by Bruce.

“Things are getting tighter and tighter,” admits the 53-year-old as he looks to again inspire a shock with a squad that is down to the bare bones.

“The days are ticking away. I mentioned last week it could have been a big week this week but not a lot has happened. We just have to do our job and that is to win football matches.”

Last weekend, of course, Phelan and his players did just that. Against a Leicester side looking to start the defence of their crown in positive fashion, Hull were full value for a three points that may yet prove the tipping point in terms of pushing through a takeover.

Certainly, there have been few more persuasive adverts for a club that is up for sale than the manner of last weekend’s 2-1 triumph in front of the watching Chinese consortium.

And although on the surface very little seems to have changed at the KCOM Stadium, moves are seemingly afoot behind the scenes.

On Thursday, a new UK company called Rehne Goldenway Sports Management Ltd appointed brother and sister Dai Yongge and Dai Xin Li, the two leaders of the consortium bidding to buy City, as directors. If a £100m sale can be struck with the Allams, it is believed the club will be owned by Rehne Goldenway.

Asked yesterday if he was aware of where a potential sale was at, Phelan replied: “Only that it is ongoing. It is something that lawyers take their time with.

“There is the opportunity for this club to be taken over. It would be helpful for everyone (if something could be done before the transfer window closes on August 31). People are looking in and wanting something to happen. That is only natural.

“The two parties are talking and that is as far as it has gone, at the moment. It is up to them to get the job done. I really have to leave it there. What they do is their business.”

Time, of course, is limited for Hull. The transfer window shuts in 11 days and City badly need reinforcements to a squad that even with Harry Maguire possibly involved today numbers just 14 fit senior players, two of whom are goalkeepers.

Southampton striker Jay Rodriguez was yesterday linked with a possible loan move to the East Riding along with Moussa Konate, a forward with Swiss club FC Sion. Phelan would not be drawn on names but he did confirm that players can be signed even without the takeover going ahead.

“That has been the message that I have understood,” said the caretaker chief. “Whatever happens with the potential takeover will happen. This club still has to sign players.

“There has been a budget that we have to work to. Whether that changes or not, I don’t know. At the moment, there is a budget and we are trying to get players in within that structure.

“When you look at the depth of the squad, I think we are looking all over (the pitch). We need players to enhance our quality. We are allowed two loans from this country and allowed as many as possible from anywhere else.

“But I think the point is to try and get people permanently here. That gives them a sense of purpose and a place to work from. Though, if we have to do loans, we will do loans.

“We have made a lot of phone calls and we are working on things but it is a case of getting them over the line that is proving difficult.”

The victory over Leicester owed as much to the endeavour and spirit of the players as it did Phelan. Not only did he maintain spirits during a troubled pre-season but the former midfielder also devised a tactical masterplan to nullify the champions. The guttural roar from Phelan that met the final whistle illustrated just what the moment meant to the Lancastrian.

“I have got a 100 per cent record so I should probably quit now, shouldn’t I? One win out of one,” he added. “I did enjoy it, yes. I felt very relaxed and never really felt under any pressure, simply because of the circumstances at the club.

“It was important that we just enjoyed the day. I was a player myself and that means I can understand the mood and feelings that players have.

“You just try and keep them together and doing what they do best, which is training hard and playing games. They have to enjoy it and at the moment, with all that is going on around Hull. That is important.”

Asked about his reaction at the final whistle, Phelan smiled before adding: “I got caught up in all the management stuff, all the emotion. If it is good enough for the big managers, I thought, ‘Why not?’ Let’s join in and see what it feels like.

“There is a euphoria in it. There is a sudden surge of energy. It is only human because it means so much, not just to yourself and the players but to the supporters and the club.

“We had a high last week against Leicester and, hopefully, we can get there again. We don’t want too many lows.”

As Phelan sat down to speak to the media yesterday morning, the fire alarm at City’s training ground suddenly sparked into life. Phelan made light of the interruption, quipping with a dead-pan face: “There is no alarm at this football club!”

Another seven days of inactivity in the transfer market, however, and it surely won’t just be in Cottingham where the alarm bells are ringing loud and clear for Hull City.