DESPERATE times call for desperate measures.
Harry Maguire, with less than an hour of Premier League game time to his name, could be pressed into action as a make-shift striker tomorrow for Hull City.
The injury crisis that has ruled out £17m duo Abel Hernandez and Nikica Jelavic for the trip to West Ham United has opened up the possibility of the 21-year-old defender being used up front.
It is a role Maguire is hardly familiar with, his 166 appearances for Sheffield United having invariably come at the heart of a back four.
Manager Steve Bruce, however, saw enough in a 20-minute cameo up front by Maguire for the Blades in last April’s FA Cup semi-final against Hull to suggest he can do a decent job.
“We do have options up front,” explained the Tigers’ chief, who was forced to field widemen Tom Ince and Robbie Brady in attack at West Bromwich Albion a week ago after losing his big money strike duo.
“There is obviously Yannick (Sagbo), little Quinny (Stephen Quinn) played there off the front man in the FA Cup final. In fact, we have got a few for that role, but we haven’t got too much more beyond that.
“That is why we have looked at Harry Maguire because we know he has played there for Sheffield United.
“He scored a lot of goals last year. It is a big ask for him (to play up front) but it could happen.
“We have seen it happen before, in fact we used to see it all the time in my day. I used to play there occasionally. I was hopeless, mind.
“The big thing is Harry can play. He has done it before at a lower level. We will have some sort of solution.
“People frowned when I played (Sone) Aluko and (Gaston) Ramirez together at Sunderland, but we scored three times.”
Asked if Maguire had been tried out in an attacking role during training, Bruce replied: “Yes, and he looked all right.”
James Chester echoes that view, the defender having come up against the former Blade this week at the club’s Cottingham training ground.
“I think ‘H’ has been great since he came in,” said the Tigers defender, who will again forsake his usual preference of playing in the middle to fill in at right-back tomorrow.
“People see how big he is but he has got great feet and he is comfortable on the ball. If he does go up there, then I will be happy with it.
“Just his size will bring some panic into the opposition and he has got great feet so maybe it could be a new role for him.”
Along with the semi-final defeat to Hull, Maguire also moved up front during the second half of the Blades’ FA Cup fifth-round victory over Nottingham Forest.
Even so, asking him to fulfil the same role against a team who have been one of this season’s success stories could be asking a lot.
Bruce, though, is running out of options, even if Ramirez and Aluko have made an earlier than expected return to the squad after injury.
Both were expected to miss at least a few weeks and the Hull manager admits to being wary about throwing either straight back into the starting XI.
“You are always worried, especially this year with all the injuries we have had,” he said.
“Have they done enough? Are they undercooked? Are they going to break down?
“Unfortunately, that can happen. We will not do much in the two days before the game so we will see how they are physically.”
With Mohamed Diame, Robert Snodgrass, Andrew Robertson and Liam Rosenior also still out, Bruce has been actively scouring the transfer market.
However, where a year ago he moved early to bring in Shane Long and Jelavic, this time around he has been more circumspect.
Jermaine Defoe and Yaya Sanogo were both subject of enquiries from the Tigers, but decided to go elsewhere and Bruce admits getting value in the current window is not proving easy.
He said: “We haven’t seen much (value). It is like always, it will probably hot up when there are three or four days to go.
“Everyone is jostling for position at the moment, to see the availability.
“The frustration is that it’s difficult because where are the players you want? Where are the centre-forwards for limited money or on loan?
“We will keep trying and working away at it, and hopefully discover something.
“I have said it before, we won’t gamble. I don’t usually gamble, I don’t think that’s right. There is always risk attached to any signing. Can they hit the ground running or will they take time?
“If you can buy someone instantly, like a Defoe, it’s a no-brainer. We tried our best, but it was ultimately too rich for us.”
Hull spent an unprecedented near £50m in the two windows of 2014, but Bruce insists the board is trying to bring in fresh faces.
“We invested really well in the summer,” he said. “Even on deadline day, the chairman freed up the money which we had paid in (Robert) Snodgrass (who was ruled out for the season on the opening day).
“It has become a little bit difficult, but if we didn’t have injuries I don’t think I would be knocking on the door.
“Needs must and, to be fair to the chairman, he realises that. We will keep working away.
“I won’t just bring someone in for the sake of it, otherwise it just defeats the object of what you are doing.
“If they’re not good enough then what is the point?