WHEN you are managing a side striving to maintain their divisional status at the sharp end of the season, selection calls are usually not made on sentiment.
The head tends to rule the heart in decision-making at this time of year, with Hull City chief Nigel Adkins in the fortunate position of being able to pick from strength ahead of this evening’s venture in the lair of stand-out Championship leaders Wolves.
It is perhaps just as well.
While it goes without saying that striker Nouha Dicko would cherish an opportunity at Molineux against his former club tonight – who he only left to join Hull in late August – equally he will know full well that Adkins’s call will be made on hard logic and from a position of strength.
Mali international forward Dicko, who ironically scored the third goal for Wolves in the reverse fixture in mid-August, must compete against Abel Hernandez, Fraizer Campbell, Will Keane and Adama Diomande for involvement this evening, with Adkins spoilt for choice in his attacking options.
Adkins said: “I am sure he (Dicko) would love to go back to Wolves and start the game. He has got massive attributes.
“(But) Abel is a talented football player who has been out and had a good couple of weeks training with us now as well. Nouha obviously went away on international duty and came back. Abel has done great and I have got Fraizer Campbell, Nouha, Will Keane and Diomande.
“I have got an array of strikers. But obviously to play as well in the middle of the pitch, we have got to make sure we are competitive in there and play two out and out wingers to give a threat and one player to play in there behind. At times, we have played two up top.
“Abel is a talented football player. But ultimately, I have to make a decision. Do I play Nouha or Abel. Or why don’t I play Fraizer.? These are the things I have to make a decision on. I will always reflect on things afterwards, which is the right call.”
The necessity of ensuring that those calls come off tonight is heightened by the fact that Hull face a Wolves side who can see the finish line just ahead in their pretty exemplary pursuit of promotion and, with it, silverware.
They are that good; they are the real deal and will go up and do well next season in the Premier League as wellHull City boss, Nigel Adkins
They have the look of a team who are quick to seize on opponents’ deficiencies, with Adkins having plenty of food for thought ahead of pitting his wits against Nuno Espirito Santo’s side, who he feels are comprehensively the best team in the division.
On whether Wolves are the cream of the Championship crop, Adkins replied: “Head and shoulders. They are that good; they are the real deal and will go up and do well next season in the Premier League as well.
“They have got good players and a defensive organisation about themselves where they are not going to concede that many goals and have got attacking flair, pace and a nastiness about themselves. They are athletic, big and a massive threat from set-plays. They are the real deal.
“We require that grit and resilience that you need and that bit of composure too.”
Only Nottingham Forest have come away from Molineux with a league win since August 19, underlining the task in hand for a Hull side intent on clinching their Championship status sooner rather than later before thoughts can turn towards planning for next season.
But in a division which is notoriously capricious and erratic, tales of the unexpected can and do arrive.
The fall-out of Wolves’ bruising and intense victory at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium on Good Friday means that defender Matt Doherty and key midfielder Ruben Neves must both sit out tonight’s game through suspension, with Wolves playing the final 19 minutes of the 2-1 win on Teesside with nine men.
The poise and craft of Neves, who has graced the division this term and proved himself to be a class act, will be particularly missed.
Spying some hope, defender Ola Aina said: “It is the Championship and anyone can beat anyone.
“As of now, Wolves have been playing well and they have got some fantastic players. They are looking to pick up three points wherever they play.
“It will be a tough one, but it is not one that we are thinking is out of our hands. We can go there and hopefully do a job.
“A lot of injured players have come back and that is great for the team and the manager, it gives him a good headache. It is not easy to even pick the substitutes.
“We have got the right back-up and there are no excuses now.”
Last six games: Wolves LWLWWW; Hull City DLWWLD.
Referee: D England (South Yorkshire).
Last time: Wolves 1 Hull 1, August 16, 2015; Championship.