Matthew Crichton: Hull were promoted from League One as champions last season, what are your expectations ahead of your return to Championship football?
Luke Flanagan: With the embargo being what it is, we don’t have a particularly strong squad as yet. I know McCann has said he’s trying to add a few more before the season starts, but I would snatch your hand off for simply surviving.
I hope we do much better than that of course, but the last time we got promoted out of the third tier we did well to stay in the division. I’d expect the same.
MC: So far in the transfer window Hull have signed three free transfers and made two loan moves - are the club expected to spend money during the window, or is Grant McCann working on a very tight budget?
LF: We’re under an embargo, so the EFL will only allow us to sign free agents and loans. No transfer fees can be exchanged for any player until the loan we got from the league is paid off. So the latter - McCann has a very tight budget.
Tom Huddlestone is training with the squad and played in a friendly at the weekend as he is a free agent, so I’d hope that he’ll be offered at least a one year deal. Ideally we need a striker, though. We are light in that area.
MC: Hull have signed Andy Cannon, George Moncur, Randell Williams, as well as Ryan Longman and Nathan Baxter on loan. Which of those signings most excite you and why?
LF: I watched two friendlies at the weekend where all of them featured across the two games, and Ryan Longman was the one that really impressed.
He has pace and causes defenders all sorts of problems.
Also, he set up a great goal for Andy Cannon, who I expect to provide competition in midfield. All of the players look promising, but I think Longman will be one of the ones to watch.
MC: Ex-Sunderland midfielder George Honeyman was voted as the best player in League One last season, has he received any interest from other clubs and do you think he can step up to Championship level?
LF: George played the back part of last season needing ankle surgery, and although he came back raring to go for pre-season he’s suffered a set back. That means he won’t be available until September which is a huge blow for us.
He did play Championship level for us in the 19/20 season, and to be fair he was one of the only players to emerge from the post-lockdown games with any credit. I think he’s a better player than he was when we signed him, so I’m confident he’ll be crucial for us.
MC: Keane Lewis-Potter was another exciting player for Hull last season, scoring 15 goals in all competitions. How important was it to see him sign a new two-year deal and for Hull to keep hold of their best youth prospect?
LF: Very. Not only to the team - he’s a match winner on his day - but also to the fans. Keano is from Hull and the fans always adore those home town lads that little bit more; always forgive them for an occasional misplaced pass or shot.
The contract situation last season where he initially didn’t sign caused lots of resentment, and he’s someone that is also going to be one of the first names on the team sheet. I’m delighted he signed and I hope we keep him past that contract!
MC: New Sunderland signing Corry Evans spent two and a half seasons with Hull - do you think we have signed a quality player for League One level?
LF: Definitely - I was a big fan of him in midfield for us when we were in the Championship under Nigel Pearson. He was on loan first and then signed later, but he was a combative midfielder who had a good range of passing.
He left us eight years ago, but I know he’s still only 30 - so he should provide that bite in midfield you need in League One.
MC: Hull have only played two pre-season friendlies so far, are you surprised the club have played so few games with the season just over a week away?
LF: Yes and no. It’s a big season and we need to hit the ground running, so players do need minutes - but I think Grant is also conscious of not overworking the squad too much.
The squad isn’t massive, and we’ve already had three key players - Honeyman, Wilks and Elder - not feature in the friendlies due to injury. I’m confident that the game against you boys and the behind closed doors game against Manchester United U23 the day after will mean the squad is ready for Preston North End next week.
MC: Who are the eleven who you believe Grant McCann will select against Sunderland and what style of play can Lee Johnson’s men expect to encounter?
LF: It’s a tough one as there will be a split squad between Sunderland and Man United, but I assume it will be similar to the Mansfield game. That would be as follows;
Ingram; Coyle, Greaves, Jones, Fleming; Smallwood, Docherty, Moncur; Lewis-Potter, Williams, Magennis.
We play possession based football most of the time and play through the thirds, with the midfielders key. If it’s crowded though, our centre halves try to ping the ball diagonally across to the wide men to whip in for Magennis.
MC: Lastly, what is your honest prediction of the final score?
LF: I think it will be 2-2. We never seem to beat you boys as we had three draws last season and I can’t see the trend being bucked!