PREVIEW: City v Huddersfield

Jay Simpson

Easy for some perhaps to forget there’s a big game this weekend amidst all the nostalgia of a decade since switching grounds, though it helps when the visiting team is one of our biggest Yorkshire rivals.

The nearest game to the tenth anniversary of life – and, indeed, a glorious life – at the KC began is against Huddersfield Town. It’s a fixture that has brought drama, controversy and plenty of goals in the past and, with City on a blessed run of form and Huddersfield unable to win any of the last five, prospects look good for Steve Bruce’s men.

The manager, recently generous in his praise of both club and owners when assessing his spell in charge so far, is playing a former club for the third time this season, having managed the Terriers at the end of the last century for an 18 month spell. It was a period of his career symbolised by his public anger at the club selling Marcus Stewart to promotion rivals Ipswich Town, who indeed reached the Premier League while Huddersfield missed out. His sacking the following season remained the only dismissal on his varied managerial CV until his departure from Sunderland just over a year ago.

As the current incarnation of his old club visits, it seems he has few headaches with selection. Sone Aluko and Paul McShane aren’t fit yet, with Championship player of the month Aluko earmarked for a Boxing Day return to City’s front line. McShane, who left last week’s game at Watford early with an ankle injury, is out for at least one more week. Such was the comfort with which club captain Jack Hobbs returned to the side as McShane’s replacement at Vicarage Road, it’s likely he will start the game and skipper the side.

Experienced midfielder Keith Southern returns to Simon Grayson’s team after a three-match band but Huddersfield are without Paul Dixon, who is suspended for one game, while star striker Jermaine Beckford is racing to be fit after hamstring trouble. Among the Huddersfield number is defender Anthony Gerrard, who had a brilliant season on loan with the Tigers two years ago and will undoubtedly receive a warm reception from the Tiger Nation.

These two did battle frequently in the 1960s, 1980s and 1990s but this is a first meeting for eight seasons, when goals from Stuart Elliott and Aaron Wilbraham – the only one he got at the KC – earned Peter Taylor’s promotion-bound Tigers a 2-1 win on New Years Day 2005 in a match most memorable for bandana-clad meathead Efe Sodje shattering Elliott’s cheekbone with a stray elbow, ruling the Tigers’ free-scoring winger out of the game for six weeks.

Huddersfield have never won at the KC and last won a League game in Hull just over 20 years ago when they emerged victorious in a five-goal thriller at Boothferry Park in October 1992, courtesy of goals from Phil Starbuck, Phil Robinson and gappy Welsh bruiser Iwan Roberts.

The Tigers are chasing a third straight win after the successes at Nottingham Forest and Watford, but a first home victory – and a first goal at the Circle too – since beating Wolves five weeks ago. The bookies have City at 3/4 for victory, with a Terriers triumph priced at 7/2 and the draw at 13/5. Though games against Huddersfield always come fraught with danger, there’s every reason to be confident and, in this week of reflection, it’d be nice to wrap up the celebratory mood with three good points. C’mon City.