City have garnered four points from six at the Circle thus far, a decent haul when playing in a division that provides a genuinely difficult opponent week on week. The visit of West Ham United tomorrow will present a different kind of challenge for Steve Bruce, due to the personnel he has available.
The Tigers boss has to pick between two obviously peripheral figures to play at the back as James Chester is very sadly absent for at least a month due to the thigh injury he suffered that rendered him a passenger with a pained expression during the death throes of last week’s win at Newcastle United.
While both potential replacements have their qualities, neither of them are Chester-like, or even Chester-lite. Abdoulaye Faye, who’d be up against his former club, is very imposing but also slow and less than cultured, while Alex Bruce is probably the bravest player in the club but too has issues with the ball and when trying to keep up the pace. But one of them will play alongside the revelatory Curtis Davies, and good luck to whichever one it is. Let’s just pray that whoever gets the nod doesn’t know anything about Wayne Brown and Wigan.
The manager will bring back Maynor Figueroa to the defence after his compassionate leave but otherwise has little reason to change anything else from the Newcastle game. Nick Proschwitz’s goal against Huddersfield in the midweek League Cup win may have edged the German closer to Premier League thinking, however. Danny Graham hasn’t scored yet and is bang out of luck, but his obvious replacement, Yannick Sagbo, didn’t look the part in the narrow win on Tuesday night and may have missed his opportunity to return to the elite XI after serving his ban. Perhaps Graham will get one more go.
City remain without the injured Robert Koren and Paul McShane, while Matt Fryatt is now out of the picture for a month after joining Sheffield Wednesday on loan, where he will do extremely well, assuming he is fit.
West Ham will feature a couple of former City loanees in long-serving midfielder Mark Noble and striker Ricardo Vaz Te, neither of whom pulled up trees during spells with the Tigers in 2006 and 2007 respectively. England winger Stewart Downing, their major signing of the transfer window, is back in contention after a leg injury.
These two have recent history and West Ham are by far the better off for it. City won just one of the six League outings in recent memory – the 1-0 victory at the Circle that completed the London 0 Hull 4 soundbite scoreline during the heady late summer of 2008 – while West Ham have won four, including their last trip to the KC in the autumn of 2011 which doubled up as Nigel Pearson’s final game in charge.
This game, along with the one against Aston Villa next week, feels specifically important because City are on a bit of form while the Irons haven’t picked up a Premier League win since defeating Cardiff on the opening day. If, by the time the next international break comes in just over a week, City have acquired six further points, it’ll feel like a most satisfactory bit of business for the club. After all, the home games – as the national media keeps telling us – are all-compassing when it comes to the issue of “littler” teams staying up.
The bookies have City at 7/5 to win, with the visitors priced at 2/1 and the draw going for odds of 9/4. Make of that what you will, but if the attitude and will of last week’s performance is present again, it should be a hell of a game. C’mon City.