Hull City's 2014-15 campaign in the Barclays Premier League didn't fit the blueprint for Steve Bruce, winning just eight games and picking up a merely miserable 35 points.
So, with a season back in the Sky Bet Championship just under two months away, can Brucie sculpt together a strong enough squad to sign up for the 2016/17 season in the top flight once again?
Steve Bruce enjoyed a debut season in East Yorkshire when he guided the Tigers to automatic promotion into the Premier League. Now, in his return to the lower division, he has grown significantly familiar with his squad and knows all the nooks and crannies to get them working.
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I wouldn't expect Hull to finish any lower than the play-off places this season under the management of Steve Bruce.
If, in the unlikely event, that the Tigers do go through a dark shade of form, owners Assem and Ehab Allam must keep their faith because patience is always rewarded. However, like many, I have no fear that they will struggle at any point.
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Keeping the right players
Obviously dropping down a division brings many new arrivals and departures at a club. Steve Bruce is yet to make an official signing, but has wasted no time in releasing six individuals, including City heroes, Liam Rosenior and Paul McShane, whilst forwards, Nikica Jelavic, Abel Hernandez and Dame N'Doye have all been put on the market.
Goal scoring is something that has never blessed Hull in many years, and very rarely in their two year stint in the top flight did they overstep the three goal mark in a single game. That makes it understandable that all three main forwards have been listed for sale, but Bruce must ensure that he replaces them with sheer talent who can score goals for fun.
It is also vital that Hull hold several starlets tightly due to the circulating interest from Premier League clubs. James Chester and Robbie Brady who have both stood out like a sore thumb in their international fixtures in the past week are attracting a whole host of Premier League clubs with Newcastle United, Aston Villa, West Bromwich Albion Norwich City all queuing up to enquire over the availability of the duo.
Andy Robertson is another man that must stay put in East Yorkshire with many of the big teams sniffing around the young Scottish full-back, willing to pay prices of up to £10 million. Similar to Derby County's curiosity over Tom Ince, Steve Bruce must not let money get the better of him and should stick to his guns, keeping two of next years potential key figures.
Robert Snodgrass and Mo Diame who spent most of the 2014-15 season in the physio room would be expected to stay out of respect for the club. Snodgrass arrived in the summer of 2014 and played about 20 minutes of Premier League football. The former Leeds United midfielder has, however, confirmed his loyalty to Steve Bruce whilst Mo Diame is also likely to remain in his current position.
Making the right signing
Steve Bruce certainly isn't renowned for his excellent signings. In fact, he's probably more well known for the trash he's bought over the years. Wasting away £10 million on Abel Hernandez wasn't his smartest move, and handing over £8 million to Tottenham Hotspur for a drug-taking, big time Charlie was no better.
However, it's a new window in a new season and the former Sunderland boss is looking in the right places for his future squad.
Jordan Rhodes, a common transfer rumour for Hull is yet again being tipped for a move to Humberside. His goal scoring record at Blackburn Rovers speaks loudly, so there is no reason why he can't emulate what he has done at Ewood Park with Hull City.
A goalkeeper is also required for the Tigers after Steve Harper was released by the club and Allan McGregor is reported to be in a mental state of depression. Not many shot stoppers have been linked to the club, but personally, I would love to see West Brom's Boaz Myhill make a welcoming return to the KC Stadium. What a lovely homecoming that would be for the Welshman.
Answering the question
So, can Hull return to the top flight in 2016/17? If they have the right squad, yes, I'm sure they can one way or the other. Injuries must be kept at an all-time-low, a factor that could justify the Tigers' ejection from the Premier League in May.
If Bruce gets his signings all wrong and lets too many quality individuals leave the club, I fear that Hull could become the new Fulham who face a relegation battle once again.
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