This week we spoke to Chris Pinder of Hull City FC blog Eye on the Cubs. We talk Hull's continued support of Steve Bruce, how Gaston Ramirez has disappointed, Hull's Premier League survival chances and much, much more.
This was one of the more revealing Inside Info pieces we've done, so I hope you all enjoy!
St. Mary's Musings: What were your season expectations before it started and have they changed since?
Chris Pinder: For a club like ours who are still relatively new to the Premier League, staying up has to be the initial target.
However, with the signings made and money spent, I think there were a few that were hoping to be pushing on towards a comfortable mid-table position. Sadly, one of the new signings (Snodgrass) picked up a season ending injury before it even started and that set us back.
Looking at how the season has gone, I think the expectation has had to remain as Premier League survival.
Although every club is the same, we've had injuries to key players at key times: that really hasn't aided our fight. We're only just now getting back Diame and Chester for example, who were two big losses to the squad.
SMM: Where do you think you'll finish come the end of the season? <!-- ######## START FLOATED VIDEO SNIPPET ######## -->
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CP: We're lurking precariously near the relegation zone and it's not a nice place to be. Every pundit is analysing our run-in and rightly putting it as one of the toughest in the league.
However, with performances like we showed in the loss to Chelsea I think we showed we can compete with the bigger teams. Sadly, performances don't always mean points as shown that day, and last weekend was a poor performance and no points. I still think we'll survive, but it's going to go right to the wire and won't be a fun experience.
SMM: What do you and other Hull fans feel about the job Steve Bruce has done at your club?
CP: I don't think his success at the club can be questioned. He came in at a time the club desperately needed a leader and direction. A home town boy had just been fired under questionable circumstances and the Allam family needed to bring someone in to get the fans excited - they managed that.
Bruce changed the whole system we played in the Championship and, especially in the first half of the season, most of the other Championship clubs didn't know how to deal with our 3-5-2 formation. Despite a shaky end to the season, he managed to get us promoted back to the Premier League in his first attempt.
If you add to that last season's performance and our journey to the FA Cup final, as well as maintaining our Premier League status, he's done a fantastic job. He's managed to maintain a good rapport with the majority of fans even during such a tough time - in which he's found himself in the middle of the on-going name change battle between Allam and the fans.
There have been times the media, and some fans, have questioned whether he should have remained in charge this season. However, in a time where so many managers are not afforded time, he hung in there and signed a new deal just a few weeks ago. There are still a few fans who question whether he's the right man to take us to the next level, but the majority are willing to give him the chance to see how far he can take us.
SMM: How has Gaston Ramirez fared in Hull since making his loan move from Saints?
CP: I think the overriding feeling of most fans is of disappointment. I think the hope when he and Ben Arfa were signed on loan was that we'd finally found a pair to inject a bit of flair and creativity into the team.
Although he's greatly surpassed any of Ben Arfa's achievements, that really isn't saying much. The main problem is when a team is involved in a relegation fight, the importance is on getting the results. In times like that, 'flair' players often don't get the chance to shine.
However, with Gaston I think he's genuinely struggled. His work rate and commitment have at times been questioned. After a run of games, in which he gave the ball away almost routinely, he fell out of favour. Bruce has appeared to keep faith in him though, and his goal in the away game at Sunderland was vital for getting us back into the game.
SMM: What is your favourite Hull chant?
CP: Sadly my favourite chant isn't just sung by ourselves. The verses from Elvis' Can't Help Falling in Love are certainly my favourite, although it's not one that gets sung as much anymore. Aside from that, given the issues with the name change, the passion behind the City 'Til I Die chant has increased and is up there for me. Listen out for it at 19:04 game time on Saturday.
SMM: Who is your key man for Saturday's game?
CP: I think it rests on whether Mo Diame is fit enough to start. He's been a big miss in the centre of the park, and would be a big boost. With David Meyler having been sent off last week, and the returning Tom Huddlestone's form not great, we need Diame back in the middle to take control. I saw a few questions being raised when we signed him, but he's got a great work rate while putting himself about and that is what is dearly missing currently.
Elsewhere, getting Elmo attacking Bertrand on our right side could be a great battle.
SMM: Who do you feel is Southampton's key player?
CP: Although there may be a pattern emerging, I'm personally a big fan of Morgan Schneiderlin. Another player who I believe controls the midfield - I've been impressed on the occasions I've seen him play.
I was at the Riverside to watch England U21s v Germany, and was also very impressed with Ward-Prowse. If you can keep hold of both for years to come, it could be a great partnership.
SMM: How do you and other Hull fans view Saints as a club?
CP: I think, as a club, the system and values you've had in place have to be admired and should be something other clubs aspire to. As a big supporter of youth football, the model and success of your youth system is something I envy.
While our youth system is now being looked at, we're still many years away from seeing the benefits of the changes that are being made. The opportunities being given to the youngsters at the club is great to see, and you can see in their progress the effects they've had.
SMM: If you could sell any player from your regular starting XI, who would it be and why?
CP: Despite his performances in his first season, for me it would have to be Tom Huddlestone. This season he's been extremely disappointing and hasn't looked interested at times.
There were calls for him to be included in the England squad last year, and rightly so, but this year he's far from being good enough. Couple that with the inevitably high wages his signing came with; he'd be my man to go.
SMM: If you could buy any Saints player, who would it be and why?
CP: Going back to the question earlier, it would have to be Schneiderlin or Ward-Prowse, and I think the latter wins out.
The way he drops in to dictate tempo, has a good range of passing, and an eagerness to get forward at the right moment, he has all the characteristics to be a very successful central midfielder.
I think he'd be a great addition to most teams and I expect the big clubs will be trying to prise him away at the end of the season.
SMM: Finally, what is your prediction for the game on Saturday?
CP: While I still think we'll score, it's never an easy trip to St. Mary's. Close game, but a 2-1 victory for Southampton.