It isn’t a transfer window without anything bizarre happening. This year’s hasn’t been short of headlines: Lionel Messi has finally left Barcelona, a British transfer record has been broken and Gareth Bale has been linked with a move to the Championship. And yet, it gets stranger. Manchester City’s striker search has led them to Solihull Moors in the 5th division of English football, where 6ft 9 centre-forward Kyle Hudlin plays his football. The 21-year-old joined the Moors from Boldmere in the ninth level on a two year deal from 2020. From there he scored ten goals across all competitions, a number that doesn’t scream ‘Manchester City’, but there is much more to the boy than that.
At a height of 6ft 9, Hudlin is the tallest professional outfield player in England. You’d be mistaken to think that he is therefore a conventional target man, one that the likes of Tony Pulis would drool over. Hudlin is a more modern poacher. He typically holds the ball up and plays wingers in behind, a trait that would compliment the likes of Raheem Sterling very nicely. If that approach isn’t required he is willing and able to run in behind, which would be accommodated by Jack Grealish and Riyad Mahrez. Hudlin can receive the ball in a variety of ways, either by hanging off the last man and running into space or dropping off the defenders to be picked out by the wide men. His pace is surprising for a man of his size. The sudden bursts of pace he provides are enough to surprise defenders.
Manchester City’s chase for a striker is becoming increasingly desperate. A 1-0 opening day defeat to Spurs showed just how much a figure like Sergio Aguero is needed. Pep Guardiola’s men lacked a cutting edge and while makeshift striker Ferran Torres looked sharp he rarely threatened Hugo Lloris in goal. Harry Kane is the likely option: the striker has been linked with a move to the blue side of Manchester since the backend of last season, but a deal would cost upwards of £140 million. Cristiano Ronaldo has also touted his services to the Citizens and could be available for as little as £25 million. Other options across Europe are likely being considered, with price tags being no obstacle for the club – which is exactly why Kyle Hudlin is such an unexpected target. City scouts turned out to watch Solihull Moors’ 2-2 draw with Notts County at Damson Park, a game in which Hudlin came on in the 70th minute.
Middlesbrough are another club looking to bolster their attacking options. Uche Ikpeazu has come in from Wycombe and has made an admirable start to his Boro career, netting twice in three games. Chuba Akpom is also at the club but there is something of a void in the striker department. Ashley Fletcher and Britt Assombalonga were both released at the end of last season after disappointing spells at the club. Hudlin is understood to be on the club’s radar and, with Cardiff City dropping out of the race, have almost a free run at the striker (should Man City look to other options). One man who could profit from the arrival of Kyle Hudlin is Isaiah Jones. The winger has looked very sharp on his return from consecutive loan spells in Scotland and if he can feed off Hudlin’s pinpoint through balls he will only become more dangerous. While Uche Ikpeazu has similar qualities it wouldn’t hurt Neil Warnock’s side to add a like-for-like replacement for a variety of reasons.
Kyle Hudlin’s attributes are comparable to Cardiff City’s Kieffer Moore. The Welshman gets himself into promising positions by dropping off defenders and uses his sudden accelerations to get clear of opposition players. Finishing ability is some way off for now and he lacks the strength to be a more traditional target man but that comes with time and there is no reason why the Moors striker can’t follow a similar career path to Cardiff’s main man. Cardiff City were rumoured to be interested in the striker but Mick McCarthy has ruled out any approach for Hudlin.
As for Solihull Moors, they have struggled largely over recent seasons to replicate the success of the 2018/19 campaign. The Moors were resigned to a second placed finish in that season before being knocked out by AFC Fylde in the semi-final of the play-offs. Since then players and managers have come and gone but to no avail. Another active window for the Moors has seen strikers Danny Newton and Andrew Dallas arrive from Stevenage and Cambridge United respectively, the latter coming off the back of a productive loan spell at fellow National League side Weymouth. Selling to a club of Manchester City’s riches could be a great move not only for Solihull Moors, but the area of Solihull in general. Pep Guardiola, after an entertaining cup victory against Cheltenham, said how important lower league clubs are for football. It wouldn’t come as a surprise if they are willing to pay more than the player is worth. This would go a long way to stabilising the Moors’ position after what has no doubt been a tough financial period during the COVID-19 pandemic. Promotion hopes do not lie entirely on Kyle Hudlin’s performances. He is very talented and has as high a ceiling as any Moors player past or present, but in the short-term he is replaceable. There are options, albeit none like-for-like, already contracted to the club and even more available in the transfer market that can be obtained if a fee is received for Hudlin’s services. The club is likely resigned to the fact that Hudlin will move on, it is just a matter of standing firm on a high price to reinvest in the squad.
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