The last time Hull City fans watched their team live in the flesh at the KCOM Stadium Grant McCann’s men were a Championship club.

Since then the Tigers suffered a dreadful run of form which saw them relegated to League One, and still no fans at games.

Fast forward to May 2021 and the Tigers have swanned through League One, winning promotion and the title to return to the Championship.

And with fans set to return to the KCOM in August for the season opener, they’ll be watching a Championship team again, it’s a strange world we’re now living in, isn’t it?

Here, City reporter Barry Cooper looks ahead to some of the things we can look forward to next season.

The away days

Let’s be honest, there have been some fantastic away trips this season in League One and City’s away form has been a delight, it’s just been a real, real shame that restrictions have prevented the fans enjoying them.

That said, with things looking much brighter for a full return to stadiums from the start of the new season, there’s some belting away days to look forward to.

Sheffield United for obvious reasons, Huddersfield Town and possibly Barnsley, Fulham is one of the great away trips, West Brom another, Nottingham Forest and Derby County are a couple more, Middlesbrough, Coventry City returning to the Ricoh or the Coventry Building Society Arena as it will now be known for the next decade and if they don’t go up, Brentford’s shiny new home, albeit with very weird coloured seats - though the hostelries in that part of west London are not to be missed.

The list goes on - there are some fantastic grounds to look forward, some lovely hospitable places to visit and then there’s Millwall.

Bigger crowds…

Let’s be fair, and this is meant with the greatest of respect to the likes of Rochdale, Accrington Stanley and Gillingham etc – and I mean that sincerely – the locals are unlikely to get too excited about going to the KCOM to watch their side take on one of those compared with the likes of Sheffield United, Huddersfield Town and others.

There’s also the prospect of playing in front of some big attendances away from home, too.

And with bigger crowds brings bigger income and at any stage that’s hugely important for a club, especially in these times.

It will be fascinating to see what impact the pandemic has had one fans' desire to watch live football next term and whether we see a marked increase in attendances throughout the season.

The step up in quality

It goes without saying that in moving up a division, there’s a jump up in quality.

The Championship is a league full of quality players, not necessarily quality teams but most certainly individuals with plenty of talent.

In turn, because of playing at a higher level, City will be able to themselves attract better players and keep improving, not only that, playing at a higher level will, you hope, improve the players already at the club and inspire them to be better, to keep progressing and developing.

They'll want to keep their place in the team, to prove they are good enough to compete at this level which will auger well.

International breaks…

I don’t know about you, but the thought of having a couple of quieter weeks at the back end of the year is quite enticing, and I’m sure the players will welcome the break.

It’s not for everyone, but it does give players time to rest, to regroup and managers to have some quality time on the training pitch.

The increase in exposure and income

City’s income will be swelled somewhat by playing at a higher level, there’s a greater prize money on offer, bigger television revenue and all associated costs go up from being in the lower leagues. Solidarity payments and TV income alone can see Championship clubs pocket five times as much as clubs in the third tier.

Yes, being a Championship club brings added expenditure whether that be more off-field staff or a higher wage bill for the playing squad, but income will rise. Bigger crowds generate greater income, there’s an increased desire for sponsors to be involved given the greater exposure and coverage in the national and international media.

Being in the Championship brings with it more exposure and focus which can only be a good thing for the club and in turn, the city.

Hull City champions supplement

To mark Hull City's League title success we have produced a 64-page souvenir supplement reflecting on the achievement and the season as a whole.

Packed full of interviews, features, photos and reports from the 2020/21 campaign, the commemorative issue sponsored by Bishop Burton College is priced £2 and is available to buy from Thursday May 20. You can order online here.

No Papa John’s Trophy

I’m not going to criticise the EFL Trophy too much because it’s a great avenue to get to Wembley and play in front of a big crowd and win silverware as McCann himself said numerous times during the season.

This term it was really useful for City because it gave Grant McCann the chance to play one or two players that would have struggled for football in the league team, such was their form.

One thing that won’t be missed is having to play Under-23 teams from those clubs in the Premier League and Championship, there’s a part of me which finds that a little disrespectful to some fine clubs in the lower leagues.

Instead of filling a competition with Under-23 teams, there should be a case made for bringing back a version of the old reserve league, though that’s a story for another day entirely.

FA Cup third round

There’s something mildly satisfying about not entering the FA Cup until the third round stage during the first week of January.

For a club like City, coming in at the first round stage was always going to be tricky and while we were able to see off Fleetwood Town, the visit to Stevenage was not the best and was always set up for an upset.

Now I’m not for a minute suggesting there wouldn’t be an upset for the Tigers in round three, not for a minute, however, it just feels better to be coming in at that stage.

The Yorkshire rivalry renewed…

‘Unfortunately’ Sheffield Wednesday won’t be joining the party next season, though we will still get our Steel City visit thanks to Sheffield United’s inherent desire to get back into the Championship after a couple of years away.

Then there’s Huddersfield Town.

The Terriers have fallen off a cliff in the last couple of seasons after getting to the Premier League and this season was hardly a joy for their supporters watching them struggle from home as they flirted with League One.

Yorkshire rivalry could also be renewed with Barnsley depending on how the Tykes deal with their unexpected qualification for the play-offs.

One step closer to the Premier League

We’ve all got the dream, and we all want to get on board the Premier League gravy train, don’t we? City have ridden that particular train more recently than some, but the desire to get back there is no less.

Momentum is a funny thing in football and that’s what City have given the way the season has played out, and while I’m not suggesting the Tigers are going to win the Championship and make it back-to-back promotions, there is reason to be positive.

The Championship, as exciting as it is, as competitive as it is, is open.

Yes, next season you’d expect the three relegated clubs to come down armed with huge parachute payments, big squads and the like, and there will be the usual glut of teams spending beyond their means in desperation to get out, but the reality is, City will have a good chance of a top half finish and then anything’s possible.

Their biggest asset is their togetherness, their team spirit and a collective desire to work hard for each other, their manager and the fans.

That work ethic, belief and determination has been the backbone of this season’s success, and yes, having good players’ helps, it helps a lot, obviously as does being well-drilled and organised as they have been.

In the Championship, having a close knit group of players, one prepared to do the hard yards and put a shift in goes an awful long way and that’s why there should be an air of steely confidence about next season.

Get off to a good start, keep the momentum and that winning feeling and you just never know where it could take you.

I’ll say that, I’d rather be Hull City going into the Championship as League One champions than some of the average teams that have been treading water in there for the last few years.

And finally...

Surely a year off from playing Fleetwood?

There’s nothing personal against Fleetwood Town, OK, maybe aside from that ghastly Captain Pugwash music and if I never have to hear that again after a goal it’d still be too soon.

Hearing it four times at Highbury in October was something that left a scar, it hasn’t gone away and I doubt it ever will.

Thankfully, unless there’s a Carabao Cup or FA Cup trip there next season, we’ll escape it and for that we should all be thankful.

(I’m aware I’ve now cursed it, so when we get that dreaded cup draw I’ll take the flak – on the plus side, the fish and chips are very good, not Whitby quality, but still more than agreeable).