In an exclusive sit-down chat, the forward discusses his goalscoring form, personal development and promotion dream...
The season was less than three minutes old when Keane Lewis-Potter popped up with the opening goal in a 2-0 win at Gillingham.
The prodigious forward was making just his second league start for his hometown club and hoping to kick on after an encouraging breakthrough campaign in 2019/20.
Seven months have passed since that sunny September afternoon in Kent and the talented youngster is now an established and integral part of Grant McCann’s promotion-chasing side.
Still only 20 years old, the rising star has played more than 40 games this season and now has an impressive 11 goals to his name.
“It’s massive for me to get into double figures,” said Lewis-Potter, who was named the EFL Young Player of the Month for September. “Last year, I got a couple and it was always my aim to build on that and try to get a lot more than I did last year. I’ve had a long run in the team this season and long may it continue.”
The Hull City academy product brought up double figures for the season with his first goal in a 2-0 win over Oxford before adding another for good measure. McCann hailed his performance as “excellent”, while some observers felt it was his best display yet in black and amber.
“It was my first-ever brace in professional football so I think it would rank quite highly up there – one of my best,” he said. “Early on in the game, there was a chance when the keeper brought me down and we maybe could have had a penalty but it was offside. From then on, every time I got the ball, in my head I just thought, ‘get at the defender, try to make him struggle a bit’. We had him on the back foot and I just kept on going. After my first goal, I felt like I had a lot of confidence.”
His first goal oozed quality, from the measured finish into the bottom corner to the booming 60-yard pass from fellow Hull native Lewie Coyle.
“It was an unbelievable ball from Lewie,” he remarked. “We always have a little talk before the game about when he gets it, where I should go, where I should run. The last couple of games it’s happened where he gets the ball and I’ve made the run for him. It worked out perfectly against Oxford. I had a lot of space in front of me. He played an unbelievable ball, a 60-70-yard pass. When I was one-on-one with the defender in the box, I had one thing in my mind and that was to get a shot away. Thankfully, it ended up in the back of the net.”
Although deflected, his second goal bore similarities to the one he scored at Swindon – arguably his finest so far. On both occasions, Lewis-Potter collected possession from deep and glided towards the box, leaving desperate defenders trailing in his wake, before shooting right footed from around 18 yards.
“Every chance I get the ball, I try to get it out of my feet and dribble at defenders, whether that’s to dribble and set someone up, or dribble and have a shot myself,” he explained. “I think it’s one of my main attributes and I like to do it as much as I can. I enjoy running at defenders with the ball and trying to make them commit fouls or create an opportunity.”
His delightful double against the U’s made it three goals in five days following his effort in a crucial 3-1 victory at promotion rivals Peterborough. It was just the return to goalscoring form he needed.
“I went through a bit of a sticky patch before then, not getting on the scoresheet,” he admitted. “I had good chances which usually I’d put away but it didn’t come off for me. Against Peterborough, to get on the scoresheet early in the second half, and to get a brace against Oxford, it was nice. Once you score one, they start to come at once. I’ve scored three in the last three games. It’s just getting in the right positions at the right time and once you score one, everything starts to fall into place.”
Nine of Lewis-Potter’s 11 strikes have come in the league, making him the joint-highest scoring player under the age of 21 in England’s top four tiers, along with Watford’s Joao Pedro. There is, however, one itch Lewis-Potter is desperate to scratch.
“It’s always been my aim to get into double figures in the league,” he revealed. “I’m one goal away and hopefully I can do that. To be able to get into double figures in the league would be a great feeling.”
The Tigers’ tally of 62 goals in League One is unparalleled. Lewis-Potter places third in the club’s goalscoring charts, behind Josh Magennis (11) and Mallik Wilks (17), with a further eight players also netting in the league.
“Teams mostly look to their forwards for goals but this year everyone has chipped in – defenders, midfielders and forwards,” Lewis-Potter commented. “I’m one goal away from the front three all being in double figures for the league. That would be a massive achievement. I think it would be the first time since 2003/04.”
Indeed, the last time three Hull City players scored 10 or more league goals in a season was 17 years ago, when Stuart Elliott, Danny Allsopp and Ben Burgess plundered 47 goals between them.
Lewis-Potter has done most of his damage playing on the left of a front three but feels comfortable anywhere in the frontline.
“I don’t really have a preference where I play,” he said. “I think I do get the ball more on the left. Playing anywhere across the front, it doesn’t really matter to me as long as I’m doing my job for the team. As a front three, we like to interchange quite a lot and we end up in different positions anyway. We all know each other very well and we know what’s going to happen when each other has got the ball.”
Playing regularly is paramount for the development of any young player and Lewis-Potter has featured in all but three of Hull City’s 37 league matches. As the Tigers prepare to face Gillingham again in the reverse fixture of the opening day, he can reflect on a season of growth, learning and progression.
“I’d say I was quite raw at the beginning of the season, quite eager,” he admitted. “As the season goes on, you learn more from the players, from the staff, playing every week. It’s having that eagerness all the time, wanting to score, wanting to help the team out.”
Overseeing his development has been McCann. The Northern Irishman handed him his league debut in November 2019 and has carefully nurtured him into a first-team regular – for which Lewis-Potter is extremely grateful.
“The gaffer has been massive for me and the rest of the lads,” he said. “He’s told us that it doesn’t matter about age, if we’re good enough, we’ll play. If he puts his trust in you, you have to repay the trust. I think a lot of the young lads have done that. You’ve seen how many of the young lads have played this season – that’s from the gaffer believing in them. If that carries on, it’ll be unbelievable for us and the academy.”
No fewer than nine homegrown players have been named in a league squad this season, and Lewis-Potter says it should be a source of great pride for the club’s academy and supporters.
“All the young lads from the academy who have played this season, we’ve played together in the academy,” he remarked. “To be able to transition from academy football to the first team has been a massive achievement for everyone involved. I’m sure all the coaches from the academy take great pride in that. We’ve got lads like Max Clark and Lewie Coyle from the area as well – it’s massive. For the fans to see that, it’s great pride for them.”
All individual efforts are ultimately geared towards one collective goal: promotion. The Tigers are on course to achieve that aim and sit three points clear at the summit heading into the season’s final straight.
“We’ve got nine games to go and our aim is to win every single game,” Lewis-Potter insisted. “It’s about getting points on the board every game and keep looking to the next one. We just have to keep focused, individually and as a group. We have to just keep pushing and pushing every day.”
For a player in just his second full season at senior level, the opportunity to help his boyhood club win promotion is one he is relishing.
“It’s unreal to be honest,” Lewis-Potter said. “I’ve always wanted to be promoted myself so hopefully we can keep the run going and hopefully it can happen. It’s always a dream to be promoted with your club and for me to do that, it would be amazing.”