The Hull City manager Phil Brown believes Stephen Hunt can play a pivotal role in their fight for survival after the club announced the winger was not for sale.
The Republic of Ireland international has reportedly been the subject of renewed speculation involving Wolverhampton Wanderers but Hull have moved quickly to fend off any further interest in the player.
Hunt has been a major success since his move from Reading last summer and Brown is adamant that the winger has an important role to play in the second half of the season. Hunt, 28, has scored five goals for the struggling Tigers, including both strikes as Brown's side battled back from 2-0 down to draw at relegation rivals Bolton Wanderers last month.
"I think goals first and foremost have made him special this season," said Brown. "But he is such a little character. He does things in the right way. He is a professional. What highlights Stephen Hunt for me is that he does things when nobody else is watching – professional things.
"He conducts himself in the right manner. When he crosses the white line, a full-back knows he will be up against it. He has got a tenacious attitude towards the game, not just towards wing play, but towards the game. For a little fella, he has got a big heart.
"Stephen has said himself that we are not a one-man team and I agree with that. You never are a one-man team, if you are, then you are in trouble. But where Stephen is concerned, he has been at the forefront of assists, the forefront of goals scored and at the forefront of everything we've done. We need five or six like that in the same side and before you know it, we have got a team."
The club made it abundantly clear that Hunt would remain at the KC Stadium when they posted a statement on their official website yesterday morning. The statement read: "The club is now becoming bored of continual speculation surrounding his future and would like to place on the record that the player is not for sale. The club will not be commenting any further on speculation in relation to this player. He is not for sale."
Hull's chairman Adam Pearson has said the club are overspending by around £9m on wages but efforts are being concentrated on moving on fringe players, not first-team regulars.
Brown is hoping to bring in one or two new faces though with Manchester City winger Vladimir Weiss a top target. Brown had hoped to wrap up a deal for the 20-year-old this week, but City want a loan fee which has proved a sticking point. Weiss is a bit-part player at Eastlands and has not played in the Barclays Premier League since arriving from Inter Bratislava for free in July 2008.
Brown dismissed speculation linking Hull with Derby County winger Kris Commons and Aston Villa's midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker.
However, the City manager also added that striker Caleb Folan was being chased by a host of other Championship sides after turning down a move to Queen's Park Rangers. "He refused a move to QPR," said Brown. "But there are four or five Championship clubs interested in taking Caleb, but at the moment, as a manager, I thinking it is not a bad situation to be in. He looks like he wants to play for Hull City which is never a bad deal.
"The chairman's remit and mine are to be a Premier League chairman and a Premier League manager at the end of the season. How we do that will depend on what we do in January."
Hull spent yesterday working at Derby's training ground and are staying in the Midlands on their way down to London for tomorrow's match with Tottenham at White Hart Lane.
Spurs hammered Hull 5-1 at the KC Stadium earlier in the season and Brown believes they have what it takes to break the top-four cartel. "They have got a chance of breaking into the top four," he said. "It is very interesting at the top end. But any Tottenham fan probably would not settle for a place in the Europa League."