1. We were angry with Steve Bruce. His team selection at KSC Lokeren left a lot to be desired, and while all of us would suggest that the starting XI should still have been good enough to not lose the game (or, indeed, a goal) he was making a rod for his back by dropping the most prominent five outfield names that we have. Not including all, or even most of, Davies, Huddlestone, Livermore, Elmohamady and Jelavić was a massive risk, opening the manager up to accusations of not caring about the Europa League enough, despite the noises coming out of the club about how much it means to be partaking in European competition. And while we understand that the expense incurred by supporters can’t be paramount in the manager’s mind when making his choices, nevertheless many who’d arrived in Belgium by plane, boat, train and automobile and also paid for accommodation would have felt justifiably short-changed.
2. The formation didn’t work – playing 4-4-2 with James Chester in midfield and a debutant in his usual role was always hazardous – and the application of a couple of players left much to be desired. Robbie Brady needs to take a hard look at himself at the moment, as he’s starting to regress into the lairy loanee who didn’t know how to play for a team under Nigel Pearson. Yannick Sagbo’s big chance to impress totally passed him by, and given that his Premier League ban was about to end and Shane Long has been sold, it really was his moment. Harry Maguire, meanwhile, though a big unit and evidently a decent reader of the game, had spells where he seemed quite frightened. It would surely have been judicious to give him his bow alongside the club captain, even though Paul McShane did plenty to encourage him.
3. Allan McGregor is a goalkeeper and by definition will make howlers. There haven’t been many in his time, and the cliché about his place of birth has never felt more irrelevant, and the fact that only a brainstorm from a fine custodian gave Lokeren their goal will give City plenty of opportunity to claw it back at the Circle. However, the big guns have got to play, all of them – they have a three-day rest before Aston Villa away and then there’s an international break with which many of them will not be involved beyond putting their feet up in front of the telly. Those claiming that the Premier League is more important than the Europa League are discounting one crucial fact – it’s August. Qualify for the group stages and then assess the progress and the selections as we go along, depending on results so far. A lot of City fans who have ached for this European campaign will find it unforgivable if City chuck it away at the play-off stages because of trips to Burnley and Sunderland and home games against Crystal Palace and Southampton.
4. Talking of chucking things away, let’s get on to the thorny issue of what happened after the game. Actually, perhaps it isn’t that thorny after all – refreshingly the media, despite initially looking to extract some juice of English football hooliganism from a long shrivelled fruit, have all accurately reported that the City fans were treated poorly by the police, were ambushed by three score Belgian dunderheads who were banned from attending games, and did not react out of proportion or, in most cases, even at all. The Belgian police – a mixture of local bobbies on overtime and a few regional ringers from their equivalent of the SPG (ask your local Anti-Nazi League campaign group for more on that if you’re under 35) – led the City fans almost gleefully, lambs to the slaughter, past the very pub they’d vehemently warned us not to enter before the game and then stood around, faux-aghast, as the bottles rained down on fans of all ages and genders, not utilising any of the weaponry – guns, batons, watercannon – on the perpetrators. The response of the two football clubs has been good, and even Humberside Police hastily withdrew a predictable statement about City fans being to blame, but the Belgian authorities have not covered themselves in glory either with the decisions (ie, indecisions) and actions (ie, inactions) on the night or with their subsequent mealy-mouthed statement, which was short on facts, promises or apologies.
5. The Lokeren fans who come to the KC on Thursday deserve nothing more than a massive welcome. That’s what they gave us, after all – from the wonderful mini-festival they put on in the town square, to the residents of the side streets applauding us as we walked to the stadium, to the home fans behind gates of their terracing clapping as we left, to the expressions of horror they offered after we got attacked. Restrictions imposed on them (as suggested on TV by some out of touch spokesman from the OSC), or us, upon beginning our pre-match preparations in Hull, would be disproportionate and disrespectful.
6. Are Stoke really, very bad, or did City just make them look that way with some backs to the wall excellence after a tragic but just red card for James Chester? City were so unfortunate not be able to hang on. The decision to give Stoke a throw in (For Liam Rosenior in 2014, read Roger deVries in 1971) was clearly wrong, but it doesn’t excuse the poor defending in that instance when we’d done so well repelling Stoke up to that point. City wasting time in the corner near the end was a bit frustrating too when you really wanted to see City get the win and prove definitively that City’s 10 was better than Stoke’s 11. Still, four points from six to begin with is not to be sniffed at, especially as we haven’t come close to full steam ahead yet and the European displays either side of our two Premier League fixtures have been a little disjointed.
7. Did we see the first failure of the Goal Decision System? It seems so. The ball was clearly over the line and the ref could be seen checking, then shaking his Hawkeye watch which apparently didn’t signal the ball had crossed the line, with the goal being ultimately awarded by the linesman. For all those clamouring for video refs (and some said a video ref would have reversed the throw in call, as if you’d want something as trivial as throw ins reviewable), this incident shows that technology doesn’t always solve the problem and shoudn’t be totally relied upon.
8. After Lokeren, we go to Aston Villa. A City player hasn’t scored against them, anywhere or in any competition, since 1987. This needs to change, as does the corresponding defeat ratio.
9. Michael Dawson is a stout professional and experienced defender. If we do get him signed up, he’ll be a fine addition to the squad and we’ll have six centre backs of quality vying for three places. Steve Bruce is evidently determined to have a British Isles base to his side, with the defence and the central midfield both looking almost indigenous. And, as an aside, if Dawson minor turns out to be even half as good for Hull City as Dawson major then we’ll have signed a very special player.
10. Can’t Help Falling In Love didn’t work before games at the KC and doesn’t work after them either. People are leaving the stadium and not joining in, all the best-known recorded versions (Elvis Presley, Perry Como, UB40) are way too slow compared to how the City fans sing it, and it’s a Sunderland song, as proved by the manner in which their fans totally outsang us via the stadium speakers on previous visits. City needs its own song, unused by any other club, and after watching a couple of hundred foot passengers on the Hull-Zeebrugge ferry stand with arms raised and sing every last note of Caravan Of Love last Wednesday (hairs on the back of neck right up), the club should adopt it straightaway, with lyrics printed in the programme for people who don’t remember the Housemartins. It’s obvious, it’s overdue and it really will work.
10a. Steve Bruce at weddings is so our favourite new Twitter feed.