A Few Good Men

I wanted Don, so my first reaction to the latest take-over was hardly one of delight. But after a second glance it didn’t look too bad: Tom Belton appears to be a genuine football man, he has experience, albeit at small-town Scunny, and he wants nowt to do with the Hull Prawns or the Bullyvard either now or in the future. We have a potential 16-year lease on Boothferry with first option to buy at a price already agreed. So hurrah, and on with the football…

Or not? Thinking about it just a little bit harder, how is it that Hull City and Boothferry Park have become separated? By rights the shareholders should own the club lock stock and barrel, and Belton’s consortium we’re told have bought all David Lloyd’s shares. So how come we don’t own the ground? It’s certainly too much for my ‘untrained in company law’ brain to understand. Could it be that Mr Lloyd still owns those infamous non-voting shares that were Mr Needler’s pride and joy?

You know, the ones that meant Don Robinson never had full control of City in the 80s even though he had the majority of the ordinary shares. The frightening thing is if those shares still exist, whoever owns them will still have the capacity to liquidate the club.

Do they still exist? Has Lloyd got them? Has Needler got them? Were they given to Terry Dolan as a leaving present? Seriously, we need to know .That’s just one potential banana skin and I m sure there are many more. My other main worry is the lack of information surrounding the other members of Uncle Tom’s consortium.

Who are they, why are they here and do they have the same commitment to Hull City F.C. as Tom Belton?

Owning none of the shares himself he is chairman in name only and we’ve been there before haven’t we? To put it simply, there is a real danger that our new chairman could have the carpet pulled from beneath him at any moment.

So, I m sounding negative already and I haven t mentioned the football yet. We’re jumping up and down on the trapdoor looking set to go crashing through.

I say this with more than a tinge of sadness, but Mark Hateley had to go. With every week it was becoming more and more apparent that he wasn’t the man to get us out of this mess. With hindsight, considering the financial climate throughout Lloyd’s reign, Attilla was never the right man for the job, but it somehow seemed appropriate that he remained a popular figure with many right up to his last game in charge against Orient.

Mark Hateley was a man destroyed by David Lloyd, probably more so than any of us realise. He was a popular choice after being lured by Wilby’s promise of £3 million spending money, but unfortunately Timmy never had a cent and Lloyd was in Hull solely to fulfil his leisure empire dream. The result of David and Tim trying to pull the wool over each other’s eyes was that Hateley was onto a loser from the word go. Infuriated by the manager’s salary, Lloyd sent Wilby on his everlasting holiday and appointed Appleton with getting rid of Hateley allegedly part of his dastardly brief. They tried the lot, even apparently denying him access to the players for a large chunk of last season.

But Attilla stuck to his guns, maintaining a certain dignity throughout, even though it must have been virtually impossible to run a football team against that kind of background. And who was the real culprit in draining the pennies from the club’s coffers? By all accounts, Hateley’s salary paled into insignificance when compared with Appleton’s, and two years of Hateley’s wages could have been paid for by the Newcastle game – City’s first venture into the 3rd round of the League Cup for twenty years – but Lloyd chose to donate our gate receipts to rugby league, probably not for the first time, or the last. From the off, it was obvious Lloyd had no interest in Hull City Football Club. For all his boasts about ploughing money into Hull, Hateley saw none of it, simply having to operate with the existing wage bill, without extra cash for loan players and certainly none for transfer fees (which ARE still necessary to get good players).

Without doubt, Lloyd’s money kept the club going, but he never bought it just to keep it going did he? He needed the club for the ground which he needed to sell to fund a new stadium which, in turn, he needed to gain the necessary planning permission for his intended leisure and retail development from which he would reap his rewards.

There was really nothing wrong or underhand with that at all. However, for his plans to work he needed everyone on board and needed drag the club along with him. But his half-baked approach to achieving his ‘dream’ alienated everyone and Hull City was dragged further and further into the mire.

The already piss poor public relations side of the club all but disappeared under Lloyd, Boothferry Park became a ghost town during the week as ‘operations’ were switched to the Bullyvard, and the fans continued to be ignored.

In reality there was really no club at all apart from a team that turned up for regular weekend beatings and a still surprisingly large band of shattered supporters struggling to understand the logic of a super stadium for a team in the Conference. Of course, logic was never one of Lloyd’s strengths, if indeed he had any strengths. Thankfully he is firmly in the background, at least for the moment, as Farmer Tom tries to put right the wrongs of the last 25 years.

Belton has promised little and has so far delivered even less. Things need to be turned round immediately and spectacularly to ensure survival, but it has hardly been a spectacular start. Warren Joyce’s appointment somehow seemed inevitable after the failure to fill the post quickly. I hope and pray the decision is the right one and not just the cheaper option.

It is questionable as to whether Joyce was the number one choice, and it is possible that others were put of by the fact that the chairman seems to like to identify the transfer targets himself. Before he was sacked Hateley was berated for not bringing in players at a few hours notice. Two weeks later Belton and Joyce have failed to make any permanent signings themselves, an indication of the difficulty in attracting players to a club which is 92nd.

If Joyce’s appointment is the soft option it is still one hell of a gamble. We are staring the conference in the face largely because we hired a manager with no experience. There is a difference in that Joyce has a bagfull of experience of playing at this level is and maybe more attuned to what is required than was Hateley 15 months ago, and he is also a popular choice with the players.

Like Hateley, Joyce is very much a self-motivated player, but it is the ability to motivate others which is the key and exactly where Hateley fell down. Sadly, in Joyce’s first game as caretaker against Brighton it was the same few culprits not pulling their weight who had let Hateley down. City’ plight provides a thankless task for any new manager and the experienced gaffer we were promised would have been worth his weight in gold. There again, for a manager to have experience at this level he mustn’t he be pretty crap to have got there in the first place? What is done is done. We must stand together. The King is dead, long live the King. Hail Warren! Hail John! Come on you ‘ull.


Geoff Bradley