Fans Liaison Committee – July 2006

flc
The Fans Liaison Committee entered its fifth year of existence on Monday 24th July with the first meeting of 2006/2007. During the last four years many initiatives have been implemented at the behest of the FLC and chairman Adam Pearson says the clubs policies on issues such as ticketing, catering and stewarding are largely shaped by discussions at these monthly gatherings.

Fans Liaison Officer Danny Pratt added that sometimes the successes of the FLC are overlooked and pointed out historical achievements such as the implementation of popular schemes like Away Direct or the 12 month payment plan and also more recent changes such as the revamp of the Viking FM bar with new big screens and stage, the heightening of the ‘Rhino’ posts on the paths around the stadium to make them more visible and a change in the way season passes are posted so as to not make it obvious that a valuable pass is inside the envelope.

It’s easy to be cynical and assume that the club pay lip service to requests and suggestions from fans but they do listen and will seriously consider change when positive ideas are offered.

Before the roundtable discussion where FLC reps ask questions and make suggestions on behalf of supporters, Adam Pearson took some time to go over the tumultuous events of the summer which saw the departure of Peter Taylor and the installation of Phil Parkinson as manager after some legal wrangling with Colchester…

Taylor’s protracted departure
Adam Pearson had no issue with Peter Taylor talking to Charlton when they made an approach, he was their preferred choice of manager from a list of three at the outset, but after his first interview other managers came into the frame, Billy Davies, Phil Parkinson and Iain Dowie. The process dragged on and with Charlton not making a quick decision, Taylor got cold feet and withdrew from the candidacy and Charlton went with Dowie. Upon his return to Hull, The chairman and the manager had ‘words’ over Taylor’s handling of the matter, Pearson felt Hull City had been left hanging around and unable to plan for the forthcoming season. Although as in Taylor’s words the relationship between chairman and manager had ‘become skinny’ the pair patched things up in anticipation of working together in the new season, but Pearson was very frustrated that his manager had no idea which players he wanted to sign.

Then Palace came in and Taylor was keen on that job, so the chairman gave his blessing for him to be interviewed at Selhurst Park and when offered the job he took it, though not before a wrangle over pay. Taylor told Pearson that he wanted £50,000 more than Palace were offering and that if he didn’t get it he’d be back at Hull, “Err, no you won’t” thought the chairman, surprised at Taylor’s apparent greed when the deal as offered benefited all sides, Taylor got the move back to London he wanted, Palace got their man and we could plan for 2006-07. Evidently Simon Jordan, the Palace chairman, offered the extra 50k and Peter Taylor left ‘the building.’

Life after Taylor
The chairman quickly set about filling the managerial vacancy, and Phil Parkinson was the number one choice, though he did speak with Martin Allen, Paul Simpson and Mick McCarthy, who though interested, ‘was hardly beating down our door to get the job’. Parkinson though was very keen to come to Hull City after having tendered his resignation at Colchester. Parkinson was a man in demand, Derby and Ipswich were sniffing around and Colchester chairman and shrub rocketeer Peter Heard had rejected overtures from Wolves for Parkinson’s services shortly before his manager resigned.

Heard is evidently a vindictive man and refused to let Parkinson join City without a fight and sought a court injunction that would prevent him from taking another job for 12 months, a move that if successful would effectively ruin Parkinson’s managerial career. Pearson was dismayed when a temporary injunction was granted within 20 minutes of the application being submitted and feels that the judge didn’t even read the papers regarding the case, instead ticking it off to end a Friday afternoon early. Heard must have doubted that he would get a permanent injunction though, and a deal was reached with Colchester the Friday before the injunction case was to be held on the Monday. Heard’s hard-line stance wavered when City employed Frank Barlow, Pearson stumped up £400,000 in compensation (having initially offered £150,000) reasoning that the acquisition of Parkinson represents ‘the most important transfer this club has made in my time here.’

As well as trying to block Parkinson’s move to the City, Colchester also tried to prevent physio and fitness co-ordinator Stuart Ayles following him to The Circle after he too resigned his post. Adam Pearson signed an agreement that City would not approach any Colchester United employee or ex-employee for a period of 12 months, though unbeknown to the pissy panted Heard, he had joined the Tigers a week before that deal was signed. Arf!

First impressions of Parkinson
When asked about Phil Parkinson, Howard Wilkinson told City’s chairman that the young manager was top of all of his classes when studying for coaching certificates, including the UEFA Pro-Licence course, the highest coaching qualification available. He holds two first class honours in Sports Science and Sports Psychology and is known to be an excellent communicator with players (as opposed to Taylor, who ignored most of them) and is big on fitness.

Pearson describes Parkinson as ‘a joy to behold’ and says ‘working with him is ‘a breath of fresh air’. The new Tigers boss has an encyclopaedic knowledge of players (Pearson isn’t desperately awaiting the new Rothmans annual this year) and religiously studies videos of his players and those of opponents. The chairman believes we have ‘the brightest young manager in the country’ and expects a hard time keeping hold of him, which is why there is a significant buy out clause in his contract should a top 8 Premiership side want to take him. He feels Parkinson and assistant Frank Barlow complement each other very well and are the duo to take City forward. Parkinson is now living in North Ferriby and his family will join him in a matter of weeks.

The chairman has more confidence in Parkinson than he had in Taylor when it comes to identifying transfer targets, whereas Taylor often didn’t know who he wanted and would change his mind on a whim when he did, Parkinson knows exactly who he wants, what he is willing to pay and has two alternative players in mind if the first choice is unavailable. He feels we need a new winger to compete with Stuart Elliott and may need a new centre half with the injury to Delaney. Overall though the new boss is delighted with the squad he has inherited and has been full of praise for Andy Dawson and Ryan France in particular. He has also stated that he ‘needs’ Ian Ashbee and that he thinks Jon Parkin is ‘a gem’ despite his size which is currently been worked on intensively after the big man was ‘somewhat unprofessional’ in the summer regarding his fitness. No players are currently transfer listed and Parkinson has nobody in mind to leave right now, preferring to take a good look at them before making up his mind.

Transfer bids and injuries
Peter Taylor attempted to sign Boaz Myhill and Damien Delaney for Palace and bid £2.5M for the pair of them, it isn’t going to happen. He’s also interested in Elliott and Duffy, though neither are likely to want to play for Taylor again and we have no intention of selling. Peter Taylor and Adam Pearson fell out late last season when the chairman said he was offering Leon Cort a contract extension, it’s easy to see why now, as that years extention raised the price of Cort’s transfer fee from around £400,000 to the £1.2M Taylor had Palace pay us for him. Adam Pearson was highly complimentary to Leon Cort regarding his behaviour during the transfer talks, saying he helped City get a good deal.

Parkinson’s style of football is poles apart from that of Peter Taylor and he is finding that it isn’t easy to quickly change the mindset of players who have played a certain way for many years. For example, ‘Parky’ wants us to defend further up the pitch and press opponents but many players are so used to going to two banks of four behind the ball when defending that they naturally do that even now.

Still, ‘Big Phil’ has set his sights on a top ten finish (as has Adam Pearson), although the injuries to Delaney, Ricketts and Parkin may make a decent start to the season a harder task now. As regards other injured players, Ian Ashbee is hoping to train properly with the first team the day before the WBA game, though it is hard to say when he’ll be ready to play, the same goes for McPhee, both players’ knees are re-calcifying and the time that takes varies from person to person, but hopes are Ashbee will be back late August and McPhee back ‘this side of October’. Danny Coles should be fit by the end of September. Several players have voiced satisfaction that training continues in an afternoon whereas previously it was mornings only.

It has been a long and difficult summer for Adam Pearson but he looks and sounds much happier now than he did at the last meeting in late may when he looked at the end of his tether with Peter Taylor, back then the relationship wasn’t so much ‘skinny’ as atom thin.

Roundtable discussion

Smoking
The issue of smoking at the KC Stadium has caused some heated debate on the AN forums and at FLC meetings. The Football League have set up a task group to look into the issue and conducted a poll that perhaps predictably came out 80-20 in favour of banning smoking in grounds. The chairman has an open mind on the matter and the FLO said the club will hold a poll for City fans to gauge opinion and also consult stadium manager John Cooper.

Derby County have banned smoking within Pride Park but do have ‘smoking pens’ where fans can smoke just outside of the ground in a small fenced area that has a burger van nearby. It was suggested we could have a similar model at the KC with the pens being down the stairs at either end of the concourses.

It was asked that stewards be vigilant in moving smokers away from the vomitaries and onto the concourse proper to avoid situations where fans filing through pass people holding cigarettes in a confined space.

Football League Board
Adam Pearson was recently elected onto the Football League’s board by fellow club chairmen (replacing Colchester’s chimney bottler Peter Heard incidentally) to represent the Championship. It was asked if this role was beneficial to Hull City. ‘Not really’ answered the chairman, ‘though it gives the club added credibility and keeps it in touch with policy making at the Football League. There are no downsides and it just requires that I attend meetings once a month or so.’ The other two Championship directors on the board are Neil Doncaster of Norwich and David Sheepshanks of Ipswich.

Academy and Millhouse Woods Lane
Work on academy facilities at the former Ideal Standard Sports and Social pitches on County Road North is said to be progressing full steam ahead. The pitches are currently being re-laid after being scorched during the recent hot spell and it is expected games will be being played there by the end of September. Colin Murphy is the facility director and is very pleased with the work so far.

Phil Parkinson is delighted with the training ground at Millhouse Woods Lane, which will soon be expanded to include a new weights room and rehabilitation facilities.

Policing
Humberside Police have made no objection to Hull City v. Leeds United being played on a Tuesday night. The fixture has been downgraded from Category C+ (as it was last season) to Category C.

The policing bill has not been reduced following the erection of the fence around the away stand, in fact the bill is expected to be raised by 25% this coming season. The Police argue that the presence of the fence does not mean less officers are required on match days, just that they are deployed elsewhere, such as on the car park.

Away Direct
A supporter had experienced problems with the Away Direct scheme, with his tickets being sent to other fans or more worryingly not being sent at all. The chairman apologised for this and said mistakes of this nature were not acceptable and would be looked into.

Juniors
Could highlights of junior games be featured on the City mag DVD? It’s a possibility says the chairman and it will be looked into. More information on the juniors is needed on the Official Web Site too, some supporters have no idea who (hopefully) the players of the future are, and which players are being retained following their scholarships. A full time member of staff works exclusively on the OWS now and many have praised recent improvements in content. Incidentally Atkinson, Plummer and Bennett are all in the final year of their scholarship and Colin Murphy wants to sign all three of them.

Catering
As usual, the topic of queues for beer in the East Stand was discussed. Would a pre-pay system where tokens were bought before the game and redeemed at half time help matters? Could one of the betting kiosks be used as a bottled beer station? Both suggestions will be looked into. A new multipour system should speed up the process of buying a beer.

One fan asked if vegetarian balti pies were available, as they had heard they were available at the Bryan Adams concert. The chairman was mystified by the veggie balti pie claims, and wasn’t aware the supplier made them. The only vegetarian pie offered by the supplier is cheese and onion, for those who don’t eat the dead.

OSC affiliation
If a Midlands supporters group was formed, what would be the benefits of affiliation with the OSC? One of the main benefits would be appearances by the chairman and other club staff at supporters forums in those regions. Full benefits can be discussed with Tony Conway who is in charge of regional branches of the OSC. Contact him at tony.conway@tiscali.co.uk

KCFM
Would KCFM benefit Hull City in any way? Only from a marketing standpoint claims the chairman. Financially it of little use to the football club but Pearson is positive about what the station can do for Hull as a city and is glad that local investment is behind KCFM.

Customer service
The club are taking a long hard look at the service offered by the club and looking to improve. The ticket office should be open after games, after the Leeds home game last season up to 40 people wanted to renew season passes there and then but couldn’t. A new service centre will be open on the West Stand.

11900 Season passes have been sold so far, this figure is down 2000 on this time last season.


Les Motherby