1. The collapse of City’s season is as unexpected as it’s been sudden. Four games ago the play-offs were still very much on, now even a top half finish is touch and go. It’s a great shame to see a season that’s produced some fine victories and marvellous football ending this way.
2. Hull’s unique nature means it’s a city in which rumours swirl with never-ending regularity, and most are very much of the “this taxi-driver’s brother heard that…” ilk – but a few troubling ones have surfaced in recent days. If something did indeed occur at the club in the first part of last week it’d certainly help to explain the Portsmouth debacle, which was not just a rotten performance but a complete non-effort.
3. An explanation is very different to an excuse, however. Accusing any professional footballer of not trying is a grievous charge usually issued by the terminally oafish and incorrectly made. Not so for the shambles at Fratton Park. Even if something did take place at the club we don’t know about, the few hundred who made the long, tiring, expensive journey deserved a hell of a lot better.
4. More understanding souls may point to tiredness. There’s no doubt that Mad March has taken a toll upon the players and broken rather than made the season. City have certainly been unlucky with their fixtures of late – again, whether this is a valid excuse for the two rotten offerings in the past seven days depends upon the kindliness of the observer.
5. It’d be a courageous City fan who backed us to finish with the division’s best defence now. With both centre-backs missing, we cannot realistically hope to shut sides out with Bradley and Cooper, however good their future prospects may be. Luckily we have a week until the next game, which is going to require some serious thinking about how to patch up a defence to at least make us competitive for the remainder of the season.
6. We don’t wish to sound like a broken record, so we’ll not say again that Richard Garcia deserves to be back in the team (oops, seems we just did). However, the complete omission of Jay Simpson against Coventry, when his 35 minutes or so at Portsmouth was the one – that is, the one – remotely bright thing to emerge from Fratton Park, was actually staggering. Simpson, with just a modicum of commitment around him, could have led the comeback at Portsmouth. Mark Cullen, by contrast, isn’t going to turn anything round against any opponent at any stage of a game but Nick Barmby preferred him to Simpson at the weekend.
7. Barmby needs to be careful about apologising for performances in the future. Offering fulsome public apologies isn’t a trick you can pull off very often without either aggravating the dressing room or losing the effect of doing so. Leicester was a disappointment but hardly an outrage; Portsmouth was the pefect example of a once-a-season disaster that required immediate contrition, but its currency was slightly devalued by us having already heard one that week.
8. Sadly, the manager’s confusing tactics and shirty post-match interviews mean his 7/10 rating on the right must be considered to be on a negative outlook.
9. Still, on the plus side, at least the pitch is looking a bit better now…
10. And, as a considerable consolation to City’s current woes, Aaron Wilbraham’s first Premier League goal at the age of 32 is something to celebrate, isn’t it? Well done to him on a feat few would ever have envisaged.