September 2, 2014

Things We Think We Think #151


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1: It’s been a truly awful week on the pitch for Hull City, and Steve Bruce has to front up and shoulder the responsibility. The noises he made before the home game against KSC Lokeren suggested he was all prepared to set up some famous European nights at the KC Stadium, declaring his love for continental competition and his understanding of how much it meant to the supporters. Then he picked a team missing its most creative midfielder and proven striker, changed the formation and, although City very nearly pulled it off at the death, saw a disorganised, unmotivated team fail to break down a Lokeren side who were limited, if very industrious. Frustrating, yes; infuriating, definitely. This was an adventure we never thought we’d see, and yet when it happened, the obsession with Premier League points contributed to it being chucked away before it had barely started.

2: And that brings us to the next point. The numerous apologists for the policy, unofficial or not, of discarding or marginalising the Europa League campaign have always used the importance of the Premier League at the expense of all else as the crux of their argument. Yet in picking weakened sides against KSC Lokeren, it only helped City to one point from six in winnable fixtures against Stoke City and Aston Villa. It’s one thing to underperform in a competition seen – wrongly, in our view – as the lesser being, it’s another to then do so in the competition that the club hierarchy have down as the be-all and end-all. ‘Resting’ players has proved counter-productive; the exit from Europe could have just as easily demotivated them, or robbed them of momentum, as it could have kept them fresh for allegedly more ‘important’ fixtures.

3: It is only just September, as well. We’ve played just three Premier League games, hence there are 35 to go, and we now have an international break, and yet somehow there is this misguided belief that relegation will be inevitable if we pursue other dreams that don’t involve finishing 15th in the table. We need to establish a few facts here: firstly, we got to an FA Cup final last season while in total comfort in the Premier League. Secondly, nobody has ever been relegated in the same season that they’ve contested the Europa League. Thirdly, nobody gets relegated in August, even teams docked 20 points for going into administration. Fourthly, playing Thursday-Sunday is the same as playing Saturday-Tuesday, which some people genuinely don’t appear to have grasped. And on top of that, those in suits who run the club’s affairs seemed incredibly primed for a proper tilt at Europe once they’d seen the queues heading round the block for tickets to attend the home game with AS Trenčín and the subsequent trip to KSC Lokeren. Perhaps they should have asked the manager whether they should have bothered.

4: KSC Lokeren were great, mind. Their team was full of endeavour, their fans were bloody loud, they looked after us well in Belgium (that ambush from their knuckleheaded splinter group notwithstanding) and they held up a ‘No To Hull Tigers’ banner. Oh, and they sat down in the middle of Anlaby Road to sing a song during their walk from Admiral Of The Humber to the Circle, which amused us all. Even some Humberside Police officers were able to crack a smile at that, though that may have had something to do with the overtime they were getting for doing nothing too arduous. The menacing presence of the constabulary helicopter after the game was typical overkill from a police force who simply cannot help defaming City fans. KSC Lokeren now have trips to Poland, Turkey and – yes – Ukraine to look forward to. We couldn’t have got that draw if we’d won as we’d have been placed in a different pot, but boy are their fans going to have some fun now while we look on enviously, and dense people around us drone on that Crystal Palace at home is far more important.

5: Steve Bruce’s stock has fallen, but he has proved he has the class and gallantry to acknowledge mistakes. We don’t think there has been a proper explanation for the team he picked and the performance it then put in against KSC Lokeren, and we’re concerned that he wasn’t massively upset by it, but at least he had the balls to declare his contempt for the subsequent display at Villa Park, admitting that he knew fans would want their money back after travelling to Birmingham on a Sunday to watch such painful trash. And it really was, too. The only notable thing about it was that a City player - Nikica Jelavić – finally scored a goal against Aston Villa – the last to manage it was Pat bloody Heard.

6: It’ll be interesting now to see what his attitude is to the League Cup, after City were drawn away at fellow Premier League side West Bromwich Albion. If City had still been in the Europa League, then this third of three domestic prizes would have been low on the agenda; now, however, it now suddenly becomes very important indeed, if only for the way Bruce is seen to handle it. Football may be a business, as someone in a suit with an Egyptian accent is wont to remind us every so often, but when fans have forked out for trips to the continent and then night-time trips to the West Midlands only for their commitment to be not matched by the management or team, that’s when those within the game need to remember there is a sport and community responsibility etched into the reasons for football clubs’ existence. In other words City, don’t piss off the fans again when the Premier League isn’t on the agenda.

7: Deadline day saw City do plenty of business and catch a lot of attention nationally. Mohamed Diamé is a midfielder from whom opponents find it very difficult to steal the ball, and a protective player in the centre of the pitch has been a necessity for some time. His debut for City against the club that sold him to us will be fascinating. The £9.5m Abel Hernandez gives City a striking partner for Jelavić that was much needed, especially as Yannick Sagbo and Sone Aluko simply don’t look at the races any more. Gastón Ramírez, a fellow Uruguayan amusingly born in the town of Fray Bentos, is a sharp midfielder of real international pedigree and will add some proper zip to an engine room that has been a tad lumpen this season.  And just the sight of Hatem Ben Arfa high-fiving City fans at the KC when he arrived for his medical with a rictus grin on his face was enough for us to be pleased at his arrival, let alone his known quality with a ball.

8: This is where Bruce clearly excels – attracting good players while persuading the money men that they are necessary for the squad and sound investments for the club. We don’t want all mention of him to be on a downer this week as he doesn’t deserve that, and these new arrivals are genuinely exciting. The fees are big, but we’ve got £15m for George Boyd and Shane Long and the TV money has doubled – we got about £68m last year from the Premier League, plus a million extra for making the FA Cup final.

9: We’re slightly surprised that more of our players haven’t left the club after yesterday, but the one who has left for pastures new we really wish well. Boyd’s first touch is a delight, his appetite for the game admirable – unsurprising for a chap who has scrapped his way to the top from non-league – and that winning goal at Huddersfield on a day when non-football issues dominated our thinking will always be fresh in the memory. It was a pity he couldn’t command a regular place after promotion but the fact that he’s staying in the Premier League says plenty about the player and the man. And we still don’t think he spat at Joe Hart.

10: Caravan Of Love on the speakers was lovely to hear, though we obviously were a bit put off by the editing. We appreciate the club taking note and acting on our suggestion, but is it possible to simply play the whole song about five minutes or so before the kick off and let the fans join in organically?

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Filed under: Opinion — Amber Nectar @ 7:28 am

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17 Comments

  1. Little bit harsh on Aluko. Admittedly didn’t play well at home to Lokeren but having played well away against them it was inevitable they would double up on him. Looked a much better prospect then Ince when coming off the bench at Villa. As for 5 minutes of Caravan of Love, I understand the sentiment, it’s a good choice and went down okay at home. but hearing 5 minutes of it every other week?!

    Comment by Daniel mawer — September 2, 2014 @ 8:38 am

  2. I believe we said ‘five minutes or so before’ – the song itself is about three and a half minutes long. If you can’t cope with hearing the same three and a half minute song once a fortnight, then make sure you don’t ever switch on a radio or go to a nightclub.

    Aluko did cameo well in Belgium but was then absolutely appalling in the home leg. And Bruce simply isn’t using him in the Premier League – didn’t feature against Stoke, sub against Villa.

    Comment by Matt — September 2, 2014 @ 8:48 am

  3. For me Aluko falls in to the same category of Ryan Williams, Lawrie Dudfield, Darryl Duffy…and even Nick Proschwitz in that I always hoped and truly believed that they would come good (/brilliant) at some stage. As I look back at my expanding list it reminds me of the mid-90s indie classic by Mansun plays in my mind: “I Can Only Disappoint You (‘Cause I Always Let You Down)”

    Sone has had more than enough chances now – probably more than most – to cement his place in the starting XI (indeed the likes of Jay Simpson and George Boyd may well feel aggrieved at why Bruce never offered them the same opportunities). Regrettably he has failed to do so, and it is time for him to move aside/out

    Comment by Deep-Fried City AFC — September 2, 2014 @ 10:58 am

  4. For me Aluko falls in to the same category of Ryan Williams, Lawrie Dudfield, Darryl Duffy…and even Nick Proschwitz in that I always hoped and truly believed that they would come good (/brilliant) at some stage. As I look back at my expanding list the mid-90s indie classic by Mansun plays in my mind: “I Can Only Disappoint You (‘Cause I Always Let You Down)”

    Sone has had more than enough chances now – probably more than most – to cement his place in the starting XI (indeed the likes of Jay Simpson and George Boyd may well feel aggrieved at why Bruce never offered them the same opportunities). Regrettably he has failed to do so, and it is time for him to move aside/out

    Comment by Deep-Fried City AFC — September 2, 2014 @ 10:59 am

  5. Point 3. Whilst not technically the Europa League, Ipswich Town were relegated 2001/02 when they reached 3rd round of UEFA Cup.

    Comment by Scott — September 2, 2014 @ 11:14 am

  6. … which is why we said the Europa League, a competition much more bloated and stringent than the old UEFA Cup. And Ipswich went out in November of that season, giving them a whole six months without ‘distraction’.

    When Fulham got to the final in 2010, they started in the third qualifying round, like City. They went on to play 18 games in order to reach the final and still finished 12th in the Premier League.

    Comment by Matt — September 2, 2014 @ 11:25 am

  7. Bruce’s stock has fallen? A bit harsh and totally premature. The players let him down recently, not the other way round.

    Comment by Jim Watson — September 2, 2014 @ 3:39 pm

  8. Agreed, our premature departure from European competition is a great shame and probably not warranted if a stronger side had been selected. Having said that we did win the game on the night, Aluko was poor, very poor, and our loss in the first leg was due to a calamitous but abnormal mistake from a normally very reliable McGregor. If we had finished the first leg at 0-0 then we would have been through. The game against Villa was very poor, nobody had a good game, although we could easily have nicked a point. I watched the Villa v Newcastle game the week before and they were as poor as we were on Saturday.
    It would appear that if we get something out of a game at the moment it would seem that we just edge the points. I am hoping that with the new additions, which are all stellar, we will have the extra strength in depth to take control of a game and either win it by a margin rather than holding on for a point or winning by just 1 goal.
    I think its harsh to be critical of SB, not that he is beyond criticism, but he very clearly has a medium to long term plan for the team, as noted by the youngsters he has brought in, and if he gets a weekly decision wrong or not quite right, well that happens, but let’s not judge him by them. He is also honest enough to say it how it is and hold his and the team’s hands up when needed.
    I am mindful of a comment he made after the Stoke game, “here we are disappointed to draw 1-1 with Stoke when playing with 10 men for 75 minutes, just shows how far we have come”. The following week of course Stoke beat Man City away.

    Comment by JohnK — September 2, 2014 @ 4:08 pm

  9. Oh and by the way. Given what has just occurred during the transfer window, should the Tomb Rater be reviewed, 5/10 seems pretty unfair to me when the owners are clearly demonstrating continued investment in the manager and the team, and despite all the TV money and big money coming in from transfers they reinvest it straight back and more.
    I wonder if one of those investments had been listening to SB last season. If pictures of Hernandez are anything to go by. I think SB was quoted as saying that if the owners want the team to play in pink then they would. Low and behold pictures of Hernandez pop up in the last week playing in….yes you guessed it, pink!

    Comment by JohnK — September 2, 2014 @ 4:16 pm

  10. JohnK: the Tomb Rater will edge up if/when Allam formally repudiates his idiotic name change idea – at the moment, it’s still his official policy to eventually inflict it upon us, it’s high time he swallowed his pride and did just that.

    It’ll go up a bit more if/when he apologises for slandering the fans and for a series of deliberately false statements last season. 5/10 for a man who called us all “hooligans” is actually quite generous.

    Comment by Andy — September 2, 2014 @ 5:35 pm

  11. “Bruce simply isn’t using Aluko in the Premier League” *lists off match which featured Aluko as evidence*

    Comment by Druid — September 2, 2014 @ 8:10 pm

  12. With Snodgrass out long-term injured, we need to persevere with Aluko and SB needs to get the best out of him. Has the ability and potential to unlock defences. Saw glimpses of that at Villa Park.

    Comment by Los_Tigres — September 2, 2014 @ 8:13 pm

  13. Andy: I agree with you. In fact I’d drop Tomb Rater to 4/10 for putting out that shite new badge that obliterated the words “Hull City A.F.C.”

    It’s not all about money.

    Comment by Ambertigerfan — September 3, 2014 @ 4:54 am

  14. Druid … after selling Shane Long, there was a gaping hole to be filled alongside Jelavic up front. Aluko wasn’t picked for any of the three Premier League games from the start, and only came off the bench once during that time. He’s played 19 minutes of Premier League football so far, all of which came at Villa. Hardly a ringing endorsement from Steve Bruce, eh?

    Comment by Matt — September 3, 2014 @ 11:38 am

  15. I think SB is frustrated with Aluko, we probably all are. On his day he is an immense talent and he has shown glimpses of it. It’s that perennial issue, he needs game time perhaps to get to full potential but isn’t getting it off the bench and having difficulty making the impression he needs to. However he could have been the match winner in the home leg against Lokeren and didn’t take that chance. I wonder what SB see’s in training? I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go on loan to a Championship club when their loan window opens.

    Comment by JohnK — September 3, 2014 @ 4:25 pm

  16. I think there are a few short memores on here regarding Aluko. He was dynamite last season and with Brady was the reason we started so well. Once he got injured, we went off the boil and were only really saved in the League by the signings of Long and Jelavic. The season before, it was the same. He was excellent in the first part of the season when he was combining beautifully with Simpson, but then got injured; Simpson had no-one to play off and we got by with goals from midfield from December onwards.

    I think we are too quick to criticise the lad – he’s still feeling his way back from a bad injury and I believe in a couple of months, he may well be back to his excellent best.

    Comment by Shuffle — September 6, 2014 @ 1:38 pm

  17. Haha alright mate, I see your point with aluko.
    And I’m probably the minority but the song in its entirety makes me feel like it’s 2am and the club wants me out the doors. But I felt the same with can’t help falling in love. I grew up with pearsons playlist of republica’s ‘ready to go’ and ‘born slippy’ they made me excited for the game, and didn’t feel so forced. Stokes ‘Delilah’ always made me feel glad we didn’t need to use the pa to create atmosphere

    In an ideal world we wouldn’t need to pick out our favourite hymn and have a backing track to get us going. But I suppose needs must and it’s probably the best song for the job.

    Comment by Daniel mawer — September 8, 2014 @ 10:47 am

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