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?