And so a season that seems to have lasted for several years finally comes to an end. It’s been a forgettable one littered with unforgettable matches. More players from this squad will be heading to a World Cup than any other since we stopped being rubbish. Yet the squad remains lacking in heart, cohesion and, in some places, effort, even if the ability is there. The Hull City vintage of 2017/18 looks good on the supermarket shelf, but when you get it home it tastes like chip shop vinegar.
The XI announced was a disappointing one. We were denied to opportunity to say a fond farewell to triers such as David Meyler, Allan McGregor, Michael Dawson and maybe Max Clark, along with the only player on our books (permanently) likely to scare Championship defences in Abel Hernandez. There was no Moses Odubajo, either. Worryingly, given the ridiculous Allam-induced turnover we’ve had over the past two seasons, there’s probably no one left at the club to tell Nigel just how good Moses was before his injury. A Wayne Jacobs for the new millennium? Let’s not make that mistake again. This left a line-up of:
Tomori Hector Mazuch Kingsley
Wilson Toral Bowen
Things started out pretty much how you’d expect a post-season friendly to go. Brentford – a skilful, energetic side – quickly gained the ascendancy. City looked like strangers randomly strewn together. And it was the home side who should have gone one up after eight minutes when Marcondes goes one on one with Marshall but puts it wide when he really should have scored.
That attack marked the end of Mazuch’s afternoon. The big defender tweaked a hamstring and was replaced by Aina, with Tomori going to centre-back to partner Hector. This led to our ‘Chelsea defence’ being aired. Now I’m not much of a chess player, but if there is a manoeuvre called ‘the Chelsea defence’ in the game, I’d imagine it involves recklessly thrusting your Queen at the mercy of a pawn while leaving your King hopelessly exposed to being checkmated. And sure enough, minutes later hesitancy among our Chelsea trinity, combined with an inability to clear the ball, leads to Canos glancing a header past a blameless Marshall. It all looked far too inevitable.
City barely threaten, save for a long shot that goes miles over from a strangely muted Harry Wilson. Indeed it looks like Brentford will be the ones to score the next goal. Macleod forces an excellent save out of Marshall while Egan heads over. Wilson hits a tame shot at the opposition keeper, while Tomori does well to stop Marcondes scoring and a tepid game shows no sign of anything happening. Then something happens. Harry Wilson sends a deep cross over to Jon Toral, who heads the ball into the path of Jarrod Bowen. Bowen doesn’t miss them and duly scores his 15th goals of the season – a terrific effort given how kack we’ve been. Half-time comes and a vociferous away end wonders how the hell that happened.
City start the second half with a bit more urgency and penetration to their play. Larsson is at the centre of all the good things coming from our midfield and Bowen has shown that if we create the chances, he’ll take them. So Adkins takes off Bowen for the lesser spotted Evandro, and Larsson makes way for Kevin Stewart, a standout disappointment in a season of disappointments.
It shouldn’t work, but it kind of does. Brentford fanny about in their defence and gift the ball to Campbell. Fraizer runs at Daniels in the Brentford goal and wins a clear penalty. Wilson steps up to take the spot kick, mullers it and brings out a decent save from Daniels. Bah.
City are largely on top now. Evandro gives us another frustrating glimpse of how good he is, and Campbell’s intelligent probing, along with debutant Batty’s rather impressive possession retention, affords us a few decent breaks. Sadly, they keep ending up with Aina, who is utterly clueless as to what to do with the ball on the rare occasions he manages to get it under control. City have a decent shout for another penalty turned down for handball, while Daniels saves very well at Campbell’s feet. What chances Brentford do carve out they either spanner comically over the bar, or Marshall – composed and calming on Sunday – deals with matters effectively. In truth neither side looks much like breaking the deadlock and the 1-1 draw – which is how it finishes – is a fair reflection of the .
balance of play.
There were some promising signs for City. If Marshall is to be our number one next season, this was a display to build on. Batty looked good in central midfield. I look forward to us making him an insulting contract offer next summer and essentially forcing him to look for a club other than the one that’s nurtured him. Campbell tired towards the end but played up front on his own for 90 minutes and gave the Brentford defence plenty to think about. We’ll be a better team next season for not having to accommodate Hector, Aina and – to a lesser extent as he was OK on Sunday – Tomori. Keeping Larsson would be a good bit of business too.
However, the most pleasing aspect of Sunday was the Hull City fans. On the way to the ground, I got chatting to a couple of Brentford fans. Brentford fans are terrific – every last one of them is knowledgable, magnanimous and passionate without being a nob – and they kept talking about the 2-0 win in the Great Escape. They said – and I believe them – that it was the loudest away following they’d ever heard at Griffin Park. I loved that game. In spite of everything that’s happened since, it’s still in my top five City games. But their mentioning that game was bittersweet for me. Walking to the ground with my five-year-old son, attending his first ever game, I couldn’t help but feel a level of annoyance that he wouldn’t be getting to experience that togetherness within the club that we had back then, that ribald passion, that sheer wall of noise. The Allams, I thought, had killed that with their crass mismanagement of the club. And yet the volume that emanated from the City fans was incredible. To have gone through what we have been through of late, to turn up in those numbers and make that much noise was brilliant. When I asked my son if he’s enjoyed his first game, he told me that he had, that his favourite bit was all the singing, and he asked when he could come back to his second game. So thank you. As long as Hull City fans keep on behaving in the manner in which we have been doing for a long time now, the club will be enjoyable to support. The Allams can’t kill that off, as much as they’d probably love to. You gave a wide-eyed five-year-old the best possible introduction to watching football. Though if you could keep the swearing to a minimum over the next five or six seasons, I’d appreciate it.
See you all in August, anyway, when England will have a new manager, Yorkshire will have the County Championship wrapped up, Andy Murray will be Scottish again, and the Allams will still have a festering grip on what’s left of our club. The 2018/19 season promises only to be a shitter version of the 2017/18 effort. And yet, because of atmospheres like the one created on Sunday, I’ll be there (in away matches at least). As will you. Because we can’t let those bastards win.
Richard Gardham (via Tiger Chat)