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Things We Think We Think #268

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1. Bollocks, bollocks and thrice bollocks. Are we ever going to win an away game again? If we can’t hold onto a lead in the very final minute of a game against the side who accommodatingly ended our last nightmarishly long run of away failures seven years ago, it’s tough to see us ever succeeding on the road any time soon.

2. It’s tempting to look at what City did wrong, but let’s firstly look at what they did right. Norwich are no mugs – they’d be in the play-offs had they beaten City – but we led for a long time. That was courtesy of a very nice goal that featured a gloriously weighted pass by the much-maligned but also improved Henriksen and a cool finish by Dicko.

3. City also held on for more than half an hour following David Meyler’s sending off, taking the match into the very final minute. A bit of luck was ridden, but a fair few sleeves were also rolled up and the lads competed well in challenging circumstances. As frustrated as we all are, it’s also possible to feel for them a bit. Twice now, at Reading and Norwich, we’d led in the final stages and fallen short. It hurts.

4. But…that equalising goal. Firstly, the throw was obviously foul. But it didn’t have a great bearing on the goal itself, which was heartbreakingly soft. A long throw, a flick, a late runner sweeps it home. It’d be a crap one to concede in the 17th minute; in the 96th, it’s going to dismay us all week long.

5. By common consent, Mr Stroud didn’t have a great afternoon with the whistle. By far the most contentious and significant decision came with the dismissal of David Meyler, which probably stymied any hopes we had of adding to the lead and left us holding on for over a third of the game. It’s possible to understand his thinking though. Meyler clumsily bundled a player over (in his view), and with Norwich breaking dangerously, the caution that followed was almost automatic. It looked soft. A few replays don’t alter that perception, but Meyler himself didn’t quarrel with the official’s verdict and it’s hard not to conclude that we’ll see greater injustices (for and against) this season.

6. This away thing. It now stretches over 13 months, and it’s becoming a serious handicap in a season already hobbled by Ehab Allam’s summer antics. Granted, most of those were in a Premier League relegation season, but we’ve already had six attempts this season and still the run continues. It just has to be a psychological thing now, and combatting that isn’t going to be easy.

7. Which takes us to Barnsley on Saturday. A big following is likely for the first Yorkshire derby in the League this season, and expectations are going to be high – that’s no slight on our hosts, despite their lowly position. However, we really have to be winning this game, simply to regain a little bit of belief on the road. They’ve had a funny sort of season, and won’t represent the stiffest test we’ll encounter. Come on City, send us home happy for once, yeah?

8. Back to David Meyler, who’s certainly in the headlines right now. It was highly enjoyable to see him captain Ireland to qualification to the World Cup play-offs, and we’d love to see him feature at Russia 2018. We’ve always loved Meyler, and it’s great to see him get the recognition he deserves.

9. There will be a tribute to Les Mutrie at the Nottingham Forest home game on 28th October, and quite right too. City fans of a certain age will always remember him with immense fondness, and his passing at the age of 66 was a cause of considerable upset. If you missed it during the international break, here’s our little tribute to Sir Les.

10. Ehab Allam called someone childish when discussing gategate, his family’s latest gift to the community. Still, no-one ever thought he possessed an ounce of self-awareness.

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PODCAST: Two different home displays, Action For Change, games against ex-gaffers…

The latest podcast, then. We lump the Preston horror show and the Birmingham cakewalk together and ask why we were just so different in the second game compared to the first.

There were important events on Saturday for both the future and the history of Hull City AFC. We were at both and talk about what occurred. Plus we look back to this week in our promotion season of ten years ago and remember our skipper arguing with his ex-boss, and another ex-boss getting the boot…

All yours. Next one in a fortnight thanks to the international break.

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Things We Think We Think #266

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1. Being a City fan on the road is always going to have its difficulties, but it feels especially grim at the moment. Reading was the about the closest we’ve come to a first League success outside of Hull in 13 months, and to have it snatched away late in the game feels rather cruel.

2. Cruel, and careless too. It was a scruffy game between two sides with little chance of troubling the top six, but an unhappy season would’ve been briefly lent a little lustre if we’d finally won an away game. Whether we deserved three points isn’t a moot point – we’ll get onto it shortly – but when you’re that close to a win against deeply mediocre opposition, it’s desperately disappointing to let it slip with five minutes left.

3. Reading ‘enjoyed’ 74% of the possession on Saturday, a statistic that is, on the face of it, quite damning for Leonid Slutsky and the Tigers. However it is unlikely that many Royals fans enjoyed it, given that Jaap Stam’s side rarely did anything with the ball: there was no purpose to their passing and remarkably few real goalscoring chances fashioned. Their pointless possession didn’t reflect badly on City, it suited us.

4. Seb Larsson’s City career has had a patchy start, but he was involved in most of City’s best chances at the Madejski Stadium. His through ball for Fraizer Campbell’s goal was sublime, perfectly weighted and taking two Reading players out of play, and he was unlucky not to score himself from two direct free kicks. The first struck the crossbar, and the second caused Vito Mannone some difficulty when it deflected off the wall. One game doesn’t make a season, but there are signs that Larsson can make a meaningful contribution this year.

5. As for Campbell, it was gratifying to see him notch his first City goal in 9 years, 4 months and 28 days. He showed great awareness in anticipating Larsson’s through ball and carefully placing his shot beyond both the ‘keeper and covering defender.

6. This week sees a pair of home fixtures, and a chance to speedily add to our worryingly thin points tally. Preston visit on Tuesday, and will do so lying in an unexpectedly elevated position. They certainly weren’t among the pre-season favourites, but they’ve started well – a match that may, two months ago, have seemed among autumn’s less testing assignments doesn’t feel that way right now.

7. Then it’s Birmingham. They’ve just raised a smile by ending Harry Redknapp’s career, but that does mean they could well have a new manager by the time they travel to the Circle in five days. Having picked up a handy point at Derby on Saturday, their present position of 23rd is possibly a false one.

8. But never mind all that…it’s two home games, and although you’d have to be either overburdened with optimism or untroubled by rationality to envisage City as automatic promotion candidates, even a side aspiring for a respectable and stabilising top half finish needs to be amassing no fewer than four points from these two games. Right?

9. Saturday sees what may potentially be an escalation in the attempts to rid ourselves of the Allam scourge. A new group named “Hull City Action For Change” (HCAFC – geddit?) are holding a public event on Saturday before the Birmingham match in the William Gemmell on Anlaby Road. We look forward to seeing what they have to say and their learning their plans to bring about a fresh start for the club.

10. It was interesting to see the Football League’s response to AFC Wimbledon referring to MK Dons as just MK on the scoreboard and not at all on the matchday programme this weekend. A League statement read: “The failure to recognise MK Dons in the correct manner causes reputational issues for the EFL as well as creating the potential for unrest amongst MK Dons supporters and, as such, is of concern for the EFL.” Strange that the League have said nothing about our club’s repeated failures to recognise the name Hull City, nor the unrest among supporters created by inconsistent branding, since both cause reputational issues for the EFL, right?

DeanoHat

If you missed out last year, our friends at Football Bobbles are re-releasing ‘The Deano’ bobble hat (based on the famous/infamous 1992/93 home shirt) this Friday at 7pm.

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Things We Think We Think #265

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1. Another poor week on the field for City, for whom little is going right. Defeat at Fulham wasn’t shameful, unlike the catastrophe that preceded it, but it extended City’s winless run of away league games to 21. There’s a real psychological issue with the side – it doesn’t look remotely as though it’s confident of winning any fixture outside of East Yorkshire, and this mental timidity is sensed and capitalised upon by streetwise Championship opposition with disheartening ease and regularity.

2. We weren’t bad at Craven Cottage. Just ordinary, and prone to fatal lapses of concentration at the back. And though City roused themselves well from the first concession, there was rarely a sense that the second could be repaired. Again, it’s mental frailty. We don’t do adversity well on the pitch, which is particularly unfortunate given that we’re a club beset by it right now.

3. Sunderland followed an approximately similar pattern, though with a moderately happier outcome. When we conceded (miserably cheaply), heads plunged and took a long time to recover. And look, it’s hard when things are going bad and you concede. Footballers are human and they experience human emotions. But there also needs to be a greater resilience at times. Some of the stuff City played in the first half after Sunderland scored was frankly shocking.

4. Much of that came from a midfield that was really quite pathetically weak. Henriksen and Larsson must surely have attributes that have propelled them a long way in the professional game, but it was difficult to discern what these were at times. Neither seemed awfully interested in tracking runners, making a tackle, receiving or using possession, and as a result we were overrun by a deeply mediocre Sunderland side. You cannot hope to prosper with such a flimsy central midfield, and it’s hard not to wonder what on earth Leonid Slutsky was thinking by deploying it.

5. Whenever City played the ball out of defence in the first half it was invariably to one of the wide men, where momentum stalled. The formation took Bowen and Grosicki out of the game as Sunderland were able to contain the wide player with the ball and still have both Bowen and Grosicki tightly marked.

6. Why do City look so bereft of purpose and understanding at times? Well, Slutsky’s post match interview revealed that the Russian feels he’s still in pre-season mode, still explaining his philosophy to the players eight games into the season. With that we can sympathise. Remember Ehab saying how transfer business would be concluded early?

7. Slutsky said David Meyler didn’t start the game as he is managing the Irishman’s fitness, an understandable mindset when you consider the players we’ve lost to injury playing them when below peak fitness. Meyler’s introduction changed the game though, and saved City from defeat.

8. Which brings us to that risible chant. Stop that shit.

9. Without garnering much attention, Allan McGregor is making a lot of good saves at the moment. The first goal he conceded at Derby is a reminder that he has his flaws, but he’s also been stopping a lot lately. In these generally unhappy days, it’s a rare bright point.

10. Let’s not go overboard on penaltyspotgate. It’s clear that someone somewhere forget to properly daub a splash of paint twelve yards from each goal, and equally plain that the referee didn’t notice that penalty spots were not visible to the fans. It happens. It was poor timing with the SMC choosing over the weekend to publicly defend their decision to sack the previous groundstaff, but never mind. It’ll make a great Hull City trivia question in years to come.

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Things We Think We Think #264

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1. Where on earth to start with the Derby debacle? Oddly enough, it wasn’t that bad for the first half hour or so. City trailed, with Aina and McGregor about equally to blame for Derby’s opener, but we were in the game. Until Larsson missed a penalty. How does a professional footballer, whose actual job it is to direct a football in a particular direction, MISS a penalty? Having one saved is almost understandable, though still unimpressive when there are parts of a goal that a keeper cannot reach available for the taker. But to fail to steer a stationary football with no accompanying opponents into the available 192 square feet from a mere twelve yards…it’s baffling.

2. There are no excuses for what followed. 1-0 down having just missed a penalty isn’t a great situation. 4-0 down at half-time is impossible to salvage, yet that’s what City’s total capitulation following Larsson’s error ensured. It was as appalling a quarter-hour as you could ever wish to see at this level of football.

3. But how? Well, Leonid Slutsky erred with his team selection. Unless David Meyler was either injured or exhausted following international duty, his benching was a decision that’s tough to understand. So is the inclusion of Markus Henriksen, who offers disappointingly little when things are going well and virtually nothing when they aren’t. City were often overrun in the first half, and the team selection needs questioning as much as the application of those who were selected.

4. Kudos to Curtis Davies for not celebrating his goal (though we’re not fragile or juvenile enough to be emotionally scarred forever if an ex-player larges it a bit when putting one over on us) and bigger kudos to Davies and Tom Huddlestone as well for making a point of applauding the 1,054 City fans who made the journey. They never got chance to say goodbye; and neither did we. And they deserved applause back because they were and are excellent footballers and good professionals, and worthy of our continued respect.

5. Two big games this week. Going to Fulham is aesthetically pleasant but seldom easy; playing Sunderland at home is often vociferous and not always pleasant. It’s about time City decided what they are going to be – capable of swatting away distracted opposition at the Circle while grinding out agreeable performances and results on their travels? Currently it’s one and not the other.

6. And the Derby horror show reminded us of just how awful we have actually been away from home for a very long time. It’s not new territory, of course; our first relegation from the Premier League was aided emphatically by a winless season away from home, and there was joy and relief usually associated with last day escapes when that came to an end a few games into the next season at Norwich. But being so dreadful on our travels is embarrassing and must come to an end quickly.

7. We wouldn’t ordinarily concern ourselves with Ehab Allam’s utterances on Friday. They’re as banal, wrongheaded, self-serving and cretinous as you’d expect from him or his father. But…wasn’t it interesting that the club issued them on Friday, a day when the club was being lambasted by two different football authorities. It could be coincidence rather than distraction. Or it could not be.

8. Either way, having already secured for themselves a place in the gutter, it’s clear that the Allam family are now intent on establishing an even more subterranean position for their shattered reputation. Firstly, the club was censured by the Premier League for failing to offer concessions last season. The club misled us when saying concessions still existed, and have now been reprimanded for not doing so. Furthermore, City’s assertion that the rules were “ambiguous” is not true. They’re explicitly clear. City were unaware of them when acting to spite their own fans, and when the magnificent Hull City Supporters’ Trust began their determined campaign to reverse this assault upon our future fanbase, they simply hoped they’d get away with it. That’s evidenced by their refusal to implement concessions even now that their malpractice has been exposed, and as the Upper West Stand lies empty, no-one with an ounce of integrity or intelligence could contend that they’ve had a positive effect.

9. Friday didn’t get much better for City, when the Independent Football Ombudsman issued scathing criticism of the club for having chosen “not to co-operate” with an investigation into alleged mis-selling of these godforsaken memberships. It was, in their view, “unacceptable and unprecedented” for a club to not co-operate. Just think about that. It is literally without precedent that a professional football club in this country should choose not to assist into an investigation launched for the benefit of one of their own fans. It’s a squalid new low.

10. But it’s explicitly the wishes of Hull City AFC. The owners enact policies that intentionally harm the supporters of the club, which are then carried out (with varying enthusiasm) by employees at all levels. Be in no doubt: our owners viscerally loathe City supporters, and haven’t bothered hiding it for some time. Well, it’s mutual. But don’t for a second think you’re going to win, because you aren’t.