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Things We Think We Think #275

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1. Before the game, the managers. The sad situation of Leonid Slutsky’s departure will always carry a bitter taste, even if his going had seemed inevitable for weeks. A good man who tried his best for the club was left with an impossible situation by people who are not good and do not try their best for the club, and that’s always going to rankle. Once again, we thank Leonid for his efforts and wish him well for the future.

2. We were talking to a friend of Slutsky’s in the week. That friend, and apparently others, urged him not to take the job because of the toxic nature of the owners. That he took it on anyway, having been warned about the Allam family, suggests both foolhardiness and courage. Though it’s interesting and gratifying to know that the Allams’ nature is so widely understood throughout the game.

3. If Slutsky’s departure was widely expected, the identity of his successor was equally predictable. Nigel Adkins, a moderately garrulous individual with some (though not limitless) success at this level had been a recent attendee at City games, and no other contenders felt plausible. Given that few managers want to work with the Allams, he’s probably about as good as we could hope for. Nonetheless, we hope he doesn’t take the lukewarm reception personally; this is a club his bosses have drained of enthusiasm.

4. The first half of his first game was as dire as we’ve seen in this grim season so far. City were disorganised and lethargic, shorn of urgency and invention. It was utterly wretched stuff, and the 12,200 or so present sat cold and mute before sloping off for warm drinks at the interval with barely a peep raised. Which made the second half all the more remarkable. But not before a real team calamity gifted Brentford a lead. Clark’s woeful miskick, the dismal tracking of Brentford runners, Meyler’s clumsy steering of the ball into his own goal – it was farcical stuff.

5. Yet we roused ourselves in a way few of the thoroughly fed up home fans could have expected. Much it came from Kamil Grosicki, perpetually frustrating but abundantly gifted. His goal was a magnificent strike, not his first of the season, and was a moment of inspiration few of his harder-working but more limited team-mates could muster. That Seb Larsson’s goal wasn’t the best of the afternoon is testimony to its excellence.

5a. But back to Grosicki’s goal. Sometimes, it only takes a moment to change everything. As soon as Grosicki scored, confidence surged through a previously lacklustre City side. Gone was the dismally cautious and slow-paced football from the first half, and the Tigers began playing with rare vigour and attack. When Jackson Irvine scored the third goal, the Circle reacted with a joyous fervour we’ve been starved of for so long. It was a genuinely feel-good moment.

6. One of Slutsky’s main failings was an inability to positively change the game with substitutions, but the introduction of Jon-Miquel Toral early in the second half against Brentford transformed the game. He floated around in midfield like a Tesco Value Iniesta, always open to receive the ball, and bringing colleagues into the game with a range of delicious passes such as the one for Jackson Irvine’s first City goal. Granted, the decision to start Aina on the right wing and then send him to left back to make room for Toral was odd (as was playing Luer as a substitute right back), and fairness to Slutsky demands noting that Toral was unavailable to him in November, but it doesn’t change that Adkins made a player interchange that had wondrous results.

7. Okay, it’s only three points. It’s very premature to suggest that we’re suddenly safe this season, although the six point cushion does feel encouraging. And Nigel Adkins has a lot to prove and – as he’ll discover in January – abysmally thin resources with which to do it. But in a season of almost unremitting misery, that second half was a rare but authentic high point.

8. Amazing that the ‘best run club in the league’ had to postpone an under-23 game because it can’t fulfil three fixtures at different age levels in a weekend, isn’t it?

9. Bubblegate at Huddersfield is over 4½ years ago, but an interesting post-script arrived over the weekend. Chief Superintendent Owen West from West Yorkshire Police told City fans on Twitter that his force’s appalling conduct was “wrong” and “shouldn’t be repeated”. Refreshing stuff, and indeed WYP have been significantly less inflammatory on our last few visits to their area, hinting at genuine rather than cosmetic change. There’s a long way to go with policing football, and too often fans are still treated in a way that no other section of society could experience without a huge public outcry, but one day we’ll get there.

10. Thank you to everyone who’s said nice things about us winning the Football Supporters’ Federation’s Club Podcast of the Year in London a week ago. We’re touched that people listen to and watch our semi-coherent Monday evening offers, and appreciate everyone who participates as a guest, listener or viewer. So please, join us at about 7.30pm this evening…

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Things We Think We Think #274

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1. ‘Mutual consent’.

It’s never mutual consent is it? One side makes a decision that the other side has to live with. The term, in a sporting context, euphemises that either someone has walked away from their job or they’ve been sacked, and in this case it’s the football club who most need the appearance of being part of the decision making process. After all, the now departed Leonid Slutsky (a man who can’t be any good at poker since he wears his heart, liver, kidneys and bladder on his sleeve) was openly stating he was considering his position while Ehab was on his yacht on the Côte d’Azur.

2. Leonid Slutsky had his failings: His team selections confounded, there was a sense that the players didn’t quite grasp his philosophy and his substitutions were often ineffective, sometimes deleterious. There remains however, the belief that he was sold a lemon, trussed up like Houdini and expected to make silk purses from an array of manky sows ears found discarded in a tenfoot. Slutsky was a deeply personable and likeable man, who showed more deference to the club’s history and identity in 177 days than our owners have in 7 years. His tenure has ended in failure, but there’s no rancour here, we wish you well Slutskisha.

Ты заслуживаешь лучшего чем Ehab. Удачи в будущих начинаниях.

3. “[Slutsky] has acted with complete honour” said Ehab. If Nigel Adkins has attended the last few City games after being sounded out by the club, then Ehab should not talk of a quality he knows nothing of. One wonders if Ehab even cares about appointing a manager capable of avoiding the drop or if he is just seeking to fill a vacancy, caring only for parachute payments, which come in regardless of our current standing in the league. If he did care you’d suspect head of recruitment Lee Darnbrough would be departing at the same time as Slutsky and head of strategy Oleg Yarovinsky, after a summer  transfer window that has been disastrous in terms of giving Slutsky the tools to do the job.  If however, assembling a squad of kids, frees and loans that will struggle to be in the top 21 of 24 Championship clubs while selling any playing asset of value, leaving parachute payments unspent and trouserable is your goal, then you’re probably satisfied with the head of recruitment’s work.

4. In a parallel universe, Ehab Allam is a decisive man. He makes bold decisions based on unmatched football knowledge that stand the test of time, creating the sort of stability at the football club that justifies the statement  “I think we’re the best run club in the Football League and arguably one of the top six in English football.”

But what of the universe you and we inhabit? Let’s open the box containing Schrödinger’s club (who exist in a state of being well run only until actually observed): Hull City are searching for their fourth manager/head coach in just 530 days. You’ll remember that Ehab passed the buck for Mike Phelan’s appointment onto prospective new owners and the fans who he was merely placating. That is of course an interesting interpretation of events soon after Steve Bruce’s mic drop, when anyone perturbed that we were beginning a Premier League season without someone to pick the team thought, perhaps hastily, that having such a person would be a good idea.

5. It’s hard not to look back at the tenure of our last ‘manager’, Steve Bruce, and not be in awe at his management of Assem Allam. He knew exactly how to get what he wanted from the old man, a skill that eluded Nigel Pearson and Nick Barmby before him, and used it to deliver a period of unprecedented success. It all went wrong though, when Assem’s ill-health increased Ehab’s influence, and Bruce clearly could no longer stomach working with him. Since then we’ve had ‘head coaches’ with limited influence on transfers, and look where that has got us, with a head coach walking away, hamstrung by Ehab, who marvels at his own inadequacy.

6. The 2-2 draw at Sheffield Wednesday followed, almost, a familiar and dispiriting template. Play okay. Take the lead. Fail to build upon it. Chuck it away. Concede late. The only thing that spoiled it was Michael Dawson’s faintly surreal equaliser, which took an eternity to travel the ten yard from the outside of his boot to the inside of the post and in. Even so, the late point gained felt more like two dropped after leading at the break and seeing just how awful the home side were.

7. And this is where the players have to take a bit of responsibility. Sure, the side isn’t good enough and the squad isn’t deep enough. That’s Ehab’s fault. Team selections and tactics, those lay with Slutsky. But this ridiculous propensity for throwing points away by conceding late goals is hard to pin on anyone but the players themselves. Late goals happen as bodies and minds weary, we all know that. But why are they usually things done to us instead of by us? It’s infuriating, and as we glumly survey the league table, costly too.

8. The reaction to our revelation of City’s actual crowds this season was interesting. We hope it served to highlight the epic and frequently deliberate mismanagement of the club by Assem and Ehab Allam by explaining the true state of our pitiful attendances this season – and remember, next time City declare a crowd figure, knock 20% off and you’re about there.

9. Apropos crowds: City haven’t really played at home to anyone this season who’d bring a large following, but we will before too long. Leeds, the reigning Champions of Europe who also memorably won this division in mid-September, have never failed to sell out an allocation here. Are City really going to leave thousands of seats empty while they bitch about only getting 2,500? What’ll happen when Wessies try to get in the home end? Will the Upper West lay empty as a contrast to an oversubscribed away end? Ditto Sheffield Wednesday, the planet’s best-supported club. City had better be thinking about this already.

10. There’ll be no podcast this evening. That’s because we’re travelling down to London today on account of being shortlisted for the Football Supporters’ Federation’s award for Club Podcast of the Year, and the awards ceremony is tonight.  Though surprised and honoured to be shortlisted, we’re up against stiff opposition – but there’s champagne and a meal, so in TypicalCity fashion we’ll just enjoy a day out and not worry too much about the actual result. We’ll try to squeeze a podcast in at some point this week. In the meantime, thanks to everyone who’s said kind things about our nomination .

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PODCAST: One point from six, Slutsky’s future, meeting the Allams, attendance discrepancies…

The latest award-nominated edition of your podcast is here! Jocular it rarely is, as we have to dissect how City lost on Saturday from a 2-0 lead. That takes a while, and conclusive it struggles to be.

We discuss Slutsky’s position and also muse on the first meeting in four years between Allams and fans, while talking about the attendance discrepancies that recently came into our mitts.

We did discuss two games from ten years ago, as we’ve done all season, but the recording software broke down and our outstanding reminiscences on 0-0 v Bristol City and 2-2 v Cardiff City were lost forever.

Not sure when we’ll do next week’s, as the awards are on Monday night and we’ll be there

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Things We Think We Think #273

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1. Another wretched week for City. A tepid 0-0 draw at the Den and a startling collapse on Saturday garned just a point, while neither performance offers much cause for optimism. If we were still in denial about being a relegation battle last week, we’ve been firmly disabused of that notion now. We’re in a lot of trouble.

2. Match analysis shortly, but how City cope with the realisation of being in a survival battle will be interesting. We can’t pretend to be optimistic. Entering this sort of battle with an incompetently assembled squad of moderate loanees, a porous defence and a soft, fat underbelly doesn’t fill us with hope. The best that can happen is that following the absymal capitulation against Bristol City is that the manager (whoever that ends up being) and the players quickly realise the gravity of our predicament and collectively readjust their sights. Pretending we aren’t in a serious situation until the New Year is no good. We need to start fighting now.

3. And yes, “whoever that ends up being”. The circumstances of this specific defeat, plus the general wretchedness of latter performances, have brought Leonid Slutsky’s own position under the spotlight, not least by his own candid interviews in which he has tried to be dignified and honest and has sometimes looked consequently like he has located his own sword to fall on. Maybe it’s clever psychology from Slutsky – after all, a manager who dares his chairman to sack him may risk not being given the satisfaction and could prolong his spell as a result. If he really thought he deserved to go, he’d just resign. He seems an honourable man, and we’d like to think it’s not about the payoff he’d sacrifice if he just quit, so maybe putting the feelers out about his own precarious position could, by contrast, strengthen his stance within the club. We will forever feel that he has been dealt some truly rotten hands by the Allams, who sold all his best players from a very useful inherited squad, replaced them only partially, and on the cheap at that, and then told him to get on with it. Tactically there are questions to be asked, of course, but the abysmal way the club is run clearly seeps down to the coaching staff and the squad. Slutsky is culpable when a team he picks and schools chucks away a two goal lead at home to an ordinary side, sure, but some of the other defeats and drab displays have been telegraphed from the first minute and as such have not been about him nor the players, but about those in the hierarchy who apply the binds and gags in each transfer window.

4. And really, whether he stays or goes feels irrelevant. For as long as the Allams cash more cheques than they sign and continue to claim that City are the best run club going despite a weak squad, a befuddled, betrayed manager and a half empty stadium in a one-club city that has recently enjoyed Premier League football, an FA Cup final and a European campaign, it really doesn’t matter who the manager is. If Slutsky goes, it’d be to save his own sanity because his reputation isn’t shot. Football people know the true incompetents here, and they don’t wear boots or tracksuits.

5. We were probably indebted to Allan McGregor for the point at Millwall six days ago. Along with Jarrod Bowen, he’s been a rare success this season, and he made a string of saves you can’t guarantee will always be made. It ensured a point for City that wasn’t pretty, but wasn’t wholly without use – even if it did leave to a near-death experience for poor old Leonid, whose job seemed unlikely to survive the result.

6. Whether it does survive the Bristol City disaster is anyone’s guess. And yet it wasn’t entirely hopeless. After a dour arm-wrestle at the beginning, City assumed control from about 20 to 65 minutes, assuming comfortable dominance of possession and even creating a few chances with it. When the second went in, the match really did seem secure – Bristol had offered vanishingly little and while it hadn’t been convincingly, the Tigers had deserved the lead.

7. But when the visitors pulled one back, the panic was palpable. Shorn of any semblence of leadership and with Slutsky making a rotten pair of substitutions, an equaliser (probably from a set piece) always felt likely. And so a filthy leveller duly arrived. At which point the usual late goal to lose a game always felt likely, etc etc…

8. Although the detail from the meeting between the Allams and selected supporters is a bit scant, we have hope. The Supporters Trust is represented, and they have been trying to acquire reasonable dialogue with the Allams since formation, and this is the first time it has happened. While the Trust is involved, there is hope that a) City fans will be afforded some respect again; and b) the minutes of these meetings will be accurate and conclusive. For now, we should let the process take its course and see what emerges.

9. Not that attending their first meeting since November 2013 means anything just yet. Just turning up doesn’t guarantee that they’ve listened to or understood anything they were told, let alone decided to act upon it. Merely attending a meeting of carefully selected individuals is nowhere enough to consent to an “amnesty” of protests. Even righting a few of the grevious wrongs they’ve inflicted upon this wounded club is may not be enough. For some, there will be no amnesty until they’ve gone, and the long slog of repairing the damage is begun.

10. Finally, City declared an attendance of 14,762 on Saturday. Home crowds this season have been much discussed this season, with official announcements not always corresponding to what fans have seen this season. Tune into our podcast on Periscope tonight from around 7.30pm, we have some interesting numbers to share…

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PODCAST: Ipswich, fan consultation, pretending to be from Scunthorpe – and the Queen!

Lots to discuss after the return of City to action at the weekend, with the many questions left unanswered after the draw with Ipswich, the games ahead against Millwall and Bristol City, and the meeting between handpicked fans and the Allams due to take place this week. Plus we remember pretending to be from Scunthorpe a decade ago, while one of our number has a new blue-blooded buddy…

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Things We Think We Think #272

1. What’s more frustrating: poor concentration and sloppy defending leading to a goal conceded early on, or late in the game? City treated us to both against Ipswich on Saturday, chucking away three points that seemed to have been secured by Allan McGregor’s spot-kick save heroics. Victory would have propelled us to the dizzying heights of 18th ahead of a midweek trip to Millwall (and The Den is rarely a house of fun for us), instead we remain in 20th place. It can’t just be chalked up to bad luck either, we’ve developed a deleterious habit of letting in late goals.

2. The first half of the first half was pretty rancid, not just from a City performance point of view, but also as a spectacle. Indeed, there was more entertainment to be had watching a bird of prey in the North Stand rafters  kill another bird and skillfully de-feather it (with feathers, but thankfully not entrails, falling onto fans) than contemplating the grisly fare unfolding on the field.

3. Somehow though the game transmogrified into an absorbing encounter, with City willing themselves back into the game and scoring through the ever impressive Jarrod Bowen (after a good cross from Grosicki) and the decent-in-this-game-despite-generally-woeful-supply-from-the-midfield Nouha Dicko. The Tigers had robbed Ipswich of belief, leaving them a tad petulant and niggly, but foolishly, generously City gave them hope again with a silly challenge that led to the penalty award. McGregor’s save inspired the biggest cheer of the afternoon and that might have inspired City to see out the win, but Ipswich remained energised and moonwalked out of the KCOM with a perhaps unwarranted share of the spoils.

4. Over the top criticism seems just to be the way things are nowadays, and several members of the current squad have been on the scapegoat rota this term. However, it’s fair to say that Markus Henriksen did little to silence his detractors on Saturday, with a foppish, nay fadge-like display that was exemplified by turning away from the ball as he ‘contested’ a header as we defended a corner.

5. Who says that protests don’t work? Rattled by the the stress balls and pre-match march against Nottingham Forest and alarmed by the prospect of dissent during the Queen’s visit to Hull, the Allam family have organised a meeting with fans’ leaders (well, the ones they can trust to say the right things, plus the Supporters’ Trust) – and pretended they want to compromise on the squalid removal of concessions. None of these things would have happened if we’d meekly sat on our hands while the club is dismantled around us.

6. So, there’s to be a meeting. It’s supposedly for “fans group leaders”, though it isn’t really. Amber Nectar and City Independent, present at various incarnations of Fans’ Liaison Committee meetings for over 15 years, have been disinvited in recent times, while the new Hull City Action For Change group is also not welcome. And hey, that’s the Allams’ prerogative – if they don’t want to hear independent views that reflect the wider fanbase, that’s up to them. But we worry that only the Supporters’ Trust will actually represent the fans.

7. It’s a bit reminiscent of November 2013, when Assem Allam – unsettled by dissent over his imbecilic name change idea – summoned fans’ groups to the Circle for one of the more surreal 3½ hours we’ll ever have. He didn’t listen, or even show the faintest comprehension of the issue. Nothing that he and his son have said in the intervening years suggest they’ve developed an understanding of City fans.

8. Then, as now, a meeting was preceded by Assem Allam criticising supporters in the press, suggesting a lack of good faith going into ‘supporter consultation’. He laughably claims that ‘militant’ fans are putting off potential buyers, which shows a startling lack of self awareness and conveniently absolves himself of any responsibility. Let’s face it, Assem and his son are legendary in this city for being difficult to get along with, there is a wasteland of fractured relationships surrounding them and that can’t be pinned on anyone else. The fans didn’t drive Peter Grieve and others away, the Allams did that.

9. The reintroduction of concessions isn’t anything to be lauded, it doesn’t show the Allams to be reasonable as suggested by their dwindling band of self-serving sycophants, since the club had to be censured by the Premier League for the mere righting of a wrong to be considered. Adult prices going up is all good, the whole point is that discounts for children and seniors are subsidised by those paying full price, but failing to reduce the current prices for those who do qualify for concessions shows a (likely deliberate) lack of understanding for the issue people have with the Membership Scheme.

10. Everton are prepared to give Watford £12m to secure the services of Marco Silva as their head coach. Not bad a for a bloke of whom it was asked “what does he know about the Premier League?” and whose appointment at City in January was “astonishing…when there are a lot of people out there who know the Premier League…he’s not got clue.” Whether Silva goes to Goodison Park or not is irrelevant outside of the two clubs vying for his services, but the fact that he is now so sought after by one of the greatest names in the English game may just prove a turning point in the way lazy, xenophobic pundits are permitted to use nationality alone as a reason not to offer gifted football men employment in our game.