FEAT-TWTWT

Things We Think We Think #259

TWTWT

1. So, welcome Leonid Slutsky, and brace yourself for a glut of headlines from our classy tabloid media which you will barely understand but will make City fans the world over cringe uncontrollably. We hope you settle in our neighbourhood quickly and have an enjoyable and fruitful time as our manager.

2. Look at us, appointing English football’s first ever Russian manager. John Bradley, the former Viking FM sports editor who now commentates on Russian football, told us on Twitter: “He’s a good man. Has a fine record in Russia. Gets the best out of players. Improves players. Conducts himself well at all times. Negatives: could be accused of being a little tactically naive and a little stuck in his ways by playing the same way all the time.” So, mainly good notices from someone who has viewed his teams on a professional level on many an occasion. And Slutsky has spent the whole year learning English, too.

3. But yeah, our footballing nation’s first ever Russian gaffer, and he’s ours. As for City, the only manager not from the British Isles we’d ever appointed before 2017 began was Jan Mølby, who’d been in the English game as player and manager for nearly 20 years and had a more pronounced Scouse accent than large swathes of Birkenhead. Now we’ve had a brooding, telegenic, highly-rated Portuguese quickly followed by a Russian chap who was managing his country as recently as last year’s European Championships. Oh, how Paul Merson must disapprove.

4. We hope our new leader has made it abundantly clear to Ehab Allam that huge numbers of players need to be recruited to make us a viable competitor in the Championship come August. The money that needs to be spent is kind of incidental, really; we need bodies. Whether they are gifted freebies, unknowns from Russophile clubs, youthful loanees or big names, get them in, in quantities. The threadbare squad we had this time last year has now passed into footballing folklore and became a symbol of why ultimately, as per most predictions and previews, we were unable to maintain our Premier League place, and that deplorable situation will not be tolerated again.

5. And the defence is obviously the first port of call. Alex Bruce (who really would have been so useful this season, but obviously accident of birth rendered him persona non grata with the Allams – and imagine being reliant on your father for your career, eh Ehab?) has gone. Curtis Davies has also gone, joining Derby County in an improperly cheap £500,000 deal. Two defenders with a wealth of experience, out with barely a backwards glance.

6. And now, Harry Maguire. We may have struggled to keep hold of this exceptional young defender even if we’d stayed up, but it’s unarguable that there was no chance of his staying once our fate was sealed. Maguire is a fine top flight defender who will get finer and will be even more on the international radar now that he has joined Leicester City for £17m. We think he’ll do well there. We think he’ll play for England next season. And while we can point to all sorts of shameful stuff behind the scenes that ultimately leads to us accepting the first bid we receive for our best footballer, we can’t blame Maguire for going, and nor should we. He seems a decent sort and his popularity on an individual level last season, as a player with whom we could properly identify, means that many a City fan will follow his career for a many a year to come.

7. Is Eldin Jakupović going the same way? Reports say so, but City say no. Mind you, they denied Derby County had bid for Davies meagre hours before Davies signed for, er, Derby County. We’re jaundiced enough to know that when the Allams say it’s freezing outside we look for shades and flip flops, so if they say no-one wants our free spirit of a keeper, we should expect to see him brandishing a blue and white scarf anytime now.

8. Jakupović was terrific once he got the nod last season and he was an endearing character; however, if he goes we’d not suggest his departure is as worrying as others that have either already happened or seem imminent. We have two Scotland international goalkeepers on our books, and whatever misgivings there have been about Messrs Marshall and McGregor, they are experienced and have terrific reputations and either would be more than adequate as a first choice custodian next season if our Bosni-Swiss stopper does follow Maguire to Leicester. And if Gospodin Slutsky happens to know the parents of the next Rinat Dasayev, then all the better.

9. Andy Robertson seems certain to go, too. It does seem nothing official has happened as far as the impending exit of our nippy Scottish full back is concerned but it does only feel like a question of time. West Ham and Liverpool have previously been interested, and there will be others.

10. Marco Silva goes to Watford. A week later, Southampton dismiss their manager. We suspect he’s kicking himself a little bit.

FEAT-TWTWT

Things We Think We Think #258

TWTWT

1. It wasn’t surprising that Marco Silva elected to leave City following relegation, but it’s still saddening. He’s a manager of obvious talent, was briefly ours…and now he’s gone. We’ll all watch his career with interest, and few would be surprised if he goes a long way in management.

2. All of which made his prompt move to Watford a little odd. This isn’t a slight against Watford – though similar in stature and with a remarkable capacity for burning through managers, they’re still ran more competently than City and achieved Premier League survival with several weeks of the season remaining, something we didn’t manage at all. Swapping City for them does make a degree of sense. But was it really the best move for him? And could have he been given a more prestigious job if City hadn’t collapsed so distressingly in the final three games of the season?

3. Nonetheless, we should wish him well. Though he didn’t achieve his “miracle” of keeping City in the Premier League, his attempts were substantial and not far from successful. We appreciate the effort.

4. Which takes us onto the new managerial appointment. With no firm favourite yet, it’s fairly apparent that the bookmaking fraternity has little clue which way Ehab Allam is going to go. At the time of writing, should you be interested in free sports bets, Nigel Adkins and David Moyes are your joint 5/1 favourites. Pulses in East Yorkshire will remain studiously unquickened by this.

5. A quick note: next manager markets attract a lot of attention, but relatively little actual money. One single wager of £50 on a contender would probably cause their odds to drop rapidly and create a little burst of news. With that in mind, let’s not collectively wet our knickers if someone suddenly becomes a “red hot favourite”…

6. Let’s instead hope that Ehab Allam is properly focussing on the club in the coming months instead. In his mind-warpingly banal in-house interview last week, Ehab conceded that last summer’s clusterfuck was damaging (though naturally it wasn’t his fault). Lessons better have been learned.

7. And if only because it’s clear we’re stuck with other. Ehab’s inability to sell the club in 2016 has left him with a debt-ridden Championship club that few prospective purchasers covet, and it was clear in his comments last week that the club is effectively no longer up for sale. So we have the unhappy situation that owners who are widely and rightly scorned for their dismal comments and conduct cannot sell a club they’re incapable of running properly, when enlightened and positive new owners are the one thing we crave most.

8. It all makes 2017/18 look like a challenging season. Quite a few players who performed admirably in ultimate failure aren’t long for this parish either – Maguire obviously merits more than second tier football, while the rich promise of Robertson, Clucas and Tymon are attracting suitors (and the clunkingly inept way the latter is being dealt with hasn’t helped). Loanees are returning to parent clubs, while Grosicki presumably didn’t come to England to play outside of the top flight. Whoever takes over as the manager will have extensive surgery to perform.

9. Part of us wants to wish Huddersfield well in this afternoon’s Championship play-off final, because their fans were solidly behind us when West Yorkshire Police were acting like a bunch of toytown fascists a few years. However, two more Yorkshire derbies next season wouldn’t hurt, and Reading away is hardly the most appetising fixture.

10. We have a soft spot for the League Cup, with its potential for ground-ticks and shock results – it’s even been kind to us in recent seasons, with a quarter-final and then a semi-final. However, it’s not always the most popular or grand competition – so renaming it the “Carabao Cup” is hardly a step in the right direction…

FEAT-SEATS

Odds on the next City manager

DolanT

With Marco Silva’s departure this week, out of work managers will by vying with ambitious lower league bosses for a crack at overseeing a club that’s just left the Premier League. While offering no firm opinions, here’s how the bookmaking fraternity currently sees it:

Nigel Adkins 10/1
Leonid Slutsky 10/1
Aitor Karanka 12/1
Alex Neill 12/1
David Moyes 12/1
Nigel Pearson 12/1
Uwe Rosler 12/1
Alan Pardew 16/1
Gary Monk 16/1
Steve McClaren 16/1
Gus Poyet 16/1

No clear favourite, no thrilling new names, no-one has much of an idea (including you, Ehab).

But if for some reason none of those names fill you with excitement, take a look at the top of the page and remember that it’s been worse. A lot worse…

FEAT-POD

PODCAST: TWTWT Podcast 145

Three blokes with hangdog expressions try to make sense of City’s relegation. Up to you to decide whether we manage it or not, but we had a go. Discussions included Sunday’s horror show, Marco Silva’s future, the players likely to depart, the statement from Ehab Allam and a quick look ahead to the finale against Spurs this weekend.

Last one of the season next week, when Phil Buckingham of the Hull Daily Mail will be our guest.

FEAT-TWTWT

Things We Think We Think #256

TWTWT

1. City have been relegated, and no matter how much we may dislike plenty about modern football and its ultimate manifestation the Premier League, it hurts. It hurts to see (R) decisively affixed to our name in the table, it hurts to be regarded throughout the game as having failed, it hurts that the magnificent City of Culture celebrations no longer include having a top flight football team, and it hurts to see so much hard work undone. This is going to distress and dismay the Tiger Nation throughout the unhappy summer that awaits, and there’s no point in pretending otherwise.

2. City were abysmal at Crystal Palace, playing with the intensity of a pre-season friendly and the intelligence of a hungover Sunday League team. The ultimate responsibility for this ghastly season lies elsewhere, but there’s no doubt that the players have grossly underperformed in these last two critical games – from a nervy, uncomposed display against the worst team in the division to an absolutely disgraceful non-performance in the game that represented our very last chance. They’ve been appallingly let down by others, but on these two occasions they’ve let themselves (and us) down very badly.

3. Unfortunately, it has to be conceded that Marco Silva has also seen just the faintest dulling of his lustrous reputation during these two calamitous games. Selections have surprised, and while unexpected XIs have been a (broadly positive) feature of his tenure, the decision not to restore Tom Huddlestone to the side following suspension has always jarred. Moreover, he failed to calm his side against Sunderland, and inspire them in the slightest against Crystal Palace.

3a. However, he remains this single best thing about this season and, given the epic handicap of our owners, to have even left us in with a plausible chance of survival going into the final weeks was a colossal achievement. He’s a fine manager, an assured speaker, an innovative tactician and he’s going places far loftier than the Championship.

4. And if that sounds like we’re already saying farewell to Marco Silva…well, would you want to work in the second tier for an odious owner with no money, no players, a ground partly closed and decline evident everywhere?

5. Only simpletons and people who are financially rewarded by the Allams will place the blame for this train wreck anywhere else than at their feet. It was Ehab who drove out the club’s most successful manager ever, who let us start the season with barely enough senior players to play a five-a-side game and then waited until January before taking action to give us any hope of at least trying to fight relegation. Playing in the Championship isn’t the worst part of relegation, no, the worst part is the decrease in likelihood of the club being sold, leaving us with the dreadful Ehab, a man with no love of the club or football, no integrity, no ability to see beyond his own ego and avarice, who is content to carry on his father’s work of transforming a beloved community enterprise into a soulless husk, a generator of revenue streams, a player trading exchange, a content provider.

6. After relegation in 2015, we were still able to be competitive in the Championship because several key sales, fees perhaps inflated by a new TV deal which made Premier League clubs feel flush, allowed us to keep some experienced players. Doesn’t seem likely this time round, as most of our current first team are on short term loan or out of contract. Great if you like seeing academy products given a crack at first team football, not so great if you’re hoping for a quick return to the top flight.

7. Congratulations to the players who won one or more of the awards on offer at the midweek end-of-season bash. What a pity the prizes themselves sport the name of a football club that doesn’t exist; we’d like to think at least some of them are aware of the upset this causes among supporters as the Allams continue to ride roughshod over popular opinion, club tradition and FA decree in still pursuing the Hull City Tigers nonsense, even though “it is not club policy not to use Hull City”. Also notable is that, post-Palace, Andy Robertson was swift to put much of the blame for our trials this season at the hands of those responsible for not allowing any player recruitment last summer – one imagines that the Scotsman knows he’s on his way to pastures new this summer and has nothing to lose.

8. Meanwhile, Marco Silva himself has also talked about the mishandling of the situation by the hierarchy at Hull City back in the summer as a key reason why, ultimately, he found himself falling just short in his rescue mission. It feels like, even if it’s just in a roundabout way, that he’s blaming the Allams for the mess. Astute man. Now, in 2013, Nick Barmby made similar comments in a far less toxic environment and was still sacked  – would the Allams do the same to Silva? If Silva leaves of his own accord he would do so with our best wishes and deep thanks, but if he were to go against his will then it’s close to impossible to imagine just how ferocious yet another backlash against the Allams would be.

9. Whatever the inquest records over the next few days, next Sunday’s dead rubber with Tottenham is an opportunity to begin the forcible ejection of the Allam family’s death grip on this club. There’s nothing to play for, and none of the whiny excuses about not distracting the players can hold water (they never do anyway). We should appreciate the players, who were betrayed by their employer, and fête Marco Silva, if he’s still around (and more so if he isn’t), as we’ll never have another opportunity. But an afternoon of revulsion at what Assem and Ehab Allam are doing is essential. They cannot be left in any doubt that they are not wanted and must sell at the first opportunity to suitable owners. Bring every poster, banner and flag that’s ever been used against either them or their ridiculous, spiteful name change idea, and let’s get these appalling people out of our football club.

10. But there is a positive! Really, there is. And it’s usual, it’s all of us. The City fans at Palace were magnificent, as we’ve been all season. Amid the burning wreckage, we remain defiant and unbowed, the proud people of Hull, the loyal supporters of its foremost sporting institution and this essential part of Hull’s civic fabric. Very soon, we’re going to be all that’s left, so it’s a good job we’re so bloody brilliant.

FEATHullCityTigersawards

“it is not the policy of the Club to not use Hull City”

CTWDbig

Hull City held its awards ceremony last night, and our congratulations to those who received recognition for their efforts throughout 2016/17: Brandon Fleming, Josh Tymon, Sam Clucas and Harry Maguire, the latter picking up a pair of awards each. Congratulations to all.

But what’s this on the trophies themselves?

HullCityTigersawardsIt’s “Hull City Tigers”!

Which is very strange, because a fans’ committee was told, with a straight face last week, there “it is not the policy of the Club to not use Hull City”.

It’s tempting to get angry at the club, yet again, for their gratuitously awful conduct. However on this occasion, it seems more appropriate to feel sympathy for players who’ve worked hard this season and seen their efforts rewarded, only to be have it devalued by trophies bearing the name of a non-existant club designed purely to wind up the people who cheer for them every week.

FEAT-POD

PODCAST: TWTWT Podcast 143

A bumper hour-long Bank Holiday ‘special’, giving us extra time to wax lyrical about Eldin Jakupović. We also look ahead (and back) to Sunderland at home, consider the Premier League’s decision to investigate City over pricing issues, and think back to a special promotion 13 years ago to the day.

All yours…

FEAT-TWTWT

Things We Think We Think #254

TWTWT

1. It was only the second point we’d gained away from home in 2017, and the clean sheet that went with a heroic, if occasionally hard to watch stalemate at Southampton was a pleasant bonus. Praise for City’s performance and general attitude has been bountiful over the weekend; displays of a similar grittiness over three remaining matches will surely be sufficient to get us over the line.

2. And, of course, the clean sheet was preserved by Eldin Jakupović’s superlative penalty save in injury time. It was no fluke save; the ball wasn’t poorly hit or placed but aiming true for the bottom corner. Our ever-watchable custodian of the leather not only guessed right, but got his frame right down to the ball and managed to get enough palm on it to force it conclusively from danger with zero hope of a rebound chance for the kicker, or any other Southampton player.

3. Interestingly, Jakupović told the telly afterwards that he’d researched Southampton’s penalty taker. Dušan Tadić last took one in January and aimed it, successfully, for the same corner as he tried at the weekend against City. We perhaps underestimate the tactical preparation that goalkeepers, good ones, put in prior to a match and if Jakupović had theory on his side in choosing the way he went, then it bestows upon him even bigger hero status than would have been afforded on someone who had ‘merely’ taken a lucky guess.

4. City’s play in the first half sparkled, and we looked as good as at any time under our new manager. It was a half of sustained domination of both ball and territory, forcing a very capable side onto the back foot for long spells. If there’s one criticism, it’s that we didn’t convert it into a goal (or more), and parity at the interval was less than we deserved for the pattern of play but created a real feeling that an opportunity may have been missed.

5. The second half more faithfully resembled our away day agonies this season, with a presumably sternly-bollocked Southampton upping their game and City not always coping perfectly with it. Nonetheless, if the first half was a mixture of pleasure at the play and frustration at the scoreline, the second was a reversal; dismayed at being outplayed but great satisfaction at holding on for a point. And given our nightmarish run on the road, it really was a fine point.

6. With Swansea gaining an unexpected (just as our point at Old Trafford was) draw at Manchester United, the share of the spoils in Hampshire becomes more crucial. With one game fewer to play, the gap remains the same. And we have a relegated, clueless, self-loathing, acrimony-filled club next, at our fortress of a stadium where nobody else has won since Bucks Fizz kicked continental backsides at Eurovision, or thereabouts.

7. And we all know what that means… or could mean. If anyone is going to make sure that the inopportune motto Typical City doesn’t occur on Saturday afternoon, it’s Marco Silva, surely? Last time we were this nervous before Sunderland at home, it was for an FA Cup quarter final, and that turned out okay. Nevertheless, by the time they clock in at the Circle, this Sunderland side might be irritatingly free of pressure (the kind of change in form that mightily offends loyal supporters whose lives are shattered by relegations) and everyone with a role to play for City, on and off the pitch, needs to be on their guard.

8. For the second weekend in succession, the timings may aid City. Again, Swansea will kick-off after City, and if we can overcome Sunderland, they’ll begin their 5.30pm match at home to Everton a daunting five points adrift. Of course, anything but victory over David Moyes’ rabble, and Swansea will know that a win of their own would put City back in the bottom three – but Marco Silva is sure to emphasise the opportunity that exists.

9. It really has come to something when an investigation is being launched into Hull City AFC, and the response of most supporters is to be glad about it. Then again, it comes to something when the owners of said club implement something as morally bankrupt, counterproductive and vindictive as the intentional pricing out of the next generation of City fans, then ask someone to release a poorly-written statement pretending that they aren’t.

10. Well, they are, and congratulations to the Hull City Supporters’ Trust, who’ve successfully persuaded the Premier League to investigate the repugnant, rule-breaking conduct of one of its own members. All we’d ask the Premier League to remember is this: we’d be delighted for City to be found guilty and ordered to stop being so thoroughly obnoxious, but could they ensure that any punishment is levelled solely at the abysmal family that’s running the club, and not the club itself? Having had to suffer the Allams, it’d be wrong to then suffer further consequences of having had to suffer them in the first place.

FEAT-POD

PODCAST: TWTWT Podcast 142

Good heavens, an entire podcast about winning a game! But it was stylish, eventful, pivotal, wonderful… anyway, before we sound too much more like Supertramp, click on the link above and enjoy it as we did.

May also include a healthy mention of Kevin Ellison.