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Things We Think We Think #300

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1. After scoring nine without reply in two games, we felt like we could touch survival in the Championship for another year, something which rarely felt anything close to inevitable since the turn of the year. As we approach the last triad of matches and shut the door on a pretty wretched campaign, we can at least regard the culmination of the season as successful and entertaining.

2. Well, that was the case until Sheffield Wednesday rolled into town at the weekend. They and their six billion supporters are nothing special at all, yet City’s infuriating apathy against them made for a brutally unwatchable afternoon at the Circle. Defeat when safety was ready to be assured is frustrating; a total lack of commitment after such an enjoyable couple of weeks of vibrant, flowing football is something approaching unforgivable.

3. Still, we ought not to dwell on defeat to the World’s Biggest Club for too long. Firstly, it might give their supporters undue belief that we give a toss; beyond that, we have a much more fun occasion from the last seven days to look back upon – namely, the jolly at Burton Albion.

4. A ground tick, of course. And we got to stand on a terrace, a rare treat indeed (and with the Government this week short-sightedly claiming nobody should want to do this at a football match any more, timely and apt – more on this shortly); and then we saw City tear apart the minnows of the Championship with an incisive, positive performance that contained some fine goals and seemed to allow for a re-connection between fans and players that hasn’t always been prevalent in these turbulent times for our club.

5. It was quite the evening for Kamil Grosicki. He scored two fine individual goals, hit the post and did a quite ludicrous dive in the area towards the end that got him a yellow card. Widely regarded as our best all-round footballer, he is nevertheless capable of acts of amateurishness that possibly contribute to the reason for his lack of suitors earlier in the season. But if we are to rise from the lousy troughs of this season under Nigel Adkins, you can imagine he’d quite like a focused, professional Grosicki to be at the forefront of it.

6. Meanwhile, Adkins has declared that he wants to keep Allan McGregor at the club, while there is strong rumour in circulation concerning an about-turn on David Meyler’s future, and he will be offered a deal. Of course, what the head coach wants and what the hierarchy are prepared to offer are likely to be a million miles (or a few thousand quid, or a year or two, apart) so we’ll take the prospect of the last two survivors of our FA Cup final squad remaining at the club next season with a few shovelfuls of salt.

7. It’s now mid-April, and City are still dicking around with votes no-one wants on an issue everyone’s already in agreement on. To re-iterate: City lost the original vote heavily, and are now resorting to offering “unique prizes” in the second poll in order to get turnout into double figures. It doesn’t appear to be working, though that means that City will invalidate the first vote on the spurious grounds of turnout while refusing to disclose the result; then declare concessions “unwanted” on the second vote while refusing to disclose both turnout and voting figures. This, we imagine, will all seem terribly clever and funny to Ehab. Which explains why his family’s reputation is in the gutter.

8. The club also promised it would start calling itself Hull City by now. Another broken promise, another lie from a club that seems institutionally incapable of being straight with supporters.

9. Ehab isn’t the only apparently uncomplicated individual who’s had a rotten week. Step forward Sports Minister Tracey Crouch, Hull University alumnus and MP for Chatham and Aylesford, who inexplicably contends that the desire for safe standing is the preserve of a “vocal minority”. She doesn’t even have the excuse of former Sports Ministers, who’ve been elevated to the Cabinet with no apparent knowledge of sport – she’s actually an FA coach. So her ignorance is positively inexplicable. But it may actually be useful in the long run. The backlash has been loud and sustained, and has galvanised afresh the overwhelming majority who favour safe standing as an option. Quite why this, or any other Government, feel they have the right to bar football fans from watching their chosen event in a way that virtually other sector of society is permitted to is beyond explanation – but, Minister, safe standing is an idea whose time has come. Probably better to get on board now.

10. It has been announced that Greg Abbott, a stalwart at City during rotten times in the 1990s, has had to step down from his behind the scenes role at Bradford City in order to start treatment for prostate cancer. Naturally, we wish a man who gave us great service a very speedy recovery.

FEAT-POD

PODCAST: QPR, crediting the coach, ground tickery, a great night in Barnsley…

Upbeat! That’s what we are. Beating very much upwards.

In the podcast, we chat lucidly and affably about:-

* Winning comfortably against QPR
* The rise of Adkins’ reputation
* Nearly touching Championship safety
* Burton and terracing
* Win a pre-season trip to watch a threadbare squad (or don’t)
* QPR and Barnsley a decade ago

Behold…

https://soundcloud.com/amber_nectar/podcast-177-qpr-the-adkins-revival-burton-terracing-barnsley-a-decade-ago

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Things We Think We Think #299

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1. Is that everything sorted out then? Two draws against two of the leading lights of the division was impressive and encouraging, but it was the QPR and Burton games we were really looking at for a decisive result. And this was a decisive result, decisively arrived at.

2. As we mused on Wednesday, QPR are close to ideal opponents for anyone at this stage of the season. Lower-midtable with nothing to play for, a collection of players scarcely better than our own, an uninspiring manager and the sort of ethos that suggests they’ll gladly roll over for northern opposition on a day such as Saturday. And so it proved.

3. What was richly satisfying was the way City continued to press after taking the lead, scoring quickly after the gaining the opener and making the game safe in the second half rather than giving the visitors the opportunity to create an anxious finale. To have the points won with half an hour left was a credit to the side and manager.

4. There were a lot of strong performances, and Abel Hernández’s was perhaps the best. This could be one of his last appearances at the Circle, and it was clear he was a class above most on the pitch. There was plenty of good fortune in City’s second goal, but his pass (for Wilson’s deft finish) and his predatory concluding of a smart move for the fourth made us wonder just what might have been had he been fit all season. One player doesn’t make a team, but a good striker can certainly make a difference.

5. Harry Wilson looks like a player with a fine career ahead of him. It’s something of a surprise that he’s played so few first team games at his current age of 21, just 15 to date. However, some players reach maturity after others, and even if he’s starting a little late it’s clear he’s got plenty of talent. His touch is as exactly as assured as you’d expect from someone who’s spent a long time at an élite club’s academy, but he has a refreshing willingness to play simple balls when the situation demands, he can find (and use) space and we’ve seen that he can take a chance. We have no chance of signing him permanently for next season, but if we can persuade both player and parent club that another spell in a Championship club’s first team is in his best interests, he’d be very welcome.

6. So, Burton next. Depending on how you count these things it’s probably a tick ground, and the rare treat of a proper terrace too. A big game for both too. City are already as long as 200/1 to be relegated, though the mathematics aren’t certain yet and it’s likely we’ll need a point or two more than we currently have. For Burton, their chance to scramble to safety probably went when they failed to hang on at Birmingham on Saturday. Failure to beat City – a winnable game for them, remember – will effectively seal the deal.

7. The hope must be that City don’t relax, because the last time complacency set in we lost pitifully at Birmingham. A repeat would be unwelcome, because even if it may ultimately not have too much effect, this has been an awful season and we deserve at least a spirited end to it. And there’s nothing better than celebrating a City goal on a proper terrace, is there?

8. Nigel Adkins. Let’s assume City are going to be okay. He’s done well hasn’t he? He’s got a lot to do to convince City fans that he’s worthy of a long spell at the club, but his immediate remit was to ensure we line up in the 2018/19 Championship, and we’re about 95% of the way towards that. He deserves credit for that. Hell, we’ve even started to play a bit following the unwatchable dross that pockmarked his early weeks.

9. And hey, exactly 11 years ago Phil Brown was patchily guiding City to Championship survival while not really expected to achieve anything else. We can’t see it, but Adkins keeping City up and then doing well with us next season certainly wouldn’t be the most ridiculous thing we’ve ever seen.

10. That stupid sham vote continues, with the club resorting to offering prizes for voting. We aren’t falling for it. Boycott the poll; and City, it’s April for crying out loud, get season tickets with proper concessions on sale, right now.

10a. Lastly, a very happy No To Hull Tigers Day to everyone.

FEAT-POD

PODCAST: Villa and Wolves, booing Snodgrass, Ehab’s poll, Watford in 08…

We’re back, after what feels like forever away, nattering about a rather satisfying Easter holiday. Hear us being positively lyrical in our waxing on the draws with Villa and Wolves, and the generally buoyant outlook for the remainder of the season.

We also talk about why Snodgrass gets booed and Ehab’s ridiculous poll on concessions. Our anniversary flashback to the to 07/08 takes us to a straightforward win over Watford at home.

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Things We Think We Think #298

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1. City’s rather prolonged Easter is over, and as expected we have a much clearer idea of whether the season will end in the calamity of relegation. Less expected is that it’s gone quite well. Play-off certainties Aston Villa and champions-elect Wolves constituted a daunting pair of fixtures for a struggling City. We’d probably have taken a point. We’re delighted at two.

2. Villa first. After a dour opening 45, City were undoubtedly the likelier winners in the second half, pushing the visitors further and further back as the match wore on. It wasn’t a streaky point – indeed, but for some sharper finishing (a familiar refain) and/or some more observant officiating, we could have been toasting our first win of the season over top-six opposition.

3. As it was, there was a degree of contentment in the result, and the way it came about. Villa are a good team with (obviously) a superb manager, and it was very much a point gained. It was easy to let Birmingham’s win earlier in the day make it feel a little more disappointing, but we can’t do anything about them, and taken both in isolation and in the broader context of the relegation scrap, it was a good afternoon’s work – even if nil-nils at home aren’t what made you fall in love with football.

4. That took us to Wolves. Eventually, if you were unlucky enough to be caught up in the ghastly traffic en route. We’ve no idea what Nigel Adkins was thinking with his line-up, making six changes to a side that’d done well at the weekend. Only one thing really made less sense all night: the result.

5. Well, managers live and die by their results, so when they get them it’s disagreeably churlish to deny them a tip of the cap (even if we suspect Adkins is probably always going to grate slightly). It was an even more impressive point than Villa, showing the fortitude to recover from an early deficit at the league leaders to pinch a lead ourselves, and then hold out for a point at the end. You may justly wonder why a side that has come within an ace of defeating a member of the 2018/19 Premier League can still serve up horrors like the 0-3 at Birmingham. But just occasionally, this City side can impress.

6. So, 41 points are ours, seven more than anyone in the bottom three. Now eight points adrift, Sunderland and Burton look irretrievably doomed. Barnsley may have a game in hand but they’re five away from anyone. It’s ever so tempting to hope that the present bottom three may just be able to detect the stench of death about themselves.

7. Two extremely winnable games now present themselves: QPR at home and Burton away. We know what epic wusses QPR are capable of being, and with nothing to play for they’re precisely the sort of side you’d crave playing at this time of season. Meanwhile, Burton are palpably a class below most of the rest. A win from either will surely do it. This time next week…

8. Can anyone remember Hull City specifying a minimum vote threshhold for the recent poll on whether there should be concessions next season? Exactly. Because there wasn’t one. Until the vote – which, incidentally, went in favour of concessions by a very wide margin – was finally counted. At which point the Allams decided to have another vote, making the options even less attractive than before, while continuing to propogate the baseless untruth that it’s all because of widespread fraud by City fans (something that every other professional sporting club in the land somehow manages not to fall victim to).

9. We aren’t sure we can be arsed playing Ehab’s pathetic little games any more. The club lies that it wants to listen to fans, is delivered a clear message, lies again that it wants to listen and proceeds to do the exact opposite. So while it’s up to individual City fans, we probably wont bother this time around. The club, excoriated in the national media over the weekend for its repulsive pricing policy, already know what we and every other civilised football fan in the nation requires. And if the next vote has a lower turnout, what then? Another vote? Concessions, or retinal scanning by flourescent jacketed oafs wielding biometrics-discerning equipment? Concessions, or the mandatory slaughtering of all firstborns? Concessions, or spending thirty minutes locked in a room listening to Assem Allam talking?

10. In the meantime, on the current “options”: prices rise? Fuck off. The mere threat of no concessions? Fuck off. Photo ID? Fuck RIGHT off.

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Things We Think We Think #296

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1. The four successive home games that events conspired to produce, four games that were always going to have a significant bearing on our survival prospects, are concluded. And the verdict is in: we might, just might, be okay.

2. It didn’t seem that way at 10pm on Tuesday, in the aftermath of the 2-1 defeat to Millwall. In a season filled with lows, it was arguably the lowest – a pitiful, rancid non-show in a game of obvious importance, chock-full of feckless individual displays. City stank, from the first minute in which the tone for the evening was set, right through the clueless attempts to remedy the situation later in the game. They were awful.

3. Nigel Adkins’ post-match comments, a genre that we’re already tiring of, offered little comfort. Digging out Angus McDonald while not referring to the illness he remembered later in the week sounded acutely unwise. Meanwhile, there was an air of bewilderment akin to Leonid Slutsky’s latter days, and it all augured very ill indeed.

4. 39 minutes into Saturday’s game against Norwich, and that feeling of doom will have been strongly reinforced. Already 3-1 down, having conceded a brace of penalties and lost an early lead, it’d have been a brave or rather foolhardy City fan who confidently expected anything from the game and the season in general.

5. Yet one ended with a stunning 4-3 triumph, while the outlook for the season as a whole looks rosier now. Okay, the decision to award City a second penalty – crazily, the game’s fourth – was an absolute shocker, surely the worst decision we’ve seen all season, either for or against. But City capitalised in this stroke of fortune by not settling for an unlikely point, but striving for an incredible three. Wilson’s goal gave us the three points, and by the end of the game City were worth them.

6. It’s a comeback of such unlikely proportions that it’s had City historians trying to recall the last instance of a two-goal deficit becoming a win. Was it 3-2 against Derby in 1985? (not long after the 1-4 to 5-4 at Orient, coincidentally) Whenever it was, it’s probably something approaching a once-in-a-generation event for City. And players (and manager) who’ve received plenty of oft-meritted scorn this season deserve immense credit for engineering such a startling turnaround.

7. It may just prove to be transformative. Another series of friendly results elsewhere saw it create a six-point gap between City and the bottom three – and of course, none of the current bottom five stand any realistic chance of beating the Tigers’ -6 goal difference, so it’s effectively seven points. That’s a gap that can still be overturned, and it’s be gravely irresponsible to imagine that having finally hauled ourselves back to a point-a-game average, it’s job done. It isn’t. But Championship survival is absolutely ours to lose.

8. It’s another two-game week, so there’s plenty of scope for dramatic improvement or disappointing setbacks. Two away games feature, Ipswich (12th, and with nothing to play for) and Birmingham (22nd, and in dire trouble) is an interesting pair of games. If the point-a-game record survives through until 5pm on Saturday, that’ll probably constitute a good week for City.

9. Meanwhile, the club has kept a promise (we know…) to offer consultation on the reintroduction of concessions. Needless to say, they’ve done it in a grudging and deeply imperfect manner. The two choices on offer are clumsily enacted concessions with some bizarre exclusions and qualifiers, or the present hateful system of excluding kids, seniors and disabled fans from discounts. So it’s a crap choice, and the club hasn’t done enough to address concerns about the appalling unfairness of the present situation, or ensure the club has a fanbase in the future.

10. Nonetheless, voting for a change seems the least worst option. The prospect of giving Ehab Allam a chance to gloat that fans were consulted and voted against concessions is ghastly, and once the principle is re-established that certain groups ought to receive discounts, we can set to work on improving them in the future. We’d therefore vote, with little enthusiasm, to accept these proposals. Then continue to pressure the club to do it properly.

FEAT-POD

PODCAST: Yorkshire derbies, protests, consultations, Meyler’s exit, trio from 2008…

Here’s the latest podcast, five days after we had to cancel the previous one thanks to a knackered clutch on a car less than three years old.

We eventually get to talk about:-

* The win over Sheffield United, and the protests
* The freezing draw with Barnsley
* David Meyler announcing his own exit
* The latest consultation between club and fans
* Three games from 07/08 as City enter the top six

It’s here. Quite long, but at 50 minutes considering all we have to discuss, we’re sure you’ll agree we’ve self-edited most competently. No, really.

 

 

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Things We Think We Think #295

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1. Tuesday night’s draw with Barnsley illustrated perfectly why City are in serious relegation trouble, and why there’s no guarantee we’ll survive. Just as we followed up an impressive win at Nottingham Forest with a dismal no-show at Middlesbrough, so the encouraging victory over Sheffield United was conspicuously not built upon with a decidedly crummy draw against Barnsley. At no stage this season have City ever threatened to create any momentum or put together a string of good results. It’s precisely what teams who get relegated do.

2. That Barnsley are a poor side was obvious enough when we laboured to victory at Oakwell. They haven’t noticeably improved since, but neither have we. Perhaps it wasn’t a great surprise that the two sides who put together such a dire game in October should do it again – but even so, it was truly dreadful.

3. Granted, it’s a relief that City spawned a point in the end, even if we have little intention of “respecting” a disappointing outcome so disappointingly arrived at. It did at least prevent the blow of City slipping behind Barnsley in the table. But really, it’s hard not to look back at the entire evening wondering quite why City were so utterly sub-par. No intensity, no urgency, inadequate organisation – the whole thing was just utterly bab.

4. There weren’t many positives. Larsson played tolerably well, though it was his least effective match for a while – and he’s been one of the most impressive figures in 2018, so we missed his influence. Irvine looked cold and subdued, while Diomande in particular spent a thoroughly unproductive evening emboldening only his detractors. Meanwhile, if you hadn’t spotted Toral by the time he was hooked in the 53rd minute (of the first half), you may not have been alone – he was almost wilfully anonymous.

5. We enjoyed the claim that 14,000 were in attendance though. It’s so far from the truth as to be comical.

6. With Ipswich falling victim to the weather, we’re now halfway through four successive home games, rather freakishly following on from four successive away games. Next up are Millwall and Norwich, both treading water in the impossibly distant glory-soaked promised land of midtable. City are still labouring at under a point a game, which won’t often be enough for survival. Setting points targets from a brace of games in March is a little artificial, but if City haven’t moved to more than a point per game by 5pm on Saturday, that would be very bad news indeed.

7. David Meyler said a while ago on Twitter that his future at City beyond this season was in doubt, but now he has willingly and wilfully let the cat out of the bag. He’s off this summer, with the club choosing not to take up their option on a further year, and he’s evidently not happy about it. Neither are we. Yes he has limitations and bad games, and he is called out for them when they occur. He also has experience, an apparent affection for the club, a natural affinity with how supporters feel and unquestionably a sensible awareness of his own contribution over the years, and it’s quite obvious that personality issues have prompted his exit beyond any footballing decision. And isn’t it remarkable how the club can decide in ample time to not take up a further year on a player’s expiring contract, but leave it far too late when they decide to offer a player a fresh deal? Meyler did well out of City and we hope he leaves with more sweet memories than pangs of bitterness.

8. The Allam family state, in absentia, at the rearranged Supporters’ Committee meeting following the one they stroppily cancelled while issuing false claims about the Supporters’ Trust making threats, that things may be about to change. Hull City will start calling themselves Hull City again, while concessions and a proper club crest will be consulted upon. Now, we’ll believe this when we see it. Anyone familiar with the Allam family knows to judge actions, not words. It’s good news if so, but them selling the club “for a pound”, “within 24 hours”, “consulting fans before changing the name” was also good news, so forgive us for not celebrating just yet.

8a. And isn’t it pathetic that they didn’t dare face up to the Supporters’ Committee in person with this? They left others to issue what they probably regard as a humiliating climbdown for them.

9. If you disagreed with the protests on the grounds of their effectiveness, events have not validated your argument. Protests against Nottingham Forest last year brought the Allams to the table, and the prospect of them continuing and escalating achieved these promises. That’s a vindication for those who took a stand during matches. And what else could have been done? They won’t listen, so there’s no point in politely speaking. And they’re unreasonable, so what’s the point in using reason? Well done to anyone who’s raised their voice against the Allams during games.

10. Even if they do implement everything they’ve promised, we’re still Allam Out.

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Things We Think We Think #294

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1. Friday was quite the night – on and off the field. Which is rather how things have gone at City for quite some time, with talking points split roughly between that which occurs on the greensward and that which does not. Whether off-pitch activities were positive or not depends upon your point of view, but at least there is no doubt about what occured on the playing surface. City won, vitally and (mostly) deservedly, and our hopes of avoiding relegation are the highest they’ve been for a while, and also showed up as a lie the notion that protest automatically hinders the team.

2. It had appeared that the flicker of optimism that victory at Forest brought had been extinguished by a hopeless display at Middlesbrough. That rotten evening ended up with City being level on points with 22nd once more, and emphatically back to square one. Well, a win over Sheffield United has advanced us a square or two.

3. The first half was a pretty dismal affair. It’s an oft-heard refrain that the Championship is particularly poor this season – well, if Sheffield United are notionally hunting a play-off place, then this really isn’t a good division. City, we expect to be poor. But their conspicuous mediocrity hints at a division that’s basically Wolves and Sunderland, with 22 sides of that differ only in the extent of their averageness in between.

4. But hey! One side elevated themselves from poor to approaching-alright in the second half, and that was City. Evidently encouraged by gaining half-time parity, the Tigers improved briskly and were on top when Dicko smartly finished Irvine’s cute little pass. And from that point we didn’t really look like surrendering the lead, which is perhaps the most impressive part of the whole victory given our porousness this season. A game that won’t have quickened the pulse of Sky Sports viewers, but by the end we were worth it.

5. Results elsewhere kept City two points ahead of peril, which is probably three given our freakishly superior goal difference. That places huge importance on tonight’s fixture against fellow strugglers Barnsley. It’s our game in hand, and gives us a chance to place a hefty five points between ourselves and ailing Birmingham in third bottom. The incentive is a big one: win, and we could become legitimately confident of lining up in the 2018/19 Championship. But so often this season we’ve followed up something positive with something foul, so we shan’t depend upon avoiding whatever the Auto Windscreens Shield is called these days just yet.

6. Off the pitch. Well, if you don’t like protest against people who routinely insult the supporters both by word and by deed, who routinely mislead, who price out children, the elderly and disabled in a calculated and unprecedented act of malice, who ejected Upper West Stand patrons, who brought you the Airco fiasco, the driving out of Steve Bruce, Hull fucking Tigers, then Amber Nectar probably isn’t for you, so you probably aren’t reading anyway.

7. The efficacy of the whistle and stress ball elements of protests are up for debate, but one thing that really hit the spot was the two lads who managed to get the sight of a large Allam Out banner beamed into homes and pubs across the land and perhaps beyond. To many fans of other clubs, the Allams are synonymous with the silly name change attempt and nothing more, but there is still work to be done getting the removal of concessions and much more into the nation’s footballing consciousness.

8. It was interesting to hear Nigel Adkins state that City lost the Nottingham Forest game on the back of a stress ball protest, given that he likely wanted City to lose that game. After all he wasn’t head coach back then, instead he was in the stands, hovering above Leonid Slutsky like a vulture.

9. While Ehab claims he can’t offer concessions on account of alleged supporter fraud, Nottingham Forest have no such qualms and are offering season passes for under 11 year olds costing just £10. Contrast that with the experience of a Sheffield United fan who paid £24 for a ticket for a 4 year old. So much for your claims about the club’s ticket prices being affordable

10. It seems Abel Hernández could be ready to return this week. Adkins said in his post-match interview on Friday that he considered putting the Uruguayan on the bench but decided against it. We’ve missed having a reliable, regular, proven goalscorer, more so during a insufferably fallow period in front of goal.