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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.

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Things We Think We Think #256

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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.

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

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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…

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Things We Think We Think #254

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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.

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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.

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Things We Think We Think #253

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1. You’d be forgiven for considering not turning up to home games till half time at the moment. First, you’d avoid the queues for the turnstiles, which are worse now than at any time since the stadium opened (slow hand clap for Ehab), and secondly, because for the time being City home first halves tend to be insipid, uninspiring affairs where the Tigers seem stuck in first gear, lacking any real purpose, beyond waiting till halftime when Marco Silva imparts a deliciously meticulous plan to sex up the second half.

2. And that second half was sexy. It was top shelf in its sexiness. It was so sexy, it made a 21 year old Sophia Loren look like Deirdre Barlow in comparison. It was footballing Viagra. Cock stiffening, pussy widening, nip tingling, fluid generating sexiness.

2a. We’ll be good to go in a minute, just let us catch our breath…

2b. Okay, the second half. City’s courage in overcoming both the referee (of whom more in a moment) and a numerically advantaged Watford side felt vitally important. To win when a man light for well over an hour in the Premier League is extremely impressive, and testament to City’s resiliance and belief at home. The reaction when City scored that first goal was, at the risk of lapsing back into graphic imagery, semi-orgasmic. And from there, the will of the players and the fervour of the City fans did the rest. It was magnificent and uplifting.

3. It can be all too easy to pile into match officials: fans are tacitly encouraged to do so by broadcasters and pundits who’d rather pore over a contentious refereeing decision (making glib remarks such as ‘well you’ve seen them given’ or ‘he’s given the ref a decision to make’) because it’s easier to do that than to really earn corn by offering thoughtful tactical insight. As partisans, it’s convenient and painless for fans to blame referees in defeat, as it avoids the cognitive dissonance of acknowledging flaws in the abilities of players we are fond of and the team we love. When you’re still cursing the man in the middle hours after a win, however, then it’s quite likely that the reason is no more complex than shite refereeing. Step forward Robert Madley.

4. The decision to produce a straight red for Niasse’s supposed foul on Niang felt contemptible in realtime, and further contempt was liberally applied after seeing replays of the incident. Madley compounded the error when he elected to let off Niang for a dive on the stroke of half time that was in turns impressively balletic, dramatically hammy and unfathomably twatty.  Thus a pattern was set of City transgressions being jumped on while Watford indiscretions were ignored.

5. Can you imagine how deflating it must have been for Swansea, who recorded their first Premier League win since February on Saturday, to find out that 10 men City had beaten Watford 2-0? It must have made them feel their efforts in besting Stoke were all for naught, as they are no nearer to overhauling our two point advantage and now have one less game to do it in. Psychology is a massive part of football, and it’s hard to believe that Swansea’s sense of hope and self-belief wasn’t damaged by the weekend’s dénouement..

6. Andrea Ranocchia was named man of the match, and he was as he’s been since joining us on loan from Inter highly competent, but we’d have handed the accolade to another man. Alfred N’Diaye was tremendous in both breaking up Watford possession and in confidently maintaining possession for us. Sam Clucas is another on the shortlist.

7. Though perhaps it’s better to consider Sam Clucas for player of the year rather than just man of the match on Saturday. A game award against Watford would have neatly illustrated his growth as a player, juxtaposing the performance with the last one against Watford, when the lad endured a torrid afternoon unfairly deployed at left back, but his exponential rise to prominence since joining City from Chesterfield in the summer of 2015 would be better acknowledged by the 2016/17 player of the year award.

8. He might just take goal of the season too, after that beautiful and composed strike that sealed three points against Watford.

9. Southampton next, then. That’s an away game, and therefore impossible to contemplate without a sense of fatalist dread. Surely this extraordinary pattern of win-at-home/lose-away cannot remain for the whole of the season? We wouldn’t complain if so, as we’d be very likely to stay up if so, however the prize for even a point at St Mary’s is huge. With Swansea not playing until the next day, if they were to prepare for a fixture at Manchester United three points (or more!) behind, their task would appear formidable. Come on City, let’s summon the spirit of Saturday and sort this away thing out.

10. We enjoyed the match report in the Sunday Times pointing out, as a casual but pertinent aside in parentheses, that the referee was barracked off the pitch by a stadium that was “not full (largely because of comical ownership)”. Sadly, we suspect Ehab Allam will take that to mean he’s some kind of charismatic raconteur with the timing of Eric Morecambe, and not a manifestly inept autocrat who hates his clientele.

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Things We Think We Think #252

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1. City’s 3-1 defeat at Stoke followed a depressingly unaltered template. Play well for long periods against beatable opposition, miss chances, concede softly a few times, go home with zero points.

2. The bad bits first. City defended hopelessly in the early stages of the match, and although they became less awful once the game was about a quarter through, a cheap concession always felt likely – particularly with City looking wide open on both wings. We wondered partway through the first half whether at least two goals were going to be needed just for a point. In the end, even that wouldn’t have done.

3. Harry Maguire on the right? Well, he’s surprised a lot of people this season, but this was an assignment too far. Stoke sensibly targetted the flank he was patrolling, and enjoyed success throughout. With Omar Elabdellaoui absent through injury and Ahmed Elmohamady’s sad decline showing no little prospect of being arrested, you can perhaps see what the manager was thinking. However, round pegs, square holes…

3a. Moses Odubajo: how we have missed you.

4. The good-ish. After a horrible start, City controlled the game from about 25 minutes until Stoke brought on Crouch and Walters, which unnerved Silva’s men to a ridiculously disproportionate extent. It’s a City we often see on the road: calm, capable, able to dictate the game (even if only at a modest tempo) and able to create chances. This is a team with plenty of talent and an underrated capacity for attractive football. For that half-hour either side of the break, we were very enjoyable to watch, and well worth the equaliser when it came.

5. However, too many chances weren’t taken, again. Niasse has broadly impressed since his arrival, and he’s taken some sharp opportunities during that time, but he was disappointing in front of goal at Stoke. Hernández, benched for the day, would surely have fared better.

6.  It isn’t an ambitious way of looking at things, but it feels like the rest of City’s season could come down to matching Swansea’s results. Viewed through that prism, their defeat at West Ham made for a successful weekend, despite our frustrations in the Potteries.

7. City seem determined to salvage their Premier League status through home games alone, and with Tottenham now a fully fledged title contender, the prior home games against Watford and Sunderland, while both eminently winnable, are going to be tense affairs indeed.

8. There was an odd story over the weekend in the national Daily Mail about Marco Silva potentially being appointed last summer, but not being recruited for fear of “antagonising” fans. The proposition in this argument is patently false – the lamentable Allam family have never worried about antagonising City fans, and as their present actions demonstrate, they appear to actively relish it. However, although it carries no supporting quotes for this fantasy, it’s fairly specific in its contentions, which chiefly suggest that Ehab Allam is a man of both rare vision and acute sensitivity. He’s obviously neither, and it appears to us that this tall tale was fed to the media by someone at the club, in a fairly transparent and unsubtle manner. Ehab, or a lackey of Ehab’s? We’d love to know.

9. If managerial decisions are actually being turned over to the fans… the fans have been saying for a few weeks that Silva should be tied to a new deal now, not when he’s a free agent coveted by a string of other Premier League clubs.

10. Congratulations to Brighton & Hove Albion on their long overdue promotion to the Premier League. Like us, they had to hit the very bottom before they could start their rise to the top, with unscrupulous owners, ridiculous stadium politics and a community that seemed to be apathetic at best, especially when it came to getting their current stadium okayed. We remember Brighton fans, despite their own troubles, dropping change into buckets when we needed it, and for that alone we salute them heartily on their day of celebration. Our fingers are crossed that we’ll be meeting each other next season.