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PODCAST: QPR, Millwall….and Millwall again

Buoyed by the win at QPR while sneering at a rubbish FA Cup draw. Proper podcast, this.

* Tremendous victory at Loftus Road
* Markus Henriksen’s special goal
* The heady heights of 19th
* Live reaction to the FA Cup draw
* Beating Middlesbrough ten years ago

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Things We Think We Think #318

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1. The point against Norwich was both surprising and welcome. Just three days after an emphatic home defeat, the chances of anything good happening against the free-scoring lead leaders appeared remote. Yet with a performance of honest endeavour (and a bit of fortune arriving via an off-colour Norwich and the levelling effect of the shocking weather) City churned out a point that their efforts deserved. The quality was low, but we’ve come to expect that. So diminished are our hopes that simply grinding out a goalless draw at home constituted a good evening.

2. A good evening in particular was enjoyed by Kevin Stewart. His City career has been a huge disappointment, and his enduring underachievement has produced justified despair – certainly too much for one game to wipe away its memory. But, for one match alone, credit where it’s due: Stewart produced a flinty midfield performance, with jagged interventions that made life hard for his Norwich adversaries. He did little on the ball, but then again he (in common with his teammates) didn’t see it often. But he shored up a midfield that was comically lightweight three days earlier. More, please. A lot more.

3. The atmosphere against Norwich was a surreal one. Even allowing for their lofty league position, the visitors brought an impressive contingent, but they ended up being as subdued as their team. With surely fewer than 9,000 souls in attendance on the bleakest of late-autumn evenings, it left the occasion feeling like a tie in the early stages of the League Cup. Sure, as City’s prospects of gaining an unlikely point increased, a defiant throatiness began to develop as the previously cold, wet and fed-up City fans become more engaged in their side’s dogged effort. But the vast swathes of empty seats in a ground barely one-third full spoke loudest of all.

4. But hey, QPR! That wasn’t remotely anticipated. To travel to one of the division’s more on-form sides, snaffle three goals and three points – well, we’d be despairing if a relegation rival unexpectedly did that. For City to do it was deliciously surprising. And well-deserved too. City were an authentic attacking threat all afternoon, gamely survived something of a first-half onslaught when it became 2-1, controlled things nicely when it was 3-1 and didn’t panic (err, too much) when QPR pulled a late one back. Well done lads.

5. And yes, well done Nigel Adkins too. Four points from those two games is a superb return, probably three more than we could have realistically hoped for. With 11 points from 6 games, this is actually a legitimate run of form (even if the Forest match was so awful it’s rather tainted things). We don’t have the size or the squad to maintain this automatic promotion form, but the fact we’ve fleetingly achieved it is quite something. Adkins will probably never be our cup of Darjeeling, but if he gets brickbats when we’re 23rd, he needs acknowledgement when we aren’t.

6. Like astronauts peering through the windows of the International Space Station upon the turning globe below, we marvel at the dizzy heights of NINETEENTH place in the Championship. It’s a position that hardly felt likely after the Forest faux-pas, and we know that we are but two points from 23rd and could slip back into the relegation zone soon, but for now let us take time to acclimatise and gaze upwards: A win next week and defeats elsewhere could see us in 16th place. Stellar stuff!

7. What – if anything – are to make of the disparity between City’s home and away form? Over half of our points have now arrived on the road, and if only away points were counted City would be nestled nicely in 15th. However, only two sides have obtained fewer points at home, and only two other sides join us in having more points away than at home. It may be that the ghastly experience that is a Hull City home match in late-2018 is dragging the side down, and they’re happier on the road. Or it could just be a small statistical quirk that’ll correct itself.

8. Millwall next. Its importance is obvious from the League table. The losers of this will endure a blow that could easily endure until Christmas, while the winners will enter the festive period confident that the worst may be behind them. It won’t be easy – it never seems to be there – but we have to hope that we don’t return north empty-handed, especially as they’re struggling for form. That may be made easier for Saturday’s result, which has alleviated some of the (immediate) pressure. So we’ll travel in reasonable heart. Probably best not to expect a classic though.

9. Millwall is the first of four successive games against sides in the bottom half. Granted, Swansea and Brentford’s positions may be unexpectedly lowly, but it shows they aren’t the formidable opponents they may have been earlier in the season. While City are doing well, and with plenty of tough assignments left this season, it’s important we take plenty more points this month. It’d lift us a bit clear of the relegation zone and boost morale (as well as making the club more attractive to new signings in January), and we’ll need those points if (okay, when) things get sticky again.

10. The draw for Round 3 of the Football Association Challenge Cup takes place this evening, probably at the same time as the AN podcast will be going out live. Tune in to see our disappointment at drawing Wigan at home instead of Ground Tick FC away.

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Things We Think We Think #316

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1. What on earth to make of Saturday’s frenetic affair at Birmingham? Both sides will be left somewhat ruing the outcome – Birmingham for losing a two-goal lead, City for conceding a late equaliser. On balance, the result was probably about right. But what a remarkable afternoon.

2. It’s impossible to let much of City’s defending go uncommented upon. After praise had been forthcoming for the notable tightening of things at the back of late, Saturday felt like September again. The two goals gifted to Birmingham before half-time were ridiculous, and had the match drifted to the sort of comfortable defeat that seemed likely at the break, it’d have been self-harm that’d have done it. No side at any level can do that sort of thing. It didn’t look or feel very secure all day.

3. Right at the very end too, City’s defending was again pretty hopeless. An air-kick presented an easy chance for Birmingham’s late leveller, and cost us two points. And goodness knows we’ve coughed up enough late goals already this season.

4. But…wasn’t the stuff inbetween quite exhilarating? Doubly so for being wholly unexpected. Campbell’s predatory brace and Grosicki’s blockbusting free-kick completely transformed the match and it looked as though a side with a long unbeaten record at home were about to lose it. It wasn’t to be, but to even come close was quite stunning.

5. It is a point gained, all considered. Most City fans would probably have taken it on Saturday morning, and definitely at 4pm. It does suggest that the players are playing for Nigel Adkins at the moment too. We’ve taken 7 points from the last 9 available, which is a very good run of form at this end of the table. It hasn’t lifted us out of the bottom three, but we’re level on points with 20th and only a result away from escaping the bottom three for the first time in a while. That there’s even hope of doing that when we were recently four points adrift is no little achievement.

6. It’s also interesting in terms of the longer-term management of the club. If we do assume for a moment that the Allam nightmare is coming to an end, a month ago many would have assumed that Adkins would have been an automatic casualty of a takeover. Now, with his side visibly improving, he can present a case for being allowed to keep control of the team and be allowed to spend whatever funds are available in January. Whether that case is a strong one or a weak one depends upon personal taste – he still isn’t quite to ours – but at least it’s a plausible one.

7. Isn’t it great to see Fraizer Campbell playing the way he is? Four goals in three games, and a constantly buzzing presence up front. He’s a different player to the one that scorched through his first period with City a decade ago, which is understandable given the passing of time. His runs are now more thoughful than just jet-heeled, for instance. But he’s in the best form of his second spell here, particular now that he’s poaching goals, and an automatic choice up front. More, please.

8. There’s an international break now, so another fortnight in which to take stock. Then City have two home games in three days. They’re both against promotion hopefuls in Nottingham Forest and Norwich, but City have to take heart from the surprising but thoroughly merited win against West Brom nine days ago. We probably have to take something, because as difficult as those games are, the two after that are on the road.

9. With regards to the takeover, no news is at least not bad news. Like a house move, it probably grinds on quietly for quite some time, before excitingly all coming together at the end. At least, that’s what we’re hoping.

10. Let’s daydream: it’s Saturday 22nd December, Father Christmas is coming soon and City have picked enough form to have escaped the bottom three. Swansea at home, and it’s a late kick-off so there’s more scope for pre-match pubbage. The Allams have just slithered away from the club, and a bright new dawn may be about to break. Investment is promised, supporter relationships are being repaired, the club feels as though it’s being mended. The biggest crowd of the season has gathered – expectant, united, optimistic, over the drink-drive limit – and the team that once again properly and unbegrudgingly calls itself Hull City AFC takes to the field, to raucous acclaim…

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PODCAST: Boing, boing … to 23rd

Very soon we’ll no longer be the FSF Club Podcast of the Year, but we wish our shortlist of potential successors well. Meanwhile, for the next month we’ll continue to label ourselves grandly while talking about stuff such as…

* Beating West Brom
* Fraizer Campbell’s goalscoring touch
* City’s tightened defence
* The FSF’s reaction to Trust omission from club meetings
* Losing to a Jääskeläinen masterclass a decade ago

All here…

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Things We Think We Think #315

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1. Well! Haven’t things changed? Two successive 1-0 wins, and all of a sudden this grotty season has been lent a faint but unmistakeable (and not misplaced) sense of hope. The single goal victory at Bolton was decent, but beating a West Brom side with automatic promotion hopes was authentically impressive. And not just for the result.

2. City deserved this. They absolutely did. It wasn’t a streaky backs-to-the-wall-and-pinch-one-on-the-break kind of win over a top side. City created chances, and while the lingering impression remains that we don’t convert them often enough, we did at least take one. Best of all, City then controlled the remainder of the game with rarely seen assurance and conviction. The defence and keeper will get the plaudits for another clean sheet, and rightly so. Successive shut-outs have capped off a run of seven games in which no side has beaten David Marshall twice in a game, and this defensive improvement has been vital. To stay up, a side often needs little more than to be tough to beat. Well, we’re looking a trickier assignment for opposing sides than we did six weeks ago. It could just be enough.

3. However, the whole side warrants praise for the way West Brom were repelled. Never mind that they clearly had an off-day – even at 50% effectiveness they’d have comfortably rolled us over in September. Now, we can see growing organisation and confidence throughout the side. From Fraizer Campbell’s tireless efforts up front, Dan Batty’s remarkable composure in midfield right through to a defence that is seeing inexperienced players begin to rise to the challenge – well, frankly we didn’t see it coming.

4. But let’s not get too carried away. City are still second bottom after all; these two wins have only stopped us from being hopelessly cut adrift. We’re still progressing than less a point a game and that needs fixing if we’re to survive. The key thing is that we can now start to see a way towards safety. New owners, a few new players in January to augment an improving but still desperately thin squad, and 21st could be ours. We didn’t think that a fortnight ago.

5. It also means we needn’t desperately fear Birmingham next week. They’re having a good season, just three points from the play-offs, and will start as favourites. But a match they thought was a gimme isn’t now. We hope. Any positive result will be very welcome, and may even lift us out of the bottom three. And considering that we were four points adrift of safety a very short time ago, that’d be some turnaround.

6. There was a meeting of the new Supporters’ Committee on Monday. No, we didn’t know about it either. The fall-out has been predictable though, with the club violating guidelines on club-fan consultation by barring the Hull City Supporters’ Trust after their failed – and really quite distasteful – attempts to strong-arm a fans’ group into changing its personnel. That ensured a few days of bad headlines and robust censure from the Football Supporters’ Federation, who are referring to the club to various authorities. How utterly pathetic our club is.

7. The strangest thing (beating even the comical suggestion that the OSC is “independent”) was the claim by the club on Tuesday that some of the “reps” at the meeting “prefer not to be widely publicised”. Now, we would really prefer not to be querying fellow City fans, but you can’t help wondering what the point in putting oneself forward as a “fans’ representative” is if you don’t want fans to know that you’re representing them.

8. But as usual, the real cause of the issue is Hull City AFC themselves, who bar fans from groups and organisations that DO possess a constituency and thus a mandate to represent other fans, and are also willing to do so. And of course, it’s all so short-termist. A hallmark of the Allams’ regime is how the club merely survive from one day to the next, never willing (or perhaps able) to think of anything beyond simply stumbling through whatever self-wrought crisis they’re presently experiencing. But one day, the club will be owned by adults again, who want to engage meaningfully with the fans, and some tough questions will be heading the way of those who helped the Allams spread their poison.

9. Apropos the takeover, the relative silence on that front isn’t particularly concerning. This sort of thing takes time, and much of it occurs quietly, behind the scenes. But…why was there a very slightly discordant note about the news being reported last Wednesday about the Allams “saying farewells”? That would be awfully premature if we’re still at the due diligence scale, and without a preferred bidder even been decisively identified. Coming so very conveniently at a time when the club was copping flak for their ridiculous antics with the Supporters’ Committee is interesting too. We aren’t buying it. And never forget: the Allams may love money, but they already have enough of the stuff, and also have the motivation to inflict even greater ruination of the club if they want to while planting stories about sales and takeovers to amuse themselves in the meantime. Price up the champagne if you wish; but don’t part with your hard-earned just yet.

10. Above all, we ache for the optimism and unity we’ve had before. Watching old clips of City home games at the Circle is hard when you see stands full of City fans all pulling in the same direction as the club. It’s been so long now – last week saw the fifth anniversary of the meeting Assem Allam called with City fans over the name change at which he promised not to proceed with Hull Tigers without consulting the fans (a promise he almost immediately broke). Since then, nothing has felt right. We yearn for City to be mended.

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PODCAST: Concede late, score early

Here we are again. A quite upbeat podcast by usual standards…

* Promise at Bristol
* A result at Bolton
* League table analysis
* Trust barred from supporters’ meeting
* Déjà-vu at Ferriby
* Chelsea and Manchester United win a decade ago

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Things We Think We Think #314

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1. A week that began with City in the bottom three ended with City still in the bottom three – yet, courtesy of the victory at Bolton, feels a little less hopeless than before. What a pity our brace of away fixtures began with defeat at Bristol City, with a second successive 93rd minute concession wrecking the result. City didn’t play too badly, creating enough good-quality opportunities to have taken the lead. The problem is that while last season, under both Slutsky and Adkins, City always looked like scoring, this season that sharpness in front of goal has fled.

2. Couple that with regular defensive lapses, and we’re always prone to a sucker punch. And so it proved, conceding again in injury time. The team and manager can persuasively argue that this was a harsh result, but that’s the sort of thing that happens when chances aren’t taken and clean sheets are rarities.

3. In some respects, Saturday’s match at Bolton looked quite similar – City played some decent stuff, made chances and for the most part kept the opposition at bay. But it’s all such fine margins sometimes, isn’t it? This time, we took a chance, and came up against a side who couldn’t take any of theirs. And while the 1-0 win at the poetically-named University of Bolton Stadium may not live long in the memory, there’s no disputing its value – or that City deserved a break after conceding twice in injury time within a week.

4. So, we’re still 23rd. But at least not cut adrift. Having kicked off in Lancashire a daunting four points adrift of safety, that deficit has been halved; it is – depending upon how optimistically you view the visit of West Brom on Saturday – possible to escape the bottom three with a single win. Contrast that with Ipswich, whose position of 24th may only be one worse than City, but they’re already five points from the promised land of 21st. That feels pretty ominous when you’re scuffing along at less than a point a game.

5. And 21st is probably still about the summit of our ambition this season. We’re in this position for a reason – the squad and the manager who leads it just aren’t good enough for anything substantially better. Saturday’s match report summed it up: if this season culminates with City ended fourth-bottom with new owners in charge, it will be a success.

6. Meanwhile…is that a marginally improving defence that we see? City are still conceding regularly, but not prolifically any more. Since the appalling loss at Reading over a month ago, City haven’t conceded more than one goal in a game, a spell that included all of the current top three. And yes, there’s a bit of straw-clutching going on here, particularly when we only kept one clean sheet in those half-dozen games…but if things are just tighening up a little at the back, perhaps that’ll just produce enough points over the rest of the season to keep us at least in with a chance.

7. It was a pleasure to see Robbie McKenzie make his first start in the Championship on Saturday. A player who is a full seven months younger than Amber Nectar, he’s been in the squad a lot this season and hadn’t disappointed when introduced from the bench. Forget that injuries and a gruel-thin squad may have accelerated his promotion: he hasn’t let anyone down this season, did well on Saturday, and provides the simple, enduring satisfaction of seeing a promising local lad breaking into the game. Well done young man.

8. West Brom next. They’re proper promotion contenders and are scoring loads this season, so our defensive capabilities are certain to be examined by them. Even though it would keep us in the relegation zone, a point would be very handy. Then again, they’ve haven’t won in three games or kept a clean sheet in six…

9. Away from City, it wasn’t a happy weekend for the national sport. Condolences to the friends and families of the three men and two women who lost their lives in a helicopter crash at Leicester; to the Brighton supporter who passed away after falling ill at their game against Wolves; and best wishes to former England manager Glenn Hoddle, who is gravely unwell following a heart attack.

10. Lastly, best wishes too to North Ferriby United supporters, who are facing a very familiar situation to one that blighted our recent past and whose consequences remain with us to this date. Their owners are apparently set upon renaming the club East Hull FC, and moving it ten miles to Dunswell. It isn’t a situation we’d relish, and as our nearest neighbours of consequence we feel a certain affinity to them. A petition has already attracted over 3,700 signatures – it can be signed here. Meanwhile, when considering this application, we trust that the FA will be guided by the very clear precedent it set when refusing Assem Allam’s odious attempt to foist Hull Tigers upon us.

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PODCAST: But really, those substitutions…

On a bright and breezy, positive and sanguine podcast, we have:-

* None of the above characteristics
* A chat about the Preston game
* Those substitutions
* Away games at Bristol and Bolton
* Wins over Wests Ham United and Bromwich Albion in 08/09

Here y’are…

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Things We Think We Think #312

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1. It’s been a week of contrasting emotions. The glimmer of hope presented by a doughty draw with Middlesbrough was extinguished in defeat to Leeds, a match that started well but ended pretty pathetically, with City completely unable to lay a glove on their opponents despite trailing only by one.

2. Nigel Adkins’ view of our Tuesday night victors didn’t make any sense. They’re good, quite good in fact, and clearly a mile better than our sorry squad. But the best Championship side in years? They’re not even the best Championship side of this calendar year, and there wasn’t much to suggest that the Hull City class of 2016 wouldn’t overcome them. Mind games to bolster his side’s fragile confidence? Perhaps. But at least make confidence-building remotely grounded in fact, eh Nigel?

3. It was an oddly listless evening. Fewer than 10,000 City fans turned up, and it didn’t feel remotely like any previous City/Leeds fixture at the Circle. When not even the visit of the Champions of Europe can fill seats and clear throats, we know the disease is deep and entrenched. City were alright in the first half, competing well and suggesting that another unlikely point was possible; but the second half response to going behind was abysmal. Sure, City were unlucky to lose Irvine (who is excellent) for Stewart (who is, shall we say, not operating at quite the same level). And they’re better than us. But for pity’s sake, don’t cough up a match like that.

4. If minded towards a charitable disposition, it’s possible to have a degree of sympathy for both players and manager following our latest defeat, this time at Sheffield United. The manager made a courageous (in the Sir Humphrey Appleby sense of the word) decision to shift to 3-5-2 and drop both Bowen and Grosicki; yet he was only 20 minutes and a penalty away from seeing it justified with a surprise point. Meanwhile, the players themselves showed tolerable application, albeit undermined by a familiar lack of quality, but they too were part of an outfit that wasn’t far from a draw against a side now 23 places above us.

5. And if you’re not charitably inclined, and are instead absolutely bastard sick of City losing all the time, then you’ll note yet another defeat, yet another unclean sheet, yet another blank, yet another slide down the table. Which is placing Adkins under considerable pressure. If a takeover is in the offing – which we’ll deal with shortly – then he won’t be sacked now, as any new owners will probably want to decide who they want taking the club forward. There’s also no prospect of the Allams spending another penny on the club they don’t have to by paying him off. So we’re stuck with him for now. And of course, it’s up for debate as to how much of this unbearable shitshow is even his fault anyway. Our view is that he’s a secondary but not inconsequential culprit. Who sometimes does our head in.

6. If Kamil Grosicki is fit and not acting the idiot in the dressing room, he has to play. He is by some distance our best footballer, and dropping him against a side who had eyes on the top of the table, in tandem with our form goalscorer (for what that actually is) in Jarrod Bowen, was a batty decision. Adkins doesn’t have enough league points nor brownie points to be making calls that lend credence to the idea that his ego is getting in the way.

7. We suspect that when Ehab Allam recently  asked the Guardian newspaper “How is this club decaying?” he was being rhetorical, but everyone else but him knows the answer, because they know what recent home attendances have been, and they’ve seen the current league table.

8. It’s takeover gossip season again. Except…are we genuinely close this time to the Allam nightmare ending? The midweek document unearthed on Company’s House, plus seemingly categorical statements about bids, interested consortia together with names and nationalities bodes well. We’ve been here before of course, and a man like Ehab Allam would no doubt regard raising the hopes of a city only to destroy them as a worthwhile use of his time. So, the champagne isn’t yet bought, let alone transferred to ice – but we may begin pricing it up soon.

8a. Of course, if Paul Duffen returns, we may downgrade to just fizzy wine. The former City chairman would return with considerable baggage, much of it decidedly unappealing. His fingerprints were all over the descent into financial doom that brought about the Allams in the first place. Of course, we’d take him over Assem and Ehab, in the same way a particular nasty dose of ‘flu is preferable to a right good Novichoking. But that isn’t to say that his comeback will be a cause for unrestrained celebration. He’d better have learned a thing or two about responsible housekeeping.

9. But hey, it might not be him. Or it may not happen at all. So we’ll just wait, and hope. There’s no point appealing to the Allams’ better nature to sell, because their nature is purely about money and spite. But at least it means there is a language they understand. So come on, someone. Take a punt on a broken club, because the world has seen what we can be, and could be again if handled right. Get kids and old folk back in; treat disabled fans properly, open the Upper West, call us by our bloody name, make Hull proud of its foremost sporting institution again. You won’t regret it.

10. Bit of housekeeping: two thirds of our editorial team are moving house at the moment. Bear with us while posting is light, and excuse the lack of a podcast this week (KCOM are partly to blame here, if you can possibly imagine that). Back after the international break.