Things we think we think… #1

1. Adam Pearson’s lack of a stake in the club makes us worry he’ll want total control of someone else. It can’t be fulfilling to ask permission to do things that previously he’d sign off as owner/chairman, or to merely be a salaried employee when you have the talent/know how to be in charge. He was rumoured to be interested in Barnsley in the national media, is it just a matter of time before he goes or could the Allams sell a small stake to Pearson to hold on to such a valuable asset?

2. Neil Danns would be an excellent signing.

3. Cash Converters isn’t the most prestigious sponsor for a football club, but City fans going apoplectic, writing to the club to complain about a deal not yet announced, really need to get a grip. Football club’s sponsors do not reflect on the city the team play in one little bit, if you think Geordies are ardent savers because their jersey has Northern Rock’s logo on it, or that the burghers of Blackburn all have immaculately painted walls because of Rover’s association with Crown Paints, you’re a foolish knave.

4. Sponsor aside, that adidas shirt alleged to be our new strip was quite nice. Yes, it’s the same template as Stoke once more, but bold stripes (and on both sides) and more amber than black is our preferred style of City shirt..

5. Argentina blue is a nice colour for an away shirt.

6. Paul Duffen’s Twitter account, if it’s real, highlights a familiar self awareness deficit.

7. For an end of season showpiece event with real drama, the Championship Play-off final shits all over the FA Cup final.

8. The League Cup draw is next week. Unless this produces a tick ground for the nerd community, the competition should be scrapped.

9. Some egg-chasing fans have complained that Sky Sports didn’t televise the derby this weekend. They don’t seem to realise that what they see as ‘Rugbygeddon’ and the most important sporting event in history is of little interest to people outside of East Yorkshire, and not that much within.

10. The Hull Daily Mail’s new website is really, really, REALLY shit.

The idea for this feature is shamelessly stolen from Peter King of Sports Illustrated.

OPINION: Blackpool’s relegation emphasises City’s achievement

So, the trio of demoted sides is known: next season, we’re going to West Ham, Birmingham and Blackpool.

Ah, Blackpool. Plucky, brave, heroic Blackpool, everyone’s favourite underdogs, the side the media loves to patronise, managed by wacky japester and all-round character Ian Holloway. But despite this seemingly limitless array of qualities, the Seasiders have still been relegated in their first Premier League season – unlike City in 2008/9, it’s worth noting.

Let’s be clear from the outset. This isn’t intended to denigrate Blackpool. Quite the reverse – their elevation to the Premier League via a win at Wembley was a pleasing tale of overdue success, and the grinding predictability of the top flight would have been leavened substantially by them staying up. Like Burnley the season before, it’s a pity that ultimately they couldn’t stay the course after their stirring play-off success, but money talks.

We also should avoid the trap of sounding small, bitter and paranoid about the media. There’s enough stupidity in football without us adding to it. Yet…am I alone in contrasting the press’ coverage of Blackpool’s doomed battle with our actually successful one? Phil Brown and Ian Holloway are both eccentric individuals, but one is adored and one is reviled. Blackpool came from nowhere to go up, played attacking football and were universally willed to succeed; City similarly came from nowhere to reach the top flight, took the division on but managed to stay up…and appeared to be resented for it.


No easy answers suggest themselves. I have heard it suggested that City’s survival was unwelcome because it was at Newcastle’s expense. Perhaps, but I doubt it. Newcastle are liked by the media and the wider footballing world to an extent out of proportion to their likeability, but there has to be more to it. Was it because of Phil Brown? Possibly…he lurched from aimable clown to devil incarnate in a single afternoon in Manchester, for reasons still unknown. Lazy commentators still attribute THAT team-talk to our collapse in form, and haven’t let a widespread refutation of that by ex-players,or the fact City were already losing games sway them from an “A happened, then B happened, so A must have caused B” analysis.

That still doesn’t ring true, though. But what else can it be? Blackpool’s no more or less glamorous a place than Hull. Neither club had troubled the Premier League’s élite before. Ah, wait…when City got up, we DID trouble that élite. In our four trips to the then Sky Sports Amazing Incredible Big Four, only Man U beat us. Just. City weren’t just making up the numbers, they did actual harm to the favoured ones. Arsenal’s title challenge never recovered from losing to City, while Phil Scolari was sacked after drawing at Stamford Bridge against the Tigers. That really did put a few noses out of joint. But then again Blackpool won at Liverpool…

Pass. All that really remains is that while Blackpool were broadly expected to go down, City were forecast to do something altogether worse: “a Derby”. That prediction didn’t last past the first week of October 2008  – did the embarrassment of the punditocracy play a part?

Who knows. It may well just be one of those things that defies obvious explanation. It still doesn’t seem entirely right that Ian Holloway will be applauded (deservedly) for his achievements, whereas greater achievements received much less credit. Such is life. Perhaps I do sound bitter after all. Hard luck in not emulating City, Blackpool. See you next season…

OPINION – Matt Duke: Better the devil we know

So, who do you want – Vito Mannone or Brad Guzan? The assumption has been made that it’ll be one or the other that becomes Hull City’s new goalkeeper next season. Something else we must consider, however, is the possibility that it’ll be neither.

Both are currently with Premier League clubs, albeit as reserves, but currently each of those clubs face their own goalkeeping decisions. Guzan is well liked at Aston Villa and, with his fellow American Brad Friedel now at the geriatric stage for footballers, his opportunity could be closer than anyone has seemed to realise. Mannone arrived at the KC Stadium with all the fanfare that comes from being an Arsenal keeper, but his status as fourth-choice (which is purely speculative anyway) is likely to be improved in the summer as Arsenal try to trim down their array of underachieving stoppers.

Even if both keepers were keen, it doesn’t follow that their parent clubs will be willing to sell them anyway. Also, if Hull City try for both and get permission to negotiate, then they run the risk of offending each as only one can play, and a simultaneous effort to bring the Italian and the American in may well result in neither agreeing terms for fear of dropping down a division purely to be second choice again. No goalkeeper will want to go from reserve at Arsenal or Villa to reserve at Hull City, for all the delights of Church Road on a dark November night.

So what about another goalkeeper? Well, again one assumes it’s about cajoling a Premier League reserve into the Championship. Assuming there isn’t a plan to bring Boaz Myhill back home to the KC, a move that would make footballing sense and act as a serious PR fillip for City, then you start to run out of viable options. Sure, you can once more judiciously exploit the loan market but the situation has changed substantially since Nigel Pearson first acquired Mannone’s services. This is because, come the end of the season, we potentially won’t have a senior keeper of our own.

Matt Duke has been at the club for seven seasons and his contract runs out this summer. Back in goal recently thanks to Mannone’s injury issues, he has reminded us that, with a following wind and a decent defence around him, he is a reasonable goalkeeper at this level. He should never, ever have been preferred to Myhill in any division when both were fit but nonetheless we spent a long time slightly underappreciating how fortunate we were to have two committed, loyal, untroubling keepers on our books. Myhill is long gone, never to be forgotten, and with Duke’s mooted departure in the next fortnight or so, we find ourselves up something of a creek after years and years of sturdy dry land.

Duke, with a non-league background and personal issues that give him almost unique perspective on his career, would almost certainly take a one-year extension, on reserve outing terms, if the club offered it. He should be seen as a symbol of continuity which, as the club chases new keepers, would be a sensible, safe and astute move, even if the intention remains to give him as few games as is necessary. But if Duke gets a free transfer next week, and then Mannone and Guzan express a preference for taking their chances as Premier League stand-ins elsewhere, the situation suddenly becomes close to terminal.

It’s also not as if Duke has been poor lately. Yes, he is an uninspiring figure at times and is prone to mistakes that will never make him the top keeper clubs would kill to have. But in the last few games – games in which neither he nor we expected him to feature  – he has been a steady, sometimes crucial presence in the recent run-in, and that save at QPR in injury time proved that he can actually be a high class goalkeeper. It’s a hard argument to make to suggest we should hang on to Duke just because we may not get the keepers we actually want, but he’s unlikely to object to that after all these years and rather him than someone untried, unfocussed and hurriedly sought after better options have turned the Tigers down. For just a spot of security, the club should offer Duke another year.

OPINION: New stadium at Melton for City?

Today’s Hull Daily Mail contained the fantastical sounding story that the Allam family, City’s new owners, are so frustrated with Hull City Council’s unwillingness to sell the Circle that he’s considering building a new 40,000 stadium…at Melton.

A bluff to force the council’s hands? Perhaps. Were City to leave their current home, that’d leave just Hull FC and their dwindling band of egg fetishists half-filling the stadium 15 times a year – embarrassing for the council and nothing like the usage such a fine venue deserves. But with a touted cost of £60m (which sounds on the low side, given that the Circle cost £46m, nearly ten years ago), the cost of building anew is counterintuitive. Granted, City’s long-term ambitions require more than 25,000 seats, and with the council’s budget under pressure there’s no chance of them funding it, while Mr Allam is reluctant to fund the extension to someone else’s property.

Leaving aside the colossal expense, the biggest objection from City fans is certain to be the proposed location. Leaving Boothferry Park for the Circle saw City actually moving closer to the centre of the city, unusual in those days of abysmal out-of-town stadia. Melton is seven miles to the west of our current home, and some distance outside the city. As attempts to jolt the council into acquiescence go, it’s not especially subtle, nor do we expect City to be playing outside of Hull any time soon.

OPINION: Don’t forget Horton this weekend

Undoubtedly much attention will be paid to Phil Brown and Ian Ashbee when Preston North End, the club that now employs the most successful manager and captain in our history, visit the Circle this weekend.

And quite right too. Brown, for all the character flaws and vanity issues that seemed to shroud his managerial qualities once he took City into football’s elite, did everything we had always dreamed of as members of the Tiger Nation but had never dared expect or demand. His achievements are well documented and should never be downplayed, irrespective of the messiness and acrimony that surrounded his departure.

Ashbee, meanwhile, can justifiably lay claim to being football’s best captain. His achievements as a skipper and player are unique and groundbreaking, and his name is in football’s history books as the first person to captain a team in all four divisions.

Within City’s personal record books he is also the only player to score for the club in all four divisions and, even though he missed essentially two years of football within his eight and a half at the club, his legacy and status alongside Bly, Chilton, Roberts and Windass is bolted down forever. Again, it was a tad untidy when it came to its end a fortnight ago, but now he can at least get some closure via the City fans this weekend. Read more

NEWS/OPINION: Zayatte’s “compassionate” exit a sham?

On “compassionate” grounds, eh? Fewer than seven days after Kamil Zayatte’s contract was generously ripped up by Hull City, supposedly so he could join his family in France, the Guinean defender has pitched up at Turkish side Konyaspor and become their latest big signing.

Zayatte, 25, left the Tigers last week with the club claiming it was for these now-notorious “compassionate” reasons, leading supporters to believe, not unnaturally, that there was some kind of family crisis that rendered football and contractual obligations entirely unimportant.

However, quite quickly rumours were abound of a big disagreement between the club and Zayatte after he was dropped from the side that played Barnsley at the KC Stadium on January 15th, and this presented an opportunity for the player – and his agent – to try once more to extricate themselves from the club, something that had happened in one form or another around each transfer window since Zayatte first put pen to paper in the autumn of 2008. Read more

OPINION: Dawson deserves his extended deal

So, did Andy Dawson get a contract extension due to merit or meagre sentiment?

This was the instant topic of discussion among the more literate of the Tiger Nation upon hearing the news of the City left back’s prolonged deal with the club.

Dawson is 32 now, and was out of contract at the end of this season. January was the point when, if he felt it necessary, he could have freely asked his representatives to see what else was out there, in the event of his time at the Circle coming to an end. But there has been no need for that. Assuming negotiations have been going on for a short while, the club evidently made it clear to Dawson that he remained a valued and needed member of the squad, and that would have been quite sufficient for Dawson to sign up again. Read more

OPINION: In praise of Richard Garcia

He was an integral part of the side that won promotion to the Premier League for the first time in City’s history. He scored the goal of the season during that unforgettable 2007/8 campaign, and was still in the side as the Tigers’ two year adventure in the top-flight unfolded. He has thirteen international caps for Australia, and recently became the first man to play at a World Cup while at City. He’s still in the team, he’s worked tirelessly in numerous positions without complaint…so why on earth do some people still not like Richard Garcia?

Hopefully, this last week will prove to be a watershed for an unfairly unpopular and under-rated team player. The decision to assign him with the “1” bit of a 4-5-1 at Leeds on Tuesday was not greeted with delight, but he was man of the match with a characteristically selfless performance in City’s defiant, confidence-restoring draw at Leeds.

If that was about hard work, his next outing at Preston – once more leading the line – was about no little skill. His goal was a beauty, concentrating on a cross floating in despite the distraction of an attendant defender, and the execution of his diving header was of genuine class. Later in that game, his willingness to put in the hard yards eked a mistake out of a defender, and his subsequent cross for Barmby’s tap-in was clever and composed.

It was a marvellous display, and it’s been a great week for Garcia. At no time since he signed for City in July 2007 can I remember his name being chanted. That realisation is a startling one considering what he’s achieved. At full-time at Deepdale, Garcia and Mannone were cornered by Sky Sports for their immediate reaction. It meant they were detained in coming over to the away end – but when they did, Garcia’s named was boomed into the cold Lancashire air by the grateful Tiger Nation.

He must have heard it as clearly as he must hear the groans from the terminally ungrateful minority at the Circle whenever he’s summoned to put in another unglamorous shift. Let’s hope they were watching carefully on Friday evening. Let’s hope the player allowed himself a smile of satisfaction.

The four points the Tigers have taken from these two away games have been invaluable, both in terms of staying out of the bottom three and also in repairing damaged morale. With successive man-of-the-match performances, no-one did more in that hugely important pair of games than Richard Garcia. Maybe it’s time we started showing a bit of appreciation?

OPINION: What’s in a name?

Kingston Communications, or KC as they exclusively brand themselves nowadays (as evidenced by their horrendous new logo, which resembles an Ishihara test for colour-blindness), are to extend their sponsorship of City’s home stadium until 2025, by which time they’ll have had the naming rights to the ground for some 23 years.

Viewed in that perspective,  the deal is an impressive commitment by the company towards the area it serves. It’d be churlish not to observe that.  Another benefit is that it retains an established identity, there’s no need for new road signs, for guidebooks and websites to be updated with a new moniker etcetera. When the initial deal was signed in 2002, it was to run for ten years, and as 2012 looms so too did the prospect of an imminent change to the stadium’s name – or its official one, of which more in a minute.

Such a change would be mildly disconcerting. Huddersfield experienced this naggingly irksome upheaval when exchanging  the logo of construction firm McAlpine for  that of  cheap paracetamol producer Galpharm  on their front door, while other stadia appear to change their official names with bewildering rapidity. It lends a ground, unfairly perhaps, an air of soulless corporate plasticity. And while the KC is never going to be as characterful as Boothferry Park, at least we needn’t worry about suddenly having to call it something else, and worrying it’ll make us look cheap.

Or need we never worry about that anyway? Amber Nectar’s house style has always leaned towards calling our home  ‘The Circle’ , in honour of the venue’s original name. The club willingly use this nod to the past in their official postal address.  ‘The Circle’ is without doubt a somehow more authentic name for a football stadium.  This has never really caught on with Tiger Nationals however, not  that it’s worth becoming a shrieking fundamentalist over. The media, local and national, call it  ‘The KC’ . City are of course compelled to acknowledge their sponsors. It’s short, snappy, not overly corporate and grubby, and it has stuck. So be it.  We knew that things like this were part of the deal when we left The Ark.

Plus, it could be worse. One needn’t search for long to find football stadiums with far worse official names, and ones that have very little connection to their local community  (The Emirates Stadium for example, isn’t as implied in Dubai, it’s in North London). For its various faults, KC are at least a Hull company putting money into our area. By the time this new arrangement expires, they’ll have naming rights for almost quarter of a century, which may almost oblige them to continue. City may be playing at the KC Stadium for a very long time.

Meanwhile, we’ll stick with  ‘The Circle’  – most of the time…