OPINION: 10 reasons why we should relish a return to the Championship

In these days of worry and recrimination, it’s easy to forget just how much fun and drama could be had from playing in the Championship. Our three seasons there from 2005/6 to 2007/8 were full of incident, great performances, superb goals and historic moments. While one hopes for a quick return to the Premier League, if only for financial reasons, the ultra-competitive and entertaining second tier is not one at which to turn up black and amber noses.

Unconvinced? Okay, click the ‘more’ tag below for ten reasons why we should enjoy a return to the Championship: Read more

OPINION – Bartlett’s motives warrant closer scrutiny

Russell Bartlett, Hull City’s owner, has had a pretty easy ride considering the club faces the very real possibility of entering administration should we be relegated in May.

Largely that’s because in Paul Duffen, our never publicity shy ex-chairman, we had a readily identifiable figure to pin the blame of huge debts on.

It’s also partly because we know remarkably little about Bartlett, three years after he bought into the club.

With Adam Pearson coming back to firefight and the subsequently settled out of court action against Duffen, it has been assumed that Bartlett was blissfully unaware of the reckless largesse displayed by his former employee, and that when he found out, Duffen had to go.

If that is truly the case, you could say Bartlett is guilty of nothing more than naivety, of mistakenly entrusting the near megalomaniacal Duffen with the swollen coffers post-promotion and that the wig wearer took unauthorised liberties. Read more

OPINION: Fagan may be hopeless, but he is vital to City’s survival

Craig Fagan. An enigma. Yes he is a chippy mosquito of a player, troubling opponents with his attitude and wind-ups. But he’s often not much else. A winger that can’t beat his man, preferring to win a throw in off a full back’s legs. A wide man that can’t cross reliably. A front man whose goalscoring prowess is demonstrably poor. It’s not a great sell.

Yet Fagan is potentially pivotal to City’s survival. He is hard working and maintains his position in an organised formation. He can defend competently from the front or the wing when required. His willing attitude breeds compliance and spirit amongst his team mates – and when the crunch came last season it was Fagan’s goal at Bolton that sealed the Tigers’ survival.

Fagan isn’t a good player by any objective measure of performance, other than Prozone’s “Scurry Quotient” – yet he could prove to be the key to City’s relegation survival for a second season running.

OPINION: West Ham complaint a cause for optimism?

No, it’s not a belated April Fool’s joke: Sky Sports News are this afternoon reporting that the Premier League has received a formal complaint from West Ham United about the team Fulham fielded against City at the weekend. Fulham boss Roy Hodgson was accused of resting key players ahead of their European fixture against German champions Wolfsburg last night, supposedly facilitating an easier afternoon for the Tigers.

They’re partially right about that. Few City fans will have been upset to learn that Zamora, Murphy and Duff were absent. So in the narrow sense of whether City had a weaker side to beat, that seems difficult to contest. Unfair? Maybe – but only really to the 300 Fulham fans who travelled north to watch their side defeated. One suspects that they’ll have been understanding about it given the thrilling season they’re enjoying. It’s up to them to manage their squad however best suits them, not how best suits West Ham.

Is that unfair to West Ham? Only very slightly. Their present predicament is of their own making, not Fulham’s. That survival is now in City’s hands is not the fault of Fulham, it’s as a result of taking zero points from two home games against Wolves and Stoke. With all due to respect to those sides, both faring better in 2009/10 than City, that’s dire.

Does any of this really matter to us?  Yes, but not necessarily in a bad way. Any punishments the FA hand down, which are vanishingly unlikely, would affect only Fulham, and will only amount to a token fine. After all, the Wolves precedent saw them fined just £25,000, suspended, for making ten changes. The match is hardly going to be replayed. We have the points, they’re safe, and West Ham’s petulant complaint won’t change that.

Instead, it smacks of panic. West Ham aren’t even in the bottom three – though any kind of result for City at Stoke tomorrow will change that – yet they’re kicking up a fuss about another team in a game played 200 miles away. There’s no real principle at stake here. West Ham are simply frightened, and are lashing out pointlessly at Fulham. If things are really so bad in East London that they’re reduced to this, perhaps City’s chances of catching them are better than we thought.

OPINION – Altidore needs to stay onside

No, he hasn’t got Caleb Folan disease (though we’ve still not seen enough evidence of Jozy Altidore’s abilities as a centre forward to prove otherwise, to be fair). But the wide-eyed American youngster needs to understand how both Phil Brown and English football as a whole works, or his year with us will pass by very slowly and very goallessly.

Brown has made it obvious of late, rightly or wrongly, that he won’t take any crap from any of his footballers. This evidently suggests a personality flaw in our beleaguered manager, whose national status as an egotist getting his comeuppance is being acknowledged more by those more local to the Tigers boss, when last season he deserved to be defended against such idle labels.

But with Altidore, it’s different. The lad is very young, extremely enthusiastic, totally unproven and yet talked about with real high regard by those who have seen him settle into a playing routine. One by one the City strikers are falling by the wayside – Folan, Daniel Cousin and Craig Fagan have already been frozen out after a set-to with the gaffer – and there are currently fewer and fewer options available up front.

It’s Altidore’s big chance, it really is. But he needs to see that for himself. He needs to smarten his attitude up and get to games on time and either reduce or cancel outright his Twitter account (on which he barely does more than talk about Playstations and his American team-mates, anyway).

It would be a scandalous waste of potential and talent if he angers an already unhinged manager further when the door has suddenly opened very wide before him to make his mark as a Hull City player. If Brown isolates Altidore like he has others who have crossed him, it would be purely on Brown’s head. But Altidore still has the opportunity to see it coming and avoid it.

OPINION – It has to be Bullard

BULLARD

Much has been made of Phil Brown’s semi-teasing revelation that he knows exactly who he would prefer to have as Hull City captain until Ian Ashbee is fit enough to play again.

Ashbee can barely walk right now after knee surgery, but just to have him pointing and cajoling from the centre circle while holding a stick would almost be worth it to get some life and fight into a listless bunch of Tigers players.

In his absence, however, this prestigious role that evokes memories of Andy Davidson, Garreth Roberts and Justin Whittle has flitted artlessly from player to player with a devaluing consequence akin to that time when Sven Goran Eriksson’s England played To Me, To You with the armband after a glut of substitutions, ending up with luminaries like Emile Heskey and Phil Neville briefly skippering their country. Read more

OPINION – City v The Guardian

City’s lack of published accounts has caused a minor shiver of concern here in East Yorkshire, evoking bad memories from yesteryear of chairmen with nefarious intentions. This, coupled with the hugely contentious decision to sell Michael Turner for £6m, has caused a lot of flak to be directed at chairman Paul Duffen – and his mood cannot have been helped with the situation coming to the attention of David Conn.

He is a friend of the Tiger Nation from several years ago, when his articles for the Independent ruthlessly exposed the wrongdoing of the regime that immediately preceded Adam Pearson. Now at the Guardian, his enthusiasm for forensic investigations of clubs’ off-field dealings has continued, but – in the nicest sense possible – it’d have been nice if he’d never written about City again.

His column in this morning’s Guardian therefore came as a jolt. It evidently caused raised eyebrows at the Circle too, with the club responding tersely (and slightly ineptly – did you realise we support a “flee-bitten” [sic] club?) on their official website. We’re promised more from Paul Duffen in the programme on Saturday too – that’s shaping up to be a very interesting day, with the chairman’s thoughts on the present situation combining with the first home game since Turner’s departure and the visit of relegation rivals Birmingham in a game the Tigers simply must not lose. Meanwhile, future editions of the Guardian are certain to be scrutinised by all…

So how much DID City get for Michael Turner?

The Sunderland Echo thinks £6m, potentially rising to £8m.

The London Evening Standard, featuring quotes from pleased third parties about to receive a pile of cash from up north, repeats £6m.

The Hull Daily Mail echoed this, and reported that the “Duffen and manager Phil Brown were unavailable to speak to the Mail direct about Turner’s sale” – though on transfer deadline day, maybe that’s understandable.

But what about what City HAVE said? During the summer, £12m was the figure repeatedly bandied about, with the club adamant that Michael Turner “would not be sold on the cheap”. Every time the issue arose, £12m was always the figure.

Now all that City say is “undisclosed fee”. Given the widespread dismay about this transfer, the club can hardly blame anyone for assuming this is a way of declining to admit that Phil Brown’s star player has been sold on the cheap.

For what it’s worth, Amber Nectar checked with a source in the north-east, who gave a figure higher than quoted in today’s Sunderland Echo…but not by much, suggesting that City have received only just over half of their original asking price: not much over £6m. One can see a pattern forming.

Our north-east chum also suggested that Turner is due 10% of the sale fee as he didn’t request a transfer, but  indicated he may waive this as a goodwill gesture to City. If this is indeed the case, it demolishes the argument that Turner moved for purely financial reasons.

So who’s right? So long as the club hide behind their “undisclosed fee” position, the assumption that our best ever player has been sold for a knock-down fee will linger. Genuine unhappiness abounds, and the club would be well advised to offer some explanations about this bewildering decision.

http://www.thisishullandeastriding.co.uk/news/Hull-City-sold-Michael-Turner-6m/article-1301276-detail/article.html

OPINION – Cousin should stay… for now

BRITAIN SOCCER

Correctly, the debate on the last day of the August transfer window has been about the sad, unnecessary sale of Michael Turner to Sunderland. But to go with the departure of an irreplaceable centre back could be the further loss of a maligned chap who remains our best current hope for goals.

Daniel Cousin has had his attitude correctly questioned in the one year (exactly) he has been at the KC, not least when his touch and his heart seemed to evaporate against Spurs the other week and he suffered the indignity of an early substitution for being so poor. Even Danny Coles never got that.

Yet although there is obvious hope for the new signings, Cousin does at least come with an element of familiarity. Though I always reject the accusations that he is lazy, he does have the air of a striker who wants to read where the ball is going to go and therefore, when it then goes somewhere else, he rarely feels the need to hunt it down.

But put it in the right place, and he will cause problems.

Kamel Ghilas is quick and smart and upon reaching a level of acceptable fitness in his new surroundings, should be capable of finding the net, assuming he doesn’t play wide too often. Jozy Altidore, already labelled a cult hero for being square-shaped, American and on Twitter, may also come good once his fitness has been improved. But the pace of both suggests that they are suited to the ball played through on the ground, and with the current one-dimensional midfield set-up we have, even with Geovanni in the hole behind either striker, that sort of craft is going to be minimal until Jimmy Bullard’s knee is mended.

Buying Stephen Hunt, a good crosser of the ball from set-pieces or open play, suggests that height and strength in the box is an asset we are still going to need, and Cousin remains our best hope, in the short term, of providing that. Even the threat of Turner at dead balls has gone now, making any extra inches all the more important.

Burnley are reputed to be in for him as a loan player. Keep him until January at least, by which time Altidore and Ghilas will be on fire, we hope. Until then, new swashbuckling centre forwards turning up in the next two hours notwithstanding, it’s Cousin or Caleb Folan. Or, if you prefer, workrate versus actual goalscoring threat. Careful what you wish for…