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Things We Think We Think #319

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1. Another away game, another addition to our points haul. The 2-2 draw at Millwall wasn’t as impressive as the previous weekend’s 3-2 win at QPR – not even close, really, either in terms of the outcome or the result. But it’s another point, gleaned in trying conditions to deny relegation rivals what would have been a painful victory. We have to be glad about that.

2. It all looked so promising early in the game. City started rapidly and took a deserved lead, and at that stage it looked as though another win in the capital was on the cards. It’s a real pity City didn’t score what could have been a decisive second during this period.

3. However, when Millwall levelled, we ended up hanging on for half-time, and the third quarter of the game was frankly awful. That Millwall didn’t make the game safe explains why they’re also in trouble, because they had ample opportunity to do so. City were probably as poor as at any time this season between the 46th and 70th minute, and the sheer extent to which we were second best was frightening.

4. Then an equaliser was burgled, and after that neither side really showed enough conviction to suggest they’d end up winning. Overall, City’s claim to deserve a point is a little optimistic, but we’re not too bothered about that. We got the draw, even if troublingly lengthy spells of the game saw us chasing shadows.

4a. Millwall playing music after their goals was quite something. It’s like discovering that Gripper Stebson used Roland’s stolen dinner money to buy a flower press.

5. What a valuable point it is. We’re now a useful three ahead of the bottom three, and that equaliser ensured that Millwall are kept at bay rather than overtaking us. 21 points from 21 games and 19th is probably about as good as this appallingly depleted squad can do at the moment; if we have a decent return over Christmas, it’s possible that we’ll start 2019 in a handy position to avoid relegation. And if the Allam nightmare is finally curtailed and some investment made in the squad…

6. Brandon Fleming made his first League start for City on Saturday, and it must have been a day to remember for the young man. Being outjumped for Millwall’s equaliser must have been a chastening moment, but he didn’t let that unduly unsettle him. He can be proud of his afternoon’s work, and can probably look forward to more first-team action this season.

7. What a deeply dispiriting FA Cup draw. While we always crave a tick ground, at least playing someone from a different division – be it lower or higher – makes for an interesting occasion. Having a second trip to Millwall inside a month is the direct opposite of good. We can’t even pretend it’s good from the standpoint of progressing in the tournament, as home advantage alone will ensure Millwall are favourites to make Round 4. Bah, bah and thrice bah.

8. Nigel Adkins made it to a year in charge through the week. It hasn’t been a year of limitless glory, but instead has seen one relegation battle (successful) segue inevitably into another (barely surviving). Not much of that is his fault, and City’s recent run of good form has helped to establish a sneaking regard for him. He isn’t what we want in the long term. However, he’s giving himself a chance of extending that spell. Par for this season is probably 21st, given the appalling handicap his bosses are inflicting upon him. That City have a good chance of making that is no mean feat. A begrudging tip of the cap.

9. There’s been a lot of conjecture about City’s attendances this season. It’s universally believed that we’ve already had a first ever sub-10,000 League gate at the Circle this season, though the club continue to publish figures that claim we are yet to dip below 11,420 this season. Well, courtesy of a Freedom of Information request to the local authorities, we’ve been passed an official attendance for this season.

10. On 20th October 2018, 9,837 attended City v Preston. A four-figure attendance. City preposterously claimed 12,066 that afternoon, an inflation of the true figure by some 22%. That’s consistent with last season, where the club routinely added a fifth to the true attendances. And that wasn’t even our lowest this season. 11,420 allegedly made it to City v Norwich. Except, they clearly didn’t. Take off a fifth, then perhaps a few hundred more because of the shocking weather, and we’re possibly into the 8,000s. We’re not far from the ground being one-third full. For second tier League matches. What a depressing state of affairs.

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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 #317

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1. After the encouragement offered before the international break, City provided a chastening reminder that we aren’t very good and are in serious relegation trouble on Saturday. There was nothing streaky about the 2-0 defeat to Nottingham Forest – we were comprehensively outplayed for pretty much the entire game.

2. It started badly and never really improved. Forest looked a cut above from the very beginning, while City looked wholly ill at ease and didn’t figure in the match at all. Perhaps it was a formation thing (more on that shortly), or a personnel thing, but whatever it was, the gulf in class between City and a side that isn’t even in the top six was dismaying.

3. There is a popular trope among some City fans to decry playing one up front as too defensive and lacking ambition while championing the classic 4-4-2 line-up. Saturday’s game probably won’t change their rigid tactical thinking, but it should. Playing two up front got us nowhere, it simply meant that whenever Forest had the ball (and they did for 61% of the game), 20% of City’s outfield players were not involved in play. Neither Fraizer Campbell or Chris Martin are as mobile as they once were, and they don’t have the engines to be behind the ball when we’re not in possession and ahead of it when we are.  One up front is not lacking in ambition, as five goals in the previous three games demonstrated.

4. Chris Martin, eh? He hasn’t impressed at all this season, but Saturday appeared to be a new low for a player whose loan spell with City is proving unsatisfactory for both player and club. He’s slow, has a ropey first touch and seems to have next to no understanding with any his teammates – particularly his notional strike partner Fraizer Campbell. None of this can be any fun for him, but it’s sure as hell not fun watching him a latter day Robbie Turner forlornly harrumphing his way through yet another non-scoring game.

5. Not that he’s alone. We’ll probably never understand what Kevin Stewart does, but even usually semi-reliable performers conspicuously failed to show up on Saturday. Marshall made a few good saves and was blameless with either goal – and that’s about it. Both full-backs looked uncomfortable all afternoon, Bowen was easily shackled, Campbell looked lost without any meaningful support while Grosicki – who did try to make things happen and was even spotted tracking back on occasion – failed to inspire. It was a sullen, miserable afternoon, typified by the grim scenes at the end as stadium was 99% empty by the time the final City player departed. Torrential rain was favoured over staying behind. Sad stuff.

6. It was better for the KCOM rafters hawk though, who again spent a City game skilfully de-feathering a pigeon (sending said feathers spinning onto fans in the North Stand) before feasting on entrails. Impressive stuff.

7. Though we remain a single victory from (perhaps) edging out of the bottom three, the Championship table continues to make bleak viewing. We remain on a points-per-game ratio low enough to probably send us down in May, and there’s little in upcoming games to take much comfort from either.

8. Norwich, tomorrow’s participants in what could be a record-breakingly low gate at the Circle, are in blistering form. The leaders have scored four goals in each of their last three games and won all of their last six. They obviously won’t retain that sort of form forever, and such glorious runs always do come to an end. It’d be a very courageous City fan who backs us being the ones to curtail it, however.

9. We’ve previously not been alarmed by takeover talk falling silent, but disquieting rumours have bubbled up in recent days suggesting that the deal’s in trouble. The reason is unknown, and the source of the rumours is unclear, but a low hum of concern is clearly audible.

10. This matters, because without a takeover and January investment, we’ll probably be a League One side next season. Some clarity would be very welcome.

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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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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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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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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.

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Things We Think We Think #311

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1. A point against Middlesbrough on Saturday was very welcome, and means that City have already exceeded our low expectations for the horrible trio of games that we’re one-third of the way through. We’d have remained outside the bottom three even with a loss, but with an ever-worsening points-per-game ratio, and it really was tough to envisage anything other than a loss – after all, Middlesbrough would be top if they’d won – so we have to be pleased with a draw.

2. City weren’t bad value for it either. It was a decidedly low-quality game, with Middlesbrough weirdly unwilling to shift from their new, direct style of play even when presented with opposition as accommodating as City. That meant that providing City could stand up to Middlesbrough’s unsophisticated style, they could stay in the game – and they did. And that’s to their credit, as City folding under repeated bombardment hardly required a feat of mental gymnastics to imagine.

3. However, stand up to it City did, and on this occasion we didn’t see the sort of pathetic collapse when going behind that scarred the trips to Wigan and Reading, so a slightly less feeble mentality is welcome. And however streaky the leveller, by the end of the match Middlesbrough hadn’t done enough to deserve victory, and City had done enough to argue their case for a draw, particular given the elevated standing of the visitors.

4. Two men emerged with particular credit. Eric Lichaj is quietly becoming the standout purchase of the latest summer of self-harm, partly due to his apparent flexibility at the back. When Jordy de Wijs limped off in the first half, Kingsley replaced him and moved to left-back, requiring Lichaj to move inside. He acquitted himself well, and has done so since joining. He seems to relish a scrap, often looks to move forward when in his regular full-back berth and in a side conspicuously lacking on-field leadership, he doesn’t go missing.

5. The other is David Marshall, probably our player of the season so far. Middlesbrough offered surprisingly little threat to his goal, and but we’d have lost the point at the end if not for a superb low save. Diving to his right, he showed superb reflexes and crucially, a strong hand to deflect a very good header wide of the goal. That sort of header so often finds a way to get past even a keeper who gets a hand to it, and it was a tremendous save. We’d be clamouring to acclaim such an intervention by Myhill/McGregor/etc, and we should do it for Marshall too.

6. This brings us to Leeds. Despite having been presented with the Championship trophy several weeks ago, the fourth time in a row they’ve won the division before the barbecues were put away for the winter, the Champions of Europe have had just the faintest wobble lately, winning only one of their last five. Problem is, they really have looked the real deal at times this season – back in the days when the balance of footballing power in Yorkshire was shifting from West to East, this’d have been a game to relish. The ground would be a sell-out, and we’d have looked forward to it for a while. Perhaps not so much now. There obviously won’t be a sell-out, and if Leeds turn up they could win easily. A queasy notion.

7. It’s up to City to stop that happening. And while that’s easier said than done when there’s an obvious difference in class, if they at least make a tolerably good game of it, we’ll have to make do with that. The same mentality that was on show at the Madejski Stadium could see a massive home defeat inflicting. But the sort of quiet application that existed when grinding out a point on Saturday? And hey, we’re unbeaten in two home games and they haven’t won either of the last two away…

8. Alright, enough. The likeliest outcome is a Leeds win, and then a Sheff Utd win on Saturday, by which time we’d very possibly be back in the bottom three. The problem is that we’re in too much of a predicament to be giving away the hard games and looking at the easier ones, because we’re perfectly capable of losing those too. Give it a go, City.

9. Have you read Jon Parkin’s autobiography? It’s an extremely graphic tale of football, drinking, legal difficulties and defecation, and not for the easily grossed out. The big revelation in the one chapter on his eventful spell at City is that it was obvious from the moment Phil Brown as an assistant to Phil Parkinson that he was after the top job himself, something which may not surprise us but has never been boldly claimed by anyone before. The chapter does not flatter Brown (the author hates him) nor the first team coach, the unrelated Steve Parkin (the author really, really hates him). The candour shown by Parkin as far as his failings are concerned make us rather like him again, and a most astute observation was that on meeting Phil Parkinson for the first time, he deduced that the new gaffer for the 06/07 season wouldn’t be around for long … because he was holding a clipboard.

10. We won’t be podcasting this evening, but will be aiming for Thursday night instead, taking in both the Middlesbrough and Leeds home fixtures.

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Things We Think We Think #310

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1. Wigan first, if only because a timid and deserved defeat at a newly promoted side was the stand-out highlight of the week. This was a messy and cheap defeat. City started well, failed to capitalise and capitulated when falling behind, being fortunate not to find the game irretrievably lost. Then, when a goal that halved the deficit arrived to stun everyone, our attempts to wrest a point back to East Yorkshire were quite pitiful.

2. Everything about this game worried us. We aren’t going to enjoy many periods of relative dominance this season, and it’s vital we score when they do arrive. However, for all that City started brightly, and for all that Nouha Dicko is a tireless forward runner, neither looked particularly likely to score – and so a strong beginning was wasted.

3. If that was annoying, what followed was disastrous. When Wigan gained the lead, City’s reaction was frankly contemptible. The Tigers’ conspicuously non-leading captain Markus Henriksen bemoaned the stressful nature of this, but any distress the players felt was nothing compared to the ghastliness of watching. Wigan – a good side playing well – were given total freedom to run the game how they saw fit, with no-one in black in amber looking remotely willing or capable of altering anything. It was a dismal response, and it was a miracle we didn’t end up 4-0 down at half-time. Not that it mattered, because when City did pull it back and make the game (theoretically) a contest, Wigan were hardly troubled in a woefully lifeless second half.

4. Questions about Nigel Adkins’ team selections rightly featured in the post-mortem. Five changes from the side that beat Ipswich to give us a degree of hope raised eyebrows. Sure, the Championship’s Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday grind requires squad rotation. But we don’t have a squad, and while that’s the fault of the owners (and we are most definitely not forgetting them today), acting as though we do have one when we don’t isn’t wise.

5. And that, remember, was the highlight of the week. Because if Wigan was poor, the 3-0 kicking at Reading was disgusting. A revoltingly soft goal from a set-piece was gift-wrapped for the Royals – previously pointless at home, remember – and from then on the direction of the match was set. Tackles were routinely shirked, blue shirts were ignored and accommodatingly stood off from, passes were misplaced, runs were half-hearted – it was a gutless offering in the first half.

6. AND IT GOT WORSE. A farcical second half saw City defend like a Hull Sunday League side rueing their midnight decision to go to Piper instead of getting cheesy chips and at least a few hours of sleep. It was a wholesale surrender, the sort of loathsome and deliberate dereliction of duty that costs careers, and deserves to.

7. There’s loads of blame to dole out, and few deserve to escape it. The players may not be good enough for anything but a grim scramble to 21st, but this week still hasn’t been remotely good enough from them. We look an incoherent, disinterested mess, and a huge improvement in their collective endeavour is urgently needed.

8. The manager is probably not good enough either, and though he got us to safety last season, that increasingly looks more down to Harry Wilson and Abel Hernández than his managerial acumen. In the aftermath of the Reading debacle, his future is being questioned too. Deservedly so; we didn’t expect a great deal this season, but the manner of the defeats is as worrying as the increasing frequency of them.

9. But really, what would sacking him accomplish? With the Allams openly running the club into the ground, the idea that they’d pay the necessary severance fee and then spend enough money to secure a suitable replacement is nonsense. Let us never, ever forget: THEY are the reason this club is in a death spiral, not the players or the manager. The Allams are murdering the club, they are the ones responsible for all of this.

10. It isn’t likely to get any better. Upcoming fixtures against Middlesbrough (2nd), Leeds (1st) and Sheff Utd (4th) don’t have a points-laden feel to them. If we lose all three, we’d be on seven points from 12 games. Avoiding relegation after such a start would be a tall order. At the moment, it’d be a surprise if we aren’t in the Checkatrade Trophy next season.

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Things We Think We Think #308

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1. In a week uninterrupted by City playing, Ehab took it upon himself to provide the entertainment, with a comically self-pitying self-justifying soft-soap interview with The Guardian. We won’t waste much time on it; it was vacuous drivel for the most part from a man whose separation from reality is almost certainly irreversible.

2. The most interesting thing was the scornful reaction from City fans. With few exceptions, the attempt to pacify us with talk of a possible takeover was ignored. The club is perhaps up for sale, but only in a purely theoretical sense. Ehab’s here, he’s clearly enjoying his stranglehold on a community asset, and the idea that he’d sell before the final parachute payment arrives is preposterous anyway.

3. Still, Harry Maguire’s new long-term contract at Leicester means there’s less chance of a £10m+ sell-on fee arriving at City. Ordinarily we’d be salivating at the prospect of an eight-figure sum heading our way, but that seems pointless under the current regime. The reduction in the prospects of that occurring at least removes an incentive to cling beyond the final parachute payments arriving.

4. Meanwhile, the takeover rumours seem even more far-fetched and desperate than ever. We remain acute admirers of Adam Pearson, but it really is time to let it go now – he left a long time ago, his commitment to one of the local eggchasing franchises is a puzzle but appears quite sincere, and he isn’t coming back. Which leaves what? Paul Duffen and mystery consortia, other eggchasers…let’s face it, we’re stuck with the Allams for the foreseeable future. Whatever division they end up depositing us into.

5. It’s been quiet on the protest front this season, with apathy yet to sublime into anger. What could change that? Things on the pitch have been poor without quite being ruinous, though City’s home form has been shocking. Ehab’s latest interview is merely reaffirmation of his low-wattage nature rather than especially infuriating. What is it going to take?

6. City’s latest act of dopiness won’t tip anyone over the edge, but will certainly have created plenty of furrowed brows in East Yorkshire: you now need a Match Card to attend U23 games. A Match Card that costs £12, and was offered free for less than two days in the summer. U23 attendances are obviously modest and few will be affected, but this is just another pointless, petty little aggravation.

7. This is one of many issues the club is refusing to discuss with supporters, with all structured dialogue with fans’ groups apparently severed, despite dishonest contentions to the contrary – though we did very much enjoy the recent assertion that the Official Supporters’ Club is “independent”. Yet still the FA and EFL refuse to act. The former did at least intervene decisively on the name change idiocy; the latter have been pathetic throughout – and not just with us either, as the despairing fans at Blackpool, Charlton et al will testify.

8. Alright, football. After the international break, it feels like a pivotal week or so coming up for City, with games against two of the sides actually below us in the table sandwiching a trip to midtable Wigan. We really had better get something fairly decent from those three games, because the three that follow are against the current top three.

9. City always seem to do well at home to Ipswich (providing Danny Coles isn’t playing), and terming it a must-win match isn’t a hopeless mis-application of the phrase. Something has to give on Saturday: we haven’t got a point at home yet, they haven’t got a point away. A win would put City back to a point a game average, which will always give you a good chance of staying up. The prospect of slipping three points behind that run rate isn’t a happy one, however.

10. Anyone missing the animated gifs yet?