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Things We Think We Think #332

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1. The Wigan match superficially resembled its predecessor in many ways: trailing at the interval to ostensibly inferior opposition, only to emerge the victors. But the parallels are imprecise. City powered their way to an assured victory against Reading, but rather laboured to the same outcome against the Latics. But for a late winner from a set piece, we’d have left the game bewailing two points cheaply dropped, but not really able to contend that City had done enough to deserve the win.

2. As it was, the win was notched up, and while it was short on quality, it was at least full of character. Lots of sides in City’s position may have rolled over at half-time, the difficulty of the short-term situation and the implausibility of the longer-term goal of a top-six finish combining to produce an on-the-beach performance. Instead, despite a lack of fluency, City kept going. And still, somehow, entered the second week of April with the play-offs STILL a thing that couldn’t be entirely ruled out.

3. City v Wigan isn’t one to get the pulses racing, but in usual circumstances a crowd well in excess of 8,000 might still be reasonably expected given City’s recent home form. 18,000 would once have rocked up for this. Week by week, whatever Adkins and his admirable charges do, more and more people quietly say their goodbyes to supporting Hull City. And still the club do absolutely nothing about it.

4. Jordy de Wijs. There’s a player in there, and he’s excelled at time this season. That’s encouraging, but to see a hopeless miskick redolent of autumn’s dog days present Nick Powell with Wigan’s goal was disappointing. Consolation comes from the fact you can’t easily teach many of things he can do, but can instil greater concentration and the non-too-difficult practice of successfully kicking a football. More focus, fewer miskicks, and there’ll soon be a player good enough to cheaply sold on and inadequately replaced.

5. Because of that the result, Nigel Adkins was correct to say that City travelled to Middlesbrough with no pressure on them. That wasn’t mind games – that unbearably tedious and overhyped practice thankfully not widely seen in the Championship anyway – but just a statement of the obvious. Middlesbrough were expected to challenge for automatic promotion, and now find themselves hoping to snatch a play-off place, while City were expected to be knee-deep in the quagmire marked “relegation” by now. This shouldn’t have been a sixth-place six-pointer.

6. Sadly, all discussion of the play-offs must now take place in the past tense, for that match ended in a 1-0 win for Middlesbrough that keeps their hopes of sixth alive but irrevocably extinguishes ours. And what a disappointment it was as well. City didn’t get going at all in the first half, and their second half rally perhaps merited a point on the pattern of play but lacked conviction.

7. Middlesbrough has long been a graveyard for our dreams, and this dreary 1-0 defeat was no different. Five points adrift with four games left (five for some) means that it is, finally, irretrievably over. It’s a pity that our hopes for the unlikeliest of play-off qualifications couldn’t have survived into Easter, but then the two forbiddingly difficult fixtures we face over that period may ultimately have done for us anyway.

8. It was a fun ride though, and it’s hard to believe just what a season this has been. From a side that sat level with doomed Ipswich in the early part of the season, looking ill-equipped even for the top 21, City surged clear of the bottom three, then the places near it, then into the top half and now the top ten. This has been an impressive season of overachievement in spite of plunging attendances and off-field malevolence, and great credit goes to Nigel Adkins and his players. We live to fight another season in the second tier.

9. Last week saw the fifth anniversary both of the FA saying – for the first and most important time – No To Hull Tigers. The following day saw the fifth anniversary of Assem Allam promising to sell the club within 24 hours as a result. Now, time-keeping isn’t always easy; we’ve occasionally missed kick-off by thinking there was time for one more pint. But we’ve rarely been out by over 180,000%. It’s almost as though the man who brought us the imaginative claim that 98% of fans backed his name change idea routinely experiences difficulty with numbers. And knowing the difference between a fact and a non-fact.

10. Well done to the lads who marked the second anniversary by displaying an Allam Out flag at Allam Marine. They’ve been extraordinarily fortunate that City fans, so drained from the name-change fiasco, have let them off the hook for so long despite their practices. We wonder if that period of indulgence is coming to an end?

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Things We Think We Think #331

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1. Saturday was all quite enjoyable, wasn’t it? Providing you conveniently overlook the first half, of course. That isn’t easy to do; after a bright opening City didn’t respond at all to falling behind, and the game drifted from that point until the interval in a concerning fashion.

 2. Still, game of two halves and all that – and the second was impressive for City. As soon as Grosicki equalised, a win always felt possible, and in the end it was delivered in far more comfortable a fashion than we could have expected even at 3pm, let alone 4pm.

3. Kamil Grosicki eh? Perhaps the highest praise he could be offered is that he no longer divides opinion among City fans – we all think he’s playing brilliantly and worthy of inclusion in the side every week. His two goals were very well taken, for the second time in a week, and while his fellow winger Bowen had a rare quiet game, he alone was too much for Reading to handle in an exhilarating second half.

4. Marc Pugh is easy to admire. A lively attacking figure who pinched the decisive second goal, his willingness to always look forward is bracing and his late runs were a menace to the Royals all afternoon. Meanwhile, Fraizer Campbell’s standing ovation when going off late was well-earned for yet another tremendously combative and intelligent contribution, and his two assists for Grosicki were transformative. Just think what we could achieve with an attacking quartet of Campbell, Pugh, Grosicki and Bowen next season…oh.

5. Wigan on Wednesday, and another winnable home game that’ll hopefully have the same outcome. They looked for a while like they’d have a decent season, but Saturday’s creditable draw against Bristol City still leaves them perilously close to the bottom three. However, we’ve seen that they can be handy: their 2-1 defeat of City in September was a chastening, one-sided affair despite the oddly close scoreline. It’d be nice to get a home win to partially ease the still-sore memory of that grim evening on the wrong side of the Pennines.

6. After that, it gets hard. Seriously hard. Middlesbrough look like they’re going to blow their top six hopes, but by the time City travel there on Saturday there could still be enough time and enough points available for them to made a late recovery and nick sixth. Other than Stoke, the pre-season title favourites who now languish in the bottom half and perma-bottlers Derby (who at least had Cup fun), few would be more disappointed at not making the play-offs. They haven’t even missed out in style, grinding along at a goal-a-game under a particularly grisly form of Pulisball. Watch them beat us 6-0 now…

7. Then it’s West Bromwich Albion away, and Sheffield United at home. All of which makes getting six points from Reading and Wigan essential if the most improbable of dreams is to stay alive for another few days.

8. Another week, another reputational evisceration for Ehab Allam. This time it came from the Football Supporters’ Federation, the redoubtable body that was a fine friend to City fans during West Yorkshire Police’s infamous bubble and Assem Allam’s name change farce. So irked were they by the club’s incorrect assertion that the FSF somehow endorsed their vile ticketing policy that they felt obliged to correct them. The club’s own minutes of the meeting, at which this erroneous suggestion was made, hasn’t been altered (or an acknowledgement of their mistake made), so we can only assume the club doesn’t mind misrepresenting the FSF and isn’t concerned about misleading City fans.

9. Which, of course, rings entirely true based upon past experience. We feel for the fans who give up a lot of time to be given inaccurate statements that the club doesn’t feel the need to correct or acknowledge. But that’s all a part of dealing with the Allams. Not that it makes any difference anyway: if you still give them the benefit of the doubt, chances are that you either haven’t been paying attention or have to rely upon them for a job. If you don’t, this is just the latest in a very, very long list of reasons to abhor them.

10. Tomorrow marks five years since City fans were successful in repelling their spiteful name change idea, incidentally. They’ve caused untold damage in revenge; but we should still be very proud of one of the finest fans’ campaigns in English football history.

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Things We Think We Think #330

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1. City’s 2-0 win at Ipswich on Saturday may constitute the single most unTypicalCity thing ever. Away to a side destined for relegation with only three wins all season? Who among us didn’t expect a routine home win? However, City won comfortably themselves, and elevated themselves back into the top half

2. It was nice to see that awful run of form on the road come to an end. These may have been the calmest of waters in which to get the good ship Away Form back onto an even keel, but it still got done. Perhaps it wasn’t the most flamboyant performance, but City did keep a clean sheet and take a couple of chances. Just what decent sides do away from home really.

3. Both of Kamil Grosicki’s goals were enjoyable ones. The first, a rare left-footed effort that had the Pole beaming with self-deprecatory delight, the second a fine low finish on his favoured right. He was only a header away from the perfect hat-trick, but he’ll nonetheless reflect upon a handsome afternoon’s work.

4. City now have two home games in rapid succession: Reading next Saturday, and Wigan the following Wednesday. The 3-0 cuffing at Reading earlier in the season wasn’t quite the nadir of the season, but it wasn’t far off. City were wretched that day, looking every bit a side on the way to relegation. Porous defence, toothless up front, it was awful. And hey, we can’t claim that every problem has been fixed – but enough have been so that only of us is still in relegation bother. Reading haven’t looked up to much all season and it appears they’ll be looking over their shoulder for little while yet. This is one we’d be disappointed not to win.

5. In fact, many will expect six points from those two games, and not without justification. For all of City recent difficulties on the road, we’ve continued to look good at home, and the arrival of two weaker sides (even if both beat us earlier in the season) does look like a very good opportunity to secure a top half position.

6. And if we get six points – does that keep play-off hopes flickering? Perhaps it does. With seven games left, City need to win pretty much all of them, though six wins might sneak us in. Given that two of those games are trips to Middlesbrough and West Brom, it’s an extremely tall order. But the fact that this can still be discussed, albeit as a highly improbable outcome, in the month of April is remarkable.

7. It’s interesting that despite the domestic football season being close to its end, Keane Lewis-Potter and Adam Curry have both been sent out on loan – to Bradford Park Avenue and Alfreton respectively. That isn’t a vauntingly high level of football, but it should mean a few first team minutes for both. With the usual summer cull approaching, those minutes could prove useful next season.

8. Nigel Adkins has been offered a contract! And, err, conspicuously declined to confirm whether he’ll be signing it. Quite sensible too. He’s unlikely to trouble the list of top-earning managers in the Championship, but more importantly, he’s going to want to know just how meagre his resources will be for 2019/20. He seems to be enjoying things at City despite the headwinds his boss routinely provides, and he’s established an unlikely rapport with City fans. That he’s not jumped at the offer suggests it isn’t the foregone conclusion Ehab probably thought it was, and suggests that we may need yet another new manager next season.

9. City, Ehab Allam included, met a delegation of City fans on Wednesday night. The Hull City Supporters’ Trust, comfortably the largest and most representative organisation in existence, were again excluded, because the club is run by people with the maturity of toddlers. Their ongoing exclusion is ridiculous, contrary to government guidelines and in violation of the best practice suggested by multiple national fans’ bodies.

10. But we are we are. The meeting itself saw warm words aplenty in the aftermath, and we know ourselves prior to our own exclusion that the club can actually listen to concerns, even if it has no intention of acting upon them. It does seem that Ehab and Vicki Beercock have listened. But little in the subsequent minutes suggested that the owners have understood, or are prepared to act, as shown by the ongoing refusal to restore concessions next season. Nothing else – including a conditions-laden “family” ticket that’s been the source of much internal wrangling at the club this year – will suffice. Concessions. Nothing else is acceptable.

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Things We Think We Think #329

TWTWT1. There’s much speculation about Nigel Adkins being made to wait for a new contract from the characteristically inept Allams. But isn’t there a possibility that even if he is eventually offered one, he opts against staying? His public utterances thus far indicate a willingness to stay, but frustration is clearly mounting. He must know he’ll have a reduced budget to work with and a squad once again stripped of everyone saleable. The Allams set City up for a relegation battle this season, and it’s only because of the efforts of the manager and his players that we thrillingly pulled clear of it. But for a long time, that looked unlikely.

2. Next season will be worse. Bowen will be off to the Premier League, while Grosicki will once again want to leave. Fraizer Campbell is making dissatisfied noises about the club’s lack of interest in his retention, while David Marshall is out of contract. It’s clear that anyone of quality who may have the temerity to earn a wage commensurate with that ability is going. So we ask again: the Allams aren’t busting a gut to keep Adkins, or retain any of the tools he’ll need. Why would he even want to stay?

3. Let’s continue our thought experiment and suppose that Adkins does opt against staying. What then? There’s always, ALWAYS someone who’ll want the job, no matter how wretched the owners are and how unpromising the circumstances may be. But that isn’t a prospectus for attracting the brightest and the best. Adkins has proven us wrong when we thought he was something of a bargain basement appointment, and we hold our hands up to that. But next time we go manager shopping, it’s hard to imagine us getting anything close to his quality. It’ll be League two cast-offs, in charge of League one players. And that isn’t how you avoid bottom place. It’s almost as if the Allams’ primary concern is with driving the club into the ground, isn’t it?

4. Markus Henriksen sounds very much like a man weighing up his future options, doesn’t he? Let’s face it, Ligue 1 Bordeaux or preparing-for-a-relegation-battle-to-the-third-tier Hull City? It isn’t an impossibly tough choice to make, and the fact that City opted to extend his contract suggests the club know which way the captain is leaning. We’d certainly miss him if he went.

5. Ipswich at the weekend. They’ve won three times all season, lie an impossibly distant 13 points from safety and will be in League One next season. Even overhauling a stricken Bolton to finish in the top 23 looks a tall order for the Championship’s longest serving occupants. Do we need to brace ourselves for some world-class TypicalCity, or are we finally about to reverse this patch of poor form away from home? Hmm.

6. That leads us into two extremely winnable home matches, Reading then Wigan – 21st and 19th as we speak. They’ll both have plenty to play for, with the final relegation place still open to quite a few teams. At least it’s none of our concern any more.

7. The accounts are out! And they reveal that Allamhouse – City’s parent company owned by the Allams – has seen its profits fall markedly. That’s interesting, but not wholly unexpected. There were no major player sales, parachute payments are coming to an end and club policy is to deter supporters from attending games, so it isn’t a surprise that City’s contribution has fallen. It’ll only get worse. It was interesting to see the engineering division showing reduced turnover, however. Wonder what’s happening at Allam Marine?

8. Tomorrow is the first fans’ meeting with the club of the year, and the first in quite a long time. As usual, plenty of those with the ability to represent fans have been excluded, most notably the Hull City Supporters’ Trust. The club’s infantile approach towards the largest fans’ group is absolutely pathetic, and their attempts to spin this as somehow not their fault last week were pitiful. Until the club invites supporters and supporters’ groups who can genuinely collate concerns and feed back to the fanbase, everyone will rightly conclude that this is a pointless box-ticking exercise.

9. One side City seem certain to finish ahead of is Birmingham. They were deducted nine points last week for breaching new sustainability guidelines, which has taken from the fringes of the play-offs to the fringes of the relegation places – though in truth, they’ll probably do what they were always going to do, and stay in the division. There are also no future penalties – no transfer embargo, or fines, so they’ll start next season with a clean slate. So is that enough? Nine points sounds a lot, and many Championship clubs would suffer their loss considerably. But if you’re stuck in midtable with the season approaching its end, losing them is no big deal. It isn’t clear quite how Birmingham have been punished here.

10. No City at the weekend, so no podcast this evening. Back next Monday to review the Ipswich game.

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Things We Think We Think #328

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1. In many ways, Norwich was a lot of fun. A shot to nothing that ended up with City gamely contributing two of the night’s five goals (while never seriously looking like taking anything from the game), in a vibrant stadium that always looks grand under lights. Norwich is a good trip, and a narrow defeat didn’t harm our enjoyment of it.

2. The gulf between City and the very top of the league was pretty stark, however. Norwich looked a cut above City in every way, with their movement out wide mesmerising a City defence that never looked in control, while we were routinely overwhelmed in midfield. They were good, very good in fact – but there’s a lingering regret that in a game we only lost by a single goal that things weren’t made just a bit harder for Norwich.

3. Most galling was the feel of Carrow Road though. The stadium was fully and noisy, the home support was engaged and enthused and everything felt together. Of course, much of this is the consequence of being in the thick of a promotion battle. But lots of it isn’t. It was impossible not to contrast the upbeat, unified approach of the Norwich fans with ourselves on Saturday – those who aren’t boycotting sullenly trudging to a one-third full stadium that’s had the life and colour drained from it. Norwich are what we were, what we want to be once more, and what we will never be again without a change of ownership.

4. Even if we accept that the season’s probably over and we’re only playing a succession of dead rubbers until we can finally focus fully on an Ashes summer, it’s about time this dip in away form was sorted, because people are still going to spend lots of money following the team in the final few weeks. We’ve lost five in a row on the road, and while some of them were pretty stiff tasks, the fact we’ve only got close-ish in one is a worry. If those five games had yielded even one win, we’d have entered the QPR game knowing that a positive result could’ve seen City breach the top six. It’s all ifs and buts, however it’s definitely been a costly and frustrating sequence of results outside of East Yorkshire.

5. Messing up 2-0 leads is even more costly however. To do it once or twice over a whole season is exasperating, but to do it three times in three months is pretty remarkable. The 2-2 draw at Aston Villa is the most excusable, as City were away and Villa are a handy side. Doing it against Rotherham and QPR is rather less understandable.

6. Villa, incidentally, have quietly crept into the top six. We were ahead of them very recently; one team was always going to make a little run into serious play-off contention as the last six weeks of the season approached, and it’s frustrating that it isn’t us.

7. Jarrod Bowen is now on 21 goals, a truly exceptional return for a player who isn’t even an orthodox centre-forward. He’s up to 35 in two seasons, which has emphatically demonstrated that he isn’t a one-season wonder. His Hull City career surely only has a maximum of eight games left. We’d better enjoy him while we can, and hope that his summer move is a wise one that keeps him at the top-flight level he deserves for years to come.

8. An international break now beckons, followed up by three very winnable matches. It’d have been fun to have spent this interlude discussing what Nigel Adkins needs to tweak in order to make the play-offs, but that wasn’t to be. However, the plausible range of finishing positions for City this season is still quite wide, perhaps as many as eight. A top half finish would still represent an outstanding season.

9. The manager cut a thoroughly exasperated figure after the QPR match, and as the match report speculates, it may not all be down to tossing away another two goal lead. That a manager who’s considerably overperformed this season is entering the second half of March not knowing whether he’s even wanted for next season is totally unacceptable. If he walked away from City in protest at the shabby treatment he’s received, and will continue to receive, he’d probably find that his reputation has been restored enough to get a decent job offer in the summer. And who could blame him?

10. Our hearts hurt at the plight of North Ferriby United, forced out of existence on Friday after 85 proud years. Many City fans down the years will have spent enjoyable afternoons and evenings at Church Road, home of our nearest neighbours of note, and the annual playing of the Billy Bly Trophy was an enduring part of the late-summer ritual for so long. To see them fold is devastating, and however modest their support is and always was, a lot of people will be distraught. We wish their fans well in trying to create a footballing resurrection in North Ferriby, and note with foreboding the appalling consequences that terrible owners can have on a club.

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Things We Think We Think #327

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1. After the pretty wretched affair at Brentford, it was quite a relief to get back on track so quickly against Millwall. It certainly wasn’t a game that’ll live long in the memory. For the most part, it looked very much like a game between a side still recovering from a weekend pasting and one with every chance of slipping into a lower division. But as we’ve noted plenty of times before, this was a game we’d have lost in October, so a decent parcel of credit is owed to the manager and players for eking out a narrow win.

2. Happily, it proved to be the springboard for even better things. For if Millwall was tense and cagey, the 2-0 win over Birmingham was fluent and assured. City completely outplayed a side who remain above them in the table, creating numerous opportunities to score and restricting the visitors with ruthless efficiency.

3. Pugh’s a heck of a player. His impact is not quite Wilson-in-2018 yet, but he’s definitely making us tick better in midfield. It’s a shame his performance didn’t include the goal it deserved, but otherwise he was a joy to watch.

4. Then again, so were many of his team-mates. Henriksen’s transformation into an inspirational leader continues to astound and delight in roughly equal measure, Bowen is clearly playing his last dozen or so Championship games, Grosicki worked backwards as well as forwards (yes he did), even the much-maligned Chris Martin played solidly well as a target man. It didn’t match the gaudy heights of the 6-0 against Bolton or the epic magnificence of cuffing the Champions of Europe on their own patch, but it was a very satisfying afternoon of football.

5. What now for Nigel Adkins? It was striking that the North Stand sang his name as soon as the match began on Saturday, a loud show of support for the latest victim of Ehabbian contractual idiocy. However this season ends, it isn’t in the relegation that was possible, or even the relegation battle that seemed inevitable. He’s doing a brilliant job, and deserves better than the pathetic prevarication from his bosses.

5a. Just no-one mention the play-offs, yeah?

6. Tuesday night’s attendance against Millwall was officially 10,191. Which works out to around 8,500 when you deduct the customary 20% gate inflation. Except even that figure felt too high. Did even eight thousand souls make it to the Circle last Tuesday? It’s unlikely. The KCOM Stadium, which only a few years ago was the subject of genuine discussion about extension, now stands barely one-third full. One third. One fucking third.

6a. That’s led to some speculation that further stand closures are possible for next season. It already feels like a long time since the Upper West was needed, and with the ground less than half full even when that closed area is taken into account you can see why this would appeal to Ehab Allam. The thought of saving money by closing the ground and saving on stewards will obviously appeal to him, particularly with the added bonus of aggravating City fans. Because the simple answers – restore concessions, sell the club, etc – work only if you’re a man of reason.

7. Of course, that’s only speculation. But what’s becoming clear is that a slow-motion boycott of the club is underway. Boycotting home games until the repulsive Allam family go has long been advocated by many, though (we felt) prematurely. But what was once noisily called for is now de facto happening anyway. Membership cancellations continue to leak into the club, with anyone having acted last week avoiding summer payments. With those cancellations, the possibility of a series of dead rubbers ahead and ongoing distaste at putting money into their pockets, gates will continue falling. The boycott is already happening, and it’s gathering pace.

8. Really, what else can an agonised fanbase such as ours do? Protests haven’t worked – in truth, they could have been better, but when the owners don’t show and don’t care anyway, even a 1990s style insurrection may not have mattered. As we’ve seen from Blackpool recently, this sort of battle can be won, but starving them out may be the only route to success. That isn’t to say you’re wrong to still go to City (we do), but increasingly a wholesale desertion of home matches is going to happen. Who knows, perhaps that’s best?

9. And yes, that isn’t fair on Nigel Adkins and his team, who’ve overachieved admirably this season. But as Adkins himself knows, his employers are an utter disgrace and need flushing from this club as quickly as possible – because the challenge of rebuilding this club from the Allam arson is going to be a long, arduous one; and like every long, difficult chore, it’s best started sooner rather than later.

10. One last time: our condolences to the friends and family of ex-Tiger Bobby Doyle, who passed away last week. If you haven’t yet read our tribute to the elegant Scot, it’s here. RIP Bobby.

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Things We Think We Think #326

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1. That really is that. Let’s not mention the play-offs again this season, and pretend that we never did in the first place.

2. Brentford was chastening. An early lead collapsing into a 5-1 defeat was redolent of the autumn’s dark days, not the bright promise of midwinter. Sad to say, City were awful, and gave this one up long before the end – all the more galling considering that Brentford barely featured in the opening quarter of the game.

3. What’s happened to City away from home? Three defeats in a row, shipping ten goals and not really featuring in any of those games. It’s been such a disappointment after the glittering form of December and January, and a real pity to see things go backwards so rapidly.

4. Pretty much no-one emerged with any credit, with the possible exception of the tireless Fraizer Campbell. You could lengthily dissect this shambles – as the match report starkly did – but suffice it to say, Nigel Adkins needs to give deeper thought to his midfield selections, and his side need to remember that even though the season’s ultimate outcome (a lower-midtable finish) is in no real doubt, people are still paying good money to watch them.

5. Wasn’t the terrace at Brenford great though? We make no apologies for being shameless nostalgics: proper standing terraces are just so much better than all other ways of watching football. Safe Standing is an idea whose time has come, and perhaps one day it’ll make a very welcome appearance at the Circle – but we still like old fashioned terraces, and mourn their increasing scarcity.

6. This being the Championship, there’s no time to rest. Two home games quickly follow Brentford, with the visit of Millwall tomorrow. It’d be understandable if they’re already dreaming of FA Cup glory, with a winnable quarter final awaiting them next month. However, despite their impressive win at Derby five days ago they’re only four points above the relegation zone, so they’d be unwise to neglect League duties in the meantime.

7. Millwall’s proximity to danger underlines the opportunity tomorrow: a side that the table suggests are weaker, with the potential for a wandering mind or two. Pre-Brentford, we’d have been moderately confident about this one; now, on the back of a 5-1 kicking and with our disappointing Cup exit at their hands fresh in the memory, we’re rather less so now.

8. Then it’s Birmingham on Saturday. A side whose play-off aspirations lasted longer than ours, they’ll rightly target a match against opposition who may already have little to play for. But we can rightly hope to bloody a contender’s nose. We shared six goals earlier this season, and given that both sides will probably attack from the off, we’re optimistic for goals.

9. Will the “official” – by which we mean wholly dishonest – attendance for either game drop below 10,000?

10. Holidays for some of the team this week, so no podcast tonight. Back next Monday with much to discuss…

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Things We Think We Think #325

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1. If you were inclined to believe that City had a chance of the play-offs, well done on your indefatigable optimism. But it’s surely gone now; the draw at home to Rotherham – both the result itself and its nature – must have quelled all hope. Teams with authentic top six aspirations don’t really fail to win when 2-0 up and cruising against a side as weak as Rotherham.

2. It all felt so cheaply handed over. City were fizzing with invention in the first half, and deservedly led 2-0 at the break. Perhaps it was premature to expect too many more goals, but the minimum expectation had to be a win. To manage neither was galling. And hey, we can’t get too angry with anyone about it. It’s February, and we may already have enough points to stay up. We’d have been happy to get enough points for survival in May. So the season has already exceeded expectations. But it’d have been nice to capture a win that would have kept us in the top ten.

3. But never mind. It’s been really rather amazing just to get into a situation where discussing the play-offs was a thing. What would be nice now would be for the season to still finish well. A top half finish would be brilliant, a serious success for Nigel Adkins given the sabotage he has to contend with from above. Letting things peter out into (say) 18th would be a shame.

4. On a brighter note, one of the best away trips of the season is approaching: Brentford away. A traditional old ground liberally adorned with friendly public houses and best of all, a terrace. An actual proper terrace. It’s the only one left in the Championship, and it only has another season and a bit of use. Perhaps one day we’ll stand on a proper terrace for the very last time, and we probably won’t even know. Chances are it won’t be this Saturday, as City and Brentford will probably both be in the 2019/20 Championship. But there aren’t many occasions left. Let’s enjoy it while we can.

5. Let’s also sort things out away from home. City have lost a little sloppily in their last two trips out of Hull, shipping five goals and scoring none. Brentford, below City in the table, represent a good opportunity to do something about it. Come on City, give us a goal or two to celebrate on that terrace.

6. A weekend without City always leads to thoughts upon the longer term. Nigel Adkins, together with much of his squad, are out of contract in the summer, and as usual the club’s policy is to do absolutely nothing about any of this.

7. Adkins first. His first season with City saw us stay up, which was the likeliest outcome, but nowhere certain enough for comfort. He met expectations. His second sees City improbably in the top half at the same time as the snowdrops are open, which is quite startling. He clearly deserves to be here for 2019/20, and to be given the opportunity to continue the gradual improvement he’s overseen since joining. That his own future is unclear is simply unacceptable.

8. Plenty of his first team, including plenty who’d be hard to replace, are also out of contract. And nothing’s been done. In this respect, propelling a hotch-potch group of loanees, free transfers and the previously unheralded into the top half makes Adkins a victim of his own success: Ehab Allam, not a man whose time in the football industry has seen him absorb any knowledge of it, will probably think that he can continue to chip away at the quality of the team and the depth of the squad with no ill-effects. He’s wrong. As usual.

9. If the season really is over, with neither relegation or promotion realistic for the final two months, we’re going to see some horrendously low crowds very soon. The cancellation period for membership is two months; if you’re a member, then cancelling now gets you off the hook for the final few dead-rubbery weeks of the season and the whole of the summer – frankly, there’s little reason to not do that. And with precious incentive on the pitch for matchday sales coupled with the retributive policy of removing concessions, it’s inevitable that the club will have to (not) announce a sub-10,000 gate before May.

10. That doesn’t mean anything will happen. Part of being an Allam is cocooning oneself from the real world and refusing to listen to people who know better than you. Crowds could dip into the hundreds and it’d make little difference. However, plenty of their employees at the club are aghast at what’s going on, from the office staff to the players and management. Gradually, distressingly, all of the hard work done between about 2002 to 2015 is being undone. Work that took a decade and more, that united the city of Hull behind its primary sporting institution, that rid our streets and our schools of other towns’ clubs’ shirts, is being destroyed. And this time, we won’t even have the prospect of a couple of promotions back to our natural second tier level or a shiny new stadium to spur a revival. All because of one bitter old man, and his thoughtlessly malevolent son.

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Things We Think We Think #324

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1. Prior to the Stoke fixture on Saturday, discussion centred on whether City’s cuffing at Blackburn would prove to be a reversion to the mean, or simply a blip en route to better things. We can’t know for sure, but the weekend win over the pre-season title favourites does suggest the latter – and that this startling mid-season charge towards the upper reaches of the table may not over just yet.

2. This was a different kind of win to some we’ve enjoyed lately. Not the glory of besting the Champions of the Europe in their own fetid lair, nor the slightly gaudy pulversing of poor Bolton. City had to stoutly armwrestle their way to a meat and two veg kind of win, but it’s no less satisfying for it. There’s little doubt that the City of autumn 2019 would have find a way to lose this type of fixture to this type of opponent.

3. Now, we seem to find ways to win. The first half was a pretty wretched spectacle. Perhaps understandably: City’s patched up defence will still have had the misery of Ewood Park at the front of its mind, while Stoke have struggled for fluency throughout a season of disappointing underachievement. The visitors perhaps still had fractionally the better of it, but City were clearly under orders to press high and hard, and it was effectively disruptive.

4. That first goal though! On first viewing, it appeared that Bowen shouldn’t really have beaten the keeper at his near post from such an angle. Subsequent replays showed a shot with unnatural curl applied, and a reminder that this young winger really does look the real deal.

5. Then – following Marshall’s highly enjoyable penalty save – City captured the points with a second half display of growing authority. The second goal came via a clinical breakaway, and after that Stoke didn’t look remotely like troubling us. So much of that is down to a defence that was considerably more than the sum of its parts, but it was also very effectively screened by a midfield that spent the afternoon engaged in a gritty battle for supremacy. We rarely relax even at 2-0, City fans never really should, but this felt different. It felt safe.

6. A word for Robbie McKenzie. He had a tough afternoon at Blackburn, one that suggested he wasn’t yet ready for the rigours of Championship football. To bounce back within a week and play as though his Ewood chasing hadn’t even happened, hints at impressive character. Young players’ development can be affected by being exposed to the first team too early, but he looked the part on Saturday. Now, just as Blackburn was only one game, so this too is only one game. But it was a strong recovery from a player who played with determination and confidence. It was a pleasure to watch.

7. Todd Kane was the sponsors’ man of the match, and there’s no real argument with that, as he was very good. Marshall’s claim was bolstered by his penalty save (and his excellent distribution – more of this please) but probably undermined by having too quiet an afternoon. Bowen and Grosicki were once again too good for middling opposition, Campbell ran himself into the ground, McKenzie was strong and Lichaj unpassable, but Stewart also had a very solid case for the award. His improvement, that begun with that improbable point against Norwich, has continued. He’s a guaranteed starter at the moment – who saw that coming?

8. And so another transfer window passes underwhelmingly. There was a school of thought that defeat at Blackburn would make the Allams less likely to support Nigel Adkins in the transfer market, as that loss suggesed that our promotion prospects were rather remote. So why – from their perspective – spend money when we aren’t going down, and can’t go up? And there’s a ruthless logic to that. But the decision was made not to support the manager, and he deserved better.

9. City’s new crest is due to be launched soon. A trailer featuring Hull City Kits was trailed last Tuesday, and it seems the club are genuinely optimistic at having struck upon something that may find favour with City fans. That isn’t an easy task at the best of times, and these are not the best of times – rather than seeking to accommodate fans’ wishes, this is a club that has repeatedly sought to antagonise, and still has multiple outstanding issues that it refuses to resolve. But they’re clearly hopeful of a better reception here.

10. The crest itself was picked in a pretty unusal way, with a variety of contributors being invited to pick from a set of pre-determined options. The club also made those present sign Non Disclosure Agreements, a wheeze reminiscent of James Mooney’s ill-fated attempt to suppress the true horror of the membership scheme a few years ago. Still…we have a feeling the new crest won’t be so bad (it could scarcely be worse than the amateurish, spite-driven nonsense we presently endure), and suspect it’ll fall down the list of Things That Urgently Need Fixing At This Broken Football Club.

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Things We Think We Think #323

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1. Sure, there’s a tinge of disappointment in letting a two goal lead slip, and in the winning streak not reaching 7, but… Villa Park is not a good hunting ground for City, we’ve won just once there in 17 visits, and the home side are probably better than their current standing in the table suggests, so a score draw is a fairly decent result.

2. City were very good in the first half, doing a fine job of drawing the sting out of Villa’s frenetic early advances, bringing the tempo down to a pace that suited us and then exerting control. We failed to replicate that in the second 45, in which the home side were emboldened by a late first half goal to go at us and equalise and then seek a winner, while City struggled to get their foot on the ball and have a prolonged spell of possession. It’s true that we could have pick-pocketed a winner from Chris Martin, but for the letter stages of the game were largely hanging on.

3. The game changed massively when Jordy de Wijs went off injured. The Dutchman may have had a challenging start to his life with City, but he bestrode the narrow pitch like a Colossus at Villa park, limiting Bolassie, Adomah and Abraham to scraps for the first 40 minutes. The defensive reshuffle was devastating for the Tigers, as it was de Wijs’ hasty replacement McKenzie who was immediately overpowered by James Chester to half the deficit.

4. Six goals in four games (or ten in ten if you prefer) now for the Herefordshire Arjen Robben, who must be tempting Premier League sides to test Ehab’s resolve with a cheeky bid in the next ten days. Jarrod Bowen’s exponential development over the last two and a half seasons has been a joy to behold.

5. It’s a bit churlish to question Nigel Adkins’ decision making when our form is DWDWWWWWWD, but some were querying the lack of a third substitute as a claret and blue tide was rolling ever nearer our goal in the second half. Fraizer Campbell for Chris Martin seemed to be the consensus of the Tiger Nationals in the Doug Ellis Stand. Campbell might have given Villa’s underworked in the second half defenders more to do, but Chris Martin does have a knack of drawing free kicks. Martin isn’t as poor as some make out, though he isn’t a target man, judging him on how he responds to long punted passes is akin to judging a fish on its ability to climb trees.

6. Saturday’s draw had the mildly odd outcome of City rising a place to a season-high of eighth, but falling six points behind the play-offs. A top-six berth still feels a faintly implausible outcome for a City side that was in grave relegation danger until fairly recently, so falling a little further behind doesn’t unduly trouble us. That said, it’s undoubtedly a point that had more significance at the top of the table rather than the bottom.

7. Blackburn are City’s next opponents, and it’s an interesting fixture. They’re tenth, but level on points with us, and can’t have given up their own hopes of pinching a play-off position. Victory at home to fellow midtablers is the sort of thing on which top six hopes are built, and they’re sure to target this as a winnable game, one that could reignite their prospects. Fair enough, we’d do the same. But nabbing a win in this sort of game is something City are clearly capable in this run of form, and a win for Adkins’ charges would keep us in the hunt. Both sides are surely going to play to win. It could be another entertaining affair.

8. In light of his recent form, coupled with his contract expiring shortly, some of the post-match conversation after Villa focussed on Evandro’s future. At 32 he’s hardly in the first flush of youth, and his fitness is notoriously unreliable. But what’s clear is that a fit, in-form Evandro is a significant asset for City. Assuming we line up in the 2019/20 Championship, we could do a lot worse than keep him around, ideally on a contract tailored towards rewarding appearances. At his best, he’s a joy to watch – a passing in the same exalted league as Robert Koren, capable of skipping past a man à la Geovanni and the more he plays, the more influence he exerts.

9. Campbell for Martin at Blackburn? It seems an obvious choice, as Campbell has played very well this season while Martin is certainly in possession of his detractors. It hasn’t been a gloriously successful loan for the Derby man, but he’s shown a little more in the past few games, perhaps enough to make it a close call for the manager – particular as Campbell’s fitness is always a concern and it could be better to slowly reintroduce him into the first team. Competition for places, eh…

10. In case you missed it, here’s our 200th podcast featuring a real hero of ours in Justin Whittle, as we look back 20 years at the Great Escape campaign. We went to Villa that year too, but there were 91 league places between us back then and our regular opponents included Scarborough and Rochdale.