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Things We Think We Think #275

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1. Before the game, the managers. The sad situation of Leonid Slutsky’s departure will always carry a bitter taste, even if his going had seemed inevitable for weeks. A good man who tried his best for the club was left with an impossible situation by people who are not good and do not try their best for the club, and that’s always going to rankle. Once again, we thank Leonid for his efforts and wish him well for the future.

2. We were talking to a friend of Slutsky’s in the week. That friend, and apparently others, urged him not to take the job because of the toxic nature of the owners. That he took it on anyway, having been warned about the Allam family, suggests both foolhardiness and courage. Though it’s interesting and gratifying to know that the Allams’ nature is so widely understood throughout the game.

3. If Slutsky’s departure was widely expected, the identity of his successor was equally predictable. Nigel Adkins, a moderately garrulous individual with some (though not limitless) success at this level had been a recent attendee at City games, and no other contenders felt plausible. Given that few managers want to work with the Allams, he’s probably about as good as we could hope for. Nonetheless, we hope he doesn’t take the lukewarm reception personally; this is a club his bosses have drained of enthusiasm.

4. The first half of his first game was as dire as we’ve seen in this grim season so far. City were disorganised and lethargic, shorn of urgency and invention. It was utterly wretched stuff, and the 12,200 or so present sat cold and mute before sloping off for warm drinks at the interval with barely a peep raised. Which made the second half all the more remarkable. But not before a real team calamity gifted Brentford a lead. Clark’s woeful miskick, the dismal tracking of Brentford runners, Meyler’s clumsy steering of the ball into his own goal – it was farcical stuff.

5. Yet we roused ourselves in a way few of the thoroughly fed up home fans could have expected. Much it came from Kamil Grosicki, perpetually frustrating but abundantly gifted. His goal was a magnificent strike, not his first of the season, and was a moment of inspiration few of his harder-working but more limited team-mates could muster. That Seb Larsson’s goal wasn’t the best of the afternoon is testimony to its excellence.

5a. But back to Grosicki’s goal. Sometimes, it only takes a moment to change everything. As soon as Grosicki scored, confidence surged through a previously lacklustre City side. Gone was the dismally cautious and slow-paced football from the first half, and the Tigers began playing with rare vigour and attack. When Jackson Irvine scored the third goal, the Circle reacted with a joyous fervour we’ve been starved of for so long. It was a genuinely feel-good moment.

6. One of Slutsky’s main failings was an inability to positively change the game with substitutions, but the introduction of Jon-Miquel Toral early in the second half against Brentford transformed the game. He floated around in midfield like a Tesco Value Iniesta, always open to receive the ball, and bringing colleagues into the game with a range of delicious passes such as the one for Jackson Irvine’s first City goal. Granted, the decision to start Aina on the right wing and then send him to left back to make room for Toral was odd (as was playing Luer as a substitute right back), and fairness to Slutsky demands noting that Toral was unavailable to him in November, but it doesn’t change that Adkins made a player interchange that had wondrous results.

7. Okay, it’s only three points. It’s very premature to suggest that we’re suddenly safe this season, although the six point cushion does feel encouraging. And Nigel Adkins has a lot to prove and – as he’ll discover in January – abysmally thin resources with which to do it. But in a season of almost unremitting misery, that second half was a rare but authentic high point.

8. Amazing that the ‘best run club in the league’ had to postpone an under-23 game because it can’t fulfil three fixtures at different age levels in a weekend, isn’t it?

9. Bubblegate at Huddersfield is over 4½ years ago, but an interesting post-script arrived over the weekend. Chief Superintendent Owen West from West Yorkshire Police told City fans on Twitter that his force’s appalling conduct was “wrong” and “shouldn’t be repeated”. Refreshing stuff, and indeed WYP have been significantly less inflammatory on our last few visits to their area, hinting at genuine rather than cosmetic change. There’s a long way to go with policing football, and too often fans are still treated in a way that no other section of society could experience without a huge public outcry, but one day we’ll get there.

10. Thank you to everyone who’s said nice things about us winning the Football Supporters’ Federation’s Club Podcast of the Year in London a week ago. We’re touched that people listen to and watch our semi-coherent Monday evening offers, and appreciate everyone who participates as a guest, listener or viewer. So please, join us at about 7.30pm this evening…

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Things We Think We Think #274

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1. ‘Mutual consent’.

It’s never mutual consent is it? One side makes a decision that the other side has to live with. The term, in a sporting context, euphemises that either someone has walked away from their job or they’ve been sacked, and in this case it’s the football club who most need the appearance of being part of the decision making process. After all, the now departed Leonid Slutsky (a man who can’t be any good at poker since he wears his heart, liver, kidneys and bladder on his sleeve) was openly stating he was considering his position while Ehab was on his yacht on the Côte d’Azur.

2. Leonid Slutsky had his failings: His team selections confounded, there was a sense that the players didn’t quite grasp his philosophy and his substitutions were often ineffective, sometimes deleterious. There remains however, the belief that he was sold a lemon, trussed up like Houdini and expected to make silk purses from an array of manky sows ears found discarded in a tenfoot. Slutsky was a deeply personable and likeable man, who showed more deference to the club’s history and identity in 177 days than our owners have in 7 years. His tenure has ended in failure, but there’s no rancour here, we wish you well Slutskisha.

Ты заслуживаешь лучшего чем Ehab. Удачи в будущих начинаниях.

3. “[Slutsky] has acted with complete honour” said Ehab. If Nigel Adkins has attended the last few City games after being sounded out by the club, then Ehab should not talk of a quality he knows nothing of. One wonders if Ehab even cares about appointing a manager capable of avoiding the drop or if he is just seeking to fill a vacancy, caring only for parachute payments, which come in regardless of our current standing in the league. If he did care you’d suspect head of recruitment Lee Darnbrough would be departing at the same time as Slutsky and head of strategy Oleg Yarovinsky, after a summer  transfer window that has been disastrous in terms of giving Slutsky the tools to do the job.  If however, assembling a squad of kids, frees and loans that will struggle to be in the top 21 of 24 Championship clubs while selling any playing asset of value, leaving parachute payments unspent and trouserable is your goal, then you’re probably satisfied with the head of recruitment’s work.

4. In a parallel universe, Ehab Allam is a decisive man. He makes bold decisions based on unmatched football knowledge that stand the test of time, creating the sort of stability at the football club that justifies the statement  “I think we’re the best run club in the Football League and arguably one of the top six in English football.”

But what of the universe you and we inhabit? Let’s open the box containing Schrödinger’s club (who exist in a state of being well run only until actually observed): Hull City are searching for their fourth manager/head coach in just 530 days. You’ll remember that Ehab passed the buck for Mike Phelan’s appointment onto prospective new owners and the fans who he was merely placating. That is of course an interesting interpretation of events soon after Steve Bruce’s mic drop, when anyone perturbed that we were beginning a Premier League season without someone to pick the team thought, perhaps hastily, that having such a person would be a good idea.

5. It’s hard not to look back at the tenure of our last ‘manager’, Steve Bruce, and not be in awe at his management of Assem Allam. He knew exactly how to get what he wanted from the old man, a skill that eluded Nigel Pearson and Nick Barmby before him, and used it to deliver a period of unprecedented success. It all went wrong though, when Assem’s ill-health increased Ehab’s influence, and Bruce clearly could no longer stomach working with him. Since then we’ve had ‘head coaches’ with limited influence on transfers, and look where that has got us, with a head coach walking away, hamstrung by Ehab, who marvels at his own inadequacy.

6. The 2-2 draw at Sheffield Wednesday followed, almost, a familiar and dispiriting template. Play okay. Take the lead. Fail to build upon it. Chuck it away. Concede late. The only thing that spoiled it was Michael Dawson’s faintly surreal equaliser, which took an eternity to travel the ten yard from the outside of his boot to the inside of the post and in. Even so, the late point gained felt more like two dropped after leading at the break and seeing just how awful the home side were.

7. And this is where the players have to take a bit of responsibility. Sure, the side isn’t good enough and the squad isn’t deep enough. That’s Ehab’s fault. Team selections and tactics, those lay with Slutsky. But this ridiculous propensity for throwing points away by conceding late goals is hard to pin on anyone but the players themselves. Late goals happen as bodies and minds weary, we all know that. But why are they usually things done to us instead of by us? It’s infuriating, and as we glumly survey the league table, costly too.

8. The reaction to our revelation of City’s actual crowds this season was interesting. We hope it served to highlight the epic and frequently deliberate mismanagement of the club by Assem and Ehab Allam by explaining the true state of our pitiful attendances this season – and remember, next time City declare a crowd figure, knock 20% off and you’re about there.

9. Apropos crowds: City haven’t really played at home to anyone this season who’d bring a large following, but we will before too long. Leeds, the reigning Champions of Europe who also memorably won this division in mid-September, have never failed to sell out an allocation here. Are City really going to leave thousands of seats empty while they bitch about only getting 2,500? What’ll happen when Wessies try to get in the home end? Will the Upper West lay empty as a contrast to an oversubscribed away end? Ditto Sheffield Wednesday, the planet’s best-supported club. City had better be thinking about this already.

10. There’ll be no podcast this evening. That’s because we’re travelling down to London today on account of being shortlisted for the Football Supporters’ Federation’s award for Club Podcast of the Year, and the awards ceremony is tonight.  Though surprised and honoured to be shortlisted, we’re up against stiff opposition – but there’s champagne and a meal, so in TypicalCity fashion we’ll just enjoy a day out and not worry too much about the actual result. We’ll try to squeeze a podcast in at some point this week. In the meantime, thanks to everyone who’s said kind things about our nomination .

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Things We Think We Think #273

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1. Another wretched week for City. A tepid 0-0 draw at the Den and a startling collapse on Saturday garned just a point, while neither performance offers much cause for optimism. If we were still in denial about being a relegation battle last week, we’ve been firmly disabused of that notion now. We’re in a lot of trouble.

2. Match analysis shortly, but how City cope with the realisation of being in a survival battle will be interesting. We can’t pretend to be optimistic. Entering this sort of battle with an incompetently assembled squad of moderate loanees, a porous defence and a soft, fat underbelly doesn’t fill us with hope. The best that can happen is that following the absymal capitulation against Bristol City is that the manager (whoever that ends up being) and the players quickly realise the gravity of our predicament and collectively readjust their sights. Pretending we aren’t in a serious situation until the New Year is no good. We need to start fighting now.

3. And yes, “whoever that ends up being”. The circumstances of this specific defeat, plus the general wretchedness of latter performances, have brought Leonid Slutsky’s own position under the spotlight, not least by his own candid interviews in which he has tried to be dignified and honest and has sometimes looked consequently like he has located his own sword to fall on. Maybe it’s clever psychology from Slutsky – after all, a manager who dares his chairman to sack him may risk not being given the satisfaction and could prolong his spell as a result. If he really thought he deserved to go, he’d just resign. He seems an honourable man, and we’d like to think it’s not about the payoff he’d sacrifice if he just quit, so maybe putting the feelers out about his own precarious position could, by contrast, strengthen his stance within the club. We will forever feel that he has been dealt some truly rotten hands by the Allams, who sold all his best players from a very useful inherited squad, replaced them only partially, and on the cheap at that, and then told him to get on with it. Tactically there are questions to be asked, of course, but the abysmal way the club is run clearly seeps down to the coaching staff and the squad. Slutsky is culpable when a team he picks and schools chucks away a two goal lead at home to an ordinary side, sure, but some of the other defeats and drab displays have been telegraphed from the first minute and as such have not been about him nor the players, but about those in the hierarchy who apply the binds and gags in each transfer window.

4. And really, whether he stays or goes feels irrelevant. For as long as the Allams cash more cheques than they sign and continue to claim that City are the best run club going despite a weak squad, a befuddled, betrayed manager and a half empty stadium in a one-club city that has recently enjoyed Premier League football, an FA Cup final and a European campaign, it really doesn’t matter who the manager is. If Slutsky goes, it’d be to save his own sanity because his reputation isn’t shot. Football people know the true incompetents here, and they don’t wear boots or tracksuits.

5. We were probably indebted to Allan McGregor for the point at Millwall six days ago. Along with Jarrod Bowen, he’s been a rare success this season, and he made a string of saves you can’t guarantee will always be made. It ensured a point for City that wasn’t pretty, but wasn’t wholly without use – even if it did leave to a near-death experience for poor old Leonid, whose job seemed unlikely to survive the result.

6. Whether it does survive the Bristol City disaster is anyone’s guess. And yet it wasn’t entirely hopeless. After a dour arm-wrestle at the beginning, City assumed control from about 20 to 65 minutes, assuming comfortable dominance of possession and even creating a few chances with it. When the second went in, the match really did seem secure – Bristol had offered vanishingly little and while it hadn’t been convincingly, the Tigers had deserved the lead.

7. But when the visitors pulled one back, the panic was palpable. Shorn of any semblence of leadership and with Slutsky making a rotten pair of substitutions, an equaliser (probably from a set piece) always felt likely. And so a filthy leveller duly arrived. At which point the usual late goal to lose a game always felt likely, etc etc…

8. Although the detail from the meeting between the Allams and selected supporters is a bit scant, we have hope. The Supporters Trust is represented, and they have been trying to acquire reasonable dialogue with the Allams since formation, and this is the first time it has happened. While the Trust is involved, there is hope that a) City fans will be afforded some respect again; and b) the minutes of these meetings will be accurate and conclusive. For now, we should let the process take its course and see what emerges.

9. Not that attending their first meeting since November 2013 means anything just yet. Just turning up doesn’t guarantee that they’ve listened to or understood anything they were told, let alone decided to act upon it. Merely attending a meeting of carefully selected individuals is nowhere enough to consent to an “amnesty” of protests. Even righting a few of the grevious wrongs they’ve inflicted upon this wounded club is may not be enough. For some, there will be no amnesty until they’ve gone, and the long slog of repairing the damage is begun.

10. Finally, City declared an attendance of 14,762 on Saturday. Home crowds this season have been much discussed this season, with official announcements not always corresponding to what fans have seen this season. Tune into our podcast on Periscope tonight from around 7.30pm, we have some interesting numbers to share…

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Things We Think We Think #272

1. What’s more frustrating: poor concentration and sloppy defending leading to a goal conceded early on, or late in the game? City treated us to both against Ipswich on Saturday, chucking away three points that seemed to have been secured by Allan McGregor’s spot-kick save heroics. Victory would have propelled us to the dizzying heights of 18th ahead of a midweek trip to Millwall (and The Den is rarely a house of fun for us), instead we remain in 20th place. It can’t just be chalked up to bad luck either, we’ve developed a deleterious habit of letting in late goals.

2. The first half of the first half was pretty rancid, not just from a City performance point of view, but also as a spectacle. Indeed, there was more entertainment to be had watching a bird of prey in the North Stand rafters  kill another bird and skillfully de-feather it (with feathers, but thankfully not entrails, falling onto fans) than contemplating the grisly fare unfolding on the field.

3. Somehow though the game transmogrified into an absorbing encounter, with City willing themselves back into the game and scoring through the ever impressive Jarrod Bowen (after a good cross from Grosicki) and the decent-in-this-game-despite-generally-woeful-supply-from-the-midfield Nouha Dicko. The Tigers had robbed Ipswich of belief, leaving them a tad petulant and niggly, but foolishly, generously City gave them hope again with a silly challenge that led to the penalty award. McGregor’s save inspired the biggest cheer of the afternoon and that might have inspired City to see out the win, but Ipswich remained energised and moonwalked out of the KCOM with a perhaps unwarranted share of the spoils.

4. Over the top criticism seems just to be the way things are nowadays, and several members of the current squad have been on the scapegoat rota this term. However, it’s fair to say that Markus Henriksen did little to silence his detractors on Saturday, with a foppish, nay fadge-like display that was exemplified by turning away from the ball as he ‘contested’ a header as we defended a corner.

5. Who says that protests don’t work? Rattled by the the stress balls and pre-match march against Nottingham Forest and alarmed by the prospect of dissent during the Queen’s visit to Hull, the Allam family have organised a meeting with fans’ leaders (well, the ones they can trust to say the right things, plus the Supporters’ Trust) – and pretended they want to compromise on the squalid removal of concessions. None of these things would have happened if we’d meekly sat on our hands while the club is dismantled around us.

6. So, there’s to be a meeting. It’s supposedly for “fans group leaders”, though it isn’t really. Amber Nectar and City Independent, present at various incarnations of Fans’ Liaison Committee meetings for over 15 years, have been disinvited in recent times, while the new Hull City Action For Change group is also not welcome. And hey, that’s the Allams’ prerogative – if they don’t want to hear independent views that reflect the wider fanbase, that’s up to them. But we worry that only the Supporters’ Trust will actually represent the fans.

7. It’s a bit reminiscent of November 2013, when Assem Allam – unsettled by dissent over his imbecilic name change idea – summoned fans’ groups to the Circle for one of the more surreal 3½ hours we’ll ever have. He didn’t listen, or even show the faintest comprehension of the issue. Nothing that he and his son have said in the intervening years suggest they’ve developed an understanding of City fans.

8. Then, as now, a meeting was preceded by Assem Allam criticising supporters in the press, suggesting a lack of good faith going into ‘supporter consultation’. He laughably claims that ‘militant’ fans are putting off potential buyers, which shows a startling lack of self awareness and conveniently absolves himself of any responsibility. Let’s face it, Assem and his son are legendary in this city for being difficult to get along with, there is a wasteland of fractured relationships surrounding them and that can’t be pinned on anyone else. The fans didn’t drive Peter Grieve and others away, the Allams did that.

9. The reintroduction of concessions isn’t anything to be lauded, it doesn’t show the Allams to be reasonable as suggested by their dwindling band of self-serving sycophants, since the club had to be censured by the Premier League for the mere righting of a wrong to be considered. Adult prices going up is all good, the whole point is that discounts for children and seniors are subsidised by those paying full price, but failing to reduce the current prices for those who do qualify for concessions shows a (likely deliberate) lack of understanding for the issue people have with the Membership Scheme.

10. Everton are prepared to give Watford £12m to secure the services of Marco Silva as their head coach. Not bad a for a bloke of whom it was asked “what does he know about the Premier League?” and whose appointment at City in January was “astonishing…when there are a lot of people out there who know the Premier League…he’s not got clue.” Whether Silva goes to Goodison Park or not is irrelevant outside of the two clubs vying for his services, but the fact that he is now so sought after by one of the greatest names in the English game may just prove a turning point in the way lazy, xenophobic pundits are permitted to use nationality alone as a reason not to offer gifted football men employment in our game.

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Things We Think We Think #271

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We could attempt to dissect the last two defeats where admittedly decent teams didn’t have to work hard to put seven goals past us and take all the points. We could attempt to articulate how we feel about the impact of the close season retention policy of ‘if there’s an offer he’s gone’ and a recruitment policy of ‘screw what the head coach needs or wants, it’s about freebies, loans and kids so parachute payments can be trousered’. We could register our contempt for the ongoing process of wrenching a community asset out of public hands and into the grasp of two selfish, greedy egotists who claim to be philanthropic yet act entirely out of self-interest.

Why though? It’s a waste of words and emotion, a two word hashtag says it all: it addresses who is responsible for the humiliation of our club, highlights the single causal factor for Hull City’s current league position, for the disintegration of the club/fanbase relationship and disenfranchisement many lifelong supporters feel, for the risible and needless battle with the people who built and own the ground that was a huge factor in our rise from Division Three to the Premier League. It does all that, but perhaps more importantly it identifies the one pivotal future event that will bring about positive change, a resuscitation of hope and the detoxification of a club that has been wilfully poisoned by poisonous people.

We’ll be more erudite on the podcast, we hope, but here’s a ten point distillation of what should fix every ill befalling #hcafc

1. #AllamsOut

2. #AllamsOut

3. #AllamsOut

4. #AllamsOut

4. #AllamsOut

5. #AllamsOut

6. #AllamsOut

7. #AllamsOut

8. #AllamsOut

9. #AllamsOut

10. #AllamsOut

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Things We Think We Think #270

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1. After the gritty win at Barnsley that entertained few but at least knocked a hefty monkey from our collective backs, City failed to build upon it on Saturday. Defeat to Nottingham Forest, fellow midtablers, was sloppy and unnecessary, and indicative of a side that’s going nowhere this season.

2. Forest are a capable but unspectacular side who unquestionably deserved to win. A 2-3 defeat may sound modestly creditable and even a little exciting, but the truth is frustratingly different. City were poor, and the narrowness of the scoreline is probably flattering.

3. Team selections cause all too many eyebrows to be raised this season, even allowing for the thin pickings Leonid Slutsky has been left with. However, those picked didn’t do enough. David Meyler, who we unconditionally adore, had a rare howler, and his rotten teatime was sadly far from unique. We looked shaky at the back, overrun in midfield and (Bowen apart) weak up front.

4. In fact, Bowen was the only outfielder who impressed. He’s a class act who many good judges thought would make the first team before long, but even his most ardent admirers couldn’t have foreseen just what a stellar impact he’d have made this season. He’s been a sensation. And increasing in value every week. Oh bugger.

4a. An honourable mention to Allan McGregor too. Like refs, you often only notice keepers when things aren’t going well for them. Well, McGregor’s not grabbed too much attention this season – but in a good way, and he had another solid afternoon on Saturday, even though he saw three goals fly past him. We aren’t missing Leicester’s third keeper at all.

5. What an anomalous player Markus Henriksen is. There had been some signs of improvement recently, a well taken goal and an assist made people wonder if we are finally going to share sight of what City saw in him in August 2016. His selection on Saturday was mystifying and his performance woeful. Players have off form games, sure, but what was more worrying was the lack of awareness and appetite when Bowen went on a stunning solo run and was setting himself up to centre the ball, all Henriksen had to do was be there to get a tap in, but instead he spectated yards away.

6. Any hopes that the Barnsley win represented a watershed moment in City’s fortunes were pulverised against Forest. There’s still a sense that if Leonid Slutsky has a philosophy, then he’s yet to fully impart it. Yes he has been treated risibly since tricked into taking the job, it was hard to disagree with his claim that he was still doing pre-season work after the closure of the transfer window, but with November upon us you would expect by now to be seeing the fruits of what the gaffer has sewn in the minds of players. Is communication an issue? Who knows, but what we saw late Saturday was an incoherent mess.

7. As usual, we cannot avoid off-field matters. The protest march first. It left the William Gemmell on Anlaby Road at 4.30pm, attracting a few hundred City fans and was well handled by all. Humberside Police provided a sizeable but unobtrusive escort, temporarily closing roads to permit a smooth journey to the West Stand, while the City fans made themselves heard forcibly but peacefully. Congratulations to Hull City Action For Change for its inception and execution.

8. They’re not the only ones ramping up the protests though. Separate to that organisation, a reprise of the 1998 tennis ball protest at Bolton (that remains one of our proudest moments was organised by others), with hundreds of vividly yellow stress balls raining down on the pitch at 19’04” to halt what was a televised game. Not all agree with it, but two things seem clear: it’s been effective, with the abysmal conduct of the Allam family that prompted it receiving national attention. Secondly, it’s absurd to suggest that City’s lousy performance was a consequence of it. It removes agency from the players, who – though limited – are generally honest triers and it’s insulting to suggest they can be so easily distracted (and why were Forest’s XI miraculously unaffected?).

9. Middlesbrough at home and then Sheffield United away, over the next few days. Even when the fixtures were announced it looked like the most appetising week of the season, taking on two sides with whom we have always encountered a bit of needle. Given that Boro are starting to show some fight for this division after a slow start, while Sheffield United top the table proudly and rather smugly after doing over Leeds United at the weekend, it’s not just an appetising week ahead, but a fairly pivotal one. Though as they are known as Boro and Blades, obviously we should beat the pair of them, shouldn’t we?

10. The tribute to Les Mutrie, courtesy of a banner, the big screens and a minute’s thunderous applause, was much appreciated by members of his family, who were present at Saturday’s game. We remain quite fortunate that unlike other clubs, we haven’t lost many of our modern day, colour telly heroes as yet, so when one genuine City legend does leave us, it’s gratifying to know we can celebrate his contribution to the club and his life as a whole with class, style and respect.

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Things We Think We Think #269

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1. An away win! A win, away! At an away ground! After well over 400 days of waiting, of fruitless journeys and dismal displays outside of Hull, City have finally won an away game!

2. It’s as much a relief as a source of jubilation. After drawing so many blanks in the Premier League, seeing that wretched run continue in the Championship was becoming a major source of concern and exasperation. Thank goodness it’s now at an end, if only because we were probably all sick of talking and thinking about it.

3. However…amid the glee about winning on the road, would it be excessively churlish to note that it wasn’t exactly a sparkling performance and that the points were not comprehensively merited? If so, then we’ll have to be churls, because the display left an awful lot to be desired – at one point, the away end sang “we only want one shot”. And while there are mitigating circumstances – foul weather, the nerves engendered by that run and so on – we doubt that Leonid Slutsky will have failed to notice that there’s room for improvement.

4. Still, the clean sheet was nice. City have kept too few of these this season, and while a better side than a fairly mediocre Barnsley may have found a way to puncture the Tigers’ iffy defence, nilling someone was nice. And it isn’t just with the benefit of hindsight that we observe that Barnsley didn’t really look like levelling – City closed the game out well and deserve credit for doing so, particularly after losing a lead so late just a week earlier.

5. So, there are some positives to take beyond just the points. City coped better without David Meyler than many may have expected and despite the lack of fluency on show there was no shortage of commitment either. A 6.5/10 sort of effort.

6. It leaves City 14th, as many points clear of the bottom three as behind the top six. Which feels broadly accurate as a snapshot of the season to date, and also a likely final outcome for 2017/18. We don’t feel good enough for a promotion push, but probably have too much to have any serious concerns about dropping another division. Given the calamitous incompetence we saw in the boardroom this summer, what else could we expect?

7. Apropos boardroom dolts, wasn’t Ehab’s interview with the Hull Daily Mail every bit an exercise in snivelling, blame-dodging fact-free drivel as we’d expect from one as unimpressive as him? There were some unintentionally revealing bits though. Ehab’s detestation of City fans was obvious, and him considering not selling City just to spite us is a fascinating insight into his sub-standard character. It’s fairly obvious that the club isn’t for sale in any meaningful sense anyway, and this grim stand-off between the reviled Allam family and the people of Hull isn’t going to end soon.

8. We hear, from multiple sources, that City tried to instruct the stewards at Barnsley to remove anti-Allam flags in the away end at Oakwell. We aren’t surprised that free speech isn’t awfully popular among the hierarchy at City, but even for them this would be pathetically thin-skinned.

9. Forest next on the telly. It’s a chance to show the world how much we hate our owners, but also a chance for City to inch closer to a top-half place. Will Slutsky keep faith with those who laboured to victory on Saturday – or has Campbell earned a start and will Meyler return? Interesting questions for the manager.

10. The impending visits of sides in 12th and 13th should give us an idea of whether we can improve upon the mid-table finish we expect. Forest look nothing special, but Middlesbrough’s comparably lowly standing is a surprise. They’ve plenty of time to put things right, but it’s possible we could catch them at a good time. And who knows, six points from these two home games….

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Things We Think We Think #268

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1. Bollocks, bollocks and thrice bollocks. Are we ever going to win an away game again? If we can’t hold onto a lead in the very final minute of a game against the side who accommodatingly ended our last nightmarishly long run of away failures seven years ago, it’s tough to see us ever succeeding on the road any time soon.

2. It’s tempting to look at what City did wrong, but let’s firstly look at what they did right. Norwich are no mugs – they’d be in the play-offs had they beaten City – but we led for a long time. That was courtesy of a very nice goal that featured a gloriously weighted pass by the much-maligned but also improved Henriksen and a cool finish by Dicko.

3. City also held on for more than half an hour following David Meyler’s sending off, taking the match into the very final minute. A bit of luck was ridden, but a fair few sleeves were also rolled up and the lads competed well in challenging circumstances. As frustrated as we all are, it’s also possible to feel for them a bit. Twice now, at Reading and Norwich, we’d led in the final stages and fallen short. It hurts.

4. But…that equalising goal. Firstly, the throw was obviously foul. But it didn’t have a great bearing on the goal itself, which was heartbreakingly soft. A long throw, a flick, a late runner sweeps it home. It’d be a crap one to concede in the 17th minute; in the 96th, it’s going to dismay us all week long.

5. By common consent, Mr Stroud didn’t have a great afternoon with the whistle. By far the most contentious and significant decision came with the dismissal of David Meyler, which probably stymied any hopes we had of adding to the lead and left us holding on for over a third of the game. It’s possible to understand his thinking though. Meyler clumsily bundled a player over (in his view), and with Norwich breaking dangerously, the caution that followed was almost automatic. It looked soft. A few replays don’t alter that perception, but Meyler himself didn’t quarrel with the official’s verdict and it’s hard not to conclude that we’ll see greater injustices (for and against) this season.

6. This away thing. It now stretches over 13 months, and it’s becoming a serious handicap in a season already hobbled by Ehab Allam’s summer antics. Granted, most of those were in a Premier League relegation season, but we’ve already had six attempts this season and still the run continues. It just has to be a psychological thing now, and combatting that isn’t going to be easy.

7. Which takes us to Barnsley on Saturday. A big following is likely for the first Yorkshire derby in the League this season, and expectations are going to be high – that’s no slight on our hosts, despite their lowly position. However, we really have to be winning this game, simply to regain a little bit of belief on the road. They’ve had a funny sort of season, and won’t represent the stiffest test we’ll encounter. Come on City, send us home happy for once, yeah?

8. Back to David Meyler, who’s certainly in the headlines right now. It was highly enjoyable to see him captain Ireland to qualification to the World Cup play-offs, and we’d love to see him feature at Russia 2018. We’ve always loved Meyler, and it’s great to see him get the recognition he deserves.

9. There will be a tribute to Les Mutrie at the Nottingham Forest home game on 28th October, and quite right too. City fans of a certain age will always remember him with immense fondness, and his passing at the age of 66 was a cause of considerable upset. If you missed it during the international break, here’s our little tribute to Sir Les.

10. Ehab Allam called someone childish when discussing gategate, his family’s latest gift to the community. Still, no-one ever thought he possessed an ounce of self-awareness.

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Things We Think We Think #267

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1. We’re now 11 league games into 2017/18, a season so far characterised by periods of melancholy and negative outlook, passing into euphoric episodes  of hypomania. This iteration of Hull City it seems, are bipolar.

2. There’s little positive to take from the Preston game. The visitors looked alarmingly better than City throughout, and though we had a decent period in the second half following the equaliser, we can’t really claim to have deserved anything. Preston aren’t a bad side, but they’re also not a strikingly good one (certainly not a patch on Wolves), and to lose rather feebly to them was pretty rotten.

3. There was an acutely disjointed feel to City six days ago. The players seemed to have little idea of their roles, the formation was either unclear or not implemented and the side drifted in aimless confusion. Preston harried well, and because no-one seemed quite sure what they were supposed to be doing there was no answer to it. Subsequent events may have restored a little faith, but for the first time it was easy to find City fans questioning the manager.

4. Birmingham were astoundingly bad, but that’s no reason to not marvel at City’s attacking purpose, fluid movement and ever so pleasing ruthlessness. Great performances were legion: Fraizer Campbell’s early drive and intent set the tone, Jarrod Bowen’s hunger was sated and Kamil Grosicki’s motivation rekindled by a freedom granting formation and submissive opponents. Jon Toral put in his finest shift to date, acting as a conduit between wide men and front men, and even those who have been maligned of late impressed in a complementary formation, goals for Seb Larsson and Markus Henriksen should do wonders for their confidence.

4a. That fifth goal, just how pornographic was it? We’ll tell you. It was so sexually explicit that Tigers TV ought to put an 18 rating on the highlights video. It’s a good job Channel 5’s Championship highlights show is aired post watershed. Sexball.

5. Billy Dickinson, Arthur Cunliffe, Cliff Hubbard, Dai Davies, Charles Robinson, George Richardson – finally, after 78 years and nine months, the pressure is off you guys. Finally, another Hull City game has yielded six different goalscorers. Mind you, it may be a while before a City side equals the 11-1 win that you lot managed over Carlisle in 1939…

6. Given that the switch to 4-4-2 against Birmingham was less of a choice and more of a necessity after Stephen Kingsley went off injured against Preston, it will be interesting to see what formation Slutsky goes with when Kingsley is available again. Three central defenders and wing backs is clearly the Russian’s favoured set up, but the personnel brought in of late (with seemingly little input from Slutsky) are a bad fit for that system, one that reduces the potency of Kamil Grosicky and Jarrod Bowen, isolates the lone front man and befuddles everyone else. The difference between the Preston and Birmingham games was stark, and the formation was undoubtedly the biggest factor. Slutsky has been dealt a bad hand, but he still has choices about how he plays it.

7. It’s hard to imagine this season culminating in any great drama. City are 17th, but look to have more than enough to avoid a serious relegation scrap. Nonetheless, the top six feels an even more distant prospect. It’s possible that the January transfer window could shake things up (and if the Allams’ chokehold remains in place, that won’t be in a good way), but a quick check of the odds from all the best bookmakers makes for sobering reading: 22/1 for promotion, 25/1 for relegation. Midtable mediocrity, here we come.

8. City claimed two attendances in excess of 15,000 for the two home games last week. We appreciate that the reporting of crowds needn’t reflect the actual number of people in the ground, and it’s a fairly standard practice throughout football. Nonetheless, the official figures don’t remotely indicate just how much the Allam family’s spiteful policies are driving people away. It would be fascinating to have the actual attendances.

9. Saturday saw the first public meeting of a new group, Hull City Action For Change. They did well too, attracting a healthy turnout in the William Gemmell Club. Speakers from Supporters’ Direct and the admirable Hull City Supporters’ Trust turned up, multi-award-winning journalist David Burns was on hand to witness the group’s efforts and the whole event passed off successfully. We will wait with interest their detailed plans to hasten the exit of the lamentable Allam family, and support their endeavours wholeheartedly.

10. Also on Saturday, three plaques commemorating the lives and contributions to Hull of City icons Raich Carter, Billy Bly and Andy Davidson were unveiled at the Tiger Rags exhibition at the Streetlife Museum. Overall, other cities do a better job of honouring their footballing legends, but our fair burgh is cottoning on. Hopefully this sort of enshrinement and public acknowledgement of the importance of Hull City to the city of Hull will become the new standard, and not just a singular spectacle.

DeanoHat

If you missed out last year, our friends at Football Bobbles have re-released ‘The Deano’ bobble hat (based on the famous/infamous 1992/93 home shirt). Available now!

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Things We Think We Think #266

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1. Being a City fan on the road is always going to have its difficulties, but it feels especially grim at the moment. Reading was the about the closest we’ve come to a first League success outside of Hull in 13 months, and to have it snatched away late in the game feels rather cruel.

2. Cruel, and careless too. It was a scruffy game between two sides with little chance of troubling the top six, but an unhappy season would’ve been briefly lent a little lustre if we’d finally won an away game. Whether we deserved three points isn’t a moot point – we’ll get onto it shortly – but when you’re that close to a win against deeply mediocre opposition, it’s desperately disappointing to let it slip with five minutes left.

3. Reading ‘enjoyed’ 74% of the possession on Saturday, a statistic that is, on the face of it, quite damning for Leonid Slutsky and the Tigers. However it is unlikely that many Royals fans enjoyed it, given that Jaap Stam’s side rarely did anything with the ball: there was no purpose to their passing and remarkably few real goalscoring chances fashioned. Their pointless possession didn’t reflect badly on City, it suited us.

4. Seb Larsson’s City career has had a patchy start, but he was involved in most of City’s best chances at the Madejski Stadium. His through ball for Fraizer Campbell’s goal was sublime, perfectly weighted and taking two Reading players out of play, and he was unlucky not to score himself from two direct free kicks. The first struck the crossbar, and the second caused Vito Mannone some difficulty when it deflected off the wall. One game doesn’t make a season, but there are signs that Larsson can make a meaningful contribution this year.

5. As for Campbell, it was gratifying to see him notch his first City goal in 9 years, 4 months and 28 days. He showed great awareness in anticipating Larsson’s through ball and carefully placing his shot beyond both the ‘keeper and covering defender.

6. This week sees a pair of home fixtures, and a chance to speedily add to our worryingly thin points tally. Preston visit on Tuesday, and will do so lying in an unexpectedly elevated position. They certainly weren’t among the pre-season favourites, but they’ve started well – a match that may, two months ago, have seemed among autumn’s less testing assignments doesn’t feel that way right now.

7. Then it’s Birmingham. They’ve just raised a smile by ending Harry Redknapp’s career, but that does mean they could well have a new manager by the time they travel to the Circle in five days. Having picked up a handy point at Derby on Saturday, their present position of 23rd is possibly a false one.

8. But never mind all that…it’s two home games, and although you’d have to be either overburdened with optimism or untroubled by rationality to envisage City as automatic promotion candidates, even a side aspiring for a respectable and stabilising top half finish needs to be amassing no fewer than four points from these two games. Right?

9. Saturday sees what may potentially be an escalation in the attempts to rid ourselves of the Allam scourge. A new group named “Hull City Action For Change” (HCAFC – geddit?) are holding a public event on Saturday before the Birmingham match in the William Gemmell on Anlaby Road. We look forward to seeing what they have to say and their learning their plans to bring about a fresh start for the club.

10. It was interesting to see the Football League’s response to AFC Wimbledon referring to MK Dons as just MK on the scoreboard and not at all on the matchday programme this weekend. A League statement read: “The failure to recognise MK Dons in the correct manner causes reputational issues for the EFL as well as creating the potential for unrest amongst MK Dons supporters and, as such, is of concern for the EFL.” Strange that the League have said nothing about our club’s repeated failures to recognise the name Hull City, nor the unrest among supporters created by inconsistent branding, since both cause reputational issues for the EFL, right?

DeanoHat

If you missed out last year, our friends at Football Bobbles are re-releasing ‘The Deano’ bobble hat (based on the famous/infamous 1992/93 home shirt) this Friday at 7pm.