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Things We Think We Think #304

 

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1) Farewell then, David Meyler. It’s been on the cards for a while, ever since the player himself disclosed that no new contract would be forthcoming. It’s still immensely sad to see him go. He was a mainstay of so many of the good things, and he leaves a sizeable hole not just in the midfield, but in the character of the City squad. An engaging personality on Twitter, a courageous player on the pitch and a (belated) cult hero in the stands, he’s left to join another former fans’ favourite at Reading. Best wishes, David. And thanks for everything.

2) Abel Hernández signing a new contract with City never felt remotely likely, and so it proved. An accomplished goalscorer in the Championship, Premier League and at international level, who cost £10m, leaves on a free transfer. Such colossal ineptitude is par for the course, and we’re largely immune to it now. Again, we must just offer best wishes to a player who often surprised us with his workrate even in unglamorous surroundings. Even if we were going to try to replace him, it’d be difficult and costly. However, we aren’t going to.

3) Also departing is our club captain Michael Dawson. We also won’t be trying to replace him, not when there are plenty of mediocre, parachute-payment-non-disrupting loanees out there. On the field, he might not actually be impossible to replace, for it’s impossible not to have seen his decline this season. If their scouts have seen what we’ve seen, Nottingham Forest cannot possibly hope to still be fielding him in their first team towards the end of his two year contract. Still, it’s a nice story for him to return to his boyhood club in the late-autumn of his career, and who could blame him for wanting to leave us anyway? He’s clearly a model professional, evidenced by the fact that his best football of a decidedly patchy season came after he was declined permission to leave in January. So many players would have sulked; he resolved to improve. We’ll miss his leadership, which was understated but effective, and he leaves us with thanks.

4) On and on the exodus goes. Allan McGregor has rejoined Rangers, where he started his career 20 years ago. A big earner who had a big season, the presumed negatives of the former were always going to outrank the latter with the price-of-everything-value-of-nothing cretins who are befouling our club. And he too leaves with nothing to prove, having amassed a fine body of work while at City. Pointing to his occasional errors is a fool’s errand; all keepers make them. A combative attitude coupled with a capacity for remarkable shot-stopping make him a legitmate contender for City’s finest post-war keeper. We’ll miss him.

4a) It leaves City in need of a keeper, too. At the end of 2016/17 we had three: McGregor, Marshall and Jakupović. The last of these opted to become Leicester’s third choice after an insulting contract offer, while it hasn’t remotely worked out for Marshall here. However, yachts aren’t cheap, so we’ll have to assume that we’re just going to have to make the best of it with Marshall, presumably with a yoof on the bench – and, in the event of injury/suspension, in the first team too.

5) Overall then, summer has gone largely as expected. No attempt has been made to retain senior players, and obviously replacements haven’t arrived. Not only do we presently have a squad a long way from being able to stay up next season, we’re not likely to either. Little wonder City’s odds of relegation have halved in the past few weeks.

6) It won’t get any better, obviously. Grosicki will probably be next, while anyone else with the acute misfortune to have Ehab Allam as their employer must be instructing their representatives to explore other options. It may be cricket and World Cup weather, but a chill wind assails the Tiger Nation. Already, the good times that were bookended by Peter Taylor and Steve Bruce are fading in the memory, like teenage romance a dozen summers ago.

7) Still, City have probably made football history this summer. With the announcement that prices for next season will not be confirmed until October, they have surely become the first club ever to wait until AFTER a season has begun before confirming the cost of going. We’re not laughing, and we’re not crying. We’re just numb.

8) Given the toxic miasma that envelops Hull City, it should come as no surprise when almost everything that is associated with the club is regarded with cynicism and disdain. However, the launch of the 2018/19 primary kit by Umbro was pleasingly free of negativity: it was executed well, the club’s name was used prominently in marketing (even if it is ludicrously absent from the kit itself) and as for the new shirt, shorts and socks, they appear to be widely admired.

9) No wonder. Umbro have delivered another doozy of a kit. Stripes have been retained, but given a modern and fresh look. There’s enough of a field of amber to prevent black raglan sleeves, used in concert with black stripes, from making the shirt and kit overall look dark.

9a) Consider us big fans. Sure, we don’t like what the 1 904 crest represents, and TIGERS on the back of the neck shows that the club are so inept at marketing that they break the branding guidelines they claim to work to. Neither of these things can be laid at the feet of Umbro though, the brand with the double-diamond are doing an exceptional job of making Hull City look good in an aesthetic sense, even if everything appears to be falling apart.

10) Amid the stark contrast of City plumbing sub-subterranean depths and the growing excitement of seeing whether our attempts to navigate the World Cup betting odds were successful, there came an unexpected glimmer of good news. Sports Minister Tracey Crouch, widely criticised for ignoring the obvious appeal of safe standing earlier this year, now appears open to it. Well done to her for having the courage to admit her original stance may have been wrong, which is probably not a common trait among politicians, and of course to the tireless campaigning of the FSF.

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Things We Think We Think #303

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1. Eight days after 2017/18 sidled to its conclusion, the overriding emotion remains relief. It’s a sentiment that’s two-fold. Relief, of course, that the season ended with City avoiding a relegation that (for a time) seemed quite possible. As Nigel Adkins turned Leonid Slutsky’s free-scoring chaos-merchants into grimly dull loss-accumulators, the fate that was befalling Sunderland appeared ours too. It’s scandalous for a side with the distorting benefits of parachute payments to be anywhere near relegation, and this season will be remembered, if at all, as being an atrocious one. But it could have been worse.

2. Therefore, our relief is also for it being over. Never mind the occasional highs – pulverising Birmingham in September, the customary win at Nottingham Forest, the 0-5 and 5-5 insanity of April – this was mostly a season of gruelling inadequacy laced with regular off-field malice. 2017/18, goodbye and good riddance.

3. We said farewell with a 1-1 draw at Brentford that was actually one of the better days of the season. A hot day, a proper terrace, affable surroundings and a non-defeat all made for a better send-off than the campaign as a whole probably deserved. And it was a useful reminder that whatever else the Allam family are stripping away from the club, our fundamental spirit remains. Seeing City fans cavorting on the Griffin Park concrete well after the final whistle was an uplifting experience to take into the summer.

4. Already, the exodus begins. We’re fortunate that in the Allams we have owners who know better than to treat employees correctly and persuade them to sign new contracts; and so, another summer in which the first team – not that great to start with – is dismantled. Nigel Adkins is making brave little noises about doing our business early, but that won’t happen. We’ll sell or release anyone who’s any good or who may have the temerity to request a wage befitting their skill and experience, and stuff the squad half-full of mediocre loanees in late August. There’s no point in pretending anything else will happen – it’s the Ehab Allam way, and just because it’s pathetically failed twice doesn’t mean he’s anywhere near bright enough to have spotted a pattern yet.

5. As we’ve already touched upon, it isn’t a great first team that’s been dismantled, though it’ll probably end up being better than what replaces it. But among those leaving is a genuine star of the past decade, and someone who deserves to be recalled fondly in years to come: David Meyler. Long-term possessor of a few obstinate detractors, he won everyone over towards the end of his time here, and participated in so many of the famous achievements in our recent past. A player of unswerving committment, under-rated ability and unerring courage, he’ll be greatly missed. Thanks for everything David, and best of luck for the future.

6. It isn’t just first teamers going – as always at this time of year, youth team players judged not to have made the grade are being released. That’s always pretty sad, and we hope that as many of them as possible make it elsewhere. However, it was galling to see a common thread running throughout the departing comments of so many early 20s players: that they were never given enough time on the pitch to prove themselves. It’s understandable that opportunities in City’s first team have been limited given our recent Premier League past, but why were so few sent on loan instead of being abandoned in the U23s? Now past the first flush of youth, they’re having to find new clubs with younger prospects already coming up behind them and virtually no first team experience on their CVs. That’s epic, tragic mismanagement.

7. The club is going to meet with the FSF and SD over concessions. We hope those two fine organisations are ready for the full technicolour horror of meeting an Allam, because even though they’ve been extensively warned, there’s nothing like the real thing to make you realise just how unqualified they are to run a football club. Meanwhile, City continue to haemorrhage members and we still no fixed prices for next season.

8. A new crest! That we get a say in! You can see why this looks superficially good. However, the mechanism for selecting it is ridiculous. Phase 1 (yes, there are phases) requires fans to choose other fans, who’ll then sit alongside “community voices” and “influencers”. The issues are so widespread here we’re staggered (or perhaps not) that no-one’s thought of them. But just in case they haven’t: “community voices” doesn’t even require one to be a City fan. Therefore, some Leeds or rugby supporting bell-end could actually end up having a say on our future crest. And that won’t end well. As for “influencers”, the club has managed to alienate pretty much all of them anyway, from ex-players to local media. So, that’s phase 1, with fan nominations, non-City fans and uninfluential influencers, all to be revealed on (naturally) an unspecified date. So far, so shit.

9. Phase 2. Another sodding vote, on “crest elements”. Presumably they’ll be shortlisted by either Ehab or whichever stooge is doing his bidding at the moment, in order to avoid anything remotely good. Then we can choose a tiger (seriously). Then the “creative panel” will meet twice with the club to decide things, which appears to arm Ehab with a right of veto anyway in case the whole pointlessly torturous process has resulted in anything non-terrible someone sneaking through. And good designs don’t happen by committee anyway. Then there’ll be a BIG REVEAL at another unspecified date next year…all announced on a page that finishes up by calling us Hull City Tigers. What a joke.

10. That’s us done for a bit. We’ll pop up occasionally during the summer, chiefly to despair about whatever idiocy that family inflicts upon us next, but like you, we need a break from the whole circus. Enjoy the World Cup, the summer’s cricket and whatever else it is you do away from City, thanks for the comments/criticism/insults/reading/listening to our exasperated output, and we’ll see you in August.

10a. Allam Out.

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Things We Think We Think #302

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1. Thank God it’s almost over. A season of wretchedness on the field and malice off it had a fitting finale on Saturday, as City crumpled to a characteristically scruffy 2-0 defeat to a dour but organised and motivated side. It had everything that’s made 2017/18 an ordeal: flickers of promise, a pathetically cheap goal conceded and a pitiful response thereafter. City were crap, and got exactly what they deserved from the game.

2. A dead rubber at Brentford aside for those of an especially masochistic bent, the ghastliness is at a close. We’ve hated this season, and while a summer without City is usually a cause for sadness, we’re frankly glad we don’t have to put up with them for a few blessed months.

3. The class of 2017/18 has been deeply uninspiring, and even if its major deficiency has been quality rather than application, it’s been hard to warm to them. That’s part of the problem with mediocre loanees signed in a panic at the end of the transfer window – apart from not being especially good, their transient nature makes the fan-player bond harder to establish. And sure, there are exceptions, but generally speaking a player who’s only here for a short, defined period can’t create the same supporter relationship as one whose service spans years rather than months.

4. That didn’t make the “lap of honour” any less tragic. Barely 3,000 can have stayed to witness the limpest of mutual appreciations, and on one level we feel a bit for the players – it must have been quite embarrassing for them, and goodness knows they aren’t the real reason the club is a total mess. Players like David Meyler, Abel Hernández, Allan McGregor and Michael Dawson, sturdy servants of the club, probably deserved a heartier send-off than this.

5. But how can anyone blame City fans? After a dismal defeat at the end of a rotten season, why on earth stick around to insincerely acclaim those who are, in part, responsible? We’d like to think that the near-empty stadium for the post-match trudge would worry those in charge. But we know they aren’t listening, and don’t care anyway, so to them and the despicable handful of remaining apologists it’ll just be our fault anyway.

6. Which leads us nicely onto the latest sham ballot. It’s causing considerable consternation inside the club, with no-one knowing what on earth to do about it. Needless to say, turnout was reduced from the previous vote, with City fans rightly boycotting a poll when the previous one had been disregarded on account of an inconvenient result. That Ehab is completely clueless about how to proceed will surprise no-one, but his subordinates are suffering equal paralysis and the mood is not good.

7. It means that at the time of writing, City aren’t especially close to even announcing whatever the result of the second ballot is, and don’t expect them to announce the turnout either (or at least truthfully announce it – though there’ve been enough complaints raised to the Supporters’ Trust to render the whole enterprise highly suspicious anyway). Which means that on the final day of April, no-one has a clue what a 2018/19 season ticket/membership will cost or whether concessions will be reintroduced. The rest of the Championship is eagerly imploring its fans to sign up; City can’t even tell their fans the basics about next season’s costs. It’s a joke, and those responsible should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

8. Brentford next. It means nothing, to both clubs. Let’s just stand on a terrace (which worked out alright last time, and, Sports Minister, no-one got hurt), drink some beer and try to remember that while the club is presently stricken with a particularly vicious disease, it won’t last forever.

9. Sunderland, of League One and also very much of the north, have just been taken over. It’s almost as though the notion that non-Premier League clubs who aren’t near Heathrow Airport don’t attract buyers is a total fucking lie, isn’t it?

10. City are off to Kenya, which is all very exciting. But with a familiar tin ear for the requirements of fans, a match that would require a significant outlay, very short notice travel to the southern hemisphere, time off work and so on hasn’t even seen City confirm whether tickets are going to be made available. Come on City, this sort of thing really isn’t difficult.

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Things We Think We Think #301

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1. What an utterly preposterous football club we support. Not for us the usual pattern of sublime-to-ridiculous that lesser claimants to ludicrosity may submit; in the last three games we’ve gone sublime-to-shit-to-ridiculous. 5-0, 0-1, 5-5. It’s the kind of scoring sequence you’d associate with pre-war Division Three (North), not the ultra-professional 21st century Championship.

2. Days after the biggest away win in a century, City served up utter dross against Sheffield Wednesday and followed that up by sharing ten goals in Bristol. Our first ever 5-5 draw; the first time both sides have scored more than 4 in a City game, and so on. It was a crazy afternoon of football.

3. It didn’t look as though that’d be the case until the end. 2-1 at half-time rarely begats 5-5, and for long spells of the game City looked set to offer up another dispiritingly slovenly defeat. Some of the defending – in fact, almost all of it – was farcical, genuine pub team stuff, and that was before the goals started raining in. If Nottingham Forest are still preparing to offer Michael Dawson a contract in the summer, he’d better hope their scouts were elsewhere on Saturday; while he was offered scant support as City were wide open in midfield, on the flanks and indeed practically everywhere. Given the way the first half ended, it wasn’t a massive surprise that City ended up shipping five goals.

4. It was far less predictable that we’d score another four, but with Harry Wilson and a point-to-prove Abel Hernández, we do have a goal or two in us. We have throughout this grim season in fact, with 69 and counting, something no side outside the top four is likely to match. However, those two are clearly far too good for this level, and it’s really shown in recent weeks.

5. Wilson in particular has raced through the grades of appreciation, from promising loanee to highly effective loanee, and he’s probably now entering the “just enjoy him while we have him” stage. He won’t be here next season, and that isn’t even necessarily a slight on City – if Liverpool decide he isn’t quite ready for their matchday squads then he clearly merits a season-long loan in the Premier League instead. He’s got two more games with us. Best to make the most of them, and spend the next decade telling anyone who’ll listen that his time with City is what made him what he’ll become – which is clearly outstanding.

6. Those two games are now dead rubbers, with safety mathematically assured by Saturday’s draw at Ashton Gate. Credit to Nigel Adkins: for a long time survival itself looked far from certain, so to have it officially determined with two matches to go (and, effectively, with four remaining) is more than we’d hoped for. He isn’t a stellar name, and he doesn’t inspire us, but his overall work with City has exceeded our modest expectations, and he’s sure to be here next season. So be it.

7. With survival now guaranteed, we now have the opportunity to knack things up a bit for clubs with loftier goals. We’d ordinarily applaud what Cardiff have done this season, but Colin is their manager and he’s every bit as detestable as ever, so while we wish the Bluebirds no particular harm it’d be fantastic to ruin things for him. It’d also be nice to beat a side in the top six this season, and end the home season with a decent performance and result – goodness knows we deserve it.

8. Then it’s Brentford, who could need a result to pinch sixth place, and the chance for another terrace – and then that’s it.

9. Thank God. Summer beckons, and exhaustion racks the Tiger Nation. The bitter feud with the rotten Allam family won’t end until their reign is over, while gates fall, membership votes are the subject of untruths and pathetic bribes, and the club remains as hopelessly fractured as ever.

10. There’s no point in hoping for anything but big talk about our close-season plans followed by a clear out and hasty loans in late August, all as a precursor to another season of struggle. The future is bleak for now, and there’s no point pretending otherwise. All we can do is enjoy a few more goals before the torrid 2017/18 finally ends, and we can look forward to the World Cup, an interesting Test series with India and the chance to half-forget what’s been done to our club.

R.I.P Edwin Huitson “Eddie” Blackburn, former City apprentice who made 75 appearances in goal for the Tigers between March 1975 and January 1980.

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Things We Think We Think #300

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1. After scoring nine without reply in two games, we felt like we could touch survival in the Championship for another year, something which rarely felt anything close to inevitable since the turn of the year. As we approach the last triad of matches and shut the door on a pretty wretched campaign, we can at least regard the culmination of the season as successful and entertaining.

2. Well, that was the case until Sheffield Wednesday rolled into town at the weekend. They and their six billion supporters are nothing special at all, yet City’s infuriating apathy against them made for a brutally unwatchable afternoon at the Circle. Defeat when safety was ready to be assured is frustrating; a total lack of commitment after such an enjoyable couple of weeks of vibrant, flowing football is something approaching unforgivable.

3. Still, we ought not to dwell on defeat to the World’s Biggest Club for too long. Firstly, it might give their supporters undue belief that we give a toss; beyond that, we have a much more fun occasion from the last seven days to look back upon – namely, the jolly at Burton Albion.

4. A ground tick, of course. And we got to stand on a terrace, a rare treat indeed (and with the Government this week short-sightedly claiming nobody should want to do this at a football match any more, timely and apt – more on this shortly); and then we saw City tear apart the minnows of the Championship with an incisive, positive performance that contained some fine goals and seemed to allow for a re-connection between fans and players that hasn’t always been prevalent in these turbulent times for our club.

5. It was quite the evening for Kamil Grosicki. He scored two fine individual goals, hit the post and did a quite ludicrous dive in the area towards the end that got him a yellow card. Widely regarded as our best all-round footballer, he is nevertheless capable of acts of amateurishness that possibly contribute to the reason for his lack of suitors earlier in the season. But if we are to rise from the lousy troughs of this season under Nigel Adkins, you can imagine he’d quite like a focused, professional Grosicki to be at the forefront of it.

6. Meanwhile, Adkins has declared that he wants to keep Allan McGregor at the club, while there is strong rumour in circulation concerning an about-turn on David Meyler’s future, and he will be offered a deal. Of course, what the head coach wants and what the hierarchy are prepared to offer are likely to be a million miles (or a few thousand quid, or a year or two, apart) so we’ll take the prospect of the last two survivors of our FA Cup final squad remaining at the club next season with a few shovelfuls of salt.

7. It’s now mid-April, and City are still dicking around with votes no-one wants on an issue everyone’s already in agreement on. To re-iterate: City lost the original vote heavily, and are now resorting to offering “unique prizes” in the second poll in order to get turnout into double figures. It doesn’t appear to be working, though that means that City will invalidate the first vote on the spurious grounds of turnout while refusing to disclose the result; then declare concessions “unwanted” on the second vote while refusing to disclose both turnout and voting figures. This, we imagine, will all seem terribly clever and funny to Ehab. Which explains why his family’s reputation is in the gutter.

8. The club also promised it would start calling itself Hull City by now. Another broken promise, another lie from a club that seems institutionally incapable of being straight with supporters.

9. Ehab isn’t the only apparently uncomplicated individual who’s had a rotten week. Step forward Sports Minister Tracey Crouch, Hull University alumnus and MP for Chatham and Aylesford, who inexplicably contends that the desire for safe standing is the preserve of a “vocal minority”. She doesn’t even have the excuse of former Sports Ministers, who’ve been elevated to the Cabinet with no apparent knowledge of sport – she’s actually an FA coach. So her ignorance is positively inexplicable. But it may actually be useful in the long run. The backlash has been loud and sustained, and has galvanised afresh the overwhelming majority who favour safe standing as an option. Quite why this, or any other Government, feel they have the right to bar football fans from watching their chosen event in a way that virtually other sector of society is permitted to is beyond explanation – but, Minister, safe standing is an idea whose time has come. Probably better to get on board now.

10. It has been announced that Greg Abbott, a stalwart at City during rotten times in the 1990s, has had to step down from his behind the scenes role at Bradford City in order to start treatment for prostate cancer. Naturally, we wish a man who gave us great service a very speedy recovery.

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Things We Think We Think #299

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1. Is that everything sorted out then? Two draws against two of the leading lights of the division was impressive and encouraging, but it was the QPR and Burton games we were really looking at for a decisive result. And this was a decisive result, decisively arrived at.

2. As we mused on Wednesday, QPR are close to ideal opponents for anyone at this stage of the season. Lower-midtable with nothing to play for, a collection of players scarcely better than our own, an uninspiring manager and the sort of ethos that suggests they’ll gladly roll over for northern opposition on a day such as Saturday. And so it proved.

3. What was richly satisfying was the way City continued to press after taking the lead, scoring quickly after the gaining the opener and making the game safe in the second half rather than giving the visitors the opportunity to create an anxious finale. To have the points won with half an hour left was a credit to the side and manager.

4. There were a lot of strong performances, and Abel Hernández’s was perhaps the best. This could be one of his last appearances at the Circle, and it was clear he was a class above most on the pitch. There was plenty of good fortune in City’s second goal, but his pass (for Wilson’s deft finish) and his predatory concluding of a smart move for the fourth made us wonder just what might have been had he been fit all season. One player doesn’t make a team, but a good striker can certainly make a difference.

5. Harry Wilson looks like a player with a fine career ahead of him. It’s something of a surprise that he’s played so few first team games at his current age of 21, just 15 to date. However, some players reach maturity after others, and even if he’s starting a little late it’s clear he’s got plenty of talent. His touch is as exactly as assured as you’d expect from someone who’s spent a long time at an élite club’s academy, but he has a refreshing willingness to play simple balls when the situation demands, he can find (and use) space and we’ve seen that he can take a chance. We have no chance of signing him permanently for next season, but if we can persuade both player and parent club that another spell in a Championship club’s first team is in his best interests, he’d be very welcome.

6. So, Burton next. Depending on how you count these things it’s probably a tick ground, and the rare treat of a proper terrace too. A big game for both too. City are already as long as 200/1 to be relegated, though the mathematics aren’t certain yet and it’s likely we’ll need a point or two more than we currently have. For Burton, their chance to scramble to safety probably went when they failed to hang on at Birmingham on Saturday. Failure to beat City – a winnable game for them, remember – will effectively seal the deal.

7. The hope must be that City don’t relax, because the last time complacency set in we lost pitifully at Birmingham. A repeat would be unwelcome, because even if it may ultimately not have too much effect, this has been an awful season and we deserve at least a spirited end to it. And there’s nothing better than celebrating a City goal on a proper terrace, is there?

8. Nigel Adkins. Let’s assume City are going to be okay. He’s done well hasn’t he? He’s got a lot to do to convince City fans that he’s worthy of a long spell at the club, but his immediate remit was to ensure we line up in the 2018/19 Championship, and we’re about 95% of the way towards that. He deserves credit for that. Hell, we’ve even started to play a bit following the unwatchable dross that pockmarked his early weeks.

9. And hey, exactly 11 years ago Phil Brown was patchily guiding City to Championship survival while not really expected to achieve anything else. We can’t see it, but Adkins keeping City up and then doing well with us next season certainly wouldn’t be the most ridiculous thing we’ve ever seen.

10. That stupid sham vote continues, with the club resorting to offering prizes for voting. We aren’t falling for it. Boycott the poll; and City, it’s April for crying out loud, get season tickets with proper concessions on sale, right now.

10a. Lastly, a very happy No To Hull Tigers Day to everyone.

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Things We Think We Think #298

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1. City’s rather prolonged Easter is over, and as expected we have a much clearer idea of whether the season will end in the calamity of relegation. Less expected is that it’s gone quite well. Play-off certainties Aston Villa and champions-elect Wolves constituted a daunting pair of fixtures for a struggling City. We’d probably have taken a point. We’re delighted at two.

2. Villa first. After a dour opening 45, City were undoubtedly the likelier winners in the second half, pushing the visitors further and further back as the match wore on. It wasn’t a streaky point – indeed, but for some sharper finishing (a familiar refain) and/or some more observant officiating, we could have been toasting our first win of the season over top-six opposition.

3. As it was, there was a degree of contentment in the result, and the way it came about. Villa are a good team with (obviously) a superb manager, and it was very much a point gained. It was easy to let Birmingham’s win earlier in the day make it feel a little more disappointing, but we can’t do anything about them, and taken both in isolation and in the broader context of the relegation scrap, it was a good afternoon’s work – even if nil-nils at home aren’t what made you fall in love with football.

4. That took us to Wolves. Eventually, if you were unlucky enough to be caught up in the ghastly traffic en route. We’ve no idea what Nigel Adkins was thinking with his line-up, making six changes to a side that’d done well at the weekend. Only one thing really made less sense all night: the result.

5. Well, managers live and die by their results, so when they get them it’s disagreeably churlish to deny them a tip of the cap (even if we suspect Adkins is probably always going to grate slightly). It was an even more impressive point than Villa, showing the fortitude to recover from an early deficit at the league leaders to pinch a lead ourselves, and then hold out for a point at the end. You may justly wonder why a side that has come within an ace of defeating a member of the 2018/19 Premier League can still serve up horrors like the 0-3 at Birmingham. But just occasionally, this City side can impress.

6. So, 41 points are ours, seven more than anyone in the bottom three. Now eight points adrift, Sunderland and Burton look irretrievably doomed. Barnsley may have a game in hand but they’re five away from anyone. It’s ever so tempting to hope that the present bottom three may just be able to detect the stench of death about themselves.

7. Two extremely winnable games now present themselves: QPR at home and Burton away. We know what epic wusses QPR are capable of being, and with nothing to play for they’re precisely the sort of side you’d crave playing at this time of season. Meanwhile, Burton are palpably a class below most of the rest. A win from either will surely do it. This time next week…

8. Can anyone remember Hull City specifying a minimum vote threshhold for the recent poll on whether there should be concessions next season? Exactly. Because there wasn’t one. Until the vote – which, incidentally, went in favour of concessions by a very wide margin – was finally counted. At which point the Allams decided to have another vote, making the options even less attractive than before, while continuing to propogate the baseless untruth that it’s all because of widespread fraud by City fans (something that every other professional sporting club in the land somehow manages not to fall victim to).

9. We aren’t sure we can be arsed playing Ehab’s pathetic little games any more. The club lies that it wants to listen to fans, is delivered a clear message, lies again that it wants to listen and proceeds to do the exact opposite. So while it’s up to individual City fans, we probably wont bother this time around. The club, excoriated in the national media over the weekend for its repulsive pricing policy, already know what we and every other civilised football fan in the nation requires. And if the next vote has a lower turnout, what then? Another vote? Concessions, or retinal scanning by flourescent jacketed oafs wielding biometrics-discerning equipment? Concessions, or the mandatory slaughtering of all firstborns? Concessions, or spending thirty minutes locked in a room listening to Assem Allam talking?

10. In the meantime, on the current “options”: prices rise? Fuck off. The mere threat of no concessions? Fuck off. Photo ID? Fuck RIGHT off.

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Things We Think We Think #297

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1. Just when you think City are turning the corner, they actually execute a startling U-turn and head back towards the shitheap they’d deftly extricated themselves from with back to back wins. Gah!

2. As a season unfolds, individual games become part of the wider, campaign long context. What to make of the Norwich and Ipswich wins after the abominable snow-game at Birmingham? A week ago we’d been willing to consider that Adkins was finally having some impact, but when he admits after Saturday’s game that he didn’t see it coming and isn’t sure what happened, it’s harder to leave the credit for the wins with him. Could it simply be that the enthusiasm of Abel Hernandez and Harry Wilson, two men just desperate to play some football, positively infected the rest of the side in the games won, rather than it being down to Adkins words and tactics?

3. When he leaves Hull City, the Michael Dawson we’ll remember is the inspirational captain of the 2015/16 side, exultant and holding aloft the Championship play-offs trophy at Wembley. What we are currently witnessing is a pastiche of that man. It’s understandable that the 2018 version of Michael Dawson won’t have the athleticism of the 2016 edition, but what is unfathomable is risible decision making that sees him charging out of position, missing challenges completely and leaving a forward with a largely unhindered route to goal.

4. Not that he was alone in this on Saturday. His partner at the centre of defence, Ondrej Mazuch, was guilty of giving away free kick after free kick at Birmingham. Our centre-backs do not have the pace or technique to attempt playing a high line. The head coach needs to knock this unhelpful trait out of them.

5. While those two were unimpressive, that cannot be said about Allan McGregor, whose performance between the sticks kept the scoreline moderately respectable, and not an aggregate draw after our six goal haul against Birmingham earlier in the season. Not having McGregor already tied down with a new deal is wanton stupidity, but or front office has form in that regard.

6. It felt like a really up-and-down week, as you may expect with a three-nil that goes your way and one that goes against. A gap of six points became nine points, only to revert to six. That’s probably just the nature of a relegation battle. Six points remains a healthy lead, and there aren’t many games left now. Our position is one that a few sides would certainly envy.

7. The problem lies in the nature of the next two fixtures. Easter Eve sees Aston Villa visit the Circle for what’s likely to be a fraught evening. Steve Bruce returns, and the contrast between the unique achievements of arguably our best ever manager and our present predicament is a stark one indeed. Meanwhile, throw in the fact that if results go against us earlier in the day the pressure will really be on, plus the possibility of further protests for the Sky cameras if the club haven’t kept their promises, and a tense affair is easy to foresee.

8. It’ll be interesting to see what reaction Steve Bruce gets. The fans are sure to deliver deserved acclaim, but will City themselves be big enough to offer a warm welcome to the man driven out by Ehab’s incompetence?

9. Then it’s Wolves away. Ew. Even the optimists may struggle to see our six point cushion surviving a very difficult Easter.

10. We just want this season over now. There’ve been flashes of fun, chiefly in Slutsky’s earlier days and occasionally under Adkins. But for the most part it’s been a real chore, with poor football inflicted upon dwindling, disinterested crowds. Let’s just stay up, fuck the Allams off and begin the long process of repairing the fractured soul of this club, in the hope that 2018/19 can offer some enjoyment.

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Things We Think We Think #295

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1. Tuesday night’s draw with Barnsley illustrated perfectly why City are in serious relegation trouble, and why there’s no guarantee we’ll survive. Just as we followed up an impressive win at Nottingham Forest with a dismal no-show at Middlesbrough, so the encouraging victory over Sheffield United was conspicuously not built upon with a decidedly crummy draw against Barnsley. At no stage this season have City ever threatened to create any momentum or put together a string of good results. It’s precisely what teams who get relegated do.

2. That Barnsley are a poor side was obvious enough when we laboured to victory at Oakwell. They haven’t noticeably improved since, but neither have we. Perhaps it wasn’t a great surprise that the two sides who put together such a dire game in October should do it again – but even so, it was truly dreadful.

3. Granted, it’s a relief that City spawned a point in the end, even if we have little intention of “respecting” a disappointing outcome so disappointingly arrived at. It did at least prevent the blow of City slipping behind Barnsley in the table. But really, it’s hard not to look back at the entire evening wondering quite why City were so utterly sub-par. No intensity, no urgency, inadequate organisation – the whole thing was just utterly bab.

4. There weren’t many positives. Larsson played tolerably well, though it was his least effective match for a while – and he’s been one of the most impressive figures in 2018, so we missed his influence. Irvine looked cold and subdued, while Diomande in particular spent a thoroughly unproductive evening emboldening only his detractors. Meanwhile, if you hadn’t spotted Toral by the time he was hooked in the 53rd minute (of the first half), you may not have been alone – he was almost wilfully anonymous.

5. We enjoyed the claim that 14,000 were in attendance though. It’s so far from the truth as to be comical.

6. With Ipswich falling victim to the weather, we’re now halfway through four successive home games, rather freakishly following on from four successive away games. Next up are Millwall and Norwich, both treading water in the impossibly distant glory-soaked promised land of midtable. City are still labouring at under a point a game, which won’t often be enough for survival. Setting points targets from a brace of games in March is a little artificial, but if City haven’t moved to more than a point per game by 5pm on Saturday, that would be very bad news indeed.

7. David Meyler said a while ago on Twitter that his future at City beyond this season was in doubt, but now he has willingly and wilfully let the cat out of the bag. He’s off this summer, with the club choosing not to take up their option on a further year, and he’s evidently not happy about it. Neither are we. Yes he has limitations and bad games, and he is called out for them when they occur. He also has experience, an apparent affection for the club, a natural affinity with how supporters feel and unquestionably a sensible awareness of his own contribution over the years, and it’s quite obvious that personality issues have prompted his exit beyond any footballing decision. And isn’t it remarkable how the club can decide in ample time to not take up a further year on a player’s expiring contract, but leave it far too late when they decide to offer a player a fresh deal? Meyler did well out of City and we hope he leaves with more sweet memories than pangs of bitterness.

8. The Allam family state, in absentia, at the rearranged Supporters’ Committee meeting following the one they stroppily cancelled while issuing false claims about the Supporters’ Trust making threats, that things may be about to change. Hull City will start calling themselves Hull City again, while concessions and a proper club crest will be consulted upon. Now, we’ll believe this when we see it. Anyone familiar with the Allam family knows to judge actions, not words. It’s good news if so, but them selling the club “for a pound”, “within 24 hours”, “consulting fans before changing the name” was also good news, so forgive us for not celebrating just yet.

8a. And isn’t it pathetic that they didn’t dare face up to the Supporters’ Committee in person with this? They left others to issue what they probably regard as a humiliating climbdown for them.

9. If you disagreed with the protests on the grounds of their effectiveness, events have not validated your argument. Protests against Nottingham Forest last year brought the Allams to the table, and the prospect of them continuing and escalating achieved these promises. That’s a vindication for those who took a stand during matches. And what else could have been done? They won’t listen, so there’s no point in politely speaking. And they’re unreasonable, so what’s the point in using reason? Well done to anyone who’s raised their voice against the Allams during games.

10. Even if they do implement everything they’ve promised, we’re still Allam Out.

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Things We Think We Think #293

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1. Defeat and – eventually – little disgrace at Chelsea. City didn’t help themselves, but Chelsea have spent hundreds of millions of pounds to ensure that contests such as this are acutely unequal. And the first half was as unequal as you could hope to not see. For all of City’s brave talk, the first half precisely resembled a poor Championship side away to Champions League participants. It was tough to watch.

2. Perhaps we should allow limited credit to City for ensuring that a hammering didn’t become a record-breaking rout. Chelsea, aware that Barcelona visit next, didn’t seem too bothered about adding any more goals but City did also smarten themselves up a little, and while drawing a half isn’t an achievement, it was at least an improvement. It was a desperately poor tie to have been given anyway.

3. Elsewhere, our absence from league duty didn’t cause undue harm. Four of the bottom six were in action on Saturday, and none won. City remain outside the bottom three, with a home game in hand on most of them. We may be out of the Cup, but in terms of the Championship it wasn’t a bad weekend.

4. It’d be great to build upon this by taking something from Middlesbrough tomorrow evening. The pre-season title favourites have underachieved this season, but with only five points separating them from sixth place, they won’t have given up just yet. It won’t be easy. But the assured performance at Nottingham Forest nine days ago suggests that we haven’t given up just yet. A point would do just fine, even though unwanted results elsewhere could still see us draw and drop back into the bottom three. But imagine the transformative effect that a second successive win could have…

5. Then it’s Sheffield United. The match first, then the rest. Since cuffing City 4-1 in November their season has gone a little awry, and while we’d gladly swap places with a side in eighth, they must have hoped for more at this stage. It’s therefore a presentable opportunity for three points, three we’re sure to need whatever happens at the Riverside tomorrow. City’s heads may just be above the water at the time of writing, but they’re deep and choppy waters. It’s going to be a big week on the pitch, and by 10pm on Friday we’ll have a good idea of our likely fate.

6. It’s going to be fascinating to see what happens off the pitch as well. Anger at the mismanagement of the club continues to swell, and rumours about serious and sustained protests in the forthcoming Sheffield United fixture have grown. Ehab Allam claimed to be in possession of intelligence (yes, we know…) pointing towards a whistle protest during the game, akin to the one Brighton implemented at the Goldstone Ground when City visited in the late 1990s. It’s a cracking idea from a man few ordinarily associate with understanding football fans, and it’d certainly be effective.

7. The big question is whether it should happen. It’s proven predictably divisive. And we absolutely understand why some City fans don’t really fancy it. It’s a bit confrontational, it could interrupt the night’s football – or potentially even terminate it, it’s just all a bit too much. But we’d urge those wavering supporters to look at the paucity of options now open to City fans. Talking to the Allams doesn’t work, because they refuse to listen. For years they’ve been told what we want, and they haven’t acted. You cannot reason with fundamentally unreasonable men. We can’t even trust their promises to begin a process of meaningful change, because Assem Allam repeatedly promised not to try to change City’s name without consultation, only to renege upon this pledge within days. However, we know that protests affect them. The stress balls against Forest earlier in the season dragged them to the table. So why not?

7a. There are two arguments you can summon against it, and neither really stack up. Firstly, it affects the team. Except that no evidence exists for that. Lack of investment in players affects the team; fans driven to desperation by negligent owners does not. And the second argument is that City will be harshly punished for a disrupted game. And again, that isn’t supported by facts. Coventry City, Leyton Orient, Blackpool, Blackburn Rovers and Charlton Athletic have all staged in-game protests in recent times. Can anyone remember the sanctions handed down to them? Exactly. Ehab’s suggestion of points deductions and/or games being played behind closed doors is ridiculous scaremongering designed to suppress dissent, because no precedent exists for such drastic punishments.

8. So on balance, we have no issue with protests on Friday. Something needs doing – we cannot simply let the Allam family drive this club to the wall. Those planning the protests should still tread carefully, if only for their own sake. But if they want to proceed, then so be it.

9. It’s truly astonishing that the mere prospect of supporter protest led to Ehab seriously considering not selling tickets for the game, and only yielded seven days before the fixture itself. What the hell kind of dysfunctional football club genuinely ponders not selling tickets for its own fixtures? The Allams have done a lot of incredibly stupid things, but this could have been right up there.

10. There’ll be no Amber Nectar podcast tonight – we’re going to leave it until Wednesday to incorporate the Middlesbrough fixture instead. Meanwhile, we’ve a bit of an anniversary coming up on that day as well – stand by for a trip down memory lane…