Things We Think We Think #249


1. Another away game, another defeat. The sharp-eyed will have noticed a pattern: City play a game outside of East Yorkshire, they lose, they come home promising to do better, and the whole dismal thing repeats. Look – there’s no shame in losing at Everton, who are very firmly in the second tier of Premier League sides. The problem is that previous failures on the road have left us needing results in this type of fixture. And we didn’t really get close.

2. Sure, it was only 1-0 for most of the game, and the scoreline was given an unfair tilt late in the game. But that argument falls apart when the shocking lack of shots on target is taken into account. We pose next to no threat to opposing sides on their own turf, meaning they can attack with little fear of the consequences. And, eventually, we concede.

3. The early goal was a killer. It’s always a relief to rapidly lead in a game you’re expected to win, and it soothed any nerves any Everton fans who hadn’t studied the “Away” section of the table may have felt. It wasn’t a notably brilliant move, but it was far too good for City, whose leadenfooted response was alarming.

4. That red card, eh? It’s a wrong decision, but it also has to be filed under “can maybe see why it was given”. That probably means that an appeal is doomed to fail; however, we’re doomed to fail whether Tom Huddlestone misses three games or four, should it be extended if the FA view an appeal as vexatious, so it’s worth a try.

5. Let’s try for at least one positive. After falling behind, we didn’t let the game run away from us (even if that event was deferred rather than postponed). City rarely looked like levelling, but it only takes an instant to equalise, so…oh sod it, we’re really clutching at straws here. You know it and we know it.

6. Results elsewhere were a funny lot. Palace’s streaky win was a cause for Saturday afternoon despair, but Swansea, Middlesbrough and Sunderland all remain accommodatingly toss as well. We aren’t cut off, and with two extremely winnable (and in truth, must-win) home games approaching, even this grim situation isn’t quite yet terminal. Even if the echoes of 2009/2010 are growing by the week.

7. Harry Maguire had a lot of columnists and pundits talking up his case for a place in the England squad, but unsurprisingly, he didn’t get the call from Gareth Southgate. Intriguing that Jake Livermore, of this parish until January, is back in the squad for the first time in five years, however. Notwithstanding the further propagation of the long-held belief that players, irrespective of their form, only get into major international squads after they’ve left City (36 league appearances for Spurs, one cap; seven for West Brom, one call-up; 90 for City in between, sod all), it does look an odd choice. We like Jake. We rate him as a very good midfielder, a good guy, a team player and obviously this return to the international fold takes him back to the top of a sport where he had very recently hit a horribly personal rock bottom. But we just don’t think he’s good enough.

8. If he plays in either of the games, he’ll become the first footballer to play for England after leaving City since Brian Marwood’s notorious nine-minute cameo against Saudi Arabia in 1988. If you want to fly a flag for Fraizer Campbell at this point, you carry on, but he was never ours so we don’t think he counts. We’d like Livermore to achieve this feat for his own personal redemption reasons, but sentimentality has no place in the international game and we suspect he’ll watch both matches from the bench.

9. Throughout the week, the club have been calling fans to ask if they’re interested in ongoing membership. Harmless, even proactive you may think, even if no information was divulged about the prospect of concessions for 2017/18 – except that they’ve been introducing themselves as calling from “Hull City Tigers”. Whoever’s bright idea it was to seek to pointlessly antagonise fans in this way should be sacked (or encouraged to remind his father that his promise to sell the club within 24 hours of being told to piss off by the FA is close to three years old).

10. “Crisis clubs” are nothing new in football – we’ve been one and seen plenty of others down the years (and no, you pathetic snivelling wretches at Arsenal, you aren’t even close to being one, however earnestly the self-pitying mantle of victimhood is claimed). However, they don’t get much closer to the brink than Leyton Orient, who may actually go under today. They’re already as good as relegated from the League, but their very existence is authentically threatened. We’ve long since forgiven them for the play-offs in 2001, and prefer to remember recent Cup wins there, victory in 1999 that gave impetus to the Great Escape, and for the generation before ours, that ridiculous 5-4 win in 1984. They’re an affable, inviting London club with a decent history, were screwed over by West Ham’s stadium move and appear to deserve better – we wish them well today.


Things We Think We Think #248


1. We needed that. Forget the manner in which it was achieved, just count up those three points and reflect upon a dirty job done well. The Premier League table and the predicament it places City in has been upgraded from “critical” to merely “severe”.

2. City’s 2-1 win over Swansea will not live long in the memory, but that doesn’t matter. After the pretty wretched capitulation at Leicester, coming on the back of a disappointing draw against Burnley, it’s hard to imagine that City’s aspirations of staying up could have survived anything but a victory over Swansea. Sometimes, it just needs grinding out. And that was done, to the significant credit of a side that must have felt immense and growing pressure throughout the afternoon.

3. For an agonisingly long time, it was a win that didn’t feel as if it was coming. Swansea were as limited as you’d anticipate relegation rivals on the road to be, but they were also organised and well aware that a point was as useful for them as damaging for us. For the first hour, City laboured against the Swans, and while the eventual victory makes it easy to overlook, the manager could do a lot worse than revisit this period for clues about how it could be improved upon.

4. It’s also easy to assume it’s nothing more than City playing for too long with one striker, and it’s true that the improvement upon playing with two up front was swift and considerable. However, City looked to be lining up with a 4-5-1 designed to quickly morph into a 4-3-3 – except that it was far from quick. Swansea had the better of the opening stages, and nervous or not, City simply didn’t start the game well enough.

5. At least City stayed in the game when struggling. And when Llorente went off close to half-time and Swansea realised they’d forgotten to devise a Plan B for life without the Spaniard, we grew nicely into the game. It still took the addition of a second forward though. As touched upon in the match report, strikers hunt in pairs, and even the most willing of forwards must find it dispiriting to plough a lone furrow. Hernández brightened when Niasse arrived and the combination for their goal was delicious. Silva appears not to favour a front two – but might the instant impact that pairing Hernández and Niasse had give him cause to reconsider? (post-Everton, at least…)

5a. The laughable attempts of Swansea fans on Social Media to paint City as little more than thugs trying to cripple all of their players glosses over a simpler truth. Swansea are a team of fadges.

6. The effectiveness of a front pairing was further emphasised when City reverted to one up front for the closing spell, allowing Swansea to press forward with urgency and score a preventable consolation which made it uncomfortable for the last couple of minutes of added time. It seems that this is sewn into City’s fabric, this notion that winning comfortably is anathema and somehow we have to make it hard for ourselves. Taking off attackers when in winning positions, very simply, endangers that winning position. Swansea had nothing left to lose by piling forward anyway, the last thing we needed to do was make it easy for them.

7. It’s fair to say that Kamil Grosicki had a difficult and frustrating afternoon on Saturday, epitomised by his rueful expression after slicing a free kick into touch (when City had sent everyone but him and Jakupović ahead of the ball). Still, his determination and graft are plain for all to see and highly admirable,  hopefully it will click for him soon.  Comparisons with David Beresford (Beresicki?) on the grounds of ‘lots of pace but no end product’ seem a bit harsh and premature, but that’s preferable to comparison with Lazar Marković, a man with little end product largely down to little work rate.

8. It was brilliant to see plenty of Poles in the ground on Saturday, presumably to see their compatriot. Several near us looked as though they’d thoroughly enjoyed their build-up to the game, and it was depressing to see the City stewards acting in such an unfriendly manner towards them. We hope they come back.

9. Attendances would be further buoyed if kids and seniors weren’t priced out. The courting of the city’s Polish community is admirable, but it also highlights the continued contempt for the young and old of the indigenous community. Concessions City, stop divving about and offer them again as the rules of the league you play in stipulate.

10. Much furore over Marco Silva’s comments about the state of the Circle’s greensward, having been rugby-ed up just 19 hours before a Premier League football match. From our vantage, it didn’t look too bad – however, both managers bemoaned its condition, so appearances were evidently misleading. It’s a pity the BBC chose to so callously misquote the City manager, for his complaint was about the proximity of a rugby league match to a football one, not the actual presence of it, something that naturally riled the eggchasing fraternity and meant we’ve had to spend all weekend listening to them moaning, as if the Premier League and “Super” League are somehow comparable. Nonetheless, the episode serves as a reminder that groundsharing with a rugby franchise is occasionally exasperating, and that it really isn’t on for City to have to play so soon after.


Things We Think We Think #247


1. Some weekends in a season feel pivotal. The one we’ve just suffered certainly feels that way. A rotten defeat for City combined with unhelpful results elsewhere have cut us adrift once more, and a plausible route towards safety feels difficult to discern.

2. Leicester first, where City were dismayingly poor. We even led (with a fine counter-attacking goal), but offered alarmingly little afterwards and ended up being easily beaten by a side who could’ve been dragged into the mire with a better result. Fulham aside, it was comfortably the worst performance of Marco Silva’s time in charge.

3. Gone was the cohesion, spirit and purpose that have lit up Silva’s time in charge. Instead, City looked disorganised and dispirited and were cut open with embarrassing ease far too often. It’s hard to believe we’d beaten Liverpool and Manchester United just a few weeks ago.

4. Brickbats invariably fly about after a defeat like this, and while one tries not to overreact, plenty of them are meritted. Ahmed Elmohamady may not be a natural right-back (and his selection over Elabdellaoui looks a real rick by Silva), but that doesn’t disqualify him from doing his best. Increasingly, Elmohamady is a player trading on a reputation carved out a few years ago.

5. At least he wasn’t the wretchedly milquetoast Marković. Frustratingly, we’ve actually seen what he can do; but we’ve certainly seen what he sometimes can’t be arsed doing, which is pretty much anything. It’s mystifying to see a professional footballer not want to give his all in a game of football, and not doing so isn’t good enough.

6. Eldin Jakupović can’t escape scrutiny either. David Marshall would have been questioned for conceding either of Leicester first two (though Robertson hardly helped for the second), Jakupović merits at least a quizzical eyebrow for his contribution.

7. Silva has a week to do a lot of thinking about how to react. Damningly, we’ve led in games against both Burnley and Leicester in the past nine days, and collected just one point. Add five points onto our total, and we’d be odds-on to stay up. Hell, add even three and our prospects would be so much rosier. As it is, cheap concessions and the sort of crummy away defeat we’d be raging at Mike Phelan for have left us with a mountain to climb.

8. Well, the ascent begins on Saturday, with Swansea at home. If there really is to be a Great Escape for the Premier League era, it must surely include victory in this fixture. Such a win certainly won’t be engineered with the sort of limp display we endured at Leicester. If Silva was frustrated by losing at champions-elect Chelsea, he must be boiling at what we saw at the weekend. Channelling that frustration into a positive response will be an interesting test of the new City manager.

9. It’s March, and still nothing from City about their plans for season tickets/memberships/whatever next season, while clubs with proper owners are increasingly unveiling their plans for 2017/18. Vindictively removing concessions for various groups this season has probably set City back a few years; repeating this same malicious trick could extend the damage for a generation.

10. Let’s try to end on one positive: noted elsewhere, Sam Clucas has now scored in the Conference, League 2, League 1, Championship and Premier League in successive seasons, something that can’t have been done very often in English football. He was blameless at Leicester and has impressed all season. Well done that man.


Things We Think We Think #246


1. Given our Premier League form against Burnley at home, perhaps we should just be happy that we didn’t lose on Saturday, but still a draw felt like a disappointment. Losses for Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Swansea and Bournemouth meant that a point, though useful, represented an opportunity missed against a side whose away form is stinkier than a fishmonger’s apron.

2. It could be down to enforced changes, as three players who featured at Arsenal (Lazar Marković, Evandro and Sam Clucas) were unavailable on Saturday, but this was the first time that Marco Silva’s Tigers looked unfocused and lacking in purpose. Silva himself put it down to nerves, though it’s odd that City can play at Old Trafford and the Emirates with Vince McMahon-ian swagger and then seem psychologically undone by Sean Dyche’s Clarets.

3. Dieumerci Mbokani has waited a while for a chance to show Marco Silva what he can do, and frankly he blew it. Impressive when played as a lone frontman by Mike Phelan, the Congolese striker was unavailable when Silva arrived, called up for international duty at the Africa Cup of Nations. Against Burnley though, he gave the Portuguese head coach no reason to consider him for the Leicester game whatsoever, and he may find himself pencilled in with the kids and stiffs against a Sportpesa XI.

4. Shaun Maloney is another one who hasn’t had much of a look in under Silva, but he didn’t just fail to impress given a start against Burnley, he was near anonymous. Back to bench duty for him, most likely.

5. If we’re to extract positives from Burnley – and it’s hard, given the game’s remarkably uneventful nature – it’s that City rarely looking like losing. The visitors did flay a few shots wide, but concerted pressure on the City goal materialised infrequently. Given our ability to haemorrhage both goals and points in the 2016 bit of the 2016/17 season, that’s a plus point. Even if, two days on, it still doesn’t quite feel like it.

6. Leicester, then. They’ve been in the news lately after sacking the man who created a miracle for following it up with the expected. Since undertaking the sporting equivalent of butchering Bambi and violently dismembering its cervine remains, they’ve slipped into the bottom three, a position the horrified world probably hopes they remain in. They’re next for City, and it’s a game we cannot afford to lose.

7. That’s assuming they lose tonight, while we’re recording the Amber Nectar podcast (which we’re sure you’ll be watching instead of the football itself). It’d be handy – if they start their next home game in the relegation zone having just committed heroicide, it’ll be a febrile atmosphere at the King Power stadium. One that City can hopefully capitalise upon.

8. We’ve noticed that the Hull City twitter account, while still resolutely declining to use the club’s name as per the instructions of the owner’s dismal offspring, has become a little more interactive of late. We congratulate them on this and for finally realising that the owner’s view of City fans as “militant hooligans” is slanderous rubbish – however, our query about the restoration of concessions next season went ominously unanswered. It’s getting close to the point at which clubs begin to annouce their pricing for the following campaign, and you’d have to be an idiot of unfathomable proportions to look at the membership scheme and conclude anything other than that it’s been an act of colossal, avoidable self-harm. So why aren’t the club eagerly promising to ditch it and end the ludicrous practice of punishing seniors, the disabled and the next generation? Unless…

9. Paul Merson has now, unbelievably, suggested that Leicester should chase Marco Silva up as their new manager. Where do you begin? In Merson’s world a few weeks back, Silva was a know-nowt foreigner who had no place taking a job that was tailor-made for the numerous out-of-work English coaches (who, at the time if you remember, included that well known English gent Thierry Henry) that deserved an opportunity at a Premier League club despite their various previous failings. Now, apparently, Silva is worthy of being headhunted by the reigning Premier League champions. Just shut your face Merson, you are clearly as thick and entirely unaware of yourself as you come across.

10. Concessions, City, will achieve more than five games for the price of four offers, and make you Premier League rules compliant.


Things We Think We Think #245


1. Disappointment at Arsenal – but that we’re disappointed at all to lose at Arsenal is perhaps a sign of progress. We’ll touch upon Mark Clattenburg’s afternoon shortly, but let’s not let a referee’s performance wholly overshadow City’s, as Marco Silva and his squad can influence only the latter.

2. City, again, played well. The side kept a pleasing shape and discipline throughout the match, rarely looking anything but compact and organised. The greatest threat to our goal in the first half came from peculiar acts of self-harm when in possession in our own half, a combination of the skiddy surface and unusual hesitancy frequently coughing up the ball. That aside, the Tigers looked every bit a side that’s strongly improving, and but for some more attentive officiating and greater incision with the final ball, a point could have been ours.

3. Mark Clattenburg had a game he won’t forget in a hurry, but we’re not inclined to go with the popular view on a few points when the referee’s performance is discussed. Two of our number are qualified referees, even if we’ve not taken up whistles in some time, and though it’s not easy to put club loyalty to one side, we are coming at this from a Laws of the game standpoint…

4. Did Alexis Sanchez handle the ball? Yes he did, replays are conclusive. But was it handball? Hmm. That’s a whole other animal. Some people think the ball striking an arm or hand automatically means handball, but Law 12 states unequivocally that “Handling the ball involves a deliberate act of a player making contact with the ball with the hand or arm.”

It goes on to say:

The following must be considered:

  •  the movement of the hand towards the ball (not the ball towards the hand)
  •  the distance between the opponent and the ball (unexpected ball)
  •   the position of the hand does not necessarily mean that there is an infringement

You’ll notice that notions of ‘unnatural position of the arm’ have been removed from the 2016/17 update of the Laws. That was always a nebulous term that caused more confusion than it cleared up, it isn’t unnatural after all for a player to have his arms away from the body or even high as he runs, makes a shot or stretches to make a tackle. In the case of Sanchez, he was in an odd pose as he stretched to shoot, his arms were raised to provide balance as he shot. The shot struck Jakupović and rebounded on to Sanchez’ hand, changed direction and went in. The ball moved towards the hand rather than the hand to the ball, Sanchez’s hand was where it was as he tried to balance following through from a shot, and although slow motion replays distort the fact, this all happened in a split second, it seems unlikely that Sanchez had the time to process and physically respond to this in such an infinitesimal period of time. Not impossible, he could have chosen to use his hand, but it seems unlikely. Now it seems unjust that the ball can go in off a body part whose use is prohibited by outfield players, but the focus of the letter of the law is deliberateness of action, and because of that we feel the goal should stand.

5. This makes the referee’s half-time apology all the more strange. We aren’t accustomed to mid-match expressions of remorse when they’re patently vindicated, let alone when sufficient doubt exists as to excuse an official. Perhaps it was an attempt at mitigating City’s displeasure. If so, it failed spectacularly when a far more obvious decision was made incorrectly. There’s an argument for dismissing Theo Walcott when his pathetic tantrum saw a ball hurled at a linesman, though we’d lean more towards an early bedtime with no reading. However, there exists no plausible reason not to send Kieran Gibbs off for an obvious, deliberate denial of a goalscoring opportunity for Lazar Marković. It wasn’t even remotely close to being contentious.

5a. And no, we don’t buy deliberate bias; referees are proud, professional people whose careers depend upon accuracy. However, the sheer scale of the error does hint at other things, which are still troubling. Does he not know the laws? No, clearly he does. Was the referee just not paying attention? Lazy. Take a week off. Was he afraid of giving a red card against a Big Club? Now we could be onto something. And this isn’t consciously favouring one side either. Referees are an admirable bunch, but they’re also human, and they know at the back of their minds that wrongly issuing major punishment against one of the Sky Sports Mega Clubs will guarantee days of media opprobrium and thunderous, libellous disapproval from their managers, none of which will be adequately punished by the spineless authorities. No such fate awaits if you similarly err against little old Hull City. How could that knowledge, lodged in the subconscious of every official, not occasionally influence and explain a ridiculous decision favouring the favoured?

6. That we’re all still discussing some of Mr Clattenburg’s decisions two days later demonstrates one thing: video referees may cut down upon some of the more obvious howlers, but whatever their merits, they’ll never get everything correct to the satisfaction of everyone. Football’s just too messy, too imperfect for that. And therein lies its charm.

7. It’s often easier for us as partisans to scapegoat the referee than to acknowledge the failures of our heroes. It’s worth pointing out that had Oumar Niasse better anticipated the magnificent run of Lazar Marković in the first half, and had Eldin Jakupović not embarked upon an absurd adventure outside his box leading to the dismissal of Sam Clucas and a penalty for Arsenal, City could have taken something from the trip to the Emirates Stadium despite the hand of Sanchez shenanigans.

8. It was good to see Ahmed Elmohamady back in City colours, and now we have an actual right back in our squad, fit, playing and capable, maybe there’s a big opportunity for our long-serving Egyptian to restore his reputation as a fine deliverer from wide midfield of quality service and not worry as much, if at all, about that unglamorous defending lark. An in-form, focussed Elmohamady, now a player of great experience, is still a very good thing to have in our squad.

9. City now have a fortnight off to recuperate before a string of “winnable” fixtures. However, we thought the same shortly after losing to Chelsea in October – that, having emerged from a series of difficult games, we could gather points against the lesser lights. And conspicuously failed. A repeat of that ruinous autumn form will surely relegate us. A repeat of our recent form against the big lads will see us safe. Lots of big games await, and we enter them in significantly better condition that some of our relegation rivals. We can’t wait. Sort of.

10. May we offer up a better ode to Harry Maguire than ‘Arry! ‘Arry!’? How about an appropriation of the Will Grigg song, going…”Harry Maguire! Theo Walcott’s terrified…”


Things We Think We Think #244


1. A week ago, we wistfully sighed at the triumph that a point from Manchester United, Liverpool or Arsenal would be, doubting that even that modest total could be met. Get ye gone, pessimism! Marco Silva is in charge, and there are shades of 2008’s “anything’s possible” mindset bubbling to the surface.

2. Manchester United first. Not unlike our other recent trip to Old Trafford, we went hoping for a point but more realistically aiming to keep it close. Instead, City fought tenaciously enough to pinch a draw, and came desperately close to even stealing what would have been a first win at that ground since 1952. And thoroughly merited it was too, with City playing with a confidence that belied our lowly league status.

3. We can scarcely imagine the chaos that would’ve ensued if Lazar Marković’s cute shot had struck David de Gea’s post another inch further along. In contrast to some visits to the “big clubs”, the away end was largely free of tourists and their revolting half-scarves, and instead the atmosphere was a good one and we all richly enjoyed the performance. But if only Marković had fractionally adjusted his shot…or Hernández had controlled that high ball when twenty yards clear…

3a. Of course, the embittered halfwits at Old Trafford would probably have lodged a High Court injunction striking the game from the records. Jose Mourinho is a nasty specimen whose repellent bullying attitude increasingly render him yesterday’s man, while being chided for playing to the cameras by Zlatan Ibrahimović is simply beyond parody. In case you’re wondering, you pair of dildos, it made the result even sweeter.

4. As it was, we didn’t have long to wait for bedlam in the stands while socking it to one of the Sky Sports Super Clubs. Liverpool may have been wobbling, and our resurrection is clear, but we still started as distant underdogs against a side that panned us 5-1 earlier in the season. This could scarcely have been different. Sure, the statistics may record that Liverpool had more possession, shots, corners and so on – but they looked fretful throughout, whereas City applied themselves with steely resolve. This is a side that really knows what it’s doing and calmly does it. And when Oumar Niasse unflinchingly stroked the game’s second goal past the Liverpool keeper to win the game, we had our moment of Tiger Mayhem.

5. There’s such a long way to go that this cannot be regarded as anything other than the start of things. We remain in the bottom three, and it’s going to take something remarkable at Arsenal to alter that next weekend. What’s clear is that Marco Silva is restoring confidence to a side that (and we really must remember this) was playing well under Mike Phelan, but rarely seemed to believe it could finish sides off. Whatever he’s doing, he needs to continue it.

6. City’s relegation in 2015 should forever dispel the myth that you can ‘win’ the January transfer window, but nonetheless there is good reason to be pleased with the recruitment done on Marco Silva’s behalf. Polish winger Kamil Grosicki seems a particularly exciting signing, giving us width and a ready made dead ball specialist to replace the departing Snodgrass. Grosicki seems genuinely excited to be a City player too, rather than just being here to rehabilitate a faltering career.

7. That might sound sneery, as City have signed a few players on loan who have essentially failed with their parent club (Niasse with Everton, Marković with Liverpool, Ranocchia with Internazionale), but no such sneer is intended. On the contrary Marco Silva’s plan of mobilising a mob of misfits is admirable (possibly inspired), and the vast improvement we’ve seen in David Meyler and likely 2017 Ballon D’or nominee Tom Huddlestone under Silva is testament to his ability to coach and improve players regardless of what has gone before. Sign one such player and the destabilising impact of Hatem Ben Arfa is a possibility, sign three or four and the odds of one or more being a success dramatically improves, and lessens the disruption if one fails miserably.

7a. City apparently missed out on Guingamp midfielder Yannis Salibur because they ‘ran out of time’. The transfer window is only open for one day after all. What’s that? It isn’t? Oh!

8. City fans have got so used to a lack of meaningful communication from either of the Allams that some have responded to the club’s ‘Transfer Window Review with Ehab Allam” with delirious glee. Regular meaningful communication is a MINIMUM REQUIREMENT of a chairman, it should not be considered an unexpected bonus or anything particularly laudable, even if the latest attempt is a positive step.

9. The Allams just don’t do admissions of personal culpability do they? Ehab attempted to pin the ‘permanent’ hiring of Mike Phelan (and indeed the overlooking of Marco Silva in the summer) on “three potential buyers” as if he had no input. With those deals no longer pursued (they lost interest as City dropped down the table, Ehab says; his standing up one of the bidders, Peter Grieve, had no impact) Ehab took positive, decisive action to bring Silva in. Nicely staged Ehab, of course you’ll come across well when there are no probing or challenging questions on the table. It’s way past time for you to address the Premier League rulebreaking on lack of concessions and the laughable marketing mess caused by using different club names on different media platforms.

10. Hard luck to Ahmed Elmohamady, who last night featured in the Egypt side that lost the final of the African Cup of Nations. He’s going to find a lot’s changed here when he returns to East Yorkshire…


Things We Think We Think #243


1. One week, two Cup games, two exits – and two very different ways of departing knockout competitions. Manchester United first, where City were magnificent in victory on the night, and although it wasn’t enough to make the League Cup final, it was still as impressive as anything we’ve seen this season.

2. All the more so for a highly unexpected team selection. It smacked a little of tossing the tie away and keeping our powder dry for the league, however the attitude on show suggested precisely the opposite. In the end, even if it never quite felt as though the miracle of qualification was on, City outplayed their illustrious guests and thoroughly merited a first win over them in four decades. Terrific stuff, and a richly enjoyable League Cup run came to an inspiring end.

3. Not that many were inspired to attend. To see the whole of the upper West Stand shut and barely 13,000 City fans in attendance was as shocking an indictment of the Allam family’s poison as you could wish to see.

4. Three days later came an exit from English football’s premier cup competition, and if we left its less distinguished counterpart with heads held high, no such feeling was possible at Fulham. City were disjointed, disorganised and worst of all, disinterested in crashing to a wretched 4-1 defeat at Craven Cottage. There are no positives to take, and it’s a stark reminder that Marco Silva has an epic task in making City competitive this season.

5. Which brings us back to the ghastly, spiteful, hateful Allam family, who seem to regard any bid of £10m from any club for any of our players as an automatic prompt to cash in and instruct the manager to replace them with an inferior loan. “We aren’t a selling club”, dribbled Ehab. He must think we’re as stupid as his classmates recall him to be.

6. Robert Snodgrass was a fine player for City, one whom we almost certainly didn’t see the best of thanks to his elongated spell on the sidelines after that horrific injury suffered on the opening day of 2014/15. Eventually we did get to witness some marvellous free kicks and some generally incisive displays from an international footballer who rightly felt he deserved better than a last-ditch auto-extension on his contract from a regime who have form for not adopting known employment practices for key senior players. We wish Snodgrass well at West Ham United, without obviously wishing any wellness towards West Ham United.

7. There has been some criticism of Snodgrass for not apparently showing enough loyalty to City after they nurtured him back to health while paying his not insubstantial wages over 15 months. As a riposte, we’d say that a) being seriously injured was not his fault; b) highly-paid footballers are just as likely to be injured as those on the breadline; c) he was never slow in thanking the club and the supporters for believing in him before and upon his return; d) he was generally brilliant this season; e) the quickness with which the club accepted the £10m offer suggested they could see life without him quite readily; and f) his slightly outspoken interviews in the early part of the season (specifically on the tiny number of players in the squad) suggests that he didn’t like nor trust nor rate the Allams and wanted to carry out his professional duties with a club that knew its gluteal muscles from its lateral epicondyle. Not that West Ham is that club, of course – a world of other problems exist there – but at least it understands that having some footballers on the payroll of a football club is rather crucial.

8. Burnley seem now close to getting Andy Robertson off us. Only a simpleton (morning, Ehab) would endorse such a deal and if he goes, that’s £30m worth of assets the owners have cashed in on without spending a bean on credible, proven replacements. Marco Silva has stated that up to four players are coming in before the deadline – but “up to four” can be defined as anything from four down to none whatsoever.

9. Manchester United on Wednesday, again. Then Liverpool at home. Then Arsenal… and then the fight to stay in the Premier League actually starts. Even a point from the next nine available would be regarded as a bonus, especially as we seem to be close to picking players barely on solids thanks to our destructive transfer policy.

10. Ryan Mason has been released from hospital and this is something from which we can take good cheer. The road to his full recovery starts here and we hope it is speedy and not uncomfortable.


Things We Think We Think #242


1. Defeat at Chelsea, and indeed football itself, seems inconsequential when a player suffers a potentially life threatening injury. We wish Ryan Mason a speedy recovery.

2. Discussing the consequence of games, though, is what we’re about, so… City played very well at Stamford Bridge, and can feel they deserved more than the 2-0 defeat they left with. A penalty kick, for the clear foul in the box on Abel Hernández  in the second half, might have changed the complexion of the game considerably, but criminally, one was not awarded.

3. There’s no guarantee City would have scored the penalty, or gone on to claim anything from the game if they had. We cannot state definitively that Mr Swarbrick’s error – or perhaps that of his dithering linesman – cost us a point. However, it’s gravely unfair that City weren’t given the opportunity to establish parity from the penalty spot, and the suspicion that referees subconsciously find it easier to give certain teams certain decisions lingers on.

4. But hey, City! Not many sides will leave Stamford Bridge having dominated second half possession (60-40%!), and even if the pattern of playing-terrifically-in-defeat has the potential to grow as tiresome as it is costly, it’s all a far cry from the grim surrender at Middlesbrough, which is probably our last truly poor ninety minutes. City, weirdly given the league table, are not off form. New arrivals Niasse, Elabdellaoui, and Evandro look both assured and hungry, which is a good sign. There’s faint hope yet.

5. So now we can put the Premier League to one side again and turn our attention to the cups. That there are Valentines cards in the shops and we are still in both major domestic knockout competitions is quite an achievement, and of course for the League Cup, unique. That said, it feels likely that our exit at the semi-final stage will be rubberstamped later this week.

6. It isn’t pessimism, and we’d obviously love to be proved wrong (we’d go out on an all-week bender if we were) but to be 2-0 down to Manchester United with 90 minutes to come of a two-legged semi-final feels like just too wide a canyon to cross. We’d need to score three times, not concede a goal, play a seriously good, expensively-assembled and well-drilled side off the park while relying on them to be depleted, distracted, complacent, affected by ill-discipline or injury, or all of the above. If they score once, we have to get four. It isn’t going to happen………. is it?

7. Then we head to Fulham, one of football’s more enjoyable awaydays, for a badly scheduled lunchtime FA Cup tie on Sunday. The day of the week can’t be helped, due to our unusual Thursday appointment in the other competition, but we suspect that the number of City supporters who will make the journey will be wildly reduced by the decision to hold the game before the credits to Weekend World (that’s still on TV on Sundays, isn’t it?) have rolled. The fixture itself allows an opportunity for further progress in a cup and a chance to reacquaint with Sone Aluko and Tom Cairney, both of whom have shared their warm memories of being City players.

8. We wish Jake Livermore well at West Bromwich Albion. He has gone to a likeable club, although we only half-jokingly warn him that he may spend a year playing at left back before Tony Pulis decides he isn’t what he wanted and sells him to Derby County. From a City point of view, £10m is good dough, so long as it is re-invested as Marco Silva identifies a permanent replacement, a need made more urgent by Mason’s awful injury.

8a. The departure of Robert Snodgrass now seems an inevitability. A wholly avoidable inevitability had we treated the player with respect and offered him a new deal before he could field offers from other clubs. Will the gap left by his departure be plugged with loan signing putty as the loss of Livermore has? Replacing good players with short term loan signings seems very near sighted.

9. It’s clear from reading Ehab Allam’s inanity in the Yorkshire Post last week that he still hasn’t learnt a thing. The fans are now apparently to blame for the lack of takeover, with a claim that potential new owners have asked if City supporters dislike foreign owners when observing the protests and noting the general mood around the place. We don’t believe any of the individuals who entered talks with the Allams said anything of the kind, and that Ehab is yet again presenting ‘alternative facts’ in order to avoid acknowledging where the problems truly lie: with himself, his family and their wretched, spiteful ways.

10. Pity the poor sap who gets the Customer Relationship Executive job currently being advertised by Hull City Tigers Limited. The job ad states: “The role will also help deliver the membership scheme to retain and develop the supporter base.” Talk about an impossible task.


Things We Think We Think #241


1. Marco Silva’s has had his first full week in charge of the Tigers, and whisper it quietly – very quietly indeed – but the opening signs are broadly positive. It’s crazily early to offer any sort of definitive judgement on the new City manager, and we won’t make any attempt to extrapolate beyond the immediate future, but nonetheless we’re impressed.

2. Unfortunately, his second game in charge was one that’s probably seen our faint dreams of League Cup glory and subsequent European exploration ended. Overcoming Manchester United over two legs was always a huge long shot, and while City’s 2-0 defeat at Old Trafford hasn’t absolutely settled the tie, it’s close to impossible to believe we’ll be two goals or more better than them in the return leg.

3. However, if the tie is effectively over and our dreams of major silverware have ended at the semi-final stage, then what remains is the memory of a sterling effort and the encouragement it provides. City defending manfully throughout to restrict a side assembled at preposterous expense to relatively few chances. Not much was created up front, unsurprisingly, but for a squad as thin and inexperienced as ours to keep it to 2-0, and be slightly unfortunate even to suffer that, was a superb achievement.

4. If that was the backs-to-the-wall against-all-odds match, then four days later came an altogether different test for Sr Silva. Bournemouth are an enormously admirable side, and even if they’ve experiencing a tick down in form they’re in a position we can only dream of. Nonetheless, this fell firmly into the “really could to do be winning” category. And we won it, deservedly, with a bit to spare and even the faintest hint of a swagger.

5. And that despite making it hard for ourselves too. Harry Maguire’s boneheaded challenge in the second minute could’ve been fatal for our chances, and had Bournemouth extended themselves properly and got a second while City were still coming to terms with a new formation and an early concession, it’d probably have been yet another defeat. However, as the first half wore on City cleared their heads and fought their way back.

6. Some of the play was far better than you’d expect from a side that started the day at the bottom of the table. We’ve seen that before, of course – the luckless Mike Phelan had City playing some attractive stuff prior to his dismissal, but this time there was a cutting edge. In other words, there was an Abel Hernández. His second goal was exactly the sort of predatory finish you can’t easily teach. Shifting the ball half a yard and instantly swiping it past an unsighted, uncomprehending keeper, it’s instinctive brilliance, and how we’ve missed it.

7. However, the hero of the hour may be Tom Huddlestone. He’s frequently frustrated, and a whiff of underachievement has stalked his time here, but he’s playing the finest football of his City career. He’s involving himself far further forward, his passing is not only sumptuously attractive but defence-splitting and he’s notably upped his workrate. In the past month, he’s become a joy to watch and an essential player. If he can maintain this level of performance, then maybe, just maybe…

8. No! Enough. The odds remain stacked against City, and the strong probability of four defeats from our next four games will quickly provide both a reality check and also a lot of late-season work to avoid relegation. We’re probably still going down. But we’re going down fighting, and that’s better than nothing.

9. Two new players – striker Oumar Niasse and midfielder Evandro – have arrived, and we welcome them warmly. We’re pleased to note that a right back appears to be next on his wish list. The sooner the better please, patrão.

10. Oliver Holt, one of the country’s most respected sports journalists, dedicated his entire Mail On Sunday column at the weekend to the situation at City, paying a visit to the UK City of Culture to talk to supporters. It’s a must-read and, while seeing everything we have to contend with via the toxic Allam regime in black and white isn’t an uplifting read, at least someone truly influential has put it all down for the national footballing consumer to digest. We hope the Allams read it, hang their heads in shame and change their attitudes overnight. But then still sell up very quickly.


Things We Think We Think #240


1. An unfathomable amount has happened since we last wrote one of these, most of it in the past week. It’s hard to know where to start: Mike Phelan’s dismissal, the appointment of a largely unknown foreign coach, Cup progress and the first ever organised boycott of a City home game. If stability is one of the key ingredients of footballing success, City are sorely lacking it.

2. Let’s start with the sacking of Mike Phelan six days ago. Taken in isolation, there’s a real stench of shabbiness about it. Phelan did a job few others would have taken on, and kept the show if not quite wholly on the road, then at least mostly out of the steep ditches on either side. We’re bottom, but we’re not as hopelessly adrift as Ehab’s summer sabotage might have left us, and we’re League Cup semi-finalists.

3. It’s easy to pick holes in what Phelan did, and he was far from perfect – sometimes too negative, erratic in the deployment of personnel and tactically limited. Nonetheless, he kept our miserably thin squad together, won more games than we expected and actually had City playing some attractive football towards the end. His status as a decent and respected football man will hopefully not suffer from his experience with the Allam family, we thank him for doing his best and wish him well for the future.

4. Marco Silva then. We are supposed to believe that Ehab Allam has suddenly become massively knowledgeable about football and wanted a manager, sorry head coach, with a sports science background (which is odd, because the owners had a purge of sports science staff a few years ago, deeming them a waste of money). It has been suggested that the appointment was made on the suggestion of a party interested in buying the club, but whether that’s the case or not, it seems implausible that Ehab identified Silva as a candidate by himself.

5. Nonetheless, Silva’s CV is impressive: Near miraculous achievements with a small club (Estoril) followed by delivering the first silverware in a while to a well known club (Sporting Lisbon) and a league championship in another country (Olympiacos). He showed himself to be very articulate in his first club interview and called us Hull City several times for good measure. His appointment has breathed new life into the club, and we wish him the best of luck as a Premier League manager and in dealing with the buffoon(s) currently running the club.

6. It was quite unfortunate for Silva’s first game in charge to coincide with an organised boycott. Some opportunists claimed that boycotting the game was the action of fans who ‘don’t have the club at heart’, which is quite disingenuous. The boycott was never, ever about the club’s manager, its players or league position, but rather to highlight malcontent with the owners, something that hadn’t previously penetrated the football supporting collective consciousness on a national level. We would argue that wanting rid of the Allams is absolutely the default position of those who truly have the club at heart.

7. The attendance was 6,608. That’s essentially 10,000 down on when we faced Swansea in the League Cup last season, suggesting the boycott was a ‘success’. No one should be celebrating it as such though, that’s we’ve gotten to this point is a cause for great sadness.

8. Ehab Allam thinks ‘two or three’ signings will be enough to save Hull City’s Premier League status, so ahead of the deals being done we look forward to welcoming Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Robert Lewandowski to the Circle very soon.

9. The prospect of Robert Snodgrass leaving before the month is out is a genuine concern, even after the club activated a contract extension without attempting to negotiate a proper, long term deal. West Ham’s bid of £3m might seem insulting, but frankly City have insulted the player more by leaving it until just days before he was permitted to field free agency offers before indicating we’d maybe like to retain him. Well run clubs tie up players they want to keep a year (sometimes more) before their current deal expires, but we are not a well run club, which may encourage Snodgrass, who has been at the heart of anything and everything good that has happened this season, to take his chances elsewhere. If Snodgrass has his head turned by West Ham’s interest, then a lowball first offer puts them in a good position to get him for less than his true worth.

10. We won’t be podcasting tonight – we boycotted Swansea and we can’t therefore offer a reliable view of the game.