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Things We Think We Think #245

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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…”

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Things We Think We Think #244

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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…

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Things We Think We Think #243

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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.

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Things We Think We Think #242

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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.

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Things We Think We Think #241

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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.

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Things We Think We Think #240

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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.

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Things We Think We Think #239

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1. There’s no fun in losing, even if the game that resulted in defeat was highly enjoyable and exciting. That said, if we’re to lose games (and there is a pretty good chance we’ll lose a few more between now and May) then it’s better to lose as we did at West Ham, than it was at Middlesbrough. Since City meekly lost beside the River Tees, seemingly resigned to the fate of relegation, the Tigers have shown some fight, some pride, some enterprise and they’ve made us feel a stirring of pride in them as a consequence, even if we’ve picked up just the solitary point out of the nine on offer.

2. City were nothing short of magnificent at the oddly rebranded Olympic Stadium. They took the game to the hosts, fashioned several goalscoring chances and pretty much dominated proceedings. Only some fractionally errant shooting, which saw the ball strike the uprights rather than the netting, saw us come away without the point(s) we we so richly deserved.

3. A trio of young players, Harry Maguire, Andy Robertson and Sam Clucas were a revelation against West Ham. The post-Boro transformation of Clucas, no longer shackled by solely defensive duties, has been rewarding to witness.

4. West Ham remain a joyless club, with charm-free supporters, now viewing their football in a purpose-built, state-funded stadium, albeit one with a purpose that wasn’t and never will be football. Still, they won the World Cup, something of which they obviously seldom choose to remind us, and so probably deserve a taxpayer-funded luxury home, don’t they? Leyton Orient? Nah, you don’t count. And, to top it all, the spectacularly overhyped Mark Noble, beloved of the media but rightly ignored by England managers and disliked by City fans for being so crap on loan with us, scored the only goal. We were irritated by his being described by one TV commentator as “ever-reliable”, given that he had earlier headed the ball, unchallenged and entirely panic-stricken, against the frame of his own goal. Not the actions of someone “ever-reliable”. Had he ever been allowed within dashing distance of an England cap and done that on duty for his country, you can imagine it would have been easier to just blame John Stones instead.

5. Defeat at Tottenham earlier in the week was easier to bear, just because it was, well, Tottenham. They’re as a good a side as West Ham are not. Our last four league meetings at White Hart Lane have ended 0-0, 1-0, 2-0 and now 3-0. The only reason we don’t bank on there being a 4-0 reversal next time we play them is because we don’t actually know when that will be, and it won’t be in the same stadium anyway.

6. For all that, at 1-0 down there was that moment when Jake Livermore should have scored. He had two chances, one as a result of the other, and couldn’t put either of them away. Even though Jake’s job isn’t to score goals, and we’d have probably had to endure the slightly sick-making spectacle of his refusing to celebrate the goal had it gone in, he still should have stuck it away. That a hitherto complacent Spurs then went up the other end and secured the points in minutes was as inevitable as it was disheartening.

7. The holiday period. Home games against Manchester City and Everton, then the seasonal highlight of a trip to West Brom. Nine points? Stop it. Seven, six, five, four? Optimistic. Three? A start. None? Entirely possible.

8. The Hull City Supporters’ Trust’s call for a boycott of the Swansea FA Cup game is a sad but necessary step. It’s upsetting that the club is being wilfully mismanaged to the extent at which an organisation dedicated to encouraging support of the club feels it must advocate the withdrawal of that support for one game, and given that this has never been done for a home fixture before, a stark reminder of just how calamitous the Allams’ misrule is becoming.

9. So, we endorse the call for a boycott, and will not be attending. However, this must – MUST – become something that unites rather than divides, even if you choose to attend. And that is absolutely your right, incidentally. Anyone criticising a fellow City fan who wishes to go is unwise to do so. You may be on a run of games, or flying home as a special occasion, or just enjoy your Saturday afternoon at the football too much to give it up. Fair enough. But while we’ve never boycotted a City home game before, we HAVE given an away game a miss: Huddersfield, and Bubblegate, in Spring 2013. City fans left the away end deserted, and West Yorkshire Police have never since attempting a similar criminalisation of football fans. This boycott is merely a means to an end rather than the end itself, but by leaving the ground empty it’s the opportunity to make a clear point: that if the Allam family does not sell this club to someone who will run it properly, this is what our future could look like.

10. The American essayist Waldo Emerson’s once wrote: “Shallow men believe in luck, believe in circumstances: it was somebody’s name, or he happened to be there at the right time, or it was so then, and another day it would have been otherwise. Strong men believe in cause and effect.” If we’re to believe in cause and effect, guess who we’d ultimately blame for City being bottom of the league?

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Things We Think We Think #238

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1. After the dull mediocrity served up at Middlesbrough…where did THAT come from? Six goals equally shared, terrific football from City, heart, desire and skill – it all served up to make Saturday’s 3-3 draw with Crystal Palace the most uplifting afternoon at the Circle in months.

2. That was despite not winning, too. That late equaliser could return to hurt us, assuming we manage to come anywhere near to avoiding relegation, but it still doesn’t feel much like two points dropped – rather, it feels like one gained, in scintillating circumstances amid a plethora of positives. It was wonderful to see City set up to attack and playing in the way they did. Never mind the wider picture, this was a superbly entertaining football match.

3. Adama Diomandé was magnificent. Charged with leading the line in the complete absence of fellow forwards, he did brilliantly, with a performance of character, determination and no little skill. Tom Huddlestone was awarded the official man of the match, and he did indeed have a influential afternoon, but Diomandé was a revelation. After almost single-handedly transforming the West Brom game sixteen days ago, he commanded this one throughout. A hugely impressive display.

4. Huddlestone, afforded space by a ragged Crystal Palace side, dictated the pace of the game and produced a silken display of passing that was all the better for occurring closer to the visitors’ penalty area than ours, rendering it as effective as it was aesthetically pleasing. He’s probably secured a starting berth over Christmas.

5. Mike Phelan had attracted warranted criticism over recent weeks, but it was refreshing to see him rectify recent errors by changing both personnel, formation and attitude. 3-5-2 worked splendidly, the reversion to many of the men who got us off to a flying start this season was vindicated and the positivity was a delight.

6. As was the character shown after going 2-1 down.

7. We have to be realistic, relegation is still a distinct possibility, but if it comes it will be much easier to stomach if City battle the drop with positivity displayed over 90 minutes in games, as it was on Saturday, rather than only going for it for 45 minutes as we’ve done in previous home games. The Southampton and West Brom games yielded good results, but the Tigers were still needlessly submissive for a whole half in both. You can’t ease into a street fight, and avoiding relegation will need us to cease being timid. Positivity pays off.

8. But…Robert Snodgrass. That was an ugly piece of cheating, and even deflecting things towards Zaha and Palace in general, who’ve been notably collectively unsteady on their feet for a few years now is only a whatabouting distraction. It was particularly boneheaded given that he’d just been rightly cautioned – had City been reduced to ten men inside half an hour, as ought to have occurred, none of the stuff we’ve enthused about above would have happened. Don’t do it again, please. There are kids watching who’ll try this on a Sunday morning, and remember that you play for Hull City – it’s supposedly okay for the Sky Sports Super Clubs (or inexplicably fashionable London teams) to do it, but given the response it’s had, your every tumble from now on had better be legitimate.

9. Brian Bulless was born and raised in Hull, played more than 350 senior games for Hull City, didn’t play for anyone else, stayed in the city all his life and supported the club he served so magnificently until the day he passed away, earlier this week. He supported the ‘CITY TILL WE DIE’ campaign with a photograph of himself holding one of the scarves emblazoned with the mantra and epitomised the literal meaning of the phrase that fans uphold so readily in a way no member of the Allam family could ever begin to understand. The tribute to him pre-match on Saturday was superb and while we again extend our sympathies to his family, we feel his is the kind of long life that should principally be celebrated.

10. Our admiration for John Oxley, who paid £2,500 to engineer an opportunity to protest on the pitch at the Allams’ savage, venal destruction of our future support, is limitless. We hope he got his banner back, we hope (though don’t expect) City don’t ban him and trust he feels his money was well spent. He shouldn’t have to buy himself another beer this year.

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Things We Think We Think #237

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1. God, what a dreadful display that was at Middlesbrough. The negativity that has surrounded City as a club of late took full hold of the team, with the first shot on target coming in injury time, a multitude of misplaced passes, a single goal conceded from a set-piece and a general absence of interest that bordered on the unprofessional.

2. Why does Mike Phelan persist with the 4-4-2 that evidently does not work? He has two attack-minded wide players who simply cannot make the contributions they are geared to make when playing deep and whose defensive frailties are exposed in the current formation. He has enough centre backs and central midfielders to account for the spaces in the middle of the park, and Robert Snodgrass can play behind whoever our fit striker happens to be.

3. That we lost to a hopelessly marked header from a corner was disgraceful. That the header in question was butted in by the foppish-haired, knuckle-kissing showpony Gastón Ramírez was beyond words. There was more wrong that just conceding from a set piece (again!) of course, Middlesbrough, with just a point more than us before kick off, looked superior in every way, their possession was purposeful, their movement quick and insightful, their creation of shooting chances was clinical even if the final effort on goal was not. This is Middlesbrough we’re talking about by the way, not Real frigging Madrid, but the way we stand and watch in a servile manner as teams enjoy long periods of unchallenged possession is really, really dispiriting.

4. We’re at peace with blaming everything on the Allams as, ultimately, they are culpable for everything that is cancerous within our club. They appointed Phelan (eventually) and starved him of proper support, both emotionally and financially, and their bullying, cowardly, oppressive, spiteful, selfish ways have seeped into all crucial aspects of the club. We can now imagine them allowing the situation to fester even more, especially if the takeover deadline of January passes without a sale agreed. There is nothing, literally nothing, within the club that says we have any kind of future worth looking forward to.

5. However. Pointing a finger at the ultimate cause for the toxic miasma emanating from the shambling zombie of a football club does not mean that Mike Phelan is himself exempt from blame. His stubborn persistence with woeful tactical choices, and then saying he thought it was all going to plan before conceding, when it clearly wasn’t, is rapidly depleting any good goodwill he gained when earning the (caretaker) manager of the month award.

6. The FA Cup draw. Swansea, the only team in the Premier League currently worse than us, at home? An unfathomably crap tie, that. The first four-figure crowd at the Circle in aeons awaits. And yet, having popped out of the hat just under an hour before kick off at the Riverside, it was still the highlight of City’s day. That’s how bad it was. It’s why we firmly believe it must be boycotted, because a message must be sent out that what’s been done to this football club is wrong, and will be fought. It could easily be arranged – after all, just who on earth is going to want to go and see it? We’ll probably take a lead from the Supporters’ Trust – but talk of match boycotts won’t go away, and if we’re going to do it, this is the match.

7. The received wisdom is that a fish rots from its head. We shan’t be bestowing upon the Allam family the honour of cranial analogy, and beside which, as good little Biology students we recall that piscine decomposition begins in the guts. That’s more satisfyingly appropriate. Think of that hateful family more as a foul, vestigial organ of the viscera, whose only purpose is to spread decay and rottenness. Then think carefully about how to extract that organ without killing the host.

8. Yes, there’s progress into the last four of the League Cup. This is to be celebrated for what it is – a club first. It was done in the hardest way possible, of course, on penalties, with ten men, against a side who were evidently better than us despite being a division lower, in front of a crowd suspiciously totted up by the faulty abacus in the accounts office. Yes, celebrate it. Then look at the semi-final draw – Manchester United, two legs, the first at Old Trafford. Whatever noises we may have initially made about its minimal but actual winnability, more recent events on Teesside suggest otherwise.

9. Kudos to the Supporters’ Trust for their forensic analysis of Ehabian malfeasance with ticket price proclamations and actions with the billboard that defiantly displays his venality on Anlaby Road. Ask yourself this: if you were a businessman thinking of entering into an arrangement with Allam Marine, given their record of untrustworthiness connected to Hull City AFC, can you be sure they won’t act similarly with you? Well, can you?

10. So, in summary, just fuck off, both of you. While there’s still a Hull City left.

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Things We Think We Think #236

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1. Another peculiarly imbalanced game at the Circle on Saturday, with City terrible for a half, and then actually quite good. The first 45 minutes against West Brom was really quite awful, City were lethargic and directionless, gifting the visitors a shockingly cheap goal and not registering a solitary effort on goal.

2. Then came a startling  turnaround. After the break, City looked full of purpose and not a little skill – had Jake Livermore finished off that flowing passing move it’d have been a goal Barcelona themselves would have purred with pleasure over. In the end, as dismal as we were at the start, we were good enough by the end to have deserved the point.

3. This can’t be a game plan, can it? It sounds ridiculous to contemplate that City might wilfully be going for it in only one half of a match, but it’s becoming a regular occurrence. A haul of four points from six in two home games against two sides in the top half of the table is pretty good, and both followed the same pattern: We are content for the opponent to have the ball for the entirety of the first half and even take the lead, then after the break we stop playing dead and become a threat ourselves. It’s risky stuff, only playing well for one half had a disastrous outcome at Sunderland as City changed the order, performing impressively in the first half but supine in the second. Presumably this isn’t something Mike Phelan actually wants, and his post match discussion about maintaining concentration suggests that, although he could just have been referring to Rondon’s late header.

4. It’s too easy to suggest that the reversal of our fortunes lies solely in one half-time substitution, that of Adama Diomandé for the worryingly ineffective Ryan Mason – however, it certainly seemed to be the catalyst for that dramatic improvement. He was everything we hadn’t been in the first half: powerful, direct and combative, and his lively approach galvanised his team-mates. He was already our man of the match by the 50th minute, and the clear winner by full-time. With the greatest of respect, who could imagine that Diomandé could influence the direction of a Premier League fixture in that way? But he did, and he deserves huge credit…and a prominent position in Mike Phelan’s thinking for his next starting XI.

5. Ryan Mason, though. It’s early days, but…

6. There were about 15,000 souls in the Circle on Saturday, with the swathes of empty seats so noticeable that they’re coming to national attention – even if the precise reason for them remains occasionally misunderstood. It’s mismanagement on a epic scale to have ten thousand empty seats for Premier League football in a city that yearned for over a century for these days to arrive. Well done, Ehab. Well done indeed.

7. There’ll be even more for the visit of Newcastle tomorrow evening, unless their supporters’ attempts to infiltrate the home ends are significantly successful. And this for a game that could see us into the League Cup semi-finals for the first time ever. If some aspects of the Allams ghastly misrule make you mad, this just makes us sad.

8. What a shame that this is the game selected by Invisible Flock to record the sounds of the crowd for their Hull 2017 installation. Their plan to have multiple microphones recording crowd noise so that it can be transplanted elsewhere, offering an aurally immersive experience of the sonic architecture of the crowd at a match, is truly fantastic. The timing though, is not, as games this season have often played out in near silence, such is the sense of disenchantment.

9. But there’s still a football match to be played, and it’s one that – uniquely in our recollection – sees a Championship side away to a Premier League one start as healthy favourites. However, if Mike Phelan picks his strongest team, and it plays to its abilities, there’s no reason that by tomorrow evening, we could be salivating over the prospect of a genuinely historical occasion.

10. This 24 hours is beginning to drag a bit. Thankfully we aren’t cynics here at Amber Nectar, otherwise we’d be tempted to think the Allam family is thoroughly, disreputably dishonest. And we’d hate for their friends in business and other non-City areas of life to ever get such an impression.