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Things We Think We Think #312

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1. It’s been a week of contrasting emotions. The glimmer of hope presented by a doughty draw with Middlesbrough was extinguished in defeat to Leeds, a match that started well but ended pretty pathetically, with City completely unable to lay a glove on their opponents despite trailing only by one.

2. Nigel Adkins’ view of our Tuesday night victors didn’t make any sense. They’re good, quite good in fact, and clearly a mile better than our sorry squad. But the best Championship side in years? They’re not even the best Championship side of this calendar year, and there wasn’t much to suggest that the Hull City class of 2016 wouldn’t overcome them. Mind games to bolster his side’s fragile confidence? Perhaps. But at least make confidence-building remotely grounded in fact, eh Nigel?

3. It was an oddly listless evening. Fewer than 10,000 City fans turned up, and it didn’t feel remotely like any previous City/Leeds fixture at the Circle. When not even the visit of the Champions of Europe can fill seats and clear throats, we know the disease is deep and entrenched. City were alright in the first half, competing well and suggesting that another unlikely point was possible; but the second half response to going behind was abysmal. Sure, City were unlucky to lose Irvine (who is excellent) for Stewart (who is, shall we say, not operating at quite the same level). And they’re better than us. But for pity’s sake, don’t cough up a match like that.

4. If minded towards a charitable disposition, it’s possible to have a degree of sympathy for both players and manager following our latest defeat, this time at Sheffield United. The manager made a courageous (in the Sir Humphrey Appleby sense of the word) decision to shift to 3-5-2 and drop both Bowen and Grosicki; yet he was only 20 minutes and a penalty away from seeing it justified with a surprise point. Meanwhile, the players themselves showed tolerable application, albeit undermined by a familiar lack of quality, but they too were part of an outfit that wasn’t far from a draw against a side now 23 places above us.

5. And if you’re not charitably inclined, and are instead absolutely bastard sick of City losing all the time, then you’ll note yet another defeat, yet another unclean sheet, yet another blank, yet another slide down the table. Which is placing Adkins under considerable pressure. If a takeover is in the offing – which we’ll deal with shortly – then he won’t be sacked now, as any new owners will probably want to decide who they want taking the club forward. There’s also no prospect of the Allams spending another penny on the club they don’t have to by paying him off. So we’re stuck with him for now. And of course, it’s up for debate as to how much of this unbearable shitshow is even his fault anyway. Our view is that he’s a secondary but not inconsequential culprit. Who sometimes does our head in.

6. If Kamil Grosicki is fit and not acting the idiot in the dressing room, he has to play. He is by some distance our best footballer, and dropping him against a side who had eyes on the top of the table, in tandem with our form goalscorer (for what that actually is) in Jarrod Bowen, was a batty decision. Adkins doesn’t have enough league points nor brownie points to be making calls that lend credence to the idea that his ego is getting in the way.

7. We suspect that when Ehab Allam recently  asked the Guardian newspaper “How is this club decaying?” he was being rhetorical, but everyone else but him knows the answer, because they know what recent home attendances have been, and they’ve seen the current league table.

8. It’s takeover gossip season again. Except…are we genuinely close this time to the Allam nightmare ending? The midweek document unearthed on Company’s House, plus seemingly categorical statements about bids, interested consortia together with names and nationalities bodes well. We’ve been here before of course, and a man like Ehab Allam would no doubt regard raising the hopes of a city only to destroy them as a worthwhile use of his time. So, the champagne isn’t yet bought, let alone transferred to ice – but we may begin pricing it up soon.

8a. Of course, if Paul Duffen returns, we may downgrade to just fizzy wine. The former City chairman would return with considerable baggage, much of it decidedly unappealing. His fingerprints were all over the descent into financial doom that brought about the Allams in the first place. Of course, we’d take him over Assem and Ehab, in the same way a particular nasty dose of ‘flu is preferable to a right good Novichoking. But that isn’t to say that his comeback will be a cause for unrestrained celebration. He’d better have learned a thing or two about responsible housekeeping.

9. But hey, it might not be him. Or it may not happen at all. So we’ll just wait, and hope. There’s no point appealing to the Allams’ better nature to sell, because their nature is purely about money and spite. But at least it means there is a language they understand. So come on, someone. Take a punt on a broken club, because the world has seen what we can be, and could be again if handled right. Get kids and old folk back in; treat disabled fans properly, open the Upper West, call us by our bloody name, make Hull proud of its foremost sporting institution again. You won’t regret it.

10. Bit of housekeeping: two thirds of our editorial team are moving house at the moment. Bear with us while posting is light, and excuse the lack of a podcast this week (KCOM are partly to blame here, if you can possibly imagine that). Back after the international break.

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Things We Think We Think #310

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1. Wigan first, if only because a timid and deserved defeat at a newly promoted side was the stand-out highlight of the week. This was a messy and cheap defeat. City started well, failed to capitalise and capitulated when falling behind, being fortunate not to find the game irretrievably lost. Then, when a goal that halved the deficit arrived to stun everyone, our attempts to wrest a point back to East Yorkshire were quite pitiful.

2. Everything about this game worried us. We aren’t going to enjoy many periods of relative dominance this season, and it’s vital we score when they do arrive. However, for all that City started brightly, and for all that Nouha Dicko is a tireless forward runner, neither looked particularly likely to score – and so a strong beginning was wasted.

3. If that was annoying, what followed was disastrous. When Wigan gained the lead, City’s reaction was frankly contemptible. The Tigers’ conspicuously non-leading captain Markus Henriksen bemoaned the stressful nature of this, but any distress the players felt was nothing compared to the ghastliness of watching. Wigan – a good side playing well – were given total freedom to run the game how they saw fit, with no-one in black in amber looking remotely willing or capable of altering anything. It was a dismal response, and it was a miracle we didn’t end up 4-0 down at half-time. Not that it mattered, because when City did pull it back and make the game (theoretically) a contest, Wigan were hardly troubled in a woefully lifeless second half.

4. Questions about Nigel Adkins’ team selections rightly featured in the post-mortem. Five changes from the side that beat Ipswich to give us a degree of hope raised eyebrows. Sure, the Championship’s Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday grind requires squad rotation. But we don’t have a squad, and while that’s the fault of the owners (and we are most definitely not forgetting them today), acting as though we do have one when we don’t isn’t wise.

5. And that, remember, was the highlight of the week. Because if Wigan was poor, the 3-0 kicking at Reading was disgusting. A revoltingly soft goal from a set-piece was gift-wrapped for the Royals – previously pointless at home, remember – and from then on the direction of the match was set. Tackles were routinely shirked, blue shirts were ignored and accommodatingly stood off from, passes were misplaced, runs were half-hearted – it was a gutless offering in the first half.

6. AND IT GOT WORSE. A farcical second half saw City defend like a Hull Sunday League side rueing their midnight decision to go to Piper instead of getting cheesy chips and at least a few hours of sleep. It was a wholesale surrender, the sort of loathsome and deliberate dereliction of duty that costs careers, and deserves to.

7. There’s loads of blame to dole out, and few deserve to escape it. The players may not be good enough for anything but a grim scramble to 21st, but this week still hasn’t been remotely good enough from them. We look an incoherent, disinterested mess, and a huge improvement in their collective endeavour is urgently needed.

8. The manager is probably not good enough either, and though he got us to safety last season, that increasingly looks more down to Harry Wilson and Abel Hernández than his managerial acumen. In the aftermath of the Reading debacle, his future is being questioned too. Deservedly so; we didn’t expect a great deal this season, but the manner of the defeats is as worrying as the increasing frequency of them.

9. But really, what would sacking him accomplish? With the Allams openly running the club into the ground, the idea that they’d pay the necessary severance fee and then spend enough money to secure a suitable replacement is nonsense. Let us never, ever forget: THEY are the reason this club is in a death spiral, not the players or the manager. The Allams are murdering the club, they are the ones responsible for all of this.

10. It isn’t likely to get any better. Upcoming fixtures against Middlesbrough (2nd), Leeds (1st) and Sheff Utd (4th) don’t have a points-laden feel to them. If we lose all three, we’d be on seven points from 12 games. Avoiding relegation after such a start would be a tall order. At the moment, it’d be a surprise if we aren’t in the Checkatrade Trophy next season.

FEATmatch

MATCH REPORT: Wigan 2-1 City

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The startling rise through the Divisions. The ascent to the Premier League and the surprisingly impressive ability to compete once in it. The journey to Wembley and the Cup Final. The European campaign. The slither back out of the Premier League and the stark prospect of decline. The revival, the heartening resurgence back to prosperity and to success.

That’s Wigan Athletic.

And it’s Hull City too – excluding the last bit.

Wigan have halted their slide and are on the progressive march forward. Hull City? Ach, well you know the grim tale as well as I do. The slide’s greased, and we are hurtling recklessly down it. Last night’s match was a contest between two football clubs that are currently heading in very different directions. And that was visible too on the pitch, as the limited home side took a deserved win from even more limited visitors.

Off we go on a mild mizzly evening in front of the sparsely populated DW stadium, and we card:

Marshall
Lichaj Elphick De Wijs Kingsley
Bowen Henriksen Stewart Irvine
Martin
Dicko

Which has an expansive, ambitious feel to it. When we have the ball Bowen and Irvine are on the front foot, pushing high up the pitch; they tuck in when Wigan have possession. The opening minutes are highly promising. On 4 Dicko robs a defender and bursts clear down the right, crosses, the ball is shovelled away for a corner. On 6 Stewart sets up Dicko deftly, Dicko powers a shot over the crossbar. On 13 Bowen bustles through, and is blocked at the expense of a corner.

This is appealing slick football from our team. No prizes for guessing what happens next.

Wigan score.

Sam Morsy advances from midfield with the ball, gets to within sight of the goal and, from outside the box, blats a low shot into Marshall’s right hand corner. The absence of any mention of Hull City outfield players is no accident. Morsy was permitted far too much freedom as he brought the ball forward.

Morsy, an Egyptian internationalist, takes his team-mates congratulations and then carefully lines himself up in a southeasterly direction, kneels and kisses the turf. It is, I suppose, roughly the right alignment for Mecca. For heaven’s sake. Seriously? During a football match? Even the Rev Allen Bagshawe didn’t inflict religion on us during the game.

Shortly afterwards Dicko scoots free behind the Wigan defence, but his effort is saved.

Nouha Dicko. I like him. You can’t not. Puppy dog enthusiasm, pace, strength, an ability most of the time to make runs that disconcert a defence. What he lacks is coldly predatory finishing ability. It is not his fault. He is what he is – a Championship striker. If he could add regular goalscoring to his other gifts, he’d not be playing for Hull City at the lower end of the Championship, he’d be playing for a middle ranking Premier League club and he’d be priced at around £30 million. And he did at least get a couple of shots away last night, which is more than poor old Chris Martin managed.

Marshall is forced to make a fine save low to his left from Jacobs, and, as we move towards the later stages of the first half, it is Wigan that look the stronger, attacking with pace and intent. Runs in the channels, movement out wide, decent interplay. On this evidence they have the makings of a solid mid-table side, which is ambition enough for most newly promoted sides. A second goal looks imminent, but when it arrives, in the 37th minute, it’s a bit of a freak. Lee Evans shoots from wide right, just inside the box, the ball deflects off Kevin Stewart, attempting to intervene, and flies across the face of the goal towards the back post, where Josh Windass, unmarked, is able to crunch a firm header into the net. Windass looks wildly offside, but presumably the fact of that touch of the ball on Stewart spared him the flag. 2-0, sad to say, is not unfair overall, and we are in some danger of being overrun.

Within five minutes it’s 2-1. This is very much a goal of the ‘up the other end from us, hard to know what happened’ variety, but it seemed as if defensive howlers gifted Bowen on the right space to advance into the box with only keeper Christian Walton to beat, and he did so courtesy of a left foot shot and a touch of the glove in vain by Walton. This goal was totally unexpected, but it sets up for a decent second half fightback.

So to the second half.

The second half is a bit rubbish.

Not much happens, but – the story in short – Wigan are generally the better side, with the languid Nick Powell the pick of their team. Powell, like Dicko, is what he is – a Championship player. What Powell lacks, what separates him from the Premier League, is aggression and pace. But he’s got a proper old-fashioned lovely touch on the ball. Reminds me a little bit of the young Steve McClaren, maybe even Garry Parker, though that’s over-generous to Powell since Parker belonged squarely in the top flight.

On 59 Martin sets up Dicko with a very good header inside the box, but Dicko shoots straight at the goalkeeper. As above, predatory instinct (lack of). Dicko is promptly removed in favour of Fraizer Campbell.

Marshall then saves well from Powell before the rebound is thumped wastefully wide by Windass, and the game settles into a period of Wigan ascendancy. They look pretty steady and opt for a shape that will protect the lead, rather than one that will look to increase it. Our best chance – near enough only chance of the final half hour – arrives on 74, when Campbell rises to meet a cross at the back post, but his header, though downwards and powerful in the approved manner, cannons into a defender.

Stewart, who has not repaid his manager’s faith and has performed largely listlessly once again, is taken off in favour of Grosicki. The ‘exciting and lavishly talented Polish World Cup star’ (as he is described in the brochures Ehab is currently hawking round midtable top flight teams in Turkey, Portugal and Russia) takes up the left wing position, while Jackson Irvine moves inside to pair with Henriksen in central midfield. And soon after, with the pattern of play level but Wigan still leading 2-1, De Wijs is hooked for Evandro, and we punt on three at the back, with Grosicki (‘a real fans’ favourite, and available at a price to suit your pocket’) switching to right wing, Bowen to left.

The most notable incidents of the closing minutes feature Fraizer Campbell’s increasingly frantic attempts to get himself sent off for wild lunges. But Wigan finish the stronger side, and they see out the added five with little anxiety.

Backed by meagre resources, leading a thin team lacking real talent or insight, faced across the table by peers with far greater power to their elbow, promises broken by the barrowload, and answerable to a boss who appears increasingly deranged, Mr Adkins might as well be in charge of Britain’s Brexit negotiations.

He might prefer it. Hull City aren’t a lot of fun to watch just at the moment, and I doubt they’re much fun to manage either.

Steve Weatherill (first posted on the Tiger-Chat mailing list)

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Things We Think We Think #308

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1. In a week uninterrupted by City playing, Ehab took it upon himself to provide the entertainment, with a comically self-pitying self-justifying soft-soap interview with The Guardian. We won’t waste much time on it; it was vacuous drivel for the most part from a man whose separation from reality is almost certainly irreversible.

2. The most interesting thing was the scornful reaction from City fans. With few exceptions, the attempt to pacify us with talk of a possible takeover was ignored. The club is perhaps up for sale, but only in a purely theoretical sense. Ehab’s here, he’s clearly enjoying his stranglehold on a community asset, and the idea that he’d sell before the final parachute payment arrives is preposterous anyway.

3. Still, Harry Maguire’s new long-term contract at Leicester means there’s less chance of a £10m+ sell-on fee arriving at City. Ordinarily we’d be salivating at the prospect of an eight-figure sum heading our way, but that seems pointless under the current regime. The reduction in the prospects of that occurring at least removes an incentive to cling beyond the final parachute payments arriving.

4. Meanwhile, the takeover rumours seem even more far-fetched and desperate than ever. We remain acute admirers of Adam Pearson, but it really is time to let it go now – he left a long time ago, his commitment to one of the local eggchasing franchises is a puzzle but appears quite sincere, and he isn’t coming back. Which leaves what? Paul Duffen and mystery consortia, other eggchasers…let’s face it, we’re stuck with the Allams for the foreseeable future. Whatever division they end up depositing us into.

5. It’s been quiet on the protest front this season, with apathy yet to sublime into anger. What could change that? Things on the pitch have been poor without quite being ruinous, though City’s home form has been shocking. Ehab’s latest interview is merely reaffirmation of his low-wattage nature rather than especially infuriating. What is it going to take?

6. City’s latest act of dopiness won’t tip anyone over the edge, but will certainly have created plenty of furrowed brows in East Yorkshire: you now need a Match Card to attend U23 games. A Match Card that costs £12, and was offered free for less than two days in the summer. U23 attendances are obviously modest and few will be affected, but this is just another pointless, petty little aggravation.

7. This is one of many issues the club is refusing to discuss with supporters, with all structured dialogue with fans’ groups apparently severed, despite dishonest contentions to the contrary – though we did very much enjoy the recent assertion that the Official Supporters’ Club is “independent”. Yet still the FA and EFL refuse to act. The former did at least intervene decisively on the name change idiocy; the latter have been pathetic throughout – and not just with us either, as the despairing fans at Blackpool, Charlton et al will testify.

8. Alright, football. After the international break, it feels like a pivotal week or so coming up for City, with games against two of the sides actually below us in the table sandwiching a trip to midtable Wigan. We really had better get something fairly decent from those three games, because the three that follow are against the current top three.

9. City always seem to do well at home to Ipswich (providing Danny Coles isn’t playing), and terming it a must-win match isn’t a hopeless mis-application of the phrase. Something has to give on Saturday: we haven’t got a point at home yet, they haven’t got a point away. A win would put City back to a point a game average, which will always give you a good chance of staying up. The prospect of slipping three points behind that run rate isn’t a happy one, however.

10. Anyone missing the animated gifs yet?

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Things We Think We Think #307

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1. After a midweek pummelling in the League Cup, losing “only” 2-1 in the League match that immediately followed almost felt like a moral victory. And it wasn’t bad, at least not by the hugely reduced standards that now apply to this ravaged squad. After the pitiful non-performance against Blackburn that garnered a crop of boos at full-time, the defeated Tigers were at least applauded from the field this time. Straw-clutching maybe, but everything more valuable than a straw has been sold, so we’ll take what we can.

2. City started the game well against Derby, so to concede yet another absurdly cheap goal was maddening. From the off, we looked a yard sharper than at almost any time this season, and we were just beginning to wonder if a rare home win might be ours when Jordy de Wijs continued his rotten start to life in England with another witless episode. Hanging out a leg with no imminent danger is just ridiculous, and he absolutely must sharpen up if he’s to remain in the side.

3. It wasn’t an enormous surprise that City wilted afterwards, with a flurry of shots raining down on the (once again very good) David Marshall. Had we gone 0-2 down it could’ve got as ugly as last Tuesday. As it was, the equaliser was a surprise, but also the result of an elegant and sweeping piece of play.

4. What a pity it couldn’t be held onto. Derby’s winner hadn’t really looked like coming, but City are always a side capable of coughing up a cheap concession, and this was yet another example. It’s impossible to imagine any team that defends as ineptly as ours staying up. If you need a couple of goals every week just to get a point, no way are you surviving.

5. We’re largely unmoved by the arrival of two last minute loanees on Friday. Those who did arrive are actually better than we expected, and they’ll bolster the side and the squad. But it’s too little, and as usual, too late. That the latest summer transfer window would be a calamity carries the same surprise as the sun rising in the east. It’s a faithful implementation of club policy as directed by the Allam family, and while the annual ritual of managers publicly railing against it illustrates its folly, it hasn’t changed this year, and we can expect this to continue until a change of owners occurs.

6. Are City now equipped for this relegation battle? Maybe. We’ll need a bit of luck with availability, because the chastening 4-0 ragging by Derby in the League Cup illustrates that however commendable our young Tigers are, they’re best off accompanying established players rather than replacing them. A biting injury crisis and/or a rash of suspensions will make the long hard winter that looms even harder. Add to that the sale of anyone good in January, and we could be done for. But we aren’t gone yet, and we have to just hope that enough breaks for us between now and May to ensure it’s a second tier club the Allams pretend to sell.

7. Following the bizarre breakdown of his proposed move to Bursaspor, Kamil Grosicki must now put up with us until the New Year; and we must put up with him. A player with abundant talent but cursed with a foul attitude, it’s hard to see him being an asset between now and the next transfer window. No-one is happy with his continuing employment at City – and while it’s plainly daft to say he’s City worst ever player (there are scores of strong candidates for this non-accolade) there can’t be many whose natural ability and actual achievements are so far apart.

8.  Is it fair to say that Adkins doesn’t fancy David Milinković much?

9. We now have an international break. On our return, and it’s faintly ludicrous to say this, we have a game against bottom side Ipswich at the Circle on September 15th that actually has a six-pointer feel to it. Yep, ludicrous.

10. We certainly daren’t lose any more home games. City have lost their last six matches at the Circle, a dreadful record that isn’t greatly alleviated by being split over two seasons. Being easybeats in your home matches is a good way to ensure relegation before May, and while we sympathise with the manager and players for having to play in a three-fifths empty stadium in front of balefully unhappy fans, that’s the fault of the Allams, not us, and they’re somehow going to have to get used to it and start getting some points at home.

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Things We Think We Think #306

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1. A weekend horror show can often render an earlier midweek fixture oddly distant in the memory. The Blackburn débâcle means that the penalty shoot-out victory at Sheffield United just six ago feels an event a month behind us. But it happened, and though we won’t be wasting energy on straw clutching any more, when viewed in isolation it wasn’t a bad night. A very young side acquitted itself well, and kept its nerve during the (admittedly low-pressure) series of spot-kicks at full time. A successful evening.

2. Not that Derby at home is a just reward for it. But that fixture itself ties into the calamity against Blackburn. Just what sort of attendance can we expect for that?

3. We’ll take Oliver Norwood’s comments about signing for Sheffield United with a pinch of salt. He’s hardly going to express sadness at having signed for his new employers, and anyway, if he wasn’t keen on joining a club that didn’t value him highly enough to meet his valuation and that’s notorious in professional football for being a complete basket case…who can blame him?

4. Not that his decisive penalty miss didn’t elicit a small chuckle, however. Though it does raise the probability of him scoring the winner in a League game this season to something approaching 99%…

5. Blackburn. Oh dear, Blackburn. A pitiful non-performance from a side that isn’t good enough to survive at this level, managed by a man who knows that and has realised (too late) that desperately-needed support will not be forthcoming.

6. City were abject. The goal was another comically soft concession from a defence that no more looks like keeping a clean sheet than a 14 year old boy who’s just prised open the parental lock on the domestic wi-fi. Even more alarming was the response, which was hopeless. And yes, we know this side isn’t good enough, and that the bench offers little, but even taking all of those allowances into account, it still wasn’t acceptable. Not by a distance.

7. To have Nigel Adkins starting to ponder his own future before August is even through is quite something. A man of garrulous optimism whose cathartine rubbernecking of Leonid Slutsky’s ill-fated spell will always grate now wonders if it was all worth it. He’ll almost certainly be back to normal very soon, posting on social media about wholesome breakfasts, but frustration at the owners’ negligence is breaking through more often.

8. We have around a dozen days to perform emergency surgery on this squad. It probably depends on finding someone willing to spend lots of money on Kamil Grosicki, and even in the present day market there’s no guarantee anyone’s going to be that unwise. And even then the manager may not see any meaningful assistance. We’ll probably cobble together a loan or two from Premier League sides for players they haven’t yet managed to offload – but as usual, it’s all too little, all too late.

9. The club no longer has the guts to announce its inflated attendances during the game, but it emerged after the match that it was officially 12,233. We know they are usually around 20% fewer people there than claimed, which gives us 10,200; and a rumour that it was 10,002 has been widely spread. Both of these figures feel about right. It’s only a matter of time before the first sub-10,000 actual attendance, and we wouldn’t rule out the club having to announce one even with the 20% addition. Three-fifths of the stadium lie empty, and the club refuses to change the despicable policies that are ensuring that. It’s a disgrace, and a tragedy.

9a. Facilitating contactless payment at stadium food and drink kiosks would be a low level plus point at a normal club, but while City persist with a concession free membership scheme (that if a Tweet this weekend is to be believed, sees the deceased threatened with legal action) and a policy of weakening the squad one transfer window at a time, it’s all a bit ‘polishing the brass on the Titanic’.

9b. Oh and it didn’t work.

10. So let us be absolutely clear: this club is in severe difficulty, but it isn’t dying, it’s being killed. Assem and Ehab Allam are the killers, and they have brought shame upon their family name. They probably don’t give a toss – for too long we’ve believed the old man’s pious claims to regard his legacy as important, but we don’t believe that any more. The only – ONLY – explanation for any of this is revenge. Pure, callous revenge. And we despise them for it.

FEATmatch

MATCH REPORT: City 0-1 Blackburn

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You’re probably expecting a “W passed to X, who laid it off to Y, who crossed for Z to head home “ kind of report. Well, although some of the more mundane stuff will be ticked off in due course, that’s not what you are going to get today, I fear. The reasons for that are twofold: firstly, despite 90 plus minutes of what might generously be described as honest endeavour from the men in amber and black, one would honestly be struggling badly to find much incident of note about which to write; secondly, and in the scheme of things more importantly, it is a very long time indeed since there was so much cause to fear for the future of our beloved Club as there is now. And that is more important at this juncture than the matter of who passed to whom.

The loan window may change things (although we all know it won’t) but otherwise the expression “long, hard season” comes very much to mind.

The indisputable fact is that, quite simply, there’s nothing there, or at least not enough in terms of quality, to enable us to come anywhere near holding our own. This situation is exacerbated by the Club’s owners having no objective or ambition other than to amass enough bodies to ensure that we fulfil our fixtures for the season and keep the Club functioning, and specifically to spend no more money than is necessary to achieve that, despite receiving considerable wealth in the form of parachute payments.

Now, of course, the gruesome twosome will doubtless aver that they are simply trousering the money in order to offset the loans that they say that they made to the Club. Whether a forensic accountant with access to the books would disagree with that proposition I do not know.  But what is beyond doubt is that our football club is being wilfully, systematically and ruthlessly sabotaged. And for what?

Should you still, after all that has happened in the last four or so years, doubt that, then it’s a damn bloody shame that you weren’t at the Circle yesterday, because that would have convinced you.

The manager and team were roundly booed at the end of yesterday’s woeful display. Whilst the frustration of the long-suffering City support (official attendance 12.233, reports on social media say a shade over 10,000, with probably just over 1,000 Lancashire folk inside the ground: up to you which you believe, but check out photos and footage of the game if you weren’t there and then decide) is entirely understandable and justified, the ire of the Tiger Nation actually attached itself to the wrong target. One can try to identify the positives – young, fit enthusiastic squad, still time to coalesce (“gel” has become too hackneyed to use, and is even more irritating when spelled, “gell”), will probably improve as the season goes on if they don’t have the spirit thrashed out of them first – and you immediately have to concede that this is a blend of wishful thinking and straw-clutching. It is, sadly, an inescapable truism that we have a squad of players who, through no fault of their own or, once suspects, that of the manager, look completely ill–prepared for a Championship season.

This was made even more stark when you looked at our visitors yesterday. They’ve had as rough a ride as pretty much anyone in recent years but you would scarcely have known it. Maybe that’s a reflection on us as much as anything because these things are all relative, but whilst not looking likely to pull up any trees they were organised, enterprising and did the simple things well. And that was enough to see us off at a canter.

It’s often the case that, after a Saturday defeat, the mood of gloom still lingers on Sunday and then, to use an expression beloved of a former manager, we “dust worsels doon and go again”. We can usually all sympathise with that, too. But this all feels very, very different. In my 52nd year of Tigerwatching I am genuinely struggling to remember a time that ever felt so bleak. Even in the darkest days of the Dolan/Fish era, or during the travails of the malign, kleptocratic stewardship of the Sheffield Stealers, there was always that feeling, buried deep in some remote recess of the mind, that things would not always be that bad, that there would be some kind of modest recovery (far more modest than it actually turned out to be, of course) from the dire straits in which we found ourselves.

Not now, though.. For whilst you always thought that Needler would eventually see sense, or that Buchliffe would sling their hooks once they had stripped the Club of everything they could lay their hands on, there is no such prospect where the Allams are concerned. Some City fans still exclaim. “they’ve got to sell”, as though they have had some kind of Eureka moment, and we needn’t concern ourselves here with such naivety. Other more thoughtful types opine that the Allams will be off once the parachute payments have all been milked. Whilst this is a credible scenario, ask yourself two things. Firstly, where is the evidence that the Allams are actually capable of seeing a sale through, or that a buyer will be found with the energy and persistence to withstand the strain of dealing with them and the inevitable hardballing.. re-valuations, renegotiations and endgames? Secondly, if that’s what you think will happen, have you factored in their now well-documented petulance and malevolence? They could string this along for the next ten years and more if they wanted, just because they can, and there’s no evidence that they are minded to do anything but exactly that, assuming that you are not taken in by the press stories about movement on the sale front that appear every few months, Groundhog Day-style.

And then, something new came into the mix post-match, in the guise of Adkins’ extraordinary interview with David Burns. Our manager has acquired a reputation for positivity so unrelenting as to be profoundly irritating, and to hear him so downbeat after the game was certainly a new and unexpected development. Adkins in fairness to him was at pains to point out that he was speaking in the heat of the moment. but nevertheless the comments he made were startling. Time will tell whether he becomes the second City manager in succession to have his positive spirit broken by the Allams, but this is not sounding good. Some fans are unsympathetic towards Adkins because of his allegedly naked coveting of the job while Slutsky was still in post, but, whatever the truth of that, nobody can fairly say that he has not given the job his all and, whilst he was clearly naive in thinking that he could make the Club prosper on the field in spite of the constraints under which he would be expected to work, he deserves better. A failure by the Club to fund any decent loan signings might well push Adkins over the edge, but far from this bringing the chickens home to roost, there’ll be a queue of sufficiently desperate, over-confident or irrepressibly-optimistic candidates outside Ehab’s office bursting to step into his shoes.

Casting the slough of despond yesterday at the Circle were the following:-

                                                     Marshall
Lichaj                            MacDonald                        De Wijs                    Kingsley
Bowen                           Henriksen                        Irvine                        Kane
Evandro
Campbell

Subs: Toral (for Kingsley, 29 min), Dicko (for Campbell, 72 min), Milinkovic (for Bowen 72 min)

 As already promised, I’m not going to dwell on the detail of the match: it’s of secondary importance.. Blackburn had the better of the first half, with a succession of efforts on Marshall’s goal. The warning bells were starting to ring as early as a quarter of an hour in, when Armstrong, who had already forced Marshall into one save and headed over, missed an absolute sitter. Marshall was called into further action to defy Armstrong again and then Dack, before Kingsley had to leave the field following a nasty-looking clash of heads with Palmer.

We had threatened only sporadically, with MacDonald’s angled effort being pouched by Raya early on, a Bowen (what on earth has happened to him?) effort being blocked and Henriksen firing wide just after the half-hour.

The first half seemed to be drifting towards a goalless conclusion when we duly conceded. Rovers worked the ball quickly out to the right and Bennett’s pinpoint cross was swept home by Dack from close range with the City defence looking on in admiration.

After half time we passed the ball around nicely for spells, but without conviction, intensity or putting the visitors under any kind of pressure. We actually managed a shot on target about ten minutes in when Irvine (about the only City man who deserved to be exempted from criticism) saw his effort saved by Raya.

Dack went off after an hour to be replaced by Danny Graham, and the fact that he looked quite a handful while he was on is very telling. Rovers – and Bennett in particular – ought to have made the game safe with twenty to go when he pokes wide with the goal at his mercy after Marshall spilled an Armstrong effort.

We press, after a fashion. Evandro (twice) and Dicko have efforts blocked, and then the inevitable one good chance to rescue the game comes in the 87th minute, but Raya’s flying save keeps out De Wijs’ header from an Evandro cross.

That same curious lack of urgency persists into injury time (six minutes flagged, seven played) and the away side, who had had chances themselves to make the game safe in the last fifteen minutes (maybe I was too generous about Graham) , see the game out with apparent ease.

And that’s it. An afternoon of going through the motions, aptly reflective of the management of Hull City off the field. One really does wonder where this is going to end, and absent a significant improvement at Rotherham on Tuesday we might well be a significant step nearer to having that question answered, for this season at least.

Ian Thomson (via Tiger-Chat)

FEATeflcup

NEWS: City draw Derby in League Cup

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City’s dubious reward for overcoming Sheffield United on penalties two nights ago is a home fixture against Derby in the second round of the League Cup.

The competition is no longer seeded at this stage, though still regionalised, and it’s fair to say that both clubs might have hoped for something a little more interesting than this – particularly when one considers that Derby are already in Hull the weekend after this tie will be played.

It’ll be the fourth meeting of the sides in the League Cup. The most recent was in 2001, when bottom-tier City lost 3-0 at Pride Park, while previous encounters saw a 3-1 defeat in 1970 and a 6-5 aggregate defeat in 1965.

We shudder to think what sort of “crowd” will turn up for this one, with even Derby fans having little incentive to travel. City, if you don’t much care for retaining your hard-earned, are revealed by top100bookmakers.com to be 475/1 to win the competition this season, and perhaps gain a slice of history for being in both League One and Europe.

FEAT-TWTWT

Things We Think We Think #305

 

TWTWT

1.  The only surprise about the final day of the summer transfer window is that some people were surprised by Hull City’s lack of activity. It should be obvious to everyone by now that beyond merely ensuring that there are enough flesh units to fulfill fixtures, the owners don’t care about the quality of  the squad, because doing so would impact how much money can be taken out of the club.

2. Nigel Adkins may be one of the surprised ones though… his quotes about signings went from reiterating the need to do more business (“We are not as strong as we need to be” and “We’re trying to make permanent signings if we can”), to being sanguine about failing to bring relatively inexpensive players in such as  Brighton’s Oliver Norwood who had a £1.5m valuation (“They have a fee they don’t want to move on, there’s not a big gulf”), to convincing himself that the loan market might save us and that’s just fine (“We talk about the transfer window finishing, the permanent one, but the loan window is still open for the rest of the month”). Perhaps we should feel for him, but it’s hard to believe he didn’t know what he was letting himself in for.

3. Some people may have groaned when Nigel Adkins said Jordy de Wijs and David Marshall, poor on opening night against Aston Villa, would start at Hillsborough, but there is little value in throwing a new signing adapting to his surroundings and our most experienced goalkeeper under the bus. The votes of confidence paid off too, as both played well at Sheffield Wednesday.

4. City themselves did, well, alright at Hillsborough. When it came, the lead felt meritted, and there were opportunities to extend it. There were good spells against Villa too – only one point may have been taken so far, but in general play we haven’t disgraced ourselves. Now, playing well outside both penalty areas only gets you so far, but in these desperate times, it’s a straw to clutch at.

5. Alas, the lead wasn’t capitalised upon with a second goal. Carrying on from last season’s comical capacity for conceding penalties was maddening (and it was a penalty), and as soon as we coughed up an equaliser then – as per Aston Villa seven days ago – it felt as though there was only one side likely to win it.

6. We just don’t feel as though we’re going to keep many clean sheets this season. That was the case last season, though City’s leakiness was matched with uncommonly effective goalscoring. It’s hard to imagine us scoring enough to combat an equally poor goals-against column this season, so if we don’t tighten up, we’re in trouble. But that takes us to the Allams’ refusal to assemble a proper squad…

7. Sheffield United in the League Cup tomorrow night; there is little imagination in such a draw, but we do have a history (and quite a long one) of some fair old ding-dongs at Bramall Lane. In this more sanitised age, it’s nice to think a match so far back in the chain of importance will still produce an atmosphere and a fine game of football.

8. And we follow that with a home game in the Championship against Blackburn Rovers, who are starting to respect themselves again after a few difficult years, and have a proven manager at this level in Tony Mowbray. A first league win should be more than doable against a side who were in League One last term and have started this campaign with a brace of draws, but there’s only one team evidently on the up in that fixture, and it ain’t us.

9. It’s hard to know if the Head of Marketing and Communication was being hopelessly naive or was wilfully antagonising supporters when they boldly proclaimed the business side of the Club had been ‘Hull City Tigers’ since 2001 on Twitter. We’re hoping it’s the former.

10.  They have overseen the reversal of the pointless ‘Hull Tigers Academy’ rebranding on Social Media after all, so hurrah for that.