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Things We Think We Think #268

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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REPORT: City 6 (Six) Birmingham 1

GrosickiKHull City six. But it would be no less apt to have written “Hull City sex”. For this at times was as close to the genuine article as you could get: it was proper pulse-accelerating, breath-shortening, cheek-flushing, pupil-dilating stuff.

Granted, it wasn’t the finished article and there’s clearly work to do – if all else fails when the transfer window next opens – with the defence (and a special mention here for the Blues’ late consolation, the defending for which would have graced a Laurel and Hardy film) but overall yesterday’s performance represented an immense improvement on recent home showings, in a fixture which had all the makings of a real banana skin against an opposition who had done much better than us in recent weeks and to my eyes were not as hopelessly poor as many have suggested. Particularly pleasing was the fact that City performed over the full 90 minutes, to which the scoring of three goals in each half bears witness, along with the emergence of clear indications that our hastily and tardily assembled squad is now showing signs of developing a shape and understanding.

Slutsky did observe rather pointedly a couple of weeks or so ago that he was effectively still in pre-season mode and that the team would not be functioning as he wanted until October, so was yesterday a sign that things are coming together as the manager said they would? Well, I guess that we’ll know the answer to that by the time the Forest game in four weeks’ time comes to an end, but at least for now we can enter the pivotal month of October, when the season is well and truly into its grind phase and the League table starts to take a bit of shape, with more cause for optimism than we dared have imagined after a decidedly underwhelming September, to put it mildly, to date.

Of course, and whilst not deliberately setting out to pour cold water on what will prove to be a memorable afternoon, the Slut might well have it all to do again in a couple of months as anybody who might command a fee to swell the Allam coffers is offloaded in the next window. I mean, come on, there are some gullible and naive individuals following Hull City, but does anyone seriously believe that Bowen’s new contract has been put in place for any reason other than to increase the fee for which we can sell him? Is anyone still that trusting of Ehab?

That’s enough negativity for now. The only thing that looked on the wane yesterday was the weather, with the fine, perfect-for-football conditions that prevailed at lunchtime steadily giving way to autumnal gloom as the afternoon progressed, none of which dampened the purpose or tempo of our play or the delight of the majority of the 13,000 or so (officially 15,608, yeah right) who saw City line up sort of as follows:-

                                McGregor

Aina            Dawson            Hector        Clark

Larsson                    Meyler                    Toral

                 Bowen                Grosicki

                            Campbell

Subs:    Henriksen (for Toral, 68 min), Dicko (for Campbell, 68 min), Weir (for Bowen, 81 min)

And so off we go with City attacking the North Stand and “attacking” being the operative word, as we show a pleasing tempo and purpose right from the off and monopolise possession in the early stages, albeit with a little less assurance when the back line have the leather than in the days of those lengthy backwards-and-sideways periods of possession so beloved of Steve Bruce. And barely have we settled down when we have the lead. Meyler gets a foot in to block a Birmingham pass in midfield and the ball breaks towards the Brum goal. Campbell, showing alertness and anticipation that would be a lesson to any aspiring striker, is onto it before the defence realise what’s happening and romps away to slide the leather under the advancing Kuszczak.

There are seven on the clock, and by the time it reaches ten we have doubled the lead. Campbell turns instigator, chasing a loose ball to the by-line and going to ground under the challenge of Nsue. Referee Duncan unhesitatingly points to the spot. Nsue doesn’t look too pleased and you have to say it was a bit soft: Fraizer took his tumble much too easily. But hey-ho, that’s football, and Meyler gets his reward for setting up the first goal by firmly and accurately planting the leather to Kuszczak’s right.

As is often the case when sides go two down, the Blues rally for a while, and to be honest our defence still does not look massively comfortable, with Birmingham having too much space to play in, especially the wide men, and we have to be grateful for the fact that they really aren’t very good at crossing; arguably worse even than Elmo. You do feel, though, that the next score is going to be crucial, a feeling hammered home on 14 minutes when Campbell really ought to have done better with a free header from the excellent Grosicki’s cross, but the striker’s instinct that he showed when scoring deserts him, and he looks more like the kid at school who’s always last to be picked, heading the ball over the bar with the top of his head and very probably with his eyes tight shut.

So we go back to defending alarmingly, Hector living up to the reputation of his cartoon namesake (ask your dad, anyone under about 50) by failing to cover properly and he and Dawson both guilty of giving the leather away when under no pressure. We’ve thrown away leads to teams much more inept than this Brum outfit and this is a testing time for the nerves of the City support.

Until Jarrod Bowen rides to the rescue on 26 minutes. receiving the leather in the inside right channel from Aina and firing low from outside the box just inside Kuszczak’s left-hand post. All the more impressive for being a goal out of nothing. The away support, maybe 1,000 strong and defiantly boisterous, must now know how we felt at Derby. it’s hard to see how we’re going to hang onto this admirable young talent, and i was about to observe at this juncture that maybe we have to resign ourselves to his departure in three months’ time and just hope that he attracts the attention of the type of Premier League outfit that has more money than sense, before remembering that it matters not one jot to us, since any revenues will ultimately be spent on Lamborghinis or yachts, with maybe a loanee to replace Bowen an hour before the end of the transfer window if we are lucky.

For now, though, we are rampant, and after a Birmingham foray on 29 which forces McGregor into a save from Dean, Grosicki, enjoying himself enormously (and, it has to be said, instilling a bit of confidence into young Clark, deputising for the injured Kingsley, in the process) goes on a tremendous run before cutting inside and rifling in a low drive, saved by the custodian. Two minutes later and Turbo is at it again, curling one just over.

The last ten minutes of the half are rather formless, although we survive a scare when McGregor has to charge out of the box to block an attack. Otherwise we see the half out. What was noticeable though as the ref draws the first half for a close was the decidedly reserved ovation that the team received as they trooped off. Under normal circumstances, a City side 3-0 up would be cheered to the rafters at the interval, and the fact that they weren’t really yesterday was another example of how the antics of the owners have relentlessly dampened the zest and fervour of the Tiger Nation. it wasn’t much better at the end.

During the half-time interval, a massive roar is heard from the concourse. What could it be? Leeds losing? No, they weren’t playing. Ehab has fallen off the West Stand balcony and been savaged by a police dog? No chance: he was as usual nowhere to be seen. Maguire, Clucas, Jakupovic and Huddlestone have come onto the pitch, pledged their undying and eternal allegiance to Hull City and begged forgiveness from the fans for even harbouring thoughts of playing for any other club? Not really. Apparently some cove had won the crossbar challenge and relieved Deano of £20 in the process.

Anyway, we’re off again, the Tiger Nation wondering if it’s going to be 5-0 or 3-3, and for a while early on we are a bit under the cosh, outgoing Birmingham temporary manager Carsley no doubt having reassured his charges that there are still goals in this for them. Clearly, though, Mr Slutsky, for his part, has had words with his defence at the interval and Hector in particular has a better half, making a couple of vital blocks. We do have a real let-off though about 20 minutes into the half when Vassell nips in behind a flat-footed City rearguard to connect with a cross, but somehow manages to put his header wide when he really ought to have scored. Evidence, though, that it’s going to be our day, perhaps.

By now most of the game is being played out in their half, but we seem quite content not to take any risks. We win a couple of free kicks but too far out for Larsson to have a go. This all changes though with the double substitution on 68 minutes: not so much the replacement of the much-improved Toral with Henriksen, but more the subbing of Campbell, who seemed to have taken some sort of knock, with Dicko. It seems that the ex-Wolf has taken to the field with instructions from the manager to up the attacking tempo – quite possibly because Slutsky could see more goals in the game for City too – and if true it had the desired effect almost immediately, as Dicko picks up the leather from a City break, cuts inside and hares off towards the Birmingham goals. As he reaches the box he’s crowded out by a brace of defenders, but the leather runs loose in the direction of two City men, the first of whom is Grosicki, who without breaking his stride cracks it fiercely into the bottom corner to make it 4-0. Just reward for an impressive performance.

The game is settled now, but we’re not done yet, and indeed the move of the match on 76 minutes brings a fifth for City. Henriksen starts the move, Meyler and  Larsson combine and feed it back to Henriksen, who has continued his run into the box and slides home. Sumptuous football, absolutely sumptuous. If Barcelona had scored that goal the pundits would have been purring. If Chelsea or Man City had scored it it would have been shown in every Sky Sports ad break and trailer till kingdom come.

Amidst a background of increasing rancour in the North-East corner, with the Brummies getting a touch feisty and missiles being visible on their passage from one encampment to the other as the police and stewards intervene (apparently they went for a gallop round the hockey pitches as well after the game) Vassell again goes close, steering the leather low past McGregor only for it to come back off the post.

But it would only have been a consolation at this stage, and after Grosicki sees his free kick pouched by Kuszczak with five left the despondency in the beleaguered visiting defence is laid bare when none of them bother to track Larsson, who runs unchallenged onto a fine cross from Grosicki following another silky passing move, and pokes the leather under the exposed Kuszczak.

The ref signals three minutes’ injury time, and in the first of those minutes Brum finally get the consolation goal that only the hardest of hearts would have denied them for their endeavour. Again Vassell is behind the danger. His low shot is kept out by McGregor’s outstretched right foot, it arcs up into the darkening sky and is headed, none-too powerfully, towards the corner of the goal by Gallagher who is following up. Gregsy has got back to his feet by now and – judging by the TV footage – looks likely to make the block……until Dawson sticks out a foot and the leather ricochets off it at a wicked angle – as a cricket ball might do if played with the wrong side of the bat – into the centre of the goal. Surprisingly Gallagher is credited with the goal, because it was a clear miskick by Dawson and it probably would not have resulted in a goal without his intervention.

“How shit must you be, we’ve scored a goal” yelled the away fans. “How shit must you be, we scored it for you”, chorus the North Stand faithful.

Nothing else of incident occurs, the victorious Tigers troop off to that same oddly-restrained applause and Slutsky delivers his trademark bow. We should be as pleased for him as anybody, not least because Peter Swan’s idle speculation in the HDM this week over how long Slutsky would last was frankly disgraceful. Our manager has not just had his hands tied behind his back by the Allams, he’s had his legs shackled, a ball and chain attached to his ankle, duct tape slapped over his chops and a hood made of blackout curtaining tied over his head, and is still expected to produce credible performances. Well, yesterday’s showing was two fingers in Swanny’s face, and no mistake: let’s hope he has the self-awareness to  understand that.

But it would be wrong to end such a fine Tigerday on such a negative note, so it’s pleasing to report closure on a personal matter that’s been bugging me for over 50 years. For it was in September 1967 that Birmingham showed us our arses to the tune of 6-2, when I was a City fan of some eight months’ experience.  By an odd coincidence six different players – Fred Pickering, Geoff Vowden. Barry Bridges, Johnny Vincent, Malcolm Beard and Bert Murray (Brum had some bloody good players in those days) – found the net for them that night. Nowadays we would shrug off such reverses, but when you’re seven a loss like that pierces your heart and the hurt can never quite be shrugged off. Today though I have peace of mind.

Ian Thomson (via Tiger Chat)

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Things We Think We Think #266

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DeanoHat

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

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Things We Think We Think #265

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1. Another poor week on the field for City, for whom little is going right. Defeat at Fulham wasn’t shameful, unlike the catastrophe that preceded it, but it extended City’s winless run of away league games to 21. There’s a real psychological issue with the side – it doesn’t look remotely as though it’s confident of winning any fixture outside of East Yorkshire, and this mental timidity is sensed and capitalised upon by streetwise Championship opposition with disheartening ease and regularity.

2. We weren’t bad at Craven Cottage. Just ordinary, and prone to fatal lapses of concentration at the back. And though City roused themselves well from the first concession, there was rarely a sense that the second could be repaired. Again, it’s mental frailty. We don’t do adversity well on the pitch, which is particularly unfortunate given that we’re a club beset by it right now.

3. Sunderland followed an approximately similar pattern, though with a moderately happier outcome. When we conceded (miserably cheaply), heads plunged and took a long time to recover. And look, it’s hard when things are going bad and you concede. Footballers are human and they experience human emotions. But there also needs to be a greater resilience at times. Some of the stuff City played in the first half after Sunderland scored was frankly shocking.

4. Much of that came from a midfield that was really quite pathetically weak. Henriksen and Larsson must surely have attributes that have propelled them a long way in the professional game, but it was difficult to discern what these were at times. Neither seemed awfully interested in tracking runners, making a tackle, receiving or using possession, and as a result we were overrun by a deeply mediocre Sunderland side. You cannot hope to prosper with such a flimsy central midfield, and it’s hard not to wonder what on earth Leonid Slutsky was thinking by deploying it.

5. Whenever City played the ball out of defence in the first half it was invariably to one of the wide men, where momentum stalled. The formation took Bowen and Grosicki out of the game as Sunderland were able to contain the wide player with the ball and still have both Bowen and Grosicki tightly marked.

6. Why do City look so bereft of purpose and understanding at times? Well, Slutsky’s post match interview revealed that the Russian feels he’s still in pre-season mode, still explaining his philosophy to the players eight games into the season. With that we can sympathise. Remember Ehab saying how transfer business would be concluded early?

7. Slutsky said David Meyler didn’t start the game as he is managing the Irishman’s fitness, an understandable mindset when you consider the players we’ve lost to injury playing them when below peak fitness. Meyler’s introduction changed the game though, and saved City from defeat.

8. Which brings us to that risible chant. Stop that shit.

9. Without garnering much attention, Allan McGregor is making a lot of good saves at the moment. The first goal he conceded at Derby is a reminder that he has his flaws, but he’s also been stopping a lot lately. In these generally unhappy days, it’s a rare bright point.

10. Let’s not go overboard on penaltyspotgate. It’s clear that someone somewhere forget to properly daub a splash of paint twelve yards from each goal, and equally plain that the referee didn’t notice that penalty spots were not visible to the fans. It happens. It was poor timing with the SMC choosing over the weekend to publicly defend their decision to sack the previous groundstaff, but never mind. It’ll make a great Hull City trivia question in years to come.

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REPORT: Doncaster 2-0 City

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Any walker will tell you that even the wintriest and most fleeting shaft of sunshine can briefly illuminate the bleakest of landscapes. It needn’t last long, and it may change very little; but you savour it nonetheless.

Savour this League Cup defeat at Doncaster, my friends. Marvel at our 2-0 loss to a side we were three divisions above last season. Because we are Hull City AFC, beset by malice, and there’s really nothing else we can do.

The ever-churning social media informs us of the team an hour before kick-off. With the exception of the redoubtable Rick Skelton and his hardy band of U23 regulars, who can truthfully say they’d heard of more than half of them? My wife notes that she taught one. None of them will remember the Smiths, Pulp, Cool Britannia, Boothferry Park or trebles for singles in Sharkeys. It transpires that the average age of the side is 19 years and 11 months. You don’t need to be particularly old to suddenly feel it.

They were, for the record:

Mannion; Lenihan (c), Clackstone, McKenzie, Fleming, Annan, Weir, Batty, Hamilton, Olley, Leur.

Seven City debuts, and a side captained by 23 year old Brian Lenihan, now a veteran of four first team games in England. Robbie McKenzie, wearing the famous #37 shirt, was a nice lad at school, incidentally.

We began with the City youths kicking away from the 2,000+ away fans, and they started terrifically. Composed in possession and fighting nerves and a much weightier Doncaster side in a way that made you feel a gulping pride, they stuck it out then started to play. And they could play as well, with lots of neat interplay, assured touches and smart one-twos.

The City fans roared their encouragement, breaking off only to pour torrents of scorn on the Allam family. “Where’s the money gone” was a familiar entreaty. Well, when Andy Medcalf publishes the next set of accounts we may find some interesting answers, though forensic accountancy skills aren’t required to observe the difference between income and expenditure on football players. In the meantime, an invitation to stand up if you hate Allam found very few willing to remain seated. The vitriol was universal, by a distance the greatest at any match thus far.

Doncaster pressed their way back into the game, and began to create opportunities of their own. They were unlucky to not score shortly before the break when some defensive uncertainty led to a shot smacking the inside of Mannion’s right hand post; luckily it bounced to safety.

Still, the kids stuck it out and made it half-time, an achievement rapturously received by the Tiger Nation. We began to wonder if a shock victory against Doncaster Rovers was even possible.

It was not. The home side scored early in the second half, and then shortly after, and dreams of a famous win in South Yorkshire were replaced by the gloomy possibility of these willing but cruelly exposed young lads taking a wholly undeserved shoeing.

Leonid Slutsky must have wondered the same. Asked to wave a few times by the supporters who are pained at the colossal betrayal he is experiencing, there was nothing he could do. His bench was nothing but even younger youngsters; no gnarled old pros on there to offer a bit of guidance. On we went.

And on the youth went, too. Heads briefly sagged but didn’t reach critical drooping status. Mannion kept things respectable when they threatened to not be, making two fine saves that, from our distant vantage, appeared to also strike the frame of the goal. And the boys rallied, and reapplied themselves, and kept going. By now, tiredness was clearly an issue and some of the neat football of earlier had been replaced by slightly hopeful long balls that were all too easy for actual grown ups to deal with, but not one of them gave up.

I wonder if the targets of David Meyler’s ire for non-trying were watching?

City made a couple of changes and towards the end Greg Luer slashed a shot wide when an appealing City move cut open the Doncaster defence – a shame, as even though the result was a fair one, a goal would have been just reward. But it wasn’t to be. City went down 2-0, but the boys were cheered off at the end anyway.

It’s funny to take pride in such an evening, but it shows that all isn’t lost. No matter what, there’ll always be young players itching to make a professional debut; their collective sense of pride in finally making a Hull City AFC debut was demonstrated in gushingly enthusiastic social media utterances that brought a smile on the way home. You were a credit to yourselves and your families, young men.

And the City fans were ace too. There’ve been times in the past when we’ve been just about all the club has left, and if the Allam family has its way we’ll be there again soon. But an angry, defiant, and passionate night’s work acted as a reminder that as long as we give a toss, there’ll always be a Hull City. And if it doesn’t look much like the one that realised our dreams between 2004 and 2014, then never mind. It’s ours, not theirs, and however hard they try, they’ll never destroy us.

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Things We Think We Think #262

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1. What a dismal week. There’s no shame in defeat against Wolves, though it starkly illustrated why we aren’t likely to serious challenge for automatic promotion. They were excellent, aided by City’s hesitancy both on and off the ball, and looked comfortably better than us throughout a sobering evening. Fair enough. We didn’t really expect to be competing for the top two anyway.

2. However, an unhappy result was lent a disastrous air by the news that Abel Hernández will now be out for most of the rest of the season. He’d already plundered a hat-trick against Burton and barring injury or the club cashing in, he’d almost certainly have ended the season as our leading scorer. He’d be extremely difficult to replace even if we tried; however, we probably won’t.

3. That sent a thin XI to QPR, with negligible support on the bench. Now, QPR are a fairly rotten side, much likelier to depart the division via its trapdoor than its ladder. To feebly lose to them really does not bode well for this season, and the early promise of Aston Villa and Burton feels quite distant.

4. And more injuries too. Campbell and Stewart will be unavailable for the foreseeable future, with Leonid Slutsky grimly forecasting more as he’s forced to call upon half-fit players. It’s a disgusting state of affairs to have the new manager so constrained by his employers, who’ve very clearly sold him down the river. Barring a very considerable change in policy from Ehab Allam, we are certain to be hopelessly unprepared for the long season ahead.

5. That isn’t likely to improve with the sale of Sam Clucas this week. £12m is a lot of money for a player who cost barely a tenth of that, but he can’t be replaced either, and it makes a mockery of the manager’s insistence that the supermarket was closed (that not his fault, obviously). We wish him well, as he’s grown to be an authentic Premier League player and his back story is an inspiring one.

5a. If Clucas, awaiting a move away, had really refused to play at QPR, why was he dressed in City apparel watching the game? It doesn’t compute and the player himself has denied it. It seems more plausible that he was made unavailable in order to protect the impending transfer fee.

6. Leonid Slutsky’s crestfallen post-match interview with a sparky David Burns was a tough listen. Well done to the BBC man for asking some tough questions, even though the man who should be answering them doesn’t have the guts or the decency to do so. Slutsky sounded thoroughly deflated and disillusioned, as all football managers who worked for that wretched family seem to become. His foray into the English game, for which he worked so hard, is not going how it should be. On a human level, we feel for him and the betrayal he’s experiencing. City fans: among the entirely justified loathing for his employers, let’s show him a bit of love this week, yeah?

7. To Doncaster, and it seems many are making this unglamorous journey with dissent on their mind. Bollocks to any equivocating this “get behind the team” and “it doesn’t help the players” drivel. What doesn’t help the team is having half of it sold every summer and not replaced. We’re going the way of Leyton Orient, Coventry, Blackpool et al, and while on-field success has helped to mask some of this, that’s no longer the case. It’s time for the protests to be ramped up and for the Allam family to know that their intentional mishandling of the city of Hull’s football team is not acceptable to the people who live in it.

8. Ola Aina. Already he’s causing a mild division of opinion. It’s clear that he’s a strong player, comfortable in possession and inclined towards attacking. But, the naysayers cry, what about the defending? Well, it’s a valid point. The (very early) evidence suggests that it isn’t his strongest point. We may just need to get used to that. The specialist full-back who rarely ventures beyond the halfway line is a dying breed, harking back to a time of greater specialisation but less flexibility – and of fewer players being capable of attacking. Like the specialist wicketkeeper, the out-and-out full-back may soon be only a memory of football from a different, slower and less versatile age – and Aina appears to embody this evolution in the game.

9. It’s temporary pleasure, but we did enjoy Ehab falling for the “give us a wave” trick at Loftus Road. The man really is devoid of self-awareness or shame. Still, from the brief joy of being able to call him deservedly rude names in response we then clock the mysterious besuited figures sitting beside him and wonder, hope, implore, beg even, that he is about to relinquish his responsibilities. Not that he has discharged these responsibilities with any element of, er, responsibility, obviously.

10. Harry Maguire played a blinder and scored a goal on his home debut for Leicester on Saturday while Andy Robertson turned in a fine display on his bow for Liverpool. We got £25m for those two, players who were then analysed at length by Match Of The Day, leading Gary Lineker to ask how we got relegated last season. Well Gal, it’s a hell of a story, so pour yourself a strong one and settle back…

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Things We Think We Think #261

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1. Satisfying stuff on Saturday from City. Circumstances assisted in the 4-1 win – Burton’s limitations, red card and submissive willingness to back off in the second half – but there was some truly terrific football played and we looked utterly comfortable.

2. Abel Hernández missed the easiest chance of the game in the first half – we don’t count any of the flurry of opportunities somehow blocked by Steven Bywater after the break – but nonetheless took his three goals with aplomb. Given the unrelenting departures of the summer, it’s a slight surprise that the Uruguayan is still with us, but with displays like that, we can be most grateful for it.

3. Other notable displays – Jarrod Bowen looks like he belongs at this level and his confidence is only going to grow, while Max Clark looked less of a square peg as an attacking left back, and actually crossed the ball on the overlap accurately and fiendishly on a good few occasions. Michael Hector’s assured and slightly cocky display at the back also hints at a performer of real class who could stroll through this division with a fat cigar on.

4. There was a moment in the first half when Ola Aina got a bit too complacent and lost the ball. City got away with it, just, but the terrific dressing down he took from Michael Dawson evidently had an effect because in the second half he defended stoutly and, as interest in attacking from our opponents dwindled more, he showed what a supreme athlete he is with shinpad-exposed runs with and without the ball that further burnt out the overworked Burton left side. This boy can play – and clearly he is capable of learning too.

5. Fraizer Campbell’s not fully at it yet, is he? Just like last week at Aston Villa, he didn’t look sharp enough, but only perseverance and hard minutes on the pitch will assuage that. We don’t recall him having a chance to score on Saturday but he put in an unselfish shift while his strike partner took the glory, and his time will come.

6. Maybe it’ll be when Wolves to come to town on Tuesday night. Leonid Slutsky removed Hernàndez, Kamil Grosicki (nice headed goal) and Sam Clucas against Burton, suggesting he wanted them as fresh as possible for hardier tests coming this week. A trip to QPR, rarely something that fills City fans with lipsmacking anticipation, then awaits at the weekend.

7. Slutsky told the press after the win over Burton that his highlight of the game was being asked to wave by the City fans. We could easily be in love with this guy already.

8. Doncaster away in the League Cup. Nearby, eminently winnable, and the prospect of big numbers travelling on a (hopefully) sultry mid-summer’s evening. And whatever number of Hull City supporters is announced that night, at least we know it’ll be accurate, eh?

*SOAPBOX TIME*

9a. If you find the actions of the Allams repulsive, and after careful consideration cannot in good conscience put money in coffers administered by them, so do not attend home games, then good on you.  Understandable.

9b. If you find the actions of the Allams repulsive, but after careful consideration have decided that you’re still going to attend games to cheer on the team (because you were a City fan long before they came along and you’ll be a City fan long after they’ve sold up) and you’ll be damned if those two are driving you away, then good on you.  Understandable.

10. If however, you’ve decided that your decision is the only decision that can be made and elect to berate other City fans on social media or in person, then to quote a colloquialism, ‘give your head a wobble’. The Allams and their dwindling cult of apologists are the enemy, not people who broadly agree that a pair of perfidious egotists must go quickly for the good of Hull City AFC. Divisiveness is clearly their goal, so don’t fall for it.

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MATCH REPORT: City 4-1 Burton

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You forget, don’t you, that a gulf in class between City and an opponent can work in our favour too. For all of its gaudy glitz, a season in the Premier League can be demoralising as the weekly assignments against the significantly wealthier continue without cessation. Back in the calmer waters of the Championship, with fish smaller as well as larger, the scope for dishing it out instead of being a permanent punchbag does possess a certain appeal. And as City pummelled an adventurous but pretty hopeless Burton, we left in a brighter mood than so often last season.

Not that Hull City AFC is a club wreathed in smiles at present. The sight of the whole Upper West Stand closed is a testament to the damage being done by the Allam family, and made for a sorry pre-match spectacle.

Luckily, one man for whom the next beaming grin is rarely too far away is the new City manager, Leonid Slutsky. On his home debut as the Tigers’ manager, he named the same XI that started and improved to draw at Aston Villa a week earlier:

McGregor;
Clark, Dawson, Hector, Aina
Grosicki, Clucas, Henriksen, Bowen
Campbell, Hernández

On the bench was new signing Seb Larsson, and City began the afternoon attacking the South Stand (hooray!).

It was open start, with Kamil Grosicki pinching the ball in the third minute and ill-advisedly opting to conclude his burst down the wing with a shot from an acute angle with unmarked teammates in the middle. Meanwhile, Stephen Warnock – who’d been struggling since a first minute knock – failed to last beyond 3.07pm, limping off to be replaced by Lloyd Dyer.

With the first anti-Allam chants of the afternoon only just subsiding, City took a gratifyingly early lead when a loose ball fell to Markus Henriksen. His fabulous volley hit the crossbar and came back out, where the alert Abel Hernández’s superior anticipation gave him a free header at goal. In it went, via a strong but vain attempted deflection from the exposed Burton keeper.

That began a spell of near total domination, as Burton Albion Brewers – as our own club cretinously renamed them in the build-up – looked close to being totally overwhelmed. Grosicki had a shot blocked after neat play by Fraizer Campbell, but the besieged visitors nearly (and should have) found themselves level soon after. Aina dithered naively on the ball, was dispossessed and Akins’ low shot went past McGregor but was ruled out for offside, erroneously it seemed.

That wasn’t unique, with a disagreeable vein of complacency running throughout City’s otherwise strong work. It became a madly end-to-end affair as Burton grew in attacking intent. McGregor smartly saved from Akins, Hernández fluffed a chance tougher than the one he’d earlier taken, Sordell sent one curling inches wide and Grosicki then wrapped up the 2017/18 miss of the season when rounding Bywater after being released on the right only to then miss the open goal. A crazy match.

It got crazier. More defensive faffing saw City fail to clear their lines repeatedly, and eventually Jackson Irvine was able to bend a superb shot past McGregor into the top right of the goal.

A great finish, and while parity flattered the visitors, they’d probably been worth a goal – City’s mucking around in defence and profligacy up front had badly undone them. Meanwhile, the 473 Burton fans crowed about this sudden and unexpected improvement in their fortunes.

But City weren’t to be the only ones capable of substantial self-harm. With eight minutes remaining before half-time and Slutsky’s charges yet to properly recollect themselves following their concession, Irvine rashly upended Bowen for the second time in the game. He’d seen yellow the first time, and although the City youngster was fully 80 yards from the Brewers’ goal, it looked a promising enough break to warrant a second caution. The Australian international forlornly departed, and the game very much felt City’s to lose.

Save for Grosicki directing a free kick well over, that was it for the half, with both sides appearing content to get to the interval and assess how best to approach the numerical disparity that Jackson’s foolishness had engendered.

Burton’s response wasn’t too unexpected. Nigel Clough deployed his depleted yellows in a 4-4-1 formation, while Leonid Slutsky took the opportunity to capitalise upon Burton’s likely lack of attacking ambition by urging his fullbacks further forward. It was to work splendidly.

On 50, City again began a half with an early goal. It came from the flanks, with the impressive Ola Aina fleet-footedly bewitching his marker before sending in a cute cross with his presumably weaker left. Grosicki determinedly attacked it at the near post, and sent a header bouncing into the far post to make it 2-1. Relief! Even if Burton were unlikely to win with ten, holding on for a point wouldn’t have been impossible, but now they had to chase.

Soon after, their stiff task began to appear impossible. A long ball was partially cleared straight to the unattended Hernández, who instantly crashed a low shot at Bywater. He may have done better with it, though its instant nature and sweet connection made it a challenging effort. Either way, he couldn’t keep it out, and on 53 it was 3-1. Game over, right?

Right. Flanagan replaced Sordell for the ailing visitors, who looked completely winded by their disastrous start to the second half. Campbell missed a chance to get his first City goal in 3,395 days when sending a header wide, but spurned opportunities no longer felt as though they’d materially affect the outcome.

On 68, any remaining doubts were dispelled. Clucas obtained possession in midfield, lost it and then quickly regained it, before threading a perfectly weighted ball to Hernández. The Uruguayan had cleverly found himself a yard of space and his control was perfect, allowing him to hare free of the beleaguered Burton defence. It never felt as though he’d miss, and he didn’t, coolly steering the ball past late-90s City loanee Bywater for his hat-trick and an emphatic 4-1 lead.

That left a quarter of the game remaining, and with the result assured, what to do? Push on for more goals and really put the distressed visitors to the sword, or relax a little with successive midweek fixtures approaching? Pragmatism won the day, with Slutsky swiftly withdrawing Clucas, Hernández and Grosicki for Meyler, Diomande and Larsson. Either way, it was a pleasant situation for the new boss to have.

14,882 was the official gate, incidentally. It felt approximately right, though tellingly it wasn’t announced over the PA system. It was displayed on the big screens though, and precipitated further calls for the Allams to bugger off.

City could and perhaps should have scored more as the cowed Albion prayed for an end to their torment – chances fell to (in no particular order) Clark, Henriksen, Dawson, Larsson, Hector, Diomande and Meyler, and if there are any frustrations to be gleaned from a comprehensive 4-1 win, it’s that City missed a boatload of opportunities throughout the game.

But hey, a 4-1 win! That didn’t happen much last season. Behind the affable exterior, Leonid Slutsky won’t have become a national manager without knowing his stuff, and he’ll know there are things to improve upon. Occasionally lackadaisical stuff in defence, too many chances being frittered away at the other end, coupled with the odd piece of bad decision making.

There’ll be tougher tests than a Burton side who played with ten men for over half the match. They don’t look like a side who’ll be seriously contesting for anything other survival this season. Wolves have won all three this season, beating two fancied Championship sides on the way – they’ll provide a much stouter examination on Tuesday. For now, four points and five goals. That’ll do nicely.

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Things We Think We Think #260

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1. Football is back! And if it was possible to be decidedly underwhelmed at the prospect of another season labouring under the ghastly Allams on Saturday morning, events in the early evening in Birmingham did at least make it feel less daunting.

2. Not that we can easily gloss over the first half. For much of it, City looked worryingly frail and disorganised. A side sharper than Aston Villa could easily have settled the game in the first third, and that really would have left us shuddering at the prospect of another 45 games. As it was, we’re back in the Championship, and spells like this are going to be ridden out more frequently. To keep it at 1-0, with a late flurry in the first half, always gave us a chance.

3. So it proved, as the second half was filled with encouragement. The previously lethargic Grosicki grew into the game, service to the hard working pair of Campbell and Hernández gradually improved and Aston Villa ceased being able to torment our full backs. This all made it possible for City to advance with authority rather than trepidation, and the equaliser – when it arrived – was fully deserved.

4. What a finish and what a moment for Jarrod Bowen. When Grosicki darted into the sort of space we were routinely denied last season and floated one over, it’d have been all too easy for a young, inexperienced player to wildly lash the ball high and wide when presented with the whites of the goalkeeper’s eyes. Instead, he demonstrated that his stunning matchwinning goal against Benfica last month was no fluke with a finish of steely composure. Well done that man (and what a great celebration too; elbowing a steward out of the way to get to the supporters will endear him further to the City fans for many a year). Well done also City for recovering a point from – according to the pre-season odds – the hardest game we’ll have in 2017/18.

5. Grosicki seems much better suited to playing down the right doesn’t he? Not only does it lessen the impact of a failure to adequately track back on our stand-in left back, it allows him to finish moves with his right foot. Despite being ambipedal, Grosicki’s end product was woeful last year when he was deployed on the left. His right footed cross for Bowen’s strike suggests we’re best starting him on that side.

6. Isn’t Leonid Slutsky a thoroughly affable individual too? His infectious personality makes it hard not to warm to him. In a club beset by difficulties, his radiant happiness stands out even more starkly. Lets just hope that grin remains intact.

7. After all, he works for Ehab Allam, who is clearly incapable of learning from, or even tacitly admitting his mistakes. “Absolute power corrupts absolutely” goes the axiom, in that people with too much power succumb to arrogance, believing their judgments always correct, and their wisdom infallible, despite evidence to the contrary. The summer of 2016 was evidence enough, when City’s preparation for a new season wasn’t just inadequate, it felt like an act of self-harm. That wouldn’t be repeated in the summer of 2017 would it? Of course it would, Ehab doesn’t learn, perhaps he just doesn’t care about anything other than the money we get from the Premier League even after relegation. What must Slutsky make of a summer where both left backs have, left? Robertson’s sale was understandable from all perspectives, but allowing the first player to ‘graduate’ from our relatively new academy set up to go, a local lad who was shamefully still on a scholarship deal earning £150 a week after making Premier League appearances, seems more than just careless. “The supermarket is closed” was Slutsky’s terse public response to the seemingly unending departures. He deserves better owners, and we wish him luck.

8. The signings he has made will obviously take a while to settle and gel. They also need to get to know the club, with one notable exception: Fraizer Campbell. At Villa Park, he made his second debut for City, two months short of ten years since his first. Reaction to his acquisition on a free transfer from Crystal Palace has been principally positive, which is a relief given that he has taken some unwarranted stick from City fans on the handful of occasions he has lined up against us in the two highest levels of the game. Campbell is now an experienced player, an England international, not completely proven thanks to a mixture of injuries and hefty competition for places, but if anyone knows how devastating a presence he can be at this level of the game, especially with a good supply behind and outside him, it’s us.

9. While there will always be reservations about local commercial radio’s effectiveness to deliver good football coverage when, unlike the oxygenated BBC, it lives and dies instantaneously by its audience figures and revenues, there is nothing in the Viking 2 deal to blame the radio station for, even going as far as the non-appearance of the much publicised first commentary of the season on Saturday due to a technical fault (they do happen, even to the BBC). But the decision by Ehab Allam to not renew terms with BBC Radio Humberside because he disapproves of their awkward, irritating knack of questioning his regime (which they generally did fairly, and with balance) is yet another example of his over-inflated sense of worth, a man of incompetence and spite who thinks he is the bees’ knees, and woe betide anyone, such as an experienced local journalist steeped in the objectivity that the BBC always strives to show, who dares to think everything Ehab does is not necessarily flawless nor open to close examination. Dave Burns is clearly upset, judging by his tweets on the subject. He is right to be – even his detractors have been able to admit that they would rather he and his station were there on matchdays than not. We wish Viking 2 well but can’t help but fear they are in cahoots with a truly poisonous client who will prove deleterious to their reputation, and Saturday’s no-show, irrespective of the true reasons for it, felt somehow symbolic of the deal itself.

10. The 2017/18 home kit is quite nice, good work Umbro. Shame it doesn’t have the club’s name on it.

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NEWS: Robertson departs for Liverpool

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We were never going to keep Andy Robertson, were we? Even if City had stayed up and possessed responsible owners, it’d have been a lot to expect. And so it’s come to pass, with the Scottish international becoming the latest but perhaps most widely anticipated departure of this dispiriting summer.

He’s joined Liverpool, a rare instance of a City player leaving directly for a top-half-of-the-top-flight club. The fee’s around £8m, decidedly on the low side for a played with such colossal potential. Half the value of Maguire, really? Hmm. Still, since joining City three summers ago, his explosive talent has been obvious, and taking a further step up the footballing ladder has always looked likely.

It’s the latest move in a steep career progression for Robertson. Rejected by Celtic for being “too small” (how the hell does this still happen in the modern day?) he spent 2012/13 at Scottish amateurs Queens Park and the following season at Dundee United. Still only 23, with 15 Scotland caps and dozens more to come, he could go a very long way in the game. His rampaging runs down the left wing were a joy to watch, and that third (and decisive) goal at Derby County will live long in the memory.

Best of luck, Andy.