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FEAT-SOHC

The Soul of Hull City #1: Waggy and Chillo

WAGGY AND CHILLO
Dramatis personae

WaggyChilloSOHC

The greatest strike partnership in Hull City’s history, in spirit and backed up easily by the figures. Upon the arrival of cocky and stocky Ken Wagstaff to partner Sproatley’s own centre forward par excellence Chris Chilton in late 1964, the pair never looked back. The giant Chilton’s brand of brave, strong, uncompromising marksmanship yielded the individual club record for goals which nobody will beat; Wagstaff was the artier, more cultured footballer, devilish at getting into the right positions and fearless when faced with any chance, in any game, against any goalkeeper.

The pair of them make sure in their dotage today that supporting forwards Ken Houghton, Ian Butler and Ray Henderson get their share of the credit as suppliers and supporting characters, but for seven years the name of Hull City was better known than the club’s league status may have deserved because of these two men at the helm, masters of the simple-but-difficult goalscoring craft. They scored 366 League goals for City on aggregate in 15 years of involvement; 252 of which came as a partnership between Wagstaff’s debut in November 1964 (in which both he and Chilton scored) and Chilton’s departure for Coventry in August 1971.

A staggering 52 of these were hammered in during the Third Division title winning season of 1966, in which Houghton, Butler and Henderson also each reached double figures. Wagstaff also scored a comparatively whopping four goals in FA Cup quarter finals, a round of the competition which remained alien to Hull City thereafter until 2009. Maybe all these stats really should have appeared at the start of this paragraph, as they say more than meagre words.

FEAT-TWTWT

Things We Think We Think #191

TWTWT

1. There doesn’t seem much need to overly detain ourselves with Ehab Allam’s comical offerings in last Friday’s Hull Daily Mail. The 1700 this, the 1700 that – it’s clear the poor man has got a figure in his head and is going to keep on repeating it whatever, and never mind what those pesky facts actually say.

2. Most illuminating was the tone of his answers. When asked about the name change, the younger Allam sounded downcast about its prospects. Perhaps we know now why. A day after the second part of his interview was published Ian Dennis, the BBC’s senior football correspondent, tweeted that the “FA’s Membership Committee recommend the name Hull City to remain“.

3. For the first application, this was recognised as an important step towards success. With the second application (you know, the one Assem Allam promised he wasn’t going to make) we can only hope this report is true and that it’d carry the same significance. It’d certainly explain Ehab’s entertainingly demoralised demeanour.

4. The first part of his interview dealt with finances and players, and was a little more positive. Though not explicitly mentioned, the club’s debt remains frighteningly high – however if proper contingency plans have been put in place to deal with that and prevent it getting out of control now that our access to Premier League riches is to taper off, then that’s good.

5. City’s initial batch of announced friendlies are a trifle more interesting than usual: Sheffield United away obviously stands out domestically. Wonder if they’ve stopped sulking about the FA Cup semi-final yet?

6. While it’s understandable that these things can sometimes to take a while to organise, it’d be nice if the club could get a wriggle on with announcing where and when we’re going abroad this summer – the logistics of arranging time off, flights, hotels and so on is no small thing and the more notice the better, please.

7. It’s fixture week! However cynical one may affect to be about football, it’s always nice to have the August-May portion of our lives arranged. A tick ground away in the League Cup, at home on the final day and West Yorkshire Police to be banned from rewriting the fixture list would all be nice.

8. News that Celtic have been given permission to introduce safe standing at Parkhead is very encouraging. It may be occuring under another association’s juridisction and we must still wait for permission to be granted to an English club outside the non-leagues, but one of Britain’s biggest clubs forging ahead with this sensible and overdue method of accommodating supporters can only hasten its arrival south of the border.

9. City were of course in favour of its introduction a few years ago. It would be very welcome if the club could reiterate its support for safe standing and continue to push for its introduction here in Hull.

10. RIP Ian McKechnie, who kept goal for City for eight distinguished years between 1966 and 1974. Here at AN we were too young to remember his time at the club, but heard stories of both his fruit appreciation and goalkeeping prowess from those who did see him. Everyone spoke well of him, as a man and a player.

EVERLIVING2

Music Giveaway – Everliving by Steve Cobby

EVERLIVING

Tuesday mornings are normally when we upload the weekly sonic assault that is the Amber Nectar Podcast, but that’s on close season hiatus until August, so we’re going to offer you the chance to listen to something far more beautiful than Matt’s dulcet tones…

Prolific local musician and City fan Steve Cobby a.k.a. The Solid Doctor, JJ Fuchs, one half of The Cutler and of course Fila Brazilia (whose track ‘The Hull Priests’ is the Amber Nectar Podcast intro theme), has just released the long player ‘Everliving’, and once again generously gives Nectarines the chance of some lovely free music.

No CDs this time though, we have ten download codes which can be redeemed at http://stevecobby.co.uk/, and to get one you need just to answer the following question, sending your answer to everliving@tigernation.co.uk by midnight Friday 5th June.

What was the name of Steve Cobby’s first long player, released in March 2014?  

We’ll send the winning codes out by email at the weekend, but if you don’t want to risk missing out, you can of course buy Everliving at http://stevecobby.co.uk/album/everliving and here’s a relegation pain soothing preview hosted on Soundcloud…

FEAT-BALL2

Match Report : City 0 Manchester United 0

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Hope. People deal with it in different ways. Some embrace it, hoping for better things, whereas some fear it, knowing that hopes can be cruelly dashed.

Our hopes for the last game of 2014/15 were, in truth, always slim. City needed to beat Manchester United for the first time in the Premier League, a tall enough order without also needing West Ham to beat Newcastle to maintain our status at that level, even if undeservedly.

Ultimately those hopes turned to ash, as City couldn’t register a goal against a remarkably pliable United side that were just going through the motions, and even if they had, Newcastle beat the already holidaying-in-their-heads Hammers 2-0 to make our result academic.

To fulfil our end of the unlikely bargain, the 11 men in black and amber needed to show more than hope, they needed belief, and lots of it. Not quite showing enough belief over the course of the game were…

Harper

Chester Dawson McShane

Elmohamady Meyler Huddlestone Quinn Brady

N’Doye Jelavić

Mostly morgue-like in recent games, the KC Stadium was a raucous venue this day, the travelling fans repeatedly sang a desire to “go on the piss with Georgie Best” while the Tiger Nation attempted quite admirably to lift the lads.

Manchester United, clad in all white, kicked off towards the South Stand, but it was City that showed the early intent. Robbie Brady swung a low cross towards Nikica Jelavić in the box, but the Croat was flanked by Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones, and the latter slid to push the ball to Daley Blind who cleared. Brady was looking energised and soon after put another cross into the box, this time Dame N’Doye glanced a header goalward but the ball fell straight into the welcoming grasp of Victor Valdes.

A positive enough start then from City, though United soon showed that while they may not have been that enthused about this game, they still possessed the quality to pin us back with ease: Ashley Young played a diagonal ball behind Ahmed Elmohamady to Rojo, he feigned a deep cross, instead pulling the ball back to Wayne Rooney, stood outside the box, and the Scouser fired a shot through Michael Dawson’s legs that scraped the topside of the crossbar.

That warning against complacency didn’t extinguish City’s early game enterprise though, Tom Huddlestone played a ball over United’s defence to Elmohamady (played onside by Blind) who raced forwards with Valdes coming out to narrow an already tight angle, Elmo dinked a crossed ball over towards Jelavić but by this time the white shirted defence was back in numbers and the ball was headed away for a corner.

After the first was headed behind by Blind, a second cross from a corner was hoofed away, leading to a highly approximate challenge by Angel Di Maria that wiped out Elmohamady (who’d curiously been the lone defensive player in the corner routine) and both men rolled around in pain, though the Argentinian initially seemed to faking hurt in  an attempt to avoid reproach from the referee.

After a lengthy delay, Elmohamady was again sent to the floor, this time by Rojo on the flank, winning a free kick. The set piece was swung in by Brady and seemed destined to be easily claimed by Valdes, only the Spanish netman dropped the ball with Paul McShane underneath him. Rooney nudged McShane beyond Valdes and the ball into an offside position, which was flagged when David Meyler flicked the ball out of Valdes’ hands and McShane mischievously prodded it over the line.

Valdes looked a somewhat safer pair of hands minutes later when Brady’s delicious cross from the left was met by Elmohamady, his downward header drew a magnificent save from the former Barcelona stopper, he got low quickly and pushed  the ball around the post.

From the resulting Brady corner kick, Ander Herrera’s header wasn’t away but lateral, falling to Stephen Quinn who struck the ball into the thicket of legs in between him and the goalline, one of those legs belonged to N’Doye who backheeled the ball past Valdes, but alas both N’Doye and McShane were stood in an offside position and again the linesman held aloft his flag.

We weren’t to know it at the time, we were too busy being enthused by City’s pluck, but this was a pivotal moment of sorts. City have repeatedly shown a tendency to look like world beaters for 20 out of the 90 minutes in many a game this season, often failing to sustain this form for the length of time needed to secure a desirable result.

It’s a problem that seems entirely psychological, and if our being on top in terms of pressure doesn’t equate to being ahead on goals in these short bursts of aceness, then belief escapes from the players like helium from an untied and let go balloon.

Di Maria, it turns out, was genuine in his pain exclamation earlier, and he was withdrawn on 22 minutes and Adnan Januzaj joined the game in his stead. The assessment and substitution seemed to take an age and then Jelavić spent some time being checked over by the physio after going down clutching his ankle after being turned by Antonio Valencia when chasing a stray ball.

These delays ended City’s momentum and perhaps broke our players concentration, allowing anxieties to resurface, as we were now on the back foot as United enjoyed a rather leisurely paced, prolonged period of possession. Young played the ball into the box where City’s defence had missed Herrera’s advance, but he couldn’t make a meaningful contact with the ball and the move broke down.

It was pretty clear that Manchester United had little interest in moving through the gears, there was no guts being busted to ensure a win, and if City could raise their game again, then a win wasn’t beyond the realms of possibility. The attitudes of both sides forwards was interesting to note, even though not at full pelt, United’s advanced men were still instinctively putting pressure on our defenders when the ball was deep in our own half, City’s front men, conversely, weren’t pressing much, Jelavić not working defenders is perhaps understandable, he’s clearly far from full fitness (and normally does press well) but N’Doye’s lack of application in such a manner seemed more the product of resignation. He had air of a man who already knew he’ll be playing elsewhere after this game and was not overtly fussed about going out on a high.

Half time was whistled, and having twice put the ball in the net by foul means, there were just 45 minutes plus change left to do it fairly. Still everything to play for at this point though, as the Geordies and West Ham were nil apiece.

The second half started as the first finished, with United lazily in control and City unsure how to impose themselves on the game once again. N’Doye gave the ball away with an appallingly judged backpass to McShane, instead sending Mata skipping towards goal, he slipped the ball behind McShane for Herrera but his shot was manfully blocked by Dawson. That shook the crowd out of its slumber, as did ref Lee Probert’s decision to award United a throw after Jones tackled Jelavić on the left wing.

City’s best chance since the middle of the first half went agonisingly begging as Elmohamady’s deep cross was headed across goal by Valencia under pressure from Jelavić and Meyler opened up his foot to send the ball over and wide.

At this point news of a Newcastle goal was filtering through, not that the feeling of nervous anxiety that shrouded the ground could be increased by much. Dutch Jimmy Bullard lookalike Blind received a yellow card for stopping Meyler taking a free kick quickly.

With nearly an hour gone, United made another personnel change, sending on the bouffant Belgian Marouane Fellaini while removing Young. Herrera flashed a shot across goal and wide after a pull back pass from Mata. We’re not winning this if we can’t get on the front foot, just too much respect was being shown to a barely trying opposition.

Brady was still keen to drive City forwards, he skipped past Mata and fired the ball into the box where Chris Smalling got low to head it away for a corner. Brady took it himself and delivered a raking ball for Dawson to head forward towards a mass of bodies in the six-yard area, McShane went up with Valdes, the ball slipped past both of them, N’Doye was slow to turn and Blind hacked the ball away to safety.

N’Doye fell to the floor after poking the ball beyond Jones in the box but even he wasn’t convinced there had been any foul, perhaps such desperation betrayed a lack of belief in his team mates to fashion another goalscoring chance as the game ticked away to its dismal conclusion. He did get one though, Elmohamady swung in a fine cross and N’Doye hit the ball on the turn and on the volley but it arced wide of the goal.

That was N’Doye’s last contribution as he and Chester were brought off for Abel Hernández and Sone Aluko. Aluko made a quick nuisance of himself by turning Herrera before crossing for Jelavić who drew a smart save from Valdez.

With a quarter of an hour to go City were given a numerical advantage. Quinn played a backwards pass to Brady that went beyond him, and Fellaini sprinted towards the ball, McShane was quick to cover ground and slide the ball away only for Fellaini to stamp a studs imprint into McShane’s knee. Ref Probert had little hesitation in producing a red card after seeing red oozing from our Irishman’s knee. Curiously, the physio bandaged McShane’s bonce as well as his leg.

Elmohamady delivered a cross from the right after beating sub James Wilson, Valdes pounded the ball away but straight to Hernández who swung a leg and missed the shot. His follow up attempt was blocked before Brady shot wide. Conviction, as well as quality, was absent.

Steve Bruce made a final change in a bid to make the extra man count, sending on Andy Robertson in place of Meyler, but it was to no avail. Further north, Newcastle doubled their lead, and though City huffed and puffed for five added minutes, it was for nought.

City then, are back in the Championship, and deservedly so, having been relegated in a dispiritingly meek and oh so avoidable manner. We had hope of avoiding the drop, but no belief, and ultimately we weren’t good enough, and the summer will be spent apportioning blame for that.

Hope though, as the Bard famously wrote, springs eternal, ever changing shape and form. We hope that we can return to the top tier soon of course, but some hopes are more important than that: we hope that this relegation can be used to reboot the club, to re-establish some of the values that were needlessly cast aside during the last two years. The relevance of the local community in decision making, the value of the club’s long established and cherished identity, not quantified in pounds, rupees or yen, but in heartfelt importance to those who love the club rather than the division it plays in. We hope that the players who don’t care about the club’s cause are dispensed with and that the players who have shown that they really care, some of whom have not been treated well by the manager this season, can be retained. Paul McShane winning the man of the match award in our last Premier League game for a while is significant. Ultimately, we hope for a happy Hull City AFC.

FEAT-POD

PODCAST; TWTWT Podcast 73

Fancy listening to four ageing men of dubious hairstyles and personal hygiene issues rabbit on about how dreadful life as a City fan is?

You do? Excellent. Your boots can take a thorough filling right here. We wail about the defeat at Tottenham, whinge about the likely relegation this coming weekend and, just in case that isn’t morbid enough for you, we talk about The Worst City Manager In Our Lifetimes too.

FEAT-TWTWT

Things We Think We Think #187

TWTWT

1: Is there anything our club can do that’s right at the moment? Everything on and off the pitch seems to stink to high heaven, and there is a sense that the rest of the Premier League can’t wait to see the back of us. Our owner is derided, our manager ridiculed, our players lambasted for not trying or patronised for not being good enough. It’s starting to feel almost like we should be embarrassed by association.

2: We’re not of course. We’re proud. Of ourselves, and our association with Hull City AFC. The club aren’t proud of us, of course, but that’s only as a result of some toxic individuals controlling the coffers and the flow of information who have no inkling of what we represent, and what importance we hold. We’ll always be here.

3: Jake Livermore, however, is unlikely to be here much longer, assuming he hasn’t already been privately told his City career is already over. What a grim business this is: a lad of peak fitness and considerable earning power, not to mention a decent future in the game, will now forever be tainted by an association with illegal, hard drugs. The circumstances may point to a troubled life for Livermore, of course, but taking cocaine has no place in professional, elite sport, irrespective of the circumstances, and if ultimately proven guilty he must be stoutly punished – and then helped, if help is required.

4: Meanwhile, the team-mates he has left behind went to Tottenham and, while the performance wasn’t lamentable, the basic lack of quality for a side that contains pushing £42m worth of signings since the summer was. Spurs barely broke sweat in beating us, and City had to rue poor final balls and poor finishing. The difference was stark throughout. For Tottenham, read also Swansea. And Southampton. And Stoke. And any number of games this season in which City have travelled to difficult but not unbeatable opposition, and slid to a cheap defeat against anyway. As much as being doubled by Burnley was crucial, it’s been the incessant inability to get anything on the road against mid-table opposition that’s killed us.

5: Relegation isn’t set in stone, but it feels like it’s inevitable, doesn’t it? Oddly, an awful lot of pundits think that we’ll somehow sneak a win against Manchester United – a team we’ve never beaten in the top tier, and whom Steve Bruce has never defeated in his managerial career – while Newcastle flop against West Ham and go down. We appreciate their faith in us, but it feels misplaced. And if Sunderland take themselves out of the relegation picture with something from their game at Arsenal in midweek, then our opponents will see a glimmer of hope for third place, and avoiding a European Cup preliminary tie. This scenario will make an already onerous task pretty much impossible. And even if we do beat them, it’s still reliant wholly on others. If we win and Newcastle do too, we will still go down, and we’ll damn well deserve it.

6: Are you ready to turn on Steve Bruce yet? It’s a tough one, as the City manager remains an affable fellow, and his first two seasons delivered a quadruple whammy – promotion, a highest ever finish, an FA Cup final and European football. Those achievements bought him time and goodwill when the cracks began to appear, but if we are relegated under him, and even if we are not, he now needs to be properly scrutinised. His decision-making, overspending on players, awful attitude to the cup competitions, tactical negativity, risible criticism of justified fan protests and general shoulder-shrugging, soundbite-riddled reactions to inept displays and awful results have all gone against him this season, and have intensified in recent weeks. His national image is that of a dinosaur manager – we don’t go that far, but he has questions to answer and, assuming he is big enough to return to Championship football with us (as the club won’t fire him), a spot of redemption to find.

7: In the event of relegation, it’s imperative that the real men of professional virtue – Chester, McShane, Bruce junior, Elmohamady, Brady, Quinn, Meyler, Rosenior – are kept on. These guys have our club in their hearts and will be hurting at returning to a division they strived so much to exit in 2013. One or two are out of contract this summer and, miracles this weekend notwithstanding, need to be retained urgently. In the second tier they’d be among the best in the division, again, and we can only imagine Elmohamady and Chester being courted by any of the clubs we leave behind. Also, the financial meltdown some predict for City in the Championship should not be pre-empted by any kind of massive fire sale, even though we’d expect the likes of Jelavić and Robertson to fetch some decent money, while others like Huddlestone, Davies and Hernández could be offloaded just for the sake of the wage bill. And that’s even after the pay cuts we all know about have kicked in – after all, none of us can imagine Huddlestone wanting to play in the Championship on half his current colossal salary, even though he hasn’t looked remotely like a Premier League player for months.

8: We were close to saying the club itself hasn’t done anything provocative or boneheaded this week, but then we got the spectacle of cheap scarves being doled out at Tottenham with that awful, nameless logo on it. Visual reminders of the Allams’ vandalism of our heritage aren’t terribly welcome at the moment.

9: David Conn is bloody good at his job. When he gets involved in your club’s travails, you know more than ever you are in the right.

10: On a lighter note, mercifully, we are thrilled to bits that Phil Brown is going to have another crack at leading a team to play-off victory at Wembley. This coming Sunday, the day we play Manchester United and likely exit the Premier League, is the seventh anniversary of the day we first reached the top division, and we still remain grateful for that mesmerising season, that wonderful day at the home of English football and the man who masterminded it. We wish our ex-gaffer and his Southend side the best of luck when they take to the Wembley field against Wycombe on Saturday.

FEAT-SEATS

NEWS: Livermore suspended over failed drugs test

LivermoreJScarcely the sort of news City needed ever, let alone now, but midfielder Jake Livermore has been immediately suspended by the club and the FA after a random drugs test found traces of cocaine.

The midfielder, a regular over the last two seasons at the Circle, was subject to a test after City’s 2-0 win at Crystal Palace last month. He subsequently played in the win over Liverpool and the defeats against Arsenal and Burnley prior to the results being made public yesterday.

Cocaine is not a performance-enhancing drug but comes under the ‘social’ drugs category under the FA’s rules on unlawful substances, and Livermore now faces up to a two-year ban. It is hard to believe, irrespective of how City finish the season, that he will play for the club again.

Livermore, who is 25, joined City on loan in the summer of 2013 after promotion from the Championship and had a fine season; this year he has been less effective and was coming under considerable criticism for his most recent displays. He previously played for Spurs, for whom he was an apprentice, and has one England cap.

FEAT-TWTWT

Things We Think We Think #186

TWTWT

1: We’ll do the Burnley performance first, and then its grisly consequences. They froze. When confronted with both the most important and most winnable fixture of the entire season, almost every single City player froze with fear. Gone was the swashbuckling display at Crystal Palace or the tenacious overcoming of Liverpool, replaced with a feeble, terrified, abject offering.

2. We must sadly conclude that our failure this season is caused by mental weakness. On paper – where football is obviously not played – we possess a squad patently capable of having secured safety weeks ago and able to possess loftier goals than mere survival anyway. But repeatedly this season, in big games, or winnable home fixtures, or tricky away fixtures, the side has collectively failed to show up. Are the players bottlers? Is the manager incapable of motivating them? Barring a miracle (about which more shortly), we’re going to spend a long, unhappy summer of recriminations, which are sure to focus on the pitifully soft nature of our side.

2a. That MOTD graphic showing that we’d outspent the 6 other sides that constitute the bottom 7 was grim reading wasn’t it? A reminder too, that you can buy talent and potential, but not heart and pride.

3. Barely any of the side who slunk from the field on Saturday escaped without a severe dent to their reputation. Quinn was busy, though in a midfield that also contained the idle Huddlestone and the hopeless Livermore, he could scarcely have looked poor. Jelavić looked full of running when he came on, if patently unfit. And that’s about it. What a rotten time for almost everyone to completely fail to turn up.

4. At the moment, we aren’t terribly interested in excuses. All sides get injuries. Everyone benefits and suffers from patchy refereeing. Sunderland’s brace of deflating deflections earlier on Saturday afternoon cannot mask a season of underachievement. And so on. At this stage of the season, the table doesn’t lie.

5. Of course, there’s still scope for the table to be adjusted in our favour – but that is going to require something we frankly don’t think our side is capable of. Tottenham may be mentally on the beach by now, but that seems of little immediate use when our side is in the equally unhappy situation of cowering in a corner. Meanwhile, there’s not much to suggest that even a Manchester United side with little to play for won’t overpower us on the final day. We probably have to win both of those games, though a win and a draw might just see us collapse over the line if other teams have an accommodating disaster of their own. However, the bookies’ price of 1/3 on City to go down doesn’t feel especially unfair right now.

6. And then what? The club has promised (stop laughing) that a review of prices will follow relegation. But can you seriously imagine Assem Allam doing anything remotely supporter-friendly? Armed with the knowledge that four extra fixtures will be played, he’ll probably think prices should go up. Meanwhile, few will renew until relegation is confirmed or miraculously avoided; at which point, those who covet the Premier League will decide to spend their £500+ on something else, leaving only a disaffected and embittered hardcore that the club is in any case doing its best to drive away.

7. Who’ll go? Who’ll stay? It turns the stomach a little to think of indolent millionaires skipping away from the club towards the latest fat contract without a single backward glance, but the avaricious nature of the game makes that inevitable.

8. However, we still have two games left to go before that all unfolds. A quirk of the fixtures means that City can’t actually be relegated at White Hart Lane, though another significant stride towards the Championship can be made. That means no-one will have the opportunity to make themselves look silly on the television by affecting distressed tears next weekend.

9. How would relegation impact upon Assem Allam’s idiotic attempts to change the club’s name? He’s said before that it’d be pointless in the Championship, as though it was somehow a fabulous wheeze in the Premier League, but then he’s said a lot of things before and his word is a currency possessing minimal value.

10. Hull Tigers v MK Dons next season. Try to imagine that without wanting to vomit.

FEAT-BALL

Match Report – City 0 Burnley 1

HuddlestoneTh

We filed into the KC Stadium nervous, ahead of a key fixture in the relegation battle. We left the KC Stadium angry, after witnessing what was tantamount to a relegation surrender.

Some people will shake their heads and wonder how a side that has taken four points from Liverpool and drawn at Arsenal and Manchester City can possibly be embroiled in a battle against the drop, but the answer is relatively simple: A string of inadequate results against the sides around us at the intestinal end of the Premier League, and an inability to finish off sides after having our foot on their necks. We let Leicester and Newcastle have four points each to our one, allowed Sunderland to escape with a point in a game which we should have won, and coughed up six points to Burnley who were bottom of the division on each occasion.

How can you do that and expect to remain a top tier side? The good results against top four teams are all very nice, but beating the struggling sides is the key to salvation, and a true test of the character of your squad. It’s easy for any player to self-motivate when up against marquee opposition,  but when they have to roll up their sleeves and scrap against determined and dogged opponents, not just to edify themselves, but to show respect to and give their all for their colleagues, their manager and their fans, that’s harder, and after this game, it’s hard to imagine many players being able to look each other in the eye and say they gave it their all. How very sad.

Steve Bruce stuck with the same starting eleven that beat both Crystal Palace and Liverpool before self destructing against a slick Arsenal side who needed little assistance from us to depart with three points. We carded, then: Harper; McShane, Dawson, Chester; Brady, Livermore, Huddlestone, Quinn, Elmohamady; Aluko and N’Doye.

Burnley kicked off, knowing only victory could save them and even then maybe not, playing towards the North Stand. City meanwhile, now also occupied a relegation  spot after Sunderland took advantage of Everton profligacy and won 2-0 in the first game of the day.

The team in claret and blue, backed by a raucous mob in the North/East corner, had the first opportunity of note, former Tiger George Boyd bounded down the right wing and delivered a cross he hoped would find an extremity of either Ings or Taylor but instead found Steve Harper’s gloved hands.

City responded well, Brady cut in on the left and chipped the ball to Aluko who couldn’t dig out a shot after several controlling touches, however Quinn swung a cross beyond the far goalpost to Elmo, but his touch was errant and the ball struck him and went out for a goal kick.

The home crowd was energised by this for a split second but soon went back to transmitting silent nervousness. After a week of social media broadcast hand wringing about getting behind the team and not protesting,  very few people were doing what they’d implored others to do.

Quinn and Brady hough, were motivated regardless: The former deftly clipped the ball beyond his marker and into the path of Brady, sprinting towards the byline before crossing the ball in-between the keeper and a slew of defenders in the hope that Aluko, N’Doye or Elmo would attack it, they didn’t and a defender sliced the ball over for a corner. So far, so alright at this point, and almost better when further interplay between Quinn and Brady led to a deep cross that Elmo headed wide and high.

Burnley were creating chances too though, Barnes headed over after beating Chester to a cross from a corner, they were looking more composed too, generally keeping the ball for spells whereas we were often errant in our passing, Huddlestone and Livermore as culpable as they were against Arsenal.

City’s best chance from open play of the half came from Paul McShane, who rose to meet Brady’s inswinging corner kick but his headed attempt was over the goal. At the other end Taylor crossed well for Barnes who got ahead of Dawson but his downward header didn’t trouble Harper too much.

N’Doye won a free kick after being held back as he smartly controlled a long and hopefully punted ball downfield by Huddlestone. From it Brady arced the ball over the wall but not under the crossbar, which it smacked against and bounced over. There were hearts in mouths in the home sections after Huddlestone’s weak clearance went straight to Mee, but he couldn’t get his foot sufficiently over the ball and spooned it way over.

N’Doye fell to the floor clutching his face after being beaten to the ball by Shackell but there really didn’t seem anything in it, certainly no elbow use as was seemingly being implied. Perhaps N’Doye was just trying to inject some drama into a half of torpor and tepidity both on the field and in the stands. There are new floodlight gantry’s in each corner of the ground and LED lamps running the full length of the East Stand, but even had they have been switched on, this was a low wattage half of football.

No changes were made during the break and little changed early in the second half. Elmo fired a low cross into the box but Aluko couldn’t get on the end of it and at the other end Barnes tried an overhead kick that went wide in a move that seemed to take place in slow motion. There was so little pace on the effort that even old man Harper was never in trouble even had it been on target.

One of the few who emerged from this game with great credit was Stephen Quinn, whose industry and heart deserved better, certainly a better response from his team mates. His cross from the left let to a Livermore shot that was charged down, and after Elmo passed to him, a relatively tame shot into the ‘keeper’s grasp from Huddlestone.

Oh Tom Huddlestone. Do you remember this time last year when people were expressing outrage at Huddlestone’s being overlooked by the national team? When he was being touted as a possible World Cup squad member? What has happened to that player? Today Huddlestone was emblematic of the lack of urgency shown by many of the team following the Liverpool game, as if they felt safety was assured and none of the other teams would even bother trying.

He slothed around the pitch as if this was the first game of pre-season, and his passing accuracy was brilliant if you count him as a Burnley player. Quite how he maintained his place after being directly responsible for two of the goals conceded in the Arsenal defeat is mystifying, but despite setting his performance bar at its lowest level during his two years at the club on Monday, he was trying, or not trying if you will, to limbo underneath it.

We’ve heard people say all season long that there is a great player in there somewhere and we know that is the case from 2013/14, but he’s nowhere to be seen in 2014/15, and nothing seems to motivate him, not being dropped for a short while, not the impending wage cut, nothing, and if he thinks he’ll easily move to another Premier League side, he’s doing so figuring none of them will watch game footage from this season. He’s far from the only one to underwhelm this year, but when you’re considering the big name players who just haven’t earned their thousands, his name springs to mind first.

Burnley started to turn up the heat, and had a spell of possession so long it was easy to forget that they were the away side. Harper punched away a deep cross only for Taylor to fizz in a cross that missed Barnes diving header attempt by a tiny margin.

A brief respite came when Chester’s raking ball found Brady, who dinked the ball past a marker and darted purposely diagonally upfield, he squared for Livermore, who found Aluko in the box with back to goal, and yet again he failed to create space and his shot was harmlessly against claret sock covered shins.

The Burnley onslaught soon resumed though, Ings got the better of Chester wide of goal and sprinted towards it, slaloming past Dawson and McShane before being bundled over by team mate Barnes and appealing for a foul! Boyd laid the ball back for Arfield and his shot was blocked and Harper gathered. City though, were living dangerously.

We were looking woefully weak in midfield and as a result creating little up front, so Steve Bruce withdrew the abject Livermore, adding Meyler for graft and solidity in midfield, and implementing phase one of  his now familiar when we need something kitchen sink  policy by swapping a forward for a defender, Jelavić for McShane.

The plan seemed to be working for a few seconds at least, Jelavić’s blasted shot from outside the box pinballed off a defender to Aluko, who fed a wide Meyler, but his cross was headed away and then cleared.

But Burnley were soon back on the front foot. Trippier’s cross from the right was swiped upwards by Dawson, who went to contest the second ball himself against Barnes and came down from that tussle holding his nose as Meyler tackled Taylor and conceded a corner. As Burnley prepared for that the ref noticed a spot of blood on Dawson’s shirt and ordered him off to replace it, leaving us a man down as the corner kick was fired in. After a short bout of head tennis, George Boyd passed back to Mee who curled in a cross that Elmo headed, Brady made an unfortunate mess of controlling or clearing the ball, and Danny Ings blasted the ball in from close range. 1-0 Burnley.

Claret and blue clad players exulted in front of claret and blue clad fans, they didn’t even care that it no longer mattered if they won and that other scores meant they were likely down anyway, they revelled in their togetherness, and City were drawn further into the mire.

So now’s the time when the Tigers finally shake themselves from their somnambulism and fight back into the game, right? Wrong.  The urgency the crowd willed them to show just never came, City carried on in a fairly pedestrian manner, although Bruce activated phase two of operation kitchen sink by replacing Aluko with Hernandez.

Jelavić headed fairly tamely goalward from Elmo’s raking cross, and Quinn reacted quickly to the deflection of a Burnley man with a diving header that lacked the requisite fizz, it hit Hernandez, who tried a cute back heel, but that too lacked power and the ‘keeper gratefully pouched it.

Burnley put the ball in the net a second time but Barnes, who’d contested a high ball with Harper on the goal line, made only a cursory claim of innocence when the ref deemed his challenge to be a foul.

The ball was mostly in our side of the field, though Quinn won a free kick after an Elmo cross was headed away, and Brady, having already rattled the woodwork, eyed another dead ball strike. Jelavić faked to take it, and Brady walloped it over the wall, past the keeper, but again against the bar, and Burnley hacked away the rebound. Soon after Quinn fired a shot that again homed in on the ‘keepers gloves. Ten minutes remained.

Brady was fouled by Boyd near the South Stand byline, but nothing came from Huddlestone’s unfocused chip from the free kick. Brainlessly, City conceded several needless free kicks in their own half to allow Burnley to tick away added time without incident and the ref soon signalled the end of a wretched afternoon for City.

Whichever way you look at it, a side who knew deep down they were down, wanted this game more than the side with a more realistic chance of survival, a chance they squandered. For this, you have to ask questions of Steve Bruce’s ability to motivate his charges. There has been a pattern developing over the last few years, one of late season complacency and hopefulness when hard work was required.

2013, City beat Ipswich, figure they’ve done enough to secure runners-up spot, then phone in performances against Wolves and Bristol City, stink the place up at Barnsley, and stumble over the line on the final day in a chaotic game against Cardiff.

2014, with an FA Cup final to look forward to, City lose four of their last five league games and tumble down the table, finishing lower than they could have done.

2015, after an improbable win over Liverpool, City meekly accept defeat to Arsenal and lose to the bottom side as teams above us win or draw, leaving us with an away trip to Tottenham and a home game against Manchester United left to ensure survival.

It’s a frankly terrifying pattern, and one that could end with a totally needless relegation when we’ve had it well within our power and capacity to avoid it. A relegation battle? If only, we cruised against Burnley when some sense of  urgency was needed, and when you’re really in need of three points, that is as good as a relegation surrender.