So, how many people thought Hull City would be Premiership cannon fodder, this seasons Derby County, bravely battling against the odds in a futile struggle that would ultimately lead to relegation. If so, how many had actually seen Hull City play before they came up? Not many I bet. Fair enough, I’d only seen them half a dozen times last season but there was enough there for me to feel that they’d certainly do a lot better than Derby did last season and I was not surprised when they won the play off final in May.
That’s one of the main problems football coverage has in the UK, it’s so biased toward the Premiership that sometimes the pundits have no idea about any of the sides coming up from the Championship at all unless they’re a former Premiership club or recently relegated and returning straight back. This in turn leads to the standard pre-season prediction of the 3 promoted clubs going straight back down, or depending how well the pundit knows the manager or either they used to play or manage them, the lucky promoted side may be tipped to finish 17th. It’s all rubbish really, a bit of an old boys club, blinkered people unable to objectively look at a side properly without bias coming into play. The plucky little promoted sides then have to run the gauntlet of cliches, ignorance and condescending comments as they battle bravely on until being relegated in April or May.
Yet Hull City, like Reading and Ipswich Town before them have caught a lot of people by surprise, Brown has them playing a fairly expansive 4-1-2-1-2 formation which seems to be working so far, with Geovanni in the hole behind Cousin and King and it allows them push up into a 4-3-3 when attacking with the ball, Boateng moving forward to form a midfield trio. It is so refreshing to see a side who come up, sign footballers and want to play the game the right way.
That’s why they’ve got 21 points after 13 games, because they’ve gone out to try and win games rather go into a match not wanting to lose it. Mentally, it’s a massive difference to your mindset and makes you feel more positive about the task facing you. West Brom are struggling to score goals because the players they have don’t have the top level experience and it shows, Stoke City are doing OK but as soon as people work out how to negate their long ball game, then they too will struggle. Hull on the other hand have more quality in the squad, players who have played in the Premiership, La Liga, Le Championnat and it gives them more weapons at their disposal.
Of course, at the moment everything’s going well but Brown will be the first to admit that he needs a bit more experience and depth adding to his squad in January. The loss of the highly rated Fagan thanks to Danny Guthries obscene challenge hit them hard, but they’ve recovered and carried on picking up points but I saw some comments about the fact they’d lost 3 games on the spin. Articles entitled “The Bubbles Burst”, “Toothless Tigers” and “Hull’s Premiership Dream Start Over”, along with some ridiculous comments about Hull having been found out really got my back up.
Anyone who saw their last defeat, against Bolton Wanderers, will know exactly why they lost that game, an absolutely world class performance from the Premierships most underrated goalkeeper, Jussi Jaaskelainen, kept at least 3 or 4 goals out to nick the points for the Trotters. The other two defeats, against Chelsea and Manchester United hardly need defending, but to slate them for losing to those two sides? Absolute nonsense, if you’re lucky enough to support one of the big four, fine but if you don’t, just count up your recent results against them and see how well your side has done. At Old Trafford, they made Sir Alex a very nervous man indeed, pulling it round from 4-1 down to 4-3 and left with their pride intact. I think they were the first side to score 3 in a league match at Old Trafford since Chelsea in Mourinho’s first season, yet still the pundits pointed out the result and not the performance or opposition.
Unfortunately, yesterday Sky Sports fell into this very trap, saying it was a must win game after 3 defeats in a row in the game against Manchester City but then again, I don’t expect anything else from them these days so you learn to tune out the hype and dreadful punditry and focus on the game itself. When the commentating combination isn’t Gray and Tyler, then the same cliched ridden bores continue to offend the ears of all football fans with half a brain.
The staff and players at Hull deserve a big pat on the back for dealing with the cliches and negativity so well and rubbing a few peoples noses in it. They’ve been a breath of fresh air all season, from their fantastic ground, the way they play football to the eloquent way Phil Brown discusses his side and football in general. Brown has surprised me, with how positive he wants to play the game, it’s fantastic to see a side want to win football matches away from home and do it in the right way. I thought he was taking a massive gamble with the front 3 he signed, but so far all 3 have been on fire, especially Geovanni who needs special attention to get him to kind of form that prompted Barcelona to shell out £10 million for him 7 years ago but Brown has certainly got a knack with him. Whatever he’s doing to get him playing so consistently well is another feather in the cap of the impressive Brown.
Daniel Cousin and Marlon King are also delivering goals and performances, King showing his Watford form, rather than the performances he put in at Nottingham Forest and Cousin is beginning to show just why Roy Hodgson was so desperate to sign him in January. Add to that, the wily old head of George Boateng and Bernard Mendy adding some further quality and it becomes obvious why they’re doing so well.
They will need to add to the squad in January, especially to give them a bit more depth up front but with only 6 weeks until the transfer window re-opens, no doubt Brown will have his targets already lined up. Of course, they may get pulled down the table but they’ve still got at least 10 winnable games to come and if they can get those points who knows where they may end up. If they finish top ten, then Brown deserves to be named Manager of the Year. Thank you Hull City, keep rubbing the pundits noses in it and good luck for the rest of the season.