In light of the news of Phil Brown “attacking” Geovanni, many football fans are wondering, when did it go wrong for Hull?
As the season started, fans and pundits alike were raving about the breath of fresh air he brought to the Premiership. Bucking the trend for promoted sides, his team attacked and results followed. Play the big boys? No problem. His side played fearlessly and took some significant scalps along the way. Sure, there was a big loss or two in the mix, but the positive results outweighed the negative. Hull City FC, and Phil Brown in particular, were the darlings of English football.
In interviews, Brown was a media star. The Hull manager was always willing to work with various press outlets and in a world where packaged clichés and “no comment” are the norm, his affable nature and straight answers were a revelation. Brown was, hands down, the nicest man in top-flight football. Everyone became a Phil Brown fan overnight.
The selfish git had us all fooled.
Without a doubt, the most noteworthy moment in this year’s Premiership was Brown’s infamous halftime rant at his players, forcing them to sit in front of the travelling fans while he tore into them. As it happened, Brown’s stock rose higher and higher with football fans who felt it was about time some high paid, out-of-touch players took a proper tongue-lashing and weren’t shamelessly protected by the boss. But while Brown’s “fan credibility” rose, his self-serving antics lost the respect of his players, and the results since have gone from bad to worse.
A club like Hull survives on character. It is essential that everyone is working for the greater good. Even with all players pulling in the same direction, there is no guarantee of success for a little club like Hull. Nevertheless, the sense of camaraderie and willingness to sacrifice the self for the collective good earned them 30 points in the first 18 games. Included in those points were a heady win against Arsenal at the Emirates, a few more kicks in the ribs of a down and out Spurs side at White Hart Lane, a good win against West Ham, and a comprehensive thumping of fellow promoted side West Bromwich Albion. Not included in the 30 points was a spirited comeback against Manchester United that left the once and future Champions shaking their heads, thankful the game isn’t 95 minutes long. As it stands, it took until last week for the rest of the league to score as many goals against the Red Devils as Hull scored, at Old Trafford no less, on November 1.
When Phil Brown sat his players down on the pitch and gave them the headmaster ritual, he was distancing himself from the carnage of a 4-0 first half. He was putting himself before the players. He was betraying the trust of his men to look good in front of the club’s fans. He was setting a precedent that public displays from Hull City was acceptable, and Geovanni took the bait. He was throwing away the rest of the season for Hull City FC.
Regardless of how much you make, and how pampered your lifestyle, nobody appreciates embarrassment. It is a poor motivator; for some it destroys confidence, for others, it builds resentment. Nobody “rises to the challenge” as Brown had claimed he anticipated.
Don’t be mistaken; players definitely get the hairdryer treatment from their managers. Truth be told, they get it more often than fans realise, and most times they are deserving recipients of a paint-peeling lecture. All the greats had uncompromising standards and accepted nothing less. But they did the dirty work behind closed doors.
Take a look at the tactics of some of the modern model managers to see a blueprint for successful man management. Arsene Wenger’s eyesight is incredibly selective, never ever seeing anything the least bit controversial performed by a player in red. He never speaks poorly of his players, even after enduring the ordeals of Tony Adams, Paul Merson, and the very public histrionics of Ashley Cole. Especially with his current crop of not-ready-for-prime-time-players, at no time has the stoic Frenchman thrown them under the bus.
Watch an interview with Sir Alex Ferguson, and he’s more likely to tell the reporters “Yous are f*****g idiots” than agree that one of his players was off form. He stands by his players through the tough times – think of Cantona’s Kung-Fu kick, Keane’s Haaland stomp and Ferdinand’s drugs test misadventure – because enduring misery together is vital to earning success. Don’t think for a second that those players got off as lightly behind closed doors as they did in Fergie’s interviews, but the bottom line is this: you can’t ask players to run through walls for you unless you prove to them you’re worth it.
Conversely, the first time things were not going to plan at Hull (a poor first half no less), Phil Brown lost the plot and publically humiliated his players. He claimed he was looking for a lift – a way to get a bug in their ears and remind them about the fans who spent a cold, miserable Boxing Day travelling to Manchester to watch a poor performance. In fact, he was letting each and every one of those fans know that it wasn’t his fault and they could hang the blame at the feet of the players, not him.
If this was about “making a statement” what was the point? At 4-0, the game was a foregone conclusion. As far as making an impression goes, Brown certainly left one on his players. So much so that they’ve managed to gain all of one point in the nine matches since the infamous rant. In the process, the club have tumbled down the standings and are now a hot tip for relegation.
When wondering where it all went wrong for Hull City, look no further than Phil Brown’s self-serving Boxing Day rant. That’s when Hull got knocked out of the Premiership.