When a team only wins 2 games out of 18, you’d fully expect them to be propping up the Premiership table, already planning for life in the Championship the following season. Thankfully for Hull City, their fantastic start to the season has kept them out of the bottom 3, hanging on by their fingernails to 17th and desperately looking over their shoulder, at the three teams below them and hoping they can struggle to the finish line and not fall away at the last.
It would be simplifying matters to point out that they just need to get some points on the table as the Hull City side that are currently in deep, deep trouble seem to bear no relation to the one that began the season. With 20 points from the first ten games of a debut season from heaven in the top flight, no-one surely at the K.C. Stadium could have imagined it would come to this would it? A side that were like a breath of fresh air, knocking so called bigger sides’ noses out of joint as they racked up away wins at White Hart Lane, The Emirates and St James’ Park.
Playing a brand of swashbuckling football that saw them come up against more illustrious opponents and bloody their noses, they are now reduced to reverting to type. Thumping it forward and playing for set pieces, desperately clinging to the long ball game and getting nothing for it. The side who were gaining all the plaudits as Summer turned to Autumn, now find that for a season that promised so much, time is beginning to run out.
Of course, it may not matter, as up the coast, Newcastle and Middlesbrough are doing a fine job of preserving Hull’s Premiership status for them, but 3 points for the Tigers would be the best medicine that Browns sickly side could be prescribed, rather than facing the placebo effect of Newcastle’s visibly draining confidence and Middlesbrough shot shy side. Phil Brown is also beginning to suffer from the pain of the dogfight, so in demand for his refreshingly honest appraisals at the beginning of the season, now the media twists his words to spitting barbs from his tongue. Brown hasn’t changed, but the way in which he’s being reflected in the media certainly has.
People point to the Manchester City game as the defining point of the season for Hull City, as Browns fettered ego saw him ride roughshod over the norm, holding his half time team talk on the pitch as Eastlands as his side recuperated from a first half battering against Mark Hughes’s millionaires. Yet that was on Boxing Day, coming into that game, they were already falling away with only 1 win in the 8 previous matches, a confidence sapping 2-0 lead had been dropped at Anfield two weeks previously, an embarrassing 4-1 defeat against Sunderland the week before had laid the foundations for the capitulation in Manchester.
The transfer window couldn’t come soon enough for Hull City and as it opened Hull threw some money at the side to freshen it up, making Jimmy Bullard the key signing. What a mistake that was, well known to be carrying an injury, to the extent that Fulham wouldn’t offer him a contract based on their concerns, Bullard’s knee went after just 37 minutes in a Hull City shirt. Now that for me was the moment the wheels fell off Hull’s season, he was the big signing and there is no doubt that a fit and buzzing Jimmy Bullard is a smashing player. Yet this is not the Bullard that we saw at Wigan Athletic and sporadically at Fulham and that injury deflated the sails of the Tigers survival schooner. Couple with the strikers drying up and reverting from football to hoofball, the points are slipping through their fingers.
Sure they picked up 3 surprising points at Fulham, but they are falling away at the wrong moment and Phil Brown has it all to do to rescue a Hull City season that promised so much but is beginning to rely on the failings of others. Unfortunately, that’s when you have no control over your destiny and they have to try and snatch something, anything from the next 3 matches, the last game I fear may be too much to ask unless Manchester United have the Premiership in the bag and have beat Arsenal in the Champions League, with the final 3 days after the end of the Premiership season. I hope that there is a happy ending to Hull’s Premiership season, I really do, but I’m beginning to fear the worst for them and that would be a terrible shame.