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Premiership Preview–19. Hull City

The most profitable single game in the world was won by…no, not Manchester United…no, not the New York Giants…Hull City last season, as the Tigers’ 1-0 Coca-Cola Championship playoff final victory over Bristol City at Wembley will net the East Yorkshire club an estimated $120 million when all is said and done. Longtime Hull player and hometown boy Dean Windass scored the winning goal for his club, allowing the 39-year-old striker, who was once sent off three times in one game, to experience the joy of playing in the Premier League one more time.

That large profit has barely been tapped into so far this summer by manager Phil Brown, but he’s still managed to bring in seven players, several of whom will play significant minutes this season. George Boateng’s arrival from Middlesbrough gives the club a solid, reliable defensive midfielder, a must-have for a team that simply doesn’t have the quality to go toe-to-toe with many of the other Premiership outfits. Geovanni came off the bench a whopping 17 times for Manchester City last season, where he was blocked by more talented central midfielders like Stephen Ireland, Michael Johnson, Elano, and Dietmar Hamann, but he’ll be a useful, versatile player for Hull. Bernard Mendy should start immediately at right back, and the on-loan Anthony Gardner will fight it out with Wayne Brown to start alongside Michael Turner at center back.

Jay-Jay Okocha, who was great for PSG, Bolton, and Nigeria as an attacking midfielder in his prime playing days, was released this summer, but appeared in only 18 games for Hull last season and is now 34 years old. He’s the only loss of any note, so Brown has the same core group back and he’ll look to make further improvements if necessary.

As Hull’s defensive record last season will indicate — 47 goals conceded in 46 games was third-best in the Championship — their back line is their strongest asset and it’ll only improve this year with extra competition for places. Tony Warner came over from Fulham on a free transfer, but he’ll back up American-born Welsh international Boaz Myhill, the club’s Player of the Year in 2005-2006, in goal. The 6’4″ Turner started 47 games for Hull last year, and either Brown or Gardner, at 6’5″, will play next to him, as I mentioned earlier. Ricketts is the incumbent at right back, having also started 47 matches a year ago, but he can also play left back and take over for Andy Dawson, who is decent but could get exposed by Premiership wingers. That would allow Mendy, who has plenty of top-level experience from his time at PSG, to slide in at right back, as I mentioned earlier, and the already-solid back four would improve even more.

Projected Starting Lineup (4-5-1):
GK: Myhill

RB: Mendy
CB: Turner
CB: Gardner
LB: Ricketts

RMF: Richard Garcia
DMF: Boateng
CMF: Ian Ashbee (captain)
CMF: Dean Marney
LMF: Geovanni

ST: Windass

Expect this lineup to change regularly, as Bryan Hughes will play some games at left wing, Nicky Barmby will play in central midfield, and Caleb Folan and Craig Fagan will also get their chances up top.

Hull’s schedule opens nicely; they’ll have a good chance to pick up points in at least three of their first four games, if not all four: Fulham, @ Blackburn, Wigan, and @ Newcastle. The Tigers have only three sets of consecutive games all year against teams that finished in the top six last season, with Everton and Arsenal involved twice each (November 20/27 and January 10/19, with a game against Aston Villa right before that on December 28), and Villa twice as well (Dec. 28 and then May 2, a week after Hull goes to Liverpool). This helps Hull considerably because there’s no real long stretch of matches where they can’t pick up points, but aside from that opening run and one in March (Mar. 4 @ Fulham, Mar. 14 vs. Newcastle, and Mar. 21 vs. Wigan) there’s no real long stretch where they can rack some points up either.

Bottom Line: There’s a clear gap in talent between Hull and Stoke City, so expect the Tigers to be closer to safety than the basement. This team doesn’t have any individual standouts but are 15-16 players deep, which helps considerably when the fixture list becomes congested during the winter. If they go into January with a chance to stay up, expect them to buy some more reinforcements, but unless someone can score upwards of 10 goals, I just can’t see how they can escape the drop. They’ll be an interesting, scrappy team to watch, but don’t have the necessary offensive firepower.

Remember to check back tomorrow as the countdown to the top continues with my predictions for 18th and 17th place. Not much separates the two spots in terms of points, but they’re worlds apart in terms of financial benefit.

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  1. Neil..StokeCityPremierLeague

    August 10, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    RE comment #3. With the additions Hull has made this summer, there is now a clear gap in talent between Hull and Stoke.

    Without being disrespectful to Hull City (as I genuinely wish them all the best for the forthcoming season) they haven’t signed anyone yet that I would like Stoke to have signed.

  2. Todd

    August 3, 2008 at 12:12 am

    but then you are comparing…again, you make poor examples. i wont get you to admit you are wrong, nor do i want you to. but face it, that game isnt the biggest match in sports……..

  3. Michael

    August 2, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    Todd, it doesn’t mean the same thing! Can’t you see that? Clubs consistently make $90 million by staying in the Premiership, but clubs that make $2 million in the Championship suddenly rocket up to $120 million by winning that playoff final! See my point yet? To that one team who makes it, it means more. They had just about nothing, and after one game, it’s like they went to heaven without dying. Bad example, maybe, but I can’t explain my point any other way than what I’ve done so far.

  4. Todd

    August 2, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    sorry michael im afraid it doesnt make any sense to say that for a team to stay up, it doesnt mean as much than a team to be promoted. it LITERALLY means the same thing. im not going to argue though.

    and lastly, to say “when its all said and done” implies that when everything is over and we look at the situation, this will be the result. all things considered. after the dust blows over. etc etc…my point is just as valid that ‘when its all said and done’ theres some matches out there that will be more valuable than 120m.

  5. Michael

    August 2, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    Matt, that’s why I said Fagan and Folan will play up top as well at times.

  6. Michael

    August 2, 2008 at 4:01 pm

    Todd, again, I see what you’re saying, but I think you’re sort of missing the point. Also, the way I worded it originally in my article is fine, I’m not sure what’s wrong with it.

    TV money for being in the Premiership is, on average, 45 times more than it is for being in the Championship ($90 million yearly compared to $2 million). Winning the playoff final is different from winning any other game because it’s worth all that money for the winner. The loser gets nothing except another year in the Championship with small transfer and wage budgets and little TV exposure. The winner gets the glitz and glamour of Premiership life and $120 million guaranteed.

    A win in November does count the same in May, you’re right, I never argued with you there. But winning this playoff final is more important than winning a game in November.

    You’re correct in saying that any team who avoids relegation gets that same amount, but it isn’t worth as much to them having already been in the league. For a Championship team, it’s worth that much more. If they get relegated, they get $13 million in each of the next two seasons, plus the TV money.

  7. Matt

    August 2, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    All I can say is that if the author believes Hull will be playing Windass as a lone striker this season then he is seriously deluded.

    I also doubt Hull’s spending is over, Brown is clearly in the hunt for a forward having tried to sign Davies from Bolton and whoever he gets in will be a key player.

  8. Todd

    August 2, 2008 at 3:17 pm

    ok michael, but you have to admit its not worded that way…to say when its all said and done implies the eventualities i laid out.

    but heres perhaps another novice question…how is that single win different than any other? just because its a playoff (one off)? for example, when the 17th and 18th teams in the prem play on the last day of the season, isnt that match worth the same value? surely we all know by now that a win in november counts the same as a win in may?

    could you say that after that playoff match, one team stands to win 120m and the other does not? sure. but doesnt any team who avoids relegation get guaranteed that same amount? its the TV rights for being in the prem, plus a parachute correct? i guess i just dont like the concept of that match being such a high profile game…seems more something for bloggers and radio hosts to talk about, but everyone must understand its a novelty.

  9. Michael

    August 2, 2008 at 9:07 am

    And James, I’ll refer you to comment #3. With the additions Hull has made this summer, there is now a clear gap in talent between Hull and Stoke.

  10. Michael

    August 2, 2008 at 9:05 am

    Todd, the playoff final isn’t about raising a club’s profile necessarily — yes, it gets the club into the Premiership, but my point was that it’s the most single profitable game in the world, any sport.

    You make a point about Manchester United that’s interesting and could well be true, but that wasn’t what I’m saying. Manchester United’s Champions League title could lead to more money than Hull will make; everyone will want to buy United merchandise now that they’re European champions. But the fact is, they actually have to go out and buy the stuff, so the game itself doesn’t make the club as much money. For winning the playoff final, all that money is guaranteed for Hull, even if they don’t sell a single shirt or highlight DVD or whatever else. See what I’m saying?

  11. Andy

    August 2, 2008 at 6:21 am

    What all the Stokies on here are failing to recognise is that they pipped Hull for the second auto spot with a game to go.. You hardly panned them over a season did you?

    If the gap between 2nd and 3rd had been of the margin of 10-15 points then i’d concede that Stoke were significantly the better team. It wasn’t, so you’re not!

  12. James

    August 2, 2008 at 5:32 am

    “…a clear gap in talent….”. Do any of these journos actually go to any football matches?! Don’t mistake unfashionable for untalented, Stokes tactics last season composed of an ability to do what was needed when necessary (hence the auto promotion). Whilst not carrying the same prodigious talent as some premier league teams, tactically Pulis’ team has shown an astuteness that lacked elsewhere in the Championship. It will not be plain sailing for any of the newly promoted teams but to write off teams before a ball is kicked is just plain daft, and this ‘countdown to the top’ is completely pointless, mere speculation at best.

  13. GAZZA

    August 2, 2008 at 3:35 am

    I PERSONALY DONT SEE WHY THERE IS ALL THIS NEGATIVITY AGAINST STOKE WHEN PHIL”THE ORANGE” BROWN HAS GOT alot more to prove than pulis at least stoke went up with out going through the play offs so that speaks volumes ,lets see at the end of the season , hull are panic buying to avoid the humiliation of relegation oh what a joy to see mr oranges colour drain

  14. Mike - Manchester

    August 2, 2008 at 2:24 am

    $120,000,000 is the prize money from extra revenue over the course of 2 seasons. The majority is from TV rights. If Hull/Stoke/West Brom get relegated next season they keep a ‘parachute package’ which helps towards the boosted wage bill.

  15. Mike - Manchester

    August 2, 2008 at 2:19 am

    Gap in talent? The way Stoke are the stand-out under-dogs is laughable. Stoke did bully sides last season, but Pulis is a wise manager and understands the need for quality this season. Do you really think players like Glenn Whelan and Liam Lawrence are there to bully teams? The fact of the matter is that Pulis recognised what it takes to get out of that league. Besides, Lawrence has more talent in one boot than the entire Hull outfit.

  16. Todd

    August 1, 2008 at 11:20 pm

    the whole premise of your intro is interesting, but you dont explain how its true in the article. ive heard this mentioned before (on a certain world soccer show)…but never really understood. sure there are various guaranteed payments that come with winning that game, but when you say “when its all said and done” that implies its an eventual sum. well if united got 120k lifelong fans after winning the champions league, and they buy a home shirt for the next 10 years, that win will prove to be more valuable “when its all said and done”. its a fine point to make that its an important game, but the giants superbowl win will do more for their franchise than hull city becoming the odds on relegation favorites.

  17. David Jaye

    August 1, 2008 at 10:42 pm

    Given Stoke City lost (5) away games last season compared with the (10) lost by Hull City, I know which club I’d be backing to pick up those vital away points.

  18. Michael

    August 1, 2008 at 6:19 pm

    Matthew, the additions of Geovanni, Gardner, Mendy, and Boateng are better than what Stoke has been able to put together so far. Those four players all have top-flight experience and are solid players, while Kitson struggled to start at Reading when Doyle and Lita were both healthy.

  19. Phil

    August 1, 2008 at 6:04 pm

    Yes a clear gap in talent.
    Stoke were a bunch of bullies last season. The tigers played some quality football. Stoke have not really signed anyone of note- Kitson will struggle to score goals with no service. Hull have signed players with proven Premier League pedigree. One more striker and a few tweaks and the tigers will be capable of staying clear of relegation.

  20. Matthew Jones

    August 1, 2008 at 5:39 pm

    “There’s a clear gap in talent between Hull and Stoke City, so expect the Tigers to be closer to safety than the basement.”

    Are you from another planet? Did you watch any Championship football last season? Evidently not!

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