THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

3 December ~ Prior to this season, the last time a Hull City manager had walked out on the club during a campaign was in September 1974, when Terry Neill decided to return to London and take over at Tottenham. While Neill's initial impact upon arriving at Boothferry Park three years before had dwindled by the time he fled, the club still spent the rest of the decade getting steadily worse. Until Phil Brown pitched up, Neill's era had been the closest we had ever come to promotion to the top flight. Since then, most of our managers have been sacked, almost always deservedly. Only two – Colin Appleton in 1984 and Peter Taylor in 2006 – have left the job voluntarily for new roles, but they did so in the close-season.

Appleton effectively resigned on the team bus on the way back from the final game of the season at Burnley. So we are a bit short of the ultimate managerial villain. It is one thing to jeer a former manager who the club felt was not good enough, quite another to jeer one who felt the club was not good enough for him.

So Nigel Pearson plays the role of villain this weekend as he makes his return to the KC Stadium. A small band of Hull City supporters, on the two away trips since Pearson quit to return to Leicester City, have taken it upon themselves to sing unflattering songs about the departed manager. Yet, for all his success, notably in puncturing the wayward collective ego of the squad, he is not mourned by most fans.

The appointment of Nick Barmby as replacement has soothed pretty much everyone. Barmby has little coaching experience but his achievements as a player, intricate knowledge of the squad – this is his eighth season as a Tigers player – and his birthright means he has every ounce of goodwill going.

There have been setbacks already. After a brilliant win at Derby County, with the shackles of Pearson's effective but careful negativity removed by his successor, came an astounding collapse at home to Burnley, when 2-0 lead after 77 minutes ended up a 3-2 defeat. Then followed an unsurprising but frustrating 2-1 reversal at fortress St Mary's. Hull had led at the break but there was nobody - on the pitch or bench - who could refocus the team when a bruised Southampton scored twice in the opening period of the second half. This is where Pearson's wisdom and sombre calmness from the touchline is missed. As he proved in a stunning run of unbeaten away games last season from September to May, he is a man who knows how to hold onto a 1-0 lead at handy opponents.

In the short period since Pearson switched clubs, he has taken Leicester above his old club in the table. They will start today's encounter as favourites. The Tigers are now tenth, having lost twice and won once since Barmby took over. The caretaker manager has a number of senior players due back from injuries and loans which will aid him greatly, but it does feel tempting to half write this season off and allow him all the room he needs to get used to the job. Today, however, a good number will still smell blood and, daft songs aside, that is easy to understand. Matthew Rudd

Comments (2)
Comment by tone_burst 2011-12-04 00:33:43

As a Leicester fan of 25 years or so i've always found it slightly bizarre that the majority of their support fail to appreciate the subtle irony that when it comes to managers who have left them for supposedly better things in the past they tend to be vitriolic (Little, Mcghee, Megson spring to mind for starters, the obvious exception being O'Neill who most would welcome back in a heartbeat) - but they are serial offenders when it comes to poaching managers from other clubs - at least 4 times in recent memory (O'Neill from Norwich, Holloway from Plymouth, Pearson recently and Sousa from Swansea) nicking promising talents from teams in their own division.

Swansea have hardly been derailed by Sousa's depearture and Holloway has done pretty well for himself as well - even if one can't really say the same for Plymouth. I wouldnt be at all surprised if Hull finish ahead of Leicester in the table, especially after today.

Comment by Janik 2011-12-04 16:21:51

You forgot poaching McGhee from Reading. The howls about him moving on to Wolves were particualrly lacking in self-awareness. Less culpable on O'Neill, though. He was clearly looking for an out from Norwich, having realised he had made a big mistake in taking a job from Robert Chase. He wouldn't have been at Carrow Road for much longer, even if the Leicester job hadn't become available.

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