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