2011-12 season review ~ At the start of the season Hull City's odds as a reasonable each-way bet for the Championship play-offs were a testament to the remarkable job done by the club's owners, the Allam family, former chief executive Adam Pearson and then manager Nigel Pearson in salvaging the wreckage they inherited from the club's two seasons in the Premier League. In keeping with this newfound stability, and despite still being handicapped by the longer-term legacies of the previous regime's mismanagement, the first half of the season saw steady progress on the field.
This could have been thrown into disarray by the shoddy departure of manager Nigel Pearson in November. Pearson had preached about loyalty and honesty throughout his tenure and in his final weeks responded with extreme tetchiness to any questions about his possible departure.
Predictably, the speculation turned out to be well-informed and Pearson went back to Leicester at the first hint of more cash. His decision to leave might have been better received had he the decency to offer a farewell or word of explanation to the players and remaining backroom staff whose loyalty he had demanded.
The disruption caused by Pearson's departure was swiftly turned into a virtue by the club. Player, fan and all-round local favourite, Nick Barmby, was coaxed into retiring and taking on the manager's job much earlier than was being planned for discreetly. For fans that have endured more than their fair share of crooks, chancers and incompetents over recent decades, this completed a dream team of seemingly trustworthy characters in charge of their club.
The Egyptian-born Allam family have spent decades building up a successful business in Hull and a deserved reputation as generous benefactors to local institutions, while the straight-talking Adam Pearson was already popular for transforming the club during his earlier stint as chairman. Barmby's early results were good and his decision to build an attractive short-passing game onto the solid foundations bequeathed by Pearson was well-received.
The season eventually petered out disappointingly as the team struggled to add a cutting edge to their possession-based approach. This prompted mild disquiet, which was not confined to the dwindling "why have we not won the Champions League yet?" brigade who appeared during the Premier League days. But, overall, the mood remained one of optimism. We had a talented young team with scope for further improvement and a club heading in the right direction.
Agonisingly, this mood was destroyed by the post-season news that Pearson and Barmby had been sacked by the Allams, due to a falling-out over Barmby's mild remarks to the local media about securing coveted young talents such as centre-half James Chester on improved contracts. Nothing has happened since to quell the fans' sense of foreboding about the future.
An uninspiring series of journeyman managers have been linked with the job but the Allams have said that they see no reason to hurry an appointment. In the meantime, potential new players are presumably heading elsewhere.
Worse still, the existing squad, including sought-after players such as Chester, Robert Koren, Liam Rosenoir and Cameron Stewart, have apparently been kept completely in the dark about developments. Given their strong bond with Barmby, it would be no surprise if they proved receptive to whatever other offers their agents come up with over the summer.
In addition, the failure so far to send out season ticket renewal forms amid rumours of substantial price increases (the opposite of what the Allams indicated when they took over) is only adding to the sense of unease.
As things stand, the situation smacks horribly of yet another tale of successful business people losing their way in the weird world of football. Ultimately the departure of the knowledgeable Pearson might prove to be even more damaging for City than the more emotive loss of Barmby. It is difficult to see the club's immediate future turning out well. Paul Knott