Tigers pushing for automatic promotion
12 January ~ Hull City head into today's match with Sheffield Wednesday in a surprisingly strong position after an up and down 2012. The club has been run by plenty of charlatans and crooks over the years. It was, then, a relief for Tigers fans to have, in early 2012, a "dream ticket" of trustworthy people in charge. The new owners following the post-Premier League meltdown were the Allam family. The longstanding Hull residents have an outstanding record of support for important institutions in their city and brought business acumen to the club.
Former chairman Adam Pearson was on hand as director of football to provide experience and, following the dishonourable defection of Nigel Pearson to Leicester, local hero Nick Barmby became manager several years earlier than anticipated.
Initially, the pleasing passing style installed by Barmby looked like producing a play-off place but a lack of attacking punch caused the challenge to fade. Hopes that this shortcoming could be addressed over the summer, and that the Tigers would be contenders this season, were thrown into disarray when the Allams surprisingly sacked Barmby and Pearson. Many fans feared that the Allams were following the familiar path of having their brains scrambled by involvement in football and approached the current campaign with trepidation.
Doom has since been replaced by delight at finding their club starting 2013 in an automatic promotion place and playing the best football many can remember. Much of the credit for this transformation goes to the new manager, Steve Bruce, and to the Allams for securing his services. Apart from getting the team to play entertaining football without sacrificing defensive solidity, Bruce’s down-to-earth honesty and enthusiasm has made him universally popular with the fans – which was not a given when many of them began the season angry about the dismissal of Barmby.
Bruce is refreshingly straight in the media, being open about his mistakes and not pretending games have gone well when they have not. He gives effusive praise to his players but also has a knack of commenting on their failings without undermining them or seeking to divert blame from himself. The manager has also got a few more goals out of the team, despite the absence of last season’s top-scorer Matty Fryatt through injury. Still, goalscoring remains the problem he has yet to solve fully and a better conversion rate of the many chances created would have seen City more firmly ensconced in the promotion places.
The Tigers are in the market this month and any striker looking to burnish his CV should consider a loan at the KC stadium, where the plentiful crosses of Robbie Brady and Ahmed Elmohamady, and astute passes of Robert Koren, Sone Aluko and Stephen Quinn, are crying out to be buried on a more regular basis.
A shortage of goals makes Hull occasionally vulnerable to being caught out by teams from lower down the league, such as Sheffield Wednesday, and securing a reliable finisher might be what makes promotion probable rather than possible. Paul Knott