But City face Liverpool and Arsenal next
1 December ~ Hull City supporters spent over a century yearning to reach the top flight. Now that their club has done it twice, their next wish is to do it without the experience being derailed by drama off the pitch. The Tigers 2008-10 Premier League stint ended in financial meltdown and allegations of boardroom corruption. Oblivion was only averted by the intervention of local businessman Assem Allam. After crucial initial salvage work by ex-chief executive Adam Pearson, Steve Bruce made superb use of the funds committed by Allam to build a talented and hard-working team that achieved a return to the top flight last season.
The start to the current season was excellent, with the team looking comfortable at this level and fan optimism at an all-time high. It is a shame, then, that Allam has decided to risk the good feeling with his ill-conceived and poorly executed plan to change the club's name to “Hull Tigers”. He claims that the change is necessary to increase the club's marketing potential overseas. But the evidence, much of it provided by Allam's own statements, suggests that it is actually a by-product of his feud with Hull City Council, whose name he does not want "his" club to promote.
Allam wants to acquire the city's KC Stadium, which was built by the council with proceeds from the privatisation of the local telephone company. But the council has misgivings about selling a significant community asset (which is also the home of Hull FC rugby league club) to a single businessman, however well-intentioned he might be. Previous experiences of unreliable chairmen seeking land assets on the cheap make it an unattractive option for many City supporters too. Allam's annoyance at the council's refusal to sell has been compounded by his poor personal relationships with some councillors.
The name change issue coming to a head has probably not had much impact on the players yet, even if a distracting fan protest about it did take place during last weekend's lacklustre 1-0 defeat by Crystal Palace. The team's dip in form over the last couple of weeks almost certainly has more to do with the injuries to its most creative attacking players, Robbie Brady and Sone Aluko.
Scoring enough goals to capitalise on their generally sound defence and passing game has always looked like being a problem for the Tigers, if injuries to the wrong players occurred. Now that they have, taking on the league's top two, Liverpool and Arsenal, over the next five days is not ideal.
But despite those daunting fixtures and the negative publicity about the name change, most City fans know that these times are much better than many others in the club's history. Two poor performances were preceded by ten rather good ones and, under Bruce, the players have responded outstandingly well to adversity. The odds are against them securing the points against Liverpool today but TV viewers can expect to see a highly committed City attempting to keep it tight and hold possession.
The return of a fully fit James Chester would be a big defensive boost and the plan needs Tom Huddlestone to be at his ball-retaining best. City will also attack boldly whenever the opportunity arises and it would be great to see George Boyd prove that he has the pace, as well as the undoubted skills, to prosper in the Premier League. Paul Knott