Name changes, ticket price rises and evicting local sports clubs
15 May ~ A dire home defeat by Burnley last weekend has left Hull City deep in relegation trouble going into Saturday’s game at Tottenham. Sad to say, few of my fellow Hull fans would deny that the club deserves to go down. Such has been the extent to which the owners and, to a lesser degree, the team have alienated them this season.
Owner Assem Allam’s nonsensical quest to change the club’s name to “Hull Tigers” has long divided the fans between the vehemently opposed and the indifferent (or, as they are increasingly and tellingly described in Hull, “Hull City fans” and “Premier League fans”). But the Allam family’s other actions over recent months have provoked near-universal anger. These include the announcement of another massive hike in season ticket prices, an attempt to extort money out of the cash-strapped local council and the expulsion of several community sports clubs from an indoor arena on the stadium complex that the club do not even own.
Meanwhile, the team have repeatedly frustrated with their feeble efforts against others in the lower half of the table. As clubs in their second season after promotion to the top flight often do, Hull spent heavily on increasing the talent in the team but sacrificed commitment in the process. The squad contains enough ability to have been at least ten to 15 points better off by this stage – which is, not coincidentally, the number they have forfeited in a series of late capitulations that suggest a lack of mental strength.
The owners are deservedly the main target for disgruntlement and few recriminations have yet been directed at manager Steve Bruce. He is still generally seen as a decent man who has done a good job overall, despite some questions about how well he has used his transfer funds. Annoyance at certain players is growing though. Two rising targets are the ex-Spurs duo, Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore, both of whom had stellar first seasons at the club but have fallen from grace this year with a series of sloppy displays.
The perception that old boys always raise their game means that both will probably be included at White Hart Lane, despite the clamour from some fans to play more of the remaining stalwarts from the promotion side, who can at least be relied upon to go down fighting. Hull require some further haplessness by Sunderland or Newcastle to help them stay up, which sounds eminently possible. But they would still need to do their bit by obtaining at least one win against Spurs and Manchester United over the next ten days to take advantage. And, given the team’s repeated failure when under pressure this season, few in Hull expect that to happen. Paul Knott