The eternal cliche is definitely at play in the current fortunes of the club…
Sometimes I think I’m an eternal pessimist. Other times I think that I find success harder to motivate my fandom than failure. Thus the most ever games I saw in a season (it was somewhere in the 30 something mark) was in the year of the Great Escape (C) in 1998-99. Either way I’ve sometimes found myself railing gently against the massive love ins about the club at the moment. Now, don’t get me wrong, things are much improved, particularly in regards to the communication, the fact the fan base is much more engaged and at least partly the results on the pitch, which although not world beating have been much improved over the last six months.
It’s just that… let’s not kid ourselves. Adam Pearson was a business man, not a latter day saint, as was Don Robinson, there’s pros and cons for every owner or consortium to run a club and some of the relentless positivity has just got on my wick a bit. I guess there’s shades of grey in everything, The Allam regime started well, very well, they outspent any owners ever, by a long way, yet we know how it ended. Certain things did improve under their leadership whether you like it or not, and in some cases whether they did it for unselfish reasons or not. For example the youth systems, which have and continue to provide the club with some brilliant talent (see Potter KL, Bowen J, Greaves J) that helps keep the club popular with bank managers.
Now before you throw your smartphone at the wall and vow to burn down my house, I don’t argue that this improvement was somehow selfless or altruistic, because it wasn’t. But in the same way, the current owners aren’t truly here because Hull looks a bit like Istanbul (spoiler, it doesn’t). They may be a ton cannier, have a much more fan centric view and be going about their business in a much more clever fashion, but pretty much all owners are here because of their ego, to make money (or to spend money that they couldn’t otherwise) and to show the world how clever they are. And that’s not digging out the current owners, that’s every owner of a club in this country.
Now, I’ve only been to a few games this year (the bonkers Norwich win, the horrendous loss at QPR and a turgid draw with Blackpool amongst them) although I’ll be at Luton in a couple of weeks. I’ve seen most of us on the TV this year as coaching and scouting came calling so I’ve been consuming Bovril and getting numb fingers across non-league grounds for the majority of the year. I guess you could quite easily say, what’s it got to do with me? And in many ways you’d be right. I mean I’m probably around 600 all time games but if you snooze you lose and I’ve not gone as much as I wanted this year. I will again, it’s in my veins and I’ll no doubt get told to foxtrot oscar at some point in non-league football as most of us do. However the points I’m about to make still are valid. It’s what I’ve seen from my viewpoint and I’d like to think I try to be balanced about these things. Speaking of which lets start with some… as I have a Glass half full vs Glass half empty off… something I never saw myself saying ever…
Glass half full
We have the best manager we’ve had in years..
Sometimes it doesn’t matter if you make mistakes, it matters that you see them and put them right. The balance wasn’t right this off season, too many players were in from leagues that weren’t necessarily like the championship and the management team also didn’t have a grip on the demands of the English game. That was put right when Liam was brought in and I think he’s actually done incredibly well to find sanity where there was very little. He’s not the favourite of every fan, but I think the squad and situation he inherited was considerably more unstable and primed for disaster than some realise. He’s eased us out of trouble, playing controlled, grown up football and he’s importantly got the best from some of the existing players (Alfie Jones, Regan Slater, Sean McLoughlin and even Callum Elder). He’s a class act, and when he has more of his own players in, I think we could and should expect to be in the top six race every year.
Glass half empty
With a wage budget of a small country, we’ve not been much better, and it’s half the cheaper ones that have got us out of the deep brown stuff.
Go back to the previous point, the likes of Slater, Jones, McLoughlin, Elder, Coyle and Vaughan won’t be keeping the bank manager up at night. For the silky class of an Ozan now he’s fit, to the brilliance of an in-form Seri, I’ll give you the horrendous positional car crash that is Figueiredo and the magician like disappearing footballer that is Dimi Pelkas. We’ve had more misses than hits and the balance absolutely wasn’t right. Let’s hope the owners learned an (expensive) lesson and continue to create more of a balanced squad going forward. The fan base also need to remember life isn’t championship manager too, sure big names create excitement but we seem to have a repeated habit of underselling young players and lads coming through. The bottom line is Harry Vaughan looks like a future star. Oulad M’hand just had a name that sounded like a punchline to a joke. We were wrong, the club was wrong so let’s start using our eyes to judge players and not FIFA 23.
Glass half full
The ground is fuller, people are happier and it’s heartening to see.
I think this is the biggest win for the regime of Ilicali and Kessler so far. The offers have been fantastic, the fans have responded. 20k attendances are happening regularly and let’s hope it continues into next year. The danger of all the bad feeling previously was that we were losing future generations. That’s been turned around quickly and impressively. The food is now really good, the beer has improved so my spies tell me and hopefully what follows is the regeneration of the area around the ground, because that is the key to truly turning us into a sustainable club that is looking to elevate to the next league. I can’t fault the owners here, but we all know our fans can be a hard bunch to please, so let’s kick on.
Glass half empty
Beware warnings from Reading FC
Finances at the second level are tricky. Spend too much and fail and you can end up in all kinds of deep trouble. Don’t spend enough and a different fate awaits but it’s not much more fun. Look at the two sides going up this season from the Champ, both under transfer embargos, they pushed it to the line and are just about going to get out of dodge. But for every Bournemouth there’s a Birmingham City, for every Forest there’s a Reading. And there’s comparisons here. Reading have a similar ground, and recent records aren’t so different. They had foreign owners that wanted the big time, but missed. They’ve been wrestling with the finances for years now and it’s finally catching them up, they might stay up, but they might not. We must walk the line of sustainable but ambitious, and first year in it’s been nearer the latter than the former. Let’s hope none of this ever leads us anywhere near Paul Ince. (shudder).
Glass half full
Lessons seem to be learned, if we continue like this, could 2023-24 be our year?
I can’t see why not. We have the coaching, the fan base, the ambition and the desire. We have at least ten players who could make up a 23 man squad that’s capable of going up, if not more. Remember before shooting me down in a tirade of abuse (send your hate tweets to @thelikesofhull )that 2008 had Wayne Brown, Dean Marney, Henrik Pederson and Ryan France playing regularly. You don’t need a team full of Ozans. Therefore I’d say Christie, Jones, McLoughlin, Darlow, Ozan, Traore, Seri, Slater, Vaughan, Simons, Sayyadmanesh plus a couple more would be fine. Yes I know Darlow isn’t in yet but add goals and a full back or two and I think we could be in business. It can be done, just look at Luton Town.
Glass half empty
There’s quite a lot of offloading needed too.
Not just lads whose deals are running out. I like Lewie Coyle and I like Callum Elder, I’d keep both as depth, but that’s a call I think we let Liam make. They AREN’T the problem, because they’re earning normal money and not making waves. But there’s several bigger wage earners will need to get the shephard’s crook and it might not be so easy. Because Sinik, Woods and Figueiredo are going to be on very very good money and although Sinik may want to leave the other two may not be quite so simple. It could be that a certain Columbian striker needs to go too, for wages and also to even up the books, and even though he’s a bit random at times, goals are the very thing we need to increase, so selling your only real goal scorer isn’t going to please everyone.
Anyway… Sorry about the lack of blogs recently. Hope you enjoy this one and I’ll see a few of you at Luton (I’ll be wearing a hat and a fake moustache… no really… I might, because I’m in the home end… thanks a lot Acun…)