Survival in sight, but spectre of Allam lingers over Hull - Interview Thursday, 5th Apr 2018 21:46 by Clive Whittingham
A traumatic, tumultuous first season back out of the Premier League looks like ending in survival for Hull City, but where does the club go next we ask Charlotte from the Tigerlink supporters’ group.
Touch wood it looks like you're going to avoid the drop, how would you assess the season overall?
I don’t think we can fully relax just yet, but it does look likely that we will be starting next season in the Championship, which will be a huge relief. Before the summer transfer window closed it was the hope that we could strengthen the squad after losing the likes of Andy Robertson, Harry McGuire, Sam Clucas, Curtis Davies and Tom Huddlestone – players that would have undoubtedly made us very strong in this division. But credible replacements never arrived and, like last season in the Premier League, it was all very last minute and largely uninspiring in terms of additions. Some fans got very excited about the opportunity to bring in loan signings from Chelsea (made possible by manager Leonid Slutsky’s link to compatriot Roman Abramovich), but to be honest I think they have been disappointing overall. The reluctance of our owners to invest in the squad again was feared and expected but really angered fans when those fears became reality and gave a further indicator that Ehab Allam has no intention of doing anything other than destroying this club.
There have been few bright lights overall, but if I was to attempt to be positive, we have striker Abel Hernandez back from injury now and Harry Wilson the young Welshman on loan from Liverpool looks a very decent player. Just a shame he will head back to Liverpool at the end of the season and move on to bigger and better things. The key thing now is to put together another two or three decent results to pull us further clear of the danger zone, then hope the owners leave and enable us to rebuild and start a new season with a welcome positive look ahead. The off the field dramas have dominated and I can confidently say that a large proportion of us are sick to the back teeth of it all and largely it has been a season to forget.
Leonid Slutsky was a bit of a comedy character, and any manager at Hull is working under difficult circumstances currently, so how did he do and was his sacking fair?
I don’t think Slutsky realised the whole situation when he agreed to manage Hull City and became the first Russian manager to work in The Championship. He immediately endeared himself to fans and gave us something to smile about (temporarily)! As you rightly say, any manager working here is going to struggle and I think he believed he would be given more funds to buy players of his choice and shape the team the way he wanted. He didn’t seem to decide on his best 11 and whilst we notched a few goals, defensively we looked unsure and we conceded too many at home. I got the feeling he didn’t manage to really settle and the players’ heads began to drop as results went against us.
By the end of his reign he looked a beaten man, not the amiable jolly soul that started the season. Don’t be surprised if Slutsky returns to England in the future and does well though. The guy obviously has talent and under different circumstances with the right backing he could be successful. Yet again the Allams have a lot to answer for. I really feel for him and I personally will always look out for how he does in his future roles and wish him well. Whilst you can’t argue with the club parting company with Slutsky based on results and this was fair, the circumstances in which he was expected to operate were certainly not.
What did you make of the Nigel Adkins appointment and how has he done?
I personally found the appointment of Adkins underwhelming to be honest. He was a man in need of a job after over 18 months out of football management and whilst he did a really good job at our near neighbours Scunthorpe some years back, his CV in recent years hasn’t been the greatest. I was dubious when he stated he ‘has known Ehab (Allam) for a while’ in one of his first interviews. And the Allams would be happy with him as he wouldn’t have cost a lot. He initially seemed to talk a good game but the substance behind that has been lacking for me. We have had some good results and performances but the players still look unsure at times.
The thing I really didn’t like was after our 1-2 defeat against Millwall he actually singled out defender Angus MacDonald in the media, stating ‘I should’ve taken him off in the first minute. He was shocking first half’. You wouldn’t have heard Brucie, Marco Silva or Slutsky doing that.
If he manages to keep us up he will have done his bit but looking to the future we need a change if we are to progress. But as with everything, all the while the owners are here, it’s not going to make a huge difference who the manager is if he doesn’t get the necessary investment and behind the scenes support.
Assuming you do stay up, what needs to happen for things to be better next season?
There’s a theme developing here! Bluntly put, we just need new owners and to wipe the slate clean and make a fresh start. One of the most soul destroying things for us at Tigerlink has been watching the divide in the fan base grow and seeing off the field stuff dominate discussions and the local media, when it should be all about the football. Bickering and differences of opinion about protests and how far we should go to object to what the Allams are doing have left a bad taste with many fans and most of us I think are just sick of it all.
Frustrations are understandably coming to the boil and it is key that we as a fan base maintain the moral high ground – continue to make our voice heard and express just what a mess this whole situation is and highlight the issues whilst behaving in such a way that the wider football family and the national media listen and take us seriously. We publicly back the strategy and stance of the Hull City Supporters Trust who have shown patience and determination throughout the whole sorry mess and have done their best to communicate with the club.
We've seen and heard the fully justified protests against the Allam ownership, what's the latest with all of that - both their position and the protests against them?
Ehab Allam has stated consistently in the media that the club remains up for sale and the intention is to sell. But the ‘for sale’ sign has been there for a while now and, apart from one deal that seemed to progress into more advanced stages, there has been no news of bids or buyers coming forward. The Allams’ motivation seems now to be to stick around and basically cause the fans as much grief as they can, because they can. This ‘we’ve got lots of money we can do what we want’ display is undoubtedly a reaction to the proposed name change from Hull City AFC to Hull Tigers being turned down by the FA back in 2014. Ever since this happened there has been a series of petty and downright ridiculous things happen, culminating in the membership scheme dreamt up by Ehab Allam that basically removed all concessions and meant that families, older people and the disabled were either priced out of attending or have refused to do so out of disgust at the sheer disregard and disrespect shown by the club to the fans.
The Allams will go down in history as the owners who alienated a loyal and committed fanbase and made football inaccessible for so many in the city. Given that making attending matches more affordable and talk of £10 tickets was one of Assem Allam’s pledges when he bought the club, this sits even more uncomfortably and demonstrates the vindictive nature of their actions and their desire to spoil things for us all. There have been a few protests centred around matchdays, one of which was the recent throwing of stress balls onto the pitch during a televised match. I have no doubt that the longer this goes on and the more that is done to anger the fans, the more frequent the protests may become and the more people will take part in such demonstrations.
The full background to all of this is available in our Opposition Profile published in August.
Lot of your better, senior players out of contract this summer, good or a bad thing?
A bad thing, especially how the whole situation has been handled. I think there are around 13 players whose contracts expire in the summer, and with the loan players returning to their parent clubs we might struggle to find 11 left to fill the team sheet. And the fear is that the investment will not be made to find quality replacements if the current owners remain here. Allan McGregor, Fraizer Campbell, David Meyler and Michael Dawson are a few of the players in question, and whilst none of them are getting any younger, they are all established pros with bucket loads of experience and that is key to building a side capable of challenging at the top of the table. A couple of departures in isolation wouldn’t in theory be a bad thing but this wholesale clear out with no promise of fresh quality is alarming.
Meyler has already come out and said that his contract will not be renewed and with rumours of a lack of any communication and an unwillingness to offer players a fair deal, I see most of the outgoing players leaving with a sense of relief and a desire to make a fresh start at a stable and well-run club. Michael Dawson took himself down to Nottingham Forest on transfer deadline day and was seemingly desperate for a way out, but the deal didn’t get done. I think he may be glad to escape in the summer.
Short, medium and long term aims for the club?
New owners, new owners, and new owners. Simple!
The important thing going forward is rebuilding the fractured relationship between the club and the fans. If the owners remain, there are things short term that can be done that would at least begin to make the situation better. There have been minor recent concessions such using our name ‘Hull City’ instead of ‘Hull Tigers’ for the club Facebook page title and the return of the hcafc hashtag that they previously refused to use. But I remain very sceptical that anything much will change and for many of us they have gone too far and done too much damage.
When we get new owners, they actually won’t have to do very much at all to get the fans onside. Using our name Hull City AFC, applying a fair and affordable ticket pricing structure, sticking the club name on the merchandise and club crest would be a great start.
Hull is a proud city full of loyal football fans with a passion for the game. A passion that has been eroded by the toxic atmosphere that is killing our club. But we will be patient and we will wait and when the Allam era is over we will move forward and work with the club to make Hull City AFC flourish. Tigerlink’s aim as a supporters group has always been to work with the club and community and we hope that in the future that can happen. With the right ownership and investment, Hull City can get back to challenging at the top of the Championship and achieve Premier League status once more.
We all know it's a complete mess off the pitch. It's terrible that the club is at the mercy of such an egotistical owner. Despite the mess Hull have still got some good results on the pitch this season.