John McCormick writes: Monsieur Salut has still not returned so I’m continuing my sojourn as assistant editor, which once again allows me to introduce a guest writer. Those of you who followed the account of my journey to Hillsborough in ’73 will know that I was at Hull University at the time. In those days Hull City were a nondescript team playing in nondescript Boothferry Park, which I last visited in 1973 or 4, when they beat an equally nondescript (but cupholding) Sunderland 2-0.
How things have changed. We’re an established top-league team with a top class stadium and Hull, with an even newer stadium, have now returned to the Premiership to join us
Some things haven’t changed, however, as Hull University still produces fine writers. Here is one of them, Sam Campbell, to give us his perspective on some of the moves from the true north that made the sun shine for these sons of York:
Hull City – a phoenix from the ashes?
Three years ago, Hull City’s first ever adventure in England’s top flight came to an anti-climactic (spotted and corrected thanks to “thistimetigers” at the not606.com site – ed) end in a home game against Steve Bruce’s Sunderland. A pantomime of a performance by the Tigers that day saw Jimmy Bullard with a rare penalty miss, and a touchline dispute between Jozy Altidore and Alan Hutton which ended up with both players receiving red cards, and Hull staring into the abyss of relegation to the Championship.
It was no uncommon thing for relegated teams to drop down through the Championship, and to later drop down a level as they struggled to find their feet in the Football League. Fans of teams such as Charlton, Norwich, Leeds, Portsmouth, and most recently, Wolves will all tell you this. The club was left facing administration, and this fate did not seem too far away. Yet now, Hull City will once again line up against England’s elite, following a remarkable turn of events.
Dr Assem Allam, a local businessman and philanthropist embarked on perhaps his most generous act to the city of Hull by buying out the club’s debts, and steadying the club, with the aim of helping the club return to the top flight. It took three seasons in the Championship, which consisted of readjustment and investments in young, ambitious players to take away the damage done by the extravagance of the previous Premiership campaigns. But now Dr Allam appears to achieved his goal in getting the team back to the top flight, with a trusted manager, and an ever improving squad.
So, to Steve Bruce, who was initially turned down by Wolves, a team who will now be looking on at their similarly coloured counterparts two leagues above with a hint of envy. His appointment as the manager of Hull came as a surprise to some, with managers with perhaps lesser reputations being originally linked with the job following the dubious sacking of local hero, Nick Barmby. He arrived with a reputation of being something of a journeyman, with frequent excuses for poor performances, but with experience of getting promoted from the Championship, and subsequently performing well in the Premiership – to this day he remains adamant that his sacking from Sunderland was unjust.
With a good amount of funding from the Allams, Bruce was allowed to bring in exciting players to the team, such as Sone Aluko, Stephen Quinn, Robbie Brady, and the Sunderland pair: Ahmed Elmohamady and David Meyler. To the surprise of many, he brought in the tactically adventurous 3-5-2 formation, which meant that often in the season Hull picked apart teams with ease. With the quality of the attacking players he brought in, as well as having a solid defensive base to build from, they established their position amongst those at the top early on.
Like Cardiff, Hull City were consistent in their performances; as many early contenders for promotion fell away because of the intensity of the Championship, and as the season progressed, despite teams getting wise to Hull’s wing backs, Hull were still able to grind out results, through sheer determination on many occasions. Steve Bruce’s tactical choices at times were unusual and often frantic (http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/19939669 – 2.05: “In the end we’ve got 4 strikers on. I don’t know what the hell formation we’re playing, but it seemed to work!), but he stuck with the 3-5-2 throughout the season, which inevitably allowed for creative freedom in attacking play.
Following that amazing afternoon on May 4th, where former Sunderland player, Paul McShane became a cult hero in Humberside with his goal that helped the Tigers to secure promotion, Steve Bruce has now written himself into Hull City history. There is a feeling around the city that he is going to be here for some time, hopefully building on his success and establishing Hull as a team who will be in Premiership for the long haul.
And perhaps we’ll see a couple of Sunderland’s former players trot out with him as he leads his team out at the KC stadium next season:
The fact that Elmohamady was named as the Hull City fans’ player of the season alone perhaps outlines the impact the Sunderland fringe player has had in Hull. Throughout the season he was given the right wingback role, which allowed him to show off his fitness and pace, his strongest abilities. His crossing ability, which had been frequently criticised had evidently improved, as he contributed nine assists this season, and also four goals to top off an impressive season for the Egyptian international.
His future at Sunderland now remains in doubt as a result of the Hull’s interest to make his loan deal permanent, as they did with his wingback counterpart, Robbie Brady, who impressed on a second spell at Hull. His recent criticism of former manager Martin O’Neill suggests that he has a point to prove, and he will hopefully try to prove that he deserves a starting place in a Premiership team, but this time at Hull under the manager who originally brought him to England.
David Meyler was a late arrival to the Hull City team, not joining until until November. Initially, Hull fans weren’t sure whether the injury troubled midfielder was needed at the club, but he soon established himself as an important first team player, surprising most with a flurry of goals upon his arrival, eventually scoring five goals in his twenty eight appearances for Hull. He usually played alongside Stephen Quinn in the right hand side of the advanced central midfield positions, linking up with Ahmed Elmohamady frequently in attacks, and assisting him in defending. He also played several games as the holding midfield player in the central three, which he was suitable for because of his good physical abilities.
Again, he was a player who was frustrated at his lack of opportunities in the Sunderland set-up, and looked to impress elsewhere. He made the commitment to Hull in January by signing permanently on a three and a half year contract for an undisclosed fee. He joined a strong Irish presence in the Hull City dressing room, with Robbie Brady, Paul McShane, and recently Stephen Quinn featuring in the Republic of Ireland squad alongside him. Meyler will be amongst those players looking to establish a more important place in the Ireland team in time for a potential appearance in the World Cup next year.
Sam on Sam
“I’m Sam Campbell, a 19 year old History student at the University of Hull. I come from Filey, and was originally a Scarborough fan, but with an interest in Hull City too. When Scarborough were liquidated, I then followed Hull City with more interest, and it became a love affair as I went to more and more games. I’m now a Hull City season ticket holder of several years, and I get to as many away games as my finances allow. I also have a keen interest in writing, and would potentially like to go into journalism after completing my History degree.”
Enter the great Salut! Sunderland Two Million hits competition. Read about the first prize – £200 towards a holiday from Sunderland-based Hays Travel at https://safc.blog/2013/06/attention-safc-newcastle-middlesbrough-even-scarborough-supporters-2m-hits-competition-prize-announced/ BUT POST YOUR ENTRY IN THE COMMENTS SECTION ONLY AT https://safc.blog/2013/06/salut-sunderlands-two-million-hit-party-even-newcastle-are-invited/
See all Salut! Sunderland’s articles recalling May 5 1973 and the run that took SAFC to FA Cup glory: https://safc.blog/category/fa-cup/may-5-1973/