Here’s the place for some interesting thoughts on Hull City’s Sunderland connections. Brad Rial*, a Tiger with a platform (he’s a part-time trainee at the Hull Daily Mail), has a lot of time for Steve Bruce and a trio of ex-SAFC players at his club. He’s more than a little concerned about the deteriorating relationship between owner Assem Allam and the fans … oh, and he thinks we’ll lose at the KC but stay up …
Salut! Sunderland: We are the same sort of mess, but you seem better able than us to pick up wins than us. How do you now envisage the relegation battle going?
At the start of the season I predicted Villa, Burnley and West Brom to go down. My mind seems to change every week but I still think Villa and Burnley will finish in the bottom three. Leicester would seem the obvious choice for the third spot but there’s something about them that makes me think they’ll survive. I think we can probably just about class West Brom, Palace and Everton as safe at this stage so I reckon it’ll be three from the current bottom six (Hull, Sunderland, QPR, Burnley, Villa and Leicester) that go down.
Steve Bruce got us a 10th top finish but was upset by the manner of, and what he saw reasons for, his departure and it’s fair to say there’s now little love lost either way. What’s your assessment of his work at Hull?
Steve Bruce can do little wrong in the eyes of City fans. Quite simply, he’s the most successful manager in the club’s history. No other man has won automatic promotion to the top flight as manager of City, no other man has taken City to an FA Cup final and his 16th place finish last season is the highest in the club’s history. He’s been brilliant from the moment he came in.
Is he a “top club” manager?
He’s definitely a “top” manager. He’s been a success pretty much everywhere he’s been (even if it’s fallen by the wayside later on) and he deserves respect for that. I guess we’ll never know if he’s a “top club” manager until he’s given a chance.
Where do we currently stand on ownership, the naming row and the rift between the club and at least some fans?
I wish I could give you a definitive answer but it’s still very much in the air. A decision from the FA on the name change was expected in February and that didn’t arrive. The Hull Daily Mail last week broke a story on the Allams asking the FA to delay their decision until the end of the season. So it looks like we’re going to have to wait even longer for a final verdict. The whole saga is becoming very tiresome. It should have died a death a long time ago.
Broadly, even critics of the proposed name change seemed to agree Assem Allam had been good for Hull City. Is that still the overwhelming view?
Perhaps, but some fans are finding it increasingly difficult to like a man who continues to alienate them. It’s worth remembering that Assem Allam said that City fans can “die as soon as they want”. But it is true that, without the name change, the Allams would be being talked about as the best owners the club has ever had. For many fans though, the damage done by the name change is irreparable.
Guess the Hull City vs SAFC score at https://safc.blog/2015/03/hull-city-vs-sunderland-guess-the-score-things-can-only-get-better/
Raich Carter, son of the SAFC and Hull legend of the same name, is an award-winning former interviewee in this series. Do you know him – I am sure the newspaper you work for would – and do you have any update on his recovery from his bad accident while cycling?
Incidentally, he donated his prize – $200 worth of Brazil 2014 replica balls to a youth football team in the Sunderland district of Hendon, where his dad was born. Mightily appreciated by them, does that sound typical of the Carter family as regarded in the Hull area?
I’ll have to give these two Qs a miss as I really don’t know enough about him to give you a worthy answer. Sorry – ignorant of me!
So what have been your own highlights of supporting and/or reporting on Hull?
I’ve been lucky as my time supporting City has coincided with the most successful period in the club’s history, so I’ve only really experienced highs. The play-off final win at Wembley in 2008 is probably THE highlight. As a football fan, there is genuinely nothing better than seeing your side win at Wembley. The two cup games there last season ran it very close, particularly the final. Those first ten minutes, which saw City go 2-0 up, had to be witnessed to be believed.
The Europa League was another highlight, though it was very short-lived. I travelled to Lokeren in Belgium earlier in the season, which was quite the experience. There is something unique about watching your side in an away European fixture. It was just a shame City got knocked out so early.
And any low points?
Like I say, I’ve been very fortunate in my time supporting City, so there haven’t been too many lows. Relegation from the Premier League in 2010 was a disappointment, but it seems a bit silly calling that a “low” when the club was rock bottom of the Football League in the late 90s.
I suppose the FA Cup final can also be classed as a low. It was a strange feeling at full-time that day. There was an overwhelming sense of pride but it was also so, so gutting. Whenever I watch the highlights of the game, I switch off after Curtis Davies’s goal. It’s too hard to take.
Could you stomach relegation if worst came to worst?
Oh, without a doubt. The Premier League isn’t the be-all and end-all, as much as we’re led to believe it is. It’s easy to get sucked into the whole #bestleagueintheworld thing but would we really miss it that much if our sides went down? I don’t think we would. A season or two in the Championship wouldn’t be all that bad.
Best players you’ve seen in Hull colours and your assessment of the ex-Sunderland contingent?
I’d say Jay-Jay Okocha was the best player I’ve seen in a City shirt. There are players that have done more for the club of course (the likes of Stuart Elliott, Dean Windass and Ian Ashbee come to mind) but in terms of sheer quality, Okocha was the best. He came to Hull in the twilight of his career so his moments of magic were quite rare but when he turned it on, he was a joy to watch.
As for the ex-Sunderland contingent, there are three players in the City ranks that used to play for the Black Cats – David Meyler, Ahmed Elmohamady and Paul McShane. They’ve all had very successful times at the KC. Meyler is someone who played a vital role in earning promotion, then was excellent last season in helping the side stay in the Prem. He also pops up with the odd important role.
Elmo is Mr Consistent. I believe he’s started every single league game since promotion and he is a rare constant in a side that has been chopped and changed this season. He’s a bit of a fans’ favourite and his “dance” after the promotion in 2013 has become iconic.
McShane is something of a cult hero. He’s experienced highs and lows with City but always seems to come out the other side with a smile on his face, which fans love him for. He’s back in the team at the minute and has been very steady in recent weeks in a back three alongside Alex Bruce and Michael Dawson.
Let us into a secret. Who in your experience of City should never have been allowed anywhere near the colours?
Let’s just say that not many City fans were too devastated to hear that Hatem Ben Arfa wouldn’t be able to play football again this season.
Your thoughts on Sunderland – the club, the fans, the city, the region, Poyet?
It’s a bit of a cliche but Sunderland strike me as a sleeping giant. All of the elements are there – excellent stadium, great fanbase and a decent squad of players – it’s just about finding the man to unlock that potential. I think Poyet can be that man. He started off well but seems to have struggled with the weight of expectation in recent months. If he is given time I think he can be a success.
And on diving or other forms of cheating. A lost cause or still worth fighting to eliminate?
In other countries, diving is accepted as part of the culture and isn’t frowned upon as much as it is here. Should we follow suit and just accept it as something that happens? I think it’s admirable that we are trying to stamp it out but it’s probably a lost cause. It might be a case of “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”.
What will be this season’s top four in order, and the bottom three. If not mentioned, where will our clubs finish?
1 Chelsea 2 Manchester City 3 Liverpool 4 Arsenal
18 Leicester 19 Villa 20 Burnley
14 Hull City 15 Sunderland
How tough is it to get the balance right between independence and co-habitation when reporting on Hull City for the local media?
It can be tough. I sometimes have to hold back from saying what I really want to. But it works both ways. If I feel passionately about something then other fans can relate to it. I’m also lucky that there’s only one football club in the city, so I can’t be accused of bias. If I were reporting on Hull FC or Hull KR (the city’s two rugby sides) I’d be there to be shot at.
What single step would improve the lot of the ordinary fan?
Cheaper ticket prices.
And do morons of the sort that infested the Paris Metro before PSG-Chelsea exist in every club, however small the minority?
I’d like to think not. Your description of that incident is right though – completely moronic. And it was good to see it so publicly condemned.
Will you be at our game and what will be the score?
I will, and I’ll predict a scrappy 1-0 home win. Can’t see it being a classic.
Brad Rial on himself*: I’m currently studying for a degree in Journalism & Digital Media, while also working part-time as a trainee at the Hull Daily Mail. I cover news and sport but the majority of the stuff I write is Citycentric.
I’m 20 and started going to City about 12 years ago. I had a season ticket for a long time but since I started working for the Mail I’ve been lucky enough to get in for free, which is something I certainly don’t take for granted!
Interview: Colin Randall
Fancy leaving a comment? Not sure what you have to say fits this post? Go to the made-for-purpose feature – https://safc.blog/2013/07/salut-sunderland-the-way-it-is/ – and say it there