Colin Randall writes: I’d quite forgotten that when the estimable Hull City-supporting author Gary Clark* does Who are You? interviews, his clear intention is to out-Tolstoy Tolstoy for length. It’s great craic and much appreciated. But the sheer torrent of words forces me, not for the first time (Gary has been this way before), to split the resulting article into a more manageable two parts. In the first, Gary gives his lowdown on relegation, the season’s prospects, Seb and Elmo and the city of Hull’s once-hidden charms …
Salut! Sunderland: So [he said, speaking before Hull’s 5-0 drubbing at Derby, and a 2-1 defeat at Fulham – Ed], you’re not in quite our mess and have had a half-decent start to the season, nicely placed just below the top six after a couple of thumping wins [for which now read 16th – Ed]. What’s your squad like?
Gray Clark On the field, you won’t recognise us. New manager, the ever smiling Leonid Slutsky, or “Sluts” as we all call him, which you’ll hear the home fans chanting “We all love Sluts”, so join in if you like. And a new team, 12 new signings in all.
All but three of the team that got us relegated from the Premier League last season have gone, raking in £45m in transfer fees of which just under £13m has been reinvested in the new team.
The apparent lack of investment hasn’t been a popular move among the faithful but personally I think it is very good business. I wouldn’t spend £10m plus on a Championship player either.
For example we got £16m for Sam Clucas from Swansea, a player we paid just over £1m for from Chesterfield and who less then five years ago was working as burger flipper at McDonald’s. In return we got an international full back in Stephen Kingsley – I know he’s Scottish but it still counts – thrown in and then we signed Seb Larsson on a free. Who got the better deal ?
What can our fans expect from their trip?
I always look forward to a Hull City v Sunderland game at the traditional time of 3pm on a Saturday afternoon, especially in early autumn, and this year for your lads travelling down, Hull is the UK City of Culture 2017 and what a transformation it has made. The city is buzzing on a weekend, so if you fancy a bit of culture get yourselves down here.
Besides the “like being on holiday” feeling, because a weekend in Hull does feel like that (if the sun’s out), the old town and revamped Fruit Market and Marina are as good as anywhere I have been in Europe recently and a lot cheaper, so come down and enjoy.
Still feeling grumpy about relegation?
The drop from the Premier League was quickly forgotten and every man and his dog knew when we kicked off that we would struggle. Mainly because we only had seven senior players signed on and couldn’t even name a bench when we opened at home against the reigning Champions Leicester City…..and beat them, then we only went away and beat Swansea away a few days later to go top of the Premier League. We haven’t won away since and of course we dropped like a stone after that.
Reasons? A dog’s dinner of a summer when Steve Bruce walked out in the June and a potential sale of the club fell through at the very last minute on the Premier Leagues ‘fit and proper persons’ ruling left us is a right mess. Bruce’s number two, Mike Phelan, stepped up but he was so out of his depth someone threw him a life jacket from the Best Stand. He’d gone before we put the clocks back with City already marooned at the foot of the table and in came the previously unknown Marco Silva from Portugal. “He’s like a breath of fresh air,” we predictably heard after the first week.
His breath stank like a whore’s armpit, for want of a better phrase, after his team limply lost at home to your lads in early May in the game that sent us down.
Some impressive home results had seen us two points clear of relegation with three games to go, Sunderland and Spurs at home and Palace away, we lost all three. One win would have kept us up but Silva either froze under the pressure or he had his head turned by another club and he messed with the team selection and blew it big time. He and his quite considerable back room staff had cleared their desks and gone before the pea in the ref’s whistle has stopped rattling about after last game, a 7-1 home defeat by Spurs. He was manager of Watford days later.
Looking at your squad, who is going to make the difference for you and where are you still weak?
I would have liked to have kept Harry Maguire but that was impossible once we went down. He is now an England player which amuses me. He had played two games for Leicester and had eight goals put past them but he is deemed good enough for England. He wasn’t even near the squad when he played for us. Exactly the same scenario to Jake Livermore, a regular for us in the Premier League and not a sniff of an England cap but the minute he moved onto WBA he’s in the squad.
Our new team are a bit lightweight in depth but the first XI will be match for anyone at this level. We are still second highest goal scorers in the Championship and could have had another 10.
Jarrod Bowen who has come through the ranks at Hull is the leading goal scorer so far and one player we managed to keep, Polish international Kamil Grosicki has started the season very well. He has pace to burn and it looks like he is playing to get noticed. Hull turned down bids from a host of foreign clubs in the transfer window and it seems that “Turbo” only wants to play in EPL. We shall see come January.
Tell us how Seb, Campbell and Meyler figure in your thoughts for the season ahead
Seb Larsson was the surprise one for me. Always admired him as a player and apparently he wanted to come. We haven’t seen much of him yet but he must be an asset at this level. We also now have Fraizer Campbell back in the black and amber after a decade avoiding signing for us.
He looked a bit rusty in the pre-season games and is now out injured so the jury is still out on him. Another injury jinx is Kevin Stewart a £8m buy from Liverpool. We’ve seen a couple of decent pre-season games out of him including a 1-0 away win at Benfica and now he’s out for three months which isn’t ideal when the squad is already paper thin. Record signing Ryan Mason suffered a fractured skull at Chelsea last season and I doubt if we will see him again and the same goes for Moses Odubajo who was injured a year and half ago and is still months away from a first team return.
We’ve managed to secure three loanees from Chelsea, Ole Aine, Michael Hector and Fiko Tomori plus a young lad we’ve signed from Arsenal Jon Miquel Toral, his only other club was Barcelona.
We paid £3m to Wolves for Nouha Dicko and a couple of million to Burton for an exciting prospect in Jackson Irvine. Along side Michael Dawson at the back will be Ondrej Mazuch a £2m signing from Sparta Prague.
And how sad were you to see Elmohamady go?
I wasn’t too bothered. In fact there was a queue of City fans wanting to drive Elmo there themselves. He stole his wages last season with us and I cannot recalling him making a tackle. It’s a shame really because he was some player when he fancied it the only trouble being he fancied it less and less.
I was at Palace last season for a 12.30 kick off on a Sunday morning, for the benefit of the Sky viewers, not us the supporters, to see our last away game in the Premier League, a real six pointer if ever there was one. We went one down after two minutes, great, but we were still in it heading towards half time. Ball on the half way line, Elmo virtually our last man and Palace breaking out at pace, 50/50 ball and Elmo pulls his foot away, Palace hare down the line, cross the ball, 2-0 down and out. Which sums up his contribution for the whole of last season.
Hand on heart, how will you fare?
I think we are good enough to be around the top six by Christmas and hopefully we might see of the a couple of the forwards we hoped to sign in the last window come to fruition in the January sales.
Arguably, Hull would not have had their tastes of Premier League football without Assem Allam but he is not necessarily the most loved figure among fans, bring us up to date on the way things are
There is still a toxic relationship between the fans and the club’s owners and personally I think it is irretrievable now. It’s a long running saga about attempted name changes, membership schemes and the withdrawing of concessions for OAPs and kids, never a popular one that. It is hard to argue against the claim that virtual everything the owners do now is nothing short of vindictive. I find that hard to fathom out bit it does appear to be the case. It’s a tough one for me because the most successful years in the club’s history have coincided with the present owners yet they have managed to ruffle the feathers of so many people doing it.
Interview: Colin Randall
*** Come back on Friday for more from Gary on the squabbling between ownership and fans and some dark thoughts of the state of the modern game. Once published, tomorrow morning, it will be available at this link
* Gary Clark on himself: I have followed Hull City man and boy since Jan 4th 1964 when I first saw them play Everton in the FA Cup 3rd Rd at Boothferry Park. The ticket was a Christmas present and I went with my dad, we drew 1-1 and I have gone ever since non stop. I wrote for the very first Hull City fanzine Hull, Hell & Happiness back in the early 80s and have been a contributor to every one since. Moving on I have written a couple of books From Boothferry to Wembley which speaks for itself and has sold out. The second book This Is The Best Trip – still buyable at this link – about our first season in the Premier League and one man’s devotion (mine), I actually sold my business so I could concentrate full time on supporting the Tigers; I know, what a mug!