With Hull all but certain to be relegated after West Ham’s 3-2 win against Wigan, and the club facing up to the prospect of being consigned to Championship football once more, the quotes attributed to midfielder George Boateng smack of trying to pass the buck onto sacked manager Phil Brown.
Of course Brown is somewhat culpable for Hull’s demise, but he cannot be placed solely responsible for it either and the players must shoulder their fair share of the blame. Boateng seems to reinforce the popular and long held media view that Hull City’s demise began when Phil Brown conducted the much criticised team talk on the pitch in their 5-1 hammering away at Man City at half time. Seeing as that particular defeat was on 26th December 2008, I find it somewhat tenuous that this can be labelled as solely responsible.
Boateng stated that “After the situation with the team-talk on the pitch at Manchester City, everybody tried to stay together and say that it wasn’t a problem, but it was. After that we found it difficult to have confidence in the manager at the time, Phil Brown. That killed the confidence of everybody in the team. People will say ‘why did you not say anything?’ but he was our manager.”
It may have been humiliating yes, and it was most certainly unnecessary, but the real problem wasn’t the confidence in the manager, or rather lack of it after his infamous finger-wagging rant, but that the quality of the playing staff, of which Boateng is one of, was simply not good enough to stay in the top flight and they should accept this.
It displays a certain lack of class on Boateng’s behalf, that such an experienced professional would lower themselves to this. Phil Brown is Hull City’s most successful ever manager, he was responsible for their promotion and he’s more than had a hand in their relegation seeing as they only won seven more times in just over a season and a half, but that surely points to a lack of quality, otherwise that must have been one hell of a demeaning half time team talk.
It was an act of vanity on Brown’s part, we all know that, he’s as cringe worthy an individual as you’re ever likely to come across, that perma tan, that microphone head piece on the side of his face like he’s Madonna in concert or something, that song he sung upon hearing survival was secured last season, he’s a grade A prat, no doubt about it, but I somehow doubt his words, no matter how cutting, would be able to destabilise an entire squad of grown men in the middle, of what up until that point, was a fairly successful campaign. It’s nonsense.
They found themselves 4-0 down at half time that fateful day away at Eastlands and I seem to remember every goal coming down Hull’s right hand side as Paul McShane did his best impression of the worst Premiership defender in recent memory. In the second half Craig Fagan pulled one back, before another move started down the left hand flank, to which Paul McShane had been switched to no less, resulted in City’s fifth goal for Stephen Ireland. If anything, it would appear the team talk helped arrest the slide and meant the result took the shape of a humbling defeat rather than a humiliating one.
It’s worth remembering that prior to the Man City game that Boateng pinpoints as the beginning of their downfall, that they had lost 4-1 the previous fixture at home to Sunderland, and they had only collected 7 points in their previous 9 games, that’s relegation form. In their third game of the season they were stuffed 5-0 at home to Wigan and in truth, they always had a penchant for leaking lots of goals without ever really having the ability to put the ball in the back of the net on a regular basis themselves.
The fact of the matter is, is that Hull were always overachieving and in the end, if that’s all you have, quality will tell eventually and you’ll get found out. We see this sort of thing every year, their great early results, most notably a 2-1 win away at Arsenal that was immediately followed up by a 1-0 victory at Spurs, are what always happens to the newly promoted teams.
Simply put, they don’t know how rubbish they are yet, and every game is approached with a cup-tie mentality. We saw it this season with Burnley winning early on against Man Utd and surging up the table, much like Hull did, the result now though, is that over a long season where consistency is required, Burnley have been found wanting and look certain to follow Hull down too.
Last season Hull stayed in the league despite rarely mustering a performance of note after the festive period, and they were fortunate that the relegated West Brom, despite a late surge, never looked comfortable in top flight company, Middleborough couldn’t score any goals inspired by flop Afonso Alves and that Newcastle went into free fall and drew far too many games and minus a Damien Duff own goal in their final game of the season away to Villa, would have stayed up and Hull would have gone down in their place.
They were saved by their good form prior to Christmas, where they mustered enough points to be in a strong enough position to stay up, and then seemingly proceeded to throw it all away, only contrived to stay up by the skin of their teeth on the last day of the season. They probably deserved to go down last term and this year they simply haven’t been good enough.
Wasted wages, silly transfer fees paid out and budgeting and borrowing money three years ahead of time has been their downfall. Poor players haven’t helped and a shoddy backline has always been present, they were overachieving by simply staying in this league last season. The team talk was a terrible idea, granted, but the beginning of the end, I very much doubt it, perhaps George Boateng should look at the stats before trying to re-write history, because they were getting found out long before the Man City result.
Written By James McManus