A singing Tiger is not something you’d expect to see on a football pitch. Last season’s survival at Hull City sparked just that in the form of Phil Brown. Comical viewing for the rest of the nation it may have been but I can assure you Phil Brown did not care one bit. What he has done at this club will go down in history. In fact the last 10 years will be seen as the decade that changed the football club.
Let’s go back 9 years to February 2001. Hull City, then playing in the third division, were given a 14-day stay of execution after being put into administration. The future of the club was in serious doubt until former Leeds United (of all teams) commercial director, Adam Pearson, was confirmed as the new chairman and chief executive at Hull City. He ploughed his own money into the club and their fortunes began to change. In 2003 the club relocated to the 25,000-seater KC Stadium after 56 years at Boothferry Park. 2004 and 2005 saw back to back promotions in to the Championship. In 2007, Phil Brown was appointed as permanent boss and saved the team from relegation. The 2007/08 season saw Brown’s men finish third and go on to beat Bristol City 1-0 in the Play-Off Final, the goal coming from local hero Dean Windass. Their ascent from the bottom division of the English football league to the top in just five seasons was the third-fastest ever seen.
Two seasons on, and the club still remain in the Premier League. Phil Brown may be loathed by almost every manager in the league, and not just for his beard, but he has worked wonders at a club who, 9 years ago, were facing the possibility of extinction. Last week’s victory over the ‘Sheikh’s Stars’ will have reminded the fans just how far they have come in the last decade. Despite that, Brown has come under intense pressure this season due to the club’s low position in the league. His future has been subject of much debate both around the Humber and the rest of the country. The Tigers currently sit just above the relegation zone, one point above Burnley who have a game in hand over them and 2 points above Bolton who have two games in hand. Realistically, did the fans expect to see them in any other position?
Of course, with success comes expectation. After retaining their top flight status, the fans at the KC will have hoped this season would bring a mid-table finish. Disappointingly it is looking like another relegation battle. What they must remember is that this is not a club renowned for its history. In fact, Hull City have very little in terms of any sort of history. The Play-Off Final trophy is the only piece of silverware they have picked up since 1966. Surely a relegation battle in the Premier League, the world’s best league, should be success in itself?
Having said that, the club do have more than enough quality to stay in this league, and a fighting spirit will spur them on. With the controversy off the pitch seemingly coming to an end, it is now down to Brown and his men to keep this club in the top flight. In Stephen Hunt, Jozy Altidore and George Boateng they have a good back-bone to work on and, should Boaz Myhill keep producing the performances that kept Tottenham out at White Hart Lane, then the club will be in this division next season.
Brown may have made a clown out of himself after last season’s survival but this season’s battle will be no laughing matter. Survival this year could see a significant amount of money available for new players over the summer. Two seasons in the top flight would create a lot of optimism and, along with fantastic facilities and fans to rival the best of them; the club will be set for greater things.
He may not get the credit he deserves but, with a little trip down memory lane, the fans will realise, and should the club avoid relegation, Brown will be a hero.