Phil Brown’s Hull sacking looks ill-timed

The perma-tanned one was relieved of his duties by Hull yesterday after a disappointing run of results left Hull City languishing in 19th place in the league after collecting just four points out of a possible eighteen in their previous six matches.

Brown has officially been placed on ‘gardening leave’ but much like in Eastenders when somebody says they’re going abroad or to Manchester, you get the feeling that he’s now coming back from this one. But it does seem like an especially ill-timed dismissal what with there being only nine games left of the Premiership season. I’m not advocating that Brown deserves to stay far from it, but the timing does seem off.

With former Chairman Adam Pearson returning for a second spell at the club over the Christmas period, Brown has had a look of a dead man walking for some time now. Hull have won only six out of their last fifty one games and quite how they’re still in the division is baffling based on that horrendous form.  There has always been the feeling that Chairman Pearson has wanted to bring in his own man, remaining unconvinced by Brown, but why do it now of all times?

Brown is unquestionably Hull’s most successful manager ever and he enjoyed the support of the KC faithful and desposed Chairman Paul Duffen for quite some time but no manager survives after a run like that and it seems the current Chairman’s patience has run out. It does make you wonder though why Pearson delayed the inevitable after seeing his club dragged further and further into the mire. Despite a stay of execution on the back of good consecutive results against Chelsea and Man City last month, why was Brown not simply dismissed over Christmas when it’s clear he wasn’t wanted?

There would have been little disagreement back then on Brown’s behalf, for he had been given a fair crack of the whip as they say and had been given over a year to turn around their terrible form but had failed, it was clear for all to see that a change was needed but for some reason or another it was delayed to the extent that the incoming manager now only has a handful of games to save Hull from the drop.

Pearson has stated that “Retention of Premier League status is paramount and the board believes that a change in managerial direction is the correct option at this time” and whilst this is an understandable reaction to their current state of affairs and one we’ve all heard countless times before, they’ve been in this predicament for quite some time now, so what rings true today would have done several months ago also.

So who are the men linked with the job?

The day started out with names like Alan Curbishley, a seasoned operator at Championship level, as favourite but he’s since been ruled out by Chairman Pearson. Steve Coppell is another one suggested by some and much like Curbishley would be an excellent acquisition but with more an eye on the future than this season. Then there is the name of Gary Megson, rather unfairly derided by Bolton fans during his two year stay at the Reebok and the bookies favourite.

He’s capable of keeping the club in this division having previously done it at Bolton last term but at what price would the cost of staying up be – he’d be advisable to bring in if Premiership status is the only thing on Pearson’s mind but he’s hardly one to set the world alight for the future and won’t arrest the poor attendance records at the KC Stadium. The other names doing the rounds are rather depressingly for Hull all managers who have a relegation on their CV’s, such as Gareth Southgate, Iain Dowie (he good as got Charlton relegated with his terrible signings) and Paul Jewell.

Mark Hughes is another name doing the rounds and his appointment would represent something of a coup for the club. It remains to be seen whether Hughes would be interested in taking the job as after managing a club challenging for the top four such as Man City and with the money he had at his disposal there, he may view Hull as a step down the career ladder and a job that’s beneath him. The prospect of getting involved with a relegation battle is probably something he would wish to avoid and although he’s definitely capable enough to produce the goods, Megson remains a much more realistic target for Pearson, although the ambition shown by this bold move is a step in the right direction, and it has to be said, is in direct contrast with their supposed pursuit of Megson with Pearson looking to have a man in place by as early as Wednesday if reports are to be believed.

This is the predicament Hull now find themselves in with only nine games remaining, do they accept defeat and plan for the future with a better manager, hoping that they’ll bounce back straight up next season or do they try to halt the slide in poor performances by bringing in a manager of Megson’s ilk who will drill his side to be disciplined and boring but may be able to grind out results like he did for Bolton when he took over –  it’s a tricky question to answer.

Pearson has since stated that he has a five man shortlist but denied Curbishley’s name was on it, although he did clear things up and indicate his intensions behind the sacking saying “it needs to be someone we can get in for a nine-game period” and he rather interestingly he refused to comment whether Megson was on the shortlist.

Phil Brown achieved Hull’s first promotion to the top flight of English football in their history, but relegation would be financially catastrophic for them. The Chairman has spoken of the dire finances at the club upon taking over again and he was surprised at the state he found the club in considering he left it in reasonable shape. Relegation to the Championship would represent an end to Hull as a force and they’d surely have to sell off their best players like Bullard, Stephen Hunt and Geovanni wouldn’t be short of takers.

It begs belief that Brown was given the January transfer window to strengthen when there were seemingly doubts about his management. Amir Zaki was the only player brought in on loan and his questionable attitude and work ethic are well documented. The timing of the amusing incident of the fracas in full view of the W.I. between Nicky Barmby and Jimmy Bullard upon the humber bridge last week seemed to be the last nail in the coffin. A new manager, although there were obvious financial constraints , could have taken advantage of the transfer window to wheel and deal as he saw fit and perhaps even reduce the wage bill, but this opportunity was ignored and Pearson’s actions smack of short-termism.

Phil Brown is a figure of fun amongst rival fans, his deluded press conferences and self congratulatory interviews have done nothing to endear him to the general public, but it’s his results as manager over the past year which has led to his exit and which he should be judged by. His sacking was a necessity, but I seriously question the timing of it and whether it would have just been best giving Brown to the end of the season or bring in a new manager in January – either would have made much more sense than this and Hull’s position at present gets worse by the day as the club remains in a state of disarray.

Written by James McManus