Play Your Part
All week the players have been telling the press that they "feel very positive" and are "focused on doing the job".
The game against Stoke was one we've all been eagerly anticipating and feeling confident about. Until kick-off, that is.
I can't remember the last time I've seen a Hull City team play with such little confidence. We all know that Sam Ricketts is perfectly capable of putting in a good cross, George Boateng has passed footballs around in the Premiership for more than ten years, and Daniel Cousin has finished chances against some of the best teams in the world, so lack of ability clearly isn't the reason for all the mistakes and inaccuracies that occurred. Our team played with fear.
People have their own conclusions for why our team has lost all confidence and I don't think anyone would say that lack of support from the fans is near the top of the list of contributing factors. However, I do believe that encouragement from the crowd is the best way to restore that confidence.
Did we, collectively, do that on Saturday? I say we didn't. We were mocked by the Stoke fans when a 'City Til I Die' chant was finally started because they'd given their team so much more support than we had.
Fans get annoyed when they're criticised for groaning at mistakes or shouting out in frustration and they can do what they like when they pay good money for their ticket. I'm not going to attempt to debate that but will make one point: The biggest lift we gave our players all game was five minutes into stoppage time after we'd pulled a goal back and the whole ground roared the team forwards. I don't think the players had such confidence all game to go on the attack and they instantly made a chance, putting the goalkeeper under pressure causing him to miss the cross for the first time, having a shot deflected just wide and out for what should have been a corner. It felt like we were going to pull that ball into the goal until the incorrect decision for a goal kick killed it off and that was the end of the match. If only we'd done that with more time left on the clock.
I'm not suggesting fans must sing and cheer all game long if the players aren't giving us anything to applaud. The catalyst for that huge roar in the last minute of the match was a goal. There were things that happened earlier in the match that deserved encouragement but didn't get it, though. Fans sat near me were criticising that Stoke were trying shots and City weren't. Well, what about Ricketts having a go after cutting inside, or Barmby's and Garcia's second-half headers from a couple of our only good crosses? They weren't far off and we should have shown more encouragement to get them to keep trying.
"I know that you will play your part in helping the Tigers rise to the challenge," said Paul Duffen in his programme notes. We didn't. Let's rectify it in the final two games.
Keep the faith.
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