Preview for Portsmouth Game

Last updated : 22 November 2008 By Andy Beill
Hull are the surprise package for many this year. Are Hull fans surprised with your early season form?
Yes we are. Even the most optimistic City fans didn't really expect this. The remaining players from our promotion team have stepped up their games to a better level, and all of our signings - who we didn't really know much about beforehand - are proving themselves to be good ones. Relative to the league, we've not even spent that much, either.

When was the last time you were in the top division?
We've rid ourselves of the perennial label, 'biggest city in the country never to have top flight football' (though not Europe, as has often been incorrectly stated). Journalists will soon have to find something else about Hull City to interest them! The closest we have ever come prior to this year was in 1910, when defeat on the last day of the season meant City missed out on goal average.

How would you describe your style of play? Are you doing what Pompey did last year and packing the midfield and scoring on the break?
We started the season playing 4-4-2, with Geovanni playing off the main striker, but have since played three in midfield with Geovanni behind the two strikers, King and Cousin, who both work hard from the front. This has worked particularly well away from home as it keeps things tight in the middle while still having plenty up front to cause an attacking threat. At home, where we have more of the ball, the three in the middle don't quite create enough and our goals have mainly come from set pieces.

Geovanni has been fantastic for you. It begs the question how we managed to let him escape when he was on trial at Fratton Park last year and also why he was allowed to leave Man City. Has Geovanni been the single most important factor in your success so far?
The team spirit and work ethic are the reasons we're competing in this league and matching up to just about every team we've faced. On that foundation, Geovanni is the difference and turns that draw into a win.

Phil Brown learned his trade under Allardyce at Blackpool and Bolton didn't he? Are they similar managers in terms of style?
Phil Brown is very close to Sam Allardyce but not necessarily in terms of playing style - Brown is his own man. He embraces modern methods to get his players fitter than the opposition. He uses ProZone to analyse performances and the opposition, and the thought he puts into tactics and set pieces is apparent. However, he also knows that without the right attitude from the players, fitness and systems won't get you very far, so this is key as well.

What is the ownership structure at Hull? Who owns the club and what are the investment plans for the future?
Adam Pearson bought us when we were just about bust in Division Three in 2002 and took us to two promotions, so we owe a lot to him. He accepted he couldn't taken us any further and in 2007 sold up to a consortium fronted by Paul Duffen, who took over as chairman. The club is in a healthy state, with money available for signings and plans to set up a youth academy.

The KC Stadium looks great. What's the capacity and average gate? How is that comparing with last year in the Championship?
We've averaged around 18,000 at the KC Stadium over the last few seasons but this year we've sold out of tickets for every home and away game. There is huge demand at the moment and in the coming years we may see capacity extended beyond 25,000.

Turning our attention to this week's encounter at Fratton Park, apart from Geovanni, who should we look out for? Who are the Pompey players you fear most? And the score?
Our centre backs, Michael Turner and Kamil Zayatte, have been fantastic for us. They face another big test against Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe, who must be one of the most effective strike partnerships in the league. Traore and Belhadj on the left will be a test for Paul McShane, who is a centre back playing at right-back. I think we're capable of taking home a point and would be disappointed if we didn't.

And finally, the big one: Where do you think you will finish this year?
Although we'd be disappointed to finish as low as 17th given our start, that's still got to remain the target and would represent a successful season. Anything above that would be a bonus and based on the season so far we look good enough for the top half of the table. There are no sure-fire bets for the bottom three though, and you would expect teams like Spurs and Wigan to climb much higher up the league.

Written for