Q&A for The Mag

Last updated : 04 June 2009 By Andy Beill

Looking from the outside, Phil Brown's season was in two separate parts. First half excellent and then what followed after keeping the players on the pitch at half-time at Manchester City?
It would be more accurate to break it into three parts. 6 wins from 9 games was the first part. We then had 11 games we played well in but due to some decisions going against us, deflected goals going in, some bad individual moments on our part and some inspired moments by opponents, we only picked up one win. Then January onwards we played badly for the most part, didn’t build any consistency and confidence just got lower and lower. We needed the last game to come around while we were still out of the relegation zone because we couldn’t get out of the rut.

To blame anything on the Manchester City half-time team talk just doesn’t make sense if you look at the sequence of events. We were already losing 4-0 at that point, but showed a great improvement in the second half and got a goal. We also played really well in our next game against Aston Villa.

What did Hull fans make of Phil Brown singing on the pitch after your final game?
Good on him for doing what City fans do for him and the players at grounds all over the country. I wasn’t joining in though. How can you celebrate such a sloppy defeat? We stayed up because of results we got months ago and teams like Newcastle consistently helping us out.

Is Hull now a rugby league or football city?
Hull City and Premier League football is undoubtedly the talk of the city and East Yorkshire, but I would like to think the majority of people want all the Hull clubs to succeed. Sport’s very important locally and rugby will always remain popular even though it has been eclipsed by football.

In recent years fans of teams that have been promoted absolutely love their first season, then with each season they stay up less and less fans seem to travel and the harsh reality of premiership football appears to hit in terms of ticket prices and no chance of actually competing with the top teams. Are there any signs of that yet or am I just bitter?
There are certainly things we dislike about the Premier League already - the money, the kick-off times, the media - but we’ve waited a long time for top flight football, we’re not going to tire of it just yet.

Going into the last weekend I thought best chance of us staying up was Manchester United winning and us scraping a point, what did you think Hull's best route to staying up was?
City just had to match Newcastle’s result. True to form, you lost and so did we.

Did Hull fans generally have any preference on whether Newcastle, Sunderland or Middlesbrough went down?
Most would have preferred Newcastle going down and some were relishing Sunderland being dragged into it in the last couple of games, but of course fans just wanted to see their own team stay up no matter who went down instead.

My experience has been that in general genuine fans of other clubs haven't taken extra pleasure in Newcastle going down as compared to Liverpool/Chelsea/Man.U. armchair fans around the country have. Am I deluded in thinking that and what do Hull fans make of us going down?
I don’t think many fans, no matter who they support, have any sympathy for you.

Hull fans must have to pinch themselves when they look at the current respective positions of yourselves and Leeds?
We were actually rooting for our other local rivals Scunthorpe to get promoted, but not Leeds. For a long time many people from Hull chose to support Leeds United because they were the nearest top division team. Everybody’s only interested in Hull City now though and hopefully it will stay that way even if Leeds do return to being above us again.

From the outside what do you make of what has happened at Newcastle United?
The image of the club has completely changed since you were “everybody’s second team” in the 90s. The players appear to be a bunch of big time Charlies with no respect for the club they play for or for anybody else - see Danny Guthrie breaking Craig Fagan’s leg, and Joey Barton’s existence.

The fans are no better though. You used to be thought of as the most “real” fans in the Premiership, but you seem to have lost all sight of yourselves. You’ve got the impression you’re the world’s biggest club, and you are... in Newcastle. Just before your relegation I heard a fan on the radio say Newcastle would be an awful place without the football team. It’s still there, it’s just not in the Premier League. It’s not that long since you were in the Second Division.

It’s awful when you can see your club being mis-managed - we’ve certainly been there - but you’ve got to remember you support the club to watch the team. Empty seats and protests at the game don’t help anything at a time when the team needs your support the most. They can either be the most inspiring times or the most destructive times and Newcastle went for the latter.

Newcastle fans are generally looking to Alan Shearer as the person who can rebuild the team and unite everybody inside and outside the club, whoever is the owner. Looking from the outside do you think Alan Shearer is our best chance of turning it around?
You can’t disregard the owner. The manager can only succeed if he’s got a working relationship with his boss where both are striving for the same thing. If the fans consider Shearer untouchable then Ashley might have made the same rod for his own back as when he appointed Keegan.

Hand on heart what do you think next season is likely to hold in store for Hull and Newcastle?
We need to strengthen well but every other club’s going to be doing the same. Restoring the confidence and team spirit we had at the start of last season will be vital. If we achieve that then mid-table should be in our sights. If we don’t, relegation will be unavoidable.

You’re going to have a hard time of it in every fixture next season because of your reputation. You’ll need to be patient, pull together and get behind the team even if it takes a while for the rebuilding to work. After all that’s happened in the last few years you should have learnt that quick fixes aren’t the solution so give it time and you’ll be stronger for it.

Written for Newcastle United fanzine 'The Mag' (telephone 01912615551 for subscriptions)