The Recipe For Failure

Last updated : 19 April 2010 By Carolina Tiger

This is no easy question to answer, as there is no one reason for the fall from grace.

Maybe, it was the unrealistic expectations that fans had of the club's potential in the Premiership? Maybe, it was a lack of finances of the club's owner or the financial mis-management by the club's former chairman? Was it the poor signings of the manager? Was it the loss of major players to other clubs? Was it the incredible injury list that club had to endure? It was all of these and more.

When Phil Brown dragged our perennial under-achieving side kicking and screaming up the Championship table, was it too soon? Was the team ready for the biggest footballing stage? We certainly looked the part when we walked out at Wembley Stadium and homegrown hero Dean Windass volleyed us into the richest league in the world.

We looked the part as we dismantled experienced Premier League outfits - Arsenal, Tottenham, and Newcastle on more than one occassion and helped to send them down. We beat teams that we should have had no chance of beating, but it wasn't to last.

The first year in the sun ended with a whimper and a microphone in Phil Brown's hand as he was goaded into a poor rendition of the Beach Boys' Sloop John B. The lazy and self-generating media jumped all over Brown's song of relief, a song that was a release from a season of stress and tension that had gone to the wire. Fans of the club and rivals jumped all over it like Brown had crossed the line that nobody should cross. How could he have the temerity to celebrate a fantastic first season in the toughest league in the world if his team had lost on the last day of the season?

However, those people missed the point. At the start of the season the club and Brown were given no chance of surviving in the Premiership. Brown was tipped to be the first manager to lose his job, as the Tigers would struggle to cope with the high octane football environment of the Premiership.

His song of celebration was not one of not going down and scraping past the post because others failed, but because over a season his Hull City team had survived against all the odds, and for a great deal of the season had been the toast of the Premiership.

Brown as he would need many new recruits to bolster his struggling side and avoid second season syndrome. He realised that the club had been punching above its weight and despite misguided efforts to bring big names as a way of generating publicity for the club, his realistic targets such as Fulham's Bobby Zamora, who chose to remain at Fulham, and Marc Antoine Fortune, who chose Celtic over the Tigers, were blows to Brown. This left the Tigers with a hotch-pot of sub-Premiership standard players and has-beens, with the club having to pay ridiculous wages.

During this whole affair Brown's friend and chairman Paul Duffen made sub-par deals that he would come to regret as he stretched the club's finances to almost breaking point.

The club's second season started how the Tigers' first season should have by conventional wisdom. Struggling to find points and taking results in a war of attrition.

The sale of ever present centre back Michael Turner to Sunderland was a slap in the face for Hull City fans. The ridiculously low fee left Tigers' fans feeling like they had been lied to by Duffen and Brown after their initial claims that he would only be sold if a fee of around £10million was offered. The price Sunderland paid was well short of that valuation.

Players were coming into the team for one or two games, playing resonably well, only to find themselves dropped the next week. The lack of stability was in stark contrast to the start of the previous season when only a handful of players were used.

Brown was constantly tinkering with his formations and his players, to the point where it seemed even the fans had a better idea of the best eleven and tactical formation while the management team didn't have a clue from one week to the next.

This was never more striking than when Jozy Altidore was introduced for the first time at the KC against Bolton Wanderers. The Trotters were all over the Tigers but with thirty minutes left, Brown introduced the American and reverted to a conventional 4-4-2 formation from the static and defensive 4-5-1 formation with immediate effect. From struggling to even make a shot on goal the team was rejuvenated, with Kamel Ghilas and Altidore making a formidable partnership up front and combining to give the Tigers all three points.

However, after such a fantastic and energetic display by the front two Brown inexplicably did not pick Altidore in the next league match, and when he did bring him off the subs' bench he took Ghilas off ten minutes later. They were not given a real chance to combine or get an understanding of each other's style. In the following game he replaced Ghilas with Altidore, and Ghilas has hardly had a chance since, much to the disgust of many Hull City fans.

Obviously, Brown and now Dowie get to see the players on the training ground but it beggers belief some of the negative and bizarre team selections this season.

However, the most bizarre selection has to be Adam Pearson's decision to place Phil Brown on gardening leave with only nine games remaining in the season. If he had chosen to replace Brown when he returned to the KC in November it would not have been as much of a shock to the system for so many. It was not that Brown didn't deserve to be removed because based on results, Brown's tenure in the Premiership alone has been less than stellar. However, the timing would not give his replacement time to assess the playing staff and formulate how he would tackle the club's ailing fortunes.

What was more surprising was the appointment of Iain Dowie: a manager who had been at the helm of two other Premiership teams and seen them drop into the Championship. Hardly, a ringing endorsement of his Premiership credentials.

It could be argued that if Brown couldn't keep the club in the Premiership at least he knew the playing staff and has proved that he can get a team promoted from the Championship. Can the same be said for Dowie? As a manager he has won promotion to the Premiership with Crystal Palace but in no short part off the back of a fantastic couple of seasons by striker Andy Johnson, who seemed to be scoring goals for fun.

In Brown's defence it should be mentioned that as a manager he has not been bankrolled to the hilt like many clubs in the Premiership or the Championship, with Hull City owner, Russell Bartlett, the owner with least wealth in the top two divisions of English football.

It may also have been a hindrance that when the club is going through such financial problems it has been loaning money to its owner. Hardly the recipe for a sound financial background for Brown. It has been rumoured that Bartlett's financial bind necessitated a quick sale of Michael Turner, even though the player claimed to be happy at the club.

However, the club was even struggling to sign players with the silly wages that Duffen was willing to offer. Brown went on record at his disgust at Portsmouth's plight, not because the South Coast club has been deducted points after going into administration but because of their fiscal irresponsibility. It meant that when Brown tried to sign some of the players that are now at Portsmouth, Hull City could not compete with the money on offer. It seems ironic that mercenary players that took the money to sign for Portsmouth instead of a lesser deal with the Tigers ended up not getting paid because of Portsmouth's own mis-management.

In defence of both Brown and his replacement, Dowie, they have both had some considerable injuries to contend with. In defence it is hard to remember a time when the club has had any stability at the back. From Turner with Kamil Zayette, to Ibrahima Sonko and Zayette, to Anthony Gardner and Zayette, to Sonko and Liam Cooper, and back to Gardner and Zayette. At the centre back position alone Hull City have started eight different players due to injuries at one stage or another, and this doesn't address the other defensive positions and the problems in midfield and attack through injuries.

Arguably, the best two periods in the season were November, with Jimmy Bullard in the midfield, and in early February, with Tom Cairney pulling the strings. However, in both instances the players and the team could get no consistency as circumstances prevented them having prolonged runs in the side.

Ultimately, the Tigers' plight has been compounded by a total lack of funds in comparison to their Premier League opposition, even down to the likes of Portsmouth who have gone into administration. This hampered the chances of Brown to bolster his squad with quality rather than quantity.

The team has had no stability, whether due to a major run of injuries or Brown's management.

However, it is just another reason to decry the Premiership's ever increasing gap between the 'have's and 'have not's, with Hull City definitely in the latter category.