Uncertain Times For Hull City
Speculation has been rife about the Tigers' most successful manager, Phil Brown's, future in charge. It has become so bad that British bookmakers have suspended all betting on him losing his job.
Since December of last year, Hull City have only won three games, and only four wins in the last 12 months: a paltry tally in anyone's estimation but is it all Brown's fault?
No, not according to Russell Bartlett, the owner of Hull City. Last week Hull City Chairman Paul Duffen stood down from his position for "football business reasons." Was he pushed or did he jump?
The day before, former owner and Chairman, Adam Pearson, stepped down as the Executive Chairman of Derby County. Pearson had seen the the East Yorkshire club through some tough times and only sold up after steering the Tigers from near the foot of Division Three to back-to-back promotions to the Championship. It was only after Hull City avoided relegation from the Championship that Pearson decided that he had taken the club as far has he possibly could with his finances.
The club needed funds if they wanted to make the next step forward. This came in the shape of Bartlett and his consortium, which previously tried and failed to buy West Ham. He appointed his close friend Paul Duffen to the role of Chariman at Hull City.
Duffen's first piece of business was to give Phil Brown the permanent post of manager after he had been brought in by Adam Pearson to help struggling young manager Phil Parkinson and save the club from relegation. In his first full season in charge he then won promotion to the Premier League through the Wembley Play-off Final.
Duffen came in with the standard three-year plan of year-on-year growth with the objective of promotion to the Premiership by year three. The on-field plan was more successful than expected and promotion was won within the first year.
The financial ramifications of this were huge for the club. Not only was it the single biggest financial windfall, with the Tigers expected to earn in the region of £60 million, but with promotion came greater financial outlays.
The players had to be paid a promotion bonus. Contracts were renegotiated to compensate players for winning the ultimate prize and to keep the team together.
The summer then became a major recruitment process, and although many players were brought in on free transfers their wages were extremely high to entice them to a newly promoted club. It left the club with a wage bill comparable to a team in the top half of the Premiership, not in the bottom three.
The club broke their transfer record with signing of Peter Halmosi from Plymouth for a fee of in excess of £2 million and then did it again with Anthony Gardner's signature from Spurs for £2.5 million, and with them came more high wages.
The signings seemed to be great from a playing standpoint as the Tigers took the Premiership by storm. Having taken the scalps of Arsenal, West Ham, Tottenham Hospurs and Newcastle United, the club sat joint top of the Premier League in October.
January was the same with a record-breaking transfer in the shape of Jimmy Bullard from Fulham and with him huge wages. The signing also came with a suspect injury record.
Bullard's signature was an attempt to stem the loss of form that was seeing the club slip down the able after the stellar start to the campaign. Unfortunately, he injured his anterior cruciate ligament, again, on his debut for the Tigers.
Duffen failed to file the club's tax returns for the promotion season by almost nine months and they did not prove to be comforting reading for Hull City fans. From being a club on a stable financial footing, the club were on the brink of financial meltdown in the space of a year.
From all the plaudits and fanfare of the Tigers meteoric start to their first season in the best league in world football, the season ended with a whimper, scraping survival on the last day of the season because other teams were decidedly poorer than the Tigers.
The last day Houdini act meant that the club seriously needed to find new blood to bolster a team that had the Premier League's second worst defence, and one of the worst home records in Premiership history.
Hull City's Championship-goal-scoring hero Fraizer Campbell was a major target from Manchester United and a fee of around £6 million was accepted but Campbell was away on England Under-21 duty at the European Championship, and he stalled to the point that he joined Sunderland.
Michael Owen was also a target after getting relegated with Newcastle, but when Manchester United came calling, the Tigers lost out again. Marc-Antoine Fortune was targeted but he chose to team up with his former manager at Celtic rather than signing with the Tigers, while Bobby Zamora also said no.
It was looking like Hull City were the bridesmaid-never-the-bride in their attempts to sign a much needed striker. Then came the signatures of Stephen Hunt from Reading for £3.5million, Seyi Olofinjana from Stoke City for £3m, Kamel Ghilas from Celta Vigo for £1.7m and Jozy Altidore, the young American striker, on loan from Villareal. It all left the club and its fans feeling better about the club.
Dutch international Jan Vanegoor of Hesselink, who was out of contract after rejecting a contract at Celtic during the summer, was also captured.
During this period, Sam Ricketts was sold to Bolton Wanderers with no replacement immediately on the horizon, which seemed to be a very bizarre turn of events. This was to look even stranger when Michael Turner, arguably the Tigers' best player, was sold to Sunderland for an undisclosed fee, with Paul McShane coming in the opposite direction.
The new season continued as the last one ended with the team playing backs-to-the-wall football, conceding goals like the Titanic taking in water, and the strikers failing to find the net.
The new signings brought with them huge wages, the club allegedly having an annual wage bill in the region of £40 million - the seventh highest in the Premiership. Add to this the £5 million that the club paid out to player agents involved in the transfers and it is not looking rosy for the club.
The financial mess ultimately lead to the resignation of Duffen as the Club Chairman, and with the late filing of the Club's accounts and his inability to get any of the high profile signings that the Club targeted it was proving harder for Duffen to have any credibility.
Duffen's staunch faith in Brown has not helped him keep his position. He has on a number of occasions backed his manager and friend, even insulting Hull City fans in the process.
However, it appears that amongst his many failings, it was the disastrous sale of Michael Turner to Sunderland that was the final straw. At the time of the sale the transfer fee was classed as undisclosed. It appears that the club made only £2.8million for a player that was valued at approximately £12 million at the start of the season.
The transfer has also raised the prospect of a Premier League investigation into the deal after complaints from Charlton Athletic and Brentford, who had sell on clauses built into Turner's contracts. To their dismay they failed to reap much of a reward for the supposed £12million man.
With the appointment of Adam Pearson the Club is looking to stabalise after a turbulent couple of years. Pearson has already said he will give Brown some time to sort out the club's on-field woes. He is also attempting to offload some of the club's bloated stafflist, which currently has 40 full-time professionals.
He is hoping to offload at least 10 players that are not Premiership quality in an effort to shrink the club's ridiculously high wage bill. He is also trying to bring in some much needed investment to help cement the club's place in the Premiership.
Whether Pearson is successful or not is tied very closely with the affairs of the team on the playing field, but if he can steady the financial ship it should make the waters calmer for the good ship Hull City.