Hull City: Unrealistic Expectations Placed on Small Premiership Club

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Hull City: Unrealistic Expectations Placed on Small Premiership Club
(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Well, the season is one month in and for the Tigers it's five games down. The transfer window has been both good and bad in equal measure, with some good signings and some awful disappointments.

At the start of last season, when Hull City commenced their first top flight season in the club's history, the pundits and sheep-like fans all said the Tigers would "do a Derby."

To "do a Derby" is to be so poor as to be on 11 points or less by the end of the season. The Tigers confounded the critics by gaining that many points with an historic victory at Arsenal's wonderful Emirates Stadium with a 2-1 victory.

The season went from strength to strength, with the Tigers collecting 27 points by the middle of December 2008. However, it was then that the wheels started to come off.

Injuries, loan recalls, opponents figuring the team out, a poor transfer window, and their glorious start began to fade, culminating in the Tigers needing to win, or others needing to lose, to ensure Premiership survival for another season.

So, back to this season and the comings and goings at the Kingston Communication Stadium. There were some very good offers on the table for Fraizer Campbell who, despite being a Hull City Hero for his exploits in our promotion-winning season, chose to sign for Sunderland.

Sunderland also escaped relegation by the skin of their teeth along with Hull City on the final day of the 2008/9 season, much to the joy of the Black Cat fans, as this condemned their hated rivals Newcastle United to relegation.

It had been no secret that Sunderland had money to spend during the Summer transfer window following the arrival of Ellis Short as chairman, but Campbell changed his mind, following a very long and drawn out piece of theatre involving Campbell and his agent/father, and opted to sign for them at the expense of Hull City.

Then Steve Bruce and Sunderland swept in, as the window was nearing closure, and turned the head of our star defender Michael Turner, leaving a bitter taste in the mouth, and a bit of a loathing for the Mackems (a club I had always had a soft spot for).

Add to the transfer window the over-hyped wranglings for Michael Owen (that was never going to happen when Manchester United came calling), the tug of war with Champions League-bound Celtic for Marc-Antoine Fortune (not getting much Champions League football now are you Marc, thanks Mr. Wenger).

To be turned down for Champions League football is one thing, but for Scottish football is another thing. Add Bobby Zamora and his total lack of interest in moving North of the M25, and the early parts of the transfer widow looked awful.

However, it wasn't all bad news. After a very successful Confederations Cup for the USA national team, Paul Duffen and Phil Brown managed to get American wonder-kid Jozy Altidore on a season-long loan from Villarreal (with an option to sign on a permanent contract).

Altidore was joined by Seyi Olofinjana from Stoke City, who would help to bolster the Tiger's midfield until Jimmy Bullard's early October return from his unlucky anterior cruciate ligament injury.

There was also the long and drawn out and ultimately unsuccessful negotiations for Real Madrid's Alvaro Negredo. Though only a bit-part player for the Galacticos, following a successful loan spell at Spanish side Almeria, he was a player that Real wanted to keep but were willing to sell on a buy back basis—he ultimately signed for FC Sevilla instead.

However Kamel Ghilas, the Algerian International from Celta Vigo, who had scored 13 goals in 33 appearances for the famous Spanish club, quickly followed instead. Meanwhile other positive moves included that of Stephen Hunt, who had wanted to leave Reading after Steve Coppell had resigned as manager, and the re-signing of Paul McShane from Sunderland.

McShane, who had been instrumental in our glorious start to last season, had been recalled in the last January transfer window by then-Sunderland boss Ricky Sbragia, following some fine performances for the Tigers. McShane's arrival meant Hull had a replacement for Bolton-bound Sam Ricketts.

With the late departure of the Michael Turner to Sunderland, a player who had been on standby for an England call-up whilst playing in every single minute of the Tigers' first season in the top flight, Hull were clearly thin on the ground in the centre back position.

But, late in the transfer window, Hull managed to secure the signing of Ibrahima Sonko on loan from Stoke City.

Though not a like-for-like exchange, Sonko was a player who had performed very well for Reading during their Premiership campaign's, but had found himself banished to the Stoke City reserves, after he was sacrificed following Stoke's poor start to last season.

During the summer Tigers fans have gone from being upbeat at surviving their first season in the Premier League, to very disappointed at Campbell's rejection. While the speculation regarding Owen was a great fillip but ultimately a forlorn hope, the daily will-he-won't-he of Fortune to the almost arrogant dismissal by Zamora to us as a club were great disappointments over the summer.

But, in stark contrast, the signing of Altidore, Olofinjana, Hunt, and Ghilas filled the fans with tremendous optimism. Still, the loss of Turner was the end of the world again for some.

However, there was one last piece of business for the Tigers and that was the signing of Jan Vennegoor or Hesselink. He was a free agent having decided not to sign another contract at Celtic, and chose to sign up with the Tigers.

The season began with a daunting trip to Chelsea's Stamford Bridge where the Tigers more than held their own and were unlucky not to come away with a point after Didier Drogba's fluky injury time winner.

What followed was a master class from a very well disciplined Tottenham Hotspur side. Harry Redknapp has built a side that could successfully be challenging the top four come May.

The first points of the season came in a game of two halves. The first was a dogged back-to-the walls onslaught as Bolton looked to be cruising to an easy victory, but with an hour gone the game was turned on its head.

Brown introduced Altidore and changed the team formation and it was all one way traffic with Altidore's first touch setting up fellow new signing Ghilas for his first goal for the club.

A successful victory against Southend in the League Cup followed, with Altidore scoring his first goal for the Tigers. Then a draw against newly promoted Wolverhampton Wanderers, where Michael Turner would prove why he was so valuable to the Tigers by playing a blinder in what turned out to be his final game in the Amber and Black of East Yorkshire's finest.

The international break followed, with the Tigers tally of four points after four games looking alright. The following game was against Sunderland, the team who led Hull on such a merry dance throughout the transfer window.

The scoreline of 4-1 to Sunderland was unfair given the balance of the game. However, when recently departed Michael Turner scored against us, it only added insult to injury, especially because it was his absence in the middle of our defence that was the worst element of the game. Sonko is a solid enough player but time will tell if he can fill the giant hole that has been left by Turner.

There are other elements to the start of this season that should be taken into account. Anthony Gardner, who is arguably a better centre back than Turner, is on the injury list again and the energy of Dean Marney and Ian Ashbee have been sorely missed.

The International break was a blessing and a curse. A well-earned break allowed the new players to gel, but Hull lost many players because of international duty, which in the case of Jozy Altidore meant he returned fatigued and jet lagged.

The transfer window overlapping the start of the season and the early international break has meant that preparations for the new season have been disjointed and irregular at times.

Obviously this affects all teams but when there have been some very major changes of personnel as there have been at Hull City, it doesn't make the manager's job any easier.

As it is, there are calls for Phil Brown to be replaced by members of the Tiger nation. Fans are fickle and have very unrealistic ideas of where Hull City should be. This is compounded by the phenomenal start to last season which continues to cloud the objectivity of many fans.

Hull City are in their infancy as a Premiership club and you don't just build a dynasty overnight. Fans seem to be getting frustrated with the Tigers' transfer dealings and club chairman Duffen, but what do they expect?

We may be demonstrating our ambitions with interest in the likes of Owen but would we ever have managed to get either him or Negredo to sign. The expectation of some of the Tiger nation have been very unrealistic.

As a club that in its 105-year history has only had one year in the top flight it is a bit naive to think that we can be duking it out with anyone but the yo-yo teams in the Premiership. Even then it is still a tough ask when most other Premiership clubs are in London, the Midlands, and the North West.

Hull City are a team out on a limb, in more ways than geographically. Players will have looked at the Tigers as a club that scraped another Premiership season by a whisker. Yes, we looked very good at the start of last season but that is now consigned to history.

We are a team that has always struggled to sign players, but if we can survive for another season and not succumb to second season syndrome, then we have the chance to build as a club and given time can become an established Premiership team.

As it stands, Turner's transfer included, we are a better equipped team this season than last. We are better in all areas if players perform to their abilities and we can get influential players back to fitness.

Bullard's return will be huge, as will Gardner's return to full fitness. Vennegoor of Hesselink, Altidore, and Ghilas will all play important roles for the club, but they are all better than who we had last season. Hunt is far better than either Peter Halmosi or Richard Garcia.

Yes, we haven't had a great start to the season, but the start of this season has seen the Tigers in flux. The next eight games are the key to how the rest of this campaign will pan out.

Games against the teams we will have to beat to stay in the Premiership all take place in the next two months. Home fixtures against Birmingham, Wigan, Portsmouth, Stoke, and West Ham and away games against Fulham and Burnley.

The next couple of months will help to tell the tale of the 2009/10 season for the Tigers but if all doesn't go well on the field it certainly won't be because of the players that the club has brought in, or the manager.

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