Hull City and an Uncertain Future

Brian RhodesSenior Analyst INovember 5, 2009

The past few weeks at the KC Stadium have been like watching a soap opera. Not a flashy American soap like Dallas or Dynasty , filled with bags of intrigue and mystery, but a gritty British soap opera like Eastenders filled with seedy melodrama and sleaze.

The main characters have been involved in rumours and stories but it has at times been very difficult to distinguish between truth and rumour.

Speculation has been rife about the Tiger's most successful manager, Phil Brown's future in charge. It has become so bad that British Bookmakers have suspended all betting on him loosing his job.

Since December of last year, Hull City have only won three games, and only four wins in the last 12 months. A poultry 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 Tiger's 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 the club after steering the Tigers from near the foot of the Coca Cola League Two to back-to-back promotions to the Championship. It was only after Hull City avoided off relegation from the Championship that Pearson decided that he had taken the club as far has he possibly could financially.

The club needed funds if they wanted to make the next step forward. This came in the shape of Bartlett and his consortium, who has 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 promote Phil Brown the post of manager after he had been brought in by Adam Pearson to help struggling young manager Phil Parkinson. Brown managed to save the club from relegation and in his first full season in charge won promotion to the Premier League through the Wembley Playoff 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 well 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 for the club. However, 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. Leaving 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 stand point as the Tigers took the Premiership by storm. Taking the scalps of Arsenal, West Ham, Tottenham Hospurs, and Newcastle United, leaving the club sitting joint top of the Premier League in October.

January was the same with a record breaking transfer in the shape Jimmy Bullard from Fulham and with him huge wages. The signing was also accompanied with a very suspect medical that was a toss up as to whether he was actually fit.

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 reinjured his anterior cruciate ligament on his debut for the Tigers, with in 40 minutes.

Duffen failed to file the clubs 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 to a club 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. Scrapping 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 Leagues second worst defence, and the one of the worst home records ever recorded 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 at the European Nation's Cup, 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.

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, and Seyi Olofinjana for £3million from Stoke City, Kamel Ghilas from Celta Vigo for £1.7 and Jozy Altidore the young American striker on loan from Villareal. Leaving the club and it's fans feeling better about the club.

The club also captured the signature of the Dutch international Jan Vanegoor of Hesselink who was out of contract after rejecting a contract at Celtic during the summer.

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 at the start of the season Michael Turner, arguably the Tiger's best player was sold to Sunderland for an undisclosed fee, with Paul McShane going in the opposite direction.

The new season continued as the last one ended with the team playing back to the wall football and conceding goals like the Titanic taking in water, and the strikers failing to find the net.

The new signings brought with them huge wages with the club allegedly having an annual wage bill in the region of £40 million, which puts the club as 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 miss steps ultimately lead to the resignation of Duffen as the Club Chairman, and with the late filling of the Club's taxes 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 is 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 £2.8 million 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 £12 million 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 off load some of the club's bloated playing staff, which currently has 29 full time professionals.

He is hoping to off-load at least 10 players that are not Premiership quality in an effort to shrink the clubs 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 Pearson can steady the financial ship it should make the waters calmer for the good ship Hull City on the playing field.


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