Posts Tagged phil brown

New Hull City manager needs attacking intent

The most amazing aspect of the infamous player in-fighting on the Humber Bridge was not that it happened at all, nor that the newspapers splashed it over their back pages. By now we have grown used to Hull City’s massively enhanced media profile since promotion, and we all know that nothing excites the tabloids more than footballers up to a bit of mischief.

No, what was astonishing was the reminder that two big-name players like Nick Barmby, with 23 international caps to his name, and Jimmy Bullard, who was well in the England reckoning himself before his injury on his debut, actually turn out for Hull City. And they don’t particularly stand out from the rest of the squad – we are blessed with several other similarly talented players the likes of which have never been seen in Hull before.

Despite our lowly league position, there’s a rich seam of quality available, particularly players with an attacking bent. As a recent terrace song, which hasn’t caught on as much as it should have, runs: “Woah-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh, we’ve got Barmby, Ghilas and Geo, we’ve got Bullard and Hunt and a Dutchman up front with the longest name that I know.” Ahem.

In addition we have Jozy Altidore, the most expensive US player ever and their brightest talent; Amr Zaki, who last year was the hottest property in the Premier League; and Tom Cairney, the teenager who, when his agent allows him to play, has proved a natural at the top level and is already being touted as a future England star.

Just how can a team boasting, in alphabetical order, the attacking calibre of Altidore, Barmby, Bullard, Cairney, Geovanni, Ghilas, Hunt, Vennegoor of Hesselink and Zaki, fail to stay in the Premier League? How have we scored fewer goals than anyone but Wolves or Portsmouth and with the worst goal difference of all 20?

So, while I find myself persuaded by, among others, premier Hull City blog Boyhood Dreams’ valedictory post saluting Phil Brown’s achievements, there’s another part of me that thinks we’ve massively under-achieved this season given the talent at our disposal.

Sure, several of the players, notably Bullard, have been unavailable for large chunks of the season, but even with a full roster Brown has frequently carded plodders like Richard Garcia or Craig Fagan at the expense of flair players who can damage the opposition. And he has failed to coax as many impressive performances out of our star names as we could have expected.

This is to take nothing away from the achievements of Brown, undeniably Hull City’s greatest ever manager. When Adam Pearson delivered the bullet I felt mournful, angry and confused – all sorts of emotions except for joy or relief at his departure. But when you possess what’s widely reported as one of the top 10 wage bills in the country, and can call on an exciting arsenal of attacking midfielders, wingers and strikers, it doesn’t cut it to persist in playing Fagan as a lone offensive option in a backs-to-the-wall 4-5-1 formation.

That’s also why an ultra-defensive disciplinarian taking over and looking to grind out some hard-fought points just won’t suit. Teams which are hard to beat primarily have a strong defensive unit, something which we simply can’t offer, certainly not with Zayatte and Gardner out injured.

Can we really expect novices like Stephen Mouyokolo and Liam Cooper, often iffy full-backs Paul McShane and Andy Dawson, and keeper Boaz Myhill, who runs hot and cold more than the shower in the Comfort Inn, to keep many clean sheets in our last nine games? Very unlikely.

So our chance of safety relies on someone to coax match-changing performances from players who we know have the magic in them. Bullard, Geovanni, Altidore and Hunt have all provided occasional sprinkles of it this season.
We need a manager who is used to handling mercurial talents, who can inspire them to repeat the trick more often and who can send them out on the pitch with the confidence to be creative. It need not necessarily be free-flowing, attractive football – the back seven still need to harry and hoof as needed – but we do need to unlock the attacking potential in the side.

The ideal managerial candidates, fulfilling the remit that he needs to be immediately available rather than contracted elsewhere, are Sven-Goran Eriksson or Mark Hughes. And I can see why flamboyant characters like Terry Venables or Kevin Keegan have their champions, though for me they are yesterday’s men.

More cerebral types like Steve McClaren and Avram Grant would be superb longer-term appointments, though perhaps not the immediate ‘big impact’ person that Adam Pearson has talked about.

But sacking Phil Brown to replace him with someone like Iain Dowie, out of the game since helping relegate Newcastle United last season and yet to impress in any of his chances in the top division, or Gareth Southgate who took Middlesbrough down despite boasting better resources than Hull City last season, would be absolutely unfathomable.

And yet, as I write this, the radio is reporting that Dowie’s exactly who Adam Pearson seems intent on appointing…

Good grief.

FOOTNOTE: Reviewing this post, I don’t think I’ve given Brown enough credit for the scarcely believable, unprecedented tricks he pulled off at The Circle. I will attempt to do him justice with a proper tribute post when the dust has settled, but at such a crucial stage in the season worrying about our next manager takes precedence over eulogising the previous one.

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Reasons to be cheerful – and fearful

Consecutive debacles at West Ham and Everton no doubt led every City fan to ponder whether we’re going to stay up this season. I believe we will, or at least we should.

Let’s compare the attacking options we have compared to those from 12 months ago. Now we have Jozy Altidore, Amr Zaki, Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink and Kamel Ghilas. Last time round we had Daniel Cousin and Manucho. For both seasons Geovanni, Nicky Barmby, Craig Fagan and Caleb Folan remain the same.

Now who is more likely to bang in enough goals to keep us up – a combination of Altidore, Zaki, Vennegoor of Hesselink, Ghilas, Geovanni, Barmby, Fagan and Folan, or Cousin, Manucho, Geovanni, Barmby, Fagan and Folan?

In midfield, we’ve put Stephen Hunt, Tom Cairney and Seyi Olofinjana into the mix, Jimmy Bullard looks set to play a greater role than last season, and lost only Ian Ashbee through injury. So we’re clearly a stronger proposition in the centre of the park too.

At the back, the loss of Michael Turner and to a lesser extent Sam Ricketts undoubtedly weakened us. However, Paul McShane and Stephen Mouyokolo have by no means been disastrous additions, while Kamil Zayatte has improved and we teased more of a contribution from Antony Gardner this season than last. Meanwhile our goalkeeping options of Boaz Myhill and Matt Duke remain constant.

Overall, who could deny we have a stronger squad than last season? And with many more players who have survived the intense pressure of scrapping for our lives than our main two challengers, Wolves and Burnley, too.

We may not be great, but we have more than enough quality in the squad to stay up. If we’re relegated, it will largely be down to our manager not prising enough out of a superior squad than he did last time, and being outsmarted by Mick McCarthy, Brian Laws and Avram Grant.

In other words, success or failure is down to how well Phil Brown fares over the next 10 games. Yikes.

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Blackburn Rovers 1 Hull City 0

The storming performances against Manchester City and Chelsea over the previous seven days showed us how gloriously exciting being in the Premier League can be. Two clashes pitting the Tigers against teams stuffed with multi-millionaire players with world-class reputations – it was a double reminder as to why we spent 104 years coveting a place in the top tier.

However, many more games in this league are just a slog between teams too frightened to play expansive, attacking football in case they make a mistake. After all, concede a goal in a critical game and you can lose points, followed by your Premier League status and with it tens of millions of pounds in revenue.

This night in Lancashire was a particularly brutal war of attrition and the biggest, strongest and most organised side prevailed, without being forced to show much quality or adventure.

We set out with unchanged personnel and 4-4-2 formation for the fourth game in a row, yet the manner of play was starkly different to the trio of home games which had produced five points.

Where at The Circle we try to seize the initiative and play a fast-paced, pressing game, away from home we can’t replicate it, even when the line-up is the same.

We struggled to offer any sort of attacking threat beyond an early shot from Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink that was well-struck and low but barely troubled Paul Robinson in the Rovers goal.

Of course, if George Boateng had not been ridiculously sent off for a clash of heads in the first half, the game might have panned out differently. However, that’s probably wishful thinking as we’d been second best up to then and there was no sign of breaking the stranglehold that Sam Allardyce’s team had on the game.

A final word for Phil Brown. His team didn’t perform but at least he made a positive change in the second half, subbing both full-backs and switching to 3-4-2 to try and sneak a point. If we’d showed more attacking intent in some other away games – dor instance Bolton and Manchester United – we could have snaffled a win.

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Hull City 2 Wolverhampton Wanderers 2

January 31, 2009: Hull City face West Bromwich Albion at The Circle in a relegation six-pointer, taking the lead deservedly twice only to be pegged back twice due to terrible defending.

January 30, 2010: Hull City face Wolverhampton Wanderers at The Circle in a relegation six-pointer, taking the lead deservedly twice only to be pegged back twice due to terrible defending.

So nothng’s changed over these 364 years? Not exactly. The personnel was different: only two City players started both games, Dawson and Mendy. Wolves were undoubtedly more of an attacking threat than West Brom. And we were beset by problems which meant a draw in this instance wasn’t actually that bad.

With Kamel Zayatte ruled out with ankle problems, Amr Zaki not fully fit and Craig Fagan being injured in the warm-up, Phil Brown had to change both his defence and attack from the ones he’d have intended to field. Furthermore, Tom Cairney was making his debut, Stephen Hunt was trying too hard to show his loyalties lie firmly with his employers and not his suitors Wolves and Seyi Olofinjana was sat on a bench in Nigeria, watching the Africa Cup of Nations.

Despite the problems, I thought we put in a performance that just about deserved three points. It was refreshing to see not one but two strikers on the pitch, Jozy Altidore and Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink, the former creating both goals and creating a one-on-one for himself which hit the keeper’s legs, while the latter superbly opened the scoring from the edge of the box and looked dangerous in the air all game.

The problem with having 2 up front, and 2 wingers as well, is it places a huge burden on the 2 central midfielders to deal with the packed opposition midfield. George Boateng battled admirably but as an attacking midfielder making his Premier League bow Cairney understandably looked a little lost when balls needed to be cleared or tackles made.

And as the game wore on Wolves increasingly won the midfield battle and managed to push several of them forward to join their lone striker in attacks. Both goals conceded came from positions where we could easily have cleared two or three occasions, but from the midfielders just as much as the defence.

An option for Brown when we’d taken the lead again could have been to shore up the midfield and go 4-5-1, perhaps with someone like the hard-working Richard Garcia joining Cairney and Boateng in the middle, but I’m pleased he didn’t. He chose to stick with an attacking set-up, presumably reasoning a third goal would kill them off, and I’m not going to criticise him for that having seen so many ultra-defensive tactics from him.

This game wasn’t a must-win. It was a must-not-lose, and we keep just one point behind Wolves, the team we’re most likely to be able to overtake. Keep in touching distance with them for the next two games, against Chelsea and Manchester City, and with the return of Jimmy Bullard and the full fitness of Zaki we’ll be in with a strong chance.

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An insight into the mind of football fans

To say it’s been a turbulent few weeks to be a Hull City fan is a vast understatement.

Adam Pearson replacing Paul Duffen in the chairman’s swivel chair; unceasing speculation about Phil Brown’s future as manager; the return to fitness of record signing Jimmy Bullard; investigations launched into our transfer dealings; and worrying noises about potential financial difficulties.

So which of the above is preying on Hull City fans’ minds most?

None, judging by the search terms fans are typing in to find this blog site. It seems there’s only one thing you want to know about – allegations of a relationship between Phil Brown and Paul Duffen’s daughter.

I have nothing to add to these rumours. I doubt whether anyone other than those directly involved know the truth. And I care not a jot either way.

However, when a caller to Radio Humberside mentioned it after the Portsmouth game, presenter David Burns was quick to tell them there was no truth in the rumours whatsoever. That’s probably about as close we’ll get to an official statement on it.

So can we move on from this speculation please and talk about the footy?

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Which out-of-contract player Hull City should sign

After the signing of strapping free transfer Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink, Phil Brown was quoted as saying he’s considering one or two other unattached players. But who should we go for?

We don’t need another forward now. We have enough ‘big man’ strikers (Altidore, Vennegoor of Hesselink, Fagan, Folan) and the little fellas to play off him (Ghilas, Geovanni, Barmby). There’s enough flexibility to pair up two of the hulks with one of the ball players dropping into midfield.

If swine flu ruled those seven out, we could card Featherstone and Garcia up top with Cousin stepping up to bench-warming duties.

Midfield is a weak point, though. Dietmar Hamman may be worth a look to check if he can plug the gap left by Ashbee’s injury. Boateng tries and succeeds sometimes; Marney and Olofinjana are not that type of player.

The right side of midfield also looks sketchy. Ghilas and Fagan can play there but neither are wingers. Former Everton player Andy van der Meijde is available and will presumably have dinked a few balls in for Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink in matches for The Netherlands over the years.

If we need full-back cover then Lauren and Lucas Neill are still without clubs. However, my own top tip, for what it’s worth, would be Michael Ball, released by Manchester City this summer.

He’s still only 29 and plays primarily at left-back but also in the middle. Most importantly he’s a nasty bastard and was vice-captain at Middle Eastlands last season, so he could give us the leadership that’s lacking without Ash in there.

He also has international experience – he possesses one more England cap than Michael Turner ever will and he represented Britain in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1992, finishing second.

Finally, he ticks the most important box in the checklist for Hull City signings – he’s had some long-term knee injuries during his career.

What’s not to love about all that?

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Relive that Phil Brown karaoke

Some football fans didn’t appreciate Phil Brown’s karaoke show on the pitch after the Manchester United game – and not just for the bum notes.

Those fans forget that football is supposed to be about entertainment, and that’s one thing this topsy-turvy season has provided in bucketloads.

So, to fill that void in your life marked ‘close season’, here’s that YouTube clip of Browny crooning.

Let other teams’ fans sneer if they want – they would kill to have had a season like ours.

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