Bristol City 0 Hull City 1: Hull aim to copy Bolton's survival template
Monday 26 May 2008
Until Saturday the most famous scoreline associated with the port at the north end of the Humber Bridge, outside of rugby league circles, was Hull 4 London 0, the title of The Housemartins' debut album. Now there is a new result to cherish, one that ends a century of longing.
Sadly, such is the gulf between the Premier League and the Championship, the champagne was still wet on Dean Windass's shirt when the question began to be pondered, how many times next season will Hull be on the wrong end of a 4-0 scoreline – or worse?
Derby County were the spectre haunting the Championship play-off final but Phil Brown, Hull's manager, preferred to talk of emulating Bolton. As Sam Allardyce's sidekick Brown helped Bolton go up through the play-offs in 2001. They are still in the top flight and while they have sparred with relegation, they have also reached the Uefa Cup.
Which example will Hull follow? Unlike last season, when Derby were obviously only on loan to the top flight, it is too early to tell. There were mixed messages on Saturday night. As the chairman, Paul Duffen, indicated he would be prepared to release all of the first season TV windfall of £35m, Brown talked of retaining faith in the players who took Hull up.
Brown cited Reading's example but they ran away with the 2006 Championship title with 106 points, not scraped through the play-offs with 75. History suggests only heavy investment will keep Hull up. The only survivors of last year's promoted trio, Sunderland, spent more than £40m.
Brown acknowledged that Wigan, for example, have had trouble signing players even when prepared to spend but insisted his experience at Bolton proved that, with the right "sales pitch", good players can be attracted.
It is fair to assume that the club's transfer record (currently the £1m lavished on Caleb Folan in September) will be shattered but Brown will struggle to prise Fraizer Campbell away from Old Trafford at any price. At best Sir Alex Ferguson may consent to a season-long loan, as he did with Watford and Ben Foster.
Hull have a good goalkeeper in Boaz Myhill, committed central defenders, adventurous full-backs, and a midfield which combines flair with the industry and desire of Ian Ashbee. Without the quick and classy Campbell, however, they will struggle for goals. Windass sent them up with an exceptional strike but at 39 he is likely to be limited to cameos.
Brown said he would be keeping Windass, a decision justified by his dressing room influence alone. "The young 'uns learn from him," said assistant manager Brian Horton, who released Windass when managing Hull two decades ago.
"It was the low point of my career but I needed it," said Windass. "I offered Brian my man-of-the-match trophy in the changing room but he wouldn't take it. He said: 'I told you to prove me wrong and that goal's enough for me'.
"When I got the opportunity again I was never going to throw it away. I've worked on a building site and I don't want to go back."
Brown's team is full of such hungry players. Four years ago Sam Ricketts, the 26-year-old right-back, was at non-League Telford when they folded. A promising teenage showjumper (father Derek is a former world champion who now manages the GB team, and his uncle former champion jockey John Francome) he began to think he should have stuck with the horses.
"I don't have any regrets now," he said, "not after this." Ricketts has 27 Welsh caps and he said of the prospect of marking Cristiano Ronaldo: "I've been lucky enough to play against Germany and Brazil, so I've played against the best in the world. To do it week in, week out will be a big ask but it is something I've always wanted to do." He added: "What happened to Derby acts as a warning, but let's just enjoy this for now. We've worked so hard to get here, let's not worry about next season just yet."
Brown does not have that luxury. He has identified some transfer targets and starts work this week. He concluded: "I know what the Premier League is capable of throwing at teams but if you are organised, you stick to your beliefs, and you have sufficient ability to help you in those situations, then we will be OK."
It is good for the Premier League's geographical reach, as Richard Scudamore, the League's chief executive said at the weekend. A Bristol City fan, he would have preferred the expansion to be westwards but Windass' goal, volleyed in after a slick counter-attack involving himself, Nicky Barmby and Campbell, gave Bristol, who have eked out goals all season, too much to do. "We've gone in front 27 times this season, and only once not won," said Brown. They will need that tenacity next season.
Goal: Windass (38) 0-1.
Bristol City (4-4-2): Basso; Orr (Johnson, 44), Carey, Fontaine, McAllister; Noble (Sproule, 62), Elliott, Carle (Byfield, 75), McIndoe; Adebola, Trundle. Substitutes not used: Weale (gk), Vasko.
Hull City (4-4-2): Myhill; Ricketts, Turner, Brown, Dawson; Garcia, Ashbee, Hughes, Barmby (Fagan, 66); Campbell (Marney, 90), Windass (Folan, 70). Substitutes not used: Doyle, Duke (gk).
Referee: A Wiley (Staffordshire).
Booked: Bristol City Sproule; Hull City Campbell.
Man of the match: Turner
Tigers' feat The tale of Hull City's sluggish rise to the top flight
*Founded in 1904 Hull City had not, until the weekend, either been to Wembley or played in the top flight.
*The club's only honours are the Third Division (North) championship in 1932-33 and 1948-49, and Third Division championship 1965-66.
*Five years ago Hull City FC were in the bottom division (then Division Three). They have subsequently come 2nd, 2nd, 18th, 21st, 3rd.
*Of the 14 players involved in the victory at Wembley on Saturday afternoon three were internationals, Nicky Barmby (England), Boaz Myhill and Sam Ricketts (both Wales). All except the Australian Richard Garcia (who did attend West Ham United's youth academy) were either born or brought up in the United Kingdom.
*Traditionally Hull has been a rugby league town. Between them Hull and Hull KR went to the old Wembley 10 times, winning the Challenge Cup twice.
*Hull City groundshare with Hull Rugby League club at the council-owned Kingston Communications (KC) Stadium. Each team has fixture priority at the end of their season, so Hull City's first home Premier League matches must fit into Hull's Super League schedule. Hull RL are away on the opening Premier League weekend, which is 17-18 August.
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