Hope springs eternal as Brown hails meteoric Tiger feat

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The Independent Football

In Phil Brown's office a photograph of Pele embracing Muhammad Ali adorns one wall, a painting of a tiger above a can-do message is on another,and a statuette of the winning horse Brown co-owned with colleagues at Bolton, European Dream, sits on a shelf. On slow days these could be talking points. But these are fast times at Hull City and the room tingles with another topic: hope.

"Underdogs, underestimated, whatever you call it, we've had a good start," was Brown's deliberately modest assessment of a beginning that has brought Hull 14 points from seven matches and third place in the table before yesterday's games.

"There are a lot of people saying nice things and paying attention to us. Therein lies a problem."

But even a man determined to be realistic has to see Hull's new reality, and Brown's restraint soon gave way to smiling recognition of what a stirring opening to Hull's first top-flight season has done for local morale. "Hull fans are floating on air at the minute," he said, "saying it's the best five or six weeks of their lives. Which is fabulous. It's been pretty good."

Fluctuating self-esteem is a subject with which Brown (below) is familiar following his dismissal at Derby County less than a year into his first manager's job. "I felt I'd betrayed my family, taking five years' security at Bolton Wanderers and throwing it to one side for a career in management, then seven months later finding myself in the wilderness," he says.

Turned down by Wycombe, Bourne-mouth and Carlisle, he gratefully acceptedthe chance to coach at Hull. "Derby: right club at wrong time. Hull City:right club at the right time. It's that simple."

Not all agree. Friday brought more ammunition for those whose instinct is to sneer and label Hull a "crap town". Once again Hull came bottom of the league in terms of education results. It was the front-page story of the Hull Daily Mail.

If Hull City were not overachieving, the place would be looking at itself differently, but landmark victories at Newcastle, Arsenal and Spurs made the past month the best in the club's history. A win today at home to West Ham would take Hull close to the halfway mark of Fulham's 36-point survival total last season. And there would still be 30 games to go.

Brown, unconvincingly for a stats man, said he is unaware of Fulham's final total. "Whatever happens I look at it as a development year for this club."

But continuing to mess with the Premier League gene pool would be some success for a club who only reached the division via the play-offs. Brown made the point that the 10th anniversary of Hull falling to 92nd place is upon us. There is evidence of swift turnaround everywhere.

Not least in the international breaks. Before the last one Hull lost 5-0 at home to Wigan in one of those results that made the sceptics smirk. Before this one Hull were behind only Chelsea and Liverpool.

"The beauty of the last internationalbreak was that we could pull things out of it in a positive way, even though 5-0 was a massive negative. Not just that, we made five changes for the Newcastle game and fortunately for us they were the right changes."

The changes came again at Arsenal,where Brown said he fielded his "big players, not necessarily our best players, if you understand".

Change comes from options, and when Caleb Folan won his first Irish cap on Wednesday he became the Hull squad's 16th international. If signing good, experienced players is a secret then it is one of Hull's. Brown's time at Bolton is one, too. Optimism is another. Brown looked out his training ground window and exclaimed: "Look! A hedgehog! Nature! Fantastic!"