Hull's new era has old look

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Hull City 0 Notts County 3

They are rightly proud of their pitch at Boothferry Park. Lush and bright green, David Lloyd, Britain's Davis Cup captain, compared it to the courts of Wimbledon. A supporter knew why. "Best pitch in the Nationwide League," he said, pausing for effect, "because they put so much shit on it."

Those with Hull City's interests at heart have to make light of the problems because the only other option is to cry. Saturday was supposed to launch an era, but past failings danced on present and made the whiter than white future seem as far away as ever.

"This club didn't finish 17th in the Third Division last season by accident," said Lloyd, who became a director and part owner in the summer. "It has been bled dry in the last five years."

More than 7,000 supporters had been attracted to the creaking structures that comprise Boothferry Park - double last season's average - and most had come to see Lloyd and the new player-manager, Mark Hateley. What they had not expected to witness was the wholesale demolition of the team by Notts County, but they got it. The boos at the end were provoked out of habit as much as discontent.

"We were dreadful," Hateley said with commendable frankness. "Too apprehensive. We got a good crowd in and everyone froze. We need to relax and knock the ball around a bit. It's a lack of self-belief."

That, the 35-year-old former Milan, Rangers and England striker discovered, stems from having defeats and abuse piled on to you for year after year. In the space of 90 minutes the Hull message had gone from "we need to give our current players a chance" (Lloyd), to "we have to buy. I know the names and I know I can get them" (Hateley).

It was not difficult to understand the 180-degree turn. Lloyd may not read football the way he can tennis, but it did not require any great tactical nous to see that Hull are not good enough. Nervous at the back and clueless up front, they could not even aim a decent cross towards their player-manager which, as he has terrified defences all over Europe, was criminal.

A tall former Queen's Park Rangers striker dominated proceedings, but it was not Hateley but County's Devon White. He scored a lovely goal and made another while he feasted on a steady supply from the flanks that had his former team-mate as enviously green as the pitch.

Once County had gone ahead, Matthew Redmile glancing Dennis Pearce's viciously struck free- kick after 32 minutes, there was only one logical outcome, which was confirmed with two goals in two minutes midway through the second half. White volleyed in a delightful cross from Shaun Derry, then he delivered the pass that allowed Gary Jones to go round Scott Thomson.

It was a depressing conclusion to a day that had begun with such promise when Lloyd was acclaimed by supporters who feared the worst when the High Court served a winding-up notice last spring. "Show us your cash," the supporters chanted at him as they left, although he had long rather than short-term ambitions.

"People will have to be patient," Lloyd said. "There's no point throwing money at the team if the structure's not right. Only five clubs made a profit last year and clearly that's not going to last for ever. We have to be self-financing."

Lloyd, a multi-millionaire after selling his tennis centre business, has plans for a new stadium that will house the city's football and rugby league teams and will be the core of a leisure complex. "I'm not on an ego trip," he said, "The reason I'm involved is because of a hard-headed business decision.

"Hull, as a city, has fantastic potential. They used to get gates of 28,000 here, and if the team is successful there's no reason why they couldn't come back. The pieces are all there, it's a question of putting them together in a very difficult jigsaw."

Lloyd is talking of three years, the supporters three days. Given that the jigsaw looked scattered beyond repair on Saturday, the former is the sounder estimate.

Goals: Redmile (32) 0-1; White (70) 0-2; Jones (72) 0-3.

Hull City (3-5-2): Thomson; Wright, Brien, Dewhurst; Trevitt, Joyce, Rioch, Peacock, Mann; Darby, Hateley. Substitutes not used: Greaves, Brown, Wilson (gk).

Notts County (4-4-2): Ward; Hendon, Strodder, Redmile, Pearce; Derry, Robinson, Cunnington (Richardson, 44), Finnan; White, Jones (Baraclough, 75). Substitute not used: Dudley.

Referee: B Coddington (Sheffield). Bookings: Hull City: Wright. Notts County: Finnan, Cunnington.

Man of the match: Pearce. Attendance: 7,412.