Sunday, 27 August 2017

Village People: English football's most successful Village teams

I enjoyed researching this article on English football's over-achieving Village based teams for the latest issue of the View From The Allotment End fanzine. You can find out how to buy the fanzine on twitter @VFTAE

The achievements of our own North Ferriby United have been well-celebrated in the last few years. In spite of their setting, a village with a population of less than 4,000 people, North Ferriby have been Wembley winners and gained promotion to within one step of the football league. But the green and whites weren’t the first village outfit to win the FA Trophy nor to reach the national League/Conference. They’ve also missed out on reaching the FA Cup proper along the way – a feat several other “Villagers” have achieved. This is a look at some of the smallest teams in the country and how they’ve punched above their weight.

Forest Green Rovers from little Nailsworth in Gloucestershire (Population: 5,800) reached the football league for the first time in their history winning the 2017 National League play-off final. It’s not quite the fairy story it might appear given it’s been achieved with the backing of Dale Vince and the mint he’s made from renewable energy. Vince wants Rovers to be literally “green”. The club is “Vegan” and plans are afoot for a new wooden stadium. The only thing that is unsustainable is their balance sheet.

Prior to Vince and his money arriving in 2010 though, Forest Green were already punching well above their weight. They won the FA Vase in 1982, reached the Conference in 1998, lost FA Trophy finals in 1999 and 2001 and in 2009 they made it to the FA Cup 3rd round where they lost to Derby County – setting their record attendance of 4,836 in the process.

Bridge Road in Histon and Impington (Pop: 10,600) is the 3,800 capacity home of Histon FC. In the late-2000s, Histon were seen as the prototype for how to run a non-league club but soon became an adjective for “non-league boom and bust”. Extraordinary manager Steve Fallon took over at Histon in 1999 and took them from the Eastern Counties League Premier Division to the Conference where they finished third in 2008/09 and lost out to Torquay United in the play-offs.

They also reached the FA Cup 3rd round that season, famously beating Leeds United 1-0 in a match televised on ITV before Swansea knocked them out. The cost of challenging for promotion to the football league was too much for such a small club to bare and their fall has been as spectacular as their rise. They’ll start the 2017/18 season at step 5 of the non-league pyramid - back in the Eastern Counties League Premier Division.

Twelve years before North Ferriby United’s famous win, another “Green army” won the FA Trophy. West Lancastrians Burscough (Pop: 9,493) were under the management of former Aston Villa defender Shaun Teale when the won the Trophy at Villa Park with a 2-1 win over Tamworth in 2003 – in spite of the fact the finished 18th in the Northern Premier League Premier Division. They went on to reach the second round of the FA Cup in 2005/06 causing the giant killing of League One Gillingham in the first round. Like Histon, they were relegated to step 5 last season and will play in the North West Counties League Premier Division.

The Essex village of Heybridge (Pop: 8,175) has been home to a football club since 1880 – the club who are now the wonderfully named Heybridge Swifts. The Swifts reached the FA Cup first round proper 3 times in 1994/95 (Gillingham H 0-2), 1997/98 (Bournemouth A 3-0) and 2002/03 (Bristol City H 0-7) despite being an Isthmian League outfit. They also made it to the Quarter Finals of the FA Trophy in 1997 where they lost to Woking but set an attendance record of 2,477.

Perhaps more than their FA Cup antics, Heybridge is known for being a place footballers go to die. An endless number of former Football League and Premier League players such as Tony Adcock, Andy Ansah, Karl Duguid, Dean Holdsworth, Alan Kimble, Glen Little, Stuart Nethercott, Paul Parker, Akpo Sodje and Micky Stockwell have turned out for the Swifts at the last knockings of their career. The exception is former top flight goalkeeper Simon Royce who started his career with the Swifts and whose sale to Southend United for £35,000 in 1991 still represents their record sale.

Not to be confused with the club who currently reside in the Northern Counties East League, West Yorkshire’s Emley (Pop: 1,867) were originally formed in 1903 but had their fifteen minutes of fame in the late-1990s. In 1997/98 they knocked Morecambe and Lincoln out of the FA Cup proper and faced West Ham United of the Premier League in a game Match of the Day chose to feature (in the days before they showed every game, kids).

Emley lost 2-1 to goals by Frank Lampard and John Hartson but made the first round again the following season, losing a replay to Rotherham United. They were also FA Trophy quarter finalists for the second time that season. Sadly the club no longer exists. It was renamed Wakefield & Emley, Wakefield-Emley and latterly Wakefield FC in a bid to grow into the nearby town that hosts Super League rugby but finally died in 2014.

13-times Welsh league Champions Ton Pentre (Pop: 1,028) reached the FA Cup first round for the first and only time in 1986/87 but lost 4-1 to Cardiff City in front of the Match of the Day cameras. Fellow villagers Alvechurch (73/74) and Chasetown (07/08) made it to the third round of the FA Cup while Rossendale (71/72) and Bamber Bridge (99/00) made the second round.

Last mention goes to Stansted FC (Pop: 6,011) who flew though to the FA Vase final in 1983/84, made a sound landing at Wembley and ‘runway’ with the trophy after a 3-2 win over Stamford.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Hull City 4 Bolton 0: Bowen and Grosicki star for The Tigers

I was unduly worried by the visit of Bolton Wanderers. Worried because though they’re newly promoted and under transfer restrictions, it seemed just our luck that City would go into the game with only one fit striker – Diomande. When Leonid Slutsky named the same team that finished at QPR last week, I was worried further. But I say unduly because Bolton were absolutely garbage and City brushed them aside with atypical ease.

City 3-4-3
Dawson – Hector – Mazuch
Aina – Meyler – Larsson – Clark
Bowen – Diomande – Grosicki
It might have been the same names that finished the game at QPR but it was obvious from the first minute that they’d worked hard at the system. The three centre halves were well spread while Grosicki and Bowen played narrow alongside Diomande and left the channels clear for overlapping full backs. Meyler picked up a yellow card for a late challenge after ten mins and then City took the lead and never looked back. Hector went through one of theirs to win the ball off another and then sprung Grosicki on the counter in a style new England call-up Harry Maguire would be proud of. Grosicki drove past Dervite with ease and poked the ball into Diomande who lashed the ball into the roof of the net [1-0]. He’s the butt of all the jokes but Diomande started well with some honest running in behind and good pressing of their centre halves in possession and got his rewards.

McGregor made a decent save with his right boot from sub Pratley who replaced Karacan (who I think was the victim of the Meyler challenge) and then made a far less convincing save with his shoulder after appearing to misjudge a bounce. If Bolton thought they were coming back into the game, they were wrong. A lightening quick counter saw Diomande hold the ball up, play in Grosicki and he delivered from the left with the outside of his right boot onto the head of Bowen [2-0]. A pair of assists for Grosicki who it appears might be a flat-track bully and the Championship has a lot of flat tracks. The cynical amongst you might be wondering why, with six days left in the transfer window and being the only high value player left at the club from last season, Grosicki was putting on a show. I’ve no idea.

If anyone was watching Grosicki, the best was still to come as he received the ball in their half, murdered Dervite for pace again, cut inside and slotted the ball into the bottom right hand corner [3-0]. This report can skip on 60 minutes now because that was game over. Bolton, who are as poor a side as we’re likely to see this season, surrendered and made it their mission to escape with just a three-nil defeat. Phil Parkinson must hate the KC(OM) Stadium. City didn’t exactly bust a gut to try and add to the score content to stroke the ball around and take the occasional counter. Mazuch had a decent game on his home debut with good use of the ball and a couple of nice interceptions. Meyler and Larsson in front had fine games too. Larsson showed an ability to make a forward pass that we often lack while Meyler took great responsibility for organising around the middle and passed the ball simply and effectively. It was a mature showing from two of the few experienced pros we’ve got – once Meyler had killed on of theirs like.

Grosicki should have made another chance for Diomande but delayed his pass and the Norwegian was offside by the time it eventually came. Bowen forced a save with a decent shot from distance and then a defender took one off Diomande’s head with the goal begging after McGregor had launched a quick counter and Aina surged 80 yards down the pitch before delivering a near-perfect cross.

Half time: Hull City 3 Bolton Wanderers 0

The second half was a non-event. Bolton had eleven behind the ball for the most part and City weren’t open to taking risks to try and break them down. Some in the crowd got frustrated but I enjoyed watching us pass the ball around hapless opposition while Hector rehearsed pushing into midfield to make an extra-man when we had the ball and Seb Larsson practiced his diagonal balls from deep positions. A Bolton fan got fed up of watching his team be rubbish and got himself thrown out of the North Stand. City announced a 16,000+ crowd (but only on Twitter) of which about 3,000 came dressed as black seats. There was plenty of anti-Allam feeling expressed by the fans who were there. It didn’t put the players off to the best of my knowledge.

Left back Stephen Kingsley made a Hull City debut for the last quarter of an hour replacing Max Clark and midfielder Jon Toral followed suit, on for David Meyler. Our last sub provided some unintentional comedy as the board went up for number seven and Seb Larsson, who wore that number at Sunderland, jogged off applauding the crowd’s standing ovation only to be told when he got to the touchline that Kamil Grosicki is number seven here. Sorry Seb.

James Weir came on and provided a little bit of impetus for City to finish the game strongly. McGregor made a routine save at his near post from Armstrong and within a minute, Jarrod Bowen had bagged his fourth goal of the season. He made a lovely run in behind the defence and was found by Diomande with a beautiful through ball. Bowen stayed calm and finished like Andy Payton in his pomp [4-0]. He’s the real deal this kid. With the formation allowing he and Grosicki to be lazy without harming the team, they were just far, far too good for Bolton.

Full time: Hull City 4 Bolton Wanderers 0

It’s hard work this first month of the season after relegation. Every defeat feels like a disaster. Signings can never be made quick enough. Every player leaving is a crisis and every player performing well is potentially the next one to go. From out of the darkness of two successive league defeats, a new day dawns and it’s showing promise. There are players arriving to fill the threadbare squad. Most a good age and of sufficient quality to improve. We’re not building a side that will walk through the Championship but one that with a bit of luck and steady improvement should be closer to the top than the bottom.

There may still be one big “crisis” to overcome though. Grosicki is the only player left who I was certain back in June would be sold. He divides opinion, mainly due to his attitude, but there’s no doubt that he has pace that will terrify teams in this division. He might just have come good at the right time for him and the wrong one for us.

Ratings: McGregor 7, Dawson 7, Hector 8, Mazuch 7, Aina 7, Meyler 8 (Toral), Larsson 8, Clark 7 (Kingsley), Bowen 8, Diomande 7, Grosicki 9 (Weir).

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Hull City 2 Wolves 3: Tigers need five signings and soon

Good news: I think we saw the best team in the league tonight. Bad news: it wasn't us.

Pic: Hull Daily Mail
I wasn't sure what to make of Wolves at the start of the season. They spent a lot of money last summer on continental players and it never really worked out for them. But this time they look the real deal. It's not just the excellent players they’ve brought in but they have a top manager in Nuno and he's got them set up incredibly well. They’re playing a style of football that, particularly away from home in the Championship, is very brave. They played three at the back stretched out almost the width of the pitch while the two wing backs hugged the touchline high up the pitch and stretched City every time the ball went forward. In the middle exploiting the space this leaves they have clever players who can move the ball about well and, as we saw devastatingly for the opening goal, shoot from distance.

City had started well until Neves smashed one past McGregor from 25 yards after six minutes [0-1] but it was already clear that Wolves wing backs were going to be a crucial part of the game and we were already struggling to cope with them. Not for the first time this season our naive young full backs were exposed - in part by the opposition and partly by our failure to protect them up the field. That situation isn't helped by us only playing one central midfielder. I’m not counting Markus Henriksen. He’s not a central midfielder – he has no effect on games, he doesn’t make a tackle or a forward pass.

I don’t lay the blame at the feet of the manager for our failure to match them tactically. He just doesn’t have any other fit players to work with. Sure, 4-4-2 is no counter for what is almost a 3-2-5 formation but replacing any of the first eleven with those from the bench is far worse a proposition.

We weren’t just second d best on the ball, with Neves dominating for them like Tom Huddlestone as his very best, but we didn’t have their knack of drawing fouls or killing time, with Neves dominating for them like the love child of Cristiano Ronaldo and Rudi Voller.

After Miranda spurned the chance to double their lead after a corner was flicked on to him at the near post, we equalised pretty much from nowhere. Hector met a Donald Trump corner along with a defender and the ball was shuffled away from the far post. We took the resulting corner short, a cross was whipped past Ruddy, headed off the line and Dawson headed it back in [1-1].

That could have been the catalyst for City to push on before half time but instead, we were sloppy in possession, gave them gifts in our half and looked susceptible to a ball over the top to either wing-back. In the end, it was the little winger Enobakhare who picked up the ball on the right touchline, breezed past Hector and laid the ball on a plate for Jota to score [1-2].

Half time: Hull City 1 Wolves 2

Our flaws were there for all to see but fixing them was going to be difficult. We had nothing on the bench to change the game. In similar fashion to the Villa game on the opening day though, the eleven sent back out changed it themselves by getting on the ball, keeping possession and forcing Wolves to worry about us. And they looked nowhere near as effective.

McGregor made a decent, but simple, save from Bonatini’s far post header in what was suddenly a rare Wolves attack. City struggled to find a final ball after getting into key areas until just after the hour a neat move worked the ball to the edge of the area where Campbell exploded into the box, beautifully beat the last man with a neat trick and was denied by a good save from John Ruddy’s out-stretched right arm. If that was close then Hernandez’s thumping header from Clucas’s corner smashing the post five minutes later was tantalising.

We had momentum. Even Henriksen won two excellent challenges in midfield. Then Campbell was subbed off for Diomande and the game went. Again, it’s hard to blame the manager when Campbell is clearly not yet at peak fitness but there is just nothing outside the first eleven and losing Campbell’s effervescence for Diomande’s clunky and clumsy wandering was the sign that this game was over. Worse was still to come when Hernandez jumped to challenge for a good Grosicki cross (not many of them to the pound) and landed awkwardly. He immediately called for the physio who called for a stretcher and Abel went off with a serious looking achilles injury. Shiiiit.

With the referee just about to announce NINE minutes of stoppage time, we made it irrelevant. Typical. Aina was caught in possession in their half and sub Nouha Dicko raced onto a ball into space to finish under McGregor [1-3]. We were awarded a seriously soft penalty eight minutes into the nine added for a foul on Diomande which David Meyler buried into the bottom left hand corner [2-3] but the game was up.

Full time: Hull City 2 Wolves 3

This felt like a game that would let us know how good we are after a comfortable win on Saturday. In the end though, it’s probably not told us anything we didn’t already know. We’re a decent outfit with 7 or 8 quality players. Michael Hector is a classy defender. We’re at least five players short of having a squad anywhere near Wolves’s (they had actual grown-ups on the bench and the manager didn’t pick who came on by playing Ip, Dip, dog shit). We desperately need a left back. Markus Henriksen isn’t a central midfielder. Kamil Grosicki will have games where you wonder if he gives a toss.

And one new one, we desperately need Abel Hernandez to not be injured for six months. Or even six weeks.

Ratings: McGregor 6, Aina 5, Clark 5, Dawson 6, Hector 7, Bowen 6 (Larsson 5), Grosicki 5, Henriksen 5, Clucas 6, Campbell 7 (Diomande 5), Hernandez 6 (Meyler 6).

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Hull City Player Ratings: Burton Albion (H)

The Tigers brushed Burton Albion aside with an impressive 4-1 win but only after the second quarter of the game had featured a Typical City double-whammy of missed chances and a sloppy goal conceded. Here's how I rated the players:

Allan McGregor – 6

Made one fine save at close range from a corner but otherwise untested even when Burton did have a small spell of pressure in the first half. He had no chance with the goal. It was nice to see him distribute the ball quickly to his full backs after the break.

Ola Aina – 6

Was left exposed by Jarrod Bowen in the first half and it led to a good battle with the lively Lloyd Dyer. The winger, who had a trial with City in 2006 after leaving Millwall, ghosted past Aina at times. Aina has all the physical requirements of a modern full-back but looks too casual at times. He did start to get to grips with Dyer though and as the game went on was able to show his talent going forward – which is vast and growing. He made the crucial second goal and then had a blast on the right wing turning Dyer inside out and providing crosses.

Max Clark – 7

Brought a confidence into the game having survived a tough test last week and was much improved. He didn’t have anywhere near as much to do but with Grosicki showing no interest in covering him – he did it on his own. He was up to the physical battle and got forward well into good crossing positions.

Michael Dawson – 6

An unremarkable game for the skipper. He still looks distracted by marshalling those around him and it lead to gifting the ball to the opposition in our half again. Very solid in the air but had a battle around the box with their powerful forwards. In the second half, he had his slippers on and puffed away on his pipe.

Heard a great tale of Daws’ leadership of the club recently. Young goalie Charlie Andrew joined the squad for the game against Ajax. He had his own boots but Daws asked him his size and then went around the players to get him some brand-new ones. Sam Clucas donated a pair of his. Daws is a top man.

Michael Hector – 8

Promising last week, outstanding this. Won everything in the air, read the game brilliantly and used the ball beautifully. He almost popped up with a goal his performance really deserved. I’d already be asking what it will take to keep him. He’s composed and intelligent and physically has everything. He can be a complete centre-half.

Sam Clucas – 8

Another all-action midfield performance which we could probably do without until the transfer window closes. He’s emerged as real leader in the squad and keeping him is vital. His use of the ball was smart, he’s always in the right position and we saw his lung-bursting running turning defence into attack. His part in Hernandez hat-trick goal was outstanding. He cut the ball out near our box, played it into Bowen and ran beyond him, then stumbled through a challenge, raced away from their midfield and slid a perfect pass through for Abel to score.

Markus Henriksen – 7

Started the game brightly. He was neat and tidy in possession and not afraid to get into a tackle. He smashed the bar with a shot which made the first goal. When Burton switched to 3-5-2 and started to get numbers around us in midfield, he faded out of the game for a while but as we got on top, he came into it again. I still feel there is so much more to come from him in the attacking third but this was his best outing for us by a mile.

Jarrod Bowen – 7

Carries the ball beautifully and that was crucial in drawing two nasty fouls from Jackson Irvine who was sent off – massively changing the game. He can pass the ball much better and has to work back to help out his full-back – though he’s nowhere near as bad as Grosicki – but he had a field day with all the space available in the second half and was a real threat coming inside and left space for Aina to exploit. Worth persevering with his flaws because he’s going to be a top player.

Kamil Grosicki – 7

What an afternoon he had. His pace absolutely roasted Naylor twice early on and caused them to tuck him inside as a third centre back and change their system. From one of those breaks we had two men in the box but he shot from a tight angle and it was saved. That’s his biggest problem in a nutshell. He doesn’t make the right decision around the box enough. Went through on goal and rounded the keeper only to hit the side netting, under pressure, which will go down as one of the worst misses of the season. After a quieter start to the second half, he then popped up with his first City goal with a nice header. Has to work harder but his pace is frightening and it’s really important that we keep him – whatever anyone says.

Fraizer Campbell – 7

Worked hard for the team again and did the running wide so that Hernandez could prosper in the centre. Should have had at least three assists having put chances on a plate for Hernandez, Grosicki and Diomande with superb play – his backheel to set up Hernandez was magnificent. Didn’t have many chances of his own. This is a nice partnership but a big striker as an alternative would be nice. We saw that in the second half as we put in plenty of crosses that Campbell just wasn’t big enough to meet dangerously.

Abel Hernandez – 8 (Man of the Match)

There was an article recently by The Mirror listing ten players to watch in the Championship this season. Having scored twenty goals in this division only the season before last; that Hernandez didn’t feature showed it up for the ill-informed rag it was. If anything made it look stupider still, it was this performance. Abel’s working harder than I’ve seen him in his City career and forming a nice understanding with Campbell but importantly he’s as sharp as anything. He missed his best chance yesterday and still walked away with the match ball. His first and second goals were those of a goal poacher, anticipating what might happen and being in the position to put the ball in the net. The third was sublime play from Clucas and outstanding running off the ball from Hernandez.

It got me thinking about just how good his record in the Championship is – given Steve Bruce used to pull him off every game. Here’s the answer:


David Meyler (for Clucas) – 5

Still mega-rusty but getting crucial game time. Gave the ball away a few times after his introduction but as the game petered out, it was a useful, low-pressure environment for him to settle into.

Adama Diomande (for Hernandez) – 5

Made an absolute cock of a golden opportunity to impress the manager.

Seb Larsson (for Grosicki) – 6

Just a cameo for the Swede on debut whose set pieces will come in handy given Grosicki’s were abysmal. Should have scored but smashed a shot against the keeper when anywhere else would have been a goal.


Leonid Slutsky – 8

Named an unchanged team, unsurprisingly, and two up front at home made plenty of sense. Frailty crept into the first half performance after an excellent start but he steadied the ship at half time again and the game was won in 15 minutes. He then sensibly rested three crucial players ahead of a big game on Tuesday but his team never let up in attack. Only they’ll know how they didn’t score 7, 8 or even double figures.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Hull City Player Ratings: Aston Villa (A)

For the new season, I’m going to step back into the subjective world of player ratings. If you disagree, feel free to leave a comment or send me a tweet @hullcitylive

Allan McGregor – 8 (Man of the match)

McGregor was in goal for City competitively for the first time since the 5-1 win over Rotherham on the last day of the 2015/16 season. He made two excellent saves at the feet of Agbonlahor and Hogan in the first half. He was quick off his line and kicked well but got caught under a couple of crosses and got lucky when Green failed to find an empty net in the second half.

Ola Aina – 7

Played right back having spent most of pre-season on the left. He’s a fabulous athlete and a good size and put that to good use with some excellent defending one on one. Positionally, he’s na├»ve and was caught out by some balls in behind but has good recovery pace and competed well throughout. He got forward often and his pace will be very useful when City settle into a system.

Max Clark – 6

Had a torrid first half as Villa targeted him with balls out to Elmohamady. His lack of pace was exposed badly by Alan Hutton for their goal. He has a good left foot so his poor clearances and balls out of defence were disappointing. He settled into the game and engaged Elmohamady physically in the second half and was very solid. Clark was a left back at City originally but converted to central midfield in the U21s under Steve Bruce. This is the first time I’ve seen him back at LB for three years.

Michael Dawson – 6

The skipper looked very aware of the inexperience around him in the first half and was distracted by organising everyone else. McGregor saved him after a very poor pass straight to Lansbury but he recovered after that and was excellent facing set pieces and subdued their very lively strikers. Aina and Hector have size and pace and if Daws can help them improve quickly there is a really promising defensive unit in there.

Michael Hector – 6

Had a very shaky first twenty minutes, like most, summed up by a terrible backpass that gifted them a corner. Coped well with having a lot of possession in the first half and apart from the above, didn’t panic when there weren’t options on. Had a very good second half, dominating in the air and timing his interceptions in our half.

Sam Clucas – 7

Took responsibility in the first half when things weren’t going well and always looked for the ball. Effectively played on his own in midfield but made plenty of crucial tackles and interceptions. We’ve lost a lot of players this summer but holding onto Clucas is vital. His energy and willingness to do any job that need doing is desperately required and he can be really effective going forward as we’ve seen many times.

Markus Henriksen – 5

Looked completely lost in a double-pivot in midfield. He’s technically sound so produced the occasional decent touch but was ineffective defensively and a non-entity going forward. Was much more comfortable after Meyler’s introduction when he moved up behind Hernandez but still didn’t produce a lot. I’m still not sure what he’s capable of. He rarely looks like getting into a goal-scoring position, doesn’t appear to have a defence splitting pass and looks lightweight off the ball even compared to Evandro. Jury still out.

Jarrod Bowen – 7

I’m a big fan of the former Hereford man as I wrote lastsummer. He was his usual busy self throughout the game but struggled to get on the ball in areas where he could do damage. As City improved in the second half, he looked a threat cutting in from the right wing. The wingers then swapped over and he was able to ghost beautifully into space to score his first senior goal for City. There is lots more to come from him, particularly physically, but he needs to be involved in the first team squad exclusively now. He’s been more than ready for a while.

Kamil Grosicki – 6

Scrapes a six because of his assist for the goal which was a moment of quality he’s shown he’s capable of.  He also broke away at pace a couple of times and had Villa on the rack. The frustration with him is in how rare that is from a player who has scorching pace and a very good right foot. Plenty of fans think he’s disinterested which is hard to disagree with from his body language but in the first half he looked exhausted. I’d still really like to keep him. Once the transfer window closes, he’ll have to get his head down and can rip the arse out of teams in the Championship. I won’t cry if he goes though, his attitude isn’t endearing him to many.

Fraizer Campbell – 6

He’s clearly short of fitness after his late start to pre-season but makes up for it with sheer desire. He’s always moving and always thinking. His lack of fitness showed though in the number of times he started in an offside position. Tried to play that new-fangled “number ten” role which isn’t ideal but going away to a top club in the division with an inexperienced squad and playing two out and out strikers would be crazy. His brilliant run from deep was crucial in creating the City equaliser. Will get better and better.

Abel Hernandez – 7

The manager said he isn’t close to 100% but he played 90 minutes again after completing several in pre-season – not bad for a player who hardly ever did that under Steve Bruce. He put in a good shift especially in the second half when he chased down defenders and the goalkeeper. Rare link-ups with Campbell were promising and he had a couple of snapshots that deserved better than to drift narrowly wide.


David Meyler – 5 (for Campbell)

I’m not sure what he was doing on the pitch after so few minutes in pre-season. Clearly very rusty and gave away free-kicks and the ball too often but was whole-hearted as usual and allowed City to settle into a solid defensive shape for the last fifteen minutes.

Ondrej Mazuch (for Henriksen)

Sent on in stoppage time to counter Villa’s desperate tactic of chuck centre half Chris samba on up front. Unfortunate in a squad with no depth to play in the only position where there is now some.


Leonid Slutsky – 8

His team earned a very good and unlikely point on his debut. Steve Bruce came out with a nonsensensical comment afterwards that Villa were all over a team who were in the Premier League last season – Slutsky had eight players in his squad who have started a Championship game before and only twelve who you’d call “senior” players. He moulded that into a reasonable looking team and made the brave decision to go with Max Clark at left back having favoured Brian Lenihan on the right for all of pre-season. His team were all over the place in defence for the first twenty minutes and lacked bravery on the ball and played without tempo for the first half. Whatever he worked on at half time was successful and they were massively improved after the break. He desperately needs options now. Not just with new players but with the likes of Evandro, Marshall and Stewart getting fit ASAP.

Phil Brown: Hull City's Mission Impossible

Ten years ago this week, Hull City parted company with Phil Brown. He was undoubtedly, to that point, the most successful manager in th...