So it wasn’t a bad dream…
Despite giving Lineker and co a miss last night it felt as if every news, radio and TV sports channel had formed an orderly queue this morning to remind me that ‘newly promoted Hull City Tigers secured their first Premier league points of the season with a 1-0 win over Norwich, despite playing almost 70 minutes with ten men’.
I swear the last eight words were added for the sake of pure spite, however factual.
But there is no dressing it up. It was an away day that was right down there with last season’s no-shows at Wigan and Stoke.
An afternoon that promised so much yet delivered so very little, the massed ranks of the Yellow Army afforded all too few opportunities to ‘let rip’. And it’s those hardy souls we should really feel for.
Twitter ‘chatter’ throughout the morning, and right up until kick-off, had revealed a yellow and green mass that – thanks to the club’s travel offer – had travelled freely and in massive numbers, and who were expecting a performance from Hughton’s men.
Quite a reasonable expectation it was too.
Alas we now know it never happened and instead the ‘chatter’ on the homeward bound journey had a rather different tone.
Would it be churlish to suggest that if yesterday is repeated on many more occasions, free tickets to the games themselves might be an idea?
Unsurprisingly, those who spent large chunks of last season bemoaning the ‘Hughton way’ have been given an earlier than expected chance to mobilise, and already the manager finds his team selection and tactics being questioned.
All a little early in the day if you ask me and, at the very least, the new players have to be given time to properly integrate. And Hughton’s hardly to blame if the players are unable to fulfil the most basic footballing function of passing the ball.
My only question mark would be over the decision to play Jonny Howson on the right side of midfield because, while clearly expected to ‘tuck in’ and bolster an already crowded centre-mid area, the square peg and round holes adage was never more appropriate.
As if to prove the point, Howson’s second forty-five was infinitely better than his first and he, probably more than anyone, looked likely to make the breakthrough.
But it was the passing (or lack of) that was the real issue.
No lack of fight, no lack of willingness, no lack of desire, but instead a horrible lack of technique when it came to shifting the ball from A to B.
Yes, we enjoyed huge chunks of possession when faced with ten opponents in the second half, but with the ball shifted so ponderously Steve Bruce’s two massed banks of four simply shifted across – side to side – ensuring there were no gaping holes and forced City to play in front of them.
In the midst of last season’s mid-winter downturn we found ourselves bemoaning the lack of quality in the side, often excusing the poor passing as a by-product of where we were in terms of Premier League spending power.
Alas that particular argument will wear a little thin if yesterday’s passing becomes the norm, but I still remain hopeful that things in that regard will improve as the team becomes a more cohesive unit.
One who suffers more than most due to a lack of precision is Ricky van Wolfswinkel; his role as a lone striker relying on quality service rather than the ‘feeding off scraps’ existence he’s enduring at the moment.
Again, I’m happy to convince myself – for now at least – that his limited amount of touches/chances are a result of the team’s general lack of cohesion, but there’s no denying he cut an increasingly forlorn and frustrated figure as the game progressed.
RvW’s one bright spot was obviously that bullet header from Javier Garrido’s cross, and if clutching at straws is your thing that was certainly something to cling on to. Two chances in two games, one converted and one met with a brilliant save – the maths concludes if we feed him he will indeed score.
The other talking point, the awful passing aside, was the penalty.
While it’s been construed as harsh in some quarters it certainly fell in the ‘seem them given’ category. For Michael Turner to get even close to wrapping his arms around an onrushing striker as a cross is floated into the box gives the referee a decision to make. Chuck a whistle-happy Mr Jones into the pot and you have a recipe for disaster – which it was.
So – in true footballing fashion – we need to write this one off as a ‘bad job’ and move on to the next one. There’s no other option.
Snap judgements based on two games might be for some, but for most – especially with a team that includes several new faces – time should be afforded before concluding the worst.
Was yesterday good enough? Certainly not.
Was it a sign of things to come? I don’t think so. *crosses fingers*
So let’s not panic or overreact. We’re still only five points off the top of the table.
Was it a sign of things to come? It was if you consider it similar to most of last seasons away games. The new faces are still being sent out to play in the same turgid manner. I don’t think there is an adventurous bone in Chris Houghtons body.
Let me refer to the point which reads, “And Hughton’s hardly to blame if the players are unable to fulfil the most basic footballing function of passing the ball.”
I have to disagree with this I’m afraid. We’re playing fearfull, negative football at present and have been since the turn of the year and that comes from the manager. If Lambert was given this squad of players he would have them playing as a cohesive unit and producing good attacking performances in no time at all, I’m certain of that. We have the personnel but sadly we don’t have a manager that can get them to play fearless attacking football.
It was so disappointing to see us line up with Tettey and Johnson both playing. OK when we go to Man Utd, Chelsea etc we may want to be cautious but against teams like Hull, surely we can be more positive. In games like this players and supporters have got to be given the message from Houghton “We can win this” and encouraged to play for a win. RvW looks great, when he gets the right service – Snodgrass & Redmond on from the beginning could have made a real difference.
Rick Lime says
The penalty was soft but the performance uninspiring,
Captain Martin found Sagbo’s head not shy or retiring,
Confronted by 10 game-Tigers of Hull,
Prospects seemed bright, but ended dull,
Let’s pray for the Saints, the Canaries will start firing.
It’s your columnist Chris that gets my sympathies for travelling from Cornwall for such dross. I reckon he’s just getting back through the front door now!
The ‘over-inflated’ expectation bubble has well and truly been popped which may not be a bad thing. We’re back on planet ‘reality’ hopefully but there’s little excuse for turgid displays of this nature – particularly at ‘the likes of’ Hull.
Oh that Hughton would set up his team to play for 3 points in EVERY game, home and away, just as Aston Villa do, no fear! The last two games of the prevoius season showed us City are capable of what many have been screaming for, positive, attacking football. As our captain stated after the last match, “the shackles had to come off!” A revealing comment that! Albeit the season was done & dusted for our opponents in those two games but, nonetheless, they don’t come more daunting than Man City at the Etihad. I’m sure, like so many others, I was expecting our influx of players with so much “real quality” to fill their boots against Hull, however… The players did not play as well as they can but what the hell was Snodgrass doing on the bench?! Hughton still worries me, I remain a doubter.
Russell S. says
Can I use the opportunity of the Hull disappointment to point out that ‘a tiger never changes its stripes’ i.e. Chris Hughton was a defender, and so has, and will always have a defensive-minded approach.
On paper we have a great-looking attacking potential but those expecting CH to let off the shackles is sadly misguided. The West Brom & Man City games last season were ‘flukes’ in the sense that neither of those opponents had anything to play for. I’m not expecting a free-flowing goal fest over the coming weeks.
Dave B says
Scotty, you hit the nail on the head, and raise a very similar issue to the one that I posted on a well known local newspaper earlier, namely, how would Lambert have handled them. We’ve been spoilt I’m afraid, the man had the ability to inspire confidence in players, and got them to do the simple things well, admittedly starting in division one, but when you think back to how shell shocked we all were after the Colchester game, he just knew what he was doing, and much as I’d like to believe its not true, I don’t think Hughton does, and the panic that seems to have been evident in some of us over the past twenty four hours, is that it is beginning to feel as though Nigel Worthington is being reborn. We have to wake up, and wake up soon. Hughton really does need some sort of epiphany. Beam me up
Mikey B says
With a board of directors and a Chief Exec (sorry St David!) intent on survival at any cost the chances of seeing any pressure to get CH to change his approach are non-existent. Yet, as we went into the last quarter of last season, if you’d offered 99% of supporters dull football or relegation we all know what the answer would have been – in the hope that he would produce something better this year. Dream on, all of us!
Chris Young says
Thanks Rick (4)… Yes, it was a long day for many Canary fans… I left home in Cornwall at 5.45 on Saturday morning.. I crept back in at 1.30 on Sunday morning…
Sure, it was a disappointing performance but still well worth travelling all that way to meet up with the Y’army again. I’m pretty philosophical about being a football fan – I accept the bad days because they make the good times seem even better.
True supporters remain loyal through thick and thin… don’t they???
I must admit that I spent the second half of last season frustrated by Hughton’s over cautious approach, particularly in games against teams in the lower half of the table. I think our final league position flattered us, but was encouraged by some quality signings during the summer, and looked forward to seeing a change of mindset this season.
The starting line up against Hull was enough to disillusion me. Four central midfield players against a team that will probably get relegated, and that we need to take points from. The Hughton apologists (which includes all the writers on this website) will explain how we have never had it so good, and that we should trust in Hughton’s organisational abilities. I’m sorry I don’t buy it. This is the best squad of players we have ever had, and serious questions have to be asked as to whether Hughton has the necessary skills to bring the best out of them?
Norwich fans were prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt after last season, but their patience is going to be sorely tested if we see anymore spineless displays like this.
Rick Lime says
Chris(9) – good to hear you’re back and not too despondent. The word that springs to mind is ‘indefatigable’.
There is a hardcore (possibly growing) of fans a lot closer to ‘home’ who lack your patience and resolve. They have been itching for the first opportunity to get the knives out for CH. Sadly, such performances as at Hull just encourage them.
John C says
Echoing Russ’s point (6), and this issue has been raised before….all the coaching staff are defenders. We’ve made the investment in the players, should we now invest in an ‘attacking’ coach?
I was reasonably confident that we would have nine points after the first three games. Could be it will still be one !
CH’s dilemma – put the same lot out again for the Bury game, and progress the cohesion of the team, or give the ‘possibles’ a run out.
And as for CH’s epiphany – his ‘road to Damascus’ moment….have you seen Damascus recently ? Maybe he doesn’t want to go there !
Russell S. says
John C(12) – you make a syria-ous point!
Let’s hope we don’t have another ‘Luton’ moment tonight although 3 points on Saturday against a tricky Saints side is way more important than a 4th round LC tie.
Assad outlook says
Andy(10) – “The Hughton apologists (which includes all the writers on this website)…”! – that’s a massively erroneous exaggeration you make there. From what I read on this site, a supportive CH comment invariably follows one attacking him.
Who would you have replace him to see this Utopian style of football craved by you and fellow denouncers? Poyet or Di Matteo maybe?
Assad Outlook (14)- I was referring to the writers of the main articles, who have been reluctant to openly criticise Hughton’s cautious approach. I am not necessarily calling for him to be replaced, but am looking for signs of more attacking intent, especially against teams in the lower half of the table, who represent our fellow strugglers against relegation. My comments are not based solely on the Hull game, but are a carry over from some of the disastrous performances in the second half of last season, which I hoped were very much a thing of the past. It’s not losing that bothers me, but our approach. If we had hit the woodwork five times and their Goalkeeper had been Man of the Match, it would have been bad luck. However our insipid performance hinted at fundamental problems in the way the coaching staff approach such games, which seems to inhibit the natural attacking intent in the squad.
Assader outlook says
Andy(15): Point taken on the writers bit but I think they are on the whole balanced and right to leave the ‘sharpened tongue’ stuff to the commenters..at least until we are genuinely struggling in the division.
The more gung-ho approach which you seem to favour is of course attractive but fraught with danger – Blackpool in 2010-11 scored the same number of goals as Spurs (finished 5th) but got relegated. Hull the year before started attackingly and won at Arsenal and L’pool but soon got found out and eventually relegated. Cardiff were great on Sunday but it was their 1st home game of the season and won’t maintain that level.
It’s a long season and unless you are a genuine top 6 side, there has to be a more pragmatic approach.
Russell S. says
Hull was an anti-climax but breaking down a well organised 10 men already with the lead on their ground is a big ask for anyone. Events in the first half went against us at every turn (even the sending off).
Anyone who expects CH to radically change his approach is deluded. There’s just no precedence (as far as I can recall) for a manager of a top flight side who himself was a defender, to have an overtly attack-minded outlook as a coach. I’m thinking Sam Allardyce, Steve Bruce…can’t think of anymore.
For all Martinez’s plaudits, his team struggled year-after-year and got relegated. Laudrup’s Swansea are finding it much tougher already this season.
As for realistic alternatives to CH, Di Matteo started brightly at W. Brom but that ended quickly (did well at Chelsea but look at the resources at his disposal), Poyet’s Brighton had style but didn’t get out of the 2nd tier. Any other offers?