Arsenal 1 Hull City 2

I caught this one, albeit at an extreme angle to the screen, in a Queens Arms rammed by Open Door weekend. There is a kind of football rudeness when you can see the TV and your interlocutor can’t: your eyes drift upwards all on their own, and your ears switch channels from your real conversation to the artificial one of the broadcast. It’s terrible manners, really.

The Queens Arms does seem to be the Londoner’s pub in these parts, and when Walcott opened Hull up like a can of beans early in the second half, the place erupted. It was harsh on Hull, who’d matched Arsenal up until then, playing with confidence and assurance.

So when Geovanni’s wonderful goal went in, my first thought was that another might shortly follow; and in my mind’s eye I saw how well West Brom have been performing, and how capably Stoke got through games against the top four without an implosion of morale. Just at the point when every commentator believes that the rich vs poor divide has condemned the promoted clubs to instant relegation, are these three going to be the clubs to show that divide up as just one more passing phase in the Premiership’s history?

Of course, I hope so; everyone hopes so. And perhaps the absurd money that is now coming into the game makes it more likely, not less. In the 1950s, Sunderland became known as the “Bank of England” club for the amount that they were prepared to spend on players. Much good it did them: I once possessed a paperback history of the Football League published in 1957 to mark the League’s 70th birthday which celebrated Sunderland for never having been relegated: guess what happened to them in the following season. Huge sums wielded by inexpert owners leaning on increasingly short-term managers in search of instant success creates a kind of opportunity for poorer clubs with more patience and a manager given time to organize, teach and train. Men like Phil Brown and Brian Horton, for instance.

What really stands between a Hull City and what you might call e.g. “Aston Villa status” is history: Villa, or Spurs, or any of the other clubs with glorious pasts, have always been able to use their clippings file as bait for talent. Being situated in large conurbations does no harm either.

But nothing stands in the way of them becoming a Southampton. I refer here to the Southampton sent on its way by Lawrie McMenemy in the ’70s and ’80s, who were an established Premiership club until they pressed the destruct button so meaninglessly a few years ago. Southampton had had to survive in the Premiership at the Dell for a number of years, courtesy of Matt Le Tissier and a squad who never gave up. Hull arrive with their modern stadium up and running.

If they keep their nerve, I think they can do it.

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3 responses to “Arsenal 1 Hull City 2

  1. Well, if Spurs keep up their current run of form, there’s hope for Hull, perhaps.

    Lower level EPL clubs are finally learning the value of non-stars from abroad. For years, promoted/mid-ranking teams have tended to circulate the same old tired British faces around the transfer market. I have the feeling that it was Sven’s recruiting binge at Man City that helped change some attitudes, although it should be noted that Big Sam had done similar things with Bolton and Hull themselves gathered an absurdly cosmopolitan cast together at times. (Jay Jay Okocha? In Hull?)

    Or maybe it’s that Hull-level teams can now pay better than Leverkusen or Coruna or Zenit St P or Standard Liege for 2nd tier foreigners? Goodness knows what that means for the economics of the European game.

    Perhaps this will be the final squeeze on the overpricing of British talent?

  2. I do hope Hull do well. It is sometimes the case that a newly promoted term has a surprisingly good first season then relapses in the second. It is strength in depth that often tells, once injuries and tiredness set in, but a very good manager can compensate for something of that. In the meantime it is a delight seeing Phil Brown on the touchline.

    The little I have seen so far there has been some good football played by a number of teams, and it wouldn;t surprise me if Villa pushed the top four. Spurs are extraordinary at the moment. Lost again today. Maybe foreign managers aren’t as superior to the local brand as they are supposed to be. But then they did let Keane and Berbatov go. It will be interesting to see what happens at White Hart Lane and at Newcastle. And Arsenal – apart from yesterday – are exciting again.

    It will be interesting to see which of the world’s top players are NOT playing in the Premiership in the next two or three years. And how the credit crunch is likely to hit football.

    Glad you’re back on air, James.

  3. I thought the Mercat was the Arsenal pub in Edinburgh…

    I’m with you, I think Hull can do it (a la Wigan).