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A Resolution to the Hull Tigers Controversy?

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When Assem Allam’s take-over bid was confirmed on 16th December 2010, fans of Hull City AFC were ecstatic. They had seen the club on the edge of administration and bankruptcy, put in this position by fraudulent previous owners. Now, finally it seemed that a local business man with significant financial backing had recognised the potential of their historic club. Upon announcing his new controlling stake in the club, Allam declared that having been a resident of Hull for many years, he understood the importance of the football club within the community and wanted to give back some of the love and support he had received from the people. What more could a club’s fans wish to hear? This wave of joy and enthusiasm however was brought crashing down around their ears when his intention to re-name the club to Hull Tigers was revealed. An institution; standing for nearly 110 years, would technically cease to exist.

The announcement was made on 9th August 2013 and was immediately met with shock and disgust by the majority of both Hull fans, and football supporters in general. The Hull City faithful had been promised their say, they had been promised detailed research into the economic value, and instead had been told by their owner that their current name conjured up visions of “lousiness” and of being “common”. This hardly came as music to their ears. He has stated that the inclusion of the word ‘Tigers’ in their name makes the club a much more marketable asset in Asia where Tigers are deep-rooted in culture and folklore. Having only been presented with opinion and zero accountable or hard evidence to this suggestion, the group ‘City Till We Die’ was formed. They have continually led the protest to the name change, but do insist that they are happy with Allam’s position as Chairman.

Earlier this year as the prospective name change drew ever closer, the FA’s membership committee held a meeting on the topic, where they resolved unanimously that the FA should reject the proposal. Met initially with a sense of relief, Hull fans were rocked once more with Assem Allam’s latest ultimatum. Should the name change not be permitted by the FA, he would put the club up for sale. Once the saviour, he now seemed to be content to leave the club well and truly in the mire once again.

There are of course groups of fans who can see his side of the argument. It is after all, legally, his club to do with as he wishes. Rescuing the future of the Tigers when doom seemed likely and returning them to the promised land of the Premier League is something that the fans should be eternally grateful for. Even if he were to now sell the club, it is a much more marketable prospect than it was when he took the reins. Huge TV deals are guaranteed for at least one more season in addition to the significant consolation prize of parachute payments should relegation become a reality. The incoming Financial Fair Play laws do indeed mean that clubs worldwide will have to find conservable sources of income and cannot rely on the investment of the owners to the extent that they have done in the past. Does this mean though that the name has to be changed? Where is the evidence to prove that there would be a significant upturn in Asian support should they be run as Hull Tigers?

With just 2 days to go until the decision would be put to the FA, results were announced of a poll taken of Hull City season ticket holders. Although it has no bearing on their decision, the outcome is important nonetheless. The name change was backed by a very small margin of only 48 votes out of the 15,033 eligible to vote. Of this number, the vast majority did not even register a vote. This is seen as a great concern by fan group ‘City Till We Die’. A large number of season ticket holders have complained that they were never granted the opportunity to vote. Either they never received their voting form, there were insufficient ballot papers at the polling stations, or the stations themselves were closed when fans arrived. This has led to fears that the vote was not conducted in a fair and transparent manner, with a secret ballot not taking place.

With a possible FA Cup Final on the horizon for Hull City; the first in their history, the concern is certainly justified. If you are seen to have voted in a manner which displeased the Hull City management, ‘City Till We Die’ are fearful that your ticket application privileges may be ‘accidentally’ overlooked. Of course this is all currently speculation, but a deep sense of unrest is present amongst the fans despite the FA’s ruling being favourable for them.

It was absolutely vital that the FA took a stand on this matter and did not buckle under the pressure of Allam’s ultimatum to sell up. It would have been ground-breaking for the FA to have gone against the advice of their membership committee and may well have paved the way for other owners to push their luck. A line simply had to be drawn to deflect the optimism that Vincent Tan and others waiting in the wings may have gained should the motion have been passed. In my view, there is no middle ground here. If a name change of any sort had been allowed, then a precedent would have been set. Where would the next limit be? Could Vincent Tan now demand that Cardiff City now be named ‘The Red Dragons’? Thank goodness the FA stood strong, and sent out a message of solidarity.

Dear Prospective Investors, should you wish to tamper with the heritage of our clubs, then you are not wanted. No amount of money can sway the love of a true fan, and without fans, clubs would die.

Should Allam follow through with his threat and leave the club, then I say good riddance!

I am currently at university studying Mechanical Engineering, but in my spare time I'm into all things football. I'm an avid Liverpool fan but always try to remain impartial. My other interests include gaming and Formula One.

FA Cup

Rochdale 2-2 Tottenham – Lucas Moura shines despite disappointing day for Spurs

Jake Jackman

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Tottenham

Tottenham are going to have to rely on a replay for the second successive round as they conceded a dramatic late equaliser to Rochdale. It was a reminder of the magic that the FA Cup still possesses and it will provide a useful cash injection for the League One club. Spurs opted to make several changes and rest key players, but they selected a team that should have progressed on the day.

Ian Henderson scored in the first-half to give Dale a first-half lead and it was deserved. Keith Hill’s team played good football and went toe-to-toe against their more illustrious opposition.

Lucas Moura and Harry Kane scored to put Tottenham into a 2-1 lead, but that wasn’t the end of the goal-scoring as Steve Davies scored to take the tie to a replay. Here are three talking points from Spotland:

Lucas Moura’s performance showed why Tottenham signed him

It was a signing that came out of left-field, as Tottenham prefer to do their transfer business in the summer. However, this opportunity was too good to turn down as they were given the chance to sign a proven Brazilian international. He had fallen on tough times at PSG and rarely featured this season, but he proved why the club signed him on Sunday.

The Brazilian wasn’t afraid of the fight and was up for the test offered by League One opposition. Every time he got on the ball, it looked like he could make something happen, as shown by his seven dribbles completed.

He had a touch of class that allowed him to stand out from the rest of the players on the pitch and if he can consistently perform at that level, he will turn out to be a great signing.

His movement was superb, as he regularly found pockets of space to exploit. Interestingly, he won five aerial duels and that shows that he has quickly adjusted to English football. It was Lucas that scored the equaliser mid-way through the second half with a confident finish. He will have played himself into Mauricio Pochettino’s plans for the coming weeks.

Rochdale impressed on their day in the spotlight

They were written off before a ball was kicked as they were facing one of the best teams in the country. Rochdale are currently rock-bottom of League One and 11 points from safety, albeit with four matches in hand. They laid a new pitch ahead of this match and the players adapted to it well, showing that they can play good football.

Callum Camps and Andrew Cannon impressed in the centre of the park, while their two wily experienced strikers got the goals. Ian Henderson was a tireless worker in the final third and put the Tottenham defenders under pressure.

He snatched at a couple of chances in the first-half, but he remained cool when another chance came his way and scored the opening goal.

It will be a tough ask for them to go to Wembley, but they can go there with no fear as they have nothing to lose. The tie will give them an injection of money that the club needs, especially if they are to suffer relegation this season.

Toby Alderweireld looks a long way from his best

The Tottenham defence didn’t look as assured as they usually do and both of their centre-backs struggled at times during the match.

Alderweireld was left out of the trip to Juventus and there were some supporters that questioned that decision. However, he looked short of match fitness against Rochdale and was arguably at fault for the late equaliser.

The Belgian international looked rusty and his decision making was not great. He picked up a yellow card for a rash tackle and that is one example of that. Juan Foyth played alongside Alderweireld and his inexperience showed when Rochdale did attack.

For Alderweireld, he wants to be back in the first-team and that is eventually where he will be, but he isn’t at the level required to be starting right now. Tottenham are fighting on multiple fronts and they can’t afford to have any players that aren’t at 100%. He is returning from a serious injury and he will need time to get back to his best.

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Liverpool

Roberto Firmino: His performances will shape the end to Liverpool’s season

Martyn Cooke

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On Sunday afternoon at St Mary’s Stadium the returning Virgil Van Dijk took centre stage and assumed the role of pantomime villain for the day.

However, whilst much of the pre-game build up was centred on the former Southampton defender, who was making his first return to the club since signing for Liverpool in January, the post-match conversations were focused on the brilliance of the Dutchman’s attacking teammate.

Roberto Firmino is one of the most under-rated players in the Premier League and his performance last weekend reaffirmed that he is one of the most effective forward players in the top-flight of English football.

The Brazilian has rarely been the centre of attention since arriving at Anfield in the summer of 2015 for £29 million and the media have often overlooked his significant contributions on the pitch.

Roberto Firmino

At Liverpool he has been forced to be content playing in the shadow of Philippe Coutinho, prior to his move to Barcelona, and Mohamed Salah, who has been a revelation since joining the club in the summer.

But Firmino is now emerging as one of the most creative, innovative and exciting forwards in the Premier League and he is undoubtedly one of the most improved players of the season.

The 26-year-old is both a creator and a goal scorer, as Southampton discovered to their cost at the weekend, when he opened the scoring with a neat finish within the opening six minutes before providing the assist for Salah’s goal with an ingenious flick.

The goal was his 20th of the campaign, which was shortly followed by his 21st of the season against Porto in the Reds’ midweek Champions League fixture, and he is now only nine short of becoming the Premier League’s all-time highest Brazilian goal scorer.

Firmino is a unique mixture of technical brilliance, creativity, innovation and an intelligence that makes him unpredictable, difficult to mark and a constant threat, regardless of where he pops up on the pitch.

However, whilst his Brazilian flair may catch the eye it is his willingness to pressurise opponents and work hard off the ball that is genuinely impressive.

He is certainly a favourite of Jurgen Klopp, who admires his hard running, work rate and pressing that often sets the tone for the rest of the team.

The 26-year-old has still gone somewhat unnoticed this campaign despite his consistency and performances on the pitch and the fact that he has missed only one league game all season.

But that is set to change.

Firmino’s performances and form have proven that there is still a bright future at Anfield despite the departure of Coutinho in January.

Deployed as an unconventional number nine, the Brazilian is the centre of a dynamic attacking forward line that sees him flanked by Salah on one side and Sadio Mane on the other.

The trio possess the pace, intelligence and creativity to threaten any team in Europe, as demonstrated by the mid-week five-goal demolition of Porto in the Champions League, and central to their effectiveness is the link up play of Firmino.

Still only 26, the Brazilian is about to reach the peak of his prowess and his continued development under Klopp poses the exciting question of how much better the forward might become in the forthcoming two or three years.

He certainly possesses all of the characteristics to become a legend at the club, should he choose to remain at Anfield long term, and he now has the opportunity to step out of Coutinho’s shadow and enjoy the limelight for himself.

Liverpool supporters will be hoping that Firmino can maintain his current run of form over the coming months and his performances will shape the club’s season.

His creativity and knack for scoring goals will be an invaluable commodity as Klopp goes in search of a top four place and potential silverware.

Firmino my have been underrated in the past, but he is now taking centre stage as the focal point of Liverpool’s attack.

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Huddersfield Town

Huddersfield Town 0-2 Manchester United: Three talking points from the John Smith’s Stadium

Rob Meech brings us three talking points from the John Smith’s Stadium as Manchester United overcame Huddersfield Town in their FA Cup 5th Round contest.

Rob Meech

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Photo: Reuters

A brace from sharpshooter Romelu Lukaku fired Manchester United into the quarter-finals of the FA Cup at the expense of Huddersfield Town.

Lukaku opened his account in the third minute before netting his second of the evening shortly after the second-half resumption.

Victory was not as straightforward as the scoreline suggested. However, as the Terriers produced a spirited display after the early setback.

There was also controversy involving the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system.

Juan Mata saw an effort ruled out for offside after a review, but confusion abounded about whether it had been the correct decision.

Here are three talking points from an eventful encounter, as United set up a last-eight tie with Brighton & Hove Albion…

Lukaku’s goals are a fillip for Jose Mourinho

The Belgian has come in for criticism from some quarters for his goal return since last summer’s big-money transfer from Everton.

While he may not have reached the levels of Harry Kane or Mohamed Salah, Lukaku has now scored 21 times in all competitions for United this season.

That tally was boosted by his double against Huddersfield, which showed off his best attributes.

Lukaku was too strong and clever for Huddersfield’s defence as he latched on to Mata’s through ball for the first, before putting the finishing touch to an Alexis Sanchez pass for his second.

The former Chelsea man’s performance will be the biggest plus for United boss Jose Mourinho, who is relying on him to spearhead the attack for the remainder of the campaign.

Lukaku is a confidence player, so this was a timely boost ahead of a crucial run of fixtures both domestically and in Europe.

VAR under the microscope yet again

The introduction of technology to any sport usually results in teething problems.

It is fair to say VAR has experienced more than its fair share in football this season.

Employed in some FA and League Cup matches, controversy has never been far away. This was again the case at Huddersfield.

Mata appeared to have doubled United’s lead just before half-time, but referee Kevin Friend waited for confirmation from VAR that he had been onside.

After about a minute, Friend disallowed the goal when it was judged that Mata had been fractionally offside as the ball was played.

Contention emerged when viewers saw the incident on TV, where the guidelines were clearly not straight.

In fact, they were embarrassingly wonky.

Further replays suggested – with parallel lines correctly in place – that Mata’s knee had indeed been offside, but it was a very close call and certainly not an obvious mistake by the referee’s assistant.

These technical hitches will need to be ironed out before VAR is brought in universally.

Huddersfield can be positive despite FA Cup exit

With their Premier League status hanging in the balance, it would have been understandable if Huddersfield manager David Wagner had seen this fixture as an unwanted distraction.

But there was absolutely no suggestion that they were trying not to win the match, or prepared to exit the competition without a fight.

The Terriers, who famously beat United at home in the Premier League last October, carried on from where they left off last weekend in the impressive 4-1 victory over Bournemouth.

Conceding so early to United had not been in the script, but the hosts regrouped quickly and caused their opponents plenty of problems.

Ultimately, the difference between the two sides was the quality of finishing.

Whereas the visitors scored with their only two shots on target, Huddersfield wasted numerous openings as they slipped to defeat.

Nevertheless, attention can be turned back to their bid for survival, without their confidence dented.

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