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Do Hull City run the serious risk of relegation under Nigel Adkins?

Hull City
Photo: Reuters

Hull City

Do Hull City run the serious risk of relegation under Nigel Adkins?

It is a worrying time for Nigel Adkins’ Hull City, who run the risk of relegation from the Championship – the second demotion in as many years – if performances on the pitch do not drastically improve.

What’s that old adage? It never rains, it pours.

This certainly seems the case for Hull City fans right now.

After Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Deepdale represented a ninth consecutive league game without a win for manager Nigel Adkins, the Tigers find themselves in the Championship relegation zone just eight months after crashing out of the Premier League.

However, with the chaos not just limited to the pitch, are the KCOM faithful right to be preparing themselves for back-to-back relegations, as they foresee their club following the same well-trodden path as fellow ‘basket-case’ clubs, Blackpool, Portsmouth, Blackburn and Coventry?

It is curious.

Talk to any Hull City fan over the age of 20 and they will tell you the past 15 years represents a golden era in the club’s history.

From staring into the void of Conference football just before the turn of the new millennium, to battling their way to the Premier League, reaching a first ever FA Cup final and even a brief taste of European football, all in a little over a decade – it is the stuff that footballing fairy-tales are made of.

However, with the long-standing cold war between fans and ownership increasingly warming up in recent years, this modern footballing fairy-tale has quickly turned into a nightmare for the Tigers.

While relative success on the pitch since the Allam family’s 2010 takeover has appeared to paper over many underlying cracks, with fans’ favourite Steve Bruce vitally acting as peacemaker on a number of occasions during his four-year managerial tenure, the bad blood between fans and the club appears to finally be taking its toll.

Indeed, the lingering aftertaste of pro-Allam fans vs anti-Allam fans in the wake of the name-change saga, the scrapping of season tickets in favour of the now infamous ‘Membership Scheme’ which has abolished all forms of concession ticketing, and three consecutive poor transfer windows which have left the Tigers with a threadbare squad, has, after five years of hostilities, seemed to have finally caught up with the East Yorkshire outfit, creating a toxic atmosphere around the club.

Despite Friday evening being the first time this season Hull City have actually found themselves in the bottom three, it is becoming increasingly difficult to see how the club will fight their way out of this trouble.

Indeed, the club’s form has been on a downward trajectory since September.

Big wins early on in the season against the likes of Bolton and Burton, paired with the promise that new manager, Leonid Slutsky, would receive a good backing from Vice-chairman, Ehab Allam, provided fans with false hope of an instant return to the Premier League.

However, by the time the former CSKA manager was given his marching orders in December and was promptly replaced by former Southampton and Reading manager Nigel Adkins, expectations had universally been altered from ‘promotion’ to mere ‘survival’.

Worryingly for Tigers fans, Hull City’s form has actually got worse under former goalkeeper, Adkins.

Since his first game in charge – a 3-2 win against Brentford – the Tigers have failed to win another league game, losing five and drawing four.

Equally as concerning is the lack of goals during this period.

 

After being listed as the second highest scoring team in the division throughout Slutsky’s tenure, behind only runaway-leaders Wolves, Adkins’ Hull City have managed only three goals in nine league games, with their first of 2018 coming at Deepdale last Saturday.

For many with ties to the club, the lack of activity during last month’s transfer window represented the final nail in Hull City’s Championship coffin.

The positives of keeping youngster Jarrod Bowen and Polish international Kamil Grosicki can surely not be underestimated, with a number of clubs reportedly interested in both.

However, a typically shambolic last few hours of the window, which saw club captain Michael Dawson close to leaving the club, and only two new signings made, will do little to appease an increasingly apathetic fan base.

While calls for a new striker and battling midfielder were ignored, on paper at least, the signing of former Barnsley captain Angus MacDonald would appear decent business at £700k.

Centre-half has proved a problem position for the Tigers all season, and after three failed bids for Aberdeen’s Scott McKenna, Adkins will be relieved to get another experienced Championship defender through the door.

However, with a chequered disciplinary history and only 13 appearances for the Tykes this season, MacDonald will have to prove himself to the Hull City faithful.

The Tigers’ only other piece of January business was a loan deal for exciting Liverpool and Wales youngster Harry Wilson.

While this is the more eye-catching of the two signings, it is also the bigger risk.

The pacy winger, who has made one senior appearance for Liverpool, has an impressive goal scoring record at U23 level, but very limited experience in the senior game.

Unquestionably, the young Welshman will have to acclimatise quickly to the rough and tumble of the Championship if he is to help the Tigers climb out of the relegation zone.

The prospect of a relegation dog-fight will surely be a daunting one for the 20 year old, and only time will tell if he will sink or swim.

It is going to be a long four months for Hull City and its fans.

It may well be a cliche, but the Championship is a one of the most competitive and unpredictable leagues in the World.

In the past we’ve seen sides in more perilous positions and with far less talented squads than Hull City achieve Championship survival.

However, equally, we’ve seen ‘bigger’ clubs with more prestigious histories fall through the trap door.

Championship survival this season would arguably rank right up there as one of Hull City’s greatest achievements of the last 15 years.

However, with fires that urgently need extinguishing both on and off the pitch, it is hard to see how Nigel Adkins is going to turn this ship around.

Greg is a freelance writer and broadcast journalist who has previously worked as a sports journalist at the likes of the BBC, Yahoo Sports UK, and the Hull Daily Mail. A long-standing Hull City supporter, Greg has also spent time as a Director on the Board of the Hull City Supporters' Trust. Follow him on Twitter - @Greg_Whitaker

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