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!
Is Bojan Krkic the perfect player for Gary Rowett to build Stoke City around?
The 27-year-old has been an outcast at the Bet365 Stadium.
As Gary Rowett continues to rebuild the Stoke City squad over the summer there will be plenty of speculation regarding who will be arriving and departing the Bet365 Stadium.
The Potters have already dipped into the transfer market by signing Nigerian midfielder Oghenekaro Etebo and Wolverhampton Wanderers striker Benik Afobe whilst Egyptian starlet Ramadan Sobhi was sold to Huddersfield Town last week.
Xherdan Shaqiri, who is currently representing Switzerland at the World Cup in Russia, has confirmed that he will be leaving the club whilst, in contrast, Joe Allen has signed a new long-term contract to remain.
There are still plenty of question marks over current players. The likes of Jack Butland and Badou Ndiaye are expected to attract interest from Premier League clubs whilst the expensive pairing of Saido Berahino and Giannelli Imbula may not fit into Rowett’s plans but will be short of offers.
But what about Bojan Krkic?
The diminutive Spaniard was once one of the most promising young forwards in Europe after he rose through Barcelona’s prestigious La Masia academy system and made his first team debut at the age of 17.
He made over 100 appearances for the Catalan’s prior to loan spells with Ajax, AC Milan and Roma before eventually moving to Stoke in the summer of 2014.
Bojan has certainly made an impact at the Bet365 Stadium, particularly during his first two-and-a-half years with the club, but he fell out of favour under Mark Hughes and has spent the last eighteen months on loan in Germany and Spain.
At his best, the 27-year-old was a magician who produced moments of sublime skill and was a central creative influence in the team.
He was technically magnificent and would often glide across the pitch, weaving between defenders and was a genuine threat whenever he received the ball in the final third.
Bojan was one of only a handful of Stoke players from the last decade that would bring supporters to the edge of their seats in anticipation and expectation when he was in possession.
For anyone who requires a reminder of what the forward can do, simply look up his solo goal against Tottenham Hotspur form 2014.
Much has been made of his injury in January 2015. The Spaniard suffered severe knee damage in an FA Cup tie at Rochdale that meant that he was out of action for the remainder of the season and the common narrative is that he was never the same upon his return.
However, this storyline is incorrect. In fact, Bojan was at his peak over the Christmas period in 2015 when he was the centre of Stoke’s attacking trident which also included Shaqiri and Marko Arnautovic.
Such was the effectiveness of the trio that The Potters picked up the nickname of ‘Stoke-a-lona’ in reference to their attacking brand of football.
So where did it all go wrong for him?
He fell out of favour with Mark Hughes and, after being dropped from the starting line-up, was never able to regain his position as Stoke City’s creative hub.
The Spaniard subsequently has spent the past eighteen months on loan with Mainz and Las Palmas but has struggled to make any significant impact either in Germany or Spain.
In many respects, Bojan’s stock has never been lower. He has fallen off the radar somewhat in the past year and it appears that any hopes that he may have had of returning to a prominent European club are all but over.
However, this opens up a potential return to Stoke despite their relegation to The Championship.
Last season The Potters were desperately short of creativity and goals – something that Bojan can provide.
The Spaniard man be the perfect figure for Gary Rowett to build his new look team around.
Joe Allen and Oghenekaro Etebo will provide defensive security and energy in the centre of midfield whilst Benik Afobe will make be the focal point in the final third.
Bojan could be the perfect link player if deployed as a number ten and you would imagine that he would be more than capable of causing chaos amongst defences in The Championship.
There is, of course, the question of whether the 27-year-old would be prepared to play in the second tier of English football, although Allen’s decision to sign a new contract and remain at Stoke would suggest that Rowett is capable of being persuasive.
If Stoke are serious about challenging for promotion, then keeping Bojan and reigniting his career at the Bet365 Stadium would be a serious statement of intent.
Jack Wilshere is West Ham’s most realistic midfield target this summer
The 26-year-old seems the best option for Manuel Pellegrini at the moment.
Manuel Pellegrini has seemingly put signing a new midfielder high on his list of priorities this summer, having been linked with some stellar names, but is Jack Wilshere (Sky Sports) his most realistic target?
The Chilean has expressed his desire to get the Hammers playing attacking and progressive football again next term, and views a quality midfield addition as vital in achieving this.
Initially, the suggestion was made that Pellegrini would attempt to move for two-time Premier League winner Yaya Toure (the Telegraph), before stories broke claiming his interest in Paris Saint-Germain’s Javier Pastore (Sky Sports).
However, talks for both have stalled, with Toure’s preference to join a top-six side (Sport 24) and Pastore’s reported wage demands of £190,000-a-week (Sky Sports) to leave the French capital, with it now looking more likely Roma will land the 29-year-old’s signature.
Wilshere would employ the tactics Pellegrini is after and would instantly inject technical quality into the current functional midfield trio of Mark Noble, Cheikhou Kouyate and Pedro Obiang. His ability to carry the ball past defensive counterparts and to spot a final pass would add extra dimensions to the Hammers’ play, and at the age of 26 he could still have his best years ahead.
The ex-Bournemouth man has revealed he will not sign a contract extension at Arsenal with his contract set to expire imminently, meaning Pellegrini could land his signature on a free.
Tottenham should elevate reported interest in Leicester City protege Demari Gray
The 21-year-old could become a superstar if nurtured properly.
Tottenham Hotspur were reportedly interested in the possibility of signing Leicester City‘s attacking protege Demari Gray a few months back, according to reports from ESPN. And after a fruitless period in the search for attacking reinforcements, Mauricio Pochettino should revive his interest in sorting a deal.
Gray contributed four goals and three assists in 30 Premier League appearances last term, and is currently the captain of the England U21 squad. But he is likely to evaluate his future with the Foxes this summer, due to his lack of regular game-time. And Tottenham seems a great fit for the winger.
Spurs have pursued multiple attacking targets since the window commenced, without gathering any real traction on any of their targets, and it seems Pochettino – for once – is more concerned with making a marquee signing, than bringing in a player with the scope to develop and grow into a top player at White Hart Lane.
Talks for Anthony Martial, Christian Pulisic and Ivan Perisic have all stalled in recent times, and a move for the Leicester City man could be just the ticket for Spurs. He brings all the attributes they’re currently looking for; blistering pace, exceptional balance, end product, a cool head and notably the ability to hit an absolute cracker if awarded space.
If he reaches his peak under the guidance of Pochettino, which is more likely than not given his immense talent, the player could double in market-value and could become a key player for the Lilywhites for years to come.