Last week, I wrote about how Hull City’s away form must improve if the Tigers are to avoid the Premier League trapdoor this season, starting with today’s game at Everton. It would appear Marco Silva and his men did not get the memo as they slumped to yet another heavy defeat on the road, this time losing four goals to nil at Goodison Park.
While the club may well have been consigned to relegation in the eyes of many football fans some weeks ago, Tom Huddlestone’s likely three game suspension following today’s match will simply further serve to kill the survival dreams of Hull City supporters.
From the highlights and match reports following the game, this will surely appear like a fairly routine win for Everton against a poor, relegation threatened side. However, even the Toffees’ manager Ronald Koeman admitted the scoreline flattered his team.
I try not to criticise match officials too regularly on this blog – being a Premier League referee is as close to an impossible job as you are likely to find – however, with the money involved, and the consequences linked with big decisions, the truth of the matter is that one decision made by Paul Tierney today could well play a huge role in deciding whether Hull City will be playing Premier League or Championship football next season.
The fact is, as both managers admitted during their post-game interviews, Tierney’s decision to show Tom Huddlestone a red card following a mistimed, but certainly not dangerous, tackle on Idrissa Gueye on 73 minutes, with the score still at 1-0, killed the tie.
While an away defeat against the now sixth-placed Everton may not sound so disastrous or unexpected for the Tigers and their hope of a Premier League great escape, a potential three game suspension of City’s talismanic Huddlestone at this stage of the season could well be the decision that seals Hull City’s fate.
As I discussed in great detail in my last blog, currently it is City’s home form which is providing even the slightest hope of Premier League survival, with winnable games against West Ham and Middlesbrough up next at the KCOM after the international break.
However, despite Marco Silva’s quite outstanding record as a manager at home – he is currently undefeated in 38 home fixtures – the loss of his captain and quarterbacking playmaker Huddlestone makes both extending his personal record and, more importantly, guiding Hull City to Premier League safety far more difficult.
Quite aside from City’s own potentially damning result, the results for fellow relegation rivals also added to the Tigers’ appalling day. Wins for both Crystal Palace and Leicester City have now left Silva’s men three points away from safety (closer to four if our goal difference is taken into account), with the five sides above us, as well as bottom side Sunderland, all boasting a game in hand, and the side currently directly below us in 19th position, ‘boro, having placed two games fewer. It is looking bleak for the Tigers.
In what is a conclusion I have come back to time and time again this season, the harsh reality, upon looking at the bigger picture, is that we deserve to go down this season. Not necessarily because the players haven’t been good enough or the manager(s) haven’t lived up to expectations – on the contrary, I was expecting to be relegated by Christmas in August, so the players and managers have exceeded my expectations this season – but because the owners have mismanaged us so badly, from the very start of the season, this was inevitable.
Not having a permanent manager until October, sacking that manager in January, selling two of the side’s best players, and alienating a generation of Hull City fans with ticketing prices – Indeed, from a moral point of view, is there a Premier League club in history more deserving of relegation?
However, as I said a few weeks ago after the Leicester game, it is the hope that kills Hull City fans. The hope that things maybe are not as bad as expected, just to find out a month later that they are even worse. Every positive that has come out of this season has served only to paper over huge cracks caused by the owners at this club, and as I noted at the time, “As always, it’s not our inevitable regulation that will hurt the most, it’s the false hope we have been sold along the way”.
Mathematically, of course, Hull City still have a chance of staying in this division. However, even if we win every game deemed ‘winnable’ on our remaining fixture list, this still might not be enough. As much as I hate to say it, I am now as sure of relegation as I was the day Steve Bruce reigned back in July. I admire those fans who still believe a ‘great escape’ is possible, however, the events of today have simply seen the club take a step closer to our inevitable and ‘deserved’ relegation, in my eyes.