When Paul Duffen said on Saturday evening, "Hull has been through some tough times," he was referring to the city rather than the City, where he is club chairman. Hard times for both were the norm for a long while, however, and the hope on Humberside now is that regeneration of one will go hand-in-hand with the other.
The local Tigers, their growl muted by the area's two rugby league clubs, have brought new civic pride by rising from the fourth tier of English football to the first in only five seasons at their Kingston Communications Stadium. Once among the elite for the first time after 104 years, anti-climax might have followed – and may still do so – but the first step on Saturday was at least a triumphant one. Fulham, having achieved superiority for the first quarter of the game, were knocked out of their stride thereafter and sent home to think again.
"The whole city is buzzing, and it's a wonderful thing for anybody involved in sport to see what a positive impact a successful club can have on a once-blighted city," said Duffen, whose consortium took control of the club last year. Although a comparative newcomer, he has not forgotten those who contributed to the success: "It's a tribute to the vision of the Council, who built the stadium, and to the management of Peter Taylor, who built a competitive side to get us promoted. We found our level in the Championship until some new money came in and that made the difference in getting promoted last year."
The hard-working manager Phil Brown, charged with spending some of that money, was particularly pleased with George Boateng and Geovanni – scorer of a fine equaliser – both of whom looked more assured than Anthony Gardner in defence and Marlon King in attack. Two more new recruits, Peter Halmosi and Craig Fagan, were among the three substitutes Brown shrewdly introduced, Fagan setting up the winner for the third replacement, Caleb Folan.
Fulham, surviving last May by winning their last three matches, were able to spend four times as much as Hull during the summer, although Roy Hodgson had equally mixed fortunes with his purchases; Mark Schwarzer and John Pantsil at the back doing better than Zoltan Gera and Bobby Zamora further forward. Zamora's striking partner Seol Ki-Hyeon headed his team in front but the most expensive signing, Andy Johnson at £10.5m, will need to find his feet quickly when returning from injury at home to Arsenal on Saturday.
"We've got two quality strikers and that will help us through the season," Hodgson said. "It's a 38-game season not a one-game season and we go away and lick our wounds. All this proves is that there are no easy games." Not for Fulham and the other relegation contenders, anyway.
Goals: Seol (8) 1-0; Geovanni (22) 1-1; Folan (81) 2-1.
Hull City (4-4-1-1): Myhill; Ricketts, Turner, Gardner, Dawson; Garcia (Fagan, 73), Ashbee, Boateng, Barmby (Halmosi, 61); Geovanni; King (Folan, 69). Substitutes not used: Duke (gk), Windass, Mendy, Marney.
Fulham (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Pantsil, Hangeland, Hughes, Konchesky; Davies, Bullard, Murphy (Andreasen, 85), Gera; Seol (Nevland, 85), Zamora (Dempsey, 81). Substitutes not used: Zuberbuhler (gk), Andranik, Stoor, Kallio.
Referee: P Walton (Northants).
Booked: Hull Ricketts, Dawson, Fagan.
Man of the match: Geovanni.