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Keeping faith right at the death of a season from hell

By Sam Wallace

Published 23/05/2015

Big ask: Hull boss Steve Bruce knows his side must conquer Manchester United
Big ask: Hull boss Steve Bruce knows his side must conquer Manchester United

When he reflected on Hull City's last drop from the Premier League in 2010, Jimmy Bullard wrote: "The weird thing about relegation is that it is such a gradual experience. It's not like someone burst into the dressing room one day and informed us out of the blue that we were being relegated, so it didn't knock us sideways with shock."

Yet even Bullard was surprised that the club never attempted to renegotiate the £45,000-a-week contract which they had signed him on previously, part of a £39million wage bill that Hull took down with them like a lead-lined safe in a leaky rowing boat.

Hull must beat Manchester United tomorrow and if the worst happens again then it will be the lessons learned in that last, disastrous relegation season that might just sustain them as they slip out of the richest sports league in the world.

All said, it is not much of a Survival Sunday. Not much because neither Hull nor Newcastle have been doing much in the way of surviving of late.

Newcastle, with a much more feasible survival scenario, look like their season will creak to a halt with the proverbial front wheels just short of the cliff edge.

As for Hull, well, what can you say? They lost their last home game to relegated Burnley, and a win at the KC Stadium to United currently feels only slightly less plausible than the plots of those self-published football-themed novels Steve Bruce authored early in his managerial career.

The Premier League's last true final day zinger was 2011 when five teams were competing not to occupy what was the last two remaining relegation places.

In 2009, Hull survived on the last day and Phil Brown took the microphone on the pitch to sing the fans' version of Sloop John B, raising the stark possibility that Goals On Sunday had singularly ignored the full scope of his entertainment ouerve.

As for tomorrow, survival for either club will be less a cause for celebration, more relief at being the least rank incompetent of the two.

Both have failed at the game of Premier League success, different for every club but essentially a question of deploying resources in the way that best suits one's own club. Chelsea, Southampton and Swansea have all done so, in accordance with their own targets.

Newcastle's problems are ingrained: a club at odds with its ownership, a manager carelessly replaced with an unsuitable deputy, inadequate investment in players in a league with the resources to buy all over Europe.

Hull's predicament is just as complicated. Their last financial accounts showed a modest profit of around £9million with the caveat that around £47million in transfer fees from their late panicky rush in August are coming down the line.

When consolidation might have been a more sensible option for the second season in the Premier League, Hull went for a riskier strategy, signing Abel Hernandez for £10million, Robert Snodgrass, injured on the first day of the season, for £8million, and the likes of Jake Livermore, Michael Dawson and Mohamed Diame. It has not worked.

Bruce says: "It's going to go down to the wire like I always said it would but we have still got a chance and we've got to believe we've got that chance.

"First we've got to beat Man United, which is never easy, but there have been some strange results recently so let's hope we can get a result and a favour elsewhere."

It was Newcastle who went down in 2009 when Brown's Hull survived on the last day. "I thought he deserved his moment," Bullard wrote of Brown's singing. "A lot of people might look at it and think, 'What on earth is this lunatic up to?' but Brownie had worked miracles to get the club into the Premier League and keep it there."

Miracles? This season, the really impressive work has taken place elsewhere.

For Newcastle and Hull, all that is left is the battle to escape the consequences of their worst mistakes.

Belfast Telegraph

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