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Hull City owners blame Phelan for their failings

Wednesday 4th January 2017

You have to wonder if Ehab Allam and Bob Goodlatte are Facebook friends. The former is the Vice-Chairman for Hull City AFC, the latter a Congressman from Virginia. In case you are uncertain, as I was, the Congressman's name is pronounced more like Sir Alex Ferguson praising one of his players, as in "he's a good lad," (which Bob certainly isn't) than as if you prefer SOHO's caffè latte to Coffee Republic's. If you are a Hull supporter, well, there are several very colourful but unprintable pronunciations for Allam.

The reason I'm curious whether they're acquainted is that Goodlatte is the elected official who led the closed-door midnight raid on the US Office of Congressional Ethics, attempting to neuter the independent political watchdog charged with investigating corruption within the House of Representatives. Allam, of course, picked up the audacity where Goodlatte left off by sacking Hull City manager Mike Phelan for doing the best he could in a hopeless situation.

Phelan began Hull's Premier League campaign with a pair of victories, including their opener against title holders Leicester City. He accomplished that with virtually no support from his front office, who allowed the season to begin with only thirteen senior team players under contract. He'd also guided his team into an EFL Cup semi-final against Manchester United, the away leg coming next Tuesday, 10 January. Rumours circulated the Davids, Copperfield and Blaine, were calling to find out how he'd pulled off the trick. And trick it was, three points in their last nine league matches giving away the illusion.

You can understand ownership prioritising Premiership survival over a cup trophy given the money involved. Yet, if that was their concern, providing funds to bolster the squad in the summer window would have made sense, as would not getting into a row with Steve Bruce, the more experienced manager who earned the side promotion before being painted into the corner of an empty dressing room by Allam. Even though Bob Bradley is now available (!), this move was not about changing the club's direction before it is too late. It was already too late when the father and son Allam tandem, Ehab and Assem, took umbrage with successful supporter opposition to their attempts to rebrand the club Hull City Tigers, letting Bruce and half the squad walk. Now, seven days before their most important match of the football year, this looks like more vindictiveness, even from a neutral perspective.
Within twenty-four hours, the hue and cry from all quarters in the US forced Goodlatte and his Republican rascals to reverse their decision, reinstalling the Office of Congressional Ethics with its independence and power to act fully intact. Although initially ignoring leaders within their own party, as well as the opposition, they were forced to reconsider in the face of outrage in the press and a furious tidal wave on social media from American citizens. President-Elect Donald Trump even condemned the move with a two tweets, although his labelling as "unfair" an organisation charged with outing politicians on the take made his message more about prioritising their looting and pillaging rather than doing the right thing.

There is a similar groundswell of opposition to the Allams' move, although no one is expecting Premier League Chairman Sir Dave Richards or CEO Richard Scudamore to enter the fray. For now, Gary Rowett, the ex-Birmingham boss, seems to be in the frame as most likely successor. With Phelan having been given eighty-five days as official manager, the same amount afforded Bradley at Swansea, perhaps a search for any football-minded descendants of Phileas Fogg is in order. Given the ownership situation, however, desperation would seem to be the most appealing quality in a new hire. With no support from above, the only opportunity on offer at the KCom Stadium is failure. And that's a shame for all English football.
Martin Palazzotto

The former editor of World Football Columns, Martin authored the short story collection strange bOUnce. He appeared in several other blogs which no longer exist. Old, he likes to bring out defunct. If outdated sport and pop-cultural references intrude on his meanderings for It's Round and It's White, don't be alarmed. He's harmless.

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