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Same old faults - it's crunch time for Cairney

Sunday 7th August 2011
Welcome to opening day.

The Stella has gone up in my pre-match warm-up venue but at £2.75 is still 45p a pint cheaper than at my local three miles down the road.

Hull City have got a few new signings, although some of them were here on loan at the end of last season.

Little else has changed. No disrespect to Blackpool but we still lose at home against teams we should be able to beat, we still lack pace

and drive in the centre of midfield, we still miss great chances to put the game beyond reach.

And there is still that tedious bloke a few seats along from me who prattles on for the entire 90 minutes-plus and makes you think you won a night out with Clive Sodding Tyldesley (would have been stronger but as a new poster I've had a quick look at the site and noticed profanity doesn't seem to be part of it).

He was only warming up last night but there were a few old favourites:

“We need to get Barmby on.”

We don't. We've only been playing 35 minutes and it's 0-0. “Come on Cairney – you've got the skill.”

Maybe he has, but he also has all the urgency and mobility of an armchair.

“Not enough quality in the final third.”

Oh not that one again. STFU.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not one of those who expected City to bounce straight back after relegation from the Premier League. Without the takeover last season I suspect we'd have gone down with the Scunny.

And I can certainly see that the team and the club are in much better shape than a year ago. Good enough to stay up but probably not strong enough to mount a serious challenge for promotion, solid enough to avoid financial meltdown unless the new owner spits his dummy out in a row with the local council that's lasting longer than our ropey home record.

But any fan would be disappointed to see their team display the faults of the previous season at the start of a new campaign. Chief among

these is the paper thin midfield. It's always rash to draw conclusions after one competitive game, and it's maybe unfair to single out individual players for criticism, but if you don't do stuff like that you don't have a blog until October, so here goes.

Robert Koren drifts in and out of games instead of getting to grips in the way that befits a player of his ability and experience. New

recruit Paul McKenna let the game pass him by at times, but that's always likely to happen when your midfield partner isn't pulling his weight. So stand up Tom Cairney. Ludicrously tipped by some for a big money move to Everton a couple of seasons ago, Cairney can now only claim to be a rookie in the sense that he always looks like the empty-headed teenager who missed the bus and arrived at school late to find he's forgotten his homework.

He was with Leeds as a kid and his play has all the hallmarks of someone who watched their legendary team of the 70s spraying

pinpoint passes around the pitch and became determined to copy them, without for a second recognising the effort and determination behind such performances. While Liam Rosenior plans a throw-in, looking for someone to make a run, Cairney stands still. When Robbie Brady tries to work an exchange of passes to set up a break down the right or left, Cairney stands still. When Jack Hobbs didn't quite get enough on a defensive header, handing the Blackpool midfield the possession that led directly to the winning goal, Cairney stood still.

So many of Cairney's strolling midfield passes go sideways or backwards that you begin to think he's having a trial for the rugby league

team who share City's stadium. Yet on other occasions he showed what he can do – first with a sumptuous free kick that hit the frame of the goal and then – astonishingly – with a dribble through the Blackpool defence that was reminiscent of Gazza in his prime.

It's not all Cairney's fault. He wouldn't be on the pitch without Jimmy Bullard's £45,000 a week absence through injury and ill-discipline. He'd struggle to make the condensed five-man bench if £35,000 a week Seyi Olifinjana were available. But there is a view that Cairney was fortunate to be selected ahead of Corry Evans, and surely such circumstances make it even more important for him to take his chance while it's there. If Nigel Pearson can offload even one of the big earners he may have the resources to bring in the midfield dynamo the team so desperately needs – with loan places still to be filled he may already have plans in that area.

And that could signal the departure on loan, down the divisions, of Cairney along with the other promising youngsters who failed to

deliver – Mark Cullen (to Bury) and Liam Cooper (Huddersfield). A bright and buzzing midfield will ease the pressure on a defence that was too often over-worked and will also provide support for strikers who became too easily isolated. I have faith in Pearson to sort it.

Then I'll just need someone to sort the wannabee commentator three seats way.

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