12. Nov, 2021

Four principles which new owners could rebuild the club with...

Rich Gardham’s tweets are the reason I’m writing this.

Amongst the posts of Turkish Flags, rap performances by our (hopefully) new owner, and some mad bloke trying the most revisionist history take ever on the legacy of the Allams, his was the best input.

Rich basically ran through a whole list of things that would quickly grow goodwill and appease a fractured fan base. Nearly all of which I agree with and even the odd quibble I may have (readers of this blog will know how stale I feel the Humberside coverage has been for years) is tempered by the fact that common sense was being applied and many, many others would agree with what he said.

Some of these things could be almost instantly done like unbanning Baz Cooper for example or retaining the excellent backroom staff we have at City but Rich’s article (there were so many tweets that it qualifies as one) got me thinking about the long-term strategy that could breathe life back into our club and permanently improve the clubs standing and fortunes going forward. Essentially four principles that can make that happen…so here it is…

Develop the area around the ground and thus enhance the match day experience for everyone.

I had a bit of a ding dong on Twitter this week with a Birmingham fan who described Hull as the worst place to go in the league. Now I stick with what I said then, which is that Hull is both friendly and has real assets as a City, although perfect it isn’t. But whilst the area around the ground is so utterly tatty it makes opinions like this inevitable. The walk from the Clarendon to the MKM, once you are past the hospital is a collection of litter, waste ground and well…more litter. The council must take some of this on the chin too as they would stand to gain so much by developing this area but it’s been a huge miss. Anyone who went to Manchester City for the Phil Brown finger waggle game and then returned years later will see what happens when you invest in the area around the stadium. I know our potential owners don’t have that level of cash but a lot can be done without necessarily deep pockets. I’d draw any City fans attention to the Reading away game coming up next month. Reading is a very unremarkable southern town (this is definitely an area of experience for me) and the atmosphere there is similar to the deli counter at Waitrose, however with a ground of similar size to us, the owners have cleverly surrounded the outside with pop up bars, pop up food outlets (and nice ones too), they’ve put up big outdoor tv’s so you can watch the early game, there’s loads of kids events going on, last time there was live music too. They know that it’s a pain going into Reading so they are making good money before and after by filling outdoor space with facilities the fans want, which is very much like the American model where fans meet and eat in the car parks before games. This would be a quick set of wins, where local bars or eateries could step in, and City could extend the efforts they’ve made in the last couple of years to get people down to the ground earlier. The rest can come in time.

Engage properly with fans, schools and the community.

Tigers Trust does a great job, they really do and they’ve bought a lot of goodwill. In a tweet this week they showed Jacob Greaves and KLP going to a girl’s football competition and taking pictures and supporting the teams. Not many players at this level would so happily do this, they are a massive credit to the club.  Our current team aren’t ripping up trees currently but they do have some outstanding young men in there. As well as these two Lewie Coyle and Brandon Fleming are two locally born lads who also are absolutely the epitome of what you want your players to be off the field. Then we have big characters like Tom Eaves and Josh Magennis who are a dream for positive PR and again have shown a desire to get out and be approachable within the community. In Tom Huddlestone we have one of the most beloved players of the last 20 years who again will happily give up his time. This need expanding and exploring more.

I read an interview with Danny Cowley some time ago talking about when he first went to Lincoln and how when him and his brother first lived there, the whole town was full of Man United and Liverpool shirts and they were getting 2000 on a Saturday. So, they hatched a plan with the chairman to visit every Primary and Secondary school within 10 miles of the ground in the next year. They made a rota and they along with the players went into assemblies, gave away shirts and tickets, took football session and met all the kids. All the staff were involved. Within two years they were back in the football league and attendance average was up over 300%. What a model for success. Something roughly like this would be immense. The major difference is that we have even more potential and a catchment ripe for being galvanized.

It goes without saying that sitting down with fans, having open forums, speaking to the Trust and many other supporters’ groups, and in some case individuals (Les needs to design at least one kit next season!) is the most obvious area for improvement. Just speaking in general, whether it’s on the club website, the media or in meetings will appease a fanbase that’s been starved of communication from the club for a decade. This has been well explored by others but it’s such a basic element that has been missing and fans don’t expect instant success, they do however like any stakeholder want to feel “part of” something and understand what the bigger picture is.

Get the best out of what we already have

In my last blog I mentioned how utterly insular and unintentionally comical Newcastle fans are. They think somehow that coming 12th in the Premier League was the hardest of times and suffering. Now whilst other element of their club weren’t ran well (see the last heading) they really didn’t evoke much sympathy from other fans that know what real suffering is.

In a similar way we do have a lot of things that we need to retain and develop and not throw away because they really aren’t so bad. The ground with a little bit of work can really upgrade and is capable of hosting top flight football, the academy as Rich said is very good and has constantly churned out great players now for a decade and there are lots of hard-working good people on our staff. Chair of the supporter’s trust Graham Cannon has twice tweeted this in the last few weeks and retaining the people that have done an almost impossible job very well is vital.

The other thing that may be a little more left field is the playing staff. I’ve had lots of discussion with Self appointed experts © telling me how poor they are. However, I think that there’s several players that if used more effectively are significantly better than they are perceived. I think we have four centre backs in Greaves, Bernard, McCloughlin and Jones who are good enough (especially if they were in a three) but perhaps they need an older head amongst them. I think Keane Lewis Potter will play in the Premier League at some point and that we have an array of players that either because of injury, or formation or lack of chances are better than we’ve seen from them this season, like Matt Smith, Randell Williams, Tom Eaves, Tyler Smith and Ryan Longman. There’re also solid lads who can cut it like Callum Elder, Josh Emmanuel and Greg Docherty. I look back the Peter Taylor team that came up fifteen years ago and stayed up, this squad really isn’t so different in my opinion. The key is getting the best out of them and adding sensibly in January with maybe a bit of experience to the group.

Reach out to lapsed fans virtually and literally

There’re a few folks on Twitter who have already started moonwalking on their “I’m not going back whilst the Allams are here” stance. This had been predicted by several fans already and shouldn’t be a shock. All you have to do is say some gubbins or other about falling out of love with it all and having new interests and bingo…. Instant excuses.  

However, there’s lots of fans that will come back, given the encouragement and progress that’s mentioned in the blog. For others though I still think that a personal touch is needed. Writing to lapsed members, e-mailing, inviting them to games with an offer and actually speaking to them. (again, Rich suggested ringing up fans which I think would pay dividends) I’m with some of the more outspoken on Twitter who are calling out “fans” who are already warming up for not returning with a series of lame excuses, it’s not a boycott if you don’t come back when they go and there’s hope, it’s just you not wanting to go any more.

However, the club hold all the aces here. They have the staff, they have the new start hopefully and they control the direction. They need to be bullish and go back after the ten thousand or so that walked away. Going back to Newcastle, the new owners (dodgy head chopping politics aside) have quickly mended bridges, they are doing a sustained advertising and goodwill campaign and are getting in fans with offers, trying to break the record attendance on Saturday. This really is a model to follow, social media, billboards, radio and tv, newspaper coverage etc. The amount of Daily Mails sold Friday won’t have skyrocketed for nothing. This club needs the media like the media needs them and using them to reach out to former fans and new ones will be vital.

Ok, well, I’m off to pray that this isn’t going to go horribly wrong at the end and that all of the above can happen. UTT and thanks for reading.