Sunday, 21 March 2010

Hull's Desperate Act Destined To Doom Troubled Tigers

If ever confirmation were needed that Hull's hasty managerial change was a recognition of their impending relegation, it arrived during Saturday's edition of erstwhile highlights programme, Match of the Day. Iain Dowie's first appearance of the season as a post-match interviewee was accompanied by the highly-revealing label of 'Football Management Consultant', which to the mind of your wondering blogger was setting a precedent in its use.

Is this to mean that the humble and occasionally heroic 'Caretaker Manager' is no more? I very much doubt that, and would be disappointed if such a situation came to pass. Rather, the classification of Dowie as a 'Football Management Consultant' seems, to me at least, to indicate an exercise in damage limitation and, without question, costcutting. Put simply, Iain Dowie's task is not that of Avram Grant, who will be inspiring his noble and wronged warriors to a series of mighty yet futile triumphs in order to show football's colossal audience that Portsmouth are more than a laughing stock; it is to ease Hull back into Championship life with as little gut-wrenching upheaval as possible.

Dowie should by now be acutely aware of how to work to a strict budget, having helmed Oldham, QPR and Coventry City in a management career that has rarely approached anything resembling glamour. As such, he could well be a useful cog in the refinancing machine that will be kicking in over the close season - chairman Adam Pearson this week suggested that the wage bill will have to be halved (as a first measure) in the event of relegation. Salary considerations have been, I would suggest, uppermost in the thought process of the Hull board when implementing the change in management; with Hull's higher earners likely to be moved on once the drop is concerned, the presence of Dowie, who has spent much of his recent career in the Championship (as well as being part of the management team at Newcastle at the end of last season when the Magpies suffered a similar situation to that now facing Hull), ought to help convince those whose wages are a more significant drain on the salary budget that they would be best served elsewhere.

Furthermore, I would suggest that we may interpret Dowie's stated aim of a more aesthetically pleasing brand of football as being part of the transition to life in a lesser tier. The eight games that remain for Hull will pass in much less time than it takes to bring football both attractive and effective to the KC Stadium. Roberto Martinez's bewilderingly inconsistent Wigan are a fine example of the trials that must be faced in pursuit of such a brand of play, while Bolton's Owen Coyle has recently admitted that results must precede - for now at least - the pleasing passing style that his previous teams have demonstrated. Intricate and vibrant passages of football will help to secure buyers for Hull's more technically gifted players (the likes of Geovanni, Jimmy Bullard and Stephen Hunt), who are unlikely to relish the hectic nature of Championship football having become accustomed to life at the top table, where guile and flamboyance are richly rewarded.

Iain Dowie, then, appears to have been charged with a sinking ship whereby the assets must be safely stowed in the lifeboats without too many being severely damaged. It must be particularly frustrating to have as one's remit a planned decline, and one would perhaps feel sorrier for him if his work was recognised with a permanent contract than if the opposite were the case, as he would have to suffer working with a team whose best players he had previously shepherded to better homes. While it could be a sensible choice for the club's board (the alternative being further disruption and confusion), such decisions are not perhaps to be expected, given that this is a club who are currently paying two managers for work that neither is really carrying out.

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