AS the 1,464 Hull City fans filed out of what is surely the most exposed stadium in the Premier League following yet another disappointing away day, a by now familiar refrain filled the Potteries air.
“Marco Silva, we’ve got Marco Silva,” sang the visitors from East Yorkshire to the tune of Glad All Over by the Dave Clark Five.
Considering the Portuguese’s side had just slumped to a fifth straight away defeat under his charge, the vocal support from behind the goal spoke volumes.
Silva has re-energised a club that was failing badly. He has also managed to bring harmony where there was previously only discord, reconnecting a bond between supporters and the Tigers that had gone so awry it seemed wounds would never heal.
Of course, there is a still a chasm between the Hull hierarchy and their support base. But, for now, all energies are being channelled in one direction and credit for that must go to Silva.
Tom Huddlestone, in his fourth season at the East Riding club, is well placed to assess the difference wrought by the club’s 39-year-old head coach.
Equally, we want to do it for the fans because the last few months they have stuck with us, home and away.Hull City’s Tom Huddlestone
“We have the belief that we will stay up,” he said. “We started the season well, but then, after those first few games up until the manager came in, there probably wasn’t that belief – especially from the fans.
“But the manager reinstalled that belief. He has also reconnected the fans with the club and the players.
“We want to do it (stay up), first and foremost, for ourselves to justify our Premier League status. But, equally, for the fans because the last few months they have stuck with us, home and away. We need to do it for them.”
Stoke’s home, built 20 years ago, is often referred to as “the chilly house on the hill” by the locals. A lack of foresight by the designers and a degree of cost-cutting in the £14m project means the two open corners at either end of the main stand create a wind tunnel effect in autumn, winter and Spring that truly chills the bones.
This was very much in evidence on Saturday as Hull made their second visit of the season. The immaculate pitch may have been bathed in sunshine throughout the afternoon, but winter coats and gloves were very much the order of the day.
Thankfully for those among the 27,505 crowd who spent the 90 minutes shivering in the shade, this tale of two Citys was one to take minds off the cold.
Neither side put much store by defending, meaning chance upon chance was created at either end.
Stoke had most of these in an opening quarter that yielded both the opening goal for Marko Arnautovic and a spell of pressure so sustained that the Tigers seemed in danger of being swept away in a similar manner to how discarded coffee cups and pie wrappers were being picked up by the wind blowing through the main stand.
But, after that, both teams posed sufficient danger to the other’s creaking backline that much of today for Silva and Stoke boss Mark Hughes will surely be spent working on defensive drills.
Stoke triumphed because they were more clinical in front of goal than the visitors. Oumar Niasse, for instance, spurned two opportunities that seemed easier to score than miss, while even Hull’s 51st-minute equaliser from Harry Maguire came after fellow defender Andrea Ranocchia had been unable to convert an inviting cross from Sam Clucas.
The Potters were also guilty of some poor finishing, but, crucially, in Peter Crouch and Xherdan Shaqiri they had two players capable of delivering when it mattered most.
Crouch’s big moment came midway through the second half, the former England striker guiding a pinpoint cross from Jonathan Walter beyond Eldin Jakupovic.
Shaqiri’s clincher was even more impressive, the Swiss international firing in from 25 yards after being afforded far too much space by a Tigers backline that will have to tighten up.
“It is what we do that matters,” added Huddlestone. “We need to get to 39 or 40 points as soon as possible. We have five games to do that.”
The first steps towards that target can be taken next weekend when Watford visit a KCOM Stadium that, no doubt, will be reverberating to the fans’ new ditty of choice.
“Say that you love me, all of the time, say that you need me, you’ll always be mine,” is the original verse that the reworked song retains.
Hull fans must hope that final line proves prophetic, as surely the only chance of Silva, on the radar of several top-flight clubs following his rescue act in the East Riding, remaining at the helm next season is if relegation is avoided.
Stoke City: Grant; Shawcross, Martins Indi, Muniesa; Johnson, Cameron, Adam (Walters 59), Pieters; Shaqiri (Diouf 87), Berahino (Crouch 59), Arnautovic. Unused substitutes: Butland, Bardsley, Imbula, Ramadan.
Hull City: Jakupovic; Maguire, Ranocchia, Dawson, Robertson; Grosicki, Clucas, Huddlestone (Hernandez 70), N’Diaye; Markovic (Elmohamady 86); Niasse (Mbokani 86). Unused substitutes: Marshall, Maloney, Henriksen, Evandro.
Referee: S Attwell (Warwicks).