AS the dust began to settle on Hull City’s relegation last May, the club hierarchy had many big decisions to make.
Not only would the Tigers have to contend with millions of pounds being wiped off the balance sheet, but there was every chance that the summer would bring a long line of suitors trying to lure away Steve Bruce’s better players.
Then there was the future of Bruce to resolve. His devastation at being unable to keep Hull up was painfully clear but he wanted to stay. Crucially, the Allams also saw the 54-year-old as the best man to lead an attempt at bouncing straight back.
With good reason, too, as Bruce knew exactly what would be needed to give Hull any hope of earning an instant return after taking Birmingham City back to the top flight just 12 months on from suffering the despair of relegation. So far, so good on that score this season, as vice-chairman Ehab Allam admits.
“Psychologically, relegation is very hard for a team,” Allam exclusively told The Yorkshire Post ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Milton Keynes Dons. “It is not easy when people are down in the dumps. They need to be motivated into winning again.
“I mentioned the last time I spoke to The Yorkshire Post (in July) my concerns about a relegation and the low win ratio we would carry into the Championship from the Premier League.
“To do anything in the Championship, you need a minimum 60 per cent. On the back of two seasons when our win ratio was around 20 per cent, that is not easy. So, Steve has done an exceptional job in instilling the positivity and strength of mind to push on like we have. And I do think there is more to come.”
Hull will head to stadium:mk sitting second in the table, a standing that compares favourably with how the vast majority of sides adapt to life back in the Football League following time among the elite.
Even among the 11 clubs to have bounced straight back since the turn of the Millennium, only two – West Bromwich Albion in 2009-10 and Birmingham a year earlier – were higher than Hull’s current position at the corresponding stage.
Of course, in this most unpredictable of divisions, Hull’s start is just that – a start. Nevertheless, Allam is pleased with how the club have handled the bodyblow that is relegation.
“Transfer windows are always very, very difficult,” said the Tigers’ vice chairman. “I am not a fan of them at all. I do not like deadline day and all the pressure that comes with it.
“Last summer’s window came on the back of a relegation, so there were financial pressures that came with it. But we did some very good deals out of the club in the summer.
“Other than those sales, we retained most of our players. The core is the same as before, but we freshened things up as well.
“The window was stressful for Steve and stressful for us. It was a difficult time. But, overall, on balance we were happy.”
The proceeds from the summer window did not feature in the club’s latest accounts, published last week and covering the 12 months to June 30 2015, that showed a pre-tax profit of £11.5m.
An annual turnover of £84.09m, fractionally down on 2013-14, was revealed along with a wage bill of £55.6m. The club’s debt, basically monies owed to the Allam family’s holding company, had risen to £77.4m.
This term, of course, income will be down but so are wages thanks to relegation clauses inserted in player contracts that saw salaries fall by 30-50 per cent.
Hull, who competed in the Europa League last term, have recently been told they now comply with UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules after being fined £145,000 last year, while Allam expects the club to “be well within the domestic FFP” rules that all Football League clubs must adhere to.
The Tigers remain up for sale but, as any half-decent football analyst would attest, this is rarely a time of year when deals are done. The focus, therefore, remains solely on getting the club back into the Premier League.
Hull’s owners may not be at any games physically this season after deciding on the eve of the season to stay away, but they do gather as a family to watch every match on the live feed that all chairmen in the Championship are allowed to receive as part of the League’s TV deal.
“It wasn’t that difficult,” said Allam when asked about the thought process behind the decision. “We felt the same way as a family. It (staying away) helped the squad as well.
“I don’t think they particularly enjoy the negative connotation of what was going on before with fans. I do think it helps. And I still watch every game. We all meet up together to watch every game so we don’t feel to be missing out, and it has been good to see our performances.
“There have been a couple of weak ones but, overall, the players have done well. They have been strong, both mentally and physically, and things are looking positive for the club.”