NEVER have the stakes been so high in terms of remaining in the Premier League with oodles more cash on the way next year following the announcement of another record-breaking TV deal.
Perfect timing, therefore, for Hull City finally to shake off the unwanted mantle of having the worst home record in the top flight.
Nikica Jelavic and Dame N’Doye – the latter on his full debut – got the all-important goals to settle a dour contest and move the Tigers out of the relegation zone and up to 15th place.
With QPR, the next visitors to the KC Stadium a week on Saturday, also winning at Sunderland, Hull’s return to form on home soil was as welcome as the announcement earlier in the day about the new TV deal had been to football club accountants up and down the land. Sky and BT Sport, to maintain their stranglehold on top flight football, have agreed to pay £5.14bn over three years from 2016 for domestic coverage.
It will represent a rise of more than £2bn on the existing deal, which last season helped guarantee even bottom club Cardiff City a jaw-dropping £62m in broadcast fees.
Throw in the lucrative overseas market and when the new deal kicks in any team finishing where Cardiff did last term will surely head back to the Championship having trousered £100m, along with the promise of generous future parachute payments.
Whether the two broadcasters will get value for money – every game shown live will, under the terms of the new domestic deal, be worth around £10m in revenue – is a moot point, especially if there are many as poor as last night’s at the KC Stadium.
What is surely not in doubt after last night, however, is that Hull got value for money when signing N’Doye on deadline day.
Bought for £3m – or, as it will be from 2016, a little under half an hour of Premier League football – from Lokomotiv Moscow, the Senegal international was behind the precious few moments of quality that were on show.
His second-half strike was also a true predator’s finish, underlining why Steve Bruce was willing to fly to Paris on deadline day to get his man.
Considering the wretched records with which the two sides went into last night’s game – Hull had lost six of their last seven at home, while Villa had last scored on the road almost seven playing hours earlier – it was never going to be a classic.
So it proved, as poor execution and bad decision-making dominated in an opening 45 minutes that contained just one moment of true quality.
It came via N’Doye, who showed tremendous control to bring down a long punt forward by goalkeeper Allan McGregor midway through the half before then playing a delightful pass to release Jelavic.
The Croat had just one thought in mind, a thunderous shot, and he duly unleashed an effort that took a wicked deflection off Ciaran Clark before looping over a stranded Bradley Guzan and into the net.
On the balance of play if not possession, Hull just about merited their lead at the break after also creating the only other decent opening – a powerful run by Ahmed Elmohamady that ended with the Egyptian’s cross being headed wide by the impressive N’Doye.
Even so, there was no hiding the glaring lack of quality in an opening 45 minutes that saw both teams far too engrossed in trying to unsettle each other with the odd nudge here and a theatrical fall to the ground there.
The second half started in a similar vein, with needless fouls and even more needless mistakes abounding.
Typical was the 56th minute break by Hull that saw Jelavic ignore the unmarked Jake Livermore to his right and N’Doye to the left before being fouled by Clark. Robbie Brady then fired a tame free-kick straight into the wall.
Matters did improve marginally in the final half-hour as Brady fired into the side-netting before any hopes of a Villa fightback were extinguished 16 minutes from time.
Elmohamady’s cross was flicked goalwards by Gaston Ramirez towards N’Doye. The full debutant then fired a first-time shot that Guzan did well to block before the Hull man pounced to smash in the rebound and ensure it is now Leicester, with just 10 points at the King Power, who hold the unwanted mantle of the worst home record in the Premier League.
Hull City: McGregor; Bruce, Dawson, McShane; Elmohamady, Huddlestone, Livermore (Quinn 90), Meyler, Brady; Jelavic (Ramirez 66), N’Doye (Hernandez 87). Unused Substitutes: Harper, Davies, Hernandez, Aluko, Robertson.
Aston Villa: Guzan; Hutton, Okore, Clark, Cissokho; Westwood, Delph, Gil, Sinclair (Cole 59), Agbonlahor; Weimann (Benteke 46). Unused Substitutes: Given, Vlaar, Bacuna, Cleverley, Sanchez.
Referee: M Oliver (Northumberland).