‘TIGERS looking to create history,’ was the headline on Hull City’s official website earlier this week.
The story in question concerned Leicester City being the opening day visitors to the KCOM Stadium and how no reigning champions had ever lost the first game of their title defence.
To the more cynical among us, however, the initial thought was that the headline related to what, with just 24 hours to go until the big kick-off, is threatening to be the worst Premier League season by a club in history.
Certainly, as it stands right now, Hull are in danger of aping the basket cases that were Derby County in 2007-08 and Aston Villa last season.
A shambolic close season that saw manager Steve Bruce quit three weeks ago today has also brought a total lack of new signings bar rookie Wimbledon goalkeeper Will Mannion.
Mike Phelan, in desperately trying circumstances, deserves the utmost credit for keeping things together to the extent he has, but there can be no escaping just what a wretched state the East Riding club find themselves in with hope having long since given way to fear in the minds of supporters as to just what lies ahead.
Hull have just 13 fit senior players, two of which are the club’s second- and third-choice goalkeepers, and tomorrow will all be about fitting square pegs in round holes simply to get a team out.
Jake Livermore, a midfielder for his nine seasons as a senior professional, is likely to have to fill in at centre-half, while Adama Diomande, with just three Championship starts to his name last term, will start up front. Ahmed Elmohamady will also be pressed into action in a conventional right-back role that has seen the Egyptian exposed at the top level in the past.
A bench comprising Shaun Maloney, third-choice goalkeeper Dusan Kuciak and five members of the club’s Under-21 squad, who have a combined tally of zero league appearances, hardly smacks of one capable of turning a game.
And if all that was not bad enough, tomorrow’s opening day will also be played out to the backdrop of more supporter unrest.
Can things get any worse? Well, yes. Derby’s solitary victory and 11 points in 2007-08 proves that much, as does the high farce surrounding Villa last season that twice peaked via Joleon Lescott as the defender, first, tweeted a photo of a £121,000 sports car minutes after a 6-0 home loss and then later described relegation as “a weight off the shoulders” for the squad.
A repeat of such indiscretions by anyone in the Tigers’ squad seems unlikely. For a start, they are an honest bunch and certainly not above poking fun at themselves and the predicament facing the club, as Curtis Davies, with tongue firmly in cheek, revealed just last week when he tweeted from Austria a photograph of nine players under the tagline, ‘Hull City Squad – 2016-17’.
What no one wants, of course, is for the country to spend the next nine months laughing at Hull. But, right now, the Tigers bear all the signs of a club heading in only one direction and that is down.
Of course, all cannot be lost when not so much as one football has been kicked in anger. Clarity over the manager beyond tomorrow would be a big help, as would some much-needed quality recruitment.
But, as Hull prepare to host the champions, an unwanted slice of history may well be beckoning.