HULL CITY supporters have plenty of things to shout about at the moment – and it’s not exclusively down to their side’s uplifting performances in the first half of the season.
Victories over the likes of Liverpool and Newcastle United have been lapped up by the amber-and-black hordes across East Yorkshire; rightly so. But despite some sunshine results, a looming dark cloud has remained lurking on the immediate horizon.
Namely the omnipresent name-change issue, which has dominated the preliminaries of this afternoon’s televised home clash with Stoke City following the club’s formal application to the FA Council, just as it did in the immediate hours before their last KC Stadium appointment with Liverpool.
Achieve the same on-pitch result and the Hull punters and the likes of midfielder Robert Koren will not be complaining. And not just for the obvious reason.
The importance of every positive result Steve Bruce’s side can manufacture at the KC, where City have seen their colours lowered just once in 2013-14, will be two-fold.
A boost for their survival bid, unquestionably yes, but taking a little bit of the heat out of the vehement stadium protests by irate supporters is something not lost upon the players.
City’s thrilling performance and result against Liverpool on December 1 took some of the sting out of owner Assem Allam’s hugely controversial comments about protesting fans, which served as a pre-game bombshell.
But the mood was decidedly uglier in the previous home game against Crystal Palace when a poor result ensured many sections of fans were preoccupied on other business.
It’s a delicate situation for particularly Hull players and management staff, as midfielder Koren acknowledges.
The former Slovenian captain said: “I just think everyone needs to respect each other. People need to make a decision and they will make a decision (in April).
“At the end of the day, we are players and need to do our jobs on the field and we are just hoping the fans support us and do the right things as they have been doing so far on their side of the field to give us this extra lift and energy. That always matters.
“The fans are doing a great job and we are pleased with that and hopefully, we can play good football. Then it’s easier for everybody.
“Our home form is something we can be really proud of. There was only one game we messed up which was the Crystal Palace home game.
“That’s the game we need to forget and learn from. The home form is brilliant and hopefully we can keep that going and pick up some points away from home because that is really important in this league as well,” he added.
Koren is making up for lost time after missing a considerable chunk of the autumn programme with a foot injury sustained on the opening day of the season at Chelsea.
The 33-year-old actually played on despite the problem for almost a month before X-rays revealed he had suffered a hairline fracture after he complained of discomfort.
The former West Brom player returned to action in the Capital One Cup clash at Spurs at the end of October and after being afforded two different perspectives on City’s fortunes – out on the pitch and in the stands – he feels confident enough to venture that the club are on track.
Koren’s only other top-flight campaign at Albion – he makes his first return to the Hawthorns next Saturday – proved a bitter one with the Black Country outfit finishing the 2008-09 at the bottom of the pile.
Their haul of 32 points confined them to the drop and while their stylish, pleasing on the eye football under one of the game’s avowed purists in Tony Mowbray won plenty of friends, it didn’t win enough points in the final analysis.
Mowbray’s fellow north-easterner Steve Bruce cuts a more pragmatic figure, having made no bones about his target of 10 victories and 38 points for survival in the top-flight for Hull. And don’t expect him to be too fussed as to how he gets them.
Points make prizes and City have already accrued an impressive four of those at an average of two per game at the KC, while keeping the back door shut with only Everton having conceded fewer games on home soil.
For Koren, collective success is everything this term and for a Hull side whose main strength is that as a team they are greater than the sum of their parts, it represents the only realistic route to achieving their aims.
Koren said: “Unfortunately, we didn’t have the luck to stay in the division at the end at West Brom and we got relegated.
“But this is a different story and club and different mentality in the club.
“The team spirit is good and we are looking forward to this challenge and everyone is focused on their jobs.
“The concentration of the individual players here is of a higher standard.
“The manager is doing different things and it’s more about getting the right results.
“Back then at West Brom, it was really focused on concentrating on playing good football. But in the end, that didn’t help us.
“It’s about results and staying in this league and everyone here is focused on their own job and hopefully, we can keep going and get enough points to stay in this league.
“I think we are all really pleased with the way we have played so far and we have got all these points. But this is the Premier League – the best in the world – and we need to be focused and concentrated and not get carried away.
“If you don’t get the results in the next two or three games, you can be at the bottom.
“We need to go game by game. We haven’t achieved anything yet.
“You need to be focused in every game and every game is three points. Sometimes people think you might have a hard game and then you are winning. And then you are expected to win a game and you don’t get the right result.
“You must go step by step and prepare yourself right all week and not get carried away and think too far forward and think we have achieved something.
“Concentration is the main thing for me and on the pitch, do the right things and stay compact. Because you are playing the best teams in the world and can’t give them too much space and we must work really hard as a team.
“We know we are underdogs in this league.”
Putting the name-change issue aside, what is not in contention is that Hull, as a club, have made seismic and remarkable strides since Koren’s early time in the Broad Acres in the autumn of 2010.
The future of the club, anchored by a mountain of debts and haemorrhaging money hand over fist, was in grave doubt, only for Assem Allam to step in and save the Tigers from liquidation and administration.
The stunning upturn on and off the pitch in such a short space of time is up there with the very best footballing transformations and it’s something Koren is glad to be part of and be continually associated with.
He added: “If you go a couple of years back, the club was not in a good level. But with the new owners and manager, everything went the right way.
“Now things are in the right place, we just need to make sure we are doing the right things. This club is moving in the right direction.
“In such a short time, a lot of things have changed and I am really proud I have been a part of this.”