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We are still moving forward, insists Hull boss Duffen

IF Paul Duffen ever doubted that a life spent running a football club was more akin to living in a goldfish bowl, the past few days have reinforced the point.

The sale of Michael Turner to Sunderland together with Hull City's failure in the eyes of many supporters to bring in the signings capable of preserving Premier League status have put the Tigers chairman under intense scrutiny.

Where before his every utterance would be lapped up by supporters grateful to finally be sitting at the top table of English football, now questions are being openly asked as to just what direction Hull are heading under his charge.

What sort of message, the dissenters ask, does selling our best players send out? Is a lack of ambition behind just one loan signing being made on deadline day? And just what Machiavellian plot is behind the club not filing accounts for each of the last two financial years?

Duffen, for his part, does not look like a man about to buckle under the weight of pressure that is fan expectation as he welcomes the Yorkshire Post into his office in the bowels of the

KC Stadium.

The 50-year-old is, it turns out, more than happy to discuss the concerns of supporters, not least the – unfounded, as it turns out – gossip that has been doing the rounds in Hull about a company linked to vice chairman, and majority shareholder, Russell Bartlett having recently been wound up in Guernsey.

He said: "The firm referred to in Guernsey is not one of his businesses. It has a similar name to one of the property partnerships (Fortis Property Investment LLP) he has a concern in. But it has nothing to do with Russell. Nothing at all."

With that matter cleared up, Duffen quickly moves on to why the club's accounts are yet to be filed.

"It is a technical point related to auditing standards having changed with new requirements being brought in and we are in negotiations with our auditors over a way round it, as are a lot of football clubs.

"If it was a normal company, say a tyre repair firm, that had put its accounts in a bit late then no one would care. But because it is football it is news.

"Basically, we are hoping to resolve it as soon as possible and have the accounts signed off. We are in breach of Companies House regulations but it is not a 'crime', as I have seen it described over the summer."

Duffen, a former chief executive of Catalyst Media Group, arrived in Hull as the figurehead of an Essex-based consortium that bought the club from Adam Pearson in 2007.

Progress since then has been rapid with the substantial investment on the playing side that brought in Hull 's first 1m signing Caleb Folan, loanee Fraizer Campbell and a host of high-earners such as Jay-Jay Okocha and Henrik Pedersen being rewarded with promotion to the top flight less than 12 months later.

Survival among the elite followed last May and there can be little doubt that the 12m it cost to buy the Tigers has proved to be a wise investment.

Not, as Duffen is keen to point out, that this means the board are looking to sell. Far from it, in fact.

He said: "It has been fantastic. When you come into a business at first, you want to be successful and run it well. That commitment to keep improving remains.

"Russell and I both have the club's best interests at heart. I think that has been manifested many times over. We consider this a great privilege and long may it continue."

Mention of Bartlett brings us neatly on to the new Premier League rule, brought in following pressure from then culture secretary Andy Burnham, that stipulates all shareholders with a holding of 10 per cent or more must, as of last Tuesday, have declared their interest publicly for the first time.

The property millionaire is, as a result, listed as Hull's majority shareholder and Duffen said: "It has never been a secret as Russell has always been my partner in the club.

"The way the shares are held, he is the majority shareholder. Martin (Walker, who was believed at the time to be a member of the consortium who bought Hull in 2007) was never a shareholder.

"Nothing has changed regarding the ownership of the club. All that has changed is the Premier League now has a requirement that every club must declare who has an interest."

The challenge now facing the board is to keep pushing the Tigers forward and cement their place among the elite, one that Duffen is more than ready to accept.

The Hull chairman said: "People forget that clubs who have been in the Premier League have had a half a billion pounds start on us in terms of revenue they have received from television.

"That is a lot of ground to make up but we have made a start by staying in the division last season.

"Now, the challenge is to keep evolving and keep taking the club forward, which is why I was so excited by the work we did in the transfer window.

"Every single player we signed came in to be part of the first team and with a certain James Richard Bullard also due back from injury in the next three to four weeks, I would feel confident arguing with anyone about this team being the best Hull City has ever had."

 
 
 

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