ALL may not be lost for Hull City ahead of what seems sure to be a tense and nervy final day, according to the main protagonists in two of the most dramatic Premier League relegation scraps involving Yorkshire clubs.
Sheffield United and Bradford City suffered contrasting emotions when their own top-flight fate was settled in the very last act of a long season.
Where the Blades went down under Neil Warnock in 2007, Bradford had survived seven years earlier and the one common bond in those two battles was that the team who stayed up had started that final day sitting in the bottom three.
“If anything, what happened to us should give Hull a bit of hope,” says Warnock to The Yorkshire Post ahead of Sunday’s visit of Manchester United to the KC Stadium.
“We were favourites to stay up, everything was in our hands and yet if it could go wrong, it did.”
United had started May 13, 2007, as odds-on to retain their top flight status.
Two places above the drop zone, Warnock’s men boasted a three-point advantage over third-bottom Wigan Athletic.
The Latics were due at Bramall Lane that day but with West Ham, the other side in danger of the drop, at champions Manchester United, there seemed little chance of the Yorkshire side falling.
This, though, is exactly what happened as Wigan triumphed 2-1 and Carlos Tevez – whose transfer to East London had breached Premier League rules – netted the only goal at Old Trafford to send the Blades down on goal difference. The fact just one goal separated United from Wigan only added to the sense of injustice.
“I felt sick at the final whistle,” recalls Warnock, who started this season managing in the top flight with Crystal Palace.
“I knew we didn’t deserve relegation but, as the final whistle went against Wigan, we were down. It was hard to take.
“Nothing went for us, nothing at all. We didn’t approach it any different than if we had needed to win rather than just draw. We wanted to win, end of story.
“There was no playing for a point or anything like that. For most of the game, we battered them. But it just wasn’t to be.
“Hull have to hope the luck is with them on Sunday. Manchester United, as well as they have done to finish in the top four, are not the force they were. It is like a life or death situation.”
Hull head into Sunday’s home clash with the Red Devils knowing that, like Wigan eight years ago, they have to win.
Even then, though, it might not be enough with the Tigers needing West Ham to claim at least a point from their trip to Newcastle.
In that respect, the task facing Steve Bruce’s men has striking similarities with Bradford’s own relegation scrap in 1999-2000 when Liverpool, who needed a win to guarantee Champions League qualification, were the visitors to Valley Parade.
City had slipped into the relegation zone a week earlier courtesy of a dramatic 97th-minute equaliser by John Hartson at home to Aston Villa that lifted Wimbledon above Paul Jewell’s men on goal difference. The Bantams, therefore, had to better how the Dons got on at Southampton.
“The pressure was off us,” remembers David Wetherall, who netted the only goal against Liverpool on a highly-charged afternoon that ended with Wimbledon crashing out of the top flight.
“There was a chance that no matter what we did, it wouldn’t make any difference and we would go down. Things were out of our hands and, in a funny way, Hartson’s goal the previous week may have helped us.
“Like this weekend, the pressure was on the team sitting just above the relegation zone. They knew that one slip and they could go down.
“In our case, Liverpool had a massive prize to play for while no one had expected us to do anything but struggle. That is maybe where Hull have been different, as they spent a few quid and that brings expectation.
“But there is a similarity in that people are saying Manchester United will win, just as they said the same about Liverpool in 2000.”
Wetherall netted with a bullet header on 13 minutes, but with the score at The Dell still goalless, there was always a chance that Bradford’s effort would be in vain.
Just before the hour, though, Wayne Bridge put Southampton in front and Wimbledon were heading out of the Premier League.
“They lost 2-0,” added Wetherall. “It meant, in the end, we would have stayed up with a draw. But I don’t tell that to many people. It is a better goal if it was the one that kept Bradford up.”
Bruce will be hoping one of the Hull squad can follow Wetherall’s example of 15 years ago and earn hero status in the East Riding.
Warnock, whose Palace side lost 2-0 at the KC Stadium in October, said: “Hull can do it, though they will have to be on top of their game to do so.
“If Hull can get an early goal, that puts all the pressure on Newcastle.
“It won’t take long for news to come through at Newcastle that Hull are in front and that can have a big impact.
“There will be pressure all over the place, and how ironic that Sam Allardyce could go back to St James’ Park as manager of West Ham and relegate the club who sacked him.”