Hull City come up against Bristol City tomorrow in a repeat of the Tigers' greatest day, when they won promotion at Wembley to the Premier League. Richard Sutcliffe reports.
LONG-SERVING defender Andy Dawson believes the successful takeover of Hull City by Assem and Ehab Allam can help kick-start a challenge for promotion in the second half of the season.
The two East Riding-based businessmen formally completed the deal to buy out former owner Russell Bartlett yesterday afternoon after five weeks of due diligence.
It had been hoped agreement would be reached earlier but potential financial risks identified during a thorough examination of the club's parlous finances caused the delay and a subsequent renegotiation of the terms that had originally included Bartlett retaining a 20 per cent shareholding.
The upshot of those talks is that the Allams are now in full control of the Tigers, who will kick-off a new era in their history tomorrow with a home game against Bristol City – the side they beat at Wembley in the 2008 play-off final to earn a place in the Premier League.
Dawson, City's second longest-serving player behind club captain Ian Ashbee, said: "The takeover has to be a good thing for the club. There was a lot of change here in the summer with a lot of players leaving and the new manager coming in.
"Results weren't ideal early on but we are on a nice, little run at the moment so it is important we keep it going. The takeover could give us that extra boost and it would be nice to mark the news with a win.
"The Championship is such a tight league that no-one can be written off this season. We showed in the year we went up how quickly things can change if you go on a good run and it is worth remembering that at this stage (in 2007-08) we were only four points better off than we are now."
The successful completion of the Allams' buy-out of Bartlett's shareholding, which sources suggest was for a token 1, means City's outstanding tax bill of 833,000 can now be paid. Only a promise from the new owners last month to settle the debt prevented the club being served with a winding-up order.
A number of other repayments that have become overdue during the protracted talks between the Allams, whose personal wealth is believed to be around 185m, and Bartlett will also be paid now the deal has been completed.
Looking ahead, the Allams plan to pay off the club's existing debt of around 21m at the rate of 600,000 per month while manager Nigel Pearson is expected to be handed money in the January transfer window.
The size of this transfer kitty could, however, be dictated by the extra liabilities that are believed to have been uncovered during the due diligence process.
Nevertheless, the completion of the takeover by the father and son team who run Melton-based Allam Marine has been warmly welcomed by fans who had been growing uneasy at the delay.
It means the Allams are likely to be given a warn welcome ahead of tomorrow's home game against Bristol City.
That the new owners' first game is against the team the Tigers beat at Wembley to reach the Premier League is an irony lost on no-one in the East Riding, especially as Dean Windass's winner was immediately dubbed 'the 60m goal' due to the apparent riches that were due to come the Yorkshire club's way in the top flight.
Such a windfall should have been enough to safeguard Hull's future for years to come but, instead, reckless spending saw debts soar to around 30m.
Dawson, who signed for City in 2003, said: "It is quite scary that the Wembley game was so long ago as, in many ways, it feels like only yesterday. I remember us being full of confidence as we walked out and that no-one looked nervous, despite us all appreciating just what was at stake.
"Dean Windass getting the winner was something you just couldn't have scripted, it is funny how football can be like that at times. It was a superb goal and one worthy of winning any game, never mind a play-off final.
"Being part of the team that got Hull City in the Premier League for the first time is something I will never forget. It was a dream come true for the club, as was how we started in the first three or four months of the following season.
"I remember playing Chelsea at home towards the end of October and they were second, while Hull were third. It is difficult to believe when looking back now but we had won at Arsenal and Tottenham so were up there on merit."