Grant McCann hails team effort behind champions Hull City’s success

The contrast between the way Hull City‘s 2019/20 campaign concluded and their finish to the current season could not be any more stark.

Let us spray: Hull City forward Mallik Wilks, above right, sprays his team-mates with champagne after helping the Tigers to the League 1 title. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Out of the ashes of a traumatic relegation from the Championship has risen a history-making, title-winning team, of which the Tigers’ long-disillusioned fan-base can be truly proud.

Having lost 16 and won just once in 20 matches at the back end of last term, Grant McCann’s team have emerged triumphant from 11 of their previous 14 to wrap up the League One crown with a game to spare.

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Their achievement in delivering a first championship in 55 years is every bit as impressive as last season’s implosion was spectacularly horrific.

Remarkable year: From an abject relegation to the League 1 title for delighted Hull City manager Grant McCann. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

The same man has overseen City’s fall and rise, bravely shouldering full responsibility for the disaster that went before while modestly playing down his own role in an instant bounce-back that very few would have predicted nine months ago.

But, McCann has delivered in the end, albeit having learnt the hard way – as he openly admitted afterwards.

“I’ve grown and learnt a lot as a manager this season,” the Northern Irishman said.

“You always learn from upsets and you have to learn from upsets, if you don’t then you’re in trouble.

Jumping Josh: Josh Magennis, heads home the Tigers’ third goal in the title-clinching victory over Wigan Athletic. Pictures: Jonathan Gawthorpe

“What happened last year, I take full responsibility for that, we simply weren’t good enough.

“But, for us to have such a short space of time for us to try and turn it around, to try and turn a sinking ship into one that’s going to float to the top of the ocean, to try and bring those good characters into the football club with the ones we already have and bring all the Hull boys through, it’s been a real team effort from everyone, the togetherness has shone through at the end.

“It’s never about me, honestly, this season was a real collective effort. The hard work that’s come from everyone has just been incredible and intense.

“I’m very, very proud.”

City certainly haven’t had things all their own way. They made an excellent start to life back in the third tier, but they’ve been through a number of sticky patches.

Indeed, a period that saw them claim only two victories in nine attempts between late January and the end of February left them looking like outsiders for automatic promotion, nevermind top-spot.

Yet, a team that went down with a whimper last year has gone on to show a tremendous amount of character and fight when it really mattered.

“We’ve had to take the rough with the smooth. There have been bumps in the road on the way. We have had to react to difficult defeats, particularly at home, some of those 1-0 defeats we’ve had and take hits that come with it,” McCann added.

“But this group has shown real determination, fight and character just to respond.

“And I think every single one of them needs to enjoy this because it doesn’t come along very often, winning a league.

“There are 23 other teams in this division who would give their left arm for that and we’ve just done that today.

“It’s 55 years since this club last won a title and these boys have written themselves into the history books and I couldn’t be any more proud of them.”

The win which clinched that first league championship since 1966 came at the KCOM Stadium on Saturday as Wigan Athletic were dispatched.

City took the lead when on 17 minutes Lewie Coyle hung up a cross from close to the right-hand byline for Keane Lewis-Potter to nod home at the far post despite the best efforts of Jamie Jones in the visitors’ goal.

The Latics hit back within 60 seconds through Joe Dodoo’s close-range strike, though Mallik Wilks’ clever backheel teed up George Honeyman to restore the home advantage with a drilled finish on 22 minutes.

Athletic had been very much in the contest until this point, though conceding for a second time seemed to knock the stuffing out of them.

And City went on to wrap up the points in the 66th-minute, Josh Magennis nodding in after Wilks headed Regan Slater’s right-wing cross back across goal.

“We were poor for 20-25 minutes, there’s no getting away from that, even though we went 1-0 up. But after that I thought we were in total control. We went on and could have had more really. I think that second half we were really dominant.

“It was one of those days where we were a little bit edgy early in the game, I think the boys were maybe a wee bit eager to try and get the job done.

“But, once we showed that calmness and control from 25-30 minutes in, it only looked like there was going to be one winner.

“There was desperation to win that title and when there’s desperation sometimes your performance can go a little bit, but at half-time we settled them down a little bit and just said ‘just be a bit more calm in our play, be more disciplined in our shape’, and I definitely thought we showed that in the second half.

“We looked a threat every time we went forward.”

Hull City: Ingram; Coyle, Jones, Greaves, Elder; Honeyman (Crowley 79), Smallwood (Slater 58), Docherty; Wilks (Eaves 79), Magennis (Whyte 67), Lewis-Potter. Unused substitutes: Long, Burke, Emmanuel.

Wigan Athletic: Jones; Darikwa, Tilt, Johnston, Robinson; L.Evans, Ojo (Clough 84); Lang (Gardner 80), Keane (Aasgaard 80), Solomon-Otabor (Joseph 76); Dodoo (Proctor 84). Unused substitutes: O.Evans, Whelan.

Referee: R Madley (West Yorkshire)

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