Grant McCann happy to shoulder the blame at Hull City

As the feeling of discontent swells among relegation-threatened Hull City’s disillusioned fanbase, head coach Grant McCann has delivered a simple message to supporters.
Ryan Leonard scores for Millwall. Picture by Simon HulmeRyan Leonard scores for Millwall. Picture by Simon Hulme
Ryan Leonard scores for Millwall. Picture by Simon Hulme

Saturday’s damaging 1-0 home loss to Millwall was the club’s third in succession, the 13th time in their last 17 league outings that they have finished up empty-handed.

Now stuck in the relegation zone with just three fixtures remaining this term and no sign of anything resembling an upturn in fortunes, patience is wearing thin.

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The calls for McCann to be dismissed are growing louder, though the Northern Irishman has met them head on, accepting responsibility for the Tigers’ predicament while remaining steadfast in his belief that he will lead them to safety.

Grant McCann.Grant McCann.
Grant McCann.

Many in his position would have thrown their players under the bus long before now, though McCann continues to back his troops, insisting that as long as they continue to believe and give their all, that they can pick up enough points in the next 10 days to escape the bottom-three.

“That’s fine. I would rather take the brunt,” replied McCann when asked about City supporters questioning his suitability for the job of keeping their team in the division.

“I’m the manager of this football club so I’ll take the brunt no problem. We have got a firm belief in this group and we’ll look to get a response in these next three games.

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“In football everyone has got a lot of opinions, of course they have. They’re entitled to their opinion. But, all I’ve got to do is focus on my job here. I will do that. We will try and get this group to stay up.

Josh Bowler is challenged by Shane Ferguson. Picture: Simon HulmeJosh Bowler is challenged by Shane Ferguson. Picture: Simon Hulme
Josh Bowler is challenged by Shane Ferguson. Picture: Simon Hulme

“Everyone is doing what they can. One thing I would never do is question their endeavour and work-rate. You’ve seen that in the six games since we’ve come back.

“We haven’t won the games we wanted to so far but we have to go on to the next one now. We are going to fight until the end.

“We will work hard over the next couple of days and I’m sure we can get over the line.”

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Perhaps City fans’ biggest issue with McCann’s leadership is his perceived unwillingness to try something different when things are not going to plan.

He has persisted with a 4-3-3 system during a 17-game run in the league that has seen his team record just one victory and fail to keep a single clean-sheet.

And, although City have shipped an alarming number of goals during the second half of the campaign while failing to take enough of their chances at the other end, McCann does not feel that his formation of choice is to blame.

“A system doesn’t win football games, putting a ball in the back of the net does. That’s something I’ll always say,” he added.

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“It’s difficult. The games are coming thick and fast and recovery time is very minimal between games. It’s hard to keep consistency in the team.

“It would help if we won but we’re obviously not doing that at this present time. There’s different ways we can go.

“We’re trying. We’re doing everything we can to click and change for us.”

Having conspired to concede inside the opening five minutes in two of their last three matches, Hull were again left chasing the game against Millwall when Ryan Leonard was afforded time to stroll infield from the left and place a stunning long-range strike into the top corner.

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The Tigers could however have been level soon afterwards. A quick bit of thinking by goalkeeper George Long saw him release Josh Bowler, who skinned Millwall’s last man, but was then denied one-on-one by Bartosz Bialkowski.

Play immediately switched to the other end, and Billy Mitchell met a pull-back from the left, only to clear the cross-bar when he really ought to have scored.

City’s Mallik Wilks then burst into the Lions’ area and forced another good stop out of Bialkowski, before Jordy De Wijs saw a header cleared off the line.

And, although the hosts could justifiably claim that they’d created enough to have been level by the 25-minute-mark, in truth they were fortunate not to be dead and buried before half-time.

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First, Sam Hutchinson directed a close-range header narrowly past the post, while Mason Bennett beat the home offside trap to go clean through, but made a mess of the finish.

Long then came to the rescue with a fine instinctive save to deny both Leonard and Millwall a second on 44 minutes.

The second period began with visiting striker Tom Bradshaw scooping an effort over the top, though City played with more intent after the break than they had done during the opening 45.

They struggled to create anything resembling a clear-cut chance, however, with desperation creeping into their play as they tried to up the ante in the final quarter of an hour.

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Eventually, an opening did arrive, the ball dropping to an unmarked Keane Lewis-Potter just outside the six-yard box, though the youngster fluffed his lines and his miss-hit finish trickled into the arms of Bialkowski.

Hull: Long; Burke, MacDonald (Tafazolli 81), De Wijs, Elder; Da Silva Lopes, Stewart (Batty 61), Honeyman; Wilks, Eaves (Magennis 61), Bowler (Lewis-Potter 69). Unused substitutes: Ingram, McLoughlin, Pennington, Toral, Scott.

Millwall:Bialkowski; Mitchell (Williams 83), Hutchinson, Pearce, Cooper, Ferguson (M Wallace 84); J Wallace (Thompson 90), Woods, Leonard; Bennett (Skalak 66), Bradshaw (Smith 90). Unused substitutes: Steele, Molumby, Mahoney, Muller.

Referee: M Donohue (Manchester).

Editor’s note: First and foremost - and rarely have I written down these words with more sincerity - I hope this finds you well.

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