Hull City 0 Sunderland 1: Bent sends Tigers down

PHIL BROWN must shoulder the blame for Hull City's relegation from the Premier League.

That is the view of departing midfield ball-winner George Boateng, who launched into an attack on the Tigers manager placed on 'gardening leave' by chairman Adam Pearson seven games ago.

Devout Christian Boateng pinpoints the Boxing Day game at Manchester City in 2008 as where the club's demise began following a phoenix-like rise from the brink of extinction in 2001 to a first tilt in the top flight within seven years.

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Then, Brown humiliated his players by holding his half-time team talk out on the pitch and apologised to Hull fans for his side's "unacceptable" performance as they trailed 4-0 before going on to lose 5-1.

Hull managed to stay up, finishing 17th, despite recording only one further win, Boateng claiming: "Last year, we survived only by luck."

Boateng, out of contract at the end of this campaign, added: "That's where the problems began (at Manchester City). The team felt disrespected that day, the team didn't feel appreciated, we were sixth in the league and we had lost two consecutive games.

"We didn't feel like we deserved to be treated like that. We were treated like a bunch of kids.

"It had an effect on me and all the players. We covered it up by saying outside it didn't affect us, but it did and it took a long time to recover from that.

"All the players have made errors, including myself but I believe there have been big, big errors made under the previous management, especially under Phil Brown – a lot of players fell out with the manager for whatever reason.

"On a personal level, I missed 15 games without getting a legitimate reason. It was not about a lack of quality in my performances because I have shown ever since I came back into the team that I'm more than good enough to play in the Premier League.

"For whatever reason, I was left out of the squad. That doesn't just count for me, it goes for Craig Fagan, Caleb Folan and Bernard Mendy. There have been so many times when players were left out not for football reasons and the best players have not always played, which wasn't fair.

"It has been frustrating and I'm very angry."

Despite recording only one win and a draw in the last seven games under Iain Dowie, Boateng leapt to his defence. "When the new staff came in, they gave the team more belief and respect for themselves.

"Whoever blames Iain Dowie has a very short view. From a players' point of view, when the new staff came in, it gave us a bit of hope because before then, the team was not together. It was not behind Phil Brown.

"It was very difficult because some of the players feared Phil Brown and some felt a lot under pressure under Phil Brown. Therefore they lacked the performances.

"Iain Dowie and his staff have done a tremendous job. It's just a shame and it hurts me that we have only collected four points under him because they deserve a bit more success.

"Iain Dowie has not taken us down, we were down before Iain Dowie came in because Phil Brown made essential errors that caused us to lose many, many games, many points for whatever reason and that hurts me.

"There were games when I was home in Amsterdam with my family watching Premier League football when I should have been playing. Those kind of things hurt me because it was not in my hands.

"I have never experienced such a difficult two seasons. The last 18 months have been as hard for me as the last 12 years previously. Sometimes I have asked myself whether it was worth it."

Looking ahead, Boateng added: "I'm not going to retire, I feel I'm fit enough to play at least one more season in the Premier League. I'm going to go on holiday and then think about it."

Due to the club's financial meltdown, Hull will look to jettison their top earners but Dowie said he would relish the chance to lead the club in the Championship, building for the future with young talent such as Tom Cairney, Liam Cooper and striker Mark Cullen, given a Premier League debut on his 18th birthday against Sunderland.

Dowie said: "My theory is that it should be a place full of young, hungry talent. That's very important. If you're going to restructure the club, that's the key element to have people with a point to prove.

"You're always confident of being successful. My record in the Championship stands up to scrutiny. I think I have done myself justice.

"We would love another six points to be in the shake up, but it's not there. I was brave enough to take this challenge. You speak to the players and they will tell you the job I've done.

"Of course I think I could bring Hull back up. I'm a great believer that in tough times there are still some green shoots. It will need a fundamental shake-up and a lot of the big-earners will have to go. It will be sad to lose people like George Boateng. I would like to stay, but it's not down to me. It will be a restructuring job here, but I'm not frightened by that.

"It's a bitterly dark day, but there will be sunny days ahead for the Hull City fans."

Hull were consigned to the drop by a seventh-minute goal from England striker Darren Bent, tapping home from a nod down from strike-partner Kenwyne Jones.

Sunderland should already have been 2-0 up but to Hull's credit they stuck to the task without creating much until Hull old boy Michael Turner tripped Geovanni in the area only for Jimmy Bullard to strike his spot- kick against the post.

Bullard was replaced at the interval by Cairney and it could be that is the last the Hull fans have seen of their record signing.

The same goes for USA striker Jozy Altidore, whose next appearance could be against England in the World Cup.

Altidore was sent off in first- half stoppage time for head-butting Alan Hutton, who was also red-carded for throwing the ball against the back of the striker after they had tangled on the touchline.

Both sides re-shaped but the game fell flat after the interval, although Andy Dawson went close to an equaliser with a deflected drive which goalkeeper Craig Gordon did well to get a hand to and keep out.

MATCH FOCUS

Hero: Hull City fans

Despite knowing the drop was looming, the Tigers fans gave vociferous support throughout, even applauding the players off the pitch when their fate had been sealed.

Villain: Fraizer Campbell

His 15 goals on loan from Manchester United helped take Hull up but the fans have not forgiven the Sunderland player for what they consider a U-turn over a permanent move.

Key moment: 41st minute

Jimmy Bullard strikes the post with his penalty and hopes of a Hull comeback are deflated.

Ref watch: Lee Probert

Had no option to send off Hutton as well as Altidore as the laws state throwing the ball at an opponent is a red-card offence.

Verdict

To be fair, it was always going to be a tall order for incoming 'football management consultant' Iain Dowie to keep the Tigers up after a dreadful run of results prior to his arrival. Saturday's performance highlighted the problems that have blighted Hull's attempts to secure Premier League football for a third straight season.

Quote of the day

We were down before Iain Dowie came in because Phil Brown made essential errors that caused us to lose many, many games.

– George Boateng's assessment of Hull's plight.

Next game

Wigan Athletic v Hull City, Monday May 3, Premier League, 1.30pm

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