MANAGER Nigel Adkins has urged his Hull City players to retain their focus on what is expected to be a night of protests against the club’s owners.
The Tigers host promotion-chasing Sheffield United in a televised Yorkshire derby that has ramifications at either end of the Championship table.
Hull’s quest for survival, however, has not been the only talking point among locals during the build-up with disaffected supporters planning to take whistles into the KCOM Stadium to disrupt the game on the half-hour mark.
A protest march is also planned ahead of kick-off by fans unhappy at the way Hull are being run by the Allam family.
“We need our supporters to make a lot of noise in the right manner,” said Adkins, ahead of tackling his former club in front of the live Sky cameras.
“The supporters have a song they sing about the Allams, but at Nottingham Forest it was the first time I had heard the Elvis song (Can’t Help Falling in Love). It was brilliant.
We need our supporters to make a lot of noise in the right manner.Hull City manager, Nigel Adkins.
“I want the supporters to have their own songs instead of singing, ‘Allam out’. Sheffield United have got the ‘Greasy Chip Butty’ (Annie’s Song) and I want our supporters to come along and enjoy it. You don’t want aggro and intimidation. You want to go and enjoy the social event.
“As for ourselves, we have to concentrate on winning a game of football. We have got to focus on what we can control. We have a tough job against Sheffield United, a very good Sheffield United team, and we have to focus on that. We can’t control what is going on around us, all we can control is what is on the field of play.
“What I will say is the players need to feel as though they will be safe. So, that is obviously a club issue with the stewarding and I would appeal to everyone, don’t come on the pitch. I can’t see any benefit for anyone.”
The discord between owners and supporters in the East Riding began with the Allams’ unsuccessful attempts to rebrand the club as Hull Tigers.
The subsequent implementation of a new membership scheme that abolished concession prices has further alienated a section of the fans and Sky’s last live broadcast from the KCOM – October’s 3-2 defeat to Nottingham Forest – saw play held up for several minutes by hundreds of yellow balls being thrown on to the field.
Vice chairman Ehab Allam warned last week that a repeat could lead to “the abandonment of the match, sanctions or fines to the club or games being played behind closed doors”.
Asked about a potential abandonment, Adkins said: “That is no good to anyone either, is it? What is the benefit of having it abandoned? You will have to play it again, but you will have to play it behind closed doors.
“I know there was a protest previously against Nottingham Forest and that the Hull City team were doing really well at the time, and in the ascendancy. All of a sudden the throwing of all the balls onto the pitch totally disrupted it.
“Hull City lost the game on the back of that. So, the protests also cost the football team points and put them in the situation where potentially they go down. So did that protest work? No, it didn’t.”
Protests aside, this is a big night for Adkins against the club who sacked him in the summer of 2016. His one season at Bramall Lane ended in an 11th-place finish for the Blades, who were taken up from League One as champions a year later by Chris Wilder.
Hull turned to Adkins late last year, his first job since leaving United. The Tigers’ chief, who could welcome back Abel Hernandez tonight, said: “I learned invaluable lessons, which is maybe why I took a little bit longer to take a job back in football.”
Pressed on what those lessons were, he added: “They are private lessons that I am not going to divulge with you. But there were interesting situations in place. Maybe asking better questions before you join a football club would be one of them.
“I went in there believing I had a three-year contract, but all sorts of things were going on behind the scenes. It was still a shame (to leave). But it is football, it is life.
“I was really disappointed, but I will do nothing but wish Sheffield United well. Chris (Wilder) was a great appointment for Sheffield United, having been there before under Dave Bassett.”
Wilder, meanwhile, was keen to play down the importance of Adkins being his predecessor at the Lane.
“There is a bigger picture than that,” said the Blades’ chief. “They want to win to stay in the division, just as much as we want to win to try and get out. There is obviously a connection, but there’s bigger issues in terms of the points.
“I don’t think our supporters, players or staff will be looking at the opposition bench and think it has anything to do with the game. I don’t think Nigel and his staff will be looking at us thinking the same thing. They will just be trying to get a result to try and get out of the position they are in.”