HULL CITY captain Michael Dawson has broken ranks to admit the club are embroiled in a relegation scrap.
The Tigers slumped to a 4-1 defeat against Sheffield United, a result that lifted Chris Wilder’s men back into the automatic promotion places, following a second-half collapse that piled further pressure on manager Leonid Slutsky.
A third defeat inside eight days also saw Hull fall to 20th, their lowest league position since November, 2010, when they briefly had a spell in the relegation zone under Nigel Pearson amid very real concerns the club would slip into administration.
Matters improved on and off the field courtesy of an upturn in results and the Allam family’s takeover a few weeks later. Since then, Hull have had two stints in the Premier League, but last May’s relegation has been followed by an alarmingly poor start this time around that Dawson says means it is no longer possible to deny that the club are fighting for survival after just 16 games.
“Definitely,” said the 33-year-old when asked if the Tigers were in danger of suffering a second consecutive demotion. “If you lose three games on the bounce and you are three points above the bottom three then you are in a relegation fight.
“The sooner we realise that, we will be all right. If you are only three points above it, there is no hiding the fact that we are in a relegation battle.
“We had aims at the start of the season, but those aims have changed now. We have had a bad week and that is what happens. We can also turn it around with a good week, but, right now, we are looking over our shoulders, it is as simple as that.”
Just a fortnight ago, Hull were looking up the table after taking seven points from three games and ending their 14-month wait for an away league win. Now, though, after conceding ten times in losing to Nottingham Forest, Middlesbrough and the Blades, Slutsky is coming under increasing pressure to find the answers to his side’s woes.
After seeing a 1-0 half-time lead at Bramall Lane turn into the second heaviest defeat of his reign, the Russian admitted: “We don’t have a strong mentality and we don’t have a team spirit.
“The first 55 minutes and the second 35 were different. This is not the first time we have been in this situation. For me, it is very difficult to understand.
If you are only three points above it, there is no hiding the fact that we are in a relegation battle. We had aims at the start of the season but those aims have changed now.Hull City captain Michael Dawson
“I am very angry. We are like two completely different teams, one team before (conceding) a goal and another after the goal. We are completely broken after conceding the first goal.”
Asked if Slutsky’s assessment about the team’s failings had been fair, Dawson said: “Yes, he has every right to question our attitude. To have given four goals away, in however many minutes it was, is just not acceptable. You go behind in football matches, it will happen. But it is how you deal with it.
“There are no excuses. Yes, we had a lot of changes in the summer with players coming and going out, but there comes a time when you have got to stop making excuses. I understand that as captain, and that we have got to take a good look at ourselves.”
Hull being at such a low ebb inevitably means speculation over Slutsky’s future was rife over the weekend. It is understood the Russian met the powers-that-be at the KCOM Stadium last Wednesday and was given assurances about his job.
However, the Tigers’ head coach is the first to admit that results such as Saturday’s heavy loss to the Blades can change things.
“Each match can change situations, but we spoke before (Sheffield United) and he supported me,” said the former CSKA Moscow manager. “Very important and I am thankful to him for that. But now the pressure is what I put on myself. This (international break) will be a difficult time. A lot of players are away with their national teams, but we will work the players who are still here.
“We have only worked together for three months so I don’t have a lot of information about how they react to a stressful time. Now we have a diagnosis, but we don’t have a medicine. We will find it.”
Dawson, for his part, is preaching stability as the best way to get through Hull’s current travails.
“The manager has been great since he has come in,” he added. “Every single one of us has to have a look at ourselves and where we can improve.”
Match report: Page 3.