Hull City v Manchester City: Hope and belief still high as Tigers plan escape act

Hull City captain Michael Dawson celebrates scoring against West Bromwich Albion (Picture: Tony Johnson).
Hull City captain Michael Dawson celebrates scoring against West Bromwich Albion (Picture: Tony Johnson).
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DEFENDER Michael Dawson insists Hull City can take heart from the fact that two of the last three Premier League seasons have seen the bottom club at Christmas get out of trouble.

The Tigers headed into the festive period propping up the top flight, a position that in all but one of the Premier League’s first 21 seasons led to relegation the following May.

West Bromwich Albion were the only side to buck that trend in 2004-05, but since then the death sentence for a side’s hopes of staying up after being bottom at Christmas has been partially lifted.

Leicester City were rock bottom at this stage two years ago but went on to avoid the drop, as did Sunderland from an identical position in 2013-14.

It is a turnaround that Dawson believes must give the Tigers a boost heading into today’s tea-time clash with Manchester City at the KCOM Stadium.

“Those teams who have got out recently have to give us big hope,” said the Hull captain. “I look at Leicester a couple of years ago.

“When we went there (in March, 2015), we were nine points clear and could have gone 12 in front with a win.

“We should have done that but, instead, we drew and the gap stayed at nine.

“But Leicester went on to stay up as we went down. They won something like seven of the last nine and then won the Premier League a year later.

“You have to have belief you can go on a run. Teams are in touching distance of us. A couple of wins can give us big belief and kick-start the season. There are still plenty of teams in and around us we can drag back in.”

Mike Phelan’s Hull host the Blues on the back of a wretched run that has yielded just five points from the last 13 games.

It is a sequence that has taken the Tigers from seventh place to the foot of the table, but Dawson points to the much improved performances in the club’s three outings before Christmas.

“We were scratching our heads after West Ham last week at how we didn’t win that match,” he added.

“And also at how we didn’t get two more points against Crystal Palace. That is the fine margins in the Premier League. Maybe last year we would have got away with things in the Championship, but at this level people do punish you.

“But we keep fighting, keep going and keep believing. There are other teams in and around us who are in a similar position.

“We have been on a bad run, but others teams have done the same. Christmas is a big time. We knew on day one survival was our target and that it would be tough. But we keep believing and continue to give it a right go.”

The clash with Pep Guardiola’s men will be followed by Everton’s visit on Friday for another televised match. After that, the transfer window opens and there can be little doubt as to how vital this is likely to be if Hull are to become the fourth club to stay up after spending Christmas at the foot of the Premier League.

Phelan’s squad have already been stretched to the limit this season by injuries and suspensions, while only Robert Snodgrass has shown anything like the goalscoring instinct required at the top level.

What Hull cannot afford is a repeat of the summer, when it took until the final 24 hours or so of the window before the first signing was made and even then the six new arrivals have hardly shone.

“The ideal is to get your job done early so that they are in the building and ready to go,” admitted Phelan.

“You don’t always get what you want and we found it difficult at the start of the season when we did all our trading in the very last days. That wasn’t ideal and, hopefully, lessons have been learned. We will try to get some deals over the line.”

Pressed on what budget the club has for next month’s recruitment, Phelan added: “Whether we want to spend money is something that will remain private between me and Ehab (Allam, vice chairman).

“We will try and deal with that going into January, if not before.

“I have an idea of players we want to bring into this football club, we are looking and looking all over. We have done plenty of travelling, but nothing has yet been forthcoming.”

Last six games: Hull City LDDLDLL Manchester City WLDLWW.

Referee: R Madley (West Yorkshire).

Last time: Hull City 2 Manchester City 4; September 27, 2014; Premier League.