Goal-shy Tigers defied the odds

Hull City's FanZone blogger Gareth Jones admits it is something of a miracle that the club won automatic promotion from the Championship.

Last Updated: 18/05/13 at 12:53 Post Comment

Hull: Won promotion back to the Premier League

Hull: Won promotion back to the Premier League

When Steve Bruce was unveiled as the new Hull City manager almost a year ago it was clear that chairman Assem Allam had pulled off a coup by tempting a man that had spent the last six years in the Premier League manager down to the Championship.

Whilst his CV boasts a couple of promotions with Birmingham, it still seemed surprising to most that he decided to take the hot seat at the KC Stadium.

Bruce himself said at the time that he questioned whether he still had the desire and drive to do a job at this level, but thankfully for everyone associated to the club he felt he had one last challenge in him.

The 2011-12 season finished with a whimper under Nick Barmby which led to the end of his prestigious career with his hometown club, which was swiftly followed by the parting with Chief Executive Adam Pearson, leaving the club in a state of disarray and confusion as to where to go next.

Assem Allam and his son Ehab took strong action to change the hierarchy within the club for what they believed to be the greater good, and looking at the progress that has been made since then, it would be hard to argue that they were wrong to take the risk.

Although the team only just missed out on the play-offs under Barmby, Bruce still brought in 13 players of his own during the course of the season, with Nick Proschwitz coming in for a reported £2.7million - showing that the Allams were ready to back their manager in the hunt for promotion to the Premier League.

Before the season started there were odds of up to 50-1 for Bruce and his team to achieve promotion.

As the New Year turned with the club nicely in the top six these odds dropped slightly, but it was clear to see that people outside of the club still didn't believe the club would still be around the top come the end of the season.

As the season unfolded we began to get featured on Sky Sports a bit more with a couple of dominant displays, as well as gaining praise for our style of football with Bruce adopting a 3-5-2 formation for most of the season to make the most of our attacking wingers of Robbie Brady and Ahmed Elmohamady.

Towards the end of March it was beginning to become clear that Hull City were not just settling for a play-off place, but were in fact in the mix for second spot behind a dominant Cardiff City.

The battle was on between the Tigers, Watford, and Crystal Palace.

But with the underwhelming performances at Barnsley, Wolves and Bristol - three teams in the relegation zone at the time - it was beginning to look like Bruce's side were in danger of throwing automatic promotion away at the last minute.

Then we got to the last game of the season, at home to the already-confirmed champions Cardiff. With the second-place battle now down to a straight two-horse race between Hull City and Watford, the Tigers just had to match or better what ever happened in the game between Watford and Leeds United. Anyone who watched the game live on Sky will know what unfolded - I still think if you were to write a story you would struggle to make up the events of this day - with penalties, injuries, sending offs, pitch invasions and last-minute goals.

The final day of the Championship season could not have been better, and thankfully Hull City stumbled over the line to take second place.

Reflecting on the season, it is hard to comprehend that a team without a striker scoring more than six goals has finished second in the league, but somehow we dug in and won 24 games over the course of the season - often by one- goal margins.

When you compare this to teams like Crystal Palace who had a striker with 31 goals, and Watford who had two strikers hit the 20 goal mark, it's easy to see that goals were an issue for the Tigers all season.

The season-ending injury to Sone Aluko before Christmas can be counted as nothing other than unlucky, especially after winning the Championship Player of the Month for November and scoring five goals in the process.

Add to that the season-long injury to last season's top scorer Matty Fryatt, and the fact that Proschwitz's season never really got going.

I'm sure Bruce would be the first to say that we have sneaked into the Premier League, especially when most people didn't give us a chance at the start of the season, but with some tinkering of the team as the season went on he managed to mould a good footballing team that was capable of winning games when needed.

Next season brings a new challenge: can the Tigers hold on to a Premier League spot without overspending like last time? How many players will Bruce need to make us a force in the top division?

One thing is for sure, Bruce certainly has got people noticing Hull City now.

You can find Gareth on Twitter @shockshake - and don't forget to follow FanZone, too.

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