He endured seven months of struggle at Derby which resulted in the sack in 2006, but Phil Brown says he has never faced the type of challenge of his managerial qualities that he does now. Hull City's current plight is the "biggest test of his character" and Brown will need to draw on all his fighting qualities to get both himself and the club through this anxious period that has seen them winless in 11 Premier League games and back in the relegation mix after a flying start to the season.
The spirit and unity epitomised by the Tigers in their early performances seems to have disappeared and that is a major factor in why they are currently sliding back towards the Championship. Barracking from the fans and Geovanni's public show of dissent when he was taken off in the 2-1 defeat to fellow strugglers Blackburn on Sunday has left Brown feeling the heat. But he has laid down the law to players like the Brazilian. "I'm there to make big decisions and if they don't like it, then they don't like it," said Brown.
Now he is looking for a positive response from Geovanni, who could tonight face a Fulham side that is unbeaten at Craven Cottage since West Ham beat them in September. "I've spoken with him and we'll see with his performance," said Brown. "He's got every chance [to play]. There are 11 games to go and we're still in a positive predicament compared to the five or six games that we lost on the bounce [before]. I don't think these defeats are knocking belief or faith."
Tottenham will also be looking to pick themselves up after their Carling Cup final defeat to Manchester United. They host Middlesbrough, who are in the bottom three, but just two points behind Harry Redknapp's side and buoyed after beating Liverpool last weekend. Gary O'Neil has pointed to his Boro teammate Tuncay as the key man at White Hart Lane. "He has scored in successive games and he's massive for us when he's in the form he is right now," said the Boro midfielder.
It is a big night for those in the relegation battle and Stoke City could move out of trouble if they beat Bolton, while Blackburn, who have the same number of points as Boro and Stoke, face Everton at Ewood Park. Glenn Whelan, the Stoke midfielder, summed up the general mood as he said: "You do not stop until the fat lady sings and we are definitely not down." Wigan host West Ham in the night's other match.