x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

High-flying Hull after more capital gains

The long-serving Dawson tells Richard Jolly about City's sensational Premier League start.

Hull City's Geovanni clears the ball spectacularly during the club's 2-1 victory at the Emirates Stadium.
Hull City's Geovanni clears the ball spectacularly during the club's 2-1 victory at the Emirates Stadium.

It is a decade since Hull City propped up the Football League. It is five years since they were defeated at home by Mansfield Town. The most improbable rise in the recent history of English football was capped when Hull spent the international break in third place in the Premier League, sandwiched by the superpowers of Liverpool and Arsenal.

For a club who toiled for 104 years before securing top-flight football, it marks a remarkable change in fortune. For the derided east coast city, which has been pronounced the worst in Britain, it is a novel experience to be fashionable. Hull face West Ham today, looking for a hat-trick of successive victories against London opponents. With wins at Arsenal and Tottenham, the former perhaps the most unlikely result in the Premier League since Barnsley took three points off Liverpool at Anfield in Nov 1997, Hull have captured the imagination.

"It's scary, the rise we've had," said Andy Dawson, the long-serving left-back who has enjoyed three promotions in his five years at the KC Stadium. "To get promotion after promotion is amazing. Now the first seven games have been surreal. Every tipster expected us to struggle, but we had a belief in ourselves that we could do well. To win at the Emirates Stadium must go down as one of the biggest wins in the club's history."

That is an understatement. Hull's 2-1 triumph was notable not just for the result, but for the positive approach of manager Phil Brown and his team. "We went with two up front and Geovanni just behind them," Dawson explained. If received wisdom is that promoted teams need to assemble a side of scrappers, defend doggedly and hope, the presence of the mercurial Geovanni in Hull's ranks is an indication that they have a more attacking attitude.

He conjured a superb equaliser from 25 yards at the Emirates Stadium. A magnificent free-kick at White Hart Lane, struck from still further, was equally memorable. "That's what you need, a little bit of quality," Dawson said. "Geo can do that little bit extra special." Strange as it is to see a footballer with Barcelona, Brazil and Hull on his CV, Geovanni's teammates have other unlikely tales to tell.

Along with goalkeeper Boaz Myhill and captain Ian Ashbee, Dawson is a member of a select band to have represented the club in all four divisions. "We're very lucky," he added. "Managers have given us opportunities and we have taken them. We're showing we can do it." Yet while ambition has been evident since Hull moved to the KC Stadium in 2002, Dawson points to factors behind their progress. "It's happened in stages," he said. "When I came to the club I remember walking around the KC with Peter Taylor. It was a Championship or a Premiership stadium."

Under Taylor's stewardship, Hull went up in successive seasons. Yet after replacing Phil Parkinson, Brown's first task was to avert relegation from the Championship. Last season provided further statements of intent. Following the takeover by chairman Paul Duffen, the recruitment of the club's first £1million (Dh3.6m) player, Caleb Folan, followed by the eye-catching arrival of Jay-Jay Okocha, and promotion via the play-offs. "To do it at Wembley in front of 90,000 was amazing," Dawson said.

The sight of the gold-and-black hordes celebrating in the capital has become common. Hull now enjoy considerable vocal backing, suggesting a fanbase to sustain a Premier League club. "The support is there; we're taking thousands away from home," added the 29-year-old Dawson. The sceptics still expect Hull's season to end in relegation. The romantics, however, are savouring their journey from obscurity. rjolly@thenational.ae