Hull City exclusive pt.1 – Anthony Gardner on his record signing, mental battles on the sidelines, and Geovanni ‘worldies’
In the first part of this two part exclusive, former Hull City defender Anthony Gardner speaks to The72 about the pressures of being the club’s record signing, watching on from the sidelines as they beat the drop, and the magic man that was Geovanni.
Upon Hull’s first ever season in the top flight of English football, Gardner would leave Tottenham Hotspur and join the Premier League newcomers on loan. It was a short-term deal that would see him return in January. But only a few weeks after his arrival, manager Phil Brown broke the club’s transfer record make Gardner a permanent feature.
He signed for £2.5million in the August. Fronting Hull City’s Premier League journey as the record-breaking man would no doubt have come with its pressures. But for Gardner, there were none.
“There wasn’t any pressure because initially I had a year left on my Spurs contract, I was going on loan,” he explained. “I was there to play games and get a feel for the club, and obviously coming up from the Championship, I was under the vision that I knew it could possibly be a tough season.”
Hull had clinched promotion via the Championship play-offs the season before. Dean Windass’ Wembley volley v Bristol City still lives in the memories of many Hull fans and their arrival in the top flight was as exciting for them as it was for football.
“I was happy to join the club that had a vision of progressing,” Gardner said. “I was 27 or 28 I think, and I’d been at Spurs seven or eight years so it wasn’t a case that I was going there under pressure, but with the intent of establishing myself as one of the main players in the team and being a leader.”
Gardner would feature regularly for Hull in the opening stages of their Premier League campaign. They lost just one of their opening nine games, winning six of them and after marking a four match winning-streak with a 3-0 win away at West Brom – goal difference kept Brown’s side from briefly claiming the top-spot in English football.
“We had a really good start in the first month or six weeks or so, where we were playing really well and beating teams and I think we were in the top three of four, so it couldn’t have been a better start for the team,” Gardner explained.
But just six games into his season, Gardner – who endured a torrid time with injuries throughout his career – would be ruled out.
“I played the first few games and got a thigh injury which I had a recurrence with as I came back so after the first few games I played, the rest of the time til Christmas I was watching, which was tough.
“The club paid money to bring me in and you’re brought in to show what you can do and be the best for your team and be that leader. It was difficult mentally watching on but I was happy because the team was going well and getting results. In the end I got myself back and then got a back injury in the FA cup, it was quite a bad one and that was pretty much it for me.”
A back injury sustained in an FA Cup clash against Arsenal in February 2010 would seal Gardner’s fate for the remainder of the season. He finished his first year on Humberside having made eight appearances in all competitions, detailing to us the strain that had on the mental aspect of his game.
“The mental side of it is tough,” he said. “When you get problems and you get injuries like that and the team has been progressing, as I said the team was on the up – first season we started off like a house on fire and after the New Year it was a bit of a struggle.
“The form just dropped quite drastically and we found ourselves in a position where we were in a relegation battle and it was a case of we need to get results to stay in the league. Whereas earlier in the season, the football we were playing was a lot more free-flowing and you could see the team was enjoying it more.
“But the club was in the league for the first time and not with the resources other clubs had so it was always going to be a tough ask. Credit to all the players and the staff there after that first season that we managed to stay in the league.”
Hull defied the odds to seal their Premier League status for another season longer, beating the drop by a point and a place at the expense of Newcastle United.
It rounded off a memorable season in Hull City’s history. Brown had taken this underdog side right to the summit of the English pyramid and worked wonders to eventually retain his side’s Premier League tag. But one player stole the show for Hull that season.
“Without a doubt it was Geovanni,” Gardner said when asked who the best player at Hull City was that season at – the Brazilian joined from Manchester City ahead of that season and would net eight goals in 34 Premier League appearances, most of them spectacular.
“He was incredible in that first season! There were a couple of matches where he pulled these worldies out the bag in tight matches; goal against Arsenal, goal against Tottenham, away where he put one in the top corner.
“They’re just games where he’d won us the game and got the three points and if it wasn’t for games like that we would’ve been relegated first season. It was still a team effort, but without Geo that first season we would definitely have gone down.”
Part Two of The72’s exclusive interview with ex-Hull City defender Anthony Gardner to follow.