Hull City exclusive pt.2 – Anthony Gardner on relegation, Marlon King’s exit, and ‘that’ Phil Brown team talk
In the second part of this two-part exclusive, former Hull City defender Anthony Gardner talks to The72 about the club’s eventual relegation from the Premier League, Phil Brown’s sacking, Marlon King and ‘that’ half-time team talk at Manchester City.
We spoke to Gardner about his maiden season at Hull City in the first part of exclusive. He told us of his arrival at Hull City and the pressures of becoming the club’s record signing in what was their first ever season in the Premier League, and how hard it was to watch on as Hull defied the odds and beat relegation.
Coming into Gardner’s second term at Hull, the expectation was that his side faced an even tougher task than last time round. Upon their arrival into the top flight, Hull had an air of confidence about them. But that soon deteriorated and despite free-falling in the second-half of the season they finished a point and a place above the drop zone.
Manager Phil Brown would lead Hull into their next season in the Premier League and Gardner would return from a back injury to make 24 top flight appearances. The club proved inconsistent in the run up to January and after which, a run of four-straight defeats in the Premier League would see Brown placed on gardening leave in March 2010, with Iain Dowie coming in as ‘Football Management Consultant’.
“It’s difficult to say,” Gardner said when asked if Hull City made the right decisions that month. “In hindsight I guess it wasn’t because we got relegated but at the time, I think we got beat away at Everton quite heavily. I didn’t play in that game, that was just after I got an ankle knock against West Ham, but I was playing regularly that season.
“We picked up one win in maybe four months, we beat Fulham I think – that was our only win in a couple of months so we struggled from an owner’s point of view and the club’s point of view. I think they felt a change was needed to give the club and the team that spark on the pitch to get results. If we carried on that way for the last 10 weeks of the season we would definitely have been relegated.
“Dowie was a good coach – he knew his stuff and he was working well with the team. But we struggled from that point onward to get the points needed to stay in the league.”
In the October of that season, chairman Paul Duffen would resign from his position, with previous chairman Adam Pearson stepping back in.
“I think there were off-field issues with the finances of the club and obviously the new chairman came in,” Gardner explained. “He just decided that things weren’t in order on the pitch and off the pitch, and he decided to make a change.”
Dowie would oversee the final nine games of the season. He claimed one win as Hull finished 19th – five points from safety. But Premier League survival could’ve been achieved if any two draws against all of Birmingham City, Liverpool and Wigan Athletic in the final five games of the season were converted into wins.
“When you look at the results, a team’s going down because they haven’t amassed enough points over the season,” Gardner said when asked if relegation should’ve been avoided that season.
“Personally when I look back, in the second season we gave it everything but there were circumstances which made it difficult. Our goal-scorer was Marlon King. He left and he was a vital cog in the team and he was on loan from Wigan so when he left, it was like, ‘okay then, who’s going to come in now and score the goals?’”
King was on loan at Hull City from Wigan for Hull’s 2008/09 season. At the time, King was involved in a string of off-field headlines, one being a bust-up with Hull City hero Dean Windass. King would see his loan cut short and without replacing him in the following summer, Hull were left goal shy.
“He fell out with the manager and the manager felt he wasn’t committed to the cause, and he sent him away and he didn’t bring anyone in,” Gardner said of King’s exit. “I think that was after the window. When you have a recognised striker who can get you five or six goals it makes it a lot easier. It wasn’t just down to that though, the defence could’ve played better but as a team that focal point we had previously was gone.”
Hull’s time in the top flight was memorable. But arguably their most memorable moment came courtesy of a furious Phil Brown. This was during their first Premier League season and after seeing his side ship in four first-half goals at Manchester City, Brown huddled his player on the pitch, and the rest is history.
“Everyone just got on with it,” Gardner said of the mood around Hull City proceeding that event. “But then when it got on to the press and you it see on Match of the Day and people started talking and I think that after that, in training the next week or so people are having conversations about it.
“We’re professionals. You just get on with it. It was a decision that, I don’t know if it came from the coaching staff or the manager but the manager made the decision on the day that that’s how he wanted to address the team, and you saw all the players were respectful of it.
“It was an occurrence that people still ask me now; ‘do you think it had a bearing on the rest of the season?’ I guess from a player’s point of view, some players might have thought it was a bit disrespectful.
“It brings more attention and more pressure onto the team and onto the club rather than pressing and dealing with things in house. He could easily have dealt with that in the changing room in my opinion, but that’s how football is. Sometimes people make decisions like that.”
Gardner would go on loan to Crystal Palace after Hull’s demise, and later join the club permanent after Hull decided against offering him a new contract. From there he had a final spell at Sheffield Wednesday before injury took its toll, and Gardner moved on.
Today, Gardner works as a mentor/consultant with former pros Paolo Vernazza and Jonathan Fortune at Two Touch Agency, with ambitions to guide the next generation of young footballers in the UK.
“I took a few years out after I left to do some bits and bobs with property, concentrating on growing my portfolio. But then I decided I was missing football and I wanted to get back in. The opportunity came up to work with two of my close friends who run a business called Two Touch Agency. We have some good players on the books, like Ollie Watkins and Will Hughes.
“I work for the company as a mentor/consultant. I just decided that I wanted to get back in the game and the opportunity came about to use my experience to guide and mentor younger players coming through, so that’s my role and that’s the role I can see myself doing for as long as I can see fit.”