Training ground lunches and a statement of intent: What next for Hull City and the Allam family?

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Training ground lunches and a statement of intent: What next for Hull City and the Allam family?

The Rolls-Royce Phantom, complete with its distinctive private number plate, underlined it was no ordinary lunchtime down at Millhouse Woods Lane on Thursday afternoon.

Assem Allam’s visits to Hull City’s training ground have become sporadic in recent times as his involvement has waned, but here the owner was, alongside son and vice chairman Ehab, to visit Nigel Adkins and his coaching staff in the club canteen.

“It’s really positive,” said Adkins, whose press conference was delayed by 20 minutes following on from a lengthy sit-down with his employers. “It can only be beneficial as far as I’m concerned.”

The mood music playing around the KCOM Stadium has certainly changed in the last month.

City have been unable to stop winning since a proposed takeover of the club was shelved before Christmas and now, all of a sudden, there is the faint prospect of a Premier League return.

Hull City owner Assem Allam
Hull City owner Assem Allam, attending the club’s Player of the Season awards in May

This brilliant run of form orchestrated by Adkins, 27 points banked inside 12 games, has clearly piqued the interest of the Allam family. It is understood Assem, in particular, has high hopes for a promotion bid in the second half of this season.

A rare statement issued by the club yesterday afternoon certainly made reframed ambitions for 2019 clear.

“Our recent fantastic run of results has given everyone at the club and supporters fresh optimism as we embark on the second half of the season,” wrote Ehab Allam.

“To build on this positive momentum on the pitch we have no intention of selling key players. We are currently working closely with Nigel to support him to further enhance our squad, and therefore give us a great opportunity to close the gap to the top six and end the season on a high.”

Those 115 words – jovially signed off “Up the Tigers!” – were met with the inevitable dose of scepticism from supporters who had banked on a takeover but the Allam family are no longer behaving like owners heading towards the exit door.

“I was with him (last) Thursday and for Assem to come down with Ehab, joining us for lunch after training, it’s really positive news,” said Adkins.

Hull City head coach Nigel Adkins
Hull City head coach Nigel Adkins

“There was a lot of smiles on faces when we beat Bolton 6-0 on January 1 so the run we’ve been on has been beneficial for everyone.

“We’ve got forward momentum with everyone working hard for each other. If we can just get everyone with a smile on their face, with a belonging to Hull City, let’s face it we all want the club to do well.

“We want a stadium where all the supporters get behind the team and feel part of it. Maybe this is another step towards that progression.”

The banks of empty seats that will greet the players in Saturday’s visit of Sheffield Wednesday will illustrate there is a long way to go before there is any meaningful reconciliation, as will the inevitable chants still demanding change, but at least City no longer feels like a club on the brink of implosion.

That respite owes everything to Adkins. Five consecutive wins, eight in the last 12 games, have turned a relegation fight into a promotion challenge. Seven points still stand between City and the Championship play-offs but that deficit was as wide as 15 points two months ago.

Hull City fans arrive before the Sky Bet Championship match at the KCOM Stadium, Hull
Hull City fans arriving at the KCOM Stadium

Supporters are smiling again, too. The 2-0 win away to Leeds United and the 6-0 demolition of Bolton Wanderers that straddled New Year were the feel-good results of the season, encouraging fans to ponder exciting new possibilities for 2019.

The disenchantment has not gone away, nor has the appetite for a change of ownership among the majority of a dwindling fan base, but Adkins has helped to lift the gloom that has hung heavy over the KCOM Stadium.

January will tell us for how long. Retaining star players, such as Jarrod Bowen and Kamil Grosicki, will give Adkins the means to keep pace with the clubs he has set about chasing, while the capture of three new players would provide the depth required to last the pace.

“I think it’s good,” said Adkins, when asked for his reaction to City’s statement. “We were in a situation before when we were bottom of the league in October and there was mass speculation about the club being sold and the transition it was going through.

Todd Kane and Jordy de Wijs of Hull City celebrate beating Leeds United at Elland Road
Todd Kane and Jordy de Wijs of Hull City celebrate beating Leeds United at Elland Road

“To be on the run we’ve been on, to have put ourselves 13 in the division, it puts a spring in everyone’s step.

“It’s positive news that the ownership have turned around and highlighted that they’re not looking to let any of the key players go. That’s positive to try and keep the momentum going.

“As we’ve already said, we want to bring in two or three to bolster the squad. From that point of view it’s all positive news.”

Not everyone will share Adkins’ viewpoint if it means the chance of a takeover is now gone but training ground visits and bullish statements only point towards the Allam family seeing this upwardly-mobile season through.

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