Nick Barmby Is The Best Thing To Happen To Hull City In Years

Nick Barmby has been appointed as Hull manager on a permanent basis, and the football on show has been light-years from the dour predictability of the Nigel Pearson era...
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Nick Barmby has been appointed as Hull manager on a permanent basis, and the football on show has been light-years from the dour predictability of the Nigel Pearson era...

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Hull City have now won 4 out of 6 with Barmby in charge, and the football on show has been light-years from the dour predictability of the Nigel Pearson era...

Nothing makes you feel older than a kid your younger brother used to mark in the under-10’s being made manager of your hometown club. “Little Nicky” Barmby was a well-known local prodigy even at that early age, despite our kid’s criminally underappreciated Claudio Gentile impression restricting him to just the five goals the last time they played.

Hopes were high at one stage that Nick would follow in his father Jeff’s footsteps by signing for Hull City, the club he supported. That was never really on for someone of his ability as when he came of age the club was at the bottom of one of the slumps that disfigure decades of its history. Despite, or perhaps because of, being well-connected at City, Barmby’s dad, who was also his agent at the time, advised him to join Tottenham instead. From there, he embarked on stellar career that also took in Middlesborough, Everton, Liverpool and twenty-three England caps, including the legendary 5-1 game against Germany in Munich.

Fortunately for believers in fairytales, Barmby stayed fit long enough for the Tigers to rouse themselves enough to be finally worth joining and played a full part in their promotions from League One and the Championship. Thus the prodigal son was back where he belonged when in 2008 the club ended Hull’s century of shame as the biggest city in Europe never to have had a team in its country’s top flight.

Perhaps surprisingly to some outsiders, Barmby was still lining up this season as a 37 year-old bit–part player for the Tiger’s second post-premiership season. To closer observers, though, it was clear that he was playing a valuable, guiding role in a revamped young team and was taking on coaching duties with a long-term view to management. This long-term perspective was abruptly shortened last month when Nigel Pearson decided to double his salary and halve his job security by rejoining Leicester.

He cemented his status with actions such as clouting arch-waster Jimmy Bullard at training the Monday after Bullard had turned up for a game at Everton stinking of ale.

The initial concern about Barmby’s appointment as Pearson’s successor was that it all might be a bit too soon. Barmby himself engagingly admitted as much and insisted on the role being on a caretaker basis at first, to give all parties time to see how it worked out. In fact, the early signs are that Barmby is a great fit for the job.

It has quickly become apparent that Barmby is intent on imposing a style in his own image on top of the slightly dull solidity bequeathed to him by Pearson: still hard-working but making full use of the substantial amount of skill and pace at his disposal. Nor is there much of an issue with making the often difficult transition from “one of the lads” to boss. Barmby was already a respected elder statesman in the squad, who, due to his intense professionalism and being a generation older than most of his team-mates, did not feature prominently in post-season bonding trips to Ibiza and the like anyway.

Off the pitch, for most fans Barmby’s appointment came as great news. Whatever happens, we know that we have a fellow lifelong fan in charge, one who always followed the club in person whenever his career commitments allowed, who returned at the first feasible opportunity to help lead the club to historic new heights and who has carried on doing whatever has been asked of him long after he would have retired at any other club. Even before all of this, Barmby was already popular with the fans for helping to drain Leeds’ finances for a couple of years whilst resting and waiting for Hull to come calling and cemented his status with actions such as clouting arch-waster Jimmy Bullard at training the Monday after Bullard had turned up for a game at Everton stinking of ale.

Barmby now forms part of an off-field triumvirate with strong Hull roots, alongside the Chief Executive Adam Pearson (whose first job in the city was as a management trainee at Marks & Sparks and who masterminded the club’s rise from basement to Premiership, returning to salvage the club again in 2010 after his successors had made an almighty mess of it) and the new owners, the Allam family (who have Egyptian roots but have run a successful business in Hull for decades and have serially used their wealth to support a string of local institutions). None of this trio particularly need the job or the money and all have earned the right to be trusted in Hull, which is fantastically reassuring to fans of a club that has had more than its fair share of charlatans and outright crooks in charge over the years.

Better still, Barmby’s commitment, knowledge of the game and footballing philosophy are already starting to suggest that he might not only be reliable but rather good at the job too.

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