English version:

Tigers, tigers burning bright

<span style="font-weight: bold" class="Apple-style-span">BURNING BRIGHT:</span> Hull City - "The Tigers". (Photo: Reuters/Scanpix.)
BURNING BRIGHT: Hull City - "The Tigers". (Photo: Reuters/Scanpix.)

<p"Realistically, perhaps they should reflect on Blake’s poem ‘Three Things to Remember’"</p

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THIS IS SIMON CHADWICK
* Simon Chadwick is Professor of Sport Business Strategy and Marketing at Coventry University Business School, where he is also a Director Centre for the International Business of Sport (CIBS).

* His research interests are based around sport marketing and sport business strategy.

* He has served as an Expert Witness in a High Court case involving the International Tennis Federation, Wimbledon, the US Open, the Australian Open and the French Open. He has also worked with organisations including FC Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Sunderland FC, the FA and Sport England.

* Chadwick is among many things a member of the Vancouver Olympic Research Group and of the Advisory Panel for Sport und Markt's European Sport Sponsorship award.

* Chadwick has contributed to several books worldwide and he also are being used as an expert for several medias when it comes to Sport Business Strategy and Marketing.

In 1794, Englishman William Blake wrote a poem entitled ‘The Tiger’ which begins ‘TIGER, tiger, burning bright.’ An interpretation of the poem is that it illustrates how one ascends to a higher state of consciousness through experience, which contrasts with the implicit observation of another of Blake’s poems, ‘The Lamb’, that suggests one has to pass through an age of innocence first to get there. While Blake was a little ahead of professional football in time, let alone the creation of the Premier League, his words have been prophetic as once innocent, but now increasingly experienced, tigers stalk the upper echelons of English football.

Hull City, nicknamed ‘The Tigers’, have had a long, long, LONG period of innocence but are now burning brightly. Founded in 1904, the East Yorkshire club has seemingly spent the last 94 years in innocence. In 1909/10, City briefly flirted with the guilty pleasures of league success by finishing third in the old Second Division. No doubt intoxicated by this brief encounter, Hull then waited until 2008 to again confront the transition from innocence to experience, and the delights this might bring. Following a tight encounter with Bristol City in the Championship decider at Wembley in May this year, Hull won 1-0 to claim a place in the Premier League, and with it came the end of the age of innocence.

Observers labelled the game at Wembley ‘the £60 million match’, acknowledging that the victors could enjoy a windfall of television and media revenues, gate receipts and sponsorship deals that would be beyond their wildest dreams. Buoyed by the promises that such a payout might bring, Hull City commenced on a summer spending spree that brought in an eclectic mix of ‘maturing’ professionals (alternatively read as ‘too old’), unknown imports and inexperienced young guns.

Marshalling this disparate band of the young, old and disaffected has been Phil Brown, former sidekick to the epitome of cut-and-thrust English football, Sam Allardyce (he was ‘Big Sam’s’ assistant at Bolton Wanderers for several years). Brown’s intervening career had been none too promising. Having decided to step out of Allardyce’s shadow in 2005, ‘Little Phil’ went on to manage Derby County where he tried, failed and was sacked after less than a season in charge. Hull came calling later that year, 2006.

Despite the revelry of innocence following their spring day out in London, the signs for City for were ominous. Back in May, just after their appearance in the Wembley Final, the team was quoted by bookmakers as being 1000/1 to win the Premier League. By the start of the season, the odds had fallen dramatically with bookies quoting Hull as being somewhere between 5000/1 and 10000/1 to win the title. With Brown in charge, and what seemed a wretched selection of players to choose from, this was hardly surprising.

How experience can change people though; may be one does truly ascend to a new level of consciousness in moving from innocence to experience? December 2008: five months on and Hull City currently occupy sixth spot in the Premier League. City and its players are performing with a swagger normally reserved for the Premier League aristocracy; and the manager, once a ‘Route One’ football exponent, is now being cast as a tactical genius. Indeed, cynics and critics alike are now openly questioning if it is possible for newly promoted clubs to stay up and stay strong.

Whether or not Hull City and the club’s fans are predisposed to the poetry of William Blake, they would nevertheless be wise to pay closer attention to the prophecies that lay within his work. For instance: they might want to think about ‘The Land of Dreams’ while beating Arsenal away from home, or read in detail his ‘Preludium to Europe’ while craving for a UEFA Cup (sorry, Europa League) place. More realistically, perhaps they should reflect on Blake’s poem ‘Three Things to Remember’, namely: 1) the Big-4 (now Big-5, if one includes Manchester City) in the Premier League always get their own way in the end; 2) as with stock markets around the world, whatever rises inevitably falls; and 3) when a Spanish club and the sunshine eventually and inevitably come calling for Geovanni or Zayatte, does the East Riding of Yorkshire really have what it takes to keep these guys in town?

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