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What They're Saying: Hull Hope To Rile Crowd; Boss Plays Down Grudge Match

Roker Report continues its paranoia and heads to Humberside to spy on the Hull City Tigers. Here's what tomorrow's opponents - manager, players, newspapers, pundits and fans - are saying about their visit to the Stadium of Light.

Hull City v Sunderland - Premier League Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images

The Manager

Mike Phelan was shown the door at Old Trafford when David Moyes stepped into the giant shoes of Alex Ferguson. With the 54-year-old Hull City boss bringing his side to the Stadium of Light to face Moyes' Sunderland tomorrow, Phelan has played down any billing of the fixture as a grudge match:

I have no point to prove. I had a fantastic career at Manchester United. It’s not for me to hold any grudges.

I had 18 years there overall, which is more than most people to get. I had my time but my time now is here. I had experience in abundance at Manchester United and it’s up to me to bring that here to Hull.

Meanwhile, The Tigers boss believes his team - lifted by a win in their last fixture against Southampton - have enough to beat a Sunderland side sitting at the bottom of the table:

We’re looking for a performance away from home. We’ve got enough players within this group to take to Sunderland to perform at the level I expect.

They’re training well and they’re buoyant and so they should be. They showed a lot of character.

The Players

Hull stalwart, Curtis Davies, believes if his side can get on top of Sunderland, the 'notorious' home crowd will grow restless:

Notoriously with Sunderland and the other north east clubs, if you are in the game then the later it goes on the fans start turning on them.

Meanwhile, midfielder Ryan Mason suggests Sunderland have strength in depth beyond his former Tottenham teammate, Jermain Defoe:

They’ve got a goalscorer in Jermain Defoe, who I played with for a few years. He’s a threat but we have to make sure we play our game, our philosophy. He can make something out of nothing but we’d be silly to focus too much on him.

But, the Tigers are already downplaying the consequences of defeat in what is a must-not-lose encounter for both sides, with Mason saying in this morning's Hull press conference:

We’re both going into it on the back of wins, so it’s different to how it might have been. It's a massive game, yes, but it’s not the be all and end all.

Mason also claimed Sunderland were one of the clubs interested in signing him before he joined The Tigers, but has no regrets about turning down the opportunity to play on Wearside:

There were a few clubs interested. It just felt right coming here and I knew a few of the players. It was a gut feeling to come here and I’d have been silly to go against my gut.

The rest is history, it was a pretty straight-forward decision.

The Local Newspaper

The Hull Daily Mail is this week's featured local daily and its a curious publication.

Admittedly, the Hull Daily Mail has a dreadful task. Like all regional newspapers these days, it relies on football for a large portion of its print and online content. But with a fanbase on Humberside vehemently opposed to the current regime at Hull City, the Mail flies in the face of popular opinion by relentlessly bigging-up the football club, oblivious to fan discontent.

So, the Hull Daily Mail pretend there is no crisis and dare not risk the wrath of the Allam-run club on which it relies for content. Indeed, a browse through a few weeks worth of the Mail reveals little trace of the enormous problems at Hull City.

Take this neat example of the pro-Tigers hysteria; with the paper clearly oblivious to the fact that being the Premier League's highest-conceding side may be more of an embarrassment than a source of pride on prime-time TV:

Hull City top billing on MOTD more times than Arsenal and Manchester City

Meanwhile, Hull players, management and, indeed the newspaper, have gone all out in the last fortnight to try and coerce stay-away fans to return. Most of the absentees have vowed not to return to the KCOM Stadium until the Allam-era is ended, but the days of local newspapers being representative of their local people and a catalyst for the community to effect change, are long gone:

Mike Phelan says Hull City 'need bums back on seats'

And, you might not be surprised to learn every Sunderland fans' third favourite coward, Ahmed Elmohamady, was telling everyone to "stick together" recently in the Hull Daily Mail. But, whilst the Mail have noted the issue, they aren't deeply concerned:

Hull City fall in attendances a concern, but perhaps more so is the malaise around the club

Because "to his credit...City's new marketing executive is doing everything he can to rectify the situation". Marketing huh? - it can fix anything.

The Local Pundit

Hull City legend Peter Swan is the pundit previewing Saturday's fixture at the Stadium of Light. You know - Peter Swan, played eighty games for Hull City before releasing a biography about himself called 'Confessions of a Lower League Legend'.

But, Peter Swan is most famous for once scoring against Sunderland at Roker Park and for setting up a wooden flooring company, called Major Oaks, with rent-a-mag John Beresford.

The goal came in a classic encounter in April 1990, with 'Swanny' scoring a first minute header to give Hull City victory against a Sunderland side which would earn promotion thanks to Swindon's misdemeanours. The flooring company lasted about five minutes before going bust.

'Swanny' now has a gig with BBC Radio Humberside, and of course the Hull Daily Mail. In his weekly column, he has this to say about the trip to the Stadium of Light:

You'll not find many pundits who don't picture Hull and Sunderland in the bottom three come May, so to keep a five-point lead over the Black Cats, or extend it to eight would inflict a big glow on Moyes' men

Would I take a draw if it was offered right now? All day long.

Quaking he is.

The Fans

If home attendances are dwindling, Hull City's away numbers are hardly swollen either. Indeed, cash turnstiles will be open for any Tigers who don't mind a mauling from us Black Cats tomorrow.

But, you can't blame them - and credit to all Hull City fans who have stayed true to their principles and railed against the Allam-madness. What is true though, is that Hull's fan crusade to rectify the perceived slights against their club, has never gained the national coverage it deserves.

There is an apathy in England to anything that appears to discredit the Premier League machine; and if some ground has been gained over ticket prices and safe-standing in recent months, fan-power is still dormant in English football's top tier.

Regardless, there are some Tigers who are looking forward to tomorrow's fixture. Hull City Independent is a neat forum with some decent chat. This poster, from the suburb of Hull which resembles its Jamaican namesake, knows the score though:

The glory days of Roker Park - when 15,000 people made a helluva din without the need for clackers. Oh for that kind of atmosphere tomorrow.

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