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Tuesday, 04 March 2014

Can Hull City Finally Make Their Mark In The FA Cup?

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After the Capital One Cup Final Gus Poyet missed out on writing himself into the folklore of Wearside, but former Black Cats boss Steve Bruce still has a fighting chance of making history on Humberside.

When the eight teams for this season's FA Cup quarter-final were finalised, seven of them had won the cup before. And all seven had made a distinctive contribution to the story of the FA Cup - then there was Hull City.

Arsenal, Everton and Manchester City are multiple winners. Wigan were the first winners to be relegated, Sunderland can point to their epics in 1937 and 1973 and Charlton appeared in back-to-back finals famous for balls bursting and a player scoring for both sides. Sheffield United were once involved in three finals in four years. All part of the great FA Cup story.

Steve bruceThere have been many arguments in Hull this season about the heritage of the club and its name - but one thing that everyone can agree on is that the Tigers's FA Cup record could do with some improvement - in fact, their knockout record in general is nothing to write home about.

Hull City have been entering the competition since 1905 and have appeared in the semi-finals just once - way back in 1929/30. There have been a scattering of runs to the last eight, the last in 2009 but overall it's a mediocre record. The best that Hull can offer is a runner-up spot in the Football League Trophy in 1984 and also in the curious Watney Cup, in 1973.

The football fans of Hull feel the absence of knockout success all the more because the rugby league teams in Hull have stacked up silverware over the years. The manager who can take the Tigers to Wembley success would be remembered for years, whatever the name that the club has in the future.

So can Steve Bruce be the man? The Tigers have been handed a home tie with Sunderland, who are still deep in the relegation mire. Hull's own survival isn't certain yet - Saturday's 4-1 home defeat  didn't help - but they do have a margin of safety and can really focus on the quarter-final.

The FA Cup has altered a little in the past few years. From 1989-2008 it became the preserve of the top flight elite with the same names tying their ribbons on the trophy year after year. Since 2008 though, Portsmouth and Wigan have crashed the party. The race for Champions League places has become so all-consuming that the contenders at the peak of the Premier League have eyes elsewhere.

Even now at the business end of the competition, the elite are still not able to give the Cup full attention. Admittedly, they do have huge squads to throw at the problem but this year the situation is especially fraught. Not only is the title race tight, it's still possible for any of the top four to drop to fourth (meaning a play-off in the CL) or even the dreaded fifth.

So Arsenal and Man City are both trying to win the title and protect their Champions League place simultaneously. Opportunity knocks for a lower ranked team to come through the pack in the manner of Wigan last year.

For Hull the quarter-final draw is favourable; the biggest teams left in the draw can't give the Cup their full attention. And Hull have enough leeway above the drop zone to throw everything at the game on Sunday.

If they get past Sunderland it could be Arsenal or Man City in the semis - a tough ask - but as the Black Cats proved on Sunday, underdogs can raise their game for the big occasion. And if Everton or Wigan can't beat the odds at the weekend, the Gunners and Citizens will still have their title/CL ambitions to worry about.

Is a Hull City  triumph fanciful? Maybe but there were those who said that about the Tigers getting into the top flight and they managed that after over 100 years trying. If the AFC title is going to disappear from the club name there would be no better way to preserve it then to have it inked into the list of the winners of the oldest competition in the world.

Article by Hugh Larkin

Calling all Hull fans: What would a cup win mean for you? Would you take doing a Wigan in order to win the competition? Whatever your views, we'd love to hear from you.


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