Hull City's Ehab Allam: We've made big decisions and faced criticism, but we're on the right track
Ehab Allam tells Philip Buckingham why he has needed thick skin as he attempts to enjoy running Hull City.
FROM the day he and his father took the plunge to rescue Hull City in December 2010, Ehab Allam knew all too well the tide of goodwill would eventually turn.
A golden cheque for £49m can buy you many things but not, it seems, the unconditional gratitude of football supporters.
And so it came to pass on April 30.
Hull Aero Club is the place for you! For information, for bookings or to buy a flight as a special gift, phone us or see our website at www.hullaeroclub.co.uk
Terms: Trial flying lessons, 2-seat aircraft, half-hour £75, hour £130; 4-seat aircraft, half-hour £90, hour £160.
Contact: 01964 770415
Valid until: Sunday, June 02 2013
The ruthless disposal of Nick Barmby and Adam Pearson, just 48 hours after an encouraging season finished with a 2-1 loss at West Ham, was met with widespread consternation amongst the club's disbelieving followers.
Dismissing two of City's much-loved leaders without explanation dispatched an open invitation for criticism. And it duly came by the bucket-load.
Message boards and radio phone-ins were inundated with angry fans demanding answers, while at the eye of the storm Allam received crank calls and found abusive messages left on his car.
The vitriol eventually began to subside as the shock eased, and all but evaporated when Steve Bruce was unveiled as Barmby's high-profile successor on June 8.
Now, months after the remarkable bombshell was first dropped, the old guard of Barmby and Pearson are condemned to roles in City's history.
The figureheads of one KC revolution have become the casualties of another, but Allam has every confidence a turbulent summer will be vindicated in time.
"I have to look at the longer-term good of the club and what's best for the future," said City's vice chairman.
"I understand there's the public perception that's very favourable towards Nick and Adam.
"They have been great for the club in the past. Nick in particular, he's been a fantastic player for the club and put a lot of time and effort in. He should always be remembered for that.
"But what I could see going on behind the scenes and what was being said in the media, it became an untenable situation for both. It just couldn't carry on.
"You have to try and exist in a bit of a bubble at times but what drives me through the difficult times is that I genuinely believe it was the best decision for the club.
"When we genuinely have the belief you're doing the right thing it's easier to suffer the pain that goes with it. You know it's for the right reasons."
Legal proceedings launched by both Barmby and Pearson in the aftermath of their departures continue to limit Allam's insight on the days that demolished a seemingly stable landscape around the KC.
The two decisions, he maintains, had no bearing on one another.
Pearson was first to be relieved of his duties on April 30 "without notice and without compensation" before Barmby was suspended within the hour.
An appeal process inevitably proved unsuccessful and, on May 8, Barmby left the club after he "undermined the trust and confidence that needs to exist between the manager and the board."
Big decisions brought big consequences.
"I had a lot of criticism," said Allam. "It's not nice but I suppose that was inevitable. You take a decision like that with the local hero and also with Adam, a popular former owner and chairman, and you expect to come in for some criticism.
"I had crank calls, nasty messages left on my car and fans approach me.
"I always try and take time to stand and talk to them and explain some of the reasons why we made the decisions we did.
"We can't go into all the details of things behind the scenes, because of the legality of divulging information, but I've tried to be as honest as I can.
"The people I've spoken to on the street have initially been critical but once I've had chance to speak with them, they begin to understand. You can't get that message out to everyone unfortunately."
For a family that has planted roots in East Yorkshire ever since Assem Allam fled his native Egypt in 1968 and stepped in to save the Tigers 42 years later, the personal attacks stung.
Opposing the decision to sack Barmby was understandable but the threats underlined the precarious nature of their new-found public status.
"You're bound to have reservations when you're attacked personally in that way, but at the end of the day my father's decision was to save the club for the greater good of the city and the community in general," explained Allam, when asked if his family ever regretted the decision to take over the Tigers.
"I believe that's a commendable action to take and all I'm trying to do is make sure the club is run properly and has a successful future.
"It was never going to be an easy task to be local owners of a high-profile club, but what do you do when you're faced with the decision at the time?
"Let the club go bust or do you take all these issues on the chin?
"Do you not save the club because you don't want to take that public criticism? Or do you step up and take the criticism as a part of it?
"I'm sure there's plenty of supporters out there who appreciate what we're doing, but there will be a small minority whose voices you end up hearing."
Two years ago BC (before City), life was far easier for the Allams, and considerably more affluent.
Their financial commitments to the club are expected to surpass the £60m mark by next summer, while the merry-go-round of staff has seen Barmby, Adam Pearson, Nigel Pearson, two backroom teams and former chief executive Mark Maguire all exit in the last 12 months.
So, with all the headaches that come with running the Tigers, is there still enjoyment to be had?
"I can see that I will once we've got the club on an even keel," said Allam after a lengthy pause.
"It's been really difficult with all the changes we've had to implement and there's been problems that we can't turn a blind eye to.
"Once we've ironed out all the problems and got the club progressing again, I can see it will be a lot more enjoyable.
"It is hard work and even more so because it's under the scrutiny of the public eye every day. That makes life a lot more difficult. Every single thing you do is open to criticism.
"Thankfully, I've always had a thick skin."
If City supporters have seen optimism demolished and restored over the course of a quite unique summer, the brightness that surrounds a new season has everything to do with the new boss.
Persuading Bruce to take a step down into the Championship for the first time since 2007 was an undoubted coup for the City board and offered even the most disgruntled supporters reason to forgive and forget.
"I've always been optimistic because I know how we want to progress as a club," added Allam.
"I knew we would recruit someone with a lot of experience and someone with a proven track record of taking clubs out of the Championship and into the Premier League.
"It was always going to be a big appointment after the departure of Nick and Adam. We knew it would be heavily scrutinised and we knew we had to get it right.
"I was always confident of getting the right man but in terms of boosting the confidence of supporters, that will be Steve's job on the pitch."
After a summer to cause no end of sleepless nights, it is little wonder the Allams are only too happy to see the spotlight swing back towards football.