FourFourTwo catches up with former Hull City star Geovanni to discuss life in Hull, beating Arsenal, the FA Cup final and *that* half time team talk at the Etihad....
Tell us about your move to Hull. How did that happen?
It was a pleasure to have played at Hull. I was fortunate enough to be the man to score the club’s first ever goal in the Premier League and now they’re a very good team - they’re in a cup final and playing well. I’ve seen a lot of their games in Brazil – I’m a Hull City fanatic now! I support them and I’m very happy to be able to return to Hull after four years.
Did you know much about the club or city before you arrived in England?
About Hull? Well, in my first season in England I played for Manchester City. I had seen Hull’s play-off game at Wembley in which they won promotion to the Premier League (against Bristol City in 2008) and so I knew a bit about players like Dean Windass and Michael Turner who played in that final. So, for me, it was an absolute pleasure to meet these players and play for Hull for two years. It was amazing, going back to Hull [to watch the Premier League match against Arsenal in April] was very emotional. They were the best two years that I spent in Europe because it was really relaxed and I was allowed to play.
What are your memories of the game in which Hull beat Arsenal in their own stadium that season (2008)?
It was a very tough game for us. Not many people believed that we could get a win at Arsenal on their own ground. I always believed because I was used to playing big games – in the Champions League or Europa League for example. So I knew that we could win. It was a fantastic day though. Not just for me, but for all the players, and of course the fans. I think it was only the second time Arsenal were beaten in a game at the Emirates. That’s a lot of games – in the league, Champions League and cups. We won 2-1 and it was a game that will never leave the minds of the supporters because it was such a great win.
Would you say the goal you scored that day was the best goal you scored in your career?
Well, I scored a lot of goals. At Benfica I scored a lot of important goals and for Manchester City I scored an important goal against Manchester United. But this win against Arsenal was a game that defined my time at Hull. Whenever people talk about my time at Hull they always remember the game against Arsenal. For a team to get promoted and then win away to Arsenal in the first season is incredible really. It was fantastic and for me to be part of that squad made me very proud.
In that season Hull won away to Arsenal, Tottenham and Newcastle in their first four away games, was there any secret to that early success?
Not really. We had a lot of good players at the time: George Boateng, Michael Turner, Bernard Mendy, Marlon King, Daniel Cousin – we had a team with a good mix of youth and experience. We had a lot of desire to win thanks to our manager Phil Brown, a great person and a good coach, a good atmosphere in the dressing room and we knew from the start what we had to do. We had a lot of desire to improve and prove that we could hold our own in Hull’s first season in the Premier League.
What were you thinking during Phil Brown’s half time team talk against Manchester City? Had you experienced anything like that before in your career?
No, that was the first time! Really it might have been better doing it away from the pitch to be honest. Doing a team talk like that on the pitch means everyone can see you and it doesn’t look too good. But it happened. Phil Brown is a good manager who has managed many teams in his career. That was certainly a bad day for us, and me especially because I used to play for City, but these are things that happen. I think us, as players, could have performed better for Brown. I think we improved in the second half, not really because of that team talk on the pitch, but because we wanted to prove that we were better than our first half that day. I'm very glad that we stayed up that first season. But as for the team talk - it happened, it’s something we accepted even if we didn’t like it.
How did you feel when Hull stayed up that season, was it almost like a trophy for you and the other players?
Well, we started the season really well actually. In the end we did just enough to stay in the division although it was hard work. But for me it was very sad though, because at the beginning of the season we were at the upper end of the table and doing very well before our level dropped and we fell really far down the league. We needed to find more consistency you know, game after game, but instead we had a very big dip. In the end though we had to be happy as we remained in the Premier League.
Let’s talk about Hull this season. They’ve had a good year, what do you think they need to do to beat Arsenal in the FA Cup final?
First of all, it's a dream for Hull to be in the FA Cup final and I'm glad Arsenal beat Wigan so they play a good team in the final. Hull is the sort of team that has to fight very hard to reach these finals. I think that this year could go down in history for Hull. It depends. The players and staff will have to keep focussed. They’ll have studied how Arsenal play and will need to make sure they have a good gameplan, believe they can win and go on and win it.
What do Hull need to do next season to improve and continue growing in the same way?
At the moment Hull are doing great work. Now they need to help the club’s good young players grow and develop, being a club that does a lot to nurture young players. They have a lot of talented youngsters and I think they need to now work hard to develop them more. Obviously as with any team they could also use strengthening in some areas, to keep evolving and growing year-by-year. They need a squad to be able to cope with playing in European competition as well now. If they can improve the academy and sign three or four players they can also cope with a European campaign.
Do you think Hull can do well in Europe?
I think that it’s more of a long-term plan really. There has to be a three-year plan, maybe longer, to properly establish the club. This season has been brilliant – Hull are in a cup final and managed to stay up too. Next season they will want to aim a little bit higher, and then in the following seasons even higher. The club managed to make it to Europe for next season – why not aim to make it a regular thing in the future? It’s a dream for the supporters, for the board, the owners. Once you’re in Europe you earn a lot more money, attract better players – everything grows. In two years time if the club lays good foundations in place Hull could grow a bigger reputation in Europe and qualify for it more regularly.
Compare the current Hull team to the one you played in. Which is better?
This team is a good team, it has a lot of quality. But the team I played in wasn’t too bad either, you know? At times we played really good football. We gave it our all whenever we entered the field and I think the fans appreciated that. The team I played in always played very well and I always enjoyed playing in it. Marlon King, Dean Windass and others as well were good players, but it was a good team in general that worked together as a unit. A direct comparison is a little bit difficult. The team I played in had quality and the current team does too.
Umbro is the technical kit partner for Hull City from season 2014/15, for more head to umbro.com