Back to work. Sunderland v Hull City is the first of three games against clubs whose own supporters would probably settle for the top half of the bottom six. Gary Clark epitomises the Tiger spirit of Hull. He wrote a book about the road to the Premier, From Boothferry To Wembley, and now has copies of the follow-up, This Is The Best Trip We’ve Ever Been On, available on Paypal or by Googling Gary Clark Hull. Better still, he also writes for Salut! Sunderland, but at such great length that we should really split his epic into two parts …
As widely predicted by those stalwarts in Hull, the Tigers finished 17th in the Premiership last season, a position achieved on the last day of the season after the last ball had been kicked.
Everybody else had us relegated in August. We kept our rightful place in the top flight by gaining one more point than Newcastle, who lost on the last day via a solitary, wickedly deflected goal at Villa Park. Which was hard luck on them. But they had been rather s—- all year and probably deserved to go down more than we did.
Mackems may remember a very similiar deflected goal that flew into out net at the KC from a wayward pot shot from Kieran Richardson that wrong footed Boaz Myhill and nestled into the bottom corner when it was destined for somewhere near the corner flag. It put you 2-1 up with five minutes to play when, be honest, you would have gladly have taken a 1-1 draw at that time.
How the game ended up 4-1 in your favour would be better answered by the referee from hell, Mike Riley. The man who had his whistle taken away in the summer by the FA and was given an office job instead.
Our last day opponents were none other than Manchester United reserves. The first XI were not allowed out and were instead wrapped in cotton wool and safely tucked up in bed resting for the Champions League Final on the Wednesday. Of course all of you in the North East will be aware of that because Newcastle, Middlesbrough and yourselves had threatened to sue Man Utd if they fielded a weakened team against Hull.
You needn’t have bothered.
Phil Brown fielded a foward line that day that had scored a grand total of four goals between them all season, and apparently gave them instructions not to cross the halfway line until Newcastle scored at Villa Park, which they never did, and therefore we never had to.
The sense of relief at the final whistle was like reaching the privacy of your own toilet after touching cloth for the previous two hours. A moment to sit and ponder, and perhaps savour depending where you were at that time. We had done it, survived, one win in 22 matches, a club record, yet we still clung onto that cherised 17th slot.
The game itself was surreal. United toyed with us, scored the only goal and the last 20 minutes were played at exhibition match pace. We were dreadful, terrified, exhausted, and very beatable. Yet we survived.
Now the questions:
You made a great start last season. Wolves, Birmingham and Burnley have had less spectacular openings to the season but are not yet rolling over. Can one or more of them also stay up?
City hit the ground running at the start of last season and surprised a few teams. We were still third in the middle of October and our chairman was talking of possibly qualifying for Europe. That was until Alan Shearer, the smug b*****d, did an hatchet job on our weakness on MOTD. We had just lost 4-3 at Old Trafford in game that could have ended 10-3. We shook Man Utd up that afternoon and could have snatched an unlikely 4-4 draw, also becoming the first team to score three against them at home since Real Madrid three years previously. Yet the Geordie Messiah (tee hee) spent two thirds of the programme highlighting our weaknesses and showing the rest of the footballing nation how to beat us that from that day we had difficulty winning the toss.
And the same will happen to Burnley, sure as eggs are eggs, they will be found out. We have already played Wolves away and came away with a 1-1 draw. Leaving Mick McCarthy still without a home win in his last 19 Premiership matches (17 with you in case you had forgotten). Wolves are nothing special and I’m afraid are in for a slightly more torrid season than ourselves. Birmingham, likewise, too much like West Brom for my liking and along with the other two promoted two will eventually fight it out with perhaps Portsmouth, my team, Bolton, Wigan and maybe yourselves to stay in the Premiership. If one of the promoted team is to stay up I would take a punt on Birmingham, because of their style of play and tactical knowledge and the general ruggedness of their manager’s approach to the game.
Lots of transfer activity involving our two clubs. Who came out better from the comings and goings?
To say we were peeved when you pinched Fraizer Campbell off us would be an understatement. But it was obvious the transfer we all thought was nailed on wasn’t as secure as we were led to believe when Fraizer was delaying signing on the dotted line. We waited and waited and waited, then he signed for Sunderland. Popular opinion at this end was that you got to his old man, who is also his agent, and Fraizer became your man and not ours.
Hull offered £7m for him in the first transfer window of last season and were only beaten at the 11th hour when he was used as a sweetener to Spurs in the Berbatov deal. Of course then rumour and speculation takes over and everyone seemed to have heard that he would be joining us this season. The love affair with Campbell started a third of the way through our promotion season from the Championship when he joined us on loan from Royal Antwerp and turned us from a team that looked likely to be fighting off relegation to a team that eventually won the Championship Play-Off Final at Wembley. He also scored 15 goals and laid that spectacular winner on for Dean Windass to volley into the Wembley net for the winning goal.
On the downside, he does not have a lot of Premier League experience and was non-existent when he played against us for Spurs at White Hart Lane when we beat them 1-0 last season. On top of that many people around here thought the £6m we were supposed to have bid for him, second time around was excessive. But he has gone from hero to villain overnight.
On the other hand your latest capture, Michael Turner, has almost started a civil war in Hull. Turner has been our player of the season ever since he joined us from Brentford. Last season I believe he picked up twenty eight different supporters clubs awards. I liked him the first time I saw him play in a pre-season friendly against Man City and I reported he was like a young Gordon McQueen. He was also tipped to be the first Hull player since 1906 to win a full England cap. Not now he won’t be. Hull slapped a £12m valuation tab on him, yet accepted £4m plus Paul McShane, and turned down £7m from Liverpool if the rumours we hear are to be believed. Of course the actual fee is not being disclosed which fuels the arguments for and against even further. Our local radio stations have been buzzing with angry fans calling for the chairman and manager’s heads over this, all bollocks in my opinion, of course the local media feeds the discontent to keep the newspapers selling, and it all became a bit unsavoury.
Michael Turner is good, no doubt about that. You get 90 minutes out of him every match and he does not get injured, but he isn’t Jacky Charlton or Terry Butcher (older fans will understand that) and he isn’t irreplaceable, I hope, because if I’m wrong on that then we are sunk without a trace.
I fail to see the need for Hull to sell him, and I do not understand why he chose you, perhaps it was the Fraizer Campbell influence, who knows? But whereas Campbell’s actions will turn him into a bit of a hate character amongst Hull fans, Turner will always be well received. That’s despite the back page of the Hull Daily Mail informing us how pleased he is to be joining “a top 10 club” and how pleased he is to have got the move of his dreams.
On a positive note Paul McShane was excellent for us last season and our bad run of results started when he was recalled back to Sunderland. Perhaps it was not all down to him leaving but it certainly was a factor and we are glad to see him back.
… to be continued …