Hull City: an optimist’s survival plan

hullartPhoto: K G Stone

Alan Fulcher* is a Wearside-based Hull City fan whose belief that the Tigers can stay up was shaken but not destroyed by what he calls a “bugger of a result” in Wigan v Arsenal. Salut! Sunderland‘s links with Alan began when we ran a piece (after Phil Brown’s sacking) that was essentially affectionate towards the club but which he found condescending, not least since we had little to shout about ourselves at the time. Alan was promptly invited back to preview this weekend’s game in our Who Are You? series: it’s a big match for us as we seek to put earlier woes behind us with a storming finish, but even bigger for City as they fight desperately against relegation …

Let’s start with the obvious one: what’s a bloke in Sunderland doing supporting Hull City?

Dead easy, I have lived in Washington since 1992, but was born in Kingston-Upon-Hull and lived there until 1973. Always support the team where you were born; there’s more than enough ‘Glory Hunters’ around football!

Does living in a passionate football city make it inevitable that you also follow that city’s club, ie Sunderland, or are you strictly a one-club fan?

When it comes down to it I am a Tiger through and through, but over the years I have enjoyed many a game at both Roker and the Stadium of Light. I certainly look upon Sunderland as my ‘second’ team as all of my best mates over the years have been avid Mackems – with a sprinkling of the Toon and the odd visit to SJP adding to the good banter.

Describe Hull’s season, or the last season-and-a-half since the wonderful start in the Premier turned into perpetual struggle. Did you persevere too long with Phil Brown and did you heart leap or fall when Dowie was named as his successor?

A rollercoaster ride with a lot more downs than ups! Last season we did well up to meeting Sunderland in December, we lost Ricketts and went to 10 men and you put us to the sword – something teams can struggle to do, but you did it with panache! I was as sick as a pig in Lanzarote. We then suffered the on-pitch half-time rollicking that only served to feed Phil Brown’s ego – we never recovered from that and I feel it let both him and the Tigers down badly. The Bullard signing was a gamble far too large for the Tigers to afford. I lost my faith in Brown around Feb 2009 and would have moved him on in May. That may sound harsh as he kept us up, although I believe he almost got us relegated! One thing is for sure, he never found any new ideas at the start of this season. As much as I wanted shot of Brown, to replace him with only nine games left was madness and to replace him with Dowie was simple lunacy – the man cannot pick his own nose, never mind a football team. But if we stay up, guess who will manage us next season – heads we lose, tails……

Full credit to Phil Brown, but he simply ran out of ideas, tinkering with the team far too much and falling out with players with too much frequency – his squad was weak enough without his massive ‘naughty step‘! I hope he has learned something from his time with us.

You can survive, but will you?

Survival for us is purely down to the players; we would deserve it as much as any of the bottom group, who have all been poor for much of the season. We have lost far too many games that we really should have won and we have won some games (or got a point) from some very unlikely sources, so who knows until the maths say no! My glass is always half full, so I live in hope.

And if the worst came to the worst, would you be capable of doing a Newcastle or do you fear a return to constant below-stairs life?

Newcastle, who I congratulate on their return to the top flight, have shown that the game of football is as much about what happens in the dressing room and beyond, than it is purely about 90 minutes on the pitch. Our affairs are still complex and hard to determine, so I do not see an immediate return, but, instead, a rebuild and reinvestment and then another hard slog – if we go down!

What do you make of Sunderland’s season? Where will we finish and does this vary from what you expected last August?

Sunderland have had a very mixed season and have been far easier to beat than the squad would make you think. I believe they will end up around 13th and that is well below where I thought in August – inwardly, you must all be breathing a bit of a sigh of relief that you never expected. Funny old game, this football.

Assuming you were at Wembley for the playoff final, has there been anything to touch that for you as a footballing experience?

No, I could not get there and nothing in our history could touch it – yet!

Who are the players who have given you most pleasure in Hull colours – and who has inflicted the most grief?

Where do I start? In truth the iconic name of Ken Wagstaffe comes to mind, he was a real gem and we were unfortunate not to hit the top flight with him in the team. Dean Windass and Nicky Barmby are two Hull Lads who have come home to roost and support their boyhood team. But the real joy comes from seeing a player, no matter where he is from, who, like Ian Ashbee, can accomplish so much for himself and therefore the club he serves and leads with pride; for Ian it has been the Tigers! That, for me, is the real joy of football – although that may change with a major title or trophy; hey, chance will be a fine thing!!

Is there one thing City or the football authorities should do to make the lot of fans a happier one?

Yes, a salary cap and more rigorous financial controls – the game is moving away from the local club supporter and that is a poor thing for football. Another good move would be to disband the Football Association and rebuild it with less influence from Europe. While they are at it, bring back some standing terraces where the vocal minority can gather and lead the 13th man – there are some proper ‘libraries’ around the country.

Give us your thoughts on people associated with both of our clubs: Kilbane, McShane, Turner, Iain Hesford …

Kevin Kilbane has had a strong career and has been a useful utility player for any club, he can still do a fair job at centre back or left back, but more of a cameo player these days. Both Dowie and Brown have used him in central midfield and that does him or us no favours at all!

Paul McShane had a good loan period with us, but has not found that form except in snatches. Losing his father, Sean, will not have helped the lad, but he needs to look at his positioning, it lets him down.

Michael Turner – well enough said. We had a great period from him; I hope he continues to improve for you. I would like to see the lad play for England – his pace may prevent that though. No hard feelings at all, football is football and he is a cracking ‘old school’ centre back.

Ah, Iain Hesford: I just came across a comment he once posted here and he and you have one thing in common – words may vary but you’ve both suspected Salut! Sunderland of publishing “pure bollocks”! Can you remind us how it was that we got up your nose?

I have never been opposed to airing true views and feelings, but sometimes there can be a condescending view to newly promoted clubs. Three go down and three come up. I dislike the play-offs, for me it should be the top three – we were third, but won through again via Wembley. That old saying, ‘the league does not lie’, is a good adage to live by. Twenty teams start the season and they all deserve respect for being in the top flight; it is results that separate us, nothing more and they can be hit and miss no matter how much a club spends.

The Eduardo question: last game of the season and youlve made such a good recovery that a win will secure your Premier League place. One-one with seconds to go and Alitdore (sorry, chosen at random) falls over dramatically in the box. Everyone knows there was no foul – except the ref, and you score the winner from the spot. Take it gladly, take it guiltily or feel so ashamed you almost wish you were going to Doncaster and Scunthorpe next season?

Golden rule – Play to the ref! Let hindsight, the media and the authorities worry about that one.

Go on then: name the finishing top four in order, and the bottom three.

Top: Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal, Manchester City – more shake-ups in years to come.

Bottom: Portsmouth, Burnley, Wigan. – just topped my glass up again! … oh what a bugger of a Wigan result ..make it Pompey-Burnley-West Ham

Club vs country? Who wins for you – can’t wait for S Africa to start or too concerned with the Tigers’ run-in?

The Tigers finish in May, England start in June – bring it on! Whether you are a player or a fan, get fully behind your country when it needs you. Money and TV has swung too many away from supporting England.

Will you be at our match? What will be the score?

Not sure of a ticket for the game, hopefully I will be there with lads from up here and staying for a night out! Looking for a 2-1 win, which is very realistic at home – Burnley was a bloody awful blip! If I cannot make the game, I will be spoilt for choice on where to watch it around here, not to mention some lively banter.

Alan Fulcher on Alan Fulcher:

Well, like I said, I have been around Washington since 1992. I stayed here after finishing 20 years in the forces, last two years in the north east. I now work in sales and travel extensively; these days mainly across the north of England. This brings me into contact with a good many folk from other clubs and that, in itself, broadens your football views.

My eldest daughter supports the Tigers (born there!), although my other daughter supports the Toon ( she’s a lass, so I forgive her!); her partner is a staunch supporter of the Wolves – his home team! My son has supported Liverpool since he was a young lad in Germany; sometimes shi’ite just happens! Match days can be fun in our house – my grandson has some serious thinking to do, but at two years old chants ‘come on the Tigers‘, Toon or Wolves’ with equal gusto – but he was born in Washington . . . . Time will tell if he ends up a Red & White, both his dad and myself would be happy with that, but his mother…hmmm!

Supporting the Tigers was always an up-hill struggle while in the forces and not much easier when trying to settle into Civvy-street. Truth is I am just as keen about Hull FC (The Airlie Birds) my old rugby league team, as I was brought up within a five minute jog of each ground, Boothferry Park and The Boulevard, where I was equally adept at climbing both fences! Great days, but a million miles away from today’s sanitised experience. I get to games at the KC as often as time and funds allow.

My claim to fame is having spent a couple of very memorable hours sharing a few pints of Guinness and singing a mix of Nat King Cole and Irish folk songs with Niall Quinn, in the days when he was still playing. A great guy and the sort of chairman I would love to have at my club.

I wish you all the best, with the exception of April 24 – bring it on! Oh, and should you want a decent gardener, come karaoke singer, we still have one to spare – Phil Brown’s tan will be well topped up by now and he needs a new start – he‘s got a lot to offer the right club; under a strong chairman – I wish him a luck .

Interview by Colin Randall

** Alan protests that he is camera-shy. Hence our choice of an image from Hull which just happened to take our fancy. Courtesy of a photographer and abstract artist named K G Stone – click here for his site- whose shot captures artwork created by students sponsored by Hull City Council and the Arts Council.

* NB: a recent deluge of spam means comments from people who have not been this way and posted before will have to await moderation. Sorry.

7 thoughts on “Hull City: an optimist’s survival plan”

  1. I bet you’ve got a million one liners just as good as that one Bill!

    It’s been a while since the Academy myth should have been well and truly sunk. It’s strange, but over the years I can’t think of a single person from Hull (and there have been many) that I haven’t got on with famously. Hull deserves its time. Go on the Tigers!

  2. That depends on whether or not your nickname’s Bubbles….
    The BBC is reporting that, up or down, Zola’s likely to be out of a job. No surprise there, but I will be mildly surprised if the Hammers stay up.

  3. Oh dear, Jeremy, you will have upset the Academy of English Soccer with that comment. It’s so unlike you to court controversy!!
    I do agree with your comments on Alan’s article and I hope they win tonight, lose on Saturday and then win the last two.
    Do they still run out to Mud and Tiger Feet? If I hear that on Saturday, I may change my mind – although on second thoughts it’s a bloody sight better than I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles!!!

  4. What a refreshingly honest article. Best of the season for me. I’m not sure that it’s Wigan that you need to worry about. For me, it’s West Ham. I sincerely hope that you can stay up. I really do! (I hope I don’t sound like Hughie Green either. 🙂

  5. I remember going to Boothferry Pk Twice once when Ken Stokes rob us against Leeds in the FA cup and when Garry Rowell made his debut and scored in a 4-1 win, that was a great day and we all knew Gary would be a great player for us

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