Hull City Who are You? : (2) Arsenal ‘cheating’, toxic Tiger times, ‘new fans’

Happy man: Gary Clark at the playoff final at Wembley, April 2014

For the second part of Gary Clark‘s* epic replies to Salut! Sunderland‘s questions – in fact not always replies but speeches, so don’t be surprised if the response does not always seem to correspond to the question – we take a long look at the wretched relations between ownership and club. We whinge about Ellis Short; for Hull City supporters, the problems may be deeper. But Gary also has time – lots of it – to exorcise a grudge against Arsenal and Mike Riley …

Salut! Sunderland: Tell us about your best times as a Tigers fan?

I’ve seen my club win at Wembley, win at Arsenal, win at Spurs, top the Premier League, play in a FA Cup Final, even qualify for Europe when in the “good old days” a home win against Scunthorpe United was the highlight of the season.

Gary Clark: We used to dream about reaching the FA Cup 3rd round to draw a “big” club, then we became (a relatively) big one ourselves and still the fans are not happy! How can I stand there and join in with the chants of “Allam Out” when they have delivered on the field where so many before them failed so hopelessly? And football used to be so simple. Which brings me nicely to the Steve Bruce situation.

‘They hated me for being a Geordie … but not him behind me’

Ah, Mrs Doubtfire! Still a revered man among Tigers fans?

Without doubt the most successful manager in our history, we’d just won the Championship Play Off Final at Wembley v Sheffield Wednesday to join the Premier League at the most lucrative time and a month later he walks out on us!

An apparent disagreement with the owners over future signings was the reason wheeled out? I thought it was a huge own goal at the time and our subsequent relegation backed that up. Or had Bruce come asking for money once too often? He likes to spend a few bob of others people’s money does Brucie.

In hindsight I believe he had served his purpose with us, become almost old fashioned, like a dinosaur even (like us old terrace warriors of the 70s). Football had moved on and possible left the likes of Steve Bruce behind, or did he know that Villa were calling as was he hankering after another big pay off from us before leaving? I honestly do not know but I would have guessed that money was behind it and it is the ever increasing need for more and more of it that is taking the game we love away from us…

The on-off sale of the club and lack of communication between the fans and the club feeds all the anger and where there is a void someone fills it with negativity.

It’s not a healthy mix, is it ? One example is the decision to close the upper section of the main stand this season and in doing so moving all the regular who sat up there. For one, why close it in the first place ? and two, why not try a fill it by reintroducing the concessions ?

It just doesn’t make business sense to me, but that’s probably why I own a corner shop and our owners are multi millionaires. Then again I am a life long supporter of Hull City, and they just happen to own the business. There is a cultural difference and a massive one.

Gary: third from left, in Gent with family before the Lokeren v Hull City Europa League qualifying game three years ago.

Football is no longer the preserve of the working man (recent poll). Discuss

But what constitutes a football supporter these days? It’s not a bloke and his son stood on the terraces supporting their local team anymore.

The more powerful the EPL gets and the more pull Sky has, a “supporter” is now a group of young men in club colours either watching a game from a pub or on a expensive settee, eating a takeaway and having a bet on an expensive looking iPod or what ever they are called.

We, the fans in the ground, will soon be irrelevant. We will be replaced by cardboard cut outs and pre-recorded chanting, singing and cheering over the tannoy systems for the benefit of those watching in the pub or with mates on that expensive settee which can be bought on special offer at some massive trade warehouse, online during the ad break, at only 99.9 per cent interest, BUY TODAY.

So the Championship, what do I think of it?

Not a lot to be honest. I don’t see a stand out team, it’s very cut and thrust and we have a lot of derbies. It’s a more equal competition then the Premier League that’s for sure and I suppose it’s more exciting to the real fan.

I honestly think Hull City have as much chance as anyone and the same goes for Sunderland. A lot depends on the injury situation and playing clubs at the right time. I suppose the club which spends the most money and therefore has the biggest squad will be near the top at the end and the club that spends the least with the smaller squad will be at the other end. That’s football these days. But I’ve enjoyed what I have seen so far and I do like midweek games and Saturdays at 3pm.

See the first part of Gary’s interview at this link

Is there anyone in our squad you’d like to see at your place?

I cannot honestly name you anyone except Cattermole in your team and that’s not our of disrespect I just don’t pay a lot of attention to other clubs’ squads these days. I don’t watch as much football on the telly either and I couldn’t care less about the Premier League now Hull aren’t it.

I am seriously considering cancelling my Sky subscription too. I’ve followed Hull City all my life, man and boy, since 1964 to present and I have my moments where I think I could seriously walk away from it for good. Maybe I’m getting older or football is losing its appeal, I don’t honestly know. I do know the cost is horrendous now and being the Yorkshireman that I am I hate being ripped off.

Diving and other forms of cheating – no longer worth bothering about? If not, how do we tackle them?

This is a rugby league area and as much as I dislike rugby league ( I find it mind numbingly boring) they do have the cheating side sorted with the video refs and the sin bins. Perhaps football could learn a thing or two?

And is the current ownership and managerial set-up one that will get you back up and keep you there?

I must be honest there are times when I doubt if I will ever see Hull City in the Premier League again.

It was always the dream to finally see my club up there in the First Division and when we finally did get there was no other feeling like it. But as a lad I always thought that a Hull City in the top league would mean 40,000 crowds every week and it would go on for ever, all we had to do was to get there.

A bit like my memories of Sunderland as a lad I suppose. I thought that all the city would be behind us and we would go form strength to strength. But it wasn’t like that.

Old-fashioned fans: the last season at Roker

Your general thoughts of supporting Hull and following football?

For most of my life I supported City playing at Boothferry Park which was once a huge ground of great potential in its heyday. I was there for the Sunderland v Leeds FA Cup second replay: 40,000 plus, a real sign of what things could be if only….

I’ve been in 40,000 crowds for third division games at Boothferry Park and not many clubs could draw crowds like that coming from the back ground that Hull had of never ever winning anything, but we could attract huge crowds when we were winning and the stadium with it’s big stands, the best floodlights in Europe, it’s own railway station and loads of room for expansion was crying our for First Division football. But it never happened.

When the day finally arrived football had changed and we were in a new stadium with a 25k capacity. It was no longer two bob to get in and it followed a couple of generations of lower league football where we also lost a couple of generations of supporters. They were now travelling down the M62 to watch their football in Leeds and Manchester, or watching live games on a Saturday from the pub or worse still, not watching football at all.

We filled the stadium of course for our first two seasons in the top league, football was king again, but we filled it with a lot of “new supporters” who had been brought up on a diet of Premier League action, instant success, everyone was a pundit, everyone was an expert and everyone had access to social media to tell the world what they thought.

And who are these “new supporters”?

These were not the sort brought up on wet Tuesday nights at Doncaster and being at the end of a three-nil drubbing at Bury in February or worse. Or supporting your club through an 11-game run without a win in the old 4th division.

They had never been ridiculed at work in their own city for supporting the local team, the butt of jokes, the odd bod of the family, pointed at in the club, they had never been punched in the mouth at Boro or, dare I say it, Sunderland as a teenager. Travelled home on a bus with no windows from Cardiff in the depths of winter after a 6-0 defeat. Cornered at Bolton, you and a mate against 20.

This was a new breed. They wanted away tickets “with leg room”. They wanted to sit with their friends, they wanted everything now and they demanded to be entertained as though they had bought a ticket for the theatre.

A last minute 1-0 victory wasn’t good enough for them because they had left the stadium with quarter of an hour to go to avoid the traffic.

The club had new staff one of whom ordered a banner saying “Chillo and Wiggy” to be hung on one of the concourses. We have never had a Wiggy play for us. It was Waggy, Ken Wagstaff, one of our all time greats. One of our ex-captains died relatively young, not a mention of him in the programme, no one minute’s silence, nothing, but a minute’s silence/applause is held every other week for some unfortunate individual has managed to attach themselves to the club now they are in the Premier League…….and it goes on and on.

I doubt if we have anyone at the club who even knew we even played at Boothferry Park.

Tell us about your worst times as a Hull fan?

Who would have thought that one of my lowest points as a Hull City supporter would be at Arsenal away on a Thursday night in the FA Cup 6th round ? But it was.

For a start, FA Cup 6th on a Thursday night. Why? For Sky of course and to accommodate Arsenal’s involvement in another competition.

Hull fans were charged £35, then we heard the home pass holders got in for free. We go 1-0 up, then 2-0 up but the only person in the stadium who thought he saw a Hull player inches off side puts his flag up and the goal is ruled out. No hesitation from the ref, no goal. Not one Arsenal player called for off side for it was a cast iron goal. Confirmed by the Sky pundits, so it must have been a goal. They equalised in the second half, fair enough, they deserved it, then we are hanging on for a draw and a replay in Hull.

The ref was Mike Riley and he booked eight of our players in the first half which meant we couldn’t even consider making a tackle in the second half never mind attempt one. Our captain never came out for the second half either, he’d been poleaxed in a tackle we didn’t even receive a free kick for. But you know what’s coming next, five minutes to go, backs against the wall and an Arsenal player throws himself to the floor just outside our area. Straight away a free kick is awarded, no hesitation, and Riley pushes our wall back as far as he dare. One Arsenal player stands some 10 yards offside behind the wall obstructing our keepers view and the ball is clipped over the wall onto his head and into the net. Offside surely? Not a chance. Goal.

With that the Arsenal fans to our right rush at the barrier separating us and were showboating as though they had just won the Champions League.

It was quite sickening because they had cheated us out of a deserved replay, made worse once again by the Sky pundits playing it over and over again and also confirming the goal scorer was stood yards off side when the ball came over.

And every time we played Arsenal home or away they cheated us.

You didn’t get that playing Scunthorpe at the Old Show Ground.

Will Hull City ever be sold?

I think the time is nigh but I am careful of what I wish for and I wish our fans would consider that too. Our three visits to the Premier League have changed everyone’s, well most people’s expectations of Hull City, especially the new breed of fans. They expect instant success and have forgotten or don’t know that it has to be earned. Who is to say that new owners will be any better then the present one’s ? I spoke to a Blackburn Rovers fan recently who I met at the Old Trafford England v South Africa Test Match. He supports a club who have actually won the Premier League which attracted the riches and therefore the chancers and look where they are today, so be careful what you wish for, Hull and Sunderland fans.

Personally my main gripe with our present owners besides the lack of concessions for kids ( I actually don’t have an argument with OAP’s paying full pops) is the disrespect shown to our club’s name. We are and always will be Hull City, the Tigers, never Hull Tigers or Hull City Tigers. I don’t see any mileage in it and I don’t understand why they perceiver with it so much as it is clearly vastly unpopular amongst our fans. So is it vindictive after all ? Are they simply winding us all up and if so what for ?

Supporting Hull City has never been easy and it has only been enjoyable for a fraction of the 53 years that I have been a fan. But I have loved every minute of it because it’s not just about beating everyone of the field and I imagine every Sunderland fan reading this understands that.

The club has cost me jobs and I find myself still working today when I should have retired years ago if I had not refused to work Saturday afternoons and had to move jobs because of it. I’m now self-employed and fortunately in a position where I can take Saturdays off for my football without the guilt attached or the ducking and diving and swopping shifts to do so.

I own a small DIY cum Hardware shop in Hull, Chanterlands DIY, a 10-minute walk from the football ground. It is as old fashioned as my views on football are and I know the clock is ticking on my business as quickly as it is on the football and days out we remember so fondly and for the game we grew up with and grew to love. Football is changing out of all recognition. We saw the best days and have those memories to cherish and bore the younger fans with. But we know don’t we?

I have a 15-year-old grandson who I introduced to football and Hull City, his local club. He has grown up enjoying the most successful days in the club’s history. I took him to Wembley for the FA Cup Semi Final v Sheffield United which we won 5-3 and to the Final which we almost won against Arsenal but were cheated after extra time 3-2. He was at Wembley when we beat Bristol City 1-0 to go up to the Premier League for the first time. Today ? He’d sooner play football on a computer in his bedroom then actually make the effort to go a live game. His mates don’t go so he doesn’t and he cannot be bothered and they will be lost to the sport for ever if we are not careful.

I know hard core Hull fans who travelled the country in the lower leagues and never missed a home game who are so turned off by the modern game and our current ownership that they only go away now and even that isn’t the compulsory Saturday out as it used to be. Last season I was astonished to hear a usual minibus crew who hadn’t missed an away game for years had actually booked the same bus and driver but done a Real Ale tour around East Yorkshire instead when City were playing away! Unheard of before and very worrying if it catches on. The same lads couldn’t raise enough interest to book a bus to Doncaster recently for the League Cup under what ever name it now goes under. And we fielded our Under 23s against Donny (and lost) which sums up the game today. If they cannot be arsed, why should we be?

Enjoy the game. It’s later then you think.

And will you be at our game? The score?

Yes [implied – Ed]. I cannot see anything but a Hull win and we do owe you one for last May, so Hull City 2 Sunderland 1. Or may the best team win.

Interview: Colin Randall

** For the first part of the interview with Gary Clark, this is the link

*** To try for the Guess the Score prize -= Hull fans welcome – get yourselves along to

**** And have a peek at this for the Boothferry Park/KCOM edition of Pete Sixmsith’s engrossing look at away grounds to be revisited

*** Come back on Friday for more from Gary on the squabbling between ownership and fans and some dark thoughts of the state of the modern game. Once published, tomorrow morning, it will be available at this link

Jake: ‘let’s be having you’

* Gary Clark on himself:
I have followed Hull City man and boy since Jan 4th 1964 when I first saw them play Everton in the FA Cup 3rd Rd at Boothferry Park. The ticket was a Christmas present and I went with my dad, we drew 1-1 and I have gone ever since non stop. I wrote for the very first Hull City fanzine Hull, Hell & Happiness back in the early 80s and have been a contributor to every one since. Moving on I have written a couple of books From Boothferry to Wembley which speaks for itself and has sold out. The second book This Is The Best Tripstill buyable at this link – about our first season in the Premier League and one man’s devotion (mine), I actually sold my business so I could concentrate full time on supporting the Tigers; I know, what a mug!

2 thoughts on “Hull City Who are You? : (2) Arsenal ‘cheating’, toxic Tiger times, ‘new fans’”

  1. A very good piece and a most interesting read. The article was written by a proper old fashioned football fan.

    I can almost smell the Bovril.

  2. Thoroughly enjoyed this, an early contender for WAY of the season.

    My late friend John Lynn – I’ve mentioned him before, ex-Ryhope school and footballing champion there alongside team-mate Doug Wetherall – lived in Hull before emigrating to Australia….will be nodding in agreement.

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