Ian Wilson* is the warm-hearted Hull City fan who recently chipped in with £50 for the Bradley Lowery fund. He turns out to be exiled in Sri Lanka and to have spent a lot of time at Roker Park while working in the North East. Ian expresses obviously sincere sympathy on our relegation, muses over the players he’d take from our squad, offers cautious optimism on Hull’s survival prospects – and says David Moyes is not the man to revive Sunderland’s fortunes …
Salut! Sunderland: you’ve done your survival prospects a power of good with recent wins. How do you see the relegation scrap ending?
Ian Wilson: The point gained at Southampton this last weekend was invaluable for Hull City and meant Swansea were three points adrift albeit with a better goal difference. With only three games to go for us and four games to go for them meant the pressure was on Swansea to get at least something from their visit to Old Trafford on Sunday which of course they did. We know now that unfortunately Sunderland are down and it very much looks like Boro will join them even though they got a commendable result against Manchester City this weekend. I think it will go down to the last day of the season to decide the third relegation team but the away match for us at Palace will be crucial. The way things stand right now I would have to go with Hull just about hanging on and making Swansea the last team to be playing Championship football next season.
You said the Premier League wouldn’t be the same without Sunderland. I bet you find it easy to forget that especially if you stay up?
No, I wouldn’t and we’ve still got some business to do to make sure we are not joining you next year. It’s a crying shame that 10 years of continuous PL football for Sunderland have finally come to an end. You’ve skirted with relegation a few times over the recent years but always managed to claw your way out of it. This year was one step too far and you all know better than I do what the causes or the reasons behind it were. From a purely interest point of view, I have followed SAFC over many years going back to the late 80s and early 90s.
Working for an engine manufacturing company, I used to work quite a lot for Tyne Dock Engineering in the Middle Docks in South Shields and on Saturday afternoons I had nothing to do. Distance wise it was a toss up between Newcastle and Sunderland but I decided to spend my few hours of free time at Roker and actually got quite into the unique atmosphere of the place. Roker Park closing coincided with my re-location to Sri Lanka so I have not been fortunate enough to have visited the SoL as yet.
Did the managerial change have a big effect or have some previously underachieving players raised their games? Assess the best and worst of them and Marco Silva of course.
The change of manager in January had a huge impact. I thought Mike Phelan was doing a decent job with the resources available and considering we started the season with only a handful of fit players it was no surprise to see us already near the bottom of the division come December.
Silva came in and instilled belief in the players and more importantly the supporters that together we could get out of jail. Week by week the improvement was seen at home and valuable points were collected. Away form was not so interesting and we really struggled to get anything out of matches on the road.
The players as a whole took to Silva’s ideas on the training ground and applied these philosophies in matches to good effect. Some players have shone since January (Jakupovic, Huddleston, Clucas and Maguire to name but a few) and the additions to the squad in the last transfer window have proved instrumental in our progress since. What will happen to the loan players come the end of the season remains to be seen but it would be nice if we can hang onto a few of them for next season. Hopefully we can also hang onto Silva if we remain in the PL and if he can continue the progress made so far then all well and good.
Where do you stand on the bitter debate about the ownership of Hull?
Having gone from the bottom division of English football to the top division of English football in five seasons, Hull City, for the first time ever, tasted life at the top but when the inevitable relegation back to the Championship came, the financial aspect once again took hold and the club was rescued by the current owner, Assem Allam.
At the time in 2010 he was considered the saviour of our football club by the majority of supporters. More recent events such as the name change to Hull Tigers application in 2014 and the membership scheme introduced last year (which is being investigated currently by the PL) that removed concessions for the elderly and the young have soured the opinion of many and there is a clear animosity and distrust between the supporters and Mr Allam and vice-versa.
My personal opinion is that without Mr Allam there would be no Hull City….end of story, and all the protesters would have nothing to protest about. Having said that Mr Allam has certainly done himself no favours with the way he has treated the supporters and owing to his ill health, his son Ehab took control and if anything has taken the animosity level to an all time high.
Steve Bruce was manager at both clubs, at Sunderland between 2009 and 2011, and Sunderland’s loss proved to be Hull City’s gain when he joined the club in June 2012 to take us back into the PL in his first season in charge. Bruce is widely regarded as the best manager we’ve ever had due to the success he had while at the club and I even call the relegation from the PL back to the Championship in 2015 a success because we were at least playing top flight football that season albeit not very well.
It is rather unfortunate that after having two eventful years in the PL, a first ever FA Cup Final, a short venture into European football, a relegation into the Championship and an immediate return to the PL that he chose to leave the club before the start of this season due to untenable relations with the owners regarding transfers, or should I say lack of them!!
They are now supposedly trying to find a buyer. Should we be relegated again this year it will undoubtedly make the prospect of a sale more difficult….. but if we can manage to stay up then hopefully a sale can be engineered and maybe we can go back to being a happy club once more….. Only time will tell!!
What have been your high points and low points of supporting the club?
Low point: Following what can only be classified as Hull City’s worst ever season in 1997/98, when we very narrowly avoided going into the Conference League in what is commonly called the “Great Escape”, financial matters took a grip once more in 2000 when we were famously locked out of Boothferry Park by the Bailiffs.
High points: Apart from the few intermittent brief seasons we’ve had in the Premier League playing against the “best” since 2008, my fondest memories are from the my early days as a supporter. As far as I am aware we were the only football club with our own railway station which opened in 1951. I mention this because I have fond memories of my first ever visit to Boothferry Park in 1965 and it is most definitely one of my high points. My father was not a football fan but fortunately for me our next door neighbour at the time, Mr. Taylor, God Bless him was, and it was he who got me interested in Hull City for the next 50 or so years of my life and offered to take me to the games.
It became a Saturday ritual catching the bus into town after lunch (I’m being posh now because in Hull we all call it dinner) and then getting the train from Paragon Station to the ground and being able to walk straight from the train only ten yards to the turnstiles and into the East stand. I was very fortunate as a 10 year old to start supporting Hull City at a good time and we won the 3rd Division that year.
Football has changed in many ways since the 1960s both in the way the game is played and in how the clubs are run, but even nowadays you have to go some way to beat the likes of Chilton, Wagstaff, Houghton, Butler, and Simpkin of Hull City at that time whose attitude was quite simply, if you score three, we will try and score four. It made for exciting Saturday afternoons for sure.
And who have been the best players you’ve seen in Hull colours, or wish you’d been old enough to have seen?
Of yesteryear I wish I could have seen Raich Carter playing.
I have seen many players with differing skills and differing personalities and loyalties which all contribute to the total overall experience. Most say that Dean Windass (and I agree with them) is the super hero of Hull City for getting the winning goal at Wembley in the play off final against Bristol City, and without that goal we might have never tasted top flight football at all. We waited so long to get it, a local lad (he’ll love me calling him a lad) scored the winner and we all wanted to enjoy the ride.
And examples of players who should never have been allowed to wear the shirt?
Nick Proschwitz, spending £2.5m on a second division Bundesliga player was crazy and probably Steve Bruce’s biggest transfer mistake. Proschwitz’s unveiling opening interview said something like “I will get you the goals”. He did keep to his word though….. he scored three league goals and two cup goals in two years. As much use as a chocolate fire guard I think.
What makes it worse is that he played in the last game of the 2012/13 promotion winning season when we played Cardiff at home. Some may say he scored the equaliser that got us promotion but I would say that if he had scored the penalty against David Marshall as well, then we all would not have had to hang around on our nerve ends for 20 minutes to see what the result was between Watford and Leeds.
And which of our players would you take for your squad?
I think we’ve already had quite a few and three are playing for us right now. Between us we could have formed a combined team on many occasions. Raich Carter, Ian Hesford, Fraizer Campbell, Jozy Altidore, Kevin Kilbane, Michael Bridges, Michael Turner, Paul McShane, Tony Norman, Vito Mannone, Alfred N’Diaye, Elmohamady, and David Meyler have all played for both clubs but I wouldn’t mind adding NDong and Borini to our squad as I think both would fit into our system.
Any other thoughts on Sunderland – club, fans, area, Moyes?
I really hope that you can bounce straight back into the PL because I genuinely believe that is where you belong. This year’s overall performance has been under par and I don’t think too many of you would argue with the final result. From my time working there, I really love the North East and the people.
If anyone anywhere else in the country has a better sense of humour and open outlook to life in general, then I have yet to meet them. Unfortunately I think David Moyes is not the right man for the job at Sunderland and both the board and himself will soon realise this when he loses a lot of players over the close season. I assume relegation clauses have been put into players contracts and a big reduction in wages will not go down too well resulting in many looking for new clubs.
Top four in order?
Chelsea, Spurs, Man Utd. and Man City
And bottom three?
The other two will be Boro and Swansea.
Diving: a dead issue because everyone’s at it or still worth trying to stamp out?
Not a dead issue and one that has to be stamped out. I have one easy solution. If handling the ball in a penalty area and denying a goal scoring opportunity is deemed to be a red card and penalty, then if a referee considers simulation (diving to you and me) to have taken place, then surely the only way to go is to make it a straight red and a three match ban and problem solved.
Best ref, worst ref?
For me referees are a necessary evil, and I do not have a favourite or non favourite. They have a very difficult job to do and only have one pair of eyes so can’t see everything that goes on. The other officials on duty, and I also include the 4th official in this list, could do a lot more to help but often seem reluctant to make a decision resulting in very wrong decisions being made. I think throughout a season decisions level themselves out and you get as many wrong as you do right so all in all no complaints from me.
One step Hull or the authorities should take to improve the lot of the ordinary fan?
Hull City need to bring back the concessions for seniors and kids. If they are not prepared to do this, or if the PL do not tell them to do it, then they should give something back. Why not give out 500 tickets for every game to the local schools? This would ensure 500 other paying customers accompanying them on their match day experience and guarantee the next generation of Hull City supporters is born.
The authorities have to bring in a price capping scheme. The 20’s plenty campaign is a start but I honestly think prices have to be capped both at home games and away games.
How will you keep tabs on the match and what will be the score?
Last week I was lucky enough to be able to see the Sunderland/Bournemouth match live while flying at 35000ft on an Emirates A380 from Germany to Sri Lanka. This week I will not be so lucky and will have to keep tabs on the game via the net. As your fate is already known I would like to think, but don’t honestly expect you to do Hull City a favour this week. Last time out against you we were somewhat embarrassing but I fully expect us to overturn that result and come out 2-0 winners to keep our hopes and dreams alive.
* Ian Wilson on himself: Since 1998 I have lived in Sri Lanka and worked in a power station. I have a wife and son with me in Sri Lanka and another son living and working in Hull. I work for a German engine manufacturing company and have done so for the last 32 years. The life here is good and one I hope to be able to continue with once the work comes to an end.
Interview: Colin Randall
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