Christmas being special, it seemed right to find a special Who are You? for the Boxing Day game at home to Hull City. So the support that produced last season’s WAY award winner, Raich Carter Junior (of whom there is rather sad news below – get better strongly and soon, Raich) now brings us back into the company of Gary Clark*, Hull fan par excellence and the author of two books on his club. A long, thought-provoking read and his impressions of SAFC are fascinating …
Is the love affair with Steve Bruce over or do you trust him to pull you clear?
To answer that question honestly I, and most people I speak too, believe we will pull clear of the relegation places, which answers the question regarding the popularity of Steve Bruce. If we do pull clear there is no doubt that his popularity will continue to soar, but if this losing run isn’t rectified soon then I can see the pressure mounting and the inevitable will happen.
The fans are still chanting Steve Bruce’s name and I haven’t seen a ‘Bruce Out’ banner yet. We are not Newcastle you know! I’ve heard the whispering in the pub and a few questions have been asked but the majority of those who actually attend matches are 100% behind the manager. Its the yellow livered media and the cyber warriors who I worry about because they tend to light the blue touch paper and stand back, usually giggling in delight.
On paper, you have some decent players – Huddlestone, of course but also Davies, Meyler, Dawson, Livermore etc – so who has not been pulling their weight?
On paper we have a “Top 10” finish squad, according to the pundits on MOTD and a couple of journos looking for a space filler. The realists amongst us knew that we were in a relegation battle the second the ref blew the whistle for the start of the new season. Tom Huddlestone, if anything, has been a disappointment this season. I think he is a tremendous footballer, oozing skill and talent and seemingly cruising through some of the best midfields in the Premiership, but, he’s gone off the boil somewhat. I thought his form dipped when he realised he was not going to make the England squad, which seemed to p*** him off. Also I believe he thought the club would be pushing on a bit this season and not going to be dragged into a relegation dog fight, especially after the squad was strengthened on the back of last season’s relative success and first ever FA Cup Final appearance. But it hasn’t happened and Tom has been hampered with more defensive duties which doesn’t appear to suit him. It could be tactically or it could be second season syndrome, I don’t know, but Tom Huddlestone doesn’t look like the player he was this time last season. He will not be facing your lads on Boxing Day due to a four match ban he got for getting himself stupidly sent off at Chelsea and collecting five yellow cards in the process.
Huddlestone’s absence opens the door for the likes of David Meyler, Stevie Quinn, Gaston Ramires, and possibly Robby Brady to break into the team over the Christmas period all of whom have been warming the bench for the majority of the season. New signing Robert Snodgrass has only seen half an hour of Premier League action after receiving a knee injury in the opening day win at QPR which cruelly ended his season. Mo Diame is another who has been in out of the team through injury and also likely to be missing over the festive period, which is bad news because he was on fire before getting crocked.
Another one is Michael Dawson out until the New Year with a hamstring injury and he will be missed more then anyone because his signing was inspirational, when he doesn’t play we look dodgy at the back.
Jake Livermore should be a shoe-in, I like this fella, honest grafter and a good footballer with it, plays far better in a winning team which unfortunately we haven’t seen much of at Hull lately.
I think our season was affected by our first ever venture into European football this season when we qualified for the Europa League but dipped out in the qualifying stages a bit too tamely for my liking. We limped home against FC Trechin in the first round but went out on the away goal against Lockeren. Bruce didn’t field his first team in any of the ties and paid the ultimate price. Now we have the majority of the squad not getting a game for weeks on end because the level our reserve team play in is so far off Premier League standard that it is pointless playing his fringe players because all they get from it is injuries. A decent run in Europe or the Capital Cup (where we again fielded a weakened team and lost at WBA in the last minute) would have kept all the squad happy and maybe given Steve Bruce a few less selection problems.
But the biggest waste of space has been Hatem Ben Arfa who we got on a season long lone from Newcastle. Club statisticians revealed this week that our goal keeper Alan McGregor covers more ground in a match then Arfa, the lazy bastard. I watched him closely at Manchester United a couple of weeks back when Bruce handed him a start. In the first half an hour he touched the ball twice, once kicking the ball straight into touch and the second touch was a free kick he passed straight to a Man U player five yards away. Bruce hauled him off after 35 minutes, embarrassing. And he played in gloves.
Is another relegation something you cannot bear thinking about or are you confident, if the worst came to the worst, that Hull would bounce back again?
When you have witnessed every match of season, as I have, when your club finished one place above Doncaster Rovers (who beat us) and they went out of the Football League altogether with a record low number of points, then relegation from the Premier League is not a disaster. I once watched my club get relegated before Easter, the first club in the country to have their fate decided that season, and we went down the old 4th Division some ten points and more adrift. So if the worse comes to the worst and we do go down, providing we keep Bruce and the club doesn’t explode, then yes, I would be confident we would have a decent chance of bouncing back. We did it last time and no-one gave us a cat-in-hell’s chance. So yes, every confidence.
Have I missed something of has it all gone quiet since Assem Allam put the club up for sale? Bring us up to date.
Million dollar question festering away in the back ground. Is the club for sale? Who knows? Everything has it’s price and that also goes for Hull City. I’m sure if someone knocked on the Allam’s front door tomorrow and offered them what they paid for the club plus a bit on top for their efforts then I’m sure they would seriously consider selling. At the moment all we have are rumours and speculation. Talk of a sale imminent in the New Year to an American buyer, but that’s all it is, talk. I have nothing to add to that and I don’t think anyone else has. The club will be sold one day and if I were the owners I would be looking for a buyer whilst we still look like being in the Premier League next season.
That poll suggesting a slim majority in favour of the name change: a setback for the City Til I Die campaign or a meaningless farce?
Bluntly, a meaningless farce. I have been a season ticket holder for donkey’s years and I didn’t get a vote, in fact I don’t know anyone that did. The ‘slim majority’ saved face for the owner but how it came about is open to speculation. That facts are, and still are, that the FA threw it out and it now goes to appeal which will be heard in the New Year. Personally I wish it would just go away and we could all concentrate on the football adding that if changing a club’s names was opening the doors to untold riches how come no one else has thought of it first?
We were shocked and saddened to hear of the accident involving Raich Carter Junior, whose superb “Who are You?” won last year’s award. I believe he’ll be with you at the match – is he on the mend?
Raich junior is on the mend thankfully. He was involved in a collision with a drunk driver who knocked him off his bike. He looks like losing the sight in one eye and was badly shaken up, as you would be. The accident put an end to his driving for a bit and the last time I spoke to him he was still waiting for the nod to get behind the wheel again, which meant I had to forgo several boozy away days and drive the mini bus in his absence. Hopefully he will be with us on Boxing Day. So, yeah, Raich is on the mend.
What is your take on Jozy Altidore’s continued failure to score goals? Did you rate him at Hull?
As a footballer Jozy Altidore would make a good rugby league player. I didn’t rate him at Hull and doubted if he’d ever played football before we signed him. His positional play was poor, he couldn’t shoot, not even in the warm up and he cannot head the ball. What he did have was speed, his strength and he was American. I was amazed you paid so much for him, I was even more amazed when I heard that Hull City seriously considered buying him but you beat us to his signature. He is a nice bloke though, I do know that. He met an American cousin of mine when he was at Hull and gave him a signed shirt and offered to pay for him to go and see Hull City at Arsenal that season.
Last season you beat us three times, once in bizarre 11 vs 9 circumstances when we even managed to worry you into playing for time at the end, but were you surprised at how bad we were in the other two games, which you won comprehensively?
The 11 v 9 game was a strange one. I thought someone had wound your lads up a tad too much before the game, they were baying for blood, which works if it were a boxing match, but for a Premiership football game???? Come on lads, you gave us that one.
The win at your place was another gift plus you played us when Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic were scoring for fun. If we could have kept those two together this season we wouldn’t be in the trouble we are in now. As for the FA Cup game, we wanted it and you didn’t seem that bothered. So thanks for that one too. I was surprised how bad you were in all three of those games but I knew you had a bit more in the locker, Sunderland don’t lie down and to catch you still asleep three times in the same season was a once in a lifetime event. So I probably will never see it again.
Hand on heart, what will be the bottom three this season – oh, and the top four?
Chelsea- no one scores more goals from free kicks (or gets free kicks) gets more penalties, dives, and get so many players sent off playing against them NOT to win the title.
And where, if not mentioned, will our clubs finish?
Hull City 17th. Hopefully a bit higher.
Sunderland, a place, maybe a couple more above us.
What have been your greatest moments as a Hull supporter (I think I know the answer. So by all means plug your books)?
The first 15 minutes against Arsenal of the FA Cup Final at Wembley were something very special for me. As was consoling my 11-year-old grandson who burst into tears when the two teams entered the field at Wembley, the sheer emotion really got to him and I must admit, me too. I never dreamt I would live to see a day like that and I know plenty who didn’t. You do not choose to follow a club like Hull City, you just do it, and days like that make all the sacrifices worthwhile. Not that I would change one moment of the long journey. I must admit too, the second the ref gave Arsenal that free kick on the edge of our box, even though we were unbelievably 2-0 up, I knew they would score and probably go onto beat us because we are Hull City and that’s what happens.
And the worst?
I’ve seen plenty of lower league defeats, plenty, but one does stick on my mind. I can take defeat if the team are trying and playing for the shirt, but when they give up and don’t respect the badge then it’s simply not acceptable.
So it was against Notts County in an early round of the FA Cup at Boothferry Park. We needed a cup run because the club were skint, they had nowt, yet that afternoon the players representing my club played as though they couldn’t care less. The chairman had sacked the manager a couple of days beforehand and pissed off on holiday himself. So 3,000 of us turned up hoping to see a battle for survival and we simply gave them the game, a 5-2 defeat at home, I couldn’t take much more and left with ten minutes to go and honestly considered throwing the towel in.
Who are the finest players you’ve seen, or wish you’d been around to see, in Hull colours?
The players I first saw playing for Hull City when I was a 10 year old boy were my heroes. Chris Chilton and Ken Wagstaff, two names that everyone football fan over a certain age in Hull will always bring a smile to their face. Both should have played for England. I also loved the spirit of players like Billy Whitehurst who came to Hull straight off the building site, you could tell because he couldn’t trap a bag of cement. But what a player he turned out to be, heart as big a dustbin lid, proper old school centre forward, fearless and how I wish we had a Billy Whitehurst today.
Another one, Peter Skipper, local lad, centre half straight off the local park on a Sunday morning. He lived the dream and played for his local club, never hit the big time and it took a collection from the supporters to buy him back from Darlington after the club had wrongly released him. My type of player. I wish I’d have been Pete Skipper. I still see him today, last saw him at a Paul Heaton concert last Saturday night and we spoke about…….Hull City. The lad works locally for a local firm for working man’s wages. Legend. As is Ian Ashbee, free transfer from Cambridge and captained Hull City from Division Four to the Premier League, a feat that will never be repeated. Still lives and works locally in Hull, a truly great bloke and a great player, I hope that one day when there will be a statue of Ian Ashbee outside the KC Stadium.
Dean Windass for that goal at Wembley.
I would have given my right arm to see Raich Carter leading Hull City out at Boothferry Park in front of 40,000 plus just once. I don’t have a Premier League hero.
And who should have been allowed nowhere near them?
Hatem Ben Arfa and any player who shares his lousy attitude.
Currently, there is Elmo, McShane and Meyler. In the past, the recently deceased Iain Hesford and of course Raich, not to mention Bruce and your Sunderland-supporting former manager Phil Brown. Which links between our clubs stand out?
Tony Norman. One of the best goal keepers ever to play for Hull City and we “sold” him to Sunderland for a few bob plus Iain Hesford (RIP) and a worn out Billy Whitehurst. That transfer also signalled for me the start of a long decline in Hull’s fortunes.
Then we repeated it again when we “sold” Michael Turner to you during our first stint in the Premier League and never replaced him, again a horrible transfer for us. The Roy Greenwood transfer also sticks out for me. I actually played against Roy a long time ago and knew him a bit (I saw him and we spoke at Wembley before the Championship Play-Off Final) I thought he was a terrific winger, fast and skilful, he had it all in my eyes but for some reason the Hull crowd never really took to him. The bang, out of the blue that massive transfer to Sunderland and the size of it proved all the doubters wrong. He was good. Also one more link. Sunderland v Leeds United, FA Cup 5th ? Rd Second Replay at Boothferry Park about 1970 ish. Over 40,000 in the ground and one of the best atmosphere’s I have ever had the pleasure of being a part. It was all the evidence I wanted that the city of Hull could be like that…….if only.
Diving, feigning injury etc: so prevalent we may as well give up and stick them all in the coaching manuals, or still worth fighting to stamp out?
I was at Chelsea last week for our game which we lost 2-0. It was awful and I predicted every thing that happened beforehand (although Chelsea never got the penalty they played for all afternoon) £48 a ticket to see an entire team who were already top of the league throwing themselves to the floor at the slightest of contact. Instead of selling half and half scarves outside the ground they should have been selling snortkes and swimming goggles.
I hated it, it is cheating, blatant cheating and if it is not stamped out it will kill the game because it will become a non contact sport.
Best ref in the Premier and worst?
The best refs are the ones you don’t notice therefore you don’t know their names. Sadly I have yet to see a good fair ref. They all seem star struck and cannot make a decision based on fairness and what they actually see but have to wait for the instructions from the stand from someone tells them what or what not to give.
And there is a top six bias. No doubt about it.
Current player you’d most like to be able to buy or borrow?
Wilfred Bony from Swansea.
Which single step should City or the football authorities take to improve the lot of the ordinary fan?
Bring back standing which would be cheaper.
Any thoughts on Sunderland – club, fans, city, region?
Love the club and wish it was Hull. How lucky you are to be a one club city. We have to share everything with two rugby league clubs which is a bit unfair. I attended a meeting of sorts at the KC last season. It was a really an underhanded way of convincing the fans that re-branding is a great idea. I was asked which Premier Club they would like Hull City to be more like. Most people present chose the usual suspects, Man U, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool etc. I chose Sunderland.
I know you’re planning to be at our game: what will be the score?
* 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 Trip 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! I have a few left a and if anyone wants to contact me, email firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you a copy if you dob a bit in for postage.
Today I drive a bus taking disabled children to school, it doesn’t pay a fortune but it gives me the freedom of weekends off, and that freedom is invaluable.
Interview: Colin Randall
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