Soapbox: From Hull, Hell and Halifax

Soapbox
Following on from Gary Clark’s excellent piece about supporting Hull City – to read it click here Pete Sixsmith remembers some of the sights and smells of previous matches between the Tigers and the Black Cats

It’s the title of an old Yorkshire folk song that links Hull with Hell, and in it the city on the Humber clearly comes up second best. Hull’s a city that has played quite an important role in my footballing life and, at the risk of upsetting any City fans reading this, I would like to share them with you.

It’s an odd place, a bit like Sunderland in some ways. You never pass though either city to get to anywhere else, unless it’s Rotterdam or South Shields, and both sets of inhabitants can be a little bit chippy. Hull people are fiercely independent, insular to the nth. point and always ready to question whatever decisions are made.

It’s a city built on bloody mindedness. Like Sunderland, it came out for Parliament against the foppery of the Stuart monarchy, it became the centre of the Anti Slave Trade movement of the early 19th Century and it kept on electing John Prescott as one of its MPs. And you don’t get much more bloody minded than that.

Football wise, they have always been a sleeping giant. In the 60’s they looked as if they might actually break into the top flight when they signed the likes of Houghton, Butler and Wagstaff and blended in home grown talents like Chris Chilton and Iain McKechnie. Crowds at the relatively modern Boothferry Park, with its 6 huge floodlights were in excess of 30,000 and the Needler family (chocolatiers to the cognoscenti – I used to pinch a bar of their milk every week from my Sunday paper bag) seemed to have The Tigers heading onward and upward.

It was at this time that I paid my first visit to Boothferry Park for the Leeds second replay in 1967. It was a full house and we were cheated by a referee called Ken Stokes who came from Newark. Whenever I stopped in that attractive Nottinghamshire town, I would always see if I could find where he lived, intending to bombard his house with stones, bricks and plastic models of Don Revie. He allowed a goal that was so far offside that the scorer (Jimmy Greenhoff, I think) appeared to be playing as Sunderland’s sweeper. I remember the man with the haversack hitting Billy Bremner – he became a folk hero after that – and Georges Herd and Mulhall being sent off for foul and abusive language. It was OK for Charlton, Hunter and Giles (the nastiest player I have ever seen) to kick lumps out of opponents, but not acceptable to describe the referee as a useless whatever.

I also had a couple of good trips in the 70’s.We had a good win on Boxing Day 1971, (first away trip in my dad’s rather swish new Vauxhall Viva) with the winner coming from a towering Dave Watson header, and eighteen months later I saw Monty make his greatest ever save from a Roy Greenwood shot through a crowded goalmouth. In 1976 I went on Corny O’Donnell’s special train in the days when you could drink on football specials. Copious cans of Double Maxim were quaffed, we saw the skeleton of the just begun Humber Bridge and, along with 16,000 other Red and Whites, saw Gary Rowell score his first goal for the club in a rousing 4-1 win. I also saw a game in the 1970’s when the coach broke down in York, and the driver of the replacement vehicle thought that the best route back from York to Sunderland was via Doncaster. See, it’s not just females who have no sense of direction.

The other trip along the Anlaby Road that sticks in my mind is New Year’s Day 1990, in the days when I used to drink a bit more than I do now. The previous night was enjoyable rather than heavy and I got up at 7.00 a.m., opened the blinds and found Paul Dobson (Sobs from ALS, Radio 5 Live and various other media outlets – whore!!!) slumped on the step clutching a bottle of Bells. We sobered him up and set off for a 12.00 o’clock kick off, squeezed into Pete Horan’s Vauxhall Astra. Sobs went to sleep but was woken up by my brother Phil who, for the entire journey, proceeded to drop the deadliest farts I have ever come across. He now lives in Thessaloniki in Greece and, should he so wish, would prove to be more than a match for the Greek police and their CS gas!

The game saw us go 3 down by half time and despite Marco scoring twice in the second half, an inspired performance by Iain Hesford in the Tigers’ goal (never thought I would write those words), gave them the points. We stopped in Goole for a pint on the way back and within minutes of arriving decided it was the most depressing place in the UK. Two subsequent visits have done nothing to change my mind.

So to this weekend’s game. Their new ground is a decent one, far better than the large shoe boxes that masquerade as the Riverside, Britannia and Majdeski Stadiums . Like Sunderland they have a strong hinterland of support, although their great rivals are the two Rugby League teams who inhabit the city.

Their presence reminds me of an overnight sleeper trip to Cardiff via London for the penultimate game of the 1980 promotion campaign. Having drunk our heads off in the now sadly closed Timothy Hackworth in Shildon and having caught the 11.10 train to Darlington, we giggled and supped our way down the East Coast main line, hoping to grab a couple of hours shut eye at Kings Cross. Plan spoiled at 4.45a.m. by the arrival of the first of dozens of specials bringing Hull FC and KR fans into town for the Challenge Cup Final. We got up, caught an early train from Paddington and fell asleep over pints of Brains in The Old Arcade in Cardiff.

Phil Brown has done a great job and has shown the value of having someone who has experienced all facets of football in charge. Like Ricky Sbragia he has played in the nether regions of the league (Hartlepool as opposed to Ricky’s stint at Darlington) and he has coached at Bolton as they rose up through the leagues. He has boosted Paul McShane’s fragile confidence making him look the decent player he was at West Brom. That arm around the shoulder trick does work; with Roy, if he put his arm around the shoulder, the player probably thought he was going to get a bang on the head.

The only predictions I am prepared to make are:
1. The beer in the Sam Smiths pub in Beverley will still be cheap.
2. If anyone scores a winning goal for us they will not do a strip a la Ross Wallace because we are getting soft – how else do you explain those long sleeved body things last week?
3. Hull City will not be relegated this season
4. Quinny won’t call Paul Ince for an interview.
A tip for manager: Dick Advocaat, as Christmas is the only time you ever hear the name.
Ha’way the Lads.

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4 thoughts on “Soapbox: From Hull, Hell and Halifax”

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  4. I watched that cup replay against Leeds in 1967 – I seem to recall an old lady running on the pitch and whacking Jackie Charlton with her shopping bag. As a neutral it was an opportunity for us City fans to watch two really big teams but it wa a bit of an anticlaimax and only seemed to get going in the last 20 minutes. Also recall the 3-2 win on New Year’s Day 1990 – we thought it was a big turning point for City at the time but things went rapidly downhill. We were really impressed with Ian Hesford as well – didn’t last! Looking forwards to seeing Sunderland at the KC again.

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