Despite the battering it got at Ready to Go’s SMB forum last week – people taking against what I thought was a fine Newcastle United ‘Who are You?’ – this series is something I am proud of; I am deeply grateful to all those who give their time to participate.
And I trust my Hull City friends will excuse this week’s provocative headline. In fact, it reflects one of the questions put to Gary Clark*, City fan extraordinaire and author of two books charting his club’s historic seasons, From Boothferry to Wembley and This Is The Best Trip…. . He’s been this way before but, ahead of an important match for both clubs, is mightily welcome back, even at the great length he has chosen for his answers (so much so that I have decided to split it up and run Part Two tomorrow). Only thing is, we must all hope he’s a bit down in the dumps on the road back to Humberside …
Salut! Sunderland: Only a few weeks ago, we seemed adrift, you seemed in relative comfort. We have joined you but both still vulnerable. happy with the season so far or still apprehensive?
Gary: We are a far better team/squad then the last time we were in the Premiership four years ago.
Steve Bruce has recruited well and the chairman/owner Assem Allam has backed Bruce in the transfer market. We have not been in the bottom three all season and spent the majority of the time hovering around the top ten. But it is a very tight league this season and I don’t think there is a weak team in it.
As you have found out yourselves, two wins on the bounce and you are dreaming of European qualification. A lot depends on the way fixtures pan out, for example if your are up against Chelsea and Arsenal in succession then you’re not going to get many points on the board.
So I did not feel vulnerable before Christmas but narrow defeats away to Norwich and Palace, in games we did more then enough to get something out of have left the poodle’s twitching a bit but I have every faith in Steve Bruce. We should be all right.
Was the battering of Fulham a freakish one-off or a sign of what Hull are genuinely capable of?
We beat Fulham 6-0, our highest ever win in the Premier League. To be honest it could have been 10. Everything clicked into place, the referee let the game flow and Fulham threw the towel in at 3-0. City have played some lovely possession football this season and with a quality player like Tom Huddleston pulling the strings in midfield is to be expected.
Tom scored against Fulham which kicked in a clause for his charity which meant he got a haircut for the first time in two years. Personally he should grow it back because he hasn’t been the same player since!
Fulham wasn’t a freak result and Hull City are more then capable of giving anyone a game at this level. And that could not be said of the team that were relegated four years ago.
And how do you rate Steve Bruce, not the most popular of names among Sunderland supporters?
I rate Steve Bruce very highly and I thought we boxed way above our weight to get him here. He wasn’t everyone’s number one choice but personally I thought he was the best we could honestly expect. He is running a happy ship at Hull and keeping all the fringe players happy which isn’t easy because our reserve team only play every Sheffield Flood.
At the time of writing his in in line to be Hull City’s greatest ever manager and I think keeping him here will be the problem.
Bring us up to date on the battle over the name of the club. For all the good he’s done, is Assem Allam/ turning into Hull’s own Mike Ashley?
The proposed name change has thrown a wet blanket over a relatively good season so far. The local media are full of it and the fans are split, which isn’t good when everyone should be focused on keeping our place in the Premier League and not arguing amongst ourselves about what might be.
Assem Allam owns the club outright and finances it through another company of his called Allamhouse. According to who you speak too Dr Allam has but the biggest part of £100m into the club so far, so it is hard to argue against him. Although all that cash is repayable at 5% interest, which is fine if we remain a Premiership club. The trouble starts and the brown stuff hits the fan if it all goes tits up and we are relegated.
Our owner wanted to develop the KC Stadium and build a “Sporting Village” on the surrounding parkland. As the local council own the Stadium Dr Allam needed them to come onboard and share his vision. But it didn’t happen and the two fell out big time. I believe the removal of City from our name is nothing more then a spat with the council that has got horribly out of hand. Assem Allam thinks that Hull City Council somehow bask in the reflected glory of Hull City AFC being a Premier League club. Perhaps they do? And they would be foolish if they didn’t milk it for all it’s worth, after all we are the only Premiership club in Yorkshire.
The fans are campaigning against the proposal and you will hear a rousing CITY TIL WE DIE chant at 19.04 (the year we were formed) on the clock.
The official line is that Assem Allam thinks the name change would give the club more appeal in Asia and the Americas. Perhaps he is right. Personally I could understand his motives if he showed us a business plan of how he intends to bring in this extra revenue that we obviously need. I just don’t see any logic in at all and if it was such a great idea how come the big clubs haven’t done it already?
How good has Huddlestone been, how appalling was Danny Graham and what do you make of the contributions of your other Sunderland links, Elmo, Meyler and McShane?
Tom Huddleston, pre haircut, is simply and arguably the best and most skilful footballer ever to wear the black and amber shirt. His vision and calmness on the ball is worth the admission money alone. Tottenham must have be mad letting him go.
It must also be said that Jake Livermore who plays alongside him, also from Spurs on a season long lone is the perfect foil for Tom. When those two are on song Hull City are a very good side to watch. Elmo, mmmm? At home he can be unplayable, but away? he tends to go missing and I don’t think he likes the defensive side to his game which Bruce demands. But it would take a very brave man to leave him out of the side.
David Meyler has had his nose pushed out a bit with the arrival of Huddelston and Livermore but when he is given the shirt he never lets us down. Likewise Paul McShane, a cult hero at Hull, we love him, he plays for the shirt, never shirks anything and for me he would be impossible to leave out of the squad. A model professional.
Danny Graham, now at Middlesboro, was disappointing for us. He scored on the opening day of the season at Manchester City during a spell when the game was 0-0 and we were playing them off the field (honestly, we were) but he was ruled fractionally offside. It was a fantastic strike too and it would have done him the world of good. From there his head seemed to go down and he couldn’t hit a barn door with a banjo. The more he went without a goal the more his confidence was shot, the poor bloke was hiding from the ball towards the end. But I think there is a player in there somewhere.
Have you been you more surprised by Sunderland’s disastrous start to the season or the recent revival?
We know something of Jozy Altidore because he played for us. We were also sniffing around him before he signed for your lads. I cannot fault him as a man or for his work ethic but be honest do any of you consider him as a goalscorer? He couldn’t head the ball when we had him which is a bit of a flaw when you have number 9 on your back. So when you paid £7m for him and he was leading your line, I for one thought you’d struggle.
Coupled with the mad Italian who was your manager, it was a receipt for disaster. As I said earlier, two wins on the bounce and your season is in turbocharge.
Where will our clubs finish come the end of the season?
If Hull City finish one place above the relegation places I will be a happy man. Sunderland on the form of the last few weeks should be safe, I’d hate to lose you to the Championship because you have become our local derby!
And what will be the top four in order and the bottom three (or remaining one/two!)?
Bottom, Norwich followed by Fulham, Crystal Palace, West Ham are in danger, as are Cardiff, and even WBA could self destruct.
At the top it has to be Manchester City for the title, Arsenal runners up, followed closely by Chelsea with Liverpool. Everton or Spurs in 4th place.
* Gary Clark on himself: I clocked up 50 years of unbroken support for Hull City on January 4th this year. My first match being v Everton on Jan 4th 1964, FA Cup Rd 3, 1-1, lost the replay 2-1, but I was instantly smitten. I now work part time as a bus driver for kids with learning difficulties. Not a king’s ransom but I get my week ends free for football and that is worth its weight in gold. Before that I owned a local hardware shop in Hull straight out of ‘League of Gentlemen’ In fact one of the writers lived around the corner! I sold the business in 2008 to concentrate full time on supporting Hull City AFC.
I have written a couple of books on City. My first was called From Boothferry to Wembley – the title gives a way the plot somewhat – and amazingly the book sold out within weeks. I really should get my a*** in gear and do a second edition. My second book is called This Is The Best Trip…. and is about one man’s obsession with his football club (me) and Hull City’s first ever season in the Premier League.
It sells, or did, at £10.99 but if anyone fancies a copy just send me enough to cover postage and I’ll send you one. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interview: Colin Randall
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