Who are you? We’re Hull

Hull-city-fc-book

Who’d have thought it? Gary Clark*, found by Salut! Sunderland at the Hull fans’ site City Independent, certainly didn’t and he’s so Hull daft he’s written a book about them and sold his business to be able to follow them throughout their Premier League campaign. But there they are, the Tigers prowling at the top end of the league, refusing to conform to logic, precedent or Brand Supporter disdain. Which makes it all the harder for clubs like ours; we’d sort of seen this season as one in which the promoted clubs would be so weak that we wouldn’t have a care in the world. Brings back memories of Peter Reid’s two seventh top finishes, including the season when we were virtually safe by Christmas. Gary, like last week’s Baggie, totally ignores the normal format of the Who Are They? series so there is, once again, no questionnaire, though our questions are answered in his upbeat piece….

Gary-clark

For Hull City FC to be in the top six of the Premier League in December is quite remarkable considering this time last year most Tigers fans would have given their right arms to creep into a play-off place in the Championship.

Not that we’re all pessimists in East Yorkshire, we are just not used to winning anything. City havn’t spent much on brasso over the past 106 years, in fact the only picture I have of a Hull City captain holding up a trophy was Andy Davidson holding up the Sunday Mirror Giant Killers Cup in 1966.

We went trophy mad that year by also cramming the Third Division Title Winners trophy into the otherwise empty trophy cabinet. Since then we have toyed with promotion to and from the old second division and back down to the old third and humiliatingly down to the basement league and nearly out of it altogether.

So how brilliant does it feel to have made such a great start in the Premier League? Heads in clouds, floating on air, getting on with the missus, smiling all day and bruised forearms from constantly pinching oneself. It’s fairy tale stuff.

May 24 2008 was the greatest day in the history of Hull City FC. We could have been prosecuted by the RSPCA for cruelty to monkeys because so many were thrown off our backs in one go.

First time at Wembley. First win at Wembley. First goal at Wembley. First Final appearance. (the auto windscreen trophy does not count) First time in the top division. Biggest ever crowd we have played in front of.

In fact we had so many firsts that day Frankie Dettori wanted to drive the team bus home. 2008 is the year of the Tiger, and Sunderland at home on December 20 will not spoil the celebrations.

The minute the final whistle blew at Wembley in the play-off final the bookies made us odds on favourites to come straight back down again.

We hadn’t even seen the fixture list or signed a player yet David Mellor wrote that “Hull are devaluing the Premiership”, Bobby Robson wrote us off completely and every man and his dog had us down to “do a Derby”.

Personally I thought we would struggle to win a game and thought we might gather a few points at home but avoiding relegation was a huge ask, until the fixtures came out. Phil Brown could not have picked a better opening if he had hand picked the games himself. Fulham at home, managerless Blackburn away, then Wigan at home. What a start!

The fans’ big fear was that we would sit marooned at the bottom of the league with no points for the first month then be playing catch up for the rest of the season, but with these fixtures we had a real chance to get early points on the board.

We beat Fulham 2-1, drew 1-1 at Blackburn but got hammered 5-0 at home to Wigan although we fielded last season’s team against the Latics through injury and suspensions, but 5-0 at home in a game we expected to win was a real wake up call.

The last time I saw Sunderland play Hull City was on St Patrick’s Day 2006 and it was also my first visit to The Stadium of Light. We travelled down in mini-bus for a lads’ weekend in Newcastle, £75 a night in a Travel Lodge with breakfast extra was a right slap across the chops, perhaps we should have stopped in Sunderland?

I knew it was St Patrick’s Day because Sunderland was dressed up for the occasion like Dublin Fair City. A free whisky with every pint of Guinness in one pub in your town centre had us all rosy cheeked and in high expectations for the game in no time. I liked the position of your ground to the city centre, very much like our own KC Stadium, because I’m not a fan of these out-of-town-on-a-retail-park grounds like Stoke, Derby, Bolton and so many more.

Yours is nicely situated. Our high expectations were deflated before we’d all found our seats because we were 1-0 down before the pea had stopped rattling in the referees whistle.

Hull had a good following at your place, and you had some 40,000 in the ground. We were surrounded on both sides by your fans who stood up glaring at us and occasionally pelting us with coins whilst the stewards busied themselves throwing Hull fans out for standing up.

I actually complained to your head of operations about the unfair treatment and he looked me up and down very seriously probably wondering what the Guinness smelling whisky breathed idiot was talking about, but it made me feel better.

The game itself was awful, City seemed content to only lose 1-0 and we nearly pulled that off until injury time when Myhill did a Paul Robinson and sliced an innocent looking back pass right into the path of one of your forwards who couldn’t help but score.

It was embarrassing. Afterwards we were all penned in and treated to more coin throwing and verbal insults from your fans leaving the ground, which was nice. In fact the after match exitement was better than the match itself but not as good as the pre-match p*** up.

I’ve always looked forward to games between our two teams. Mainly because in the 70s Sunderland would bring huge followings to Boothferry Park and the atmosphere was always something special. Another good reason was that we usually turned you over.

One memorable game in the early 70s we beat you 3-0 with Chris Chilton terrorising your defence, the another time 4-1 with a cracking goal from the Best Stand touch line by John Hawley that won the Yorkshire and Tyne Tees TV goal of the season.

I only went to Roker Park once in those days, one dark Tuesday night, half a bus full of us, parked up on the sea front and we were chased all over town before, during and after the game, which we won 1-0 (Chilton, and none us dared cheer the goal).

I missed our meetings after the 70s faded out because you went up the leagues and we went the other way. But Hull v Sunderland was always one to look forward too.
I did see you play Leeds United at Boothferry Park in an FA Cup replay about this time.
It was one of the best atmospheres I had ever experienced at Boothferry Park with 40,000 in the ground. Sunderland fans took up residence in the East Stand and made a tremendous racket. Leeds were in their horriblist, dirtiest prime and a disputed goal by Jack Charlton won the game for them.

One Sunderland fan got onto the pitch and tried to attack the referee with his haversack, but what an occasion that was! The noise was deafening and it whetted my appetite for more but I always wanted Hull City to be involved in such blood and thunder games as that one.

I couldn’t name a single signing you have made this season and I do not want to sound disrespectful but I do not pay any attention to what other clubs are doing. Hull have been very thrifty on the transfer market. Best signing was a freebie, Geovanni from Moneybags City.

They must have been mad letting him go for nothing then shelling out £32.5 million for Robinio or whatever they call him.

We forked out £2 million for sick note Anthony Gardner from Spurs. He played the first two games and looked fabulous, then he was injured and we haven’t seen him since. In fact the “thigh strain” that has kept him out must be terminal because Craig Fagen who had his leg broken in a thuggish tackle by Danny Guthrie of Newcastle, the first Saturday in September, will be fit again before Gardner’s “thigh strain” has healed.

On loan we have Marlon King from Wigan, pacy and strong on the ball, but er, seemingly spending more time answering police enquiries just lately than playing for us. Dean Windass doesn’t like him either, and a team bonding session at a casino in Scarbourgh ending with those two brawling.

We paid £1m to Rangers for French International Danny Cousins, and I like him, big and strong with an attitude and in the air he is red hot, beware. Other signings of note are Kamil Zayatte from Young Boys Berne, a back four player who has shoved Gardner out, George Boateng from Middlesbrough, a masterful midfield player who oozes class. Bernard Mendy, another forceful all action midfielder who is getting better with every game, Peter Halmosi from Plymouth for a club record £2.5m but as yet hasnt featured much and Stelios who might just be ready to take his place by the time we play you. I think he’s terrific but I’ve only seen him in our reserves so far, a real joy to watch.

Hull do not consider Grimsby Town, Scunthorpe or Lincoln as “rivals”. If we have any its Leeds, although they don’t see us in the same way. We have a thing with Sheffield United and to a lesser extent Wednesday but they feel the same way about us as Leeds fans do.

If we have any rivals at all it’s from the tiny world of rugby league and Hull FC who we ground share with. The rivalry stems from the times when we were neck deep in the brown stuff and they did thier utmost to rebrand themselves as “Hull’s Premier Sports Club”. This was in a very underhanded attempt to steal sponsorship from us and convince everyone that rugby league is a better spectator sport than football.
Personally I would sooner have another football club in the city to compete with, at least we would both be on a level playing field. With rugby league we are competing against a sport with no relegation and against clubs from mainly small communities along the M62 corridor so success is so much easier.
If you are a silverware collector you would follow rugby league because its diluted glory in a fourteen club league, and two of those clubs are based in Hull! So you can see where the rivalry comes in.

Paul McShane has done very well at Hull. I like his commitment but some of the crowd are not so keen on his wayward passes. But he typifies City at the moment, full bloodied commitment to the cause, I honestly believe he would run through a brick wall for the club and looks like gaining a permanent move in the January sales.

Probably the most well known ex Black Cat to play for Hull was Micky Horswill who played in your famous FA Cup winning team. We had him when we were struggling in the lower leagues and for a while he cut the mustard here.

He was always very fiery and fell out big style with some of the home crowd when he emptied a bucket of water over some of us who were protesting on the half way line during one miserable Saturday afternoon. Horswill was the club captain and took it on himself to defend his manager who was getting some stick from behind his dug-out. He soaked us all and at the end of the game he and a couple of other players, one of them Steve McClaren who went on to manage England, got involved in a small kerfuffle with some of the protesters. The team got relegated to the Fourth Division and Micky left.

Roy Greenwood was a big money signing by your club from Hull. I used to work with his sister at the local paper and Roy used to turn up to watch our works Sunday morning team play. Very quiet lad but a skillful winger, pity about the colour of his hair because like Horswill ginger haired players were never crowd favourites.

Didn’t he get voted the worst ever player to play for you? If so he also won that accolade at Swindon. We also took John Moore from you during Eddie Gray’s short reign as manager here; poor lad, he was hopeless, and probably helped get Gray the sack. Funningly enough Moore was voted one of our worst ever players.

We do not get many club v country arguments. Although it turned up to smack ex-manager Peter Taylor in the gob. He was England under 21 manager whilst also manager at Hull and one weekend left us playing away at Huddersfield whilst he jetted off to some Eastern European hotspot with England. We got slotted 4-1 at Huddersfield and the fans who up to then thought the sun shone out of his arse started to turn on him. He applied for the Charlton job whilst still at Hull, all very sneakily and was turned down when Charlton wouldn’t let him keep the England job and manage them, so he returned shame face to Hull and was on his bike again very quickly as a result of this.

A pity really because he played a very big part in getting us where we are today with back to back promotions in 2003/2004 and 2004/2005, his Under 21 involvement soured his time with us in the end.

But for me, as a fan I’d want my players playing for England but if it meant missing an important relegation battle because of it, who knows? But England every time for me.

Hull City v Sunderland, Premier League, my prediction 1-0 to Hull City. With the Sunday papers again linking Brown with your vacant managers job. He will not take it, simply because at the moment he could walk on water in Hull. He is having the time of his life and as the chairman and new owners keep telling us this is just the start of it.

Until things go pear shaped at Hull then Phil Brown will remain here, possibly getting picked off by one of the bigger clubs or even the England job which he has publicly stated that he fancies one day. Until then these are happy days at Hull City, the second best away record in the Premiership and holding onto a top 10 place, who would have thought it? We could even reach Europe without having to catch the North Sea Ferries. But I would take fourth bottom now.

* Gary Clark on Gary Clark:

I have been a regular contributor to the fanzine, and many others for over 25 years. I write a weekly match report, most of it not actually about the match, for hullvibe which is branch of the Hull Daily Mail, I have also written a book about my time following the Tigers called From Boothferry to Wembley which is in all good book shops in Hull and via paypal from hullcitybarmy@hotmail.com It’s the amazing story of one man’s devotion to his club. Visit this site to find out more. The following is an extract from the “About the book” section of my site:
“At the age of fifty-four I made one of the biggest decisions of my life. I sold the business that I had spent over twenty years building up to devote my time to following Hull City FC in their first ever season in the Premier League. The price that I took for my business, Chanterlands DIY in Hull, doesn’t set me up for a life of Riley, far from it. In fact it wouldn’t even pay off my mortgage, yet I had little choice. I have waited all of my life to see City play in the top flight. In over forty-odd years of support for the Tigers I have made many sacrifices to get to matches, mostly relegation dog-fights in front of three to four thousand similar die-hards and I would not have had it any other way. Hull City are my team and my support for them has never wavered and I didn’t want to miss a second of our first season in the Premier League.”

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