Friday, 29 May 2009

Walking on sunshine

Walking the Wolds, Rovers Cup exit & Footy Presentation Night...

Summer is officially here.
I'm not saying that just because the last day of the month saw our family enjoying a succulent Sunday lunch out on the patio in glorious sunshine; but also because it was also the first Sunday since last June when I have not had a single word of football-related stuff to type up for either a match programme or the local Press. For one glorious summer's day football was definitely OFF the agenda...and there aren't many times that happens in a calendar year. At least the missus was pleased!

Not that sport was totally missing from the weekend. Saturday saw me skilfully combine some "quality family time" (i.e. a shopping trip into town) with Hull KR's Challenge Cup quarter-final against Warrington at Craven Park. I won't be alone in describing the game as one of the most exciting I've been to and ranking Jake Webster's try that seemingly put Rovers within touching distance of the last four at 22-12 as one of the best I can recall seeing in a long time.

Unfortunately this in no way compensates for the fact that it is "Wire" who progress to the sem-finals courtesy of Lee Briers' extra-time golden point. At least I didn't have to witness the coup de grace - a slight hitch on the logistics front having forced me and my eldest, Emma, to leave the ground at the final hooter in order to catch the bus home. It was somewhat surreal trying to follow the events in extra time by the noise of the crowd; culminating in a final cheer from one section, swiftly followed by a chant of "W*nky W*nky W*nky W*nky Warrington" from t'other. I knew we'd lost! And to compound my daughter's disappointment, she then missed out on the top deck of an EYMS bus due to some kind soul stopping to offer us a lift (in truth I she was more upset by this than the Challenge Cup exit. Bless her).
To further illustrate how such football-free weekends are becoming more and more of a rarity, the latest one was book-ended by Sundays dominated by activities directly relating to the Club. For example, the coming one (7th) will see a gang of us busy down at our Low Farm ground, carrying out a whole host of overdue maintenance tasks. And between now and the first pre-season game on 18th July we have a huge amount of work to do to get things ship-shape for whichever league competition the senior squad finds itself playing in.

Meanwhile, the preceding Bank Holiday weekend saw our annual fundraiser take place on the Sunday, which this year was the so-called "Million Metre Meander" - a 25-mile sponsored walk along a stretch of the Yorkshire Wolds Way. And "Tough" wasn't the word for it. In fact it proved one of the hardest things I've ever done. Suffice to say, never has a pint of Timothy Taylor Landlord tasted better than it did in The Middleton Arms at North Grimston that evening. Not only was the quality on a par with that I've become accustomed to in The Crown & Anchor at Kilnsea but it also provided the perfect finale to an absolutely exhilarating day.
Twenty-one of us, loosely connected in some way with Easington United, completed the route from Market Weighton to Wharram Le Street. Spectacular scenery accompanied virtually the whole length of the Walk as, more significantly, did several short sharp ascents (Rabbit Dale anyone?) and the hottest day of the year thus far. And in places like Horse Dale and Holm Dale, with the breeze blocked by the surrounding valley sides, it became a virtual "sun trap".
Not surprising therefore that after some eleven hours in my walking boots, Keighley's finest ale provided a rich source of comfort.
I'm not sure just how much our group has raised through our efforts. We're hopeful that the figure will be somewhere in the region of £3K, to be split between club funds and buying something for little Mia Silvey of Brough whose Fund
was our 2009 choice of "worthy cause".
At the same time as we were completing one of the toughest stretches of our Walk, Hull City were enduring the most tense ninety minutes of their entire season. In the event, our pain at listening to what must have seemed like a never-ending second half was eased by lack of decent transmission signals around Thixendale. Thus Burnsy's commentary on BBC Radio Humberside appeared only in the briefest of fits and starts, while Fozzy's "£2 special" from Asda kept transferring him to a Teesside station's coverage of West Ham v Middlesbrough! It was in Thixendale village itself and via the support car's stereo that we could finally celebrate salvation, courtesy of Five Live's coverage of Newcastle's last two minutes of Premiership football!

Our season may have ended trophy-less but a fourth place finish for the First Team is their best since 2004/05 and inspires hopes of better things next time around. The Reserves and Casuals both face uncertain futures following bottom place finishes with the Stiffs' precarious hold on a Premier Division place of particular concern.

Similar to New Year's Eve the finale to the football season in May always prompts a feeling of nostalgia in me. This usually lends itself to prompting my shelling out for "must have" books and CD's which immediately transport me back to younger days. This year's choices were the re-issued versions of two albums I never bought in their original vinyl format but instead acquired via that favourite thrifty teenage method of taping off somebody else's copy, namely "George Best" by The Wedding Present and by The Pale Fountains "Pacific Street". Ah, the opening bars of "Everyone Thinks He Looks Daft" and Dave Gedge's vocals immediately had me back in Hull's Spiders Nightclub. Carefree days of cheap beer, excellent music and very little responsibility!

An interview with the aforementioned Mr Gedge was one of the first big muso pieces we did in the seminal Hull, Hell & Happiness fanzine during my days of Tiger Trekking back in the late Eighties. Although from Leeds, the Weddo's frontman provided an articulate view of the state of football in general and expressed a certain empathy with our plight at the time (how things have changed??!!).

I was reminded of my Hull City fanzine days when attending Alan Plater's excellent "Confessions of a City Supporter" at the new Hull Truck Theatre last night. Having seen the original version, launched to celebrate the Tigers' centenary in 2004, the updated version - celebrating a first ever season in the top-flight - proved just as enjoyable, if not more so. Not only was Roy "Get It Together" North as superb as he had been five years previous but the bit at the end recapturing Deano's Wembley winner still managed to raise the hairs on the back of my neck. And I'm sure the bloke who played one of the coppers in "Early Doors", who was sitting a few rows back from us, enjoyed it as much as the 150 or so City fans in attendance.

It was the first time I've attended the new Hull Truck since its move from Spring Street and I was very impressed. Despite its increased capacity it retains the homely feel of the original, a place where I'd spent many a great night over the past two decades or so seeing most of John Godber's hilarious comedies and live music acts as diverse as The Meteors and Jools Holland, Hue & Cry and Martin Stephenson (without the Daintees). Ah, nostalgia again.

The recent Presentation Evening also saw some of the more mature members of the squad gain some well-deserved recognition. The aforementioned McNaught brothers, John Clarke and Craig Foster all picked up special awards in recognition of fantasticx milestone appearances passed in 2008/09 (Maccer & JC having passed 650 apps while Fozzy and Biff have clocked up 600). At any level of football such feats are magnificent - and testament to the loyalty that Easington United AFC manages to inspire.
I can't leave the subject of "old players" without a word for veteran keeper Steve Eldon who yet again picked up a couple of player of the year awards. Will he ever retire??!!

Our own season ended with something of an unexpected bonus courtesy of the Second-string's appearance in the South Holderness Cup Final. And although well beaten - eventually - by Hedon therein, the chance for the likes of Maccer, Biff and Trev to be involved in such an occasion again was fantastic.
Still, the onset of blue skies and wall-to-wall sunshine herald in the start of a brand new era. By the time the next update appears, I will be fully involved in our gear-up for the new season. Looking forward, not back...

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