Thursday, 12 November 2009

Stoking the passion!

Sunday 8 November - Hull City 2 Stoke City 1
Remembrance Sunday / Up 'N' Under...

It’s not often that I’m “Mr. Popular” in our house, especially with Emma who usually accuses me of taking her younger sister’s side in arguments (she’s got a point, but that’s only because at six Emma’s huffs and sulks are shorter and less disruptive than three-year-old Katie’s, which usually involve the sort of wailing reserved for Palestinian funerals!).
Anyway, the reason for my recent elevation is that last Sunday I took Daughter No.1 to see her first ever Hull City match. And what’s more, she loved it. So much so that not only has she demanded we return “soon” but her ongoing list to Father Christmas now includes a fluffy Roary Tiger, pink hat and scarf set and some Hull City girl’s jim-jams. “I wouldn’t worry, she’ll forget about them in the morning” advised the missus. But she hasn’t, and it’s now nearly a week!
While I’d like to think that the reason for her delight (and my subsequent popularity) was a stunning Jimmy Bullard-inspired City fight back that yielded a much-needed three points in the quest for Premier League survival, courtesy of a last gasp winner by "Vinegar of Hessleroad"; it’s probably more to do with the fact that her trip to the KC Stadium gained her kudos among her classmates…and a “Wow!” from her teacher.
It's all a far cry I might add from when I bounced into school following my first visit to watch The Tigers. All I got following a 2-1 home defeat by Fulham at Boothferry Park in September 1975 was: “Never mind, you probably won’t have to go again for a while”; which I didn’t, as it happened.
Part of the reason why I had to wait so long was that Dad, a “love Geoff Boycott and eat your greens” kind of man, never has been the biggest football fan. And so it was mates’ dads who I relied on for my first glimpses of the lush green Boothferry Park turf.
The results weren’t great during those formative years. Charlton (0-2, Nov ‘77 despite Billy Bremner's best efforts) and Barnsley (0-2, Nov ‘79 after which four of us had to endure the train journey back from Boothferry Halt to Paragon Station with a coach rammed full of South Yorkshire folk) both followed Fulham out of Hull with the points. In fact the only highlight of my early visits was a Keith Edwards-inspired 4-1 win over Walsall; my first ever night match and scene of one of the greatest goals I’ve ever witnessed live. Think Roberto Baggio for Italy against Uruguay in the 1990 World Cup and you’re on the right lines.
I wonder if, in later years, Emma will remember much about her first trip to City. Somehow I doubt it. To be fair much of mine is a blur and I was nine at the time. The details of the various scorers had to be looked up in books some years later, even Vince Grimes who put City one up, although I can still see the goal itself: a free-kick tapped to him about 25 yards out and arrowing into the top corner directly below where I was sitting in the front row of the South Stand behind Bunkers Hill.
I seem to recall Fulham counted George Best, Bobby Moore and Rod Marsh among their number at the time although none played. The only player I recall for them that day was bearded goal scorer Viv Busby. Apart from this my memories are confined to the abuse my mate's dad got when pre-empting another Fulham goal (he was a Londoner, they were his team hence the trip) only to be thwarted by a great save from Jeff Wealands which prompted what seemed the whole of the aforementioned Bunkers Hill "choir" to turn round and gesticulate at said mate's dad and those of us unfortunate enough to be in his company!
 I also wonder if time will distort Emma's memories similar to how they've already rearranged her recollection of the numerous rugby trips across the city to Craven Park (although she does remember the important bits - "we beat the black and whites didn't we dad?"). While I will remember the Stoke game as Phil Brown's "Last Chance Saloon", Jimmy Bullard's home debut and Olofinjana's first - and probably best - goal for his new club, my daughter will, I'd guess, retain memories of those cerise pyjamas, Roary Tiger and her dad making an arse of himself by gesticulating wildly at the Stokies following both City goals (like Tig-Chat match reporter Steve Weatherill I don't like Stoke!). Or perhaps it'll be The Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feeling", one of her favourite songs ("this was on X-Factor dad") and the sound that accompanied our happy exit from the KC.
 Prior to the game I bought the latest (80th!) edition of “City Independent” and a decent read it is too; took me back to my own “It’s not the Programme mate” days recounted in my last blog. And for good measure I also bought an official programme, which to be fair has been consistently good for a number of years now.
Sunday’s trip to ‘The Circle’ formed part of a fulfilling day, which had begun in solemn style with a drenching at Hull’s Remembrance Day service on Ferensway and ended with yet another superb carvery at The Haven Arms in Hedon (complete with two very nice pints of proper ale - Copper Dragon Golden Pippin from Skipton and Willy’s Last Resort, a Cleethorpes brew).
The trip to Hull also allowed me to catch up on a bit of "quality" time with members of my family, something that has been restricted recently by a glut of home matches at Low Farm and subsequent time spent locked away in the study producing match programmes (see next Blog). Thankfully I did manage to "put my stint in" on Halloween and Bonfire Night.
In addition I somehow wangled a "night out" of my own although it was a Monday and as it involved watching one of the worst City performances I can recall (the 2-0 defeat at Fulham via ESPN at The Holderness Inn in Patrington) it shouldn't really register. Not even a very nice pint or three of Black Sheep - and a not so nice Golden Pippin ("a word landlord please") - could salvage the evening.
The second occasion was far more enjoyable – another visit to the new Hull Truck Theatre to enjoy John Godber’s 25th Anniversary production of “Up ‘N’ Under” complete with Abi Titmuss! A cracking evening was enjoyed by my better half and I, which also included taking in a pre-show meal in the Theatre’s smart café-bar. As with “Confessions of a City Fan” this latest Hull Truck experience was worth every penny…even if the aforementioned Abi remains far too over-dressed throughout.
But, hey I've just seen City beat Stoke - you can't have everything!

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