Sunday, 26 February 2012

Give Yootha chance

Saturday 11th February
Football League Championship
Hull City 3 Bristol City 0

As part of his excellent “Does This Make Sense?” blog, Matthew Rudd recently made reference to the 1970s sitcom ‘Man About The House’, from which came the spin-off ‘George & Mildred’ starring Brian Murphy and Yootha Joyce.
It's another nod towards the era that Dominic Sandbrook catches almost perfectly in his “State Of Emergency – Britain: The Way We Were 1971-74”, a book I’ve previously lauded.  And our seemingly endless fascination with all things 1970s was again evident in the topic of conversation that was taking place in Hull’s Pave Bar prior to the Tigers’ clash with Bristol City on Saturday.
More specifically, the topic over which the "City fans of several years standing" I was sitting with were working themselves into quite a lather concerned the attractions (or otherwise) of the youthful Ms Joyce.  The obvious relish with which they threw themselves into the subject had me wishing I’d got to the pub when they had – one pint of admittedly good Wold Gold wasn’t quite stimulating enough to paint the same pictures of feminine pulchritude that these chaps saw as the youthful future “Mildred Roper”.
I'd arrived in Pave - eventually - after negotiating a whole host of obstacles designed to prevent my attendance. Following the postponement of our League Cup tie against Southwell, the extremely generous @Tigerkj64 of City Twitterati fame had offered me use of an adult and U10’s season pass, due to illness in her family.
Without boring you with the details, other family considerations meant I was first in, then out, then in again, then out again before, at half-past-eleven that morning, back in...again.
Thus armed with a winter-warmer flask of sloe gin and with transport provided by Mrs Slush, I found myself sat in the cosy confines of Pave discussing Seventies TV with the aforementioned Kate and some very honourable members of what could once be termed City’s “long-suffering support”. 
For a minute it reminded me of the old Boothferry Park pre-match sessions in The Griffin.  But we've all come a long way since then.  Especially City.
Just prior to Christmas 2010 I took the Elder Slushette to the 2-0 home win over today’s opponents. It was possibly the coldest I’ve ever been in the stadium (although the 0-1 defeat at the hands of Aston Villa in the Premier League runs it very close). Today promised to match it hence it was little surprise when Emma opted to go shopping with her mum rather than take up Tiger Kate’s spare pass.
This was my first game spent in the South Stand since the last England U21s international at the venue; and the first time I’d watched City from that end since the 3-1 win over Watford in the ultimately successful Championship run-in of 2007/08.
At least Kate’s seats, well towards the back, meant I finally got chance to have a view on the recent comments surrounding the state of the KC pitch. And by gad it didn’t look great.
Before the game both sides observed a minute’s silence in memory of the 74 people who lost their lives in the riot at the recent Egyptian League clash between Al-Masry and Al-Ahly, the latter a team with whom City owner Assem Allam has traditional links. While fully understanding the reasons for wanting to show their support,  I’m with the Amber Nectar chaps in also thinking something similar should have occurred following the recent deaths of ex-City skipper Paul Feasey and former chairman Bob Chapman.  Those in charge obviously disagreed.
Unsurprisingly the turn out from Brizzle came nowhere near the very creditable 800+ that Donny had brought the previous midweek. Reports were that the Robins had sold 149 advance tickets and as such they looked somewhat lost without any City support to accompany them in the North Stand. Given their team’s away record, those having made the trip deserve utmost respect. However, after only quarter of an hour, they were probably wishing they’d stayed at home.
By then goals from skipper Jack Hobbs (really?) from a corner (really??) and – who else – Robbie Koren had put Nick Barmby’s “yoothful” (sorry!) City side well and truly in the driving seat. And by the break it should have been more. Brizzle were poor, although they did come close to halving the deficit when Adomah rattled the bar and James Chester cleared Wood's follow-up off the line.
If I had any complaints about the first half, they would be: (1) the number of chances missed that would have put the game beyond doubt by the break; and (2) the lack of noise from the East Stand.
On the day that the Football Supporters Federation brought its Safe Standing Roadshow to the ground, there was no clearer reminder of what’s missing from the old Boothferry Park matchday experience than a full East Stand watching a City side totally dominating the opposition but barely able to raise more than the odd half-hearted “Barmby Army” chant in response.  Am I being harsh?
During the interval I tried contacting Stiffs skipper Rutter, basking in the comfort of a day out with the match sponsors. However, he was obviously too busy regaling former City defender Justin Whittle with his tales of derring-do up and down the fields of East Yorkshire to answer his phone.  Cuh!
Matty Fryatt has come in for criticism recently following a barren run in front of goal. Thus there was more than a hint of relief when the striker linked superbly with Koren to score the decisive third and kill things off in the second half. His celebration said it all.
The rest of the game was played out against a backdrop of calm satisfaction in the stands – there’d be no need for Saint Nick to complain about booing today.
At the final whistle, after bidding my new South Stand acquaintances farewell, I took the chilly walk back to St Stephen’s where Mrs Slush and the Elder Slushette awaited.  Totally ignorant of the Tigers’ win and a fourth consecutive clean sheet, they were instead delighted to tell me about their own success that afternoon - they'd seen the guinea pig cage they want.  Ahem.
“Shall we have take away tea to celebrate?” said Mrs Slush.
“Why not? And I’ll pay.” Well, if you can't splash the cash after a City win.
It had turned out to be cracking Saturday.  All that was left was to look up some old pics of Yootha; preferably pre-Mildred Roper of course…

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