Thursday, 10 August 2017

A Nantes Event

Hull City AFC made history last month. But you could be forgiven for not noticing...
It’s good to be back…I think. A lot has happened since I last posted, much of it far too depressing to record in detail here. 
For starters my local sporting concern, Easington United, were firstly kicked out of (sorry, invited to resign from) the Central Midlands League then relegated in their first season back in the Humber Premier League! 
Hull Kingston Rovers reached a Challenge Cup Final (only to lose by a record margin) and then lost their Super League status in the most dramatic fashion possible – but not before twice managing to snatch relegation from the jaws of safety in successive weeks. 
And Yorkshire CCC went from back-to-back County Championship winners to also-rans and even possible relegation candidates.
To round things off, on the home front my Dad died, just three months after being diagnosed with a brain tumour.
So to put things more succinctly, The Ez and Rovers lost their league status, The Tykes have seemingly lost their lustre and I lost my Dad. But at least one thing has remained consistent throughout the past two years since that last post - the Allams have not lost any of their abililty to piss people off as they continue to ride roughshod over the good name of Hull City AFC. 
It is also nearly two years since I set foot inside ‘The Circle’ (aka KCOM Stadium) to watch a City match. My last game there was the "dramatic penalty shoot-out win" over future Premier League champions Leicester City in the League Cup in October 2015. Since then, I’ve watched 'The Tigers' twice – a low-key league cup away night in Manchester and a gloriously old-skool FA Cup away day in Bury. It’s not a fact I’m particularly proud of but it’s one I’ve been forced into given my objection to so many of the things Assem and (particularly) Ehab have done.
The biggest victim in all this has been my youngest daughter, Katie. For a few years she has/had been a regular companion of mine to both City and Rovers games. She was lucky enough to be with me at both the 2-0 dismantling of Leeds in 2012 (“perhaps the best team performance I’d seen by a City side in years”) and the Tom Huddlestone-inspired 6-0 win over Fulham at Christmas 2013 (“perhaps the best individual performance I’d seen by any City player in years”). Sadly, due to my "pig-headed" stance on the club’s "pig-headed" ownership, she hasn’t been able to add to those memories.
So when City announced that for the first time ever they would be playing a fixture in east Hull, at the home of Hull KR, it gave me chance to “right a few wrongs” with The Younger Slushette whilst at the same time not necessarily swallowing my principles. Naively, I thought both clubs would push the game as a truly historic event in #CityOfCulture year, allowing Rovers to show off their brilliant Colin Hutton (North) Stand to a new audience and, perhaps, helping City tap into a new seam of support. I should’ve known better.
The game, a turgid goalless affair that did little to entertain the few souls opting to waste a sultry summer’s evening, was bad enough. But it was City’s attitude and approach to the fixture that left me with the bitterest taste. Along with social media, I chose the Tiger-Chat Group as the vehicle for my frustration. In reply to a rather downbeat assessment of City’s performance, I wrote…
"Wouldn't disagree with much of what's written there regards the game and Campbell's lively showing was one of few high points in a first 45 minutes that had my youngest regretting ever asking me, "why don't we go to City anymore?" The second half I thought was marginally better. Stewart possessed some nice touches, Mazuch looked solid enough and I did think Lenihan grew into the game after a poor start. Overall though I agreed with Rick's opinion on Twitter that some of the young lads looked knackered from Saturday's exertions.
"As for my daughter's questions, without boring her over each of my arguments with the current ownership, a quick answer could be found all around the place last night even before kick-off. This was even down to the programme in which the only mentions of "Hull City" came in Mike Smith's welcome (yes, it was Hull KR's chief executive's job to write in the City programme) and the other one in Leonid Slutsky's piece. Overall, can't help feeling that last night was a missed opportunity and another in the succession of "own goals" by our owners. The simply historical / novelty factor around last night should have been enough to have attracted more than 2,097 spectators. Indeed, when the game was first announced I know of several fellow Rovers fans who were interested on those grounds alone. But no real marketing and ridiculous ticketing arrangements subsequently saw the opportunity lost. Standing outside the main stand watching stewards desperately trying to relocate those who'd inadvertently bought tickets for the North Stand was amusing but also, quite frankly embarrassing. Similar to the club's stated expectations of a "high walk-up" on the night. Given Rovers' success at marketing second-rate rugby league this season (regular 7,000 gates) perhaps Smith and co should have been asked to handle the whole operation last night?!
"Finally, I can't let the comments on KCOM Craven Park (to give it its proper name) go without a bite. Yes, it has its limitations and looks very dated in parts - pillars obscure the view in both stands and the South ("Zeebrugge Stand") terrace is unfit for purpose (I believe it's the next proposed development whenever funds allow). The East Stand has been extended one way (northwards) and now needs that extension to be mirrored at the southern end. It's a shame that the North Stand remained closed - it is quite simply one of the best stands to enjoy sport from locally and that's an opinion I've heard told from rugby league fans of many clubs who've visited. A brilliant set-up with amenities for kids, decent bar and food outlets as well as also local live music on Rovers match days. Last night it could and should have been showcased. Instead, we were left with a "limited" food and drinks range from that which is normally available. Another example of the "half-arsed" attitude prevalent throughout the run-up to the game. And yes, Rovers are an easy target for many but their ownership's current relationship with the fans is one we can only currently dream of at City.
"As we walked away from the ground to our usual parking place, I asked my youngest if she'd like to start watching City again. "Think I'll stick to Rovers for now" was her reply. I suspect she may well have said that even had the game been slightly more exciting. The whole event felt like an "inconvenience" for both parties, but especially the Allams.”  
Eleven days after the probably once-in-a-lifetime never-to-be-repeated-event at Craven Park, City opened up their Championship campaign with a heartening draw at pre-season favourites Aston Villa. An encouraging second half performance, capped by a wonderful goal (and even better celebration) from young Jarrod Bowen gave many fans renewed hope for what was to follow. I do hope for the die-hards that this is the case. And new manager Leonid Slutsky is certainly a man one can easily warm to. Unfortunately, any hopes of warming to his boss were extinguished when I saw the posters advertising the "Hull City Tigers"' forthcoming game against, wait for it, "Wolverhampton Wanderers Wolves". 
Just when you thought Ehab couldn’t sink any lower…

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