The real-life tales of a football writer
I once went out with a girl who lived in Hull, as did a mate of mine – a different girl obviously as we’re not from Burnley.
We’d drive along the M62 to see our girlfriends, fearful that we were going to get attacked for being out of towners at any point beyond Selby. We’d time our visits carefully so they wouldn’t clash with Manchester United games and would watch the free public boxing bouts each weekend night in Hull city centre.
On one visit, I arrived in Hull on a Saturday afternoon.
“It’s a nice day, let’s go to the park,” I said to my then better half.
“You don’t know any parks in Hull,” she replied.
“Trust me, I do.”
It's got grass, seats and six pylons. What more do you want?
An hour later we were stood on Bunkers Hill, otherwise known as the
south terrace at Boothferry Park, her bored and baffled, me engrossed
by the six floodlight pylons – it was the only ground in Britain with
six giant pylons. It was 1995, crowds were around 5,000 and Dean
Windass was still a sprightly 43.
Often derided, Hull has some salient points. The Paragon railway station is wonderful. If it was in London it’d have a champagne bar, six branches of Pret a Manger and homosexual men in square glasses from Hampstead talking about the relative aesthetic value on television.
But it’s in Hull and serves as a rail station, where passengers buy tickets, board and alight trains. Which is what it was built for.
The view of the Humber Bridge rivals the Golden Gate in San Francisco, the Deep’s (an aquarium) modern architecture contrasts smartly against the Hull Tidal surge barrier and they even have a huge church named in honour of Law, Best and Charlton - the Holy Trinity.
And on your left you can see Alcatraz island. Err, hang on...
As well as having one of the best fanzines around (Hull, Hell and Happiness), Hull had a great record shop called Sidney Scarborough. I once walked up to the counter and hummed a song I wanted to buy. The assistant, who looked like he had a brain the size of the internet and therefore should know, looked at me as if I was from Grimsby and didn’t reply: “That’ll be Inner City Life by Goldie.” Which is what I was trying to hum.
My next encounter with the Tigers was in 2004 when, following the early kick-off in the FA Cup semi-final between Man United and Arsenal at Villa Park, I spurned my friends’ invitations to go into Birmingham, drink beer and peer at attractive girls in Broad Street before getting filmed and sectioned by the ever hostile West Midlands constabulary.
Instead, I drove alone to Aggborough, home of Kidderminster Harriers and arrived late for their game against Hull.
My mum called to see where her 31-year-old son was.
Aggborough: Home of the Harriers. Watch out for tigers
“I’m just going to the loo, while watching the mighty tigers,” I said, half in jest.
“You’re at the zoo watching tigers?” she replied, while going for the yellow pages to find the number of a counsellor.
Kidderminster are now non-league, Hull are heading for the Champions League. I’d love to see them in it, though it’d be a chore for their fans to apply for passports ahead of travelling.
Imagine people from Hull outside Milan’s Duomo or the Prado in Madrid? They’d turn their noses up and say things like: “Nothing on Princes Quay and there’s no a ferry to Zeebrugge round the corner either.” And imagine manager Phil Brown in Milan? He’d be able to buy a properly tailored suit and not something that had been left in Studio 54’s coatroom.
I’d like Hull to reach the 2010 European Cup final and play United, who they will probably beat on Saturday because they’re Hull City and they win football games every week.
Paul Heaton, a famous former resident of Hull (he moved there for no reason other than he’d never been and wanted to be near the sea), helps run a football team a lot of my mates play for in Manchester. I played a game with them last season. Heaton leant me his boots and I got changed pitch-side by his scooter, my feet sinking into the waterlogged South Manchester earth.
Heaton: Currently penning 'London 0 Hull 10'
Last Sunday, Heaton was continually distracted by media calls before their game. Who would have thought that in deciding to name a Housemartins album ‘London 0 Hull 4’ two decades later it would symbolise Hull City beating four London teams including Tottenham and Arsenal in the first two months of the season?
I’m made up for them, and for the fact that they’re smashing through all perceived Premier League predictabilities, but they need bringing down to earth.
Starting with Saturday when I’ll be throwing Grimsby processed fish from my seat into the Hull end.
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