Who the f*** is Craig Fagan?

Sometimes for whatever reason you can’t be at a game and because of your circumstances the memory of that match really sticks with you. When the much underrated Brian Little had a patched up band of lunatics somehow on a run to the play-offs in the spring of 2001, I was stuck on a school trip as a young teacher in France. Technology being what it was at the start of the millennium, I was told there was a spot about 5 minutes’ walk from the centre of the camp where your phone could get a little bit of signal. After tea on the first Saturday I walked to said location and waited. A message popped up on the Nokia from the old man. “Beat Hartlepool 1-0, UTT” Cue stupid and utterly carefree pogo-ing in the middle of a field in southern France.


Another such occasion was during our first ever season in the Premier League. An incredible start to our season had first slowed, then creaked and by April and May we were in full free fall. We were a burning wreck of losing cargo and all the neigh say, smart arse premier league fans were bathing in our desperation. We were now everything they said we were at the start, leaking goals, naive and nervous up top. By the time we got to the second game from the end at Bolton, it was pretty much us or Newcastle for the drop. Me being me? I was at Butlins coaching junior football.

My main supply of information whilst trying to instil some creative ability in a bunch of sleep deprived 12 year olds was a fellow coach who was also an Arsenal fan that after our Geovanni inspired brilliance, was simply loving the experience of watching me suffer. City chipped in by going 1-0 down and it all looked like we were going to fall at the final hurdle and drop back to the second level. Then in the midst of some 7-a-side also ran game, my mate Jonesey’s face dropped.
“Oh… Pete…. you’ve equalised”
I jumped directly in the air yelling “Get in!!!” at volume, which definitely threw the team as we’d just conceded a throw in.
“Who scored?”
Jonesey squinted at his phone. “Craig Fagan” he replied.
“Who the f*** is Craig Fagan Pete?”


I think I was too happy to care at the time, but now 14 years later, I’ll answer his question. Craig Fagan was an absolute grafter, a relentless channel runner who could plug in across several attacking positions. He was typical of the team that survived in the Premier League that year in that he was a very good Championship player who hadn’t seen a fight he didn’t fancy getting into. Thus we caught lots of big time teams with their pants down. No better example being where he got his leg broken by Danny Guthrie whilst City beat Newcastle at St James Park earlier that same season. Guthrie’s challenge was cowardly and distasteful as Fages was running the ball into the corner towards the end of the match and he teed off on his standing leg. Most City fans made a vow to spit on the name of Guthrie quite rightly but it was the self-same determination, running and savvy play by Craig that brought about such a horrible challenge.


It was his second stint with the club by then, first brought in by Peter Taylor in 2005 after really impressing against us for Colchester United. He was an important part of City’s rise up the leagues, in a formation that Taylor loved to play featuring multiple attacking options coming from deeper positions (see Barmby, Elliott, Green, Price etc). He departed for Derby County during our promotion season, but came back first on loan and then permanently. He was a goal threat, an assist threat and technically had a great first touch, he’d run at the opposition on the ball and worked like an absolute madman off it. That all added up to being very popular with the fanbase.


Then there’s something else that made me respect the hell out of him. In the autumn of 2006 we were heading back to league one. The Parkinson train was off the rails and was heading towards the cliff edge, on fire. We went to his old club Colchester and despite taking the lead through Nicky Forster, what followed was horrific, 5 goals for them flattered us. It should have been 7 or 8. The players had downed tools, Parkinson had totally lost them and the whole night was a farce. Those that stayed let the remaining players and manager know this at full time and things got ugly quick. Most City players limply clapped from a distance and got themselves down the tunnel. It was then I realised there was an exception. Craig Fagan was walking towards the boos, the howls of derision and angry fans. I worried this wouldn’t end well, but he just kept walking. It must have been a tough day for him in particular as a former Colchester player which their fans had reminded him of throughout. By the time he was within five yards of tight Layer Road away end, even the steward’s looked worried. “Lads” he started “That was so bad, I just wanted to apologise to all of you that travelled tonight, I’m sorry, that was terrible.” I’d about two hundred fans who moments before had been booing at the top of their voice had completely stopped. Someone started clapping, another fan gave him their scarf (god knows why?!), but all of them respected such a gesture because Fages showed some serious courage.


Which takes me back to that goal vs. Bolton, watched by me on Match of the Day that night, with one of those rubbish wind related sun tans and full of cheap beer. It was a goal that summed him up as a player for Hull City, he chased and pressed so many times and when the Bolton defence coughed up the ball he ran on to finish with aplomb. The highlights that season were so abundant, from the genius of Geo, to the electric Mendy performances and defensive heroics of Turner, Dawson and Myhill. But we stayed up because Craig Fagan chased a lost cause, that’s just a fact.
He might not be on the lips of every fan when you talk about all-time greats, but his application, determination and poise laid down a marker for others around him and made sure that I’d never forget where I was that day, and neither will many City fans. UTT.

Jon Parkin “The Dancing Bear”

For long term readers of this blog you’ll know I’m a big NFL fan. The term dancing bear comes from the sport and it’s applied to an offensive tackle. For those who don’t know (or care) about American Football, the easiest way of describing an offensive tackle is it’s his job to protect the quarterback from getting hit by quick and aggressive defensive players on the outside of the line. If you’ve got really good offensive tackles and you’ve got a great quarterback, you’re halfway there. Anyway… I digress… these are big lads, and when you find an example of a great one, they are strong but they have incredibly good footwork enabling them to adjust quickly to pressure and keep the quarterback out of hospital. They are rare and get paid multi-millions because you shouldn’t have brilliant footwork and be their size and strength. Which leads me to this man, Jon Parkin because just like the dancing bears of the NFL he just shouldn’t have been as good as he was.


Apart from proper City fans of a certain age, Peter Taylor isn’t really given enough credit in my eyes. I don’t think we go to the Premier League without him, he built the foundations and turned us into a credible and very professional club from top to bottom. He also had an uncanny habit of finding a player that was a gem, or in some cases shining up a gem that was already here to be even better, see Bo Myhill for 50k, Damian Delaney for the same amount and Leon Cort on a free. Nationally I think he’s seen as more of a coach and for his unsuccessful stint at Leicester, which sells him significantly short. Right up there with anything he ever did though was bringing Jon Parkin from Macclesfield in January 2006. Struggling to adjust in the Championship after consecutive promotions you could see why his arrival wasn’t exactly met with gushing adoration by the fan base but that would almost instantly change as he scored on debut against Crystal Palace. In a season where we’d sometimes looked a little naive and got outmuscled City suddenly had an equaliser.


Parks was able to mix it with big centre backs in the Champ and hold up the ball for the likes of Nicky Barmby, Jason Price or Stuart Elliott but he also had some top end class. If you get a minute remind yourself of the 3-0 away win at Stoke on youtube, a game which was perhaps overshadowed by Bo Myhill saving two penalties, however the real highlight was Parks taking down a ball in the area, pinning his defender before chopping the living daylights out of the same player and calmly slotting it into the bottom corner for our second of the day.


It’s a little bit of a cliché, but it’s also true to say he became a talisman. We were punching above our weight and playing lots of clubs who were used to our name being synonymous with lower league football. Teams didn’t think they should be losing to the “likes of Hull”, thus the name of the blog and Jon was the epitome of Taylor’s team’s attitude in the second half of that season, we might not have been household names, but several of them were about to become them, and the attitude was definitely to “deal with us.”


Then there’s the reason he should never pay for a beer in Hull for the rest of his time, the winner vs Leeds United at home. Now, I’ve never been one to build up this game as a rivalry, unfortunately most Leeds fans are simply too arrogant or dim or both to understand why it matters to people in Hull. It matters because of the “Hull Whites” the gormless dimwits who not only betray their home city, but double down by smugly rubbing in their superiority at every chance. I don’t think we beaten them in a league game in nearly twenty years and that day was a long time coming. I’d somehow got hold of a ticket in the South Stand that day and can still see the moment the goal went in, Craig Fagan reworks the ball to the much underrated Stuart Green and as soon as he hangs up the cross to the back post you know how it ends, Parks towers over his marker to head into the bottom corner and mayhem ensues. He knee slides in front of the east stand to chaotic scenes and the monkey is well and truly lifted off our backs.


I think the big man scored one in 3 in that run in, despite playing a lone role quite a bit and we ended up staying up with room to spare. However that’s where the story takes an unexpected spiral for his time with us. Taylor leaves for Palace, the Phil Parkinson experiment is a disaster and it’s clear that he’s no fan of the Beast. He’s then replaced by Phil Brown, who you’d think would be more his sort of gaffer but they fall out and off he goes on loan to Stoke. I know Jon has a very strong opinion of his treatment by the perma-tanned, headset wearing crooner, and this doesn’t exactly correlate with our fan base as ultimately he delivered the impossible and took us to the Premier League the next year. In defence of Parks, I’d say two things, one Brown calling him out on the Radio in his absence was somewhat cowardly and allowed the player himself no right to reply, secondly and this is the bigger one for me, it only showed the canny management of Peter Taylor in a brighter light, Taylor knew who Parkin was and played to his strengths, with good wide play and an array of talented attacking midfielders like Barmby and Green who would thrive off his excellent hold up play. 1-0 to the management of Peter Taylor for me.


Parkin not only went on scoring goals throughout the divisions for another decade to underline this, but has since gone on to an incredibly successful podcasting career with “Undr the Cosh” alongside much less remembered City loan striker Chris Brown. I think it’s safe to say Jon Parkin was a character, and one we won’t see the likes of again, his ability belied his size and background but I’m not sure you could split the two, as Chris Brown said recently on the podcast if he was shredded and 13 stone I’m just not sure he’s the same player, I’d agree with that and I think a lot of City fans would agree that even if it was cut shorter than it could have been that the big man brought some belief to the team and some massive highlights to the fan base in his time with us. The beast was a breath of fresh air and definitely a dancing bear.

“Do not, I repeat, do not fall in love with a loan player…”

So Karl Darlow is set to break out little footballing hearts. He came in, was really ace and it simply seemed a no-brainer that he’d be back. However perhaps he was just too good and the greater footballing world saw that as well. Newcastle then had more admirers than teenage boys watching Love Island and hey presto, they asked for 10 mill plus. They’ll probably get it from a club with full pockets as a reward for being relegated (don’t start me on that parachute nonsense) so we have nothing but good memories and the certainty that he’ll be booed if he comes back to play us with a side in white.

Anywho… this slightly predictable tragedy made me think of other loan players who came into our lives, made us feel all fuzzy inside, only to snap our supporter flowers in two and wipe their arse with them whilst laughing. Do not fall in love with a loan player folks… here’s some cautionary tales as to why…

Martin Carruthers

There wasn’t a great deal to cheer about in the nineties for City fans. Bar Deano’s three year stint near the start and the Great Escapers at the end, it was a truly inglorious decade. One of which saw Boothferry Park fall into a permanent disrepair and the lower leagues become our natural habitat.

There were however small periods where hope sprang up a little, a Windass and Brown strike partnership that got us close twice to the play-offs in 93-94 and 94-95, or basking in the genius that was Theo Whitmore in 1999.

They were ultimately proven to be periods of fallen hope though, and loan players sometimes contributed to these false dawns. One of which was Martin Carruthers. A leggy, graceful striker signed on loan from Aston Villa in 1992. He instantly became a fans favourite despite being surrounded by an especially average support cast and banged in 6 goals in just 13 appearances.

Not that I think Villa were asking for a king’s ransom for the lad, but if the amount was more than a night out at Pepi’s nightclub and a kebab, we (and by “we” I mean Martin Fish and Terry Dolan) weren’t going to be able to pay the bill. Thus he exited stage left and signed for Stoke City the next season. Whereas we signed the perma-rubbish Christian Hargreaves and a 135 year old Steve Moran. Deep joy.

Frazier Campbell

I did toy with this one as…

  1. He came back later on and..
  2. He helped us achieve something so massive, we probably should have still loved him

However…

3. When he left and became a reserve at Spurs and then a massive twat at Sunderland my tiny Hull City heart was trampled on in new and painful ways I never imagined possible.

I don’t need to tell you about Frazier Campbell. But I will, very briefly. We almost certainly don’t go up in 2008 without him. If Deano was the finisher, Campbell was the legs, the youth and also the other major source of goals. He was just brilliant that year. Never summed up more clearly than the running to keep the ball in play followed by the awareness and beautifully weighted cross to pick out Mr Windass for “that” goal. As good as the finish was, the spot and delivery by FC was almost as outrageous.

Just like we did with Darlow and countless others, we knew he’d be back for more, he must sign, surely? We love him, he loves… erm… Spurs? Wait no, he loves… Sunderland?! FFS.

Not only was he the fantastic talent we thought he was but he was almost as good at trolling as he was playing against us. Thus loads of goals, celebrations and general stamping on our broken hearts for another decade or so. When will we learn?

Andrea Ranocchia

Les Motherby knows a thing or two about a thing or two. But he really, really knows two things to obsessive levels. One is kits clearly and the second is Italian football. Therefore when Andrea signed for City in January 2017 and Les said on the fantastic Amber Nectar podcast that he was a little underwhelmed I was disappointed.

I think in Les’s defence he hadn’t generally ripped up trees in Italy after a very expensive move from Genoa to Inter Milan. He’d played international football too, but his star had certainly fallen since his move in 2010.

Marco Silva really did have a habit in a short amount of time of making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear though. Thus the ailing career of Harry Maguire was about to be transformed in ways we never thought possible, Eldin Jakupovic was about to go from Flappy hands McGraw to prime Buffon and a little ginger lad called Clucas who was not very good on the wing was about to become a sublime talent in the centre of midfield.

Was Ranocchia quite that standard of transformation? It’s hard to tell, but he really was very good indeed. He was graceful on the ball, strong and read the game well. He looked every inch the player that he was clearly once regarded as. Even a slip in the opening seconds of a late whacking by Crystal Palace couldn’t make me dislike the lad, he was a Rolls Royce and along with a couple of others, you’d have to think we could have dodged the trap door if he’d have been brought in the window before.

Woulda, coulda, shoulda. We went down, were as poor as church mice and the graceful Andrea tip-toed his way back to Italy. Pah.

Harry Wilson

Which is an apt time to mention young Harry Wilson. The next season we flirted with double relegation, after Slutsky-ball became, erm, Nigelball.

We were so bad at the back that season that I still shudder at the thought of Stephen Kingsley moonwalking his way down the left wing, or Michael Hector two footing the ref who he’s wrongly thought is the opposing striker.

We did however, thank god, have goals in us. Bowen, Campbell, Hernandez and Wilson were either good or very good, thus we drew 5-5 with Bristol City and beat Norwich 4-3. We quite literally had to, as the defence was about as carefully guarded and organised as the M1 junction 13.

Harry was a breath of fresh air. Quick, mobile, instinctive and clever. He was a reason to watch City almost by himself. He was just too good. The City fans sang about letting him have a relationship with their wives, however in some ways I’m not sure that was actually a reward for him.

At the end of the season Liverpool decided to loan him to a team that weren’t a lost cause and so he was done with us. Worse still he went to Derby where as sure as eggs is eggs, he was 100% guaranteed to lose in the playoffs and of course did. Slim consolation for us.

If he starts banging in goals, don’t start liking Liam Delap City faithful, it will end in tears I tell you.

Thanks for reading as ever. I hope you’ve had a restful summer and are looking forward to the new season. Send your hate tweets to @thelikesofhull and I’ll see you all soon. UTT.

The Likes of Hull guide to not being a Meff this summer…

Ahhh where does the time go? It seems like only five minutes ago we were playing out a game of “who doesn’t want to shoot” with Luton Town to draw the curtain on what was a fairly dull championship season on the field but a more promising one off it, and here we are, sitting around, not really doing much. It’s without doubt the deadest part of the football year and there’s no getting around it. There just isn’t. However, the pain isn’t forever, there’s only a few weeks until we’re back in training, new signings are being announced, friendlies, new kits and fixture announcements. In the meantime, though, here’s the definitive guide to not getting right on everyone’s threepenny bits during the lull. Send your hate tweets as ever to @thelikesofhull and I’ll be pleased to reply. I hope you enjoy it…

  1. Stop pretending you’ve seen Premier League U21 play or have an in-depth knowledge of random foreign leagues.

Last season when we signed Harvey Vale I presumed he must have ten family members who were season ticket holders for Chelsea U21 and also supported City. I expected prime Iniesta to walk on to the pitch at the K-Com, not a quiet lad who the game passed by whilst he looked out of sorts.

Turns out he wasn’t 2001 Lampard and he’s more likely to end up at Met Police than Metz, I’d like to say this was a rarity but it really wasn’t. We could sign a lad from Greenland and before you know it @freezingcoldtiger will be posting youtube clips of him pinging a ball off an iceberg and declaring him the next big thing.

Here’s the thing. We don’t know. We’re just fans. Cyrus Christie wasn’t signed to any great crescendo last summer, but Dimi Pelkas was, how’s that work out? Sure, sharing the odd highlight or two is fine and so is the opinion of other fans, but take it all with a pinch of salt and don’t take yourself too seriously, because we’ll find out if the player is any good when he …. You know… plays….

2. Former Beautiful South singer Dave Hemmingway and Maureen Lipman are both born in Hull. We shouldn’t sign them either.

Dave has a lovely singing voice and would be an asset on a match day, with Lipman’s renowned acting skills she could fool unknowing refs into a series of undeserved free kicks or wow the opposition with a witty retort.

As ridiculous as these seem (they are a combined 139 years old and to my knowledge aren’t at home in a 4-2-3-1) this is merely following the maddening habit of fans waiting for anyone with a link to our city to get their UB40 and suggesting them. And a lot of the time with a ton of gusto. I’ve seen Sonny Bradley play for many years and he’s perfectly serviceable for teams that are around and about this level, Jake Livermore can probably get a step two contract somewhere and Daniel Batty was a good little player for us once upon a time. But no, no, no.

No thanks, and more importantly. We’re not some sort of strange fan led consortium where we all get a vote and end up with a bright pink away kit sponsored by ChildLine. We have no input whatsoever, thank god, because we (and I’m definitely including myself in this we) have no real ideas what we need other than positions and have no worldly idea how contracts and signings are navigated.

Let’s leave it to the experts eh?

Ditto for people tagging them in on social media to contact them. We’re not Jorge Mendes, we’re barely Jorge from Bamboo Garden. Nobody is going to look at their twitter notifications and join our club lads. Soz.

3. Leave the admin alone, they can’t announce a new kit until they get told to.

Poor old Twitter admin. They try so hard to keep us all happy at this club. Whether it’s a game of connect four against Bayer Leverkusen, capturing some fantastic match day content or just being very interactive with the fan base, I think we could all agree they do a fine job. But they like us are a bit stumped until the second week of June.

Therefore, no amount of asking, haranguing or grovelling is going to make them reveal a new Kappa top. So, let’s not ask eh? Especially if they’re sharing a Tiger’s Trust update or promoting season ticket sales. They aren’t sports direct mate. They’ll tell you when they are told to. Acun ain’t sitting on his smartphone ready to zing out the new away shirt and seeing how much everyone really wants to know about it.

4. There’s a bunch of teenagers doing pointless predictions on Twitter… swim on by…

@PNFC_4EVA on Twitter isn’t an esteemed and knowledgeable source of level-headed football predictions. He’s using his Mum’s wi-fi whilst she’s nipped out to her weekly Hot Yoga Session from the basement he lives in, and he’s trolling. Unless Ryan Lowe is the second coming of Pep Guardiola, Preston aren’t coming third as he predicts (beating his mate’s QPR team in the Wembley final)

Guillem Balague has nothing to worry about.

These. Are. Not. Predictions.

Do. Not. Answer. Them. It’s. What. They. Want. You. To. Do.

5. Please keep your “amusing” transfer sightings to yourself.

Zlatan hasn’t popped into Mr Chu’s you didn’t see Tan Kessler with Yerry Mina in Theiving Harry’s and Soyuncu wasn’t trying on a pair of Slazenger trainers in Branny Centre.

Although that last one…. I mean he’s Turkish you know? Stop it! You started to believe it could happen didn’t you?

6. Don’t post your holiday pictures. Oh, go on then do…

I’m a Mizzog. I admit if freely and I’m completely at ease with this fact. (Mrs @Thelikesofhull correctly calls me a football snob.) Most of the above Meff-like behaviours are pretty forgivable. We all want to know which players are coming in, or what the new kit might look like, we all get annoyed by silly kids with WFC or WBAFC in their name (the term I believe is “Accronobheads”), it happens. Just like the standard picture of you up a mountain with your blackout city third kit or watching the New York Yankees with a shop-a-check green away kit on. Of all the annoying “bored city fans” behaviour, this is imminently the least offensive. I mean, I don’t really care that you’ve dressed up your Alsatian in City training gear, but worse things definitely happen.  

I forgive you. Post away. Any excuse to lift the boredom…

Thanks for reading and have a great summer everyone! #UTT

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Apropos of nothing… here’s some end of season grades

Funny old game isn’t it? (soz for the Saint and Greavsie cliché this early)

You spend half the season being driven mental by good, bad and indifferent performances, you’re a gibbering wreck at 2-1 up for the last twenty minutes of multiple games, you upset your neighbours/other half/dog when a last-minute equaliser deflects in off Sean McLoughlin’s arse, you watch the FA cup third round draw like the Albanian entrant to Eurovision watches Northern Macedonia’s results get announced and then….

It’s over.

And you’re just like that meme of Mr Bean in the field, wondering what normal people do on a Saturday, but at the same time knowing that the answer is “massively waste their life”.

But here we are, we’ve got play-offs I guess, and some Prem games left to laugh at teams going down, there’ll be a couple of dull England games and then comes the real slog. Pretty much a month of nothing.

Now, according to my “8 types of City fan on Twitter” blog a couple of years ago  https://www.thelikesofhull.co.uk/450628837.html

Our fans will cope with this in many different ways.

The two sport splitters decide they preferred Rugby League or Yorkshire Cricket the whole time, the drink connoisseurs get drunk and the flat earthers will retweet Matt Le Tissier. But, if none of them really floats your boat, maybe you can waste ten minutes of your life reading and then disparaging my end of season grades. (send your hate tweets to @thelikesofhull)  Happy offseason everyone! Here’s some meaningless grades that you may or may not agree with.

Recruitment C-

I’ll start as I mean to go on. Despite the large strides made off the pitch and with re-energising the fan base. This was more miss than hit, particularly in the summer. It just wasn’t realistic in terms of the league we were in and some pretty big investments, in either wages or fees were underwhelming.

Now before you throw your jagerbomb at me whilst dressed as Tinky Winky, hear me out…

Negatives

Figueriredo was a disaster and three centre backs we already had were much better.

Sinik was homesick and didn’t work at all.

Woods was no more than ok, and was phased out under Rosenior.

Tetteh flashed but was made of glass.

Traore was already broken and was tidy for the last 10 games.

Baxter didn’t really work this time. Injuries hurt him too.  

Sayyadmanash was also injured too much and scored one goal.

Pelkas disappeared far too much and really didn’t make enough impact.

Vale was way off.

Positives

Estupinan whilst not perfect did what he was paid to do and scored goals.

Seri wasn’t at it every week but he was what we paid for, a little Rolls Royce.

Tufan got used to the league and got fit and is a proper player.

Christie was a home run, without injury he’s player of the year.

If you add the Rosenior recruitment in Jan it’s still a mixed bag. Darlow is hopefully the keeper for the next five seasons plus, but Ebiowei showed little of his ability and Connolly got struck by the injury bug. Simmons should prove a long-term asset.

The one thing the recruitment proved was that we had multiple players at the club who were far better than they thought. See Alfie Jones, Sean McLoughlin, Lewie Coyle, Regan Slater etc. There’re lessons to be learned here. And the summer needs a better return than a 30% success rate for sure.

Ownership B+

The reason this isn’t an A can mainly be found in the above section. The ownership made some emotional signings and got a little too involved first time around. Fair play they seem to have learned a lesson and Liam definitely seems to have a clear deck to play with this summer. They also seem to have realised they didn’t get the right person in Shota, and are now a bit savvier.

They really have done a lot right, and given us a solid basis to build from. The fans relationship with the owners is mended, and there’s more through the gate than in a long, long time. They also have a massive like-ability factor. Let’s hope that can be sustained because when free travel or match offers can’t be, the Hull population can be awfully fickle at times.

There’s a whole lot of work to do now in terms of infrastructure, with the council on the surrounding land, with either re-uniting or restarting another Ladies set up etc. I really do hope they’re here for the long term and invest in such a way that the club grows to become a sustainable top league prospect.

As much as Acun and Tan have done right (and they really have), I think in terms of some of the reps and fan-based liaison they can improve. It’s been a little murky in terms of clarity and the whole fan base is my outlook, not just little pockets. They need to stick to clear structures of communication and be completely transparent, because if they can do that, I genuinely think that’s the way to galvanise this current fan base even more.

Management

Arveladze D

Rosenior B+

Don’t employ your mates, covers the first three months of the season. After navigating a largely McCann/Darnborough recruited team to safe standing last season, Shota bless him never really showed he’d learned from the experience. Even with lots more talent and a decent chunk of luck (the home wins against Bristol, Norwich and Cov all made you think that higher powers might be looking out for us) we never really got going at all. And if those home wins were the highs, the lows were brutal. From the gung-ho stupidity of West Brom away, to the belly rubbing softness shown at QPR with the catastrophic implosion at Swansea in-between, it really was ugly. We were a disorganised, unfit shambles and by the time we sacked him, we really could have been in serious trouble.

But cometh the hour and all that. From day one Liam had the team ten times more drilled, disciplined and planned, even if it wasn’t sexy football, it was hugely more professional.

He’s been crystal clear and pragmatic in interviews, he’s brought in younger talent to be involved and in the process found at least one absolute gem. He brought in coaches and staff around him that amplified his vision. If the worst thing you could say was that we should have been more direct and not played out so much, when he had huge chunks of talent missing, I’m really not sure we can agree on football.

Not since the heady days of Brian Horton’s arrival in 1984 have we seen a such young, hungry manager, that matches the image and outlook of the club and community he serves. He’s not been perfect and nobody is, but he’s been very, very bloody good. And he’s exactly what we need.

Players grades and a sentence or two

Just read this back and realised it sums up our season, the more you go forward, the less success we had. Need so much more from our attackers next year…

Matt Ingram B

Imperfect but solid. A great back up and challenger to any keeper.

Nathan Baxter B-  

Injury robbed him of his chance this year.

Karl Darlow A-

Came in and won points. Had the very odd wobble but was also outstanding over and over. Sign him.

Brandon Fleming C-

Not a choice of the new boss, didn’t shine at Oxford, a shame.

Callum Elder B-

The Brewdog king exits stage left, never amazing, but solid enough. Goes with most of our best wishes.

Lewie Coyle B

Came on strong at the end after Cyrus Christie’s injury opened the door, I’d like to see him stay.

Cyrus Christie A-

Imperious for three quarters of the season. Get him fit and we’ve got a cracker.

Sean McLoughlin B+

Macca is a seven out of ten pretty much every week. No nonsense and brilliant on that left foot.

Alfie Jones B+

Same as Macca, love him and he deserves a decent extension. You can go up with lads like Alfie.

Tobias Figueriredo D

Just didn’t ever recover from a shocker of a start. Was a goal conceded on a stick at times.

Jacob Greaves B-

Not the season he’d have expected. Can’t knock that fact he did such a good job at left back but could be one we move on as he won’t lack admirers.

Ozan Tufan B

When he got fitter and to the pace of the games he was a delight. Scored goals and his touch and vision is as good as anyone post Huddlestone.

Jean Michael Seri B

Had the odd game where it passed him by, but on the whole, he was very good, wonderful on the ball, proved he’s still got it.

Ryan Woods C

Came in and at first steadied the boat a little. Not the flavour that Liam likes apparently and was on the bench mainly.

Adama Traore B-

Had to wait a long, long time to see him but he was decent when we got him fit. Look forward to seeing him next year.

Regan Slater A

Just love him. Works like a lunatic, has some really top end quality. Sheffield United’s greatest ever piece of stupidity of all time.

Greg Docherty B-

In and out. I thought he deserved a little better at times. Scored the goal of the century at Blackpool. Might be another that could go but I’ll be a little sad to see it happen.

Xavier Simmons B

Clearly one for the future. When he got the chance he looked the part.

Dogukan Sinik D

Didn’t settle. Didn’t want to be here. D.

Dimi Pelkas C-

Frustrating as hell. Clearly has so much ability but it so rarely happened for him here.

Oscar Estupinan B+

We could and should have been in the deep brown stuff without his goals early. Faded somewhat. Not sure he’s here next year.

Ben Tetteh C+

Was injured just too much. When fit and ready he suggested he could have this league on toast. Nowhere near often enough though.

Ryan Longman C

Like so many others he just didn’t do enough. Again, I’m not convinced he’s Liam’s cup of tea. He’s a tryer is Ryan but it’s not really happened for him here. 

Allahyar Sayyadmanesh C

See Tetteh, Longman, Pelkas etc. Hamstring injury killed him and he has running uphill ever since. Just hasn’t produced enough goals and assists despite the obvious ability.

Malcolm Ebiowei C

Came in as the new big thing. Flashed some brilliance, then really didn’t. Again, it just didn’t work.

Aaron Connelly B-

At least when he did play he looked the part. If you told me he’d play 35 times next year I’d sign him.

Tyler Smith C

Can’t see he’ll be here next season. Scored a couple of nice goals, but didn’t grasp the nettle at Oxford on loan.

Harry Vaughan B+

Came in at the end like a breath of fresh air. Got the Bowen and Lewis Potter comparisons which didn’t seem to bother him at all. Potentially very special.

Have a good boredom month everyone. I’ll see you next season!

UTT.

Categories
Fun

Glass half empty vs Glass half full…

The eternal cliche is definitely at play in the current fortunes of the club…

Sometimes I think I’m an eternal pessimist. Other times I think that I find success harder to motivate my fandom than failure. Thus the most ever games I saw in a season (it was somewhere in the 30 something mark) was in the year of the Great Escape (C) in 1998-99. Either way I’ve sometimes found myself railing gently against the massive love ins about the club at the moment. Now, don’t get me wrong, things are much improved, particularly in regards to the communication, the fact the fan base is much more engaged and at least partly the results on the pitch, which although not world beating have been much improved over the last six months.

It’s just that… let’s not kid ourselves. Adam Pearson was a business man, not a latter day saint, as was Don Robinson, there’s pros and cons for every owner or consortium to run a club and some of the relentless positivity has just got on my wick a bit. I guess there’s shades of grey in everything, The Allam regime started well, very well, they outspent any owners ever, by a long way, yet we know how it ended. Certain things did improve under their leadership whether you like it or not, and in some cases whether they did it for unselfish reasons or not. For example the youth systems, which have and continue to provide the club with some brilliant talent (see Potter KL, Bowen J, Greaves J) that helps keep the club popular with bank managers.

Now before you throw your smartphone at the wall and vow to burn down my house, I don’t argue that this improvement was somehow selfless or altruistic, because it wasn’t. But in the same way, the current owners aren’t truly here because Hull looks a bit like Istanbul (spoiler, it doesn’t). They may be a ton cannier, have a much more fan centric view and be going about their business in a much more clever fashion, but pretty much all owners are here because of their ego, to make money (or to spend money that they couldn’t otherwise) and to show the world how clever they are. And that’s not digging out the current owners, that’s every owner of a club in this country.

Now, I’ve only been to a few games this year (the bonkers Norwich win, the horrendous loss at QPR and a turgid draw with Blackpool amongst them) although I’ll be at Luton in a couple of weeks. I’ve seen most of us on the TV this year as coaching and scouting came calling so I’ve been consuming Bovril and getting numb fingers across non-league grounds for the majority of the year. I guess you could quite easily say, what’s it got to do with me? And in many ways you’d be right. I mean I’m probably around 600 all time games but if you snooze you lose and I’ve not gone as much as I wanted this year. I will again, it’s in my veins and I’ll no doubt get told to foxtrot oscar at some point in non-league football as most of us do. However the points I’m about to make still are valid. It’s what I’ve seen from my viewpoint and I’d like to think I try to be balanced about these things. Speaking of which lets start with some… as I have a Glass half full vs Glass half empty off… something I never saw myself saying ever…

Glass half full

We have the best manager we’ve had in years..

Sometimes it doesn’t matter if you make mistakes, it matters that you see them and put them right. The balance wasn’t right this off season, too many players were in from leagues that weren’t necessarily like the championship and the management team also didn’t have a grip on the demands of the English game. That was put right when Liam was brought in and I think he’s actually done incredibly well to find sanity where there was very little. He’s not the favourite of every fan, but I think the squad and situation he inherited was considerably more unstable and primed for disaster than some realise. He’s eased us out of trouble, playing controlled, grown up football and he’s importantly got the best from some of the existing players (Alfie Jones, Regan Slater, Sean McLoughlin and even Callum Elder). He’s a class act, and when he has more of his own players in, I think we could and should expect to be in the top six race every year.

Glass half empty

With a wage budget of a small country, we’ve not been much better, and it’s half the cheaper ones that have got us out of the deep brown stuff.

Go back to the previous point, the likes of Slater, Jones, McLoughlin, Elder, Coyle and Vaughan won’t be keeping the bank manager up at night. For the silky class of an Ozan now he’s fit, to the brilliance of an in-form Seri, I’ll give you the horrendous positional car crash that is Figueiredo and the magician like disappearing footballer that is Dimi Pelkas. We’ve had more misses than hits and the balance absolutely wasn’t right. Let’s hope the owners learned an (expensive) lesson and continue to create more of a balanced squad going forward. The fan base also need to remember life isn’t championship manager too, sure big names create excitement but we seem to have a repeated habit of underselling young players and lads coming through. The bottom line is Harry Vaughan looks like a future star. Oulad M’hand just had a name that sounded like a punchline to a joke. We were wrong, the club was wrong so let’s start using our eyes to judge players and not FIFA 23.

Glass half full

The ground is fuller, people are happier and it’s heartening to see.

I think this is the biggest win for the regime of Ilicali and Kessler so far. The offers have been fantastic, the fans have responded. 20k attendances are happening regularly and let’s hope it continues into next year. The danger of all the bad feeling previously was that we were losing future generations. That’s been turned around quickly and impressively. The food is now really good, the beer has improved so my spies tell me and hopefully what follows is the regeneration of the area around the ground, because that is the key to truly turning us into a sustainable club that is looking to elevate to the next league. I can’t fault the owners here, but we all know our fans can be a hard bunch to please, so let’s kick on.

Glass half empty

Beware warnings from Reading FC

Finances at the second level are tricky. Spend too much and fail and you can end up in all kinds of deep trouble. Don’t spend enough and a different fate awaits but it’s not much more fun. Look at the two sides going up this season from the Champ, both under transfer embargos, they pushed it to the line and are just about going to get out of dodge. But for every Bournemouth there’s a Birmingham City, for every Forest there’s a Reading. And there’s comparisons here. Reading have a similar ground, and recent records aren’t so different. They had foreign owners that wanted the big time, but missed. They’ve been wrestling with the finances for years now and it’s finally catching them up, they might stay up, but they might not. We must walk the line of sustainable but ambitious, and first year in it’s been nearer the latter than the former. Let’s hope none of this ever leads us anywhere near Paul Ince. (shudder).

Glass half full

Lessons seem to be learned, if we continue like this, could 2023-24 be our year?

I can’t see why not. We have the coaching, the fan base, the ambition and the desire. We have at least ten players who could make up a 23 man squad that’s capable of going up, if not more. Remember before shooting me down in a tirade of abuse (send your hate tweets to @thelikesofhull )that 2008 had Wayne Brown, Dean Marney, Henrik Pederson and Ryan France playing regularly. You don’t need a team full of Ozans. Therefore I’d say Christie, Jones, McLoughlin, Darlow, Ozan, Traore, Seri, Slater, Vaughan, Simons, Sayyadmanesh plus a couple more would be fine. Yes I know Darlow isn’t in yet but add goals and a full back or two and I think we could be in business. It can be done, just look at Luton Town.

Glass half empty

There’s quite a lot of offloading needed too.

Not just lads whose deals are running out. I like Lewie Coyle and I like Callum Elder, I’d keep both as depth, but that’s a call I think we let Liam make. They AREN’T the problem, because they’re earning normal money and not making waves. But there’s several bigger wage earners will need to get the shephard’s crook and it might not be so easy. Because Sinik, Woods and Figueiredo are going to be on very very good money and although Sinik may want to leave the other two may not be quite so simple. It could be that a certain Columbian striker needs to go too, for wages and also to even up the books, and even though he’s a bit random at times, goals are the very thing we need to increase, so selling your only real goal scorer isn’t going to please everyone.

Anyway… Sorry about the lack of blogs recently. Hope you enjoy this one and I’ll see a few of you at Luton (I’ll be wearing a hat and a fake moustache… no really… I might, because I’m in the home end… thanks a lot Acun…)

5 ways to improve the current football product and a bit of a mental one chucked in at the end.

Ok, I’m on one. I admit it. After my last blog on controversial views of football really wasn’t very controversial and then me admitting my inner-City fan is flagging a bit in the blog before that and the response was still really good (you bloody softies) I thought a little deeper about what hacks me off about modern football.

Now I could write about that until the cows come home, from shitty Talksport and their cliched boring “lads” views, to the transfer window and that odd Scottish bloke wearing yellow and acting like a lad going on loan to Stoke is earth shattering…  not to mention the insane and preposterous money being pumped into this country’s game, which is so clearly unsustainable buuuuuuut…. nobody cares.

This feels wasted energy however (*Narrator’s voice* “So is this…”) so I tried to focus this little blog on what I think would be some positive changes to make to football, that would improve it as a spectacle and revive some of the past enjoyment that people no longer revel in.

So, here they are… as ever direct all your hate tweets to @thelikesofhull on Twitter and tell me I’m talking an absolute load of old Mark Bright. Or just like and retweet… whatever floats your boat…

Introduce League 3.

Virtually every team in the National League are either pro or have been in the football league, it isn’t the death sentence it once was to go out of the Football League. There’re fine traditional clubs in there like Notts County, York City, Southend, Oldham, Torquay etc etc. Have three up and three down, do the playoffs up to sixth like everyone else and bring this level into the Football League’s umbrella. It’s a pro league anyway and sides are unnecessarily marooned down there as only two go up, similarly a team who comes third bottom of League Two, thoroughly deserve to go down. Move on, football has changed and sort this out.

Radically change the league cup or scrap it.

Here’s a challenge for you. No google. Tell me the last five winners of the League Cup. I would tell you the answers but 1. I can’t be bothered to google it and 2. I don’t have a clue.

The league cup is a load of old tosh, from its odd rule allowing sides in Europe to come in later, to the outdated two-legged semi-finals, to the seemingly earlier and earlier final that nobody really cares about. It’s a waste of time as it is and should get the boot….unleeeesssssss… there’s radical change.

How about this? The EFL work with the SFL, FAI and IFL to have a British League Cup. You start out in four regions, South England, North England, Scotland and Ireland for a round or two but then you chuck them all together.

Now before you wisely say “But didn’t you just say we don’t want to play the Welsh in your last blog!?” I’d counter that with, yes I did… in the league… cup mate? Totally different…

Hearts vs Hull City (Edinburgh beers anyone?) Celtic vs Spurs, Millwall vs Rangers ( I’d put the eyes emoji if I could here) Grimsby vs TNS…

It would be instead of the second cup comp in all of the countries and the final rotates around the four countries. Move the games to Saturday too, and let’s play more league games in the week instead. It would be a lot of things potentially, but boring wouldn’t be one of them and I think people would actually get a kick out of it. Perhaps literally, but, you take my point.

Get some more terrestrial TV games on for kids starting with the FA Youth Cup and U21 league.

I work in a fairly underprivileged area. When it’s the FA cup kids suddenly bounce into school and want to talk to you about football. Why? Because they’ve been able to watch it, as it’s on BBC or ITV. We have a generation of kids who are either priced out of football or come from families that simply don’t prioritise it. But the kids love it. A good mate of mine takes the kids in his school to League One and Champ games and the British Basketball finals and they love it too. The sad thing is football is really quite middle class, especially in the higher ends and we need to give the next generation something to hook them. If kids don’t get taken to live games, it really isn’t their fault, let’s give them a bit more because we really can.

 I love the FA Youth cup and think it’s so under promoted. If I told you tomorrow City’s FA Youth Cup tie at Bradford was live on TV on a Monday night, you’d nearly all watch it. I went to watch a very young Max Clark best a very young Ivan Toney in the FA Youth Cup 4th round ten years ago and it was fantastic. The same is with the U21, in the states college sports are huge because it’s your chance to see the stars of tomorrow. We really haven’t woken up to this. Give these games away on terrestrial TV and it’s a win win all around.

Have a basic identical kids away ticket price across the football league

I was lucky that I had a Dad who took me to games, many don’t or can’t which has led to the third suggestion. But the days can be expensive these days. City have their house in great order in this regard which has helped bring many fans back to the game. I’d love though a ticket for say under twelves to be a tenner for all away games across the league. If twenty is plenty is a great campaign (and I think it is) then a tenner for any kid away is something all clubs can get on board with. I think other football country’s models show that if you bring down those costs you’ll make it up in the concessions stands or the club shops. I’d love to see something like this in place to really attract the next generation into football.

Less is more

Now this one really is pissing in the wind, but bear with me. There’s too many games and I think most people would agree with that, however games equals money equals revenue and the self-same teams who moan about fixture backlogs will then go ahead and totally contradict themselves by taking teams to far flung corners of the world to play “Friendlies”

There’re some things you can’t avoid though in terms of games, but the big one I think is a massive waste is in Europe. Group stages in everything is both a rip off and generally mind bogglingly boring.

Here’s the answer in all three European trophies. 128 teams go in the Champs league, Europa and Conference and are seeded. That goes down to 64, 32,16,8,4 and 2. Play two legs and knockout from day one, no away goals, pens after 180 mins if it’s a draw. Nobody can put out weak teams and take it lightly, you know you have to turn up and support and watch. Play like muppets and you’re done. Teams will go on unlikely runs, big boys will fall, it’s must watch TV. If you’re Arsenal and you get done 2-1 away at Athletico Kebab, you better come all guns a blazing in the second leg.

Less is more. It would change games into totally meaningful encounters. It’ll never happen… but boy would it be fun.

Retro player subs.

Ok this is my mental one, but hear me out.

Every team has eight over forty-year-old players signed on who must have played over 50 games for the club. On the first league fixture of the month you must name your classic retro sub on the bench. On the eightieth minute you MUST put on your classic sub.  You can make other subs as normal. You can bring him on in any position you want. Both teams must do it and at the same time.  You try to keep your classic lads in half decent shape, just in case.

Imagine, 0-0 at City vs Sheffield United in the run in. They bring on someone shit like Michael Brown or Michael Tonge or some bloke called Michael.

We bring on Geovanni Deiberson Maurício Gómez…

He strides on the pitch, the K-Com goes mental… Acun’s Mrs has no idea who he is but good grief she’s enthusiastic… Acun just smiles like the Turkish Simon Cowell and realises Geo will be shattered by the time he makes him play five-o later… with a minute left Geo receives a ball into feet, spins off and hits a Brazillian Rocket…. Straight past a bloke called Michael in goal….

Scenes.

Thanks for reading UTT.

Categories
Uncategorized

6 unpopular takes on City and one on football overall

I’m not going to lie, I’m struggling to generate content a bit at the moment. I’m doing the series “The Boy was a larker” for the HCST newsletter and I can do that for days, as there’s so many great players of the past I can wax lyrical over but I’m not exactly sure why I’m so lacking on the current product though. I mean things are going quite, well aren’t they? We don’t lose much and should be pretty steady, we have an ace gaffer who I think could genuinely have us there or thereabouts next season and it’s all a little less hectic than it was in the early months of the new ownership.  Maybe, just maybe I find myself swimming against the tide recently though and maybe it’s my pedantic soul, but I just don’t align that much with opinions that swim around the internet in 2023, some City related, some not. So, I thought… ah go on… I’ll give you them. I know this might trigger a bunch of people, but such is life, we all don’t think the same… and I’m not even certain I’m right… (no… really… I am)

Anyway… here’s six unpopular opinions about City and one about football in general. I’d love to hear yours so please send your hate tweets to @thelikesofhull on Twitter. Cheers.

1.We really are massive name snobs at football.

Ok, why are we doing so many backflips for new players signed who played abroad when there’s lads right in front of our faces that deserve better? Yes, some of the signings have done very well (see Estupinan, O and Seri, JM) and some have flashed quality and had moments (see Tufan, O) but some have massively underwhelmed or straight up been average (see Figueredo, T and Sinik D). The defence has been largely saved from the verge of farce this season down to the super sexy names of Alfie Jones, Sean McLoughlin, Matt Ingram, Cyrus Christie and Jacob Greaves, Cyrus has quite rightly scored the plaudits, but the other four have been really consistent, and yes that isn’t flashy, but neither was Andy Dawson, Peter Skipper or Michael Turner and last time I looked they did ok. We are going to need a core of players that get this league to get out of this league. Give the less fashionable players a little more love please.

2.I don’t hate Leeds United.

There. I said it. I think it quite often and it needs establishing. If you’re from Leeds or North Yorkshire, fill your boots. Although their ground is minging for away fans, the noise is way above the average in the Premier League and it usually adds a little to even an “ok” game. I don’t love them, or want them to win, but I don’t want anyone else to. Here’s the thing, I don’t like Hull based Leeds fans, and I find them as comical as I do sad, especially the ones that remember where they are from for Rugby Leeeeeeague, but not football. That’s who I want to lose, those fans, I want them to spend loads of money chasing success up and down the M62 and fail miserably. But to me that’s a totally different thing to the actual club and current team. I care no more or less about them than I do about Plymouth Argyle or Ipswich Town. Just another team.

3. “Once a tiger always a tiger” is a massive contradiction and a load of old cobblers.

When players leave or tweet about baking a cake, you can bet your mortgage that a ton of twitter followers will use the above phrase and blow smoke up the exit hole of said player. This saying is nonsense. Jimmy Bullard is not always a tiger and neither is Terry Dolan or even league winning manager Grant McCann in the view of many. So, it’s blatantly not true. Yeh sure, “Once a successful tiger that left in fairly positive circumstances and hasn’t had their hard drives taken away or spread flat earth theories, always a tiger” isn’t quite as catchy but it’s also much more accurate.

4. If the current investment doesn’t work and get us out of the league, will those who say “we have our club back” hang around?

This is something I’ve thought for a while. The current owners are pretty likeable. They’ve done a lot of good PR things, and listened to the fan base, even elements of the fan base that may hold some “interesting” views. We’ve rolled the dice this year (and let’s be honest, not done that much better than last year’s team who were on much less money to this point) and will probably roll again next year. But if this doesn’t work, and we don’t hotfoot it to the high life, what then? We’ll surely have to find some significant savings and offload. It could and probably would unravel. Just remember this if it does. Lots have come back because of the return of concessions, well priced options and new era. But let’s be honest, some have just because we’ve signed some big names and they think we’re on the up. Let’s see where they are if it all goes a bit Derby County.

5. I don’t want KLP back, although it was quite funny we asked.

Keane Lewis Potter surprised me a little this summer, he was surely going to get another improved deal, he was playing for his hometown club and then the club matched his ambition. I think agents were agents though and he was determined to leave, which is his right but it kind of killed a bit of that hometown boy reputation. It felt early to leave and you kind of figured he wouldn’t get much playing time. Well, look who won the pony…  he hasn’t. I think he’d have flown this season and if he’d have given it just one more year (or even six months) his star would have risen so much further, plus this could put us right in the mix right now. It did give me a wry smile when we asked Brentford about him coming back on loan though, yes, yes, I know it makes me a bad person and all that. But it really did.

6. All rise King Elder, the player that ran rings around the fan boys and won.

“Once a tiger always a tiger”, Jeez, we can’t even be half decent to those who ARE tigers. Yes, he may have had a few beers and said things were a bit rubbish, yes, he maybe shouldn’t have done, but hands up who hasn’t said a few loose things after a beer? He’s human, players are just us, but they’re much, much better at football. The overreaction of the fan boys with Turkish flags in their bio was as hilarious as it was out of all proportion. Then, an injury or two, and look who’s back in the team? He’s a solid champ player, he looks like he should be opening the batting at the MCG and I love him, someone give him a golden brewdog can immediately. What a guy.

7. I wanted Sheffield United to beat Wrexham. Because Welsh teams should be in their own league and cup.

This one really is a little out there. I don’t like Sheffield United very much at all, I’m old enough to remember them celebrating at Turf Moor and 10-year-old me always swore to hate them. But I laughed and laughed when ten men United spoiled the day of Ryan Reynolds and Wrexham. I have no idea why historically Welsh teams play in the EFL (the clue is in the first letter) but there’s plenty of them and they could easily form a bit of a more rubbish Scottish Prem, Cardiff City, Swansea, Wrexham, Newport County, Merthyr Tydfil, Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, all the big names.

 They don’t like England, they don’t like English teams and they live to watch England lose. Go form your own league and save us three hundred-mile round trips whilst you’re at it. I’ll never understand why they’re in our league, you don’t have Swiss teams in Serie A, or Portuguese teams in the Primera League. Plus, their champions could go in the prelims for the Champs league, go on boys, you know it makes sense, make the plunge lads and all the best, send us a postcard etc.

Thanks for reading folks. UTT.

Categories
Uncategorized

I can help falling in love with you…

Unpopular opinion I know…

I’ve been wrestling with this topic for a while and I know that by writing it, I’ll inevitably get some criticism, or disdain, or probably both but after really sitting down and giving it some thought over Christmas I’ve decided to go ahead with it, because if you like the blogs or not (and a lot of you kindly have said some really nice things) I think I’m fairly well known for being both quite balanced and honest.

I went to the Blackpool game on Boxing Day with my cousin that I’ve watched football with since we were kids. It was fine, I mean, we were neither awful or great, but it’s early days for the new manager and he’s largely managing players he didn’t bring in. It was nice seeing my Uncle before the game and a few of the supporters trust in the Clarendon pre-match.

We’ve been on a good run since and I honestly think we’re in good hands with Liam Rosenior. He’s a bright and articulate manager, who is clearly a good coach, he connects with the City and although I highly doubt he’s a teacup thrower, I think he’s a strong minded individual who is going to do things his way. If players are prepared to graft and adjust (see Tyler Smith) they’ll fit right in, but if not, I get the impression he’s prepared to wave goodbye. Good for him, these are principles that I think you can build a really strong a committed team with.

Blackpool was only I think the third game I’ve been to this season, although I’ve seen a lot more on TV. I’ve been a bit unlucky that I was unavailable for two London based games in Watford and Millwall, but that’s not an excuse. I’m just not really enjoying it as I once did. The question I’ve been mulling over in the past few weeks is why? I’ve been watching City for pretty much 40 years, (the first long run of going was after Don Robinson saved the club in 1982) there’s certainly been worse times. So what’s the cause of my malaise? I’m not one hundred percent sure to be honest but I think it’s a mix of things, some club related, some not.

Let’s start with the City related reasons. Yes we were terrible earlier this season, but I went to the entertaining (albeit a little fortunate) win against Norwich, and that was fun. You can level a few criticisms towards the new owner, but his intentions are on the whole good I think and he’s certainly trying to be more fan orientated than the previous regime. He’s backed the club in terms of signings, although like early Adam Pearson you get the impression he’s got a little too close to the goings on pitch side. The crowds are better and even though we are as I write in the wrong half of the league, there’s enough evidence to suggest we won’t stay there.

I think my first strike though this year was QPR away. I went as it was London and met my mate Rich Skipper (son of Pete) before the game. We’ve communicated quite a bit since I did a blog on his Dad so it was nice to see him in person. Now the City performance that day was dire, essentially we were dead and buried inside the first 55 minutes and 3-0 down. But that wasn’t THE problem. There wasn’t a nice atmosphere that night, and I’m no shrinking violet. I’ve been at City games in the last 40 years that have got decidedly hairy. But this was different. It was in a word, pathetic. A group of youngish lads simply focused on some QPR fans and rang out a set of stale, hackneyed cliched songs about Jeremy Kyle, and fat people, and general misogynistic claptrap. It was irrelevant to the game, it gave the players no support, it was just, to quote Brian Laws “naff”.

We scored that day with about seven or eight to go. Tyler Smith. I didn’t see it, I was walking towards the tube station, bored of a tame performance and feeling pretty despondent about our brand of “support”. Now I can understand here if you don’t agree, at least with my sentiments, as it’s not the first time I’ve seen City fans be a bit embarrassing, and I doubt it’s the last, so maybe it’s me that’s changed a little bit. Like several of us might have changed since lockdown. It just didn’t seem fun anymore, we’ve only got a finite amount of time to do other things that aren’t just working and existing and that night was kind of the epitome of what I’d rather not do. Pay for an expensive rail ticket, an expensive seat, watch a tepid City team and be seemingly in a minority that wasn’t really interested in an overweight QPR fan and his daughter.

Yet attendances are going up. So maybe I am wrong. Like I alluded to earlier, I think there’s been some miss-steps by the new owner, but I can genuinely see what he’s doing and I think he’s learned some quick lessons. I think the whole “holiday” thing was a little divisive, with it being a little bit more about who you were, than being an actual loyal fan. Now I couldn’t think of much worse than going away like that, but I think we could all think of a City fan in our lives that would have loved to have gone and probably deserved it. I know I can. It’s maybe a modern thing and it’s more important to have those go who would be upwardly mobile in sharing the experience rather than just the ones who have gone week in week out forever. On one level it was successful, and good PR though, a little like the owner turning up at a local pub.

Again I have mixed feelings about this. Sure, interact with the real fans, and that sort of gesture is appreciated, but maybe pop to Pearsons once a season, The William Gemmell, The Clarendon, The Dugout etc. It’s not about one set of fans, it’s about all of them, it’s somewhat of a slippery slope to select fans who are “important”. They all are. And again this isn’t about me, I have no desire to ruffle the hair of the owner and say “thanks for saving us mate”. I’m happy to let others do that. We’re all just fans, I think some of the twitterverse in particular have lost sight of this in recent months. We don’t have to agree or look at the team or the club in the same way. It’s probably best we don’t.

The last bit is on me. I’ve coached football a lot in the past and somehow post lockdown, got dragged back into it. I’ve done some scouting of lower league football for a mate as he’s starting his football management career, it’s a process I’ve actually really enjoyed, probably more than I thought I would. This isn’t on City, I think there’s a few of us that since 2020, had to find something to do to stay sane, and that’s took us off the beat and path a little. So that’s not City, it’s just life I guess.

I saw a mate at the Clarendon on Boxing Day and he’s an exile too. We were talking about the fact that although Reading has the atmosphere of the Deli counter in Waitrose, the area on the outside of the stadium is very good. It’s got big outside bars, a huge screen showing the lunchtime game a plenty going on. It’s a real lesson to us in developing the site around our ground. Anyway I said I’ll go to that game and meet him. Forty odd years isn’t going to just end, and me punching the air like a div in my front room yesterday as we scored three quick goals at Wigan would suggest I’ll always care. I’m just not sure if it’s as much. And although some of those reasons are personal. I’m not sure I’m entirely alone.

Thanks for reading. UTT

A world cup view…

There’s something I’ve seen as a phenomenon in recent years and that’s something called “Consumer guilt”.

Meaning we feel bad as the consumer for the behaviour of the company or people that make the product. Not the system that allowed Amazon to dodge tax and monopolistic behaviour or Nike to employ people in poor conditions and under pay, or the company themselves, but blame ourselves and somehow make us complicit in this act. 

Now, there’s fine lines here and sometimes the behaviour of a company is so reprehensible (like Kanye’s West’s behaviour in the last couple of years, or the appalling indie pop music of the Leeds United associated Kaiser Chiefs) that most decent people are right to not wear Kanye’s overrated trainers or listen to “I predict a riot”. But overall, we aren’t to blame for all the world’s injustice and if you really did try to live your life in 2022 without eating, watching, wearing, listening to, drinking or eating something that wasn’t somehow associated to some dodgy behaviour, I don’t think you’d be particularly well fed, clothed or hydrated. 

I guess the point I’m getting to here is, it’s not our fault the World Cup is in a place that’s less than ideal to host it. Now I’m not going to go through this with a fine-tooth comb because it’s getting done to death, but at best it feels a little hollow, and at worst the world really should have stood up to FIFA and their spineless and cretinous behaviour. 

However, here we are. And how I feel? Well… I don’t really feel much at all, and it’s nothing really to do with the moral or political points. 

It’s partly because it’s in the middle of winter, and the current dark and dingey England we mainly populate, rather than in the long hot summer, where we can have a cold cider and relax to watch the games. It’s partly because there’s been no real run up and we were in the midst of a season and it’s partly because it’s not accessible to people because of the cost to attend or the timings to watch. 

But here’s miserable me! It’s also the first World Cup in a while without a Hull City player (a nod to Harry Maguire and Jackson Irvine as former alumni and I think a certain current Iranian forward would have certainly played but for injury). 

Now I can cheat slightly here as we’ve just swatted the said Iranians away with ease. Let’s hope it continues, we certainly have talent going forward and at least under Southgate we’re had an identity for the last 5 years. I’d say quarters or semi finals for England but get a good draw and you never know. We do look a little vulnerable at the back though. 

What about a good outsider? I’m biased because the other half is Danish, but I think they’ll be a threat, with lots of young talent from the Euros like Damsgaard and Maehle, but with a couple of new threats, not least Jesper Lindstrom (who you may have seen in the Europa League last year for the eventual winners Eintracht Frankfurt) and the much underrated Joachim Andersen at Palace too. I think they’ve got the ability to go deep into the competition. 

I certainly think a few surprises might crop up, but not in such a way to help me in World Cup Sweepstakes,….where I’ve draw Japan twice… and Poland. Bloody hell. At least Kamil Grosicki might play eh?

Right I’m off up the pub to drink an ethically brewed IPA that give their profits to the homeless….mmm… actually… I’ll probably have a Guinness.

See you at Watford everyone. 

UTT.