It was interesting to read the reports from journalists unfamiliar with City, and contrast their conclusions with those in the local rag, the Fieldmouse Daily a.k.a. the Hull Daily Mail. They couldn’t be more different. The Hull Daily Mail was, as you’d expect, much more upbeat, lavishing praise on the players for their wonderful display, and on the fans for their loyal support. The Mail gave the game and its build up a lot of coverage, and although much of it was patronising, especially the ‘behave yourself’ headline, it at least portrayed the club in a positive light.
The actual report on the match didn’t really feature the football, which isn’t surprising, as it was written by a rugby fan, [journalist?] but the Mail did make the astonishing claim that City had created as many chances as had Villa. Not from where I was standing we didn’t. Overall the Mail’s report was heavily weighted in favour of City, which again, you’d expect from a local paper, but it didn’t convey the reality of the game. To say that Villa looked anxious as City tore into them as just a bit too much like creative writing.
By contrast the report in the Sunday Times was altogether different, and a much truer reflection of the game. The report began with a retrospective look at the Tigers and quite rightly surmised that the club’s current problems are a result of massive boardroom mismanagement in the past. The reporter, Martin Searby, quite bluntly stated that Hull City are heading for oblivion in the Conference2, and he might not be far wrong. He also observed that City players ran willingly enough but they had little idea when in possession, and that really is hitting the nail on the head. It has been an all too familiar story this season, particularly in recent matches. City have had plenty of the ball, but they seem totally bereft of ideas going forward. The only tactic seems to be lump the ball blindly forward for whichever teenage striker is playing that week.
Returning to the Sunday Times report, Searby suggests that Villa strolled into the next round without breaking sweat and that the Tigers had little to offer. Although City fans won’t have enjoyed reading that, they will, if they are honest, have to admit the validity of those statements.
So the report is accurate as far as the match goes, but there is a paragraph with which I strongly disagree. Searby claims that City fans still dream of Carter, Wagstaff and Chilton and have no time for realism. That may be true amongst older, stay at home supporters, but most City fans are not only realistic, but even pessimistic (and possibly suicidal as well). When you are staring non-league football in the face, you have no option but to be pragmatic. Despite what the Sunday Times says, we are not incurable romantics.
Searby goes onto say that City’s allocation of tickets were sold out so quickly because there was nobody in the City who did not want to miss humiliation on a grand scale. This not only seems to suggest that all Hull residents are sado-masochists who like to be ritually abused (which admittedly is true of those in Swanland) but it also shows that the reporter simply does not understand the psyche of lower league football fans. The trip to Villa was an opportunity for the long suffering supporters to see their team mix it with the big boys. More importantly, it afforded a chance for them to show that even though they support a crap team, they have more faith and passion than the plastic fair weather fans of most Premiership clubs.
But apart from those cheap shots at the club and it’s fans, the report in the Sunday Times was pretty accurate, and its sentiments were endorsed by most other national papers. The Mail on Sunday said Villa were never threatened, although they did say that City showed enough to suggest that they can avoid relegation. The Sunday People reported that City forced Villa to battle all the way, although they also reckoned that the Tigers are heading for non-league oblivion. The Sunday Express and Sunday Mirror believed that City showed their pride, if not any footballing ability.
So the Tigers made the papers, if not any headlines with their jaunt to Villa Park. Now of course the press will go back to ignoring us, but come April, they might just be starting to write their stories about Hull being the biggest city in Britain with a non-league football team.