Can’t Live With ‘Em…

It’s a difficult world sometimes, isn’t it? The loss of the old certainties, the disppearance of the Empire, the pound to become the Euro, Britney Spears chest changing shape almost by the minute. But there is one constant. That Hull City AFC will flatter, tease, issue the come on and then blow us out like the minx she is. Once again we are living down to our footballing expectations.If the opening of the season was inconsistent, the middle third has been downright bewildering.

"This knicker elastic is killing me"

At Anfield, as we went for it at 0-2 down and with Bracey having yet again managed to get himself sent off I got a lump in my throat I was so proud of the way we took them on. I can’t remember when I’ve felt so good about being a City fan. Yet at home against Northampton a few weeks later we were so staggeringly poor it was embarrassing. At Southend our win encompassed skill, character, flair, passion and complete belief, plus a bit of black magic as Brabin’s shot, I swear, had already missed before it entered the net.

At Shrewsbury the most ludicrous refereeing decision you will see this side of hallucinogenic drugs deemed that Goodison’s slice to the keeper was a backpass and from then on we just gave it up. I

t was shocking and those who had made the trip didn’t feel the need to moderate their criticism of players and manager. Those are maybe the most extreme examples. But the last three weeks have seen us close pass Macclesfield to destruction on their own patch with Whitmore outstanding and then do the same to Brighton with the man absent just as we wondered how we could replace him. At last we had proved that we could produce consistent form with different players.

Wrong. We go to Chester, the worst team of a truly terrible league the next week and the team that could have beaten Brighton by six can hardly create a chance worthy of the name as we have the worst of a 0-0 that sees us play as poorly as we’ve done all season.

This isn’t irritating, annoying, whimsical or puzzling. This is utterly baffling. And of course it’s disappointing.

Perhaps expectations were ridiculously raised by our form at the end of last season, but I’m sure that most of us expected something better than we have actually seen in this campaign. I don’t think anyone thought that we would be firmly ensconced in the bottom half of the league at this stage. And incredibly even now our season needn’t be over. In a division as poor as this one a decent run of form could still land a playoff place. But don’t hold your breath as decent runs by City have disappeared as suddenly, completely and unexpectedly as Victoria Adams’ knickers up David Beckham’s bum crack.

Finding a reason is the clever bit. I don’t want to say too much about our owners. Much has been written about Buchanan and Hinchliffe and fans are understandably bewildered by inconsequential FA (as in nothing) hearings and interminable court cases with former directorial colleagues. And the other reason for not saying too much is that the powers that be tend not to like it and tend to do things about it.

Andy Daykin, who for all I know might even now be on the brink of pulling in million pound sponsorship deals with BMW and Microsoft seems able to manage his time so well that he is able to monitor everything (and I do mean everything) that is uttered about the club whether on radio, in newspapers, in fanzines or on the internet. And then he makes the time to approach people in order, presumably, to encourage them and even, helpfully in my view, to suggest how they might like to comment on the activities of the club in the future. You might think this high-handed, petty and interfering and wonder aloud if that is actually what he gets paid for but I prefer to see it as a total commitment to the fans. Mind you, it’s a shame that Radio Humberside’s Chris Harvey, the first reporter in aeons to take his job seriously and do more than just regurgitate what the powers that be at the club tell him seems to be off sports reporting now. And not much in evidence reporting on the Tigers these days. I wonder why that is, then?

But whatever is said about the owners and whether any of it can be proved, it can’t be denied that we have strengthened the side. I think it’s fair to say that we’ve underachieved and here Joyce and McGovern have to take some blame. Even now I don’t feel that they know their best side.

It’s got to be Wilson in goal, unless of course it’s Bracey. Definitely three centrebacks flanked by wingbacks playing in a flat back four. Midfield picks itself, you wouldn’t look beyond Bolder, Joyce, Brabin, Whitmore, Eyre, Goodison (unless he’s in the centre of the defence or a right wingback) and Schofield (ditto or ditto) to fill the 2, 3, 4 or 5 places available whilst our front two has to be Eyre, Brown, Harris and Wood, no arguments there and good to see that this pairing has been allowed to develop and settle. In fairness to the managerial duo too often the players have been unable to give back to back performances that demand that they be picked. But too often we haven’t made enough of what we’ve got. And who could believe that Steve Wilson, little orphan Willo, would still be our number one? A man who looks like he would have trouble carrying three shredded wheats home from ASDA let alone eating them?

And Warren says he is going to be our secret weapon, which I think is spot on apart from the fact that he is not in fact secret and is in no way a weapon. Now don’t misunderstand me, Willo’s a fine shot stopper who did much to secure us a point at Chester as he has done often before, but both his strengths and weaknesses were apparent 6 years ago and he’s too old to change now even though he still looks as though he’s waiting for puberty to kick in.

Where this leaves us I don’t really know. But doubts over ownership, concerns over the coaching staff, worries that the players are too inconsistent to do the needful, haven’t we been here before? Well, of course we have, for much of the last 96 years or so, really. And yet we haven’t. Previous generations rightly considered that the Tigers were basically an underachieving second division club. The current generation will soon start to think of us as a natural division four club, albeit one that draws unaccountably large gates when there is even a whiff of some revival.

Whereas once we remembered Waggy securing a replay at Stamford Bridge now we agonise over missed penalties at Spotland as we lose the quarter final of the Autowindscreens shield (Northern Section). This is more important than it first appears. Soon we might stop looking at the stars and wonder how to survive in the gutter in which we currently reside. We’ve been here too long already and we look like spending another summer building for promotion from the bottom of the pile.

A long moan that and I’ve not even had chance to mention transfer embargoes, PFA loans and the Kempton and the club’s breathtaking incompetence/cynical dishonesty, delete according to taste, as the date for the cherished and mystical East to open is again put on hold.

But it’s not all been bad. Whitmore, Eyre, Brown, Harper, Greaves Edwards and Whittle have all afforded genuine reasons to be cheerful and when we do get it right we are as lovely looking as anything you’ll ever see.

As the doctor replied when the man asked him if giving up drinking and sex would make him live longer, ‘No, but it will feel like you are doing,’ so it is with City. They infuriate, they drive you up the wall but it would be hell without them, wouldn’t it? I can’t see a great future, at least not in the short to medium term. But whatever future it is, we’ll be there, won’t we? City. You need it ‘cos you’re weak.


Mark Gretton