Finally, the void in all our lives is filled, the three-month torture we must endure every summer is at an end. Cricket is a very fine sport, but nothing can replicate Hull City. And so, like the magnificent tiger stretching itself out in the evening sun and preparing itself for a long and exciting evening of slaying smaller and weaker prey, the Tigers of Hull City limber themselves up for an assault on the Third Division championship.
For a change, the bid for glory begins in our lair – City are rarely permitted the luxury of a opening day match at Boothferry Park. Southend are the prey, the quivering deer to Hull City’s formidable hunting beast. At least, that’s the theory, for even the deer can escape the murderous advances of the beast. It happened too many times last season, and new gamekeeper Jan Molby is charged with ensuring with restoring the natural order to the reserve. He has made an encouraging start. The animal looks slicker, leaner, hungrier, the desire to hunt present once again. It’s even forsaken its old poisoned watering holes.
All seven new signings look set to make their City debuts. Richie Appleby, Stuart Green, Stuart Elliott, Greg Strong, Shaun Smith, John Anderson and Ian Ashbee are all fit to play and have all had encouraging pre-seasons. With a new 4-3-3 formation, money to spend and interest in the club absurdly high, how can we fail? January 2002 provides all the answers to that question, and even though this feels different, we’ve said it so often before, been here so many times, a note of caution simply has to be struck.
Southend are no mugs. If we play well, we’ll roll them over. Anything else, and we’ll be made to look slightly foolish. In Tes Bramble and Graeme Jones (the crocked Wigan player Buchanan liked to pretend we were signing), they have a potentially good strikeforce. Additionally, we’ve not beaten them at home for eighteen years – they’ve frustrated us here four times in recent seasons. Southend have won their last opening day games. They’re a team who could conceivably push for a play-off place, or have everything click and sneak into the top three.
The bookies are naturally expecting big things – City are as short as 3/1 for the title, 8/13 to get promoted and a colossal 80/1 to go down. Two of the top three favourites for top scorer ply their trade in East Yorkshire. City are 8/15 to to roll Southend over, short odds indeed. With a crowd comfortably in five figures expected to flood into Boothferry Park and a record number of season tickets sold, it’s not hard to get carried away.
So let’s get carried away. This is our season godammit, the year in which it all finally comes right. It WILL all go right. This time, there will no escape for the weak and defenceless. The Tiger will finally have its day. Come on you Hull.