Till Death Us Do Part

The last couple of months have been bloody horrible. The prospect of no Hull City AFC has frightened me to the point of feeling physically sick. The city of Kingston-upon-Hull would be the largest in Europe without a professional football side. It would unspeakably depressing for each and every one of us. As well as being economically and socially disastrous for Hull, and football in general it would leave us all at a loose end.

If City were to fold what would we do on a Saturday afternoon. Shopping? Err, no thanks. Watch Premiership football? There are enough sheep in the Hull area that do that, I don’t wish to join them. Support one of our local rivals?

That’d be on my list of possible alternatives somewhere between slitting my wrists and listening to Celine Dion’s entire back catalogue. I reckon a fair few of us would be tempted to watch a bit of grass roots football. Myself and four equally football starved City fans fancied trying this out on the blank Saturday after City’s game at Cardiff.

Our first thought was North Ferriby United. Without wishing to patronise them, they’re a lovely little club. Friendly fans, the opportunity to have a drink whilst watching the game, cheap to get in, the chance to laugh at the size of Darren France’s beer gut, there are loads of reasons to watch Ferriby.

So off to Church Road we headed. Gretna were the opposition and no, I don’t know what a Scottish side are doing in the Unibond League either. It was a sunny, if somewhat cold day, so we were quite surprised when we were informed it was off. I imagine it was due to the Foot and Mouth ‘crisis’ which I can confirm was started by Cardiff City supporters being fed on the remains of fellow Bluebirds fans.

What to do now? We decided on heading to Dene Park, Dunswell, the home of Hall Road Rangers. We didn’t have a clue whether they had a game or not, but it we really didn’t want to go home and be reduced to watching the Six Nations on the telly so the decision was unanimous.

On arriving there the signs weren’t promising. There was a match on one of the pitches involving a team in god’s own colours of black and amber, but park league football isn’t the greatest of spectacles, so we headed on to the main pitch. There was nobody on the turnstiles, but just as we were about to leave we noticed a ball being hoofed high in the air.

Huzzah, football at last. We ambled in to join the 30 or so other fans. Sat near us in the Ted Richardson stand was a man in a L***s United hat with his young son. “Who’s playing mate?” “Haven’t the foggiest.” Nice one.  I only discovered who the teams were after asking the linesman that the game was between Hall Road Rangers reserves and Driffield in the Humber Premier League. Driffield had an absolutely beautiful blue, white and red shirt, reminiscent of the French class of ’98.

Rangers’ stiffs were a damn sight less sartorially elegant with their kit of red and black striped shirts, blue shorts and blue socks. Yeuch. The men from the Wolds even had their subs and coaches wearing matching jackets with their website address on (www.driffieldfc.co.uk if you must know).

Unfortunately they looked less professional once the game actually got underway. Hall Road’s nippy strikers had a field day, with the young looking number 9 (yeah, like I can be arsed to find out who he was) causing Driffield’s ponderous defence and gobby ‘keeper no end of bother. The half time score was 4-1 to Rangers, the highlights of the half being an own goal from the Driff full back, some of the worst fouls I have ever seen and language from the players that was so blue it would make Bernard Manning blush.

Half time was a lot more fun than the intervals at City. Instead of trying to guess which City reserve would be reeled out to make the half time draw we were treated to watching the half time scores on Grandstand and a pint in the warmth of the Dene Park Social Club. It is a very nice set up bringing the club a considerable amount of money.

Indeed it recently hosted Radio Five’s ‘Any Sporting Questions’. As is par for the course at non-league clubs there were a few peculiarities. There was the ‘Dene Park Disco’ that consisted of a single record deck tucked away in the corner of the room. Also there was a bizarre sign – “Parents please ensure children vacate the premises during darts matches”.

They must be incredibly poor players. When the skiing came on Grandstand we supped up to watch the second half. It wasn’t as entertaining as the first, Hall Road added another goal, and there was a sending off – a Rangers player walked after a foul that was nowhere near as bad as the Mark Dennisesque lunges from the first half.

The Hall Road goalie was wearing odd boots, one Adidas and one Diadora. When quizzed as to why he mumbled “No I aren’t, they’re someone else’s”. Err, OK then. I then asked him where his side were in the league. “I dunno, I usually play for the youth team.” The poor kid wouldn’t make much of a guest on ‘Parkinson’.

The game ended 5-1. We were cold, but had enjoyed a break from the usual City-watching routine. If City don’t have a game or you can’t get to see them away, then I’d definitely recommend watching your local non-league side. However if City were to fold and were forced to start off again at this kind of level it would be a demeaning, unenjoyable experience.

Unwittingly the good people of Hall Road Rangers FC opened my eyes to what might have happened if Lloyd, Hinchliffe or Buchanan had succeeded in killing off the club. And I assure you, you wouldn’t like it one bit.

James McVie