Even if people within football scorn, undervalue and, in the case of one Premier League manager in the last 24 hours, wish death upon the FA Cup, it still means plenty to football fans. For Hull City supporters, the commencement of this year’s tournament represents another chance to finally write their own piece of the great competition’s history.
After all, what has our club ever really contributed to FA Cup folklore? We’ve never been to the final, we’ve been to one semi-final (between the wars; anyone alive today who remembers it, let alone attended it, will be at least 90 years old now) and our last three quarter final appearances have all ended in controversial disappointment – plenty of people will have attended the games in 1966, 1971 and 2009 and still feel like kicking the nearest moggy when thinking about how they turned out. All our previous quarter final appearance to those did, meanwhile, was earn us our record attendance for a home game. But we still lost.
We’ve never famously killed a giant – beating Coventry in 1972 when we were only a division apart doesn’t count; beating Nottingham Forest when two divisions apart in 1966 has been pretty much forgotten – and we’ve never been properly giant-killed, although the loss to Crawley Town two seasons ago was as embarrassing as the defeat to non-league Hednesford Town in 1997. But in one instance we couldn’t be bothered, and in the other we were pretty much the worst team in the league at the time.
We’ve not been helped by the club’s tiresomely lax attitude to the Cup competitions of late but maybe the run to the fourth round of the League Cup this season – equalling the club’s best ever – will inspire similar progress in the FA Cup. And it has to start somewhere, with the ever unkind draw decreeing it should do so this season on Teesside.
Steve Bruce has already declared he will make changes, though the squad isn’t at its biggest and so some of the Premier League starters will probably still line up at the Riverside Stadium. Matt Fryatt gets a big chance to put in a 90-minute shift after impressing both manager and fans over the festive season, while the likes of Steve Harper, Stephen Quinn, Paul McShane, Abdoulaye Faye and Gedo may feel their opportunity will come. Danny Graham and Jake Livermore aren’t allowed to play, while Robbie Brady remains out with a groin injury. And it’d be a chance too for Joe Dudgeon, assuming anyone has a clue if he’s fit or indeed, where he is.
Boro will make at least four changes to their side due to two ineligible players and two fresh injuries. They are 15th in the Championship with one defeat in their last six games.
City have never won at the Riverside Stadium, the first visit to which came in the same stage of the Cup seven seasons ago when the teams’ statuses were reversed. After a 1-1 draw at the KC, Middlesbrough clung on in the replay to win 4-3 after being 3-0 up. They’ve met in the competition four times and City have only won once, back in 1922. City haven’t won in Middlesbrough in any competition since a 2-1 league victory at the old Ayresome Park in March 1986, with goals from Andy Flounders and Frankie Bunn.
The bookies, having noticed the game is happening, have City at 15/8 to win, with Boro at 6/4 and 23/10 on both sides doing it again in ten days’ time at the KC. Cheap tickets and a pay-on-the-day policy should guarantee a big away following; let’s hope that such enthusiasm in the stands is replicated on the pitch.