FEAT-TWTWT

Things We Think We Think #294

TWTWT

1. Friday was quite the night – on and off the field. Which is rather how things have gone at City for quite some time, with talking points split roughly between that which occurs on the greensward and that which does not. Whether off-pitch activities were positive or not depends upon your point of view, but at least there is no doubt about what occured on the playing surface. City won, vitally and (mostly) deservedly, and our hopes of avoiding relegation are the highest they’ve been for a while, and also showed up as a lie the notion that protest automatically hinders the team.

2. It had appeared that the flicker of optimism that victory at Forest brought had been extinguished by a hopeless display at Middlesbrough. That rotten evening ended up with City being level on points with 22nd once more, and emphatically back to square one. Well, a win over Sheffield United has advanced us a square or two.

3. The first half was a pretty dismal affair. It’s an oft-heard refrain that the Championship is particularly poor this season – well, if Sheffield United are notionally hunting a play-off place, then this really isn’t a good division. City, we expect to be poor. But their conspicuous mediocrity hints at a division that’s basically Wolves and Sunderland, with 22 sides of that differ only in the extent of their averageness in between.

4. But hey! One side elevated themselves from poor to approaching-alright in the second half, and that was City. Evidently encouraged by gaining half-time parity, the Tigers improved briskly and were on top when Dicko smartly finished Irvine’s cute little pass. And from that point we didn’t really look like surrendering the lead, which is perhaps the most impressive part of the whole victory given our porousness this season. A game that won’t have quickened the pulse of Sky Sports viewers, but by the end we were worth it.

5. Results elsewhere kept City two points ahead of peril, which is probably three given our freakishly superior goal difference. That places huge importance on tonight’s fixture against fellow strugglers Barnsley. It’s our game in hand, and gives us a chance to place a hefty five points between ourselves and ailing Birmingham in third bottom. The incentive is a big one: win, and we could become legitimately confident of lining up in the 2018/19 Championship. But so often this season we’ve followed up something positive with something foul, so we shan’t depend upon avoiding whatever the Auto Windscreens Shield is called these days just yet.

6. Off the pitch. Well, if you don’t like protest against people who routinely insult the supporters both by word and by deed, who routinely mislead, who price out children, the elderly and disabled in a calculated and unprecedented act of malice, who ejected Upper West Stand patrons, who brought you the Airco fiasco, the driving out of Steve Bruce, Hull fucking Tigers, then Amber Nectar probably isn’t for you, so you probably aren’t reading anyway.

7. The efficacy of the whistle and stress ball elements of protests are up for debate, but one thing that really hit the spot was the two lads who managed to get the sight of a large Allam Out banner beamed into homes and pubs across the land and perhaps beyond. To many fans of other clubs, the Allams are synonymous with the silly name change attempt and nothing more, but there is still work to be done getting the removal of concessions and much more into the nation’s footballing consciousness.

8. It was interesting to hear Nigel Adkins state that City lost the Nottingham Forest game on the back of a stress ball protest, given that he likely wanted City to lose that game. After all he wasn’t head coach back then, instead he was in the stands, hovering above Leonid Slutsky like a vulture.

9. While Ehab claims he can’t offer concessions on account of alleged supporter fraud, Nottingham Forest have no such qualms and are offering season passes for under 11 year olds costing just £10. Contrast that with the experience of a Sheffield United fan who paid £24 for a ticket for a 4 year old. So much for your claims about the club’s ticket prices being affordable

10. It seems Abel Hernández could be ready to return this week. Adkins said in his post-match interview on Friday that he considered putting the Uruguayan on the bench but decided against it. We’ve missed having a reliable, regular, proven goalscorer, more so during a insufferably fallow period in front of goal.

FEAT-BALL2

REPORT: City 1 Sheffield United 0

AdkinsN2

Blimey, that was a successful evening for City. And thoroughly enjoyable at that. A lot that’s good about our club was on display. We won too.

This match will be remembered as the one where much of the fanbase —out of deep-rooted feeling for the club and frustration at the way it has been run down and its supporters ignored, insulted, and incited to action— stepped up to the televised plate with that combination of anger and good humour that Hull people can do so well.

That the team managed to craft a win made a big difference. Victory seasoned the evening with celebration, when, had we lost by a hatful, protest could have tipped into bitterness. It put to bed the idea that the determination of supporters to do right by their club off the field somehow stops the team doing well on it. The team win or lose because of the normal stuff like luck, referee’s decisions, managerial choices, and above all, whether they’re better at football than the other lot. That’s it, and the rest is marginal.

But my job here is match reporting. I’ll leave it to others to dissect in detail the ball-throwing, whistling, chanting, and banner-parading. I’ll concentrate on the football. In any case, my East Stand vantage is brilliant for watching the game, whereas it was the North Stand that provided the best spot for the off-field action. And of course the telly gives another perspective of both football and fans.

Polishing up Nigel Adkins’ unbeaten home record as City Head Coach were:

McGregor
Aina             Dawson               McDonald      Clark
Irvine                    Larsson
Bowen           Evandro        Diomande
Dicko

After our confident win at Forest a couple of weeks ago, Adkins had inexplicably messed with personnel and formation for the next league game, at Middlesbrough, by playing three central defenders with advanced wing-backs either side of that central defence. This time he reverted to a back four. The erratic Hector was dropped, as were Tomori, Toral, Campbell, and the injured Keane. Aina played on his favoured right. Max Clark returned as left full-back.

Did you know that Max Clark has played in every one of City’s league wins this season? Admittedly he’s played in plenty of defeats too, but tonight he looked like the increasingly assured player that he is becoming.

Another player coming into his own at the moment is City’s Brazilian midfielder, Evandro Goebel (I love writing ‘City’s Brazilian midfielder’), who opened his account for the club with a sweetly struck shot from a training-ground routine corner at Boro on Tuesday. In a pretty uninspiring first half tonight, it was Evandro who stood out. He’s got skills beyond your standard second division midfield player, and the confidence to receive the ball under pressure, turn his way out of trouble, and take the ball past lunging opponents.

Early doors, as City attacked the North Stand end of the ground on a bitingly cold Hull evening, Evandro received the ball in a crowded penalty area. He managed to make space for the shot, but too close to Blades’ netminder Blackman, and the chance is gone.

Throughout the game, until his substitution, Evandro showed his skill and calm presence. He could turn into an important player for us in the closing months of the season, bringing experience in addition to his ability to keep the ball and find a teammate.

Although having more of the ball than Sheffield, City struggled in the first half to make much of it. There was a cheeky free kick about 35 yards out that looked to be just outside Larsson’s shooting range, but he surprised the opposition by taking it on anyway and curled the ball only just wide of the upright.

Mostly though, we were poor as a team. There was a lot of passing the ball safely around our own half, and back to McGregor, as if we were the away team waiting to play on the break. The trouble was, Sheffield United, as the actual away team, did the same, making for a fairly dull spectacle.
When City did want to go forward, two glaring problems stood out.

First, we kept playing the ball in the air, up towards our non-existent centre forward. Dicko, for all his qualities, is a nippy inside forward not an imposing number nine. And being isolated on his own up front, a quick ball played high from the defence was never going to cut it. Even when he did get near it, the gap between Dicko and the rest of the team was so wide that he could do little with it.

Second, too many of our players have a tendency to work as individuals rather than concentrating on the team. When fans argue that our squad looks too good to be in such relegation danger, they see the individuals, and some good ones at that. But they have to be moulded into a team.

On 15 minutes, Dicko got the ball, for once, at his feet, where he could run at the Sheffield defence. To his left, galloping forward in space were both Bowen and Diomande. But Dicko kept the ball, put his head down, and ran into a cul-de-sac in front of the away fans.

On 20 minutes the match was interrupted by the balls-on-the-pitch protest. On 30 the fairly constant vuvuzela-esque sound of whistles that had accompanied the match from the start, turned into the concerted and planned one-minute whistling protest.

All off-field issues aside, I was beginning to hope that these things would affect the players, so poor were City at that time.

Half-time came. It was 0-0. If it hadn’t have been for the off-field action, that first half would have been entirely unmemorable.

During the interval, I fell to musing about what listening to a Nigel Adkins half-time teamtalk must be like. May be I’ve been reading too much of the @TheNigelBadkins parody Twitter account, but I reckoned it might be quite trying. Full of ‘healthy zen’ and #StayPositive. Not so much the Alex Ferguson hair-dryer treatment, more motivational speaker at a company staff away day?

Well, I reckon I might need to rethink. Because when City eventually came out for the second half, a good few minutes after the Blades, it seemed that there had been more than positivity preached in the home dressing room. The tactics had changed.

All of a sudden, City were playing it more on the ground.. We were less prone to by-passing the midfield. As we attacked the South Stand it would have been easy to look the other way and be distracted by the parade of stewards, followed by a procession of police officers, who lined up in front of the North Stand, backs turned to the game, staring at the home support.

But City were playing better, despite Sheffield —no doubt fresh from having their ears bent by Chris Wilder— having a bit of a go in the first ten minutes. At the back, Angus McDonald, whose reassuring displays are making that coveted number 50 shirt his own, snuffs out a good move by the Blades.

About 10 minutes in, Nouha Dicko finds himself just outside the Sheffield area, back to goal. He swivels and slams a hard shot goalwards, only for Blackman to push it round the post.

From the resulting corner, swung in from the left by Larsson, Sheffield’s defenders struggle to clear the ball and it eventually falls again to Dicko, who wellies it into the net.

We’re actually winning. That goal injects more confidence into the players, may be adding force to the argument that somewhere in that squad of disparate individuals we do have a semi-decent team waiting to be found.

Bowen, who has been relatively quiet so far, bursts into life a little more, making a couple of surging runs, one down each flank. Aina —having one of his skilful and confident games, untroubled by the need to do much serious defending— follows Bowen’s example and manages to get a cross into Diomande, who, as is his wont, can’t get the header right.

Grosicki replaces Diomande. The sort of no brainer preference that leaves me scratching my head as to how we ever started with the Norwegian ahead of the Pole.

Soon after, Kevin Stewart comes on for Dicko, and then Fraizer Campbell comes on for Evandro.

I can’t be bothered to think too deeply about these swaps, because I assume that they stem from what Adkins seems to say about too many of our players, namely, that they can’t manage the full 90.

All I’m thinking about is how City are going to turn a precious lead and three potential points into a draw or even a defeat.. It’s not that I’m a pessimist, just that I’ve watched City a lot this season.

I mutter: ‘Remember, we were one up at Bramall Lane. We lost 4-1.’

Grosicki, the scorer of the worldy that give us that 1-0 lead in Sheffield in November, is looking lively but too often ignored, or not spotted, by teammates. Well, he’s been in and out of the team so much, it’s no wonder they’ve forgotten him.

There is though a lovely little cameo between Larsson and Grosicki, who play a tippy-tappy bit of close passing by the left touchline to bewilder a lunging United player. These two are both harbouring realistic ambitions of playing in the World Cup in a few months time. For now they play for us. It’s a little incongruous.

Talking of cameos, Sheffield bring on Clayton Donaldson, an ex-Tiger who is so ex that his last game for us was a league fixture away at Boston United. Yes kids, Boston United.

It was good to see him. Especially as the Blades now fielded a not-very-sprightly three up top of Donaldson, Billy Sharp, and Leon Clarke; combined age 99.

Even City’s notorious late-goal leaking defence can keep this veteran trio at bay, and we duly saw out the final few minutes plus three added on.

And it’s good to go into the weekend feeling pleased with the team. We can enjoy the rare luxury of sitting back and saying to our relegation rivals, match that.

Then in a few days time, such is the relentless nature of this league, we go again. Another night match. Again taking on Yorkshire rivals. The weather is forecast to be colder still than it was tonight. For all the success of tonight’s events, we’re still a club that has fallen very far, very fast, and is in real danger of plummeting yet further.

But for now, there’s a bit of lively optimism around. Enjoy it.

Ed Bacon (via Tiger Chat)

FEAT-TWTWT

Amber Nectar at 20

Nectar

To the surprise of everyone – not least ourselves – today marks the 20th anniversary of Amber Nectar being founded.

We started, as you did in the late 1990s, as a paper fanzine being hawked on the streets approaching Boothferry Park, before migrating – as you also did in the early 2000s – exclusively online.

To celebrate our 20th anniversary, we’re going to become even more insufferably self-referential than usual by casting our minds back to the best 20 things we’ve done or seen during that couple of decades. If nothing else, it serves as a handy recap of our generation’s life and times, and as grey hairs, families and mortgages increasingly occupy us, let’s seize the opportunity to celebrate a milestone. So here goes:

20. Sponsoring Mike Edwards’ kit (1999-2000)
MEdwardsAD
: One thing that a paper fanzine has over a website is that they tend to make money, rather than lose it. And at a quid a throw, the fanzine usually had a surplus at the end of each edition. Keen to put at least a little something back into City (remember, this was when the players’ and fans’ wages and were not wildly divergent), we decided to sponsor Mike Edwards’ kit. It was £50 for the season for the privilege, which guaranteed a place in the programme. The prominence of the mention depended upon what you sponsored – you could, for a mere £15, sponsor Gregor Rioch’s shinpads. Being all flash, we decided to blow some cash on a full kit. Only for those bastards* at City Independent to trump us by having a proper hoarding on the perimeter of the pitch.

* they’re not really bastards, in fact despite the mild but weird antipathy that once existed between our forum’s users and theirs, the CI editors are some of our best mates, we’ve regularly travelled away with them and – when CI was TOSS! we jointly formed a 5-a-side team in 1998 that, insanely, still exists

LM: It’s not true that we did it because we fancied his sister.

19. Standing in the pissing rain at Scarborough (1998)

McStad

AD: October in Scarborough. Glamorous it ain’t, but 1998 did at least see a real collectors’ item during the ill-fated reign of Mark Hateley: an away win. Neil Mann scored early, then Jamie Hoyland levelled, only for the City “player”/”manager” to score what would ultimately be the winner. We’ll remember it for something else though: drinking too much before the game and thinking it would be a great idea to tough out a North Yorkshire monsoon.

Because it rained, and rained, and rained some more. Early on, the uncovered overspill terrace to the right of the seated and covered away end behind the goal had almost emptied, as the stewards compassionately opted to let the seated area become over-full. But too young and too stupid, we thought that editors of a new fanzine should probably stick it out. I’ll never understand why. By half-time we were drenched; midway through the second mild hypothermia was setting in. “Still”, we optimistically opined, “at least this sort of caper is sure to get a mention in Steve Weatherill’s match report” – for then, as now, Mr Weatherill’s match reports and general air of scholarly magnificence inspired awe.

We never did get that mention, and upon traipsing forlornly back to the post-match pub, too sodden to care about the win, all we got was a derisive “what on earth were you soppy c*nts up to?” (see also: breakdancing on the away end during an Auto Windscreens tie at Chester, sharing a full bottle of whiskey en route to a League Cup tie at Watford, etc).

LM: What utter meffs we were (/are). I remember one bloke constantly berating us about how shit Hateley was and that he had to go (as if it was somehow our fault), but when Hateley scored he was the first person on the pitch to hug him.

18. Teletext entries (1999-2002)
Teletext
AD: Like more and more of the stuff we used to like, this is one for “those of a certain age”. It’s been a while since Teletext was a thing, but once upon a time ITV’s Teletext service in the Yorkshire TV area used to give over a page every Thursday to each of its regions clubs’ fans – Leeds, Bradford, City et al, usually provided by a fanzine.

And so, they asked us. And we happily obliged. But it was oh so tricky. Each line was a fixed 39 characters long, and they wanted three paragraphs of text. No exceptions (and no hyphenation either). So we bought some graph paper to help us plot things, and agonised over how best to use our allotted 11 lines, usually deployed in an 4-4-3 formation.

Still, at least we tried to talk about City. Younger viewers may not remember, but back when City were scuffing in the lower leagues, all of the other local clubs were desperate for our fans’ attention. York, Rotherham, all of them anxious to generate a rivalry with the bigger boys. We’ll never forget how this culminated with Rotherham, who became weirdly fixated with us between 1998-2001: to them, we were “Dull Pity” from “Toothfairy Park”. No wonder Teletext was shut down.

textcolourLM: The fewer words there are to work with, the harder I find it to write articles, and as much fun as writing for Teletext every week was, conveying the events and emotions of a game, or week, was quite painful at times.  After a while we started having fun with it, and began cultivating rivalries with other club’s fanzines. Andy mentioned the Rotherham fanzine ‘Moulin Rouge’ and their odd obsession with us, but my favourite ‘Teletext Rivalry’, which sounds weird, was with a Hartlepool fanzine.

We’d made some offhand remark about making them pay for crimes against simianity after beating them, and the week after they had a dig about us with their last paragraph. It set in motion this odd short attention span soap opera… they’d insult us one week, we’d retort the next, it was quite enjoyable seeing how hurt they appeared to be by a jibe that was tame enough to get by the Teletext editors as you ate your Coco Pops every Thursday morning. Then a quick game of Bamboozle.

17. Getting the Hull Daily Mail banned (2003)HDM

LM: We’d been asked to write a weekly column for the green Sports Mail starting in 1999, and we took it in turns, Andy one week, then me. It was tricky to write sometimes, given that the articles went in a paper that came out about an hour after a game, and you’re talking about events from the previous week. We were largely uncontroversial, although someone once had a go at me in Spiders one Friday night because in his words “I disagree with every single thing you write!”, which was both funny and odd as I was complimentary whenever City’s performances allowed me to be.

Later on the pieces got switched to the main Hull Daily Mail on a Monday, in the sports pull out, and we were asked for extra bits to go into a side column: ‘best player, chant of the match, pub team moment’ and others. I wasn’t fond of those bits, they felt like a gimmicky add-on to a column we took seriously, I always did them last and often I was scratching around for something to include if it had been a poor game with little atmosphere.

After starting the 2003/04 season like a house on fire, City had a real wobble that lasted a month, starting mid November. The collapse of 2001/02 still felt raw, most City fans thought promotion was a certainty that year after spending a shitload of money (relative to our fourth tier standing) and playing sexy sexball football, but our arse fell out when it mattered, and here we were two seasons later, now in a shiny new stadium and more desperate than ever to get out of the bottom division, and a comprehensive loss at Huddersfield, an insipid 0-0 against Yeovil and a loss at Bristol Rovers gave many the jitters. What didn’t help matters was Peter Taylor having a thin-skinned spat with fans over his preference for the average at best but mostly crap Marc Joseph over Justin Whittle, a hero from the Great Escape year and very much beloved on the terraces.

When we lost quite feebly against Mansfield, I thought Joseph was particularly culpable so I took aim in the Mail piece after that game, using the sidebar columns to really stick the boot in. After that City went on an ace run, seven league wins in a row, and midway through that winning run, City took the step of banning the Hull Daily Mail from interviewing players. The Hull Daily Mail didn’t tell me about this, the first I knew of it was reading the Friday preview and John Fieldhouse wrote that he couldn’t offer a view on our match prospects as he’d been denied access because of my piece. There was a picture of John Fieldhouse outside the West Stand getting a dressing down from Adam Pearson a few days later, which I found a little bit funny but it also made me feel quite bad. I didn’t have a great deal of respect for John Fieldhouse from a professional standpoint; I thought his stuff was cliché-riddled bobbins, but I didn’t ever wish being prevented from doing his job properly on him,  and I told him that.

I was summoned to see Adam Pearson and he gave me a real earful in his office, properly shouting at me, after which I said I stood by what I’d written in the main column and that I thought waiting till we’d won several games on the spin before calling me out on an article about a string of defeats was a bit cynical. The tone of the meeting changed at that point. He said the manager was upset at the article and he was going to back his manager, which was admirable. But then he said it wasn’t the column that Taylor took exception to, it was the sidebar stuff, in particular the ‘pub team moment’ box. Normally I’d deliberately choose an opposition player’s actions to mention there, but after the Mansfield game, full of righteous anger about Marc Joseph’s lame showing, I put him in it. Taylor, said Pearson, thought referencing professional players at an upwardly mobile club in terms of a ‘pub team moment’ was massively disrespectful, and frankly I was in agreement, I didn’t like the ‘fanziney’ sidebar bits which didn’t reflect how we did things at Amber Nectar and I resented doing them. We left the meeting with a good relationship restored, but the Hull Daily Mail decided Peter Swan should decide the pub team moments going forwards, and John Fieldhouse went back to calling players ‘big hearted’ and upcoming games ‘showdowns’.

AD: If we admit now that we always used to make up the comments and names for the “Fans’ Vox Pop”, the Hull Daily Mail will want their money back? Or that we sometimes used to sneak in deliberately wanky terms (“pastoral care”) in order to win bets with workmates at the time?

16. Meeting Tom Belton in Tropical Knights (1998)
TKnightsLM: 
With City fans hoping for a new, new owner little over a year after David Lloyd strode into town, dummy in mouth ready to be spat out, the Hull Daily Mail‘s Matt Barlow and I were invited to meet Tom Belton, Lincolnshire pig-farmer and one time Scunthorpe United chairman in, of all places, Tropical Knights on the Marina to talk Tigers and takeovers.

It was a surreal rendezvous, attempting to talk over Corona’s ‘ Rhythm of the Night’ on seemingly endless repeat and the braying of slags, meffs and meffoslags. Belton seemed happy as a pig in shit (if you’ll forgive the obvious metaphor) speaking of the city of Hull in glowing terms, “it’s got TWO casinos!” he beamed, like the type of TripAdvisor contributor Ehab would rather keep happy than City fans.

He spoke of Hull City in equally positive terms too, convinced the club was worth investing in, hinting that he headed a consortium keen to do just that. He spoke winsome words about how the population of Hull should be involved in part owning the club, noting that no one person owned more than 10% of the shares in Scunny during his tenure. This was all music to our ears, as was his assertion that he had no interest whatsoever in rugby and little time for the quasi-merger of City and Hull FC that David Lloyd was working towards.

An interesting night came to an end, and we left hopeful, but knowing optimism tended to bite you on the arse when you’re a City fan. As it happened he was part of a consortium that bought City, but the undoubtedly genuine Belton was soon cast aside by a malevolent group that would  become known as the ‘Sheffield Stealers’. Hull still has two casinos, and thankfully better hostelries than ‘Tropical Knights’.

AD: I didn’t go, because I was still under 18 and didn’t think they’d let me in. Bah.

LM: Pffft! You looked 36 in 1998 Andy.

15. Being bottled in Belgium (2014)Lokeren

MR: The preliminary round of the Europa League was memorable for numerous reasons, although the actual football match was, for the second tie in a row, not one of them. City lost the game 1-0 and, with a 2-1 win at home the following week, went out on away goals, leaving supporters gutted at missing out on a jolly-up around more continental beauty spots and war zones via the group stage, giving us something genuinely new to look forward to in between the usual turgid, predictably one-sided occasions the Premier League forced us into.

No, the whole social, and indeed sociological, experience of following City abroad remained the most stirring memory of the campaign. And the visit to Belgium to take on KSC Lokeren evokes plenty of vivid memories, one of which was more vivid – and less pleasant – than the others: namely, the moment City fans were rendered sitting ducks for local hooligans wielding bottles.

We wrote a contemporaneous travelogue about the 48 hours in Belgium and it remains the most reliable account of the whole episode, but the upshot was that after the final whistle, we were kettled outside the ground by mounted, armed East Fleming rozzers with the keys to a water cannon, despite there being zero trouble before and during the game. Eventually, after much delay and annoyance (and a few uneducated songs about Belgian involvement in global hostilities) we were led down a residential street towards the town centre, the same residential street that in early evening springtime sunshine had featured homeowners waving to us amiably as we strolled happily towards the ground. This time it was dark, surprisingly unlit, and very few locals were hanging out of their windows. A small, unremarkable looking pub called De Mierennest (on the “no go” list issued pre-match) was built within the terraced housing, (think Malt Shovel, but with cleaner brickwork), and as the police and the front swathe of City fans approached it, the first of many bottles came flying over the driveway gate from the covered beer garden.

Innocent fans of all ages were injured, some tried to fight back but were kept at bay by the police who nevertheless didn’t seem inclined to put an urgent stop to the sharpened missiles continuously aimed over the top, nor move the City fans forward quicker to alert danger, nor regard those hurt as in need of any urgent medical attention, despite some deep cuts to faces and heads. Young fans were seen using the flags of other supporters to try to mop up the blood, in the absence of any actual first aid paraphernalia.

Eventually the aggro was brought to an end and it was to the enormous credit of the City fans that they didn’t go apeshit as they continued their walk towards the town centre, complaining bitterly but not without reason to the few officers on duty who had a smattering of English. There was still much chuntering going on at Lokeren station as City fans boarded trains for Antwerp and Gent, where many were staying for the night prior to heading back to Zeebrugge the next day.

Two of us were asked to describe the ruckus and comment on it for on the radio the next morning – over a bucket of boiled eggs in our hotel breakfast room, Andy spoke to KCFM and I chatted to BBC Radio Humberside, both of us making it amply clear that there was zero culpability to be attached to the City fans, who were ambushed, isolated and furious. When we alighted from the ferry the next day (well, some of us did – Andy’s absence from that ferry is another story which the travelogue will tell) we were filmed by Look North, because hooliganism will always get more publicity than the sport it follows. If we’d lost 1-0 and then spent the rest of the evening playing charades with the locals, it would have been less of a story.

For all this, we bear no ill will to Lokeren, either the club or the town. The fans who attacked us were already on the banned list, so had no dealings with us prior to their attack and evidently the club had done as much as they could to deter their nefarious ways. Those we did meet in the daylight were very hospitable, the town itself looked after its visitors impeccably and there was a No To Hull Tigers banner unfurled in the home end during the first half.

14. Asking Brian Little if we could go home (2001)

BriLittleLM: I remember how giddy with excitement we were when we found out Brian Little had agreed to do an interview with us, and we figured he might give us 15 minutes of his time at most. So we went down to the training grounds at the University of Hull and watched the players train and then hung about in the lounge bit next to the changing rooms and I remember thinking as the scheduled time came and went that he had far better things to do than talk to us dickheads and if he forgot or sacked us off then fair enough, he owes us meffs nothing.

He did turn up though, and we packed our presumed 15 minutes with questions about how he planned to improve a fourth tier side with limited resources. He didn’t seem eager to get away so we widened the scope of questions. Time passed and we’re still asking and he’s still answering, and we’re now onto his playing career, being a Premier League manager and so on. This was great, who doesn’t enjoy a convivial chat with a man who won the League Cup three times as both player and manager?  But we slowly started to realise he’d be happy to talk for hours and hours, we’d already been there for several and by this point there was no-one else around and Andy was giving me looks that said “my tea will be on the table.” We got to the point where we had to meekly ask if it’s, err, ok if we go home now please Brian? Lovely man, great discussion which started to become an endurance trial. I wonder sometimes just how long it would have continued for if we’d continued asking questions.

13. The paper fanzine (1998-2002)
an1
LM: I was an avid collector of City fanzines, from On Cloud Seven, Hull Hell and Happiness, From Hull to Eternity, Last Train to Boothferry Halt, the fabulously surreal Fearful Symmetry to Tiger Rag. With David Lloyd in charge of Hull City and merging the business side of the club with Hull Sharks (nee Hull FC), there was lots to talk about but Tiger Rag seemed to be gone for good. I was stood on the South Stand terrace talking to a few fans I knew and said “there really needs to be a new City fanzine”.

I wasn’t meaning that I’d write one, but a voice behind me said “I’ll help you”, and that voice belonged to Andy Dalton. I didn’t know him, but I did recognise him from waiting outside Y.E.B. for Simon Gray buses to away games. Within a few weeks we were sat in his house working on a paper fanzine and a rudimentary website hosted by Angelfire, while his mother provided an ongoing supply of refreshments. On February 21st 1998, the first issue of Amber Nectar went on sale before the Scunthorpe United game, with City third bottom in Division Three and fans driven to ‘Thank God for Donny Rovers’. It was an amateurish first effort in truth, but it was an arch to build upon.

AD: In some ways it’s a shame the internet so rapidly supplanted the paper fanzine, which was ideal for both pre-smartphone half-time reading and then a few days of bogside perusal. We admire CI‘s doggedness in sticking it out for so long, loved Three O’Clock at Kempton‘s brief and vivid time and the nostalgic part of us welcomes FanaticHull‘s recent resurrection of the tradition.

There was definitely something to be said for it. Working out how many pages you’d need (always divisible by 4, of course). Creating a page order. Chasing up promised contributions. Meticulously arranging pages on screen – we used Coral Draw, which was pretty ancient technology even around the turn of the century. Then we’d save it all, Les would obsessively check and re-check it all, take it to the printers, they’d create lithographic films and a few days later, thousands of sheets of paper would arrive. Then it was on with the really back-breaking task: folding and stapling. It’d generally take at least a day of solid effort from a team of several. I don’t miss that bit. But seeing your creation in a physical rather than digital format was always very satisfying.

12. Being threatened by the Sheffield Stealers (2000)

Hinch

LM: We’ve gotten used to breaking bread with chairmen over the years. Adam Pearson regularly sought our views at Fans Liaison Meetings and we met Assem Allam at the abortive attempt to respectfully make the case for not vandalising the club name (more on that later), but frankly our first encounter with club hierarchy was the most memorable. It wasn’t planned either, we were just doing what we did after every Boothferry Park home game: drinking in Three Tuns.

On this occasion, a load of suits swarmed into the place, oh look there’s marketing type Andy Daykin, oh and now there’s Nick Buchanan, and oh my! Vice-Chairman and convicted company law criminal Stephen Hinchliffe is now propping up the bar, flanked by a pale looking chap wearing a worried look.  Daykin introduced ‘Hinch’ to us as we queued for a Riding Bitter (Les) and a Fosters (Andy), at which point the man who definitely wasn’t involved in the day to day running of the club said “If you say anything negative about us I’ll have your legs broken”. There was an amazed, amused silence before the wan-faced chap, clearly a legal professional, added “That definitely wasn’t a threat.”

Righto. “Err, barkeep, we’ll have some pork scratchings too.”

AD: Nick Buchanan’s dead now. So I guess we’re in the clear. But there was a real stench of unpleasantness about those two – and we’ll never understand why some City fans who really ought to have known better fell for their palpable bullshit.

11. China (2009)
ChinaAD:
Have City ever done anything as utterly preposterous as spending a week in the People’s Republic of China? Perhaps not. Rather than attempt to distil that chaotic week into a few paragraphs, the diary of those days is probably the best starting point. Enjoy.

LM: Bah, my biggest regret in life is not going to China to see City. It just edges going out with that bog-eyed wretch who made me miss seeing Daniel Cousin’s goal at the Emirates live by being an attention seeking divomeff.

MR: I couldn’t afford it. But at least Andy hasn’t spent the subsequent years randomly reminding Les and I that he went to China and we didn’t, with any level of smugness or superiority. Not the sort of thing he would do, at all. He is also convinced that the tournament over there was official enough for him to add the host stadia over there to his ‘ground tick’ list, which is preposterous.

10. Attending that bonkers meeting with Assem Allam (2013)
AllamMeetingLM:
Have you ever walked out of a building and thought “What the hell was all that about?” A Christopher Nolan film can do that to you, a few Hull 2017 events evoked that too, but those things are positively abounding in accessibility compared to an audience with Assem Allam.

He talked about prostate cancer for nearly an hour, to the bemusement of the group waiting for a point relevant to the meeting to be made, then made libellous and implausible remarks about several local Councillors (this was the reason minutes weren’t released, as the collective of fans were concerned about embarrassing the club, we needn’t have been so conscientious), before praising Coventry City for monetising the Ricoh Arena with a Jaguar showroom, oblivious to the fact Coventry were playing in Northampton even after this was explicitly stated.

Looking back now though, what’s notable isn’t the surreal, non-sequitur conversations that made sense to only one person in the room, it’s what a spectacular waste of time the whole exercise was. Reading notes about recent meetings between fans and the Allams generates a sense of déjà-vu, or history repeating itself, as they clearly have no intention of genuinely working with supporters, they just want the illusion of fan consultation, just as they cultivate the illusion of philanthropy which looks more like tax avoidance and buying goodwill in the absence of people who’ll speak highly of them (unless they gain from it monetarily), the more you scrutinise things.

AD: “Yes, I will definitely consult the fans before trying to change the name”. He gave that assurance, three times, in a room full of people (and another Hull City official). Then tried changing it a few days later. Man. Of. His. Word.

9. First steps online (1998)AN2000

AD: As AN formed in 1998, so the internet was becoming increasingly more mainstream, with fully 9% of UK households having access to the newfangled “World Wide Web”. And it was an opportunity to make AN a multi-platform operation. So we borrowed access from that sliver of the populace with connection, or used my college access, and scoured “the web” for free website providers. Everyone seemed to favour Geocities, but a competitor named Angelfire seemed to offer a better service and less intrusive advertising – so off we went.

It’s easy to scoff, but this was new and interesting stuff, and the online City community was burgeoning. Andy Medcalf’s Tiger-Chat was in its pomp, and new City-themed offerings were popping up on a regular basis, some destined for greater longevity than others. Our stay with Angelfire was brief – by March 2000 we were confident enough to buy our own domain and host our own website – but it got us going. Incredibly, it’s still there, with its last ever page suggesting just how long ago it all was.

And, because you’re no doubt all itching to either remember or discover afresh what we looked like online in 2000, that’s also possible. As if we ever found enough time to list the juniors’ fixtures…

MR: I joined the site as a forum user in about 2001 and one of the first things I remember reading was a debate about the shape of Sophie Ellis Bextor’s face.

LM: Shaped like a BSB Squarial, obvs.

8. The FA Cup Final (2014)
CupFinalMR:
The FA Cup final is a bit like a multiple orgasm – something you read about it in magazines and only other people experience. The prospects of City reaching one (an FA Cup final, that is), even after promotion to the Premier League in 2008 and again in 2013, seemed absurd. We’d managed one semi-final, back in 1930, and even quarter finals were usually beyond our reach, though in 2009 we had a decent run that ended with Arsenal scoring a blatantly offside goal to knock us out.

Football clubs also were not interested in winning the FA Cup, really. If they did so, it was done by accident, because their second string teams kept turning up and winning. In 2014, Steve Bruce was evidently interested little in the FA Cup, as proved by his selection of the ultimate duo of castaways in Aaron Mclean and Nick Proschwitz to play up front in the inconvenient third round tie at Middlesbrough. Each scored in a 2-0 win and were sold afterwards. Matt Fryatt, another player unable to make a Premier League impact, scored both in a fourth round 2-0 win at Southend. Yet another backup striker, Yannick Sagbo, scored a late equaliser at Brighton in the fifth round, prior to City winning the replay. Fryatt got another during a 3-0 win in the sixth at home to Sunderland and then our second ever visit to Wembley saw us chuck all our dreams away in a rank first half against League One side Sheffield United, before turning the 2-1 deficit into a 5-3 win, with Fryatt and Sagbo among the scorers.

And so, we were in the final.

Europe would welcome us in the summer, which was a separate headfuck we’d have to deal with later.

First, Arsenal.

Obviously, nobody gave us a chance. We didn’t give ourselves a chance. There was a defensive crisis going into the match, with Paul McShane and James Chester ruled out, while Robbie Brady was also injured and Bruce couldn’t trust anyone except Fryatt to run around selflessly up front while Arsenal inevitably dominated possession. But then we didn’t know that Chester had miraculously passed a fitness test, McShane had declared himself fit enough for the bench, and Bruce was going to deploy the hitherto criminally underused Stephen Quinn as a roaming forward behind Fryatt. Arsenal, blatantly thinking this was a cakewalk, didn’t know where they were.

My experience of the day was a bit rushed. I worked all morning and hopped on a 1.25pm train, which was supposed to get me to London for 4pm, allowing an hour for the tube journey and light jog up Wembley Way. The train was delayed arriving, the tube kept doing those unexplained stops in the middle of nowhere, and I didn’t just jog, I ran like my life depended on it. I walked along my row and found my seat next to Andy and the City Independent lads just as the players were waiting for the referee’s whistle to start the game. I missed Abide With Me, which I regret still, but I didn’t miss the kick off, mercifully.

The celebrations when Chester, then Curtis Davies, put us 2-0 ahead early on were among the most intense acts of mayhem I’ve ever seen grown, mature humans put themselves through. I was in the middle of them. We all were. We didn’t think we could win. And, in truth, we probably still didn’t. It was back to 2-1 at half time, and we all knew what would happen in the second half.

The Arsenal comeback, which included 30 minutes of extra time, was like watching a beloved pet die  after receiving the shot of cyanide. It was horrendous, and slow, and we suffered. There was no way I was going to stick around and watch Arsenal lift the trophy, so I walked through to the concourse and waited. I wasn’t a sore loser, but I was upset and I hated Arsenal, so the combination was quite a pungent one.

I cannot possibly foresee City getting to an FA Cup final again. But that word ‘again’ is so important. It wasn’t so long ago that we failed to get past the third round for 20 whole years. Now we had at least experienced the grandest of football’s occasions. Nobody can take it away. My match report for AN was included in the Guardian‘s Pick of the Week and I might say that I’m still very proud of it, written as it was the next morning via a mixture of coffee, Resolve and tears.

7. FLC meetings with Adam Pearson (2001-2007)
FLC

AD: Keen to do things differently, and better, upon assuming control Adam Pearson created a new Fans’ Liaison Committee. A mix of fans’ reps from the fanzines, websites and individuals representing the different stands, it met roughly every two weeks, with Pearson always in attendance.

And yes, they got bogged down in minutiae every so often, with easy-to-caricature stuff about pie flavours, hot water in the toilets and so on. But they did also represent a genuine opportunity to place fans’ concerns to an owner who cared, and where possible, acted.

He was also a great figurehead. No matter how City were doing, Les and I would leave meetings convinced that a brighter tomorrow was inevitable and imminent – and he delivered that too.

Post-Pearson, the meetings faded when Duffen took them over, and clearly couldn’t be arsed. Nick Thompson half resurrected them with a Fans’ Liaison Advisory Group (FLAG – geddit?), but that didn’t last. James Mooney vainly acted as the Allams’ human shield for a bit (though improved the quality of the catering), while the present rabble want nothing to do with us. It’s mutual, however.

LM: I loved FLC meetings, though at times it felt like we were the only ones who took it seriously.  In terms of fan representation that is, we’d canvas questions and opinions via the Amber Nectar forums and dutifully take these to the monthly meetings, doing our damnedest to be the terrace equivalent of parliamentarians representing constituents. The meetings always started with Andy and I, we’d raise six or seven points and then it all went quiet. Hardly anyone else had anything to say and sometimes you wondered why some of them bothered, and then you realised that they just felt special being around the chairman and participating fully didn’t come into it. There was that one bloke that made just one suggestion of note all the time he attended, and that was to answer Adam Pearson’s request for suggestions about improving half-time entertainment by saying “I’ll bring my dogs if you like!” Err.

Meanwhile, and I’m not really one for trumpet blowing, we’d helped Amber Nectar readers effectively shape how many club processes would work when City moved to the KC(om) Stadium: ticketing arrangements (Away Direct was Andy’s idea), stadium details (I insisted on World Cup style box nets but was overruled on amber and black striped nets by a superstitious Michael Branch *shakes fist*) and even kit design, which being a kit geek was really my bag (Adam Pearson changed the 2005/06 home shirt at my behest because I was adamant it had too much white on it). Better than what we suggested, many AN Forum member suggestions were implemented too, This was real fan engagement, so no wonder we scoff at the current sham that passes as consultation. What really irritated me was meffs on forums such as Hull City Mad questioning why we got invited, well if you ever read our copious notes from each meeting you’d know, and why did you never question anyone else, such as that bloke who only seemed to go to get a free packet of crisps? Or Bill Holt who used to love to say ‘Get it done!’ to Adam Pearson in order to feel important, or who when asked who City should play in pre-season responded thus: “Any Prem. Mega draw.”

Bah.

6. Wembley (2008)
Wembley

MR: The 2007/08 season became all about firsts. We paid £1m for a player for the first time, we got to Wembley for the first time and ultimately, faintly ludicrously, we were promoted to the top tier for the first time. Really, nobody could see this coming, ever. It was my 20th year supporting City and even though the first four of those, plus the last three, had been in the second division of the game, the very idea of a team as lacking in history as City actually fighting its way into the Premier League, or its less wanky predecessor, was as crazy as any you could think of.

But in 2007/08, the chutzpah of Paul Duffen, the new man in the boardroom, and the brazen confidence and not inconsiderable coaching ability of Phil Brown got us there. It wasn’t easy, sometimes it wasn’t convincing, and for a long time it didn’t even look on the cards. In January 2008, City began a run that prompted a sharp rise up the table, getting us into the play-off positions by the spring and greedily challenging not just for automatic promotion, but the Championship title. Alas, we didn’t quite manage that but we were already in unprecedented territory for the club in finishing third and immediately being installed as favourites for the play-offs.

City were as cool as cucumbers in the midday sun at Watford in going 2-0 ahead in the semi-final first leg, then finished the job with a 4-1 pummeling of our fading opponents in arguably the greatest night occasion the Circle has seen to this day. A first ever trip to Wembley, then. Bristol City were to be our opponents (the only team in the play-offs we’d not beaten during the regular season) on Saturday 24th May. My birthday. And that of Les, too.

Because of the restrictions and logistical stuff that comes with a trip to Wembley at such short notice, we all made our way down to London at different points of the weekend, but the AN regulars made a rendezvous to meet up for a magnificent pre-Wembley beano at a gothic pub called The World’s End, in Camden Town. Though we all drank plentifully and had a fine night out, you could even sense then a bit of tension. We were going into so many unknowns, all at once. The fixture would make history by itself; victory would make further history. We almost dared not contemplate it, not tempt fate. It was notable just how little we talked about the game as we shelled out London ale prices until closing, prior to catching the tube back to our respective accommodation in different parts of the capital.

My birthday morning was spent in the company of a chum at talkSPORT, who had offered me a guided tour of the station. This helped take my mind off it, although the hacks in the newsroom who noticed my amber replica shirt were quick to remind me once again of the momentous occasion that awaited. I had only ever been to Wembley twice before and on neither occasion was I emotionally involved in the fixture. Today I couldn’t have been more emotional if I’d tried. I felt like breaking down a few times. I think a lot of City fans who had experienced the succession of disasters and catastrophes that befell the club over the years were feeling the same – we could touch tangible success, national respect, international fame. All it needed was 90 good minutes.

In the afternoon, I met up with everyone else at our allocated Wembley pub. We sang a lot of retro City songs and I drank a lot of Guinness, my tipple of choice at the time, but it was so bloody hot that none of it got far enough to lighten my head or fill my bladder, because the perspiration was so immense. I was a fair few quid lighter but absolutely no drunker by the time Andy and I wandered down Wembley Way, trying to calm ourselves before it got seriously crazy.

The overpriced fish and chips, the massive concourses, the enormous seats, the pre-match pageantry. We saw it all. Our beloved club crest was emblazoned on a huge kite from some carrying contraption or other on the pitch, next to that of our opponents. The referee blew his whistle.

And so, the game.

Can’t remember a bloody thing.

Well, I remember Deano’s goal. It’s a beautiful thing to this day. It was at the opposite end to us, but I was central enough to see the mild swerve to the shot after the ball left his instep following one of those perfect connections that footballers bemoan usually happen during five a sides in training, rather than life-changing occasions at the national stadium.

I remember nothing else until Boaz Myhill caught that ball at the end and the unexpurgated cheer of total relief enveloped the stadium. The rest of the day was bedlam. The final whistle, the trophy presentation, the laps of honour. Then there was something I’ll always treasure – the moment when City fans of my acquaintance, whom I’m proud to call friends and whom I’d not seen all day because they holed up in a different pub and a different bit of Wembley, spot me and dash over for manly celebration. We’d grown up knowing little more than failure, disappointment and mistrust in our club and now we were, for once, the hip kids, new on the Premier League block.

By the time I got back to Kings Cross, I was spent. I sat down on the platform, drained of all emotion, feeling, articulacy. Things perked up on the train and I remember getting a photo text from JR showing Ian Ashbee raising the trophy. You couldn’t relax, no matter how tired you were. You didn’t want to. You wanted to talk about the game, the achievement, the history, with anyone you saw on the train, whether they were City fans or not.

I got home at 11.30pm, cracked open a final beer and watched the whole thing on telly again. And although we’ve experienced different highs and greater successes in the decade since, this victory remains the sweetest and most beautiful, because it allowed us to feel something we’d never felt before, and never thought we would. The 07/08 team and coaching staff will be forever unique, and they have my gratitude for life.

LM: I blubbed like a girl. I don’t even do that at family funerals.

5. Helping to found City Till We Die (2013-14)

CTWDbig

AD: What, if anything, can you remember about City’s 1-0 victory over Huddersfield in the League Cup on Tuesday 24th September 2013? If it’s anything at all, well done. But it could be one of the more interesting dates in our recent history – because before this eminently forgettable affair, an angry group of people convened in the Halfway House pub on Spring Bank West to grouch about Hull City AFC’s bizarre sudden decision to stop calling themselves that. Except that something actually became of it. Plans were hatched. A new group suddenly coalesced, with the means and will to try to protect the club’s heritage. That group was City Till We Die, and it announced itself to the world two days later.

What happened next was quite crazy. From nowhere, a team of committed and capable individuals (and us) began an extremely professional campaign that was quickly running rings around Assem Allam and his unimpressive lackeys at the club. A huge petition was organised, No To Hull Tigers badges were produced, leaflets were distributed outside the stadium, a website with accompanying social media emerged, and as support grew a membership scheme was even launched.

There were wristbands, scarves – well, it’s all stuff fairly recent so much of it can be recalled easily. The CTWD group, including both fans’ groups and enthusiastic individual volunteers, created an internail mailing list for discussing ideas and tactics that eventually generated over 20,000 e-mails. It was close to a full-time job for some, and such a pressurised campaign – we were fighting for our club’s identity – inevitably didn’t always run smoothly. There were occasional missteps and internal quarrels. But Allam panicked and got almost everything wrong, evidenced by his weird fans’ meeting in late 2013, and his subsequent slandering of City fans as “hooligans” who can “die when they want”.

We thought we were winning. Eventually CTWD, with AN representation, was invited to Wembley in February 2014 to put the fans’ case. The OSC was invited separately, though whether they represented the fans or the club is open for debate.

It was thrilling, exhausting, and absolutely well worth every single moment, and on 9th April 2014, when the FA announced we’d won and Assem Allam had deservedly and humiliatingly lost, we partied long and hard. And though it’s easy to knock City fans for letting the Allam family get away with too much lately, it’s always worth remember that collectively we all took a stand against the name change, and made football history.

4. Winning the FSF’s podcast of the year (2017)
Podcast
MR: We first did a podcast in the summer of 2013, in readiness for our second crack at the Premier League. It was shambolic for quite a while, utilising a cheap microphone covered by an Absolute Radio muffler perched on a suit hanger, itself standing on a small round table, to give us the height we needed to talk semi-intelligible guff about Vito Mannone’s likeness to Serbian warlords while making up brand new swear words and gabbing on about the sponsor’s positioning on the away shirt of 1995/96, all for far too long for people’s attention spans to manage. But eventually it became more sophisticated, with the addition of live streaming that allowed the audience to enjoy the splendour of the matchworn kit collection attained by Les, a desk containing a few well-chosen props, and a few distinguished guests among the local media – Dave Burns, Simon Clark, Phil Buckingham – and former playing staff, including Mark Greaves, Lawrie Dudfield and Adam Lowthorpe, as well as semi-regular AN alumni who always had plenty to say.

But we still genuinely don’t know how this fun but somewhat niche and tinpot operation snowballed into us walking onstage in the hospitality area of the Tower of London in December 2017 to pick up the Football Supporters Federation’s Podcast of the Year. Prior to the ceremony, we’d spent the car journey and the meal at our plush table (at the back of the room, natch) simply wondering, repetitively and loudly, what the hell we were doing there. When our category came up, we imagined how much more slick and professional and well-researched and all-inclusive the other nominees were, especially as most were following Premier League clubs and seemed to have official backing.

Then we were announced as the winners and ventured on to the stage like the proverbial guppy fish at feeding time, our only aim to not trip on the steep steps leading up there. Afterwards in the bar, strangers grasped whichever one of us was clutching the elegant trophy to talk about how amazing our podcast was and how appalling City’s owners were. We ended the evening replete with a solidified kinship with fans of Brentford, Nottingham Forest, Doncaster and even Leeds, who were all up for the fanzine award. Of our fellow nominees, the Watford guys were most affable and sporting and chatted to us for ages afterwards, mainly about Marco Silva, the 2008 play-offs and Richard Jobson. The Arsenal guys told us we deserved to win the FA Cup final. The Manchester City guys congratulated us on Twitter. The Liverpool guys invited one of our number on to their podcast.

Notably, the footage of our onstage chat with host James Richardson and the interview we did for the FSF in front of their cameras afterwards has never been released, unlike all other acceptance interviews and reactions on the night. Let’s face it, only we had previously been responsible for all our unexpurgated opinions on some City-related subjects that can cause anger, dismay and bitterness (though we were disappointed that the world couldn’t enjoy a final description from Les of Leonid Slutsky, sacked 24 hours earlier, as “a man who looks like he’s about to vomit a basketball”). But the state of our club since promotion in 2013 is solely responsible for the strong opinions expressed and, to that end, a podcast can only be as good as the topics it has to discuss. So thanks Ehab, sort of.

LM: I consider this a total vindication of my sweariness. Oh and, having met the Queen a month before, meeting James Richardson of Football Italia fame was far better. Is saying that treasonous?

3. Selling the first copy of Amber Nectar (1998)Ark

AD: “New City fanzine, Amber Nectar, only 80p!” So we began nervously exclaiming on North Road from about 2pm on Saturday 21st February 1998. We’d made about 500 copies of the fanzine at our own expense, and were now frantically seeing if anyone would buy it. God, it was nerve-wracking.

Eventually, a few people did. Then a few more. And as kick-off neared and the queues grew outside the Ark, so did the people shovelling a pound at us, wondering what the hell we were arsing around with 20p change for (we never sold it for 80p again). When we convened on Bunkers to swap stories about how it’d gone, we were flushed with delight that it’d gone so well. Costs had been covered, and more. Best of all, as we digested a half that’d seen City take the lead against Scunthorpe, only for Andy Dawson to peg us back, people could be seen reading our humble offering.

LM: Ugh, I hated this part of fanzine production. It made staying up till 3am on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, then spending Friday evening stapling the frigging things together feel joyous.

2. Mariánske Square, Žilina (2014)

City fans on the square (31-7-2014)MR: City in Europe! Honestly, if it wasn’t actually happening you’d have laughed. Yet here we were, boarding a plane at Luton Airport at 7am at the end of July 2014 to fly to Košice, prior to catching a train to Žilina, with the ultimate reward of watching Hull City AFC, a Fourth Division club a decade before, playing in proper continental competition, earned for reaching the previous season’s FA Cup final.

The team we were playing in the Europa League third qualifying round were Slovak top tier side FK AS Trenčín (now just AS Trenčín), but their ground wasn’t up to snuff for the visit of a club representing The Greatest League In The World, apparently, so the tie was shifted to nearby Žilina and it was into there that the trains stopped to allow hundreds of City fans to disembark after the sort of picturesque journey not normally seen when heading for away games at Stoke or Blackburn.

But the memory so many City fans will treasure the most of the 48 hour beano has nothing to do with football – the game was a tedious goalless draw and we missed a penalty – but everything to do with the hospitality. Žilina’s transformation in the 25 years or so since communism fell had clearly been done with love and appreciation for itself, and the very long spells in hot sunshine and evening breezes while enjoying the bars of Mariánske Square were utterly delightful, to the extent that you felt genuinely bereft when it was all over and we were back to avoiding dog turds on Spring Bank West. The beer was cold and refreshing (and worked out at 58p a pint), the waiting staff utterly tireless on our behalf, and the place itself completely beautiful to look at. And we were there because City were in Europe, forchrissakes.

Even with the years that have passed, it sometimes feels like it didn’t actually happen. The fact that we so quickly exited Europe at the next stage (after beating our Slovak opponents 2-1 in the return leg, we went out on away goals to Belgian side Lokeren in the preliminary round, see entry 15 above) and are unlikely to get back there anytime soon means we need to hold on unyieldingly and eternally to the memory of Žilina and its glorious, vivid, scenic centrepiece.

LM: Teaching locals City chants at 4.30am while drinking throat-scorching slivovica (plum brandy) was truly amazing. Matt’s shorts were not.

1. Tennis balls at Bolton (1998)
BoltonBalls
LM: The more things change, the more they stay the same eh? As now, there was protest in the air in September 1998: City fans were less than impressed with owner David Lloyd (he of gym club and tennis tossery fame) and his half baked plan to merge the financial sides of the Tigers and egg-chasers Hull Sharks (as Hull FC were then known). When he announced that he’d decided to relocate City to the dilapidated Boulevard ground so he could sell Boothferry Park as part of his not quite concrete plans to build a new stadium (ooh, another similarity to current events) it was the straw that broke the Tiger Nation’s back.

After a game of 5-a-side, the ‘Amber Tossers’ (a combined TOSS and Amber Nectar fanzines team was named) plotted to draw attention to the ghastly Lloyd’s schemes and encourage him to put the club for sale. The forthcoming League Cup tie at Premier League Bolton seemed the perfect time, and it was agreed that in order to truly grab the attention of the media, and in turn the sporting public, we needed to delay or disrupt the game somehow.

A pitch invasion was deemed unacceptable, as the publicity would be wholly negative, so what to do? “What about throwing tennis balls on the pitch?” I asked, and quickly the group saw the potential: it was non-violent, highly visible and amusingly ironic as former tennis pro Lloyd was the current Davis Cup captain.

A few hundred tennis balls were purchased and randomly distributed to willing supporters on the coaches bound for the Reebok Stadium. Just before kick off, they were hurled onto the turf, a few at first, then en masse creating a vivid shower of luminous orbs to the bemusement of the players, officials and watching media. Radio Humberside’s Gwilym Lloyd, despite having been tipped off about the protest, curiously stated on air that it was apples being thrown at Steve Wilson, musing that maybe it was a twist on the old ‘oranges for Ian McKechnie’ ritual of yore. Nonetheless the media lapped it up, and each subsequent report in the national press increased the estimate of tennis balls used, a few hundred had become ‘thousands’. The protest worked better than anyone could have anticipated, and a humiliated Lloyd soon announced he was putting the club up for sale. Game, set and match to City fans.

AD: Who said that protest doesn’t work? People who are wrong, that’s who. This was our finest hour, and I’ll remember seeing the first luminous yellow orb arcing from the upper tier just before kick-off –  well worth having a police dog set on me by local rozzers angry at this all being done under their nose…

FSFawards

Finally, if you’ve made it through all of this, thank you. Sincerely, thank you – to anyone who’s contributed to us over the years, read our articles in print or online, offered feedback (good or bad), sent us criticism, death threats (yep, we’ve had a couple), chucked money into our occasional appeals so we can pay our hosting fees and remain ad-free, sold the fanzine in exchange for a pint in Three Tuns, let us appropriate match reports, given us juicy gossip, offered us lifts to away games, tolerated our drunken excesses all over Europe, voted for us to win anything, listened to or appeared on the podcast, done techy stuff (huge pops to Steve Broadbent here), to our WAGs for putting up with this madness, to the Hull City Association Football Club themselves for being both total bastards and utterly amazing while being a permanent and ultimately compelling part of our lives, and basically anyone who’s made the past twenty years possible and an absolutely brilliant bloody time…thank you.

PS. Allam Out.

FEAT-TWTWT

Things We Think We Think #293

TWTWT

1. Defeat and – eventually – little disgrace at Chelsea. City didn’t help themselves, but Chelsea have spent hundreds of millions of pounds to ensure that contests such as this are acutely unequal. And the first half was as unequal as you could hope to not see. For all of City’s brave talk, the first half precisely resembled a poor Championship side away to Champions League participants. It was tough to watch.

2. Perhaps we should allow limited credit to City for ensuring that a hammering didn’t become a record-breaking rout. Chelsea, aware that Barcelona visit next, didn’t seem too bothered about adding any more goals but City did also smarten themselves up a little, and while drawing a half isn’t an achievement, it was at least an improvement. It was a desperately poor tie to have been given anyway.

3. Elsewhere, our absence from league duty didn’t cause undue harm. Four of the bottom six were in action on Saturday, and none won. City remain outside the bottom three, with a home game in hand on most of them. We may be out of the Cup, but in terms of the Championship it wasn’t a bad weekend.

4. It’d be great to build upon this by taking something from Middlesbrough tomorrow evening. The pre-season title favourites have underachieved this season, but with only five points separating them from sixth place, they won’t have given up just yet. It won’t be easy. But the assured performance at Nottingham Forest nine days ago suggests that we haven’t given up just yet. A point would do just fine, even though unwanted results elsewhere could still see us draw and drop back into the bottom three. But imagine the transformative effect that a second successive win could have…

5. Then it’s Sheffield United. The match first, then the rest. Since cuffing City 4-1 in November their season has gone a little awry, and while we’d gladly swap places with a side in eighth, they must have hoped for more at this stage. It’s therefore a presentable opportunity for three points, three we’re sure to need whatever happens at the Riverside tomorrow. City’s heads may just be above the water at the time of writing, but they’re deep and choppy waters. It’s going to be a big week on the pitch, and by 10pm on Friday we’ll have a good idea of our likely fate.

6. It’s going to be fascinating to see what happens off the pitch as well. Anger at the mismanagement of the club continues to swell, and rumours about serious and sustained protests in the forthcoming Sheffield United fixture have grown. Ehab Allam claimed to be in possession of intelligence (yes, we know…) pointing towards a whistle protest during the game, akin to the one Brighton implemented at the Goldstone Ground when City visited in the late 1990s. It’s a cracking idea from a man few ordinarily associate with understanding football fans, and it’d certainly be effective.

7. The big question is whether it should happen. It’s proven predictably divisive. And we absolutely understand why some City fans don’t really fancy it. It’s a bit confrontational, it could interrupt the night’s football – or potentially even terminate it, it’s just all a bit too much. But we’d urge those wavering supporters to look at the paucity of options now open to City fans. Talking to the Allams doesn’t work, because they refuse to listen. For years they’ve been told what we want, and they haven’t acted. You cannot reason with fundamentally unreasonable men. We can’t even trust their promises to begin a process of meaningful change, because Assem Allam repeatedly promised not to try to change City’s name without consultation, only to renege upon this pledge within days. However, we know that protests affect them. The stress balls against Forest earlier in the season dragged them to the table. So why not?

7a. There are two arguments you can summon against it, and neither really stack up. Firstly, it affects the team. Except that no evidence exists for that. Lack of investment in players affects the team; fans driven to desperation by negligent owners does not. And the second argument is that City will be harshly punished for a disrupted game. And again, that isn’t supported by facts. Coventry City, Leyton Orient, Blackpool, Blackburn Rovers and Charlton Athletic have all staged in-game protests in recent times. Can anyone remember the sanctions handed down to them? Exactly. Ehab’s suggestion of points deductions and/or games being played behind closed doors is ridiculous scaremongering designed to suppress dissent, because no precedent exists for such drastic punishments.

8. So on balance, we have no issue with protests on Friday. Something needs doing – we cannot simply let the Allam family drive this club to the wall. Those planning the protests should still tread carefully, if only for their own sake. But if they want to proceed, then so be it.

9. It’s truly astonishing that the mere prospect of supporter protest led to Ehab seriously considering not selling tickets for the game, and only yielded seven days before the fixture itself. What the hell kind of dysfunctional football club genuinely ponders not selling tickets for its own fixtures? The Allams have done a lot of incredibly stupid things, but this could have been right up there.

10. There’ll be no Amber Nectar podcast tonight – we’re going to leave it until Wednesday to incorporate the Middlesbrough fixture instead. Meanwhile, we’ve a bit of an anniversary coming up on that day as well – stand by for a trip down memory lane…

FEAT-SEATS

NEWS: Mason retires

Ryan Mason has announced his retirement from football.

The 26 year old England midfielder, whom City signed for £10m from Tottenham in the summer of 2016, has been advised by neurologists to put his health first, little more than a year after he suffered a fractured skull in a Premier League game at Chelsea.

Despite a lot of hard work, therapy and the development of bespoke protective headgear for his impending return, Mason has today called time on his career after just 20 senior appearances for City.

He came through the ranks at Spurs, making 70 first team appearances for the club while also going on a large number of loans as the battle for places in the senior side got harder. Eventually he managed to establish himself enough to receive a solitary England cap in 2015, playing the last 15 minutes of a friendly against Italy. He joined City the following year and hooked up with ex-teammates Jake Livermore, Tom Huddlestone and Michael Dawson in doing so.

Mason’s injury was especially horrific in nature, coming early in a televised game against Chelsea in January 2017 when he and Gary Cahill both leapt high for the same ball. Mason needed a lot of care and treatment on the pitch before he was very gingerly stretchered off, and players from both sides struggled to refocus after witnessing what had happened. Tabloid speculation about the midfielder’s life being in danger proved unhelpful, and eventually a complicated fractured skull was diagnosed which required surgery.

Needless to say, we wish him well for the future.

FEAT-POD

PODCAST: Win at Forest, chances at Chelsea, Ehab’s flounce out, 1-1 draws from 07/08…

The podcast is happy again!

Amazing what a win can do. Plus the opportunity to pretend to be confident about an FA Cup shock at Stamford Bridge, and more open goals left for us by the idiocy and petulance of Ehab Allam.

To wit, we’ll discuss:

* The win, clean sheet and general brilliance at the City Ground
* Being inconvenient to Chelsea
* Ehab Allam cancelling the supporters meeting, then moaning to the media
* The definition of “threats”
* Matty Fryatt’s retirement
* Draws with Norwich and Colchester a decade ago

It’s right here…

https://soundcloud.com/amber_nectar/podcast-171-forest-chelsea-cancelled-meetings-fryatt-retires-1-1-draws-in-0708

FEAT-TWTWT

Things We Think We Think #292

TWTWT

1. Saturday’s 2-0 victory at Nottingham Forest was acutely unexpected. Hardly any of those travelling can have done so with anything but trepidation. Yet here we are, basking in the glow of an exceedingly rare away win and with our foray into the bottom three already ended.

2. That climb into the top 21 may prove to be temporary rather than permanent, for City obviously remain in serious trouble of relegation. It’s just heartening to see something finally being done about it. In much the same way as Sunderland were recently rewarded against us for picking a young side, so Nigel Adkins was at the City Ground.

3. Even the most reality-averse Forest fans (and we’ve been surprised at the quantity of those in 2018) cannot begrudge City the win. Apart from the striking of McGregor’s post, they didn’t threaten City once and during a second half that was a professional exercise in calm containment, they were frankly terrible. But citing their tepid awfulness as the reason for victory does a disservice to Adkins and his players – the former changed things in search of inspiration, the latter made it work.

4. 2-0 didn’t flatter us either. It was close to the complete away performance, raiding with purpose and skill when in possession and retaining a disciplined shape without it. It’s worth noting again that this was hard to see coming, but now we know City do still have it in them, hopes and expectations will naturally rise. Perhaps, despite the best efforts of the Allam family, this season is not lost after all.

4a. That’s now five wins in a row at the City Ground. It’s a freakish sequence for which similar runs in the past don’t readily occur. Four in a row at Halifax were racked up between 1999-2002, but we trust the Shaymen will not be unduly offended if we suggest that rather pales in comparison.

5. Chelsea on Friday. Even with their much-discussed troubles at the moment, a Cup shock of vast proportions continues to feel incredibly unlikely. A gutsy, creditable defeat that doesn’t dent our post-Forest confidence and incurs no injuries feels the best we can hope for.

6. Matty Fryatt retired this week at the age of 31, unable to shake off an Achilles injury after years of surgery and abortive comebacks. For City, he was a reliable and predatory goalscorer with an excellent record and to see him score in the Premier League and especially our historic FA Cup run after spending a year out with another injury was immensely gratifying. We wish him great success in his future endeavours and assure him that his efforts in black and amber will always be appreciated, a fact proved by the throaty singing of his name by City fans at the City Ground at the weekend.

7.  If you organise meetings with supporter groups with the explicit intent of heading off protests, then it isn’t out of order to note that protests remain a possibility when after several meetings there has been no action and only words. Supporters aren’t giving up their free time for the privilege of chatting with Ehab, they attend to effect change, and those changes are not difficult and could have already been implemented. We’ve heard enough unfulfilled promises from the Allams to know that their talk is cheap

8. To end a meeting as it begins, wasting people’s time, and spuriously claiming threats have been made, is frankly pathetic and shamelessly manipulative, and further reinforces the belief that the Allams are disingenuous, merely box ticking and creating the illusion of fan consultation that doesn’t exist in reality.

9. HCST’s decision to present scarves on behalf of a group not in attendance was unwise, and cedes a tiny portion of the moral high ground that the Trust has worked hard to justifiably inhabit. However, given that Ehab said in a statement on the official website that he too is ‘ALLAM OUT’ (capitals his), and that meetings have taken place since the scarf offering, it simply isn’t  a big deal.

10. We discussed Ehab’s psychological gymnastics to maintain the self image of competence and credibility last week, and he gave a great example in the Radio Humberside interview, stating “I always try to blame myself first before someone else” before shifting the blame for a failure to sell the club and the club’s league position on the fans. Uh-huh.

FEAT-BALL2

REPORT: Forest 0 City 2

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This season has served up plenty of surprises.

Granted, they’ve mostly been of the fall-down-a-manhole, open-a-box-and-get-punched-by-a-boxing-glove-on-a-spring or bloody-horse’s-head-in-the-bed type. But surprises galore there have been, as the vindictive Allams continue to vandalise our sorry football club.

Yesterday was a different kind of surprise. For we won a game of league football.

I didn’t see it coming, you didn’t see it coming, no one saw it coming except possibly the irrepressibly cheerful Nigel Adkins, but come it did, and much needed it is too. It was a peculiarly bloodless performance by the home side, as Forest’s players spent most of the game mooching around half-heartedly and the sum total of their attacking was so meagre that they forced Alan McGregor to make precisely no saves at all. They are an appallingly badly run club, and their players appeared yesterday to have caught that mood. We too are an appallingly badly run club, anchored to the spiteful Allams, but in contrast our players spent most of this match looking full of vigour, purpose and confidence. It could hardly have been more different from the dross we’ve viewed across most of the last few months.

Will Keane, willowy physique, loping gait, gets the nod to do the hard yards up front on his own, with Jon Toral handed the brief to supply a link between Keane and the midfield four. So we card:

McGregor
Aina Hector MacDonald Clark
Bowen Irvine Larsson Wilson
Toral
Keane

Off we go, a raw, damp and blustery afternoon by the banks of the River Trent, a collision of two clubs that between them have won the European Cup twice. We have taken bigger supports to the City Ground in the past, and we’ve been given better accommodation too – today we are tucked into the southeastern corner of the ground instead of behind the goal, but the City support is boisterous, and the mood develops positively as it quickly becomes plain there’s little to fear from an anaemic home side.

The first moment of note, seven minutes in, is game-changing. A glorious pass is curved round the back of the Forest defence by Seb Larsson into the path of young Harry Wilson. He is marginally baulked, but, scarcely credibly, the referee, Oliver Langford, points to the penalty spot. Soft as melting snow. Jon Toral takes on the responsibility, but his left-foot shot is placed at comfortable height for any goalkeeper, and Pantillimon blocks it, and Forest shovel the ball away for a corner. Bah. Big chance, wasted. So in comes the corner, Toral is left unmarked at the near post, and he is allowed time to head the ball home from close range.

1-0 to us. Rarely does football permit such instant redemption, so well done Jon Toral, but kudos too to an abysmal piece of defensive inattention by Forest. Aitor Karanka working his magic there.

Ten minutes later Matthew Cash strolls through our midfield and defence with effortless ease – Nigel Adkins working his own magic there, with the assistance of the alarmingly ineffectual Michael Hector – and strikes a low mudskimmer of a shot that seems destined to level the scores, but it cannons back off McGregor’s left hand post and away to safety. Forest will get no closer to scoring before the sun goes down.

Both midfields cancel each other out now, and the game becomes scrappy and disjointed. But we are winning it, and the limited moments of flash and flair belong to us too. On 28 Bowen and Keane combine well, flustered Forest concede a corner. Then a glorious pass from left to right frees Bowen in space to advance into the box, but he is uncharacteristically feeble and imprecise, and the ball spins out for a goal kick.

On 38, a vision of joy, a shimmer of glitter. Ball inside – ping – ball back out wide – ping – ball low and hard across the face of the goal – ping. Beautiful fast slick football by Irvine, then Bowen and then Keane, Forest defence shredded, young Wilson surges into the box and bludgeons the chance into the roof of the net. 2-0, and that is as good a piece of football as we have served up all season.

It could have got better still, as Keane duffed a free shot straight at Pantillimon on 42 and Toral plonked the rebound haplessly wide, but the half time whistle signals a two goal advantage, which is in part certainly down to an astonishingly subdued display by Forest but also recognition of a complete team performance by our own side. There’s not been a hint of the stench of relegation that’s been hanging over this side for weeks now.

Question is, what happens if Forest get back into the game – will our evidently fragile self-belief drift away into the chilly breeze blowing across West Bridgford? Forest want to test that, and, presumably in receipt of some well-chosen Basque curses from Mr Karanka, they come out for the second half looking briefly more purposeful. On 46 they howl for a penalty, a frankly silly claim, but more dangerous is a stramash in our box on 48 during which a whirl of feet fly fearlessly before the ball is finally hoofed to safety by Clark.

On 52, Toral, limping, is replaced by Stewart – like for like, one feckless shadow of a midfielder for another – and by now Forest’s initial gusto has subsided. Even at this early stage of the second half they seem resigned to their fate. Why so meek? They are almost introduced to the risk of a proper hiding. Wilson slides a cute pass to Larsson, who surges past a static back-line to reach the by-line, from where he strikes a superb hard low cross direct to the feet of Will Keane, inside the six yard box, unmarked and with the goal yawning in anticipation in front of him. Keane reacts as if his shoelaces are tied together and misses the ball completely. Bowen is standing behind him and, understandably startled by this fiasco, he collects the ball but shoots wildly over the crossbar from close range.

Will Keane. Needs to do better than that.

Forest enjoy a decent slice of possession, but do nothing at all with it. Zero creativity from the home side, though praise too for our defensive shape, which is secure and rarely stretched even remotely.

MacDonald (a fine cricketer incidentally, known for farming the strike) is on the evidence of two games a solid acquisition. He doesn’t do fancy. He just defends. That will do me. Our bench, by the way, shows sign of either Michael Dawson or Kamil Grosicki. Dawson would be entitled to a brief sulk after being denied a lucrative move ten days ago, but, given the character of the man, I hope and expect it is but brief. Grosicki? I have no faith in his commitment or professionalism. I don’t know if we will see much, or any, more of him (in case you have forgotten what he looks like, here is a picture). Much probably depends on what the manager of his national team is telling him. If it’s ‘You need to get some game time if you’re going to force your way into the World Cup reckoning’, then I expect our Polish wingman will deign to show up a few times come the Spring. If it’s ‘Kamil, you’re in the squad come what may, just don’t get injured’, then not so much. (A similar story likely attaches to Abel Hernàndez, except in Spanish).

Wilson, who played very well, is replaced by Diomande, who did his usual eager running with no end product schtick, and Keane comes off for Campbell. It is a measure of Forest’s feeble lack of menace that Mr Adkins dared to field two (two!) attackers in tandem against them as the clock ticks down. A curio is that we didn’t play Forest at all between 1977 and 2010, as they conquered Europe under the immortal Brian Clough and we plummeted through the Divisions in disgrace and misery under the entirely mortal stewardship of Terry Dolan and that ilk, but today we are making it five wins out of the five visits to the City Ground that have taken place since the broaching of that desert. Remember Paul McShane’s handball, remember a fine strike by the likeable Aaron McLean. But none of the four previous recent wins was as comfortable as this one. Late on Aina boots a shot clear with McGregor flat-footed, but I think the effort was dribbling past the far post anyway, so Forest didn’t spoil their spotless record for the afternoon of zero (0) shots on target.

It’s an error strewn finale to proceedings, charmless football played out against a golden sunset in the West behind the ageing main stand at the City Ground. Forest gave this one up long ago. Three minutes are added, nothing happens, and the game is over, won by us.

After the trinket of a trip to Chelsea, we resume League business at Middlesbrough a week on Tuesday. We play 6 games in the space of 18 days, and four of them are at home. I fully appreciate that on-field activity pales into insignificance when contrasted with the harm inflicted off the pitch by the malicious Allams, but I still would like not to be relegated. Play like we did yesterday, and we won’t be.

Stephen Weatherill (via Tiger Chat)

FEAT-POD

PODCAST: Preston now and Blackpool then, managerial irritation, absentee captain…

The “hatecast”, this time. And there is a lot of swearing, and not just in a semi-jovial manner either. Some of the expletives are harsh, loud and not the faint of hearing. It’s the sweariest we’ve been for years. And it’s merited.

Making us issue profanities, some improvised (with the return of a few old favourites…)

* The defeat at Preston
* Nigel Adkins and his clichés
* Protests and new owners
* Ehab talks at the Yorkshire Post
* Dawson’s dash to Nottingham
* Blackpool at home, ten years ago

All here. Enjoy, if possible, but be aware of any minors in earshot.