Men in Black

I can’t wait to get out of this division. You can’t wait to get out of this division. Hell, there can’t be a resident of this pungent filthy recess known as the Nationwide League Division Three who doesn’t spend a day without the thought of a Steve McQueen style escape crossing their severely numbed mind.

The well-known and oft publicised reason for this eternal hope is the quality of football, the third division is easily the most technically inept batch of mules and giraffes cunningly disguised as ‘sportsmen’, and the fact that Leo Fortune-West earns good money here proves how miserable this league is. Not even Morrissey would put himself through some of the shite on offer here.It says a lot about Hull City that we’ve propped up most of this division for two long, lonely years. In spite of the recent years misery (so depressing it would drive Thomas Hardy to suicide) , this season will be a different story. We are no longer Hateley’s halfwits or Dolan’s dildos and luminaries such as Bob Dewhurst and Kevin Gage are long gone as the new and improved Tigers strive to take this piss poor division by the scruff of its neck.

However, the first round KO we anticipated has not occurred, but a win on points is surely on the cards. There is no doubt. Nevertheless, something has to contradict our new found optimism doesn’t it? And we all know what it is. Those shadowy figures seen at every match, henpecked, misguided souls with every intention of sabotaging our season, yet the club and FA sit back, powerless and weak, allowing these individuals free reign. Obviously, I’m talking about referees here, and Third Division referees in particular.

When Mr. Armitage-Shanks of Weston Super-Mare safely locks his Volvo and proceeds to Boothferry Park for the all important promotion decider sporting a Hitler-esque ‘tache (the matchday programme listing his hobbies as collecting lace and sniffing ambidextrous hunchbacks) is his mind on football at all? I firmly doubt it. He is employed as a school teacher full-time, with a sideline controlling sporting events important to people world-wide. Yet his mind is on this part time venture just once a week, in between coaching impressionable young men the appliance of Pythagoras.

If I were to be employed in a job in which I knew nothing of, or was just plain shit at I would surely be sacked. Crap managers (none spring immediately to mind) get the sack, crap referees, well they are simply dumped on Division Three.

Diabolical officials keep on coming, as David Laws and Brian Coddington have proved. They keep their part time jobs while clubs lose points, as last season’s Carlisle/Scarborough shenanigans have highlighted. Had it not have been for these strange hobby pursuing chaps City would be at least mid-table as I write this. Should Greavesie have walked at Exeter? No, we lost late on. Cheltenham scored the only goal of our clash with the Robins at Whaddon Road from a non-existent penalty and while the penalty awarded against Bracey at home to Macclesfield was warranted, he should not have received marching orders leaving young Matt ‘the Cat’ Baker to deputise.

Almost every game this season has been the victim of a ruinous referee, the worst display of officiating thus far came in the Chester home win. The most inconsistent, inept and confusing decisions, brought to a head when Greaves, on the right flank adjacent to the linesman tried to control a long ball to no avail, as it bounced out of play. Right in front of the ref and his apprentice, Greaves touched the ball five times (at least) before the ball went out of play, Chester throw right? No, actually the decision went our way, Hngh??? Okay, I didn’t fuss, but this added to all the constant flag waving and whistle tooting, highlighted the problem of refereeing. Nothing is done to solve this problem, indeed it is only made worse. Sepp Blatter’s schemes of officiating are scarring our beautiful game (remember the proposal for kick-ins to replace throw-ins?) and taking away a decent flaming game of footy. The backpass rule aside, FIFA has just made one blunder after another.

As for the androids themselves, we have more difficulties. I look upon refs with the same regard I have for Margaret Thatcher, but with so many ex-footballers earning a living outside of the game, is it not possible to offer an incentive for players to stay involved in the game as opposed to the maladjusted specimens we have to live with? After all, there are only so many ‘Football in the community’ vacancies and it must be as rewarding as being a licensee. Refs are amateurs in a professional world, this is the equivalent of signing Deano from Ferriby but allowing him to continue training at Church Road. It’s not on is it?

They work at school (or whatever) all week before taking charge of a match for which the two teams have spent all week preparing for. When this preparation is ruined by an outsider, it is nothing short of vile. If I ran on the pitch and made a great saving tackle I would be subject to the full wrath of the law, yet a referees interference can change the course of a game beyond recognition and they’ll get paid for the trouble.

What is the solution? Perhaps it’s the much vaunted idea of introducing pro refs, who train with their local clubs. With all the money in football, this should be possible. iI also believe that one individual should not wield full control of a contest like is the situation at present. How about the introduction of Video evidence and another official in the press box as three men can only see so much.Pro-refs (preferably ex-players) between the ages of 35 and 55 could be eligible to referee games, after which they become a fifth official, armed with knowledge and experience of playing the game, manning a video (which is used only in goalline and sending off incidents in order to maintain the speed of the game).

I think these ideas should be experimented with at least, in an attempt to save our game from card happy turf nazis. Besides the thought of Billy Whitehurst refereeing a game at Wembley is more entertaining than a slap headed jockstrap sniffer from Harrow.

Danny Lodge

It’s a Goooaaalll!

“It starts in the very depths of your soul as a small, seed of burning energy, the hairs on the back of your neck and on your arms responding to the signals, and standing to attention. A split second later, it expands and grows and begins the journey through your body, energising and tingling every nerve and muscle as it passes by. Your face starts to twitch, your mouth goes dry, your eyes begin to glisten. It continues to grow and grow, filling every corner of your conscious self, testing and probing each part of your body. And then, just as each sinew reaches breaking point, each nerve ending is burning out, it explodes into the air in a cacophony of noise, laughter and elation. A pure release of emotion and excitement, like never before. It can’t get any better than this, can it?”


I assure you it can’t. It’s a moment that This is it, this is a goal, and not just any goal but a goal to end all goals, a goal that contains a special ingredient, a goal that only a minority will understand. A Hull City goal. Being a keen follower of football, I get excited about other goals too.

Watching Fulham take on Aston Villa in the fifth round of the cup can certainly raise the pulse, as lowly Fulham slam another one past the pretenders to the throne. Equally when England get into the ring with the world’s élite, I can jump around the room with the best of them, as Michael Owen glides around the centre half and covers himself in glory.

But for all of the importance of these goals, nothing can compare to seeing the black and amber clad warriors do their own little war dance, as they worship the god of the onion bag.

I also have to confess that feelings don’t necessarily start in the depths of the stomach, but often about ten yards from the edge of the opposition penalty area.

Obviously, this measurement is not critical, as it all depends on the action at the time: is the ball travelling towards the goal, is the City player in space, are they about to be tackled, is there a chance to cross the ball into the area.

Many things can act as the catalyst. Equally there are things that suppress such feelings: loss of ball control, a crunching tackle by the opposition, a poorly directed cross that sails pathetically behind the goal line.

It is true also that the trigger point can be as many as sixty or seventy yards away from the opposition goal. Such as when a City defender wins the ball from an opposing forward with a well timed tackle, and then immediately releases a City forward or midfielder, to run at the opposition with the ball. This can also be a trigger point, but obviously in this case, the energy delays moving from the stomach until something much more promising decides to happen. There are also the occasions when, just before the release point, the whole thing collapses in on itself. Then, all I end up with is a strangled gurgle as the keeper makes another brilliant save, or more often than not, a City player decides this is the day he doesn’t want to score and manages to miss the goal from point blank range.

But what a makes a City goal special? Many would argue that it is their rarity value, rather like antiques or rare stamps and coins. There are so few of them, that each one attracts a special value. It has also been suggested that when City are glaring through the trapdoor to the Conference, each goal has an extra special quality, as each one is a step closer to survival. I can agree with this, but in some ways the end result of the goal is relief rather than pure joy, and in my eyes, joy is the winner. My belief is that a City goal is extra special because it’s personal, and deep down, it really means something.

Every goal is another building block to success, every goal is another golden memory to be recalled at a later date. But more importantly, and the power of this should not be underestimated, every goal is another opportunity to stuff it up the nose of the clever dick at work, at school, or down the pub, who insists that City will never win because they’re crap (despite the fact that he or she has never set foot inside Boothferry Park). I also have to qualify this somewhat, by insisting that goal is only special if it goes someway to suggest that a win or a draw is possible. It’s almost impossible to grasp any crumb of comfort from a goal at the end of game when City are already five nil down, even if it is screamer.

It’s an odd thing really, when you think about it, that a small leather bag of air travelling a few yards, can release such feelings of energy and excitement. Yet it’s almost involuntary, I couldn’t sit there like a Trappist monk, if I tried. When it goes in, I just able to clone them and sell them in a bottle, and then they may be available on prescription, I’m sure that will give Viagra a run for it’s money. Until then, I’ll pay my money, take my place and wait for … the goal.

Kevin Sargeson

Egg-chasing returns!

The onset of Spring means a lot of things to a lot of people – that long awaited Summer holiday is just around the corner, new born lambs are in the fields and Easter eggs in the shops. Unfortunately, nowadays Spring has a much more sinister significance – yes, the demonic, immoral and child corrupting game of rugby league kicks off again.

Once more Hessle Road beach becomes a Mecca for joyous hordes of senile OAPs, lonely itinerants and repeat offenders who are let out of their institutions to resume their courses of aversion therapy. Of course, some rugby fans are outwardly normal.

They hold down jobs and appear to lead socially acceptable lives, but behind this facade of suburban civility there is hidden an illicit pleasure that by comparison, makes cross dressing, cat molesting transsexuals appear to be model citizens.

It is of course that inexplicable urge to dress up as some sort of grotesque parody of a Christmas tree. A size 32 shirt dragged over a beer gut the size of China and decorated with scarves hanging from every aperture and orifice.

These apparently respectable people also indulge in strange masonic rituals such as talking very loudly about things that they know nothing about i.e. football, or staggering down to the Bullyvard attempting to drink 12 pints of milk stout whilst simultaneously wolfing down a quadruple helping of pattie, peas and chips.

Of course for us sane people who follow God’s own sport, the attraction of egg chasing has long been a mystery. Where is the pleasure in watching overweight, nightclubbing before a match alcoholics pound each other into dust? Equally mysterious is what motivates the players? Why do they run 50 yards with an egg trapped under their shoulder, getting kicked and slapped every step of the way, only to throw the egg back to where they started in the first place?

Possibly I am being very naive here, after all Hull is a rugby town isn’t it? I mean the popularity of eggchasing is phenomenal. When the Tadpoles played their first season in the Super League their crowds were almost comparable to City’s at the bottom of the 4th Division. Of course I do realise that the crowds at the Bullyvard would be much bigger, if only it wasn’t such a long trek to get to home matches. Personally, I think that it is disgusting that the council don’t lay on a fleet of taxis to take the fans the long distance from their beach huts to the ground at the end of the street.

Nevertheless, despite the difficulties of following their team, there are literally millions of loyal RL supporters in Hull, and they all go to Wembley every year – of course the team doesn’t but, what the hell, it’s a day out isn’t it?

Perhaps the greatest attraction of the pastime (sorry, I can’t bring myself to call it a sport) is the wonderful family atmosphere that it promotes. Whole generations of families turn up together and laugh heartily as two 50 stone prop forwards gouge each others eyes out, whilst a seven foot Antipodal convict kicks a tiny hooker in the ‘nads. Super wholesome family entertainment which of course carries on after the match. Granddad shows his young grandson the correct way to squeeze an opponent’s scrotum when making a tackle, whilst mother proudly watches the boy’s father kick the crap out of a 13 year old away supporter.

But, try as I might, I just cannot enjoy a game of rugby. I realise that in the eyes of some (admittedly very few) that makes me a social inadequate (look, I said social not sexual), but I will just have to carry on watching the sport that the Almighty created for the purification of his disciples’ souls.

Watching the mighty Tigers safe in the knowledge that everyone around me is a kindred spirit and happy that Winter will soon return. Ah, the joys of matches under floodlights, rain dripping into your Bovril, and best of all – no fucking rugby league.


Craig Ellyard

Don’t Look Down

What is the Conference like? Well, imagine the scariest thing you can and it wouldn’t come close. It all started on the worst day of my life, that fateful day against Hereford when we were relegated from the Football League, to be relegated anyway is bad, but to drop off the end of the known football world was unimaginable after supporting a club all your life.

The patron of many non-league cup competitions.

The patron of many non-league cup competitions.

There are a few advantages to non-league football however.

1. Booze – we all know that alcohol and football are now mutually exclusive these days but as non-league football is stuck in the 1940s you can turn up at your oppositions Town at 11am on match day, drink yourself silly, act like a complete arse and still get into the ground (the stewards tend to actually drag you into the grounds).

2. New places to visit – Conference towns tend to be sleepy market towns with most of the populous ignorant of the fact they have a football team. They all share common factors – a cattle market next to the ground, a castle and scrumpy.

3. Knockout competitions where you could actually win something – if you thought the Autoglass was a Mickey Mouse Cup, try the Bob Lord Trophy (the Conference’s League Cup probably called something else now). This didn’t actually stop us winning fuck all for a change though. In addition you get to play even diddier teams from leagues you’ve never heard of, and they all want to beat you because you were in the Football League and hence the “giants” and not the minnows, which is weird. (This also added to Halifax Town’s Hall of Shame (Cup defeats) Gainsborough Trinity, Bamber Bridge – it’s near Preston, etc, etc). And also the FA cup starts in June the year before and you have to play about fifteen qualifying rounds to get to play Barnet.

The main disadvantages

1. It’s dire – no matter how much you try to jolly yourself playing Gateshead away, sitting in a stadium that holds about 20,000 with a crowd of 600 is shit, no atmosphere, crap football and bloody freezing.

2. The loss of all your local derbies, to think I’d miss going to Rochdale, because all Conference teams are either in the North West, South West or the Midlands.

On a more general note, it’s true that the standard of football in the conference doesn’t differ that much from the League, most of our current squad played in the Conference last year (bought for the princely sum of fuck all!), the main difference being that League footballers can train full time (i.e. piss about a bit till 1200 and then go to the pub). Quite a few of our part time players had a hard decision to make to turn full time because they had well paid full time jobs.

The crowds at The Shay don’t seem to have altered that much, even through the very bad times (we were nearly relegated from the Conference the year before last) a hard core of fans has remained and with the Conference title last year managed to attract quite a few new faces.

The away end at The Shay is supposed to be growing a roof, when, how and what sort is a mystery. That end was supposed to be for home fans with a bar underneath but the plans seem to have floundered, maybe we should ask our beloved chairman what is happening.


Villa – What the Papers Said

It was interesting to read the reports from journalists unfamiliar with City, and contrast their conclusions with those in the local rag, the Fieldmouse Daily a.k.a. the Hull Daily Mail. They couldn’t be more different. The Hull Daily Mail was, as you’d expect, much more upbeat, lavishing praise on the players for their wonderful display, and on the fans for their loyal support. The Mail gave the game and its build up a lot of coverage, and although much of it was patronising, especially the ‘behave yourself’ headline, it at least portrayed the club in a positive light. 

The actual report on the match didn’t really feature the football, which isn’t surprising, as it was written by a rugby fan, [journalist?] but the Mail did make the astonishing claim that City had created as many chances as had Villa. Not from where I was standing we didn’t. Overall the Mail’s report was heavily weighted in favour of City, which again, you’d expect from a local paper, but it didn’t convey the reality of the game. To say that Villa looked anxious as City tore into them as just a bit too much like creative writing.

By contrast the report in the Sunday Times was altogether different, and a much truer reflection of the game. The report began with a retrospective look at the Tigers and quite rightly surmised that the club’s current problems are a result of massive boardroom mismanagement in the past. The reporter, Martin Searby, quite bluntly stated that Hull City are heading for oblivion in the Conference2, and he might not be far wrong. He also observed that City players ran willingly enough but they had little idea when in possession, and that really is hitting the nail on the head. It has been an all too familiar story this season, particularly in recent matches. City have had plenty of the ball, but they seem totally bereft of ideas going forward. The only tactic seems to be lump the ball blindly forward for whichever teenage striker is playing that week.

Returning to the Sunday Times report, Searby suggests that Villa strolled into the next round without breaking sweat and that the Tigers had little to offer. Although City fans won’t have enjoyed reading that, they will, if they are honest, have to admit the validity of those statements.

So the report is accurate as far as the match goes, but there is a paragraph with which I strongly disagree. Searby claims that City fans still dream of Carter, Wagstaff and Chilton and have no time for realism. That may be true amongst older, stay at home supporters, but most City fans are not only realistic, but even pessimistic (and possibly suicidal as well). When you are staring non-league football in the face, you have no option but to be pragmatic. Despite what the Sunday Times says, we are not incurable romantics.

Searby goes onto say that City’s allocation of tickets were sold out so quickly because there was nobody in the City who did not want to miss humiliation on a grand scale. This not only seems to suggest that all Hull residents are sado-masochists who like to be ritually abused (which admittedly is true of those in Swanland) but it also shows that the reporter simply does not understand the psyche of lower league football fans. The trip to Villa was an opportunity for the long suffering supporters to see their team mix it with the big boys. More importantly, it afforded a chance for them to show that even though they support a crap team, they have more faith and passion than the plastic fair weather fans of most Premiership clubs.

But apart from those cheap shots at the club and it’s fans, the report in the Sunday Times was pretty accurate, and its sentiments were endorsed by most other national papers. The Mail on Sunday said Villa were never threatened, although they did say that City showed enough to suggest that they can avoid relegation. The Sunday People reported that City forced Villa to battle all the way, although they also reckoned that the Tigers are heading for non-league oblivion. The Sunday Express and Sunday Mirror believed that City showed their pride, if not any footballing ability.

So the Tigers made the papers, if not any headlines with their jaunt to Villa Park. Now of course the press will go back to ignoring us, but come April, they might just be starting to write their stories about Hull being the biggest city in Britain with a non-league football team.

Craig Ellyard

Radio Gaga

What is it about Hull that makes us all simply accept mediocrity? Is it because we are such nice people that we appreciate everything without question? Do we simply prefer the quiet life or is it a case of “Well, what choice have we got?”

I can’t believe that Radio Humberside is still a viable concern. Come on, how many of you only bother to tune into the Soap Box in order to hear someone ranting about Hull City, or Sport on a Saturday in the hope that someone just might say something positive about our club? Well, so long as Chris Harvey is still there I suppose you might stand a fighting chance. Most of the time, we simply end up getting wound up, ridiculed and patronised by a Mr. David Gibbins and more recently his sidekick Trevor West.

I cannot remember ever having listened to a programme with Gibbo when I didn’t end up wanting to slap his ugly face into next week. At the BBC, they are I’m told, instructed to remain impartial and concentrate on the facts. They are expected to be uncontroversial and supportive of their local communities. Admittedly at Humberside they transmit to the South Bank, yet as Hull is the largest city in their catchment it wouldn’t be too unreasonable to expect that they could find a decent reporter to cover sport in Hull.

In the past we have all listened to the many programmes and match reports given by David Burns and Gwillym Lloyd. Although Gibbins was always in the background, these two always managed to find a way to introduce humour into their productions. Despite the fact that most of the teams in the city were struggling, they always remained supportive and were experts at commentating with enthusiasm and the facts. They remained impartial, yet encouraged others to offer their opinions without belittling them. They would offer criticism where it was due, but at the end of the day the broadcasts were balanced, informative and a pleasure (if not a must) to tune into.

Since the departure of Burns and Lloyd we have been given no alternative but to listen to the arrogant and self-opinionated Gibbins, if indeed we bother to tune in at all. Many are unable to attend away games, they instead rely on Blunderside to keep up to date with our performances, although it has been admitted that Teletext is a much better option.

Trevor West is an ex-Policeman/Referee who for some ridiculous reason has been given the responsibility of reporting on Hull City’s games. He not only has trouble naming a player with more than four letters in his name, he cannot keep up with the pace of the game. Having had the pleasure of listening to one of his commentaries I am not ashamed to say that I fell asleep half way through the second half. What an interesting man he isn’t.

Football is an expensive hobby and although Hull City enjoys some amazing gates there are many thousands more who would if they could justify the cost to support City on the terraces. BBC Radio Humberside seem ignorant to this fact. They have a responsibility to encourage that increase in support. I wonder how many potential spectators have been lost as a result of listening to the negative and condescending tones of Gibbo?!

Most recently, there have been two incidents which have thrown me over the edge as far as Radio Humberside and David Gibbins are concerned. One was his commentary of our FA Cup game at Luton. I missed the game because of work commitments yet listened intently to the programme praying for victory. I have never, ever heard a local commentator sound so negative and despondent when his local side open the score. Shortly after Luton equalised I lost transmission , I think it had something to do with the fact that my radio was on the floor in bits. David Gibbins went mad, he seemed to be reaching orgasmic climax through his delight that an equaliser had been scored. “We now have a real game on our hands!” he relayed to those of us at home holding our heads in despair. I have since been told that after this point Chris Harvey took over. Was Gibbins in need of medical attention? I know if I’d been in the vicinity of the obnoxious prat he certainly would have been.

Secondly was the phone in he conducted prior to the take-over. He was patronising and downright rude throughout but nothing prepared me for the manner in which he spoke to Tom Belton. Tom remained calm and dignified while Gibbins continued with his onslaught of ridicule and barrage of accusations. As I sat listening, cringing with each sentence, I prayed that Tom and his consortium would take control of the club so that Gibbins would get his comeuppance. Despite the fact that this has since happened, Tom has remained very much the gentleman, freely giving interviews, partaking in phone-ins without any fuss. Yet David Gibbins has made no attempt to apologise or even acknowledge his disgraceful behaviour.

He still remains Head of Sport and I for one will no longer punish myself by listening to him. Until our community radio decides to represent this club with the kind of support it deserves then I would endorse the decision to show them the contempt they deserve.

The Platted Muff

The Needlers – A Sweet Aftertaste?

Why are we so shit? I used to ask myself that question when we finished every season 14th in the old Division 2. Those were the days – when we used to laugh at clubs like Stockport and Crewe, and when not even the anoraks had heard of Wimbledon. Times have changed at Boothferry Park. One of the best grounds in the country is now a dump, the team is truly a bag of shite, a crowd of 6,000 is exceptional and the Dons are one of the top ten clubs in the league.

So where has it all gone wrong? One thing is for sure, it’s not something that happened overnight. Younger fans may point to the memories of Fish, Dolan and Lloyd. But it goes much deeper than that. This club has been dying for the past thirty years, and, at the risk of upsetting a whole generation of supporters, much of the blame should be attached to Harold Needler. Old man Needler is often described as the father of Hull City, and of course in many respects he was. It was his vision that resurrected the pre-war Hull City Football Club and that built Boothferry Park. However, it should be remembered that it was the fans who provided most of the (unpaid) labour, and a Football Association loan that realised the capital.

Once the ground was built, there then followed the so-called golden era of Hull City. Although there certainly wasn’t anything golden in the trophy cabinet. Older supporters still rave about the in Raich Carter’s day, but despite the phenomenal crowds that flocked to Boothferry Park, City never got within a sniff of top flight football.

But the real opportunity, and why I believe Harold Needler is as culpable as anyone for the demise of Hull City, was in the mid-sixties. The City side that blew away the old Third Division in 1965-66 was a brilliant team, and one that should have gone all the way to the top. The fact that the board chose to finance ground improvements instead of releasing funds to buy some top class defenders meant that City missed out on their best chance of going up to the top division. Cliff Britton, the manager at the time, took a lot of stick for not strengthening the defence, but what could he do without any money? It was fully two years after the promotion campaign, with City in real danger of relegation, before Needler was persuaded to stump up some cash when Britton paid Millwall £18,000 for Tom Wilson.

Wilson was one of City’s best ever defenders, and his signing demonstrates the type of quality player that the manager would have brought in if he had been given the chance. Unfortunately the Needler board were more intent on building a monument to their own short-sightedness than investing in a team to take City to the top.

In defence of Needler of Harold Needler it could be argued that the only thing he was guilty of was lack of ambition. And there were many City fans at that time who were convinced that the club just didn’t want First Division football. Also, while there can be no question about Harold’s personal character, he palpably lacked football knowledge, and this was probably another contributory factor towards his failure to realise that a modest investment in two or three players could well have seen City promoted to the First Division.

But Needler’s failure to back his manager is probably only the second worst mistake he ever made. His biggest error of judgement was the unforgivable sin of fathering the odious Christopher, the man who was to finally drive Hull City to the brink of self destruction.

If the Tigers were just a hobby to Harold, then to Christopher they were a massive inconvenience. The man never had an ounce of affection for the club that daddy had built and he presided, mostly in absentia, over the fall and fall of the Tigers. The “Needler chequebook is closed” refrain was heard at Boothferry Park more often than “come on you ’ull”, yet the man, for reasons of his own, stubbornly refused to let anyone come in and take over the club.

Until that is – a certain Southern tosser hove into view. With the club already on its knees, with its assets stripped and internally rotten to the core, Christopher finally took the money and ran – all the way to the South of France. The rest as they is history, and was probably inevitable. The club is in freefall, and we have only 20 games to save ourselves from the Conference, from where I am convinced we will never return.

But things could have been so different if Harold Needler has grasped hold of the mettle in the mid-sixties and taken City to the top flight.

Craig Ellyard

Warren Joyce – Hobson’s Choice?

“We desperately need a full time, experienced manager – no doubt about it,” so said uncle Tom after the Brighton debacle. But do we get Neil Warnock, Mick Wadsworth or John Ward, someone who has seen it all and done it all at this level? No, we get Warren ‘one of the boys’ Joyce. While there can’t have been many City fans who were surprised by the appointment, I’m sure that there were many who, like myself, couldn’t help but feel disappointed. 

The appointment of Joyce has got to be seen as a gamble, but is it a gamble that we can afford to take? Adrift at the bottom of the league, we just do not have the breathing space that may be needed while Joyce learns his new trade.

It’s often said that it is harder at the bottom then at the top, and a relegation dogfight is not the ideal place for a manager to start his career. Look what happened to the last manager we had who had no previous experience to fall back on when the going got tough. Warren Joyce undoubtedly has many qualities, and he is certainly a fighter, but the cynics amongst us, OK me, will view Joyce has been the cheap option. It has to be said that with the continuing uncertainty about how much it will cost to pay off Mark Hateley, the club’s options were severely limited.

They probably couldn’t afford to pay the kind of salary that an established manager would be looking for, nor could they hope to attract another clubs manager, such as Scarborough’s Mick Wadsworth, as compensation payments would be out of the question. It is so much easier, and cheaper, to promote someone from within the club. So perhaps Warren Joyce was always the only real choice.

But will Joyce be able to get the best out of the team? The main concern has got to be that he is to close to the players. He has been a mate and one of the lads, but now he has to crack the whip. The players have said that they will play for Joyce, let’s hope that they do, because they certainly never played for Hateley. Bringing in John McGovern as assistant may be a good move by Joyce, perhaps McGovern will be the hard man of the partnership, but the duo will have to quickly find a formula to get the best out of the squad and any players that they bring in. They have started well, and at the cup tie with Salisbury they showed a refreshing wiliness to change things around. The team is in a rut and the dynamic duo have to try anything to get City winning again. The problem is time, or rather the lack of it.

Joyce’s appointment can, in many ways, be seen as a timid one, but in many respects it will be an excellent guideline as to the intentions and resources of the clubs new owners. If Joyce is given the money to bring in quality players, assuming that he can attract them in the first place, then all well and good. But if the manager is only allowed to bring in kids, or thirtysomething has-beens, then not only will his job be virtually impossible, but it will confirm that uncle Tom and his boys just do not possess the financial clout to successfully rebuild Hull City.

But hopefully the appointment of Joyce will be the catalyst for a revival that sees City storming up the table – 91st would do though. I sincerely hope that Warren becomes the best manager that City have ever had. And if he does then it will complete an amazing turnaround for a man who was once reviled by many on the terraces. Vilified by the fans for being Dolan’s poodle, his relationship with the fans reached an all time low with the infamous goal ‘celebration’ in front of an empty Kempton stand. It’s ironic that Dolan’s boy has outlasted the brave new world of Lloyd and Hateley. But it is testimony to the mans character and resolve that during Hateley’s reign, Joyce was undoubtedly Citys best and most consistent performer. Let’s hope that he brings the same level of performance to the managers job.

Good luck mate, you’re going to need it!

Craig Ellyard

A Few Good Men

I wanted Don, so my first reaction to the latest take-over was hardly one of delight. But after a second glance it didn’t look too bad: Tom Belton appears to be a genuine football man, he has experience, albeit at small-town Scunny, and he wants nowt to do with the Hull Prawns or the Bullyvard either now or in the future. We have a potential 16-year lease on Boothferry with first option to buy at a price already agreed. So hurrah, and on with the football…

Or not? Thinking about it just a little bit harder, how is it that Hull City and Boothferry Park have become separated? By rights the shareholders should own the club lock stock and barrel, and Belton’s consortium we’re told have bought all David Lloyd’s shares. So how come we don’t own the ground? It’s certainly too much for my ‘untrained in company law’ brain to understand. Could it be that Mr Lloyd still owns those infamous non-voting shares that were Mr Needler’s pride and joy?

You know, the ones that meant Don Robinson never had full control of City in the 80s even though he had the majority of the ordinary shares. The frightening thing is if those shares still exist, whoever owns them will still have the capacity to liquidate the club.

Do they still exist? Has Lloyd got them? Has Needler got them? Were they given to Terry Dolan as a leaving present? Seriously, we need to know .That’s just one potential banana skin and I m sure there are many more. My other main worry is the lack of information surrounding the other members of Uncle Tom’s consortium.

Who are they, why are they here and do they have the same commitment to Hull City F.C. as Tom Belton?

Owning none of the shares himself he is chairman in name only and we’ve been there before haven’t we? To put it simply, there is a real danger that our new chairman could have the carpet pulled from beneath him at any moment.

So, I m sounding negative already and I haven t mentioned the football yet. We’re jumping up and down on the trapdoor looking set to go crashing through.

I say this with more than a tinge of sadness, but Mark Hateley had to go. With every week it was becoming more and more apparent that he wasn’t the man to get us out of this mess. With hindsight, considering the financial climate throughout Lloyd’s reign, Attilla was never the right man for the job, but it somehow seemed appropriate that he remained a popular figure with many right up to his last game in charge against Orient.

Mark Hateley was a man destroyed by David Lloyd, probably more so than any of us realise. He was a popular choice after being lured by Wilby’s promise of £3 million spending money, but unfortunately Timmy never had a cent and Lloyd was in Hull solely to fulfil his leisure empire dream. The result of David and Tim trying to pull the wool over each other’s eyes was that Hateley was onto a loser from the word go. Infuriated by the manager’s salary, Lloyd sent Wilby on his everlasting holiday and appointed Appleton with getting rid of Hateley allegedly part of his dastardly brief. They tried the lot, even apparently denying him access to the players for a large chunk of last season.

But Attilla stuck to his guns, maintaining a certain dignity throughout, even though it must have been virtually impossible to run a football team against that kind of background. And who was the real culprit in draining the pennies from the club’s coffers? By all accounts, Hateley’s salary paled into insignificance when compared with Appleton’s, and two years of Hateley’s wages could have been paid for by the Newcastle game – City’s first venture into the 3rd round of the League Cup for twenty years – but Lloyd chose to donate our gate receipts to rugby league, probably not for the first time, or the last. From the off, it was obvious Lloyd had no interest in Hull City Football Club. For all his boasts about ploughing money into Hull, Hateley saw none of it, simply having to operate with the existing wage bill, without extra cash for loan players and certainly none for transfer fees (which ARE still necessary to get good players).

Without doubt, Lloyd’s money kept the club going, but he never bought it just to keep it going did he? He needed the club for the ground which he needed to sell to fund a new stadium which, in turn, he needed to gain the necessary planning permission for his intended leisure and retail development from which he would reap his rewards.

There was really nothing wrong or underhand with that at all. However, for his plans to work he needed everyone on board and needed drag the club along with him. But his half-baked approach to achieving his ‘dream’ alienated everyone and Hull City was dragged further and further into the mire.

The already piss poor public relations side of the club all but disappeared under Lloyd, Boothferry Park became a ghost town during the week as ‘operations’ were switched to the Bullyvard, and the fans continued to be ignored.

In reality there was really no club at all apart from a team that turned up for regular weekend beatings and a still surprisingly large band of shattered supporters struggling to understand the logic of a super stadium for a team in the Conference. Of course, logic was never one of Lloyd’s strengths, if indeed he had any strengths. Thankfully he is firmly in the background, at least for the moment, as Farmer Tom tries to put right the wrongs of the last 25 years.

Belton has promised little and has so far delivered even less. Things need to be turned round immediately and spectacularly to ensure survival, but it has hardly been a spectacular start. Warren Joyce’s appointment somehow seemed inevitable after the failure to fill the post quickly. I hope and pray the decision is the right one and not just the cheaper option.

It is questionable as to whether Joyce was the number one choice, and it is possible that others were put of by the fact that the chairman seems to like to identify the transfer targets himself. Before he was sacked Hateley was berated for not bringing in players at a few hours notice. Two weeks later Belton and Joyce have failed to make any permanent signings themselves, an indication of the difficulty in attracting players to a club which is 92nd.

If Joyce’s appointment is the soft option it is still one hell of a gamble. We are staring the conference in the face largely because we hired a manager with no experience. There is a difference in that Joyce has a bagfull of experience of playing at this level is and maybe more attuned to what is required than was Hateley 15 months ago, and he is also a popular choice with the players.

Like Hateley, Joyce is very much a self-motivated player, but it is the ability to motivate others which is the key and exactly where Hateley fell down. Sadly, in Joyce’s first game as caretaker against Brighton it was the same few culprits not pulling their weight who had let Hateley down. City’ plight provides a thankless task for any new manager and the experienced gaffer we were promised would have been worth his weight in gold. There again, for a manager to have experience at this level he mustn’t he be pretty crap to have got there in the first place? What is done is done. We must stand together. The King is dead, long live the King. Hail Warren! Hail John! Come on you ‘ull.


Geoff Bradley

Will the Real Saviour of City Please Step Forward…

With David Lloyd’s ‘three year plan’ floundering just one year in: no cash for players, no super stadium and a proposed move to the Boulevard, City fans once again find themselves praying for a new saviour.

Despite Lloyd’s claim at the AGM that “no-one would buy or put money into this club”, one man has expressed a desire to do so and after an inital rebuttal Tom Belton recently entered into a dialogue with the Lloyd regime. Questions however must be asked, starting with…

A farmer from the wrong side of the water. Does he really fit the bill as City’s latest saviour? Well, saviours come in all shapes and sizes: skinny fellows with long hair

and sandals; powerful armour-clad heroes on charging horses bearing broadswords; or basin-haired slips-of-lads with Jedi mind-tricks, big woolly mates and X-wing fighters.

Tom Belton has no beard, he isn’t tall, and a Jedi he is not. He’s stocky, well-fed and he smokes. He speaks in relaxed and faintly polished northern tones and he likes a drink. In fact, he’s a farmer albeit a slightly urbanised farmer. He certainly isn’t a tennis champion and he chose to meet Amber Nectar in one of the noisier bars on Hull Marina.

We spend a summer’s evening straining our voices to be heard above the disco fever and the satellite football commentary and he tells us just why on earth he should be interested in polluting his quiet country life in North Lincolnshire with a proud but rusty old football club. It seems a bit strange to think that the Tigers should be on the lookout for another Messiah just over a year since the last one strode out of the mist. Is this going to be an annual event? David Lloyd was supposed to be our Knight in Wimbledon white hurtling up from the home counties to serve up a three-set passage to the Premiership.

That dream has dwindled. This year City are seeking midtable security on a shoestring. Not a very gracious act for this famous old stage, Boothferry Park, to witness. Then it’s off the Boulevard and what? A couple more frees on the transfer market and maybe the play-offs all on a farmer’s field of a pitch in front of sparse crowds because so many refuse to go. If we don’t like it Mr Lloyd will press the ejector button on his dummy and we could well be abandoned without a home and with huge debts.

What a pretty picture of optimism. Belton says he is a regular visitor to Hull and familiar with the impatience and worry which surrounds the football club and its supporters. He heads a consortium of business people who want to sink their considerable sums of money into a football club. Belton has convinced them that Hull City is the best place to sink the said collateral. It seems that he knows people in the know otherwise he wouldn’t have publicised his sudden interest in our club.

I don’t think anyone really thinks our chairman came to Hull with a hidden agenda but it is becoming increasingly clear that his grandiose plans are crumbling around him. The superstadium dream is a more unlikely occurrence than ever now. We know it is the part of the project where Lloyd was to make his dosh – raking it in from the extra leisure facilities and retail outlets which would become part of the 21st century sporting Mecca. Now what? Without the Kwik Save sale, Boothferry Park would be worth a fraction of its true cost and could that meagre amount really fund a home worthy of our Tigers as well as rebuilding the team.

It’s tempting to agree with those who reckon Lloyd has been sold a fast one and, if that’s really the case, why doesn’t he bail out? Cut his losses. Pride is one reason. Is he reluctant to admit to failure? Maybe, but the businessman in him should tell him to get out before he throws away any money on a scheme he has lost interest in and which will probably never bear fruition without investment of the size he isn’t willing, or able, to commit to.

Well, if Lloyd’s selling, Belton’s buying. Or at least so we’re told. We have read with interest in the Hull Daily Mail that Belton met with Bryan Calam at Boothferry Park to chat about the club while the chairman was in the Caribbean sunning himself. Surely if there’s a no sale policy then the prospective buyer wouldn’t even get his foot through the door.

The Lincolnshire farmer seems too good to be true. He’s a former chairman of Scunthorpe United but he can’t hide his enthusiasm about the potential of City. He said: “Hull City has such tremendous potential. There’s a large population area and in my view they should be involved with the football club. When I left Scunthorpe no one individual owned more than 10 per cent of the shares.”

Belton left Scunthorpe in 1994 and now reckons he has the backing of a consortium who have plenty of cash to sink into a club. Scarborough and Doncaster have just been put up for sale. He didn’t fancy them. Lincoln are up for sale. But apparently it’s Hull he wants. “I would want the people of Hull involved in the football club. The club should be at least in the First Division.”

Now this is the kind of thing we heard just over a year ago when Martin Fish and Christopher Needler were selling the club. Then it was Tim Wilby shouting the odds on behalf of Lloyd. But Belton said: “Myself and my consortium and waiting for David Lloyd to tell us how much he wants for Hull City and, indeed, if he wants to sell at all. If he wants to sell we are very interested. If he categorically doesn’t want to sell then that’s that.

“The price isn’t such a big issue. Unless it’s ridiculous. One thing is for sure. I’m not interested in the rugby club in any way. I don’t think the two can be run as one. Fair enough the teams could share the same pitch but I don’t think they can operate as one club.”
All a bit of a mystery really. Belton admits he is the front man for rich backers from the retail business in the North Midlands. He has some money but the attractive part of this deal is the multi-millionaire backers who he claims are with him. If they are into retail this could meant they have a Lloyd-style retail idea in mind.

Maybe they like Lloyd’s idea but have the money to pull it off. If it’s such a great idea why not plough a few million into a new stadium anyway. And if that’s the case perhaps they can buy into the Lloyd scheme, offering money to develop the stadium and the team at the same time without Lloyd having to lose face and back down. It’s Belton’s expertise in running lower league football clubs that has brought him to front the operation, he said, “I’ll be involved financially. I’ll be running the show from the front. my experience makes me the obvious choice. I was involved at Scunthorpe for more than 20 years. I’ve a lot of experience at the lower levels of football and I know what’s needed but this doesn’t mean that’s where I would want Hull City to stay.”

This club needs a football man to help run the show behind the scenes. We saw Lloyd offer such a job to Scarborough’s former chairman John Russell. Russell said Lloyd asked to run the football club without having a financial stake in the club. Perhaps Belton’s gang could strike a similar agreement but with money. Belton, without saying as much, suggests he would prefer the lock stock and barrel scenario.

Belton is also aware of the controversial plans to sell Boothferry Park and the problems Lloyd faced with Somerfield and Kwik Save. He’s non-committal about the ground’s future. He would have to examine all the details and stuff which has bamboozled Lloyd and Co, But he favours redevelopment of Boothferry Park or a new stadium off Clive Sullivan Way.

At least he has the political sense not to say the Boulevard. He knows if he wants to suddenly win the backing of the supporters he has only to offer a viable alternative to going to play our beloved game in a rugby league ground. The saddest thing is we have a football ground just waiting to be developed here at Boothferry Park. There’s plenty of room, no forseeable planning or police problems and a playing surface that’s the envy of the entire Football League.

If you’re serious Tom then get this show on the road. We’ve taken a blind leap of faith once before and it’s heading for disaster so another one now won’t do much harm. Get your money men to quickly arrange a package which can put this club back in the big time with a stadium worthy of its support. Any crazy retail scheme which accompanies such a deal will be okay as long as it doesn’t stand in the way of the revival of the club. Perhaps we trust too easily but that’s a sign of desperation. If you want to make Hull City great again then get the bucks out. Make Lloyd the offer he wants and give us hope again.


Matt Barlow