The year was 1980, Oxford United at Home. We lost 1-0. I should have known then. I should have known that supporting Hull City wouldn’t be about winning matches and lifting trophies. It would be another 20 years before that remotely became a possibility. The start of the 80’s saw the Tiger’s languishing in the old Division 4 ( League 2 in new money), in an ageing stadium, and dwindling fan base. I was new to watching league football, an impressionable 7 year old that was sampling his first ever game. If truth be told, other than the score, there wasn’t a lot to remember. Perhaps I should have left it at that, and gone off and supported Liverpool, Everton or Aston Villa, all successful sides at the time. But I didn’t. I carried on going with my best mate and his Dad. The week’s turned into years, though the clubs fortunes barely changed, bar the odd promotion that would invariably result in relegation back the next year. Administration’s were dodged, ground lock-out’s too. Owners, managers and players all came and went, mediocrity more the norm than the exception. The odd trip to the bright light’s of Old Trafford or White Hart Lane in the cup kept us dreaming, but the reality was Boundary Park, The Shay or Blundell Park. Nothing says dedication quite like standing on an open terrace at Oldham, defying all the Four Season’s weather in one 90 minutes.
At the turn of the Century thing’s changed. The decaying ( but beautiful to me ) Boothferry Park was replaced with a gleaming KC Stadium. The teams fortunes on the pitch changed too, spearheaded by a dynamic Chairman in Adam Pearson, who saw the club’s potential and was the catalyst for 3 promotions in 6 years. The club found more success in those years than the previous 100 years or so combined. This culminated in their first ever trip to Wembley Stadium, a 1-0 victory over Bristol City in the Play-off Final. Home-town hero Dean Windass with the all important goal. For the first time ever, City were in the top division of English football.
That’s where I left the ride. 28 years after first getting on, it was time to get off. What a ride it was too. What a way to bow out. Things had changed for me on and off the pitch, so to speak. I’d struggled to juggle work and football on a weekend, passing up overtime at work to follow my dream of seeing City progress through the division’s, and ultimately end up at Wembley. Away from football I’d found another love, who years later would be fortunate enough to marry me ! Real life suddenly got in the way, bills and mortgages seemingly more important than pint’s and match ticket’s.
My sabbatical from football lasted about 18 month’s. It’s not like I left it all together, that would be like losing an arm. My Saturday’s consisted of dashing round the shops to get home in time for Final Score or Soccer Saturday. But this wasn’t to be enough for me. I needed the “fix” of live football, of dedicating my time to supporting a team again, going through the whole range of emotions that football fan’s go through. That thing that makes us feel alive.
So where to go ? In the short space of time I’d been away from City, things had changed dramatically. A whole host of new generation fan’s had taken my place. Season tickets were now regulation in order to guarantee your place. The thick end of £400 / 500 upfront was a non starter . Even the few match day ticket’s that remained on general sale were going for £30 or so, and I simply couldn’t justify that a couple of times a month. I needed a cheaper alternative, and it was a few miles down the A63 , out of Hull that I found it.
At the time North Ferriby United were a Northern Premier League side ( Step 3 in the pyramid ). I wasn’t averse to Non-league football, as growing up in Bridlington as a kid I had the choice of Town or Trinity when not going to see Hull City. So Thirty years later I’d come full circle, back to where the game was at it’s purist, back to a level where money hadn’t ruined the game, where local lads could still play for their City, Town or in Ferriby’s case, Village. A place where it didn’t cost a weeks wage to get in – just a tenner – where friendly faces greeted you, and you were positively encouraged to stand and cheer on the team ! Unlike with City, success came relatively early in my tenure too, winning the league in only my second season of being a “regular”. Next would come defeat in the play-off semi’s, after leading the Conference North for 90% of the season, before being topped last season with another trip to Wembley, this time for the FA Trophy victory over Wrexham, and possibly the best game I’ve ever seen. For all Wembley in 2008 with City was emotional and all about the result, this game had everything, from being 2-0 down to 3-2 up, before eventually winning on penalties. What a game. What a day.
The title of this is “Who are ya”. I was asked this in a Twitter conversation the other night, as in who do I support. I’ve had similar conversation’s before. A few have described what I’ve done as like cheating on a loved one. I prefer seeing it as finding love the second time round. It’s not what I wanted as a kid, and even now I’d still call myself a Hull City fan. I’m just no longer a supporter. “We”had 30 years together, through good and bad. But things changed, and we drifted apart. “We” and “Us” is now North Ferriby United. I’ll always look back with fondness, but I’ll look forward with excitement to the next chapter of my footballing life, even more.