The life of a van driver can be a long and lonely one. Not that I’m complaining. I’m comfortable in my own company, and I always have the radio for back-up. My listen of choice for the last few years has been Talksport – admittedly not everyone’s cup of tea – but for me it passes the hours between 7am and 5pm, and keeps me in the loop for all things football related. One of the better programmes is the Colin Murray and Friends show. Again, I realise the jovial Irishman isn’t to everyone’s choice, but he generally presents a well-balanced, analytical show. Last week – I forget the day – he touched on a subject that many fan’s could relate to, namely the price of success. The gist of it was, to what extent are we prepared to sacrifice certain things in order to see our teams succeed, and indeed what exactly is termed as success these days ?
Now as someone living in Hull, having supported City all my life, but currently watching North Ferriby United, this subject certainly caught my attention. After all, I doubt there’s a village, town or city in England that could match Hull in the “price-of-success” stakes. For the last 18 month’s, many City fans have reiterated the mantra – we’d rather watch Hull City in League 2, than Hull Tigers in the Premier League. As many of you are aware, it’s been an ongoing battle between owner and supporters over the name change at Hull in the last few years. The Allam’s ownership has been one of the most controversial in the clubs 112 year history. A drawn out takeover is currently on the cards – yet another Chinese consortium – as the fans patience has been taken to, and beyond, breaking point. The success part of the equation is easy to gauge, especially on the pitch ( more so than off it ), as every point matters, for the bookies favourites to be relegated. Against the background of discontent, the team have formed a siege mentality, grinding out 2 wins from their opening 3 games, only coming undone this weekend to a late, late Manchester United winner. Success this season for City will be to finish out of the bottom 3, and yet for many fans, it will be judged by changes in the boardroom, as to the level of real success.
Further down the A63, roughly 6 miles from Hull, is the sleepy village of North Ferriby. A place where for the last 5 years I’ve been getting my football fix. Not long ago an NPL side ( Step 3 in the pyramid ), Ferriby now find themselves in the highest echelon of Non-league, the neatly named National League ( the Conference to those of a certain vintage ). This is the clubs highest ever placing, and follows on from an FA Trophy win at Wembley in 2015. Success is clearly easy to define on the East Yorkshire coast, as the last 3 seasons will testify to, with its two promotions. It’s a club I have fallen in love with, not because of the on-field success, more for its core values of affordable local football, with a friendly welcome. It’s a relaxed place to spend your Saturday afternoons, in the shadow of the local church to the West, and the Humber Bridge to the East. Certainly, in the early months of the season, I’d argue it’s one of the best places in the game to be witnessing a match. It still is in Winter, but I’d recommend a thick coat as a must, the cold wind off the Humber has seen many hardy Northerners adjourning to the warmth of the clubhouse !
So what have the fans at Ferriby had to sacrifice, against the price of their success ? After all, Murray’s radio programme insisted you couldn’t have one without the other, and in some ways that’s true. It may be a small sacrifice, say an increase in admission price, or having to stand away from your usual spot due to segregation ( to be implemented at some of our bigger games, apparently ). These two have certainly been sacrifices, the admission has gone up £5 in as many years. It may not sound much, but it is technically 50% up on NPL prices, in line with league recommendations. We’ve seen no more increase through the gates, so in some ways it’s not been enough to put off the regulars, but nor has it been helpful in attracting the much-needed income from new fans, at a time when many are disillusioned with events at near neighbours City. A missed opportunity in my book.
For me, one of the biggest sacrifices has been the anticipation. That may sound like an odd statement, but let me explain. There is no bigger “buzz” than waking up on a Saturday morning, anticipating what will happen on the football field in the next few hours ahead, and who we will be facing. The last few season’s at Ferriby, have seen us ( yes, It’s “us” now ! ) playing in a regionalised league. First the NPL ( Northern Premier League ), and lately National North ( Step 2 ). The beauty of this has been plenty of local games, and what that brings, an increased Away following, and in turn a better atmosphere. As you may know, Ferriby isn’t renowned for its atmosphere. Most games, crowds are sub 500, so we tend to rely on vociferous away followings to provide this. Games against Hednesford and Boston have certainly provided this, and in turn brought out the best from the locals. Promotion last year has seen us start life in the National League, and with it, new opposition. We have no history with Braintree, Torquay, Dover, and as such my anticipation levels, and those of a few others if Twitter is anything to go by, has diminished, despite us playing at the pinnacle of Non-league. A few of you may be reading this and scratching your heads,and asking yourselves – exactly what do I want ? I know it sounds bizarre, but a look at the table in National North tells me exactly what I’m missing, as such. A host of big names, certainly in Non-league terms, litter the division. Who wouldn’t want a fixture against Kidderminster, Darlington, Bradford PA, Boston. The list goes on – Halifax, Salford, Stockport, FCUM – all big names, with good followings, bringing atmosphere to the ground, and much-needed income into the clubs coffers. Half of our current division are based South of the Watford gap, so derby’s as such will be York City and Guiseley. Other potential big games, Tranmere, Wrexham and Chester are all midweek fixtures, guaranteeing the Away support will be a fraction of what it would have been on a Saturday.
Perhaps in time, and presuming we stay up – both on and off the field, as issues with the ground may see us back to where it all began – I’ll start to get “that” feeling back on a Saturday. Who knows, we may well develop a rivalry with one of our Southern counterparts. Until then, I’ll keep looking at the fixtures, grateful for what is coming up, and anticipate what may be in years to come. After all, this is the best trip, we’ve ever been on…….