Less than ten years on from claiming top spot in the book Crap Towns, Hull is gearing up to be the UK City of Culture for 2017. I found it to be an isolated place that does so without being unwelcoming. However, rather than concentrating on this warm and welcoming aspect of the city, the local tourism board likes to focus on the more important things that this corner of Yorkshire has offered to the world. Caravans and wind turbines; apparently.
I have searched high and low on the internet to find whether or not caravans were invented in Hull. The nearest link I can find between the house on wheels and the city is that locally formed band The Housemartins are known for their song Caravan of Love. I recently played this in the car (as it is on my extensive Spotify playlist) and Aaron grumbled stating that it wasn’t very upbeat.
More interesting things to come from Hull are the 20 million Yorkshire puddings that Aunt Bessie produces on a weekly basis and the adopted figure of John Prescott. While national treasure Aunt Bessie has been rushed off her feet for years making the nations Yorkshire puddings, former member of parliament, Prescott, is considered to be one of the greatest heavyweight fighters to represent this corner of Yorkshire in recent times.
I had visited Hull a few times when I was very young as my Uncle lived there for a while. Admittedly, I remember little from my visits there. I do however vividly remember injuring myself on a small cactus plant that was on the side on his landing and vaguely remember the orange cladding of the old Boothferry Park ground. My parents will probably say I am lying, but I definitely remember at least seeing the old home of Hull City before it was demolished in 2008, six years after closing. We also visited The Deep a couple of years after it had opened, the location for one of my mum’s favourite photographs of my sister and I.
In the sense that I barely remember the place I was really looking forward to visiting Hull. People on my course at University come from the place and a couple even commute daily. This suggested to me that it was going to be an easy place to tick off and I had been quite lazy having taken over a year to catch the Northern Rail peasant waggon from York. In my defence, I needed to find a fixture that was quite appetising, ideally Hull City v Bolton Wanderers. With that match taking place a couple of weeks before Christmas, when I was due to be back at home, it was back to the drawing board. Fortunately, Ollie had gone AWOL on the Morrisons work system and was subsequently inbetween jobs meaning I could drag him along to watch his Blackburn Rovers side take on the Tigers.
Selling it to him with the promise of a lot of beer and a rare opportunity to watch some football, he agreed and I booked the tickets online. We of course did this in our own time and not during an important lecture. Thankfully for me, we had left it too late to purchase tickets for the away end, which meant I escaped having to stand amongst the Rovers fans for the whole afternoon. Instead, I had kindly placed Ollie and I in amongst a full area of home support. Lovely.
As always when we get together, Ollie and I were running late on the morning of the match. We jogged over Lendal Bridge and made it to the train station with enough time to purchase a ticket and find the correct platform. The journey took an hour, passing through the likes of Selby, Brough and North Ferriby. If you look closely enough you pass North Ferriby United’s ground on the left (another one on my hit list). Arguably more impressive is the sight of the Humber Bridge on your right as the train approaches Hull. Opened in 1981, the bridge was the largest of it’s kind until the Japanese went one better in 1998.
Shortly after zooming past the Humber Bridge we arrived in Kingston-upon-Hull, or ‘ull to give it it’s proper name! The Paragon Interchange was quite spectacular (as far as transport interchanges go) and we were greeted by a statue of Philip Larkin, the poet who lived in the city. Larkin was surrounded by fluorescent pink signs that advertised the UK City of Culture for 2017. It wasn’t the nice pink either, it was the pink that Salford council use on all of their signs. I don’t know whether Dulux have created a colour swatch named Salford Pink, but I really think they should do.
The whole City of Culture lark is something the local tourism board really are quite proud of. Even when I went down to Wembley with my mum for the FA Cup final a couple of years ago we were handed commemorative flags celebrating an event that was still three years away. Meanwhile, the Arsenal fans looked on in bemusement while grown inebriated men dressed as tigers claimed to have more culture than their southern counterparts.
In search of this culture, we decided there was only one place to start. You guessed it, it was time for a Wetherspoons breakfast. The Admiral of the Humber is found opposite the station and while it looks extremely unappealing from the exterior, it improves slightly when you walk past the two bouncers who are doing the breakfast shift. There weren’t that many people around when we first entered, but after we waited an hour for two breakfasts and a cup of tea it was beginning to get livelier.
Yes, you read correctly. It took an hour for two breakfasts to arrive. To say the girl behind the counter was thick is an understatement. She asked Ollie if he wanted milk with his orange juice not once but twice, before then proceeding to cock up the table numbers. Twenty minutes passed and I was still without my concoction of processed meat, beans, over cooked egg and vegetables I don’t like. Perhaps it was my accent, but the girl didn’t seem to understand what my problem was. “Excuse me, I ordered a breakfast yesterday and it still hasn’t arrived.” I explained to the girl who was having a domestic with the coffee machine.
Now a refund would have been nice and deserved, but the offer was declined when I told her I was hungry and I still wanted my bloody breakfast. Within a minute, one that had obviously been sat under the heater for the last half an hour arrived. It was my order, but it was now unedible. I felt like Michael Winner as I summoned the manager over and told him that my beans had formed a skin. Finally, an hour and a half after we had nipped in for a quick breakfast, we were free to go.
Where next then? We headed towards the Old Town where we somehow managed to fall into another Wetherspoons. We hoped we’d have more luck in the William Wilberforce… and we did… if you consider waiting 15 minutes for a pint a success. Wilberforce did not work tirelessly throughout his career campaigning to end the slavery trade to have a pitiful pub named after him. I’m sure he’d be flattered by the extensive gin palace that had been erected over the till though. We only stopped in here briefly, determined that JD Wetherspoons would waste no more of our day.
Leaving the William Wilberforce we turned left and ended up in a square outside Holy Trinity Church. A small music festival was taking place with the noise echoing down the cobbled streets that spurred in different directions. The band on stage were only relatively young and had a strong following consisting of their parents and friends. Old couples admired the noise from the back of the square where they sat outside drinking artisan coffee in a way to suggest they were spending the afternoon in Paris.
It was down one of the aforementioned cobbled streets that we found our next pub stop. We wanted to find something a bit more whacky and weird and The Mission met the latter criteria. It wasn’t evident when we walked into the place but as we sat down at a large table with our pints of Yorkshire Porter we realised we were basically drinking in a church. Part of the building was once a Seaman’s Mission and it still preserves it’s spire, stained-glass windows and pulpit. In fact, the last Sunday of every month there is even a service held in this corner of the pub.
Having finished our pints we were then deciding whether to have another in the city centre. I asked the lad behind the bar how long it would take us to walk to the ground and he didn’t know. He didn’t even know where the KC Stadium was. This is something I struggle to understand when I’m on my travels. Granted some people may not have an interest in football or rugby, but how can you have absolutely no idea where a large stadium is within your home town? In the end I took the executive decision of heading to the ground in the hope we’d find a backstreet pub that was full of locals.
Nothing particularly stood out for us on the way to the ground. Everything was a bit dull and boring. Some slight entertainment was added to the trek when we were nearly mobbed by a group of children who had somehow already produced offspring of their own. Fortunately, Ollie and I had our wits about us and we dealt with the threat without having to resort to physical violence.
We turned left on to Londesborough Street and came across a busy looking pub named The Clarendon. It was strictly for home fans only, which meant we only muttered to the bouncers incase our accents prevented us entry. In all honesty, Ollie is from Kendal so his accent is quite neutral. I on the other hand would have sounded like a Blackburn fan to the untrained Yorkshireman. Believe me, I would not have been happy if I’d have been mistaken for a Blackburn fan.
I would highly recommend The Clarendon. It was nice and comfortable inside, the beer was cheap and everybody was wearing their Hull City shirt. It was a sea of amber and black… apart from one bloke who opted to sit there in his Manchester City shirt while he watched his side succumb to defeat at Tottenham. He stood out completely, but nobody wound him up, not even when Joe Hart threw the ball into his own net.
With around 45 minutes to go until kick off, we left the pub and headed up the road towards the ground. It was within view, but it seemed to take forever to actually get there. It felt like a bleak existence walking down winding paths and bridges over the trainlines. The only other form of life around seemed to be a lone horse who was tied up while a Northern Rail train rattled past.
We headed over to the ticket office which turned out to be on the opposite side of the ground from where we were sitting. Collecting our tickets was simple enough and we had time to nip into the club shop where I very nearly bought a beautiful Hull City jumper. I decided the £9 would be better spent on real ale after the match and left empty handed. I didn’t need a Hull jumper for people to know I’d be cheering on The Tigers against Blackburn anyway.
There was a lengthy queue to get into the South Stand as kick off approached. By the time we eventually got in there was just five minutes left in which to get some food; we were going for the full matchday experience as you can tell. I’m always one to try the locally themed food at matches, but the Hull Pie seemed ridiculous and I didn’t bother. How can a BBQ pulled pork pie be labelled a Hull Pie? Was BBQ pulled pork invented in Hull? No. Was it considered to be in a local staple diet? No. This was a city in Yorkshire trying to be like London and it didn’t look or feel right. It was almost as bad as the time I went to Fulham and they sold a food called a Yorkshire Wrap.
As we barged past the old blokes who were sat on our row the two sides emerged. Hull were in amber and black, while Blackburn were also in their home kit of blue and white. Coming into the match, the home side were faring better in the league sitting in fourth place, while Blackburn were in 19th place, level on points with Bolton Wanderers.
Matches I had seen Hull feature in tended to be entertaining so I was hoping for more of the same today. December 2009 was the first time I saw The Tigers, in a match against Bolton Wanderers at The Reebok. It was a bit of an odd match as Gary Megson was holding on to his job by a thread, and it turned into one of those occasions where we wanted to lose in order to sack him. We were leading 2-0 thanks to goals from Kevin Davies and Ivan Klasnic. The latter was then replaced by Gavin McCann. Within minutes Hull had pulled a goal back through Stephen Hunt before he grabbed another to seal Megson’s departure.
Days later I saw Hull play again; this time it was an FA Cup match at Wigan Athletic. In a match that will be remembered for a crowd of just 5,000 (between two Premier League clubs), the Latics won 4-1 with Brazilian midfielder Geovanni grabbing a consolation.
Unbelievably, I saw Hull a further two times during the 2009/10 season. I was beginning to wonder whether I should purchase a season ticket. A boiling afternoon in the Midlands was spent watching them draw 0-0 at Birmingham City, with Head & Shoulders star Joe Hart in net for the home side. Then, with days of the season remaining I witnessed The Tigers relegation from the Premier League when Steve Gohouri (who is sadly no longer with us) equalised for Wigan Athletic in the final minute to spark a pitch invasion from the Latics fans.
I appear to have steered away from all things Hull City since their relegation at Wigan. That was until I went to the FA Cup Final in May 2014 when they narrowly lost against Arsenal after extra time. James Chester opened the scoring after just four minutes before Curtis Davies doubled The Tigers lead just four minutes later. It was absolutely mental in the Hull end when they went 2-0 up, but eventually goals from Santi Cazorla and Lorient Koscielny took the match into extra time, where Aaron Ramsey broke Hull hearts.
In short, I had never seen Hull City win. On the other hand I had only ever seen Blackburn Rovers win once, so I was hardly a good luck charm for either side.
All I wanted from this match was a few goals… and a Hull win. Obviously we had to wait until the 73rd minute for the deadlock to be broken when Abel Hernandez finished an Ahmed Elmohamady cross to give Hull the lead. They looked to be holding on for the three points, but a last minute Jordan Rhodes header rescued a point for the side from Lancashire.
The match started as brightly as it finished, after Hull’s Curtis Davies could have been sent off within the first minute. A mistake by Davies allowed Tom Lawrence to break down the Blackburn right and despite an attempted tug on the shirt by the defender, the Rovers man got into a dangerous area before losing his chance to shoot. Davies was subsequently booked for his attempted foul.
Former Bolton Wanderers midfielder Danny Guthrie went off injured after just ten minutes, which left me feeling very disappointed. He was a prominent figure at Bolton during our last UEFA Cup campaign, most notably starting in our 2-2 draw at Bayern Munich. Who else could I fan boy over after his departure? There was always former Wigan Athletic midfielder Mohamed Diame, who I once witnessed sign a womans arm outside Burger King at Robin Park. That was probably the reason he was so quick in moving away from the town when he had the chance.
Chances came and went for both sides during the first half, but it was goalless at the interval. We decided we had had enough of being sat amongst the OAP version of Hull Youth and tried to sneak around the ground towards the Blackburn fans. The KC Stadium is one of those where you can walk along the length of the stand down the concourse, before it is suddenly blocked off. This meant we had to keep emerging back into the stand to go down again without being caught by the stewards.
It took about ten minutes to carefully weave our way in and out of various exits and stairways, but we made it to the corner of the North Stand just before the teams came back out of the second half. It was fairly empty in this corner, possibly down to tickets costing a few pounds more than in other stands which seemed a bit stupid as the views are basically exactly the same wherever you choose to sit.
Sitting behind us this half were a father and son. The lad must have been four, or five years of age at most and was dressed in a full Hull City kit. It was all rather cute. That was until a Blackburn player went down injured moments into the second half and his Dad encouraged him to shout abuse at the stricken Rover. I won’t repeat what names were shouted from the stand but it was truly mind boggling that somebody so young knew such words. Then again, it isn’t as I have been called similar things by children of that age when I’ve been teaching. As the old saying goes, “You can teach them as much as you like in the classroom, but at the weekend, he’ll go and watch Hull v Blackburn with his Dad.”
Things were looking up as Ollie and I caught the young female steward looking after our block glancing at us every once in a while. This was a repeat performance of Mansfield where it was unanimously decided that the steward fancied me. She must have liked my beard. Unfortunately, I didn’t get her number as she was summoned to pitchside to ensure no hooligans jumped over the barriers. I decided I shall try again next time I go to Hull.
Slightly deflated at the prospect of leaving Hull without a girlfriend, I decided I should start watching the match again. Looking at my betting slip, everything was coming in on my accumulator. That was until Jordan Rhodes scored a last minute equaliser for Blackburn to really, really annoy me. I think even Ollie was disappointed as my promise of endless drinks throughout the night disappeared.
We left the ground and headed back to the train station to see when the next service to York was. I foolishly assumed there would be every half an hour or so, so I was a bit shocked when I found out we had another two hours to waste in Hull when I asked at the desk. Ollie was outside at this stage, so I was fully in charge of what we did for the rest of our evening. Did we carry on drinking in Hull for two hours, or did we pay an extra £3 each to get the train via Doncaster? Doncaster is one of my favourite drinking destinations so it was extremely tempting, but I thought we would stick around in Hull to see what other delights we could find.
Hungry, we went in search for the third Wetherspoons in the city centre. The Three John Scotts is found just around the corner from The William Wilberforce. For the majority of the 19th Century, St Marys Church opposite the pub, was run by three successive vicars all named John Scott, hence the name of the pub. Again, the service was pretty crap in here too. I did have another bottle of Punk IPA though so I was happy enough.
We then stopped in The Punch Hotel for a quick pint before hopping on the train back. On the train, we got talking to a couple of Blackburn fans who lived in York. We had a good laugh and ended up being dragged to The Priory to watch England lose 28-25 to Wales in the Rugby Union World Cup. I wasn’t too fussed about the result, even bordering on beyond caring towards the end, but I still saw it as an opportunity to drown my sorrows. Off we then went to ‘pound a pint’ in the Students Union until it shut in the early hours of the morning.
I think it is fair to say that we had endured a proper day session.
Hull had been a great day out and I look forward to visiting again when I tick off the respective non-league teams and rugby league clubs.
Hull City: Allan McGregor, Moses Odubajo, Curtis Davies, Tom Huddlestone, Abel Hernandez (David Meyler 88), Sam Clucas, Mohamed Diame (Shaun Maloney 61), Chuba Akpom, Michael Dawson, Andrew Robertson (Jake Livermore 65), Ahmed Elmohamady. Subs Not Used: Eldin Jakupovic, Harry Maguire, Isaac Hayden, Sone Aluko.
Blackburn Rovers: Jason Steele, Adam Henley, Grant Hanley, Ben Marshall (Tommy Spurr 83), Jordan Rhodes, Markus Olsson, Tom Lawrence (Nathan Delfouneso 79), Shane Duffy, Danny Guthrie (Hope Akpan 8), Corry Evans, Craig Conway. Subs Not Used: David Raya, Lee Williamson, John O’Sullivan, Darragh Lenihan.
- DISTANCE TRAVELLED TO GROUND: 41 miles from York
- ADMISSION: £15 as a student
- PROGRAMME PRICE: £3