Hull City 1 West Ham 0
We’re on the highway to Hull. Nigel picks me up at 8.15am at Finsbury Park and after a service stop and a fine view of the Humber Bridge we’re in ’Ull by 1.45 to meet Matt and Lisa (part-timer Fraser is on the Orient Express, hoping it’s not murder at the KC).
There’s time to park near the shopping centre, then stop at a chippy by a boarded up-pub, which Nigel has to photograph for some reason. In the chippy they still sell spam fritters and haddock for £2. Then it’s past Windass Way, over some waste ground and into the KC Stadium. We hear an old East End folk song echoing from the Smith and Nephew Stand: “Oh, I drink ten pints, I beat my wife ’cos I’m a northern bastard!”
It’s a compact stadium and less bland than most modern creations, with a deranged DJ sounding like a kamikaze Alan Partridge as he screams “Thisisthekaaaaceeeestadiuuuuuuum!” at the massed ranks of orange and black-clad fans.
Hull have the best of it early on, with Boateng and Ashbee tackling fiercely in the middle and Marney going close. But soon our passing game begins to look more fluent. Noble has a penalty claim ignored, Bellamy (does anyone remember him?) shows forgotten pace down the left and crosses for Cole to shoot straight at Myhill. Ilunga, who otherwise has a great game looking strong and composed, heads wide with a free heard from a corner.
The home fans chant at “Where’s your money gone?” at us.
The West Ham fans chant “We pay your benefits!”
The Tiger club respond with “You’re going bust (pronounced “boost”) in the morning”, followed by “You’re not English anymore!”.
“You live in poverty!” retort the Irons fans, apparently unaware of all the City bankers and estate agents now selling the Big Issue outside Canary Wharf.
“Back to your shithole!, You’re going back to your shithole!” chant the Yorkshiremen. Nigel looks indignant and may be about to lecture them on pots, kettles and the merits of the tea-rooms, plant and fossil shops in Kew Gardens.
It’s been an exciting end-to-end first-half, but soon we’re a goal down and the inevitable London 0 Hull 4 Housemartins headlines start to loom. Turner outjumps Upson to head home from a corner. Undone by a simple goal.
But within 90 seconds Behrami is making a great break down the right for Cole to swivel and shoot against the underside of the bar.
We put Hull under sustained pressure, but mainly through crosses from deep that are easily headed away by their huge defenders. Zola takes Faubert and Etherington off for Di Michele and Sears and suddenly we have too many strikers and no-one to get to the byline.
Noble fires a free kick straight at the wall and makes several poor decisions. Carlton Cole shows Heskey-like strength to win the ball muscle past two defenders and cross for Etherington to volley wide. We wonder why Cole didn’t shoot.
“Where’s your bubbles gone?” chant the Hull fans followed by “Down with the Tottenham, you’re going down with the Tottenham!”.
The Irons fans hurl regional stereotypes back at them — “Sign on with hope in your hearts” and “We’re going to work in the morning!”
It’s a fantastic atmosphere and the Hull City fans are in dreamland. You can’t help but feel that their success is good for football in a billionaires league.
The whistle goes to a cacophonous cheer from the Housemartins fans. It’s not been a happy hour (and a half) for the Hammers. Zola may have to think for a minute. Still, Nigel cheers up when he spots Frank Dobson MP among the away crew, the man who wanted to be Mayor watching the Irons have a mare.
We’re held on the concourse outside the ground for 20 minutes. Don’t they know we have an MP with us?
“What’s over there?” asks Nigel gazing towards the metal fences.
“Oh, just machine guns,” says Matt, “I could get out if I had a motorbike.”
The West Ham fans holler at the stewards to let us out. Finally the doors clank open.
“These must be the gates of Hull,” I mutter.
At least Ye Olde White Harte in Old Hull is a fine boozer, although I can’t bring myself to drink London Pride, instead opting for Theakston’s Best.
On the way home we decline to discuss our emotions (nihilism, misanthropy, fear of mortality, railing at the lack of God in a point-less Premiership, etc) and opt for trivia. Matt asks us to name all the Premiership players playing at the weekend who are ex-Hammers and then all the League players.
Part of the M1 is closed so we make a huge detour via the A1 and don’t get home until 12.30am. But at least we’ve recalled the likes of Steven Bywater, Adam Newton, Tyrell Forbes, Henri Camara, Grant McCann and Matt Holland.
Our trivia-fest has raised morale a little as we return to the beautiful south. Hull have gone up to third. “Still, you don’t expect to get much at one of the Big Four,” I muse, disappearing into the darkness of Seven Sisters Road , having been to Hull and back.
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