Saturday 16th May 2015 – Spurs 2 – 0 Hull City AFC
Premier League @ White Hart Lane, London
“Li-ver-more, he’s having a party, bring your vodka, and your Charlie….
My last blog entry after the Crystal Palace game was optimistic as far as miserable seasons go, and was followed up a couple of days later with a vital 1-0 victory over Liverpool at The Circle. The Premiership relegation battle was poised finally at that point; Burnley and QPR looked gone, but anyone from the resurgent Villa and Leicester, and Hull, to the dreadful Sunderland and Newcastle could still go down.
City’s two game winning streak (!!!) was ended by Arsenal a week later; men against boys stuff – no shame in that defeat.
And then Burnley. The team that always seems to beat us at the wrong time. Earlier in the season they claimed their opening league victory against us at Turf Moor. Rewind to 2010 and they beat us again – heavily – at our place to all but send us down.
It was a must win game. One which could keep us up and take the pressure off against Spurs and Man United, our last two opponents of the season.
And to add to it all, the day before, summer signing Jake Livermore was ruled out after testing positive for cocaine. A truly foolish act – though given his recent performances, perhaps not a great loss. Still, not the best preparation….
So it was with a sense of pure pessimism that Hull’s last away day of the season was approached. I feigned that I wasn’t bothered all week – part of me really wasn’t – but as the day neared, the nerves set in and the belief that Tottenham might just be on that proverbial beach that everybody claimed came to the forefront of my mind. On Facebook early on Saturday I was reminded by an awful App that 17th May was indeed the one year anniversary of Hull’s FA Cup final appearance. How times have changed. Europe and £43m squandered. Goodwill of fans and optimism eaten away. It now came down to this. A trip to one of England’s better sides to try and salvage our Premier League status.
Three trips to White Hart Lane have been made previously, all of which feature at the top of every commentator’s ‘one liner’ list; the one where Geovanni scored in 08, the one where Myhill parked his own one man bus in 09 to secure a much needed draw, and one last season in the cup (because I missed the league game) where an understrength Hull side took them all the way to penners.
I like White Hart Lane; it is one of the older offerings in the top flight, but normally has decent and loud fans, even if they do have a slight inferiority complex these days to Arsenal and Chelsea.
My day started late so no pre-match supping – I didn’t arrive until 2.30pm. For the best – the butterflies had taken over by this point and beer wouldn’t have helped (or would it?).
White Hart Lane is in the Northest of London seemingly the distance of Birmingham away from the nearest of tube stations, Seven Sisters. From there you have a 1.5 – 2 mile walk past a vast array of fried chicken shops, newsagents that sell a huge array of SIM cards and some rather shaky looking cosmetic ’boutiques’ (including one that advertised ‘cupping’). Not the best of introductions to an old classic of a ground. You’d be hard pushed to find a boozer too – most around the area are very much home fans only.
Once Tottenham High Street had been navigated, we were greeted at the away end with a ‘gift’. Whether an attempt to make up for spunking our Away Support Intiative £200k on the away end at our ground (but not our fans….) or an attempt to generate a better atmosphere, I guess we will never know – but each visiting fan was offered a brand new black and amber scarf – though unfortunately with a badge that fails to mention the club’s name.
No thank you Mr Allam – hope my scarf found a good home (i.e. the landfill).
We were seated in the upper tier that day – concourse is nothing special, and drinks & food on offer is the usual pie and pint job. The views from the away end, despite being high up, are pretty good (see picture at the top – no more I’m afraid, I was bit too engrossed in the match for this one) and despite being surrounded by the more vocal home supporters, the atmosphere relatively friendly. Stewards let you stand at Spurs and appreciate fans like to make a bit of noise.
Kick off. And City came out all guns blazing. Top scorer Jelavic was back, and Quinn took Livermore’s place in midfield. Ex-Spurs lad Michael Dawson seemed very pumped up and did a good job of getting both players and crowd going.
It had all the hallmarks of a victory. The fans were fantastic. Whilst clearly not the best technical side, City were looking more likely to score. The Irish lads – Meyler, Quinn, Brady and McShane grafted a good game, and Elmo and N’Doye provided some pace to try to link up Jelavic. But despite the efforts nothing happened. City seemed shot shy with the exception of a bar rattler from Jelavic, and Elmo seemed unable to run past the last man.
It was nervy on the pitch. And once the tempo slowed, it was nervous off it too. Whilst buoyed by Aston Villa’s earlier 6-1 trouncing on the South Coast (lost 6-1 and stayed up on the same day – incredible), news starting to filter through of Newcastle taking the lead across London at QPR. This did not look good. And Spurs were starting to come into the game. Half time could not come soon enough.
The interval offered some opportunity to calm those nerves, and also to say goodbye to Brad Friedel who announced his retirement during the week – I’m not normally one for clapping opposition players, but what a keeper. Best wishes Brad.
The second half started as quick as the first, with City dominating possession and now shooting towards the Hull fans. Brady was looking dangerous. We were winning multiple corners. Crosses were streaming in and through balls being placed.
Then on 54 the first nail in the coffin. Their first attack of the half and Spurs score. This prompted some noise from the home fans – who up until this point had been non-existent. Undeterred the City fans carried on singing; The Great Escape theme tune dusted off and sang with gusto. We could still do this. Tottenham looked good, but not ‘that’ good.
Seven minutes later their lead was doubled. 2-0. Game over. Down and out. But some solace from the scoreline at Loftus Road were QPR had gone 2-1 up against the hapless Geordies.
The mood in the away end – which had been bouncing up until that point – fell flat. Some carried on singing. Some stayed silent – reflecting on what had just happened, and that City had, again, blown it on the road. A couple of lads tried to start a conga line. Some nipped off for the pub.
Hernandez replace Jelavic shortly after the second, who had looked unfit. Had it not been a match of such importance I doubt he would have started.
Chances came and went – including one instance where roughly 19 shots were cleared off the line. It wasn’t to be City’s day. Ideas and legs had gone. The minutes ticked down on our second Premiership adventure.
In line with popular belief, Spurs were on the beach that day. And they still beat us. As the final whistle went, the aforementioned scarves seemed to be hurled en-masse towards the pitch. There were no tears. Because this torrid, cesspit of a season is still not over. We can STILL stay up. All we need to do is beat Man United, a team we have never beaten in recent years (nor has Bruce – EVER!) and hope Newcastle and / or Sunderland slip up. It’s all setup for a split screen Sky Super Sunday.
So the away trips to MK Dons and Rotherham are on ice. The rivalries with Leeds United and Sheffield Wednesday kept on the backburner for now.
But it wasn’t lost on this blogger that as the journey was made back to Central London, that whilst this might not be the last game in the Premiership. Or The Championship. But it could be his last game in Black and Amber. And it could be the last away trip of Hull City AFC. With the FA decision due in July on the abhorrent renaming application to Hull Tigers, support is in doubt. Over to our overlords at Wembley Stadium on that one….
The finger-pointing and blame game will needless start once Sunday is up. If we stay up, do we have enough in the tank – both in the bank account and on the pitch – to continue to compete at this level? And if we go down, what then of our underperforming big money stars? And of Bruce who has overseen a multi-million pound spending spree only to perform worst than he did the term before (whilst disrespecting multiple cup competitions in order to preserve our league status)?
Perhaps it is bias, rose-tinted spectacles, that sort of thing. I look at Sunderland and Newcastle and see two clubs that deserve the drop. The former have shipped goals at an alarming rate, and have a set of fans who feel it acceptable to leave a game en masse once their team goes behind. The latter’s situation can be blamed on the owner, but remember it was these fans who hounded Alan Pardew out, who then went to Palace and kept them up (but then they did the same with Bobby Robson when he didn’t reach the Champions League…)
And then I look at Hull City – the team I love and follow. With an owner set against the fans. A brutal and ongoing fight to preserve our name still being fought after two years.
Regardless of who stays up on Sunday (incidentally 7 years to the day we first won promotion at Wembley), the Premier League will still contain at least two piss poorly run teams next season.
See you in August.