Hull City v Swansea City
KC Stadium / Premier League / 5th April 2014
As the 2013/2014 season kicked off, there were only three Premier League grounds that I was yet to visit: one of them was Stamford Bridge, a place I seem fated not to visit as the Swans always seem to play there on Boxing Day when I’m unable to make it; one of the others was Selhurst Park, a ground I went on to tick off and visit with the Jack Army in September, and the other ground is Hull’s KC Stadium. So when the fixture list computer churned out a Hull v Swansea fixture on a Saturday afternoon at the start of April, I was very much counting myself on board. Throw in the fact that that Saturday was the first day of my Easter Holidays and I thought it was only appropriate to make a day of it on my first ever visit to the city of Hull.
As with most entries on this blog, the day began early in Manchester Piccadilly and in the station’s Starbucks; it was only 8.15am when I arrived, so still a bit early to be hitting the upstairs pub that is housed within the station. However, I did make sure I purchased myself a couple of cans of my new away day travel favourite, the beautifully green-canned and originally named ‘Belgian Lager’ from Marks and Spencer’s.
My train pulled out of Piccadilly at 8.42am and I was soon flying towards my destination of Kingston-upon-Hull (to give the place its full title), on the East coast of the country. En route we were to stop at Leeds station and it was here I was reunited with my old away day companion Tom, who’d had to cut out the games this year thanks to him doing proper grown up things like buying a house.
As I had never visited Hull before, I wanted to have a bit of a wander of the city before kick-off, so with us arriving shortly after 10.30am, we had plenty of time for such wanderings. It was also a chance to see why Hull was recently awarded the UK City of Culture award, ahead of Swansea, for 2017.
Inevitably, within 5 minutes of alighting we found ourselves in our first pub of the day, the Admiral of Humber – a very decent Wetherspoons with a characteristic middle-aged, southern barmaid, who repeatedly made derogatory statements about the north and the rudeness of northerners to ‘banter’ with the pub’s clientele. I hold no hostility towards Wetherspoons, but as every single Spoons is pretty much the same, I suggested we move on and see if we could find somewhere with a bit more character to get more of a sense of ‘Hull-ness’. That we certainly did.
Moments after leaving Spoons, we found ourselves in a superbly named pub called ‘Moderation’ (the irony of it!). On viewing it from the outside, we expected to walk into a fairly run down establishment, but it was certainly a bit nicer inside – not that the place was the Ritz or anything. In fact, the place had the strange smell of newly cleaned floor mixed with shit; but at least the young barman was pleasant enough and gave us advice on where to go and not to go in the city. We also got to watch the entertaining scene of him ID-ing a group of people clearly in their 20s and their comedy, gob-smacked reactions, as some of the ID-less gang had to settle for soft drinks over alcohol.
Whilst in this ‘interesting’ pub, I received a text off Egy, informing me that him Steve and Chester Mike had hopped in a taxi at Hull train station and headed for a pub called The Pave in the more student-y area about 10-15 minutes walk from the KC Stadium. We decided we’d leave the city centre for now and go join our fellow Jacks.
As we pulled up outside The Pave, having got a taxi ourselves, I was surprised to find ourselves in front of a very plush looking bar/pub/restaurant combo. The pleasantness of the place was further established by the scent of seafood as we entered (I really like seafood by the way). Predictably, the beer was rather steeply priced, but we spent a very enjoyable hour or so catching up with our fellow Jacks and discussing the fixture that lay ahead of us today. One member of staff, clad in an amber tie, even came over to wish us luck for today’s game. What a nice place.
In typical Lost Boyos style, I wanted to move on to have a nose around elsewhere and on receiving a text from Steve, of SOS fanzine fame and my fellow podcaster on The JackCast, informing me that quite a few Jacks had arrived at the New Walton social club right by the KC Stadium, so me and Tom decided to head there.
Our walk from The Pave to the New Walton would see us stroll through the streets of red-bricked terrace houses that surrounded us and then through the industrial estate, before the KC Stadium itself appeared before us. Like many, I’m not big on new-build grounds, but I had heard good things about the KC Stadium; however, first impressions were not great, as I felt it just looked a dull, grey circular ground with the furthest stand’s roof curving and rising slightly above the rest of the ground, which does admittedly differentiate it from various other new-builds. Also, as we crossed the bridge heading towards the stadium, we encountered a strange sort of wasteland area, complete with a lonely horse standing peacefully by itself, practically adjacent to the ground. It certainly was a bizarre way to arrive at a stadium (and of course, Tom could not resist running over and posing for a photo with said horse).
We made our way past the stadium and through the designated ‘Away Supporters Only’ gate and through the expansive car park that eventually led to the New Walton social club. The place was huge with three large rooms housing a mix of Swansea and Hull fans mingling trouble-free together. It occurred to me that whoever runs this place must have loved the club moving from their old ground, Boothferry Park, to the KC. We found Steve and his mates and his Dad at the back of the club and we spent an hour chatting about the game with positive vibes coming from us all regarding a Swansea result today.
At 14:30 we found ourselves back at the KC Stadium (which stands for Kingston Communications by the way) and entering the ground via the corner between the East and North Stand and up into the North Stand, which is where the away support were to be held. While we are talking about the entrance to the ground, I should add that my ticket for today’s game cost £20 – a bargain for Premier League football! I believe we offered Hull similar price tickets for our clash at the Liberty Stadium earlier in the season, so well done to both clubs for such arrangements (and to the other clubs such as Aston Villa and Newcastle, who have also struck up similar cheap tickets deals with us).
The away concourse was very spacious with it curving around the corner of the ground with several food/drink vendors open, meaning that there were hardly any queues. As to be expected with a fairly new stadium, the place was all very neat and tidy, which I guess is all you can ask for in regards to a football stadium concourse. And of course there were plenty of large images of the nicer parts of Hull placed strategically in the away concourse by the Hull tourist board in a bid to get us to revisit the city. From the Swans fans I spoke to, I don’t think many will be in a rush to make the long journey back up .
As the clocked ticked towards 15:00 and kick-off time and having had a couple of beers on the concourse, we headed out to pitchside ready for the Swans to take on Hull; despite not a mathematical certainty, 3 points for either team would surely secure Premier League football for another season, meaning there was plenty riding on today’s game.
Earlier, I described the stadium as rather dull, but I have to say, being in the stands, it was a far more impressive sight, although still maybe not the most mind-blowing of new-builds. Hull City moved to the ground in 2002 after leaving their old home of Boothferry Park, where they had played at since 1946. The stadium has a capacity of 25,400 and is a completely single-tiered bowl shape with the North Stand curving up slightly higher than the other three stands; there are plans in place to expand the stadium further by adding a second tier onto to the East and South Stands, although there are no confirmed dates on when such an expansion would go ahead.
We headed towards the back of the North Stand with the more vocal support of the Swansea fanbase and although I had read that the stewards at the KC Stadium are very strict, nobody bothered us all afternoon and we were allowed to stand undisturbed throughout the game. Like most away days with the Jack Army, the Swansea fans were in good voice, something especially impressive today as there was to be little to sing about. Hull started the game the better team and within 10 minutes they came close to taking the lead, only for Michel Vorm to deny Shane Long’s volley from 6 yards out.
Swansea just could not get their passing game going and it was credit to Hull, who harried and closed down Swansea all afternoon. The impressive Curtis Davies had even shackled the recently infallible Wilfried Bony.
It seemed to be Hull’s day with many of their fans wearing Bruce masks for the day. For those that don’t know, I’m actually quite a big fan of Steve Bruce; this purely comes from the fact that when I was 14, en route to a Wales v Finland at the Millennium Stadium, he pulled up next to us in his big Mercedes at a roundabout just outside Cardiff city centre and gave me and my brothers an audaciously cheesy big thumbs up. A 14-year old Matt Harrison was delighted and has never forgotten the act.
Predictably, the home team eventually grabbed a goal and it came in disappointing fashion for the Swans. Liam Rosenior played a ball high into the box from out wide and George Boyd rose above a flat-footed Angel Rangel to header home past Vorm. 1-0 to Hull. Of course, I didn’t want Hull to score, but I was even more disappointed that the Hull fans didn’t perform their “You’re getting mauled by the Tigers” chant, complete with camp tiger clawing hand gestures. Shame.
Half-time: Hull 1 – 0 Swansea.
Our half-time consisted of more beer, chatting to our fellow Jacks, including Sean from Bolton who had once tried to get a North-West Jacks group going, before heading back to our place at the top of the stand.
Despite the score in Hull’s favour, the Swans fans persisted to sing and continued to show their support for the current manager and club legend Garry Monk. And in fairness to the Swansea support, even though there was the odd mocking chant aimed at Hull’s current name-change plight, they did show their support to the Hull fans by clapping their ‘No to Hull Tigers’ chants.
Swansea were better in the second half, but still they created very little as the only real shot on target for the Swans came from a tame left-footed shot from Jonjo Shelvey from 18 yards out. One of Swansea’s only bright sparks during the game was Wayne Routledge, but it is safe to say that he’s never been the most able of finishers. He did have a chance to test Steve Harper in the Hull goal, but sadly his chipped effort was plucked out of the air comfortably by the former Newcastle keeper.
Full-time: Hull 1 – 0 Swansea.
To the pub to drown our sorrows.
We navigated our way around the circular structure of the KC and back over the bridge in the direction of Hull city centre. As we walked along, past the random horse once again, the Hull fans we encountered did not decide to rub our noses in our defeat, but instead assured us that we wouldn’t go down. Two particularly friendly chaps even offered to take us to a nearby real ale pub to buy us some apparently quality beer, but instead we opted to go enjoy our postmatch drinking a bit closer to the city centre.
Having walked through the estate, through a typically modern shopping centre and past the train station, we found ourselves back in Hull city centre about 15-20 minutes after leaving the stadium. We walked our way through the city centre without really finding any pubs, before, all of a sudden, a load appeared at once. However, the first place we were to visit was pretty random to say the least. For whatever reason, earlier in the day me and Tom had brought up the metal song Let the Bodies Hit the Floor by Drowning Pool, so when we heard that very song blasting out of a nearby bar, we thought it was a sign that we should go in. I’d say that neither of us are big fans of heavy metal music and for 30 minutes we were subjected to a reel of it. The music seemed rather incongruous with our surroundings, as the building had some pretty neat and nice looking architecture inside with the music of bands such as Korn and Slipknot rebounding around its walls. (I’ve since been reminded that this bar is called ‘The Dram Bar’)
We decided we had had enough of fine architecture and heavy metal, so we moved on through the centre. We found ourselves in a quite pleasant, yet very busy pub near the main square of the city centre and more importantly they sold my favourite Jalapenos pepper crisps.
Our day in Hull came to a close back at Hull train station. Anyone that regularly reads this blog will know that I enjoy visiting railway station bars and pubs; well, Hull must offer the most luxurious and glamorous railway station drinking haunt of them all. It is probably fair to say that a quite drunk me and Tom were probably well out of place in our Swansea shirts in the fancy surroundings of the downstairs bar of the Royal Mercure Hotel.
So our long day in Hull came to an end and with cans of Heineken in tow, we boarded the 19:58 train and headed past the impressive Humber Bridge and back towards Manchester. I have no qualms with the city of Hull and their football team, but despite the locals being pleasant enough, I did find it quite difficult to spot any real culture – perhaps that part is to come with its recent crowning as City of Culture.
Highlights: The Pave, stadium quite near city centre, good facilities, plenty of pubs in Hull, friendly fans and locals. Low Points: not the most dazzling of stadiums, poor Swansea performance.