For us Hull City supporters, the 2008-9 season has ended in success. At the beginning, most pundits were suggesting we would ‘Do a Derby’ and struggle to better the Rams’ paltry 11 points – the worst ever Premier League total.
However after just seven games, The Tigers had defied all odds and surpassed the Rams’ total, the world was our oyster and City were acting like a wedding reception gatecrasher, stealing everyone’s drinks and sharing cocktails at the groom’s table. Famous victories against Arsenal at the beautiful Emirites Stadium, Tottenham at White Heart Lane and then ‘big club’ Newcastle at St James Park won the respect of the nation and Hull City became everyone’s second team.
Talk spread of being safe by Christmas and qualifying for Europe. However deep down the true fans knew this was surely a pipedream, you have to learn to walk before you can run and as it turned out, City nearly sank in what would have been the most violent slide in Premier League history.
The party seemed to have been pooped at the KC Stadium by Sunderland. With the score at 1-1 and City pressing for a winner, a chance shot from miles out deflected off hapless defender Zayatte and past keeper Myhill into the City net. It proved a sucker punch and from that moment on, we were dazed.
Another heavy defeat came at Manchester City; 4-0 down at half-time and manager Phil Brown gave a scathing team-talk on the Eastlands turf. Critics fed on this ‘management technique’ as Brown called it and our demise would have been pinned on this event had Newcastle United not performed even worse than us nearer the end of the campaign.
Spirits were raised by the £5m record signing of England international midfield maestro Jimmy Bullard. Not only is Jimmy a smooth operator but a witty and charming guy too. Jimmy was to save Hull from the slide, but it wasn’t to be. Carrying a long-term knee injury, he only managed 37 minutes at West Ham before being taken off and later it was announced that he needed serious surgery and would be out from 6-9 months.
Then we lost previous record signing Anthony Gardner to injury, later we lost inspirational captain Ian Ashbee following one of his trademark ‘take no prisoners’ tackles at Villa Park. The troops were falling, the trapdoor looming.
Who could we turn to in our hour of need? Club legend Dean Windass was no longer flavour of the month after a spat with the gaffer and doomed to playng with the reserves. We lacked strikers and we lacked quality. City weren’t picking up many points but our relegation rivals weren’t winning either and and a solitary equalizer by Craig Fagan to snatch a draw at Bolton proved to be the difference between us and Shearer’s Newcastle.
So it was, as on the final day, every one of the four clubs in the mire lost their games and the Tigers stayed up on 35 points, one more than the record minimum points total set by West Bromwich Albion a few years before.
It’s been an amazing season and in typical Hull City fashion it’s gone to the wire. There was a fast start and an free-falling descent but at the end of the ride, we are able to get off, brush ourselves down and have another go next season.
And we deserve it too as it will be only our second top flight season in 106 years. Offered 17th place at the outset of the season and we’d have bitten your hand off.
I’m honoured too. My granddad was a Hull supporter and knew many of the excllent 1960s team that included the great Ken Wagstaff, Ken Houghton and Chris Chiltern. He knew the manager, Terry Neil, alas he never saw the club grace the top division. My dad too for most of his life has witnessed City compete in the second to fourth tiers and almost go out of existence.
I’ll always be able to say I was there in north London when City beat the mighty Gunners 2-1. I was there too when we outplayed Aston Villa at home, were dis-allowed a Nicky Barmby goal, saw the unfortunate Zayatte once again the victim of a deflected own goal and in the dying seconds have a penalty decision overturned.
Ultimately, we should thank Aston Villa for beating Newcastle on ‘Survival Sunday’ which has granted us another season of Premier League football.
But more than that we should thank Phil Brown & Chairman Paul Duffen for allowing us to ‘dare to dream’.
And if you too have invested something in the club, then thanks to you too. You might have bought a hat or a scarf, you might have attended a game or even have been a season ticket holder for 30 years.
I’m still a bit dizzy myself and I don’t really want to get off, although I could probably do with a breather before it all starts again in August.