As has been well documented, it has been a roller coaster season for a Liverpool fan. Starting the Premier League season as 33-1 outsiders, a series of amazing performances meant that the frankly impossible became possible. And then reality, and Liverpool’s godawful defence combined to extinguish the dream. What complicated matters for me is living with the other half, a guy who utterly loathes everything about Liverpool FC.
There is nothing wrong with differences of opinion of course. But Sundays were complicated. I’d go out and watch the game elsewhere , and when I returned various toys had been mysteriously thrown out of the pram. Of course when Liverpool lost the title (or more correctly Man City deservedly won it) , the toys returned to the pram. And that would have been that. But his team were Hull City. And as a result he had two tickets to Saturday’s FA Cup Final against Arsenal.
When I was eight , my Dad managed to get tickets for Ipswich v Arsenal. Whenever I ask him now how he got the tickets he just mysteriously says “Black market” and leaves it at that. In 1986 my schoolmate and fellow Liverpool fan Mark Little somehow got two tickets for Liverpool’s double winning performance against Everton. Add to that three cricket world cup finals, and once meeting Wendy James from Transvision Vamp , and it’s clear that Ive been a lucky guy over the years.
The train up was uneventful , with rival fans friendly. Though with most of the Arsenal chants I was tempted to say “This is your day.Could you not obsess about Spurs for just one day?” And Wembley really works. It is a magnificent stadium. Quick queueing , easy to find seats , and only a fiver for a small can of beer. What’s not to love? Despite the fact that we were as far away from the pitch as it’s possible to be, the view was magnificent and the fans in fine form. Then something totally unexpected happened. Hull City went 2-0 up after ten minutes.
This changed everything. Most of the Hull City fans would have come thinking – “if Arsenal can miss all their chances , if we sneak a lucky goal , and if they can sprinkle “Magic of the Cup” dust all over us , we might just do this.” It was Arsenal who came into the match in form, it was Hull who had two strikers missing through being cuptied. Now the task was different. “If we only concede one goal in the next 80 minutes , we’ve bloody done it”
This season as a Liverpool fan, I had to watch my team battle heroically but then succumb inevitably at the last to a club with a better squad and deeper pockets. Now as a Hull City fan for the day, I had to do it all over again. There was a horrible sense of inevitability about how Arsenal, nowhere near their best, still had enough about them to patiently claw back the deficit and take the lead in extra time. Ramsay’s superb goal knocked the stuffing out of me and the thousands around me. No way back. Except that there was. Arsenal’s poor defending allowed Sone Aluko to round the goalie and attempt a shot from a frankly impossible angle. For a glorious moment it looke like Sone Aluko, one cap for Nigeria after representing England at u-19, was going to score the single most memorable goal in the history of the FA Cup Final. It went agonizingly wide. Magic of the cup my arse. Hull City joined Brighton (83) , Crystal Palace (90) and West Ham (06) as underdogs who had raised their game magnificently but still come away with nothing. I was more openly devastated than my other half. He is the lifelong devoted fan, but doesnt get as tragically overemotional as I do.
I did point out the Liverpool analogy, and that perhaps he can now see how I felt. He pointed out that Liverpool will get other chances. In all likelihood, this is it for Hull. Ten minutes into extra time a guy , seemed like mid 50’s, came to say hello to me. I asked him what he thought the score would be. He said “Whatever happens , this has been the greatest day of my life”
As we got off the train at Stockwell station to get a bus home, three drunk Arsenal fans spotted us. Or rather spotted the other half. All day he had worn a Hull City top with “FRYATT” written on the back. Why Matty Fryatt ? “He’s not the most talented footballer , but I really admire his workrate” This was an opinion that would have been lost on the three drunks who decided to follow us shouting at the top of their voices “HULL CITY SHIT. MATTY FRYATT SHIT. FRYATT SHIT. SHIT. SHIT FRYATT SHIT.HULL CITY SHIT.SHIT” accompanied by cacophonous laughter at their combined wit. The walk to the ticket barrier felt like an eternity as these hilarious people became slightly perplexed that their efforts elicited no change of pace or turning round on our parts. Then at the bus stop were more Arsenal fans. Who were doubled up in hysterics that anyone could possibly be wearing a Hull City top.
My other half never reacted at all to any of this. And for that I’m proud of him. And I understand his resentment of fans like me , who by good fortune happened to have picked a strong team in childhood , regardless of lack of links to city or club. I hate his total lack of perspective and objectivity when it comes to discussing that club. But having spent a day in his shoes, I understand it a little bit more. Fans of the “bigger club”, be grateful that there will always be another chance. As for Hull City – you were great company. Now go and win the Europa League.