FA Cup Final preview, part 1. To Hull and back

FA Cup Final preview, part 1. To Hull and back
1982. Hull City players fear the worst

1982. Hull City players fear the worst

I shall set the scene. February 1982. I am at Boothferry Park, home of Hull City.

I am there in my capacity as sports researcher for Yorkshire Television. And the big hitters from the tabloids are there. The Daily Mirror, Daily Mail and other newspapers are expecting that Hull City football club will cease to be by the end of the day.

As the young “upstart” (relatively speaking) I was despatched to buy lunch with the expenses float that the ‘hacks’ spotted upon my person. Patient journalists and anxious players sat down together for a fish and chip lunch.

Gordon Taylor, the then little know leader of the Professional Footballers Association, arrived. No white charger. Less jewellery than he wears these days. The suit was off the peg, not high end designer gear. As far as I am aware, Taylor was several years away from developing his addiction to gambling.

The odds were stacked against him. Hull City became the first English football club to be placed into receivership. We’re used to such words these days. Receivership. Administration.

But, in 1982, nobody quite knew what future the Tigers would have. If any. The players were on edge. Could Taylor guarantee them a job as a professional footballer with Hull City?

Taylor told me: “Unless football gets its house in order we will see many more cases like Hull City. I expect other clubs to go into receivership.”

Remember. He was talking to me in February 1982.

The captain back then was Garreth Roberts. He says: “I can remember the receiver talking to the players. It was all lawyer speak. None of us knew what would happen next. The bottom line was that the club had no money. It was scary.”

Taylor ensured the players could turn out for games against Mansfield and Halifax Town – a club that would follow Hull into receivership.

The end of Boothferry Park

The end of Boothferry Park

Local people remembered they had a football club and home attendances went up as local media set up campaigns to save the club.

Everyone played their part in making sure the club got to the end of that season. Players, fans, the receiver and Gordon Taylor. But it was not until after the last ball had been kicked that Hull City football club was officially safe. A larger than life character of my personal acquaintance came to the rescue. His name was Don Robinson or, as we in the media called him, “Mr.Scarborough.”

Two promotions in the 1980’s saw attendances rise. Years later a new ground was built. But troubles returned. The club went into administration in 2001 and were threatened with liquidation as recently as 2010.

Perhaps this weekend of all weekends, the many thousands of Hull City fans at Wembley should recall how far the club has come. Premier League football and an FA Cup final.

Hull City owner Assem Allam The current owner wanting to rebrand the club from Hull City to Hull Tigers is, of course, nonsense. At least to the supporters. But to Assem Allam (pictured above) it makes perfect business sense.
In the scheme of things, when you remember how close and how often Hull City football club came to oblivion; perhaps a name change is not such a big issue.

Assem Allam paid £60 million pounds for a club that could be purchased for a few sticks of rock back in 1982.
His best decision so far was to appoint Steve Bruce as manager. The former Manchester United defender will be a very proud man on Saturday.

Bruce says: “The old man, as I call him, contacted me and asked if I would help him. He said to me, ‘I’ve put a lot of money in. I want someone to run my football club.’

“I see him once every three weeks for a cup of coffee. He lets me get on with the job. He doesn’t call me or turn up at training and say, ‘Steve, why did you pick him? That helps.”

Steve BruceAnd now the men will meet up at Wembley as Hull City prepare to take on Arsenal.

Bruce is happy for his Chairman. He says: “I’m pleased for him because there are not many people who would have bought Hull and put in £60m. I’m not really interested in the marketing or commercial side of the club. My sole job is preparing the team.

“I’ve said to my players, ‘Here’s your chance.’ It will be very difficult, but I hope they rise to the occasion.”

Thirty two years ago, for the players at Hull City, Wembley was further away than Zeebrugge.

Win or lose, the players who step out in the black and gold shirts on Saturday should consider themselves very fortunate.

For one thing, they will not have to explain to their boss why they’re claiming on their expenses for a dozen portions of fish and chips!

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