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Monday, May 19, 2014

What Could Have Been



In my heart, I thought our name was on the cup.  In my head, I was expecting an absolute thrashing, 5 goals minimum.

The semi-final was also at Wembley – I enjoyed that day but it was just another game, albeit at Wembley.  I was just going through the motions – turn up, drink beer, win, go home.

This time was different.  This time was history – our first ever FA Cup Final with a qualification to our first ever European campaign already in the bag – not to mention a chance of getting revenge for Phil Brown’s sacking following our defeat to Arsenal several years ago, and to give the gift of another year without a trophy for those poor Arsenal fans, to the rest of the footballing community.

If you wouldn’t mind, I would like to list the less inspiring teams that have knocked Hull City AFC out of the FA Cup since I have supported them:

Notts County
Rotherham
Chester City
Lincoln City
Wrexham
Crewe Alexandra
Hednesford Town
Kettering Town
Oldham Athletic
Macclesfield
Cheltenham Town
Colchester United
Plymouth Argyle
Crawley Town
Barnsley

There were a couple of big teams too, like Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Aston Villa (well, biggish) but the vast majority are relative minnows.

The day started at the Big Chill House in King’s Cross, meeting my sister and a couple of our respective friends – a really cool place with an awesome roof terrace, shame about the lack of sunshine though.  On the bright side, I had mullet recognition as someone shouted “Pat Sharpe” at me.  Notably excellent and very friendly service too.

Next stop Wembley, and boy was I excited.  I was so nervous when I woke up that I had to walk to the shop within 5 minutes of waking up to get some beers, it had taken hours to get to sleep the night before.

Met my parents – my mum was shaking with nerves, also found my uncle, auntie, cousin and saw another mullet – I shouted “mullet” then realised he was rather hard looking, and the mullet wasn’t ironic in the slightest, clearly unchanged from 30 years, except a bit of balding on top.

The pre-game atmosphere was exceptional and yes I sung the national anthem, hand on heart.


How good was that for timing?!

My bets were on Arsenal to win 5-0 or 5-1, and Hull to sneak a 1-0 and the dream of 4-2.

Realistically the only chance of beating Arsenal was to catch them early, and hold on bravely.

So in the 3rd minute we scored, I had to look twice to make sure it was a goal, even as we were going crazy in celebration I was still not convinced but it was a clear goal – knocked in by one of our excellent central defenders, James Chester.  Can you name any other footballers with a first name of James?  A true rarity.

Roll on the 8th minute and we scored a second by our captain fantastic, Curtis Davies – a true Hull City legend after just one season, this guy gives so much effort that it is truly inspiring – Margaret Thatcher would be proud.  Why he is not in the England squad is beyond me.  Apart from the fact that he doesn’t play for a big club.

2-0.  Crazy.  Though we were 2-0 up against Man Utd earlier this season and lost.


Then in the 13th minute we came so close to scoring a 3rd.  Alex Bruce, the manager’s son had a header cleared off the line.

Arsenal then went into diving mode, falling over at every opportunity and were lucky to get a free kick, from which they scored.  It was a very good goal though.

The rest of the half, I vaguely remember, Arsenal were not particularly much better than us, there were few shots on target from either team and come the half-time beer, we were 2-1 ahead.  Perhaps the most memorable moment in the rest of the half was the lout next to me chanting “Steve Bruce”, somehow not falling over despite being horrendously drunk, for a good 10 minutes before the rest of us joined in/caved in.  Steve Bruce.  Steve Bruce.  Steve Bruce.  Steve Bruce.  Steve Bruce.  Steve Bruce.  And on.

That is our manager, by the way.  Steve Bruce.

Time for a beer – and the service at Wembley is notably quick.  Steve Bruce.

Arsenal slowly turned the screw as the second half went on, and showed their class.  However they couldn’t break down our defence, and I started to believe that maybe it would be our day.  One or two half-shouts for a penalty against us, which I’m surprised weren’t given with Arsenal being a big club – but certainty would not have been given to us, so it was fair.  Steve Bruce.  Steve Bruce.  Steve Bruce.

But then inevitability struck and Arsenal smuggled the ball into the net.  It was then just a matter of time until they got the winner and I was hoping that it would be over sooner rather than later.

Steve Bruce.   Steve Bruce.   Steve Bruce.   Steve Bruce.   Steve Bruce.   Steve Bruce.   Steve Bruce.   Steve Bruce.   Steve Bruce.   Steve Bruce.   Steve Bruce.   Steve Bruce.   Steve Bruce.   Steve Bruce.

Alas it went into extra time, Arsenal brought on Rosicky and Wiltshere – which is a sign of how far ahead of us they are when we had the likes of Boyd and Aluko to bring on - eventually Arsenal did get their 3rdgoal to go into the lead.

But with just a few minutes to go, a spot of kamikaze defending gave us a difficult chance, Aluko had passed the keeper but was almost next to the touchline – a cross/shot went agonisingly wide.  Steve Bruce.   Steve Bruce.   Steve Bruce.   Steve Bruce.

So close to an equaliser – so close to penalties.  Albeit with more English players than Arsenal we would have had no chance of winning a shoot-out.

I don’t begrudge Arsenal the win.

The team, to a man was absolutely fantastic, so much effort – Curtis Davies, our central defender was still running right to the end, to the point of even playing up front for a while.

The fans were amazing.  I have never known such support from the fans, not even in the play-off final, even straight after Arsenal’s equalizer and winning goal, we were straight back to singing.

I came out of Wembley and my first thoughts were “never been so proud to be from Hull”.

I am still smiling now.  I don’t mind losing – getting there was amazing, being 2-0 ahead was beyond amazing and the whole experience was just exceptional – one of those days I will be talking about when I have those metaphorical grand-children to talk to.

Silverware, we don’t care, follow Hull City, everywhere.

Steve Bruce.

Steve Bruce.
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Steve Bruce.