Chaos at the turnstiles and things weren’t much better on the pitch as a disheveled City performance saw a second 2-3 reverse against very limited opposition in our first ever visit to Leicester’s Walkers Bowl.
I hated this game more than any game since Terry Dolan was in charge of our team.
Horrible. We were treated like vermin by Leicester City Football Club. I don’t have much desire to be treated like a ‘customer’ at football, still less to be integrated into happy-clappy family entertainment footie fun, but I do like to be allowed to pay into the ground to see the match. The home club were a disgrace, as were the local police, as vile and aggressive a bunch as anything that the late 1980s could have thrown up. And then we were treated like fools by our team, who set aside several weeks of promising performances that have been ill rewarded by poor results and instead served up a foppish self-indulgent ill-disciplined woeful display that got all the points that it deserved. None.
Parkin was wonderful.
No one else was worth their wages. It really is the Dolan era that I last found myself issuing such condemnation. But we played like a relegation team yesterday. Dismal. Inept.
I’m being a bit harsh, I suppose (on the lovely Leon Cort most of all, perhaps). But I’m not happy about yesterday. As you may have noticed.
I reached the ground at about quarter to 3, a bit earlier maybe. I saw that round thing that we call a football for the first time at quarter past 3, a bit later maybe. One turnstile – one! – was open to City fans wanting to pay. Two turnstiles were open for those with tickets, and they were almost completely unused, since we’d been advised we didn’t need to buy tix in advance, since this is a new stadium with copious capacity allied to all modern facilities. Ha! Prattish stewards wandered around asking if we had tickets, waving towards the unused pair of turnstiles. No, we said, politely at first, as the minutes ticked by and kick-off came and went, and our queue got longer.
There were plenty of employees of Leicester City around – none thought to re-designate the ticket turnstiles as pay turnstiles, none thought – imaginez! – to open another turnstile. They did however laugh in most jolly fashion when asked if kick-off might be delayed.
If this was a proper country like Romania or Syria, the officials in charge would have been hung until dead from lampposts, suspended by the gold braid on their epaulettes, while their children would have been slaughtered with piano wire. This being England, we inspected our fingernails and muttered to anyone willing to make eye contact that ‘it is all a bit unfortunate really, all things considered’.
But even the stiff upper lip trembles when jolted with sufficient force. Irritation mounted. All the while sneering police loitered, itching for a fight, treating our increasing protests as a public order issue rather then legitimate frustration at our treatment. Eventually, well after the game had kicked off, one more turnstile was opened. One! And eventually I got in. I expect other City fans are queuing still.
And then we lost.
And, unlike recent reverses, this one we deserved.
Thelwell Cort Delaney Rogers
France Green Andrews Noble Elliott
Sort of like that, anyway. We were sloppy, lacking leadership and threw away an importance chance to keep – very ordinary – opposition beneath us in the table. Our goals – both equalisers – were Parkin products. Theirs were horror shows, from our perspective. The second was a freak punt from near the halfway line, but the other two arrived after flowing moves which sped around, past and beyond our stranded midfielders and defence. We looked gruesomely vulnerable.
Four flaws? One, Delaney at centre-back. This utterly admirable young man doesn’t seem quite sharp enough to cope with quick-witted and nimble-footed strikers in this Division. I think this too is Mr Taylor’s view – well, that’s what Andy Dalton told me – but injuries currently force his hand. Two, Andrews is not a bad holding midfielder player. We could do with a better – more engaged, more consistent, more authoritative – holding midfielder. Three, Mark Noble. A talented ballplayer whose ability to find space by roaming across the full width of the pitch could be the source of goalmaking creativity. But when we’re level away from home in a don’t-lose scrap I like to see sundry opponents getting booted up in the air from time to time, and I don’t think young Noble sees getting bloodied or carded in the Hull City cause as the best way to win the heart of Alan Pardew as the chirpy West Ham boss plans for next season. Four, lack of a leader. You can best grasp why Mr Taylor bought Sam Collins when we take to the pitch without him. Collins is a shouter, an organiser, a natural captain, and it’s a role that no one else in the squad can fill. We’re vocally lightweight and I suspect opposing teams draws strength from the impression that we just don’t much fancy getting stuck into it and them.
A summer of post-injury re-birth for Collins, Coles, Dawson, Ashbee (though I doubt he’ll ever be back) and McPhee will help us solve these problems, but I need not remind you that no one has ever been spared relegation on the basis that they’ve had a few men out hurt.
Meanwhile, abuse rained down on Mr Taylor like snow in July. Yes, they’re a fierce bunch these Leicester fans. My, I almost heard them once. I could have been mistaken. The Walker’s Bowl is a functional and unimaginative arena, of a type with So’ton and Reading though probably overall poorer than both, and it is home to a dour, dull and somnolent set of supporters.
By the way, I agree with everything Richard Herman has contributed to this list lately. I understand perfectly well that offering a price in April for next season’s pass, when we don’t know which division we’ll be playing in, gives the punter a chance to gamble. Buy early, buy cheap – and maybe buy Boston not Birmingham. That’s fine, it’s your free choice. But stipulating – as our club currently does – that unless you buy at the earliest date, and no later, you lose you chosen seat at the Circle, is completely unfair, a new departure and simply an attack on the flexibility of the hardest core fans. By all means tell passholders they can buy in April at price x while if they wait until June it will be x plus y. But let them keep their seat in either case.
I’m off topic. ‘Cos I’m fed up. Parkin. Let me lighten the mood. He is fantastic. It was his beautifully crafted crossfield ball that allowed Elliott, arriving at the back post much as he had done – but fruitlessly – in stoppage time at Cardiff, to plant a meaty header past Henderson to provide our first equaliser. His astonishingly deft touch set up Green for a firmly rifled shot from just outside the box to bring us back to 2-2. This man Parkin is a genius. You know, I like him better than Aaron Wilbraham, I really do.
Actually, I like him as much as Colin Stein and Derek Johnstone, and now we really are getting serious. And – seriously – will we keep him? He’s scoring goals, even when (as at Cardiff) the linesman fails to spot it, he’s forcing heroics from goalkeepers (Henderson produced one astonishing save from a point-blank effort during yesterday’s second half), he’s leading the line, he’s winning penalties, he’s making goals for others, he’s turning decent defenders into gibbering wrecks (will Lescott ever recover from his beasting last week?). Parkin is a very seriously gifted footballer and when you look at the silly money thrown in recent years after folk like Adi Akimbiyi, James Scowcroft, Blakes Robbie and Nathan, and assorted feckless Poles and Croats you find yourself wondering what size of cheque may be brandished in front of Mr Pearson over the summer (and not only by whoever is misguided enough to employ Harry Redknapp).
Well, with ten or so minutes to go, I was happy with a point, though not much enamoured of my afternoon’s fun. Then Leicester broke clear down their left, the ball was transferred across the field with the minimum of fuss and an alarming absence of intervention from any of our players, and Gudjonsson, twenty yards out, got his head over the ball to clout a firm low shot into the net via the fingertips of the sprawling Boaz. 3-2. Paynter promptly arrived to bustle, Duffy had been doing the same since his arrival on the hour (and the Scot looked perkier this week than last), but the task was beyond us. In stoppage time the best scoring opportunity fell to Leicester when Boaz found himself marooned upfield in support of a fading attack, and a sliced hoof simply left their sub Welsh in space, homing in on an empty net. He slapped his shot wastefully high over the bar as our defence scurried back, to the dismay of team-mates advancing in support both to his right and his left. But, for us, the game was lost, and the fell murmur ‘Millwall have won’ spread among the City support.
Commendably astute pub selection by a reliable china o’mine ensured this was a splendid day up until about quarter to three. After that, it was vile. I don’t think I’ll be bothering with the away game at Leicester next season. Assuming there is one.
HULL CITY (4-2-3-1): Myhill; Thelwell, Cort, Delaney, Rogers; Andrews, Noble; France, Green, Elliott; Parkin. Subs: Welsh (for Noble, 60), Duffy (for Thelwell, 65), Paynter (for Andrews, 87), Ellison, Duke.
Goals: Elliott 35; Green 73
Sent Off: None
LEICESTER CITY: Henderson, Stearman, Gerrbrand, Kisnorbo, Johansson, Maybury, Gudjonsson, Williams, Hughes, Hume, Fryatt. Subs: Welsh (for Hughes, 71), Brevett (for Fryatt, 88), Logan, O’Grady, Hammond.
Goals: Hume 30; Gudjonsson 64, 84
Sent Off: None
REFEREE: N Miller