LIBERATING FOOTBALL TRAVEL

Hull City

Can Turkish takeover help Tigers find their roar?

A fan’s guide – the club from early doors to today

When Hull City dropped out of the Premier League in 2010, signalling the end of the entertaining reign of manager Phil Brown, few expected them to bounce back. Yet coach Steve Bruce managed to get the Tigers back three seasons later, gaining automatic promotion in 2013. A brave showing in the FA Cup final of 2014, Hull leading Arsenal 2-0 after only ten minutes, won over many a neutral and gained the club a first-ever European campaign in 2014-15.

In 2015-16, Bruce achieved another minor miracle, getting City back into the Premier League after a nail-biting play-off against Sheffield Wednesday. Sadly, his farewell letter to fans before the 2016-17 campaign tells its own tale. After four years of struggle, not least against controversial club owner Assem Allam, Bruce bowed out, leaving the club rudderless just days before the big kick-off.

Jack Harrison plaque, MKM Stadium/Peterjon Cresswell

There was always something a bit fairytale about Hull’s unprecedented rise to the top. Having scaled three divisions in four years, the Tigers made Premier League in 2008 thanks to a goal by local lad Dean Windass. His winning volley in the Wembley play-off with Bristol City was almost written in the stars.

Fate had not always been kind to Hull up to that point. They were founded in 1904, in a town defined by its already-established tradition in rugby league. In 1930, Hull fought through to the semi-finals of the FA Cup. Having triumphed over one great side of the day, Newcastle, they came up against another, Arsenal, succumbing 1-0 after a replay.

In the modern era, though hardly bringing home silverware, the club at least had character – the charmingly dilapidated Boothferry Park – and characters in spades. Ken Wagstaff starred in the team that scored 100-plus goals to win the Third Division Championship in 1966. Four decades later, during which time Wagstaff had run pubs around Hull and the region, fans voted him the club’s best ever player. At career end, he crossed paths, if only just, with Billy Bremner, who had two characteristically fiery seasons at Boothferry Park.

MKM Stadium/Colin Young

Most of all, though, was Windass, a brave, heart-on-his-sleeve centre-forward whose professional career started at Hull. In 2007, Windass returned on loan, his relegation-saving goal at Cardiff justifying manager Phil Brown’s decision to lure him back.

Brown had not long been made permanent manager. Almost improbably, within a season came that Windass volley and promotion to the Premier League.

Once they were up, things started to get a bit bizarre. Frustrated at being left out of the first XI, in a side showing extremes of form, Windass was involved in a fight at a casino with team-mate Marlon King. Then the perma-tanned Brown had the whole nation laughing over Christmas when he kept the players on the Manchester City pitch at half-time and lectured to them as if to naughty schoolchildren.

Despite Windass’ departure, and the many FA reprimands as Brown became more enraged, Hull stayed up and Brown serenaded celebrating fans by singing Beach Boys songs. In truth, results elsewhere had kept them up, and the writing was on the wall.

After several consecutive defeats and FA reprimands, a year later Brown was let go as Hull went down.

Former KC Stadium/Peterjon Cresswell

Egyptian philanthropist Assem Allam took over the club as three creditable Championship campaigns, and as many managers, ended in 2013 with Steve Bruce taking Hull back up. A heart-stopping draw with already promoted Cardiff sealed the deal on the last day.

As Allam continued to battle to change the club’s name after 110 years (why do owners need to do this?), Bruce set about the serious task of getting Hull back to the Premier League – again. That achieved, the club went straight back down again.

Neither able to rename the club nor sell it on, Allam brought in fish-out-of-water Russian manager Leonid Slutsky, presumably for comedic value. At last Nigel Adkins, then ex-Northern Ireland international Grant McCann imposed stability, while on the pitch, Jarrod Bowen shone game after game, tricking his way down the right channel to find the net. 

After his lucrative sale to West Ham, Hull dropped down to the third tier for the first time in 15 years. Goals from Bowen’s young replacement, Mallik Wilks, then helped Hull claim the divisional trophy and regain a berth in the Championship at the first attempt. Fans would also have been buoyed by Allam’s sale of the club to Turkish media mogul, football-savvy Acun Ilicali, in January 2022.

Ground Guide

The field of dreams – and the stands around it

Surrounded by parkland and the sites of old grounds iconic to Hull’s sporting past, the MKM Stadium was opened in 2002.

Shared by Hull City and rugby league’s Hull FC, the 25,500-capacity MKM was the £44-million solution to each club’s falling-apart stadium problem. In City’s case, this was Boothferry Park, just further west from town along the same road, where they had played since 1946.

In fact, Hull City had begun peacetime football sharing The Boulevard with Hull FC, as local bomb devastation was slowly cleared. The nearby Anlaby Road ground, that City had used for most of their pre-war history, was unplayable.

Also in the immediate post-war period, Hull City used the cricket ground that stood where the KC does today, The Circle.

When Premier League crowds touched full capacity, Hull City owner Assem Allam expressed interest in buying the venue from the local council who built it, and expanding it – but average Championship gates pre-2020 barely filled half the stadium.

For the moment, surrounded on three sides by one-tiered stands, the main West Stand, with its signature curving roof, rises above in two tiers. Opposite, as at Boothferry, the  home faithful occupy the East Stand, with further support in South Stand at one end, and half the North Stand. Away fans are allocated a corner between the North and East Stands, sectors E1, NE1 and N7, through gates 22-24, the view usually excellent but the wind bitter in winter. 

Outside the West Stand, a raised plaque honours 2nd Lt Jack Harrison, top try scorer for Hull FC before the war that killed him in 1917.

Note that the sponsored acronym MKM was brought in quite recently – fans have just become accustomed to calling it the KCOM, which replaced its original name of the KC Stadium.

getting there

Going to the ground – tips and timings

It’s a 20min walk from Hull Paragon station, along Anlaby Road, with West Park to your right after the road bridge. 

Alternatively, Stagecoach bus 2 leaves from bay 6 every 10mins (every 20-30mins eve/Sun) from bay 6 of the adjoining bus station and Stagecoach bus 350 leaves from bay 30 (every 30mins, every 2-3hrs Sun), both bound for the KCOM Stadium stop, journey time 7-8mins. East Yorkshire bus 66 leaves from bay 7 (every 30mins Mon-Fri & Sun, every 15mins Sat) and takes 15mins to reach the same stop on Anlaby Road, the ground across the street, surrounded by parkland.

The sat nav code for the MKM Stadium, probably still indicated as the KCOM Stadium on many devices, is HU3 6HU. Halfway up Walton Street from Anlaby Road, signposted match-day parking (£5) operates alongside the stadium from 3hrs before kick-off. Try and get space near one of the two exits, ideally the one for Spring Bank West, a right turn as you leave. 

Because of long waiting times otherwise, some use the car park at Pryme Street (HU2 8HR) by the Travelodge hotel, £3/24hrs but beware that it closes at 7pm Mon-Sat, 4pm Sun. From there, it’s a straight 10min walk along Spring Bank/Spring Bank West to the stadium. Alternatively, there’s a P&R service from Priory Park (HU4 7DY) down by the Humber, from where regular Stagecoach buses run into town via Anlaby Road, stopping by the stadium. It operates until 7pm Mon-Sat, and not at all on Sundays. Parking is free but the bus journey requires the standard fare.

getting in

Buying tickets – when, where, how and how much

The ticket office (Mon-Sat 9am-5pm, match-day Sat 9am- kick-off, match-day Sun 10am-kick-off) is by the Tiger Leisure club shop, behind the East Stand. There’s also a ticket hotline (01482 505 600, £2 fee) and online sales – with availability hardly ever a problem these days.

On match days, you can still use the phone line for print-at-home or ticket pick-up services from 10am. Note that there’s a £3 levy for debit/credit card sales in person, no charge with cash. 

Prices are set at £27, with no difference between a prime spot over the halfway line in sectors E5-E7 in the East Stand and a seat behind the goal in South Stand. Over-65s pay £21, 16-22s £15, 11-15s £10.50, 2-10s £7.50. 

what to buy

Shirts, kits, merchandise and gifts

Behind the East Stand, Tiger Leisure (Mon-Sat 9am-5pm, match-day Sat 9am- kick-off, match-day Sun 10am-kick-off & after final whistle) stocks the current first kit of the classic amber with a ripped diagonal stripe in signature black, as if a tiger has just clawed the player’s chest. 

Look out, too, for the series of club histories by Nicholas Turner, Go Tigers! about the early years, Hull City in the 1920s and The Boothferry Park Years. T-shirts celebrate the 2021 League One triumph or there’s one bearing the simple message, ‘We Are Hull’. Tiger-striped flip-flops should wow them on the beach.

A matchday store, a stand-alone hut just outside the ground, also operates in the run-up to kick-off and immediately after the final whistle.

stadium tours

Explore the ground inside and out

Although there are currently no stadium tours, the Hull City Official Supporters Club is working hard to have them reinstated. These will be open to members only (annual fee £8) and last one hour. Email events@hullcityosc.co.uk for details.

Where to Drink

Pre-match beers for fans and casual visitors

The many pubs on and around Anlaby Road kept their allegiance and popularity after the move from Boothferry Park but some haven’t survived lockdown. In 2020, the local press reported on the closure of landmark corner pub Parkers, dating back to 1777, but it reopened in December 2021. The Brickmakers/Park View on Walton Street served its last pint in April 2021, although its pub team is still going.

Several Hull haunts still line Anlaby Road. Affordable drinks flow at The Malt Shovel (No.583) while The Griffin (No.501) stages regular live entertainment and action on several screens fills the Albert Hotel (No.394). Home and away fans are welcome at the William Gemmell (No.507) and The Boot Room (No.368), greeted by televised sport and regular live acts.

On Spring Bank West, meanwhile, the long-established Halfway House (No.595) was set to reopen as the New Halfway House before another lockdown was ordered in spring 2021. With its own pub team, this large pub on a residential street put equal focus on music as it does football. Also here, Kingfisher is considered the best chippie, with quality fish if you want to go the whole hog.

Many visiting supporters are happy to pay a £1 for match-day entry into the New Walton Club at the Spring Bank West end of Walton Street, where a friendly welcome and wallet-friendly beer await. 

Also pre-match, the Airco Arena bar is run by the Hull City Official  Supporters Club but open to all. It’s in the indoor sports hall between Walton Street and the North Stand in the stadium complex. Members also gather in the Dugout bar immediately behind the South Stand. Away fans have their own, Pitch Side, just inside the turnstiles, with TVs a-plenty although alcohol sales are curtailed within 45mins of kick-off.

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