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Soup of This Day #351: Everyone Forgot Your Name

December 28, 2013

Mound of the Western Pebble-mound Mouse
The very accurately-named Western Pebble-mound Mouse creates a microclimate around its burrow via a series of pebble mounds. The air around the pebbles warms up faster than the pebbles themselves do and so little drops of condensation form on the mounds each morning, providing the desert-dweller with a ready source of fluid relief and a handy place to make a stand – Photo: BoundaryRider, 2005. BoundaryRider is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

A few weeks ago, as I started to write this Soup, Hull and Liverpool were playing out an English Premier League (EPL) clash at the former’s KC Stadium home. On paper this was a pretty simple affair – Liverpool were 2nd in the EPL standings after 12 matches while Hull lurked in no-man’s land, almost equidistant between the top 10 and the bottom 3.

This snapshot too reflects the traditional power imbalance between the Merseyside Reds and the Yorkshire Tigers – In 16 previous meetings Hull had never beaten Liverpool. They did have a reasonable shot at breaking that duck that night though – The Reds were without Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho, 2 game-breaking attackers, and shorn of those creative sparks, Liverpool can too easily lapse into a familiar and unproductive slumber.

For all that, the focus leading up to that match had been on matters off the field of play. Specifically the possible renaming of Hull City to Hull Tigers.

This is the brainchild of Hull owner Assem Allam, who apparently feels like the latter handle would be more marketable, particular in lucrative Asian markets. The ‘City’ label, he says, is too common.

And he’s right, to a point. To illustrate this I’ve just put ‘City’ into Google and the search engine has returned, ‘About 1,210,000,000 results.’ ‘Tigers’ on the other hand, nets only, ‘About 35,200,000 results.’

Of course if you take that logic further then ‘Western pebble-mound mouse’ yields just 94,500 results. Western pebble-mound mouse being the common name of a rodent found in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. You could argue that the Western pebble-mound mouse hasn’t been found to be naturally occurring along the banks of the River Hull but neither have tigers. What has been found along the banks of the River Hull is a city – It’s formally known as Kingston upon Hull but more commonly known as just Hull.

Which is probably altogether too much common for Assem Allam.

Commonality though is a point of reference for your average football fan. It’s what football clubs thrive on – They are the sum of the everyday people who support them. However much money an owner might sink in, whatever stadiums that owner might build and whichever star players that owner might attract, a football club does not derive its soul from that owner. It does from its history, and Hull has nigh on 109 years of that to call on.

And for all of those years they have been Hull City Association Football Club

The faithful would like to keep it that way. They feel rather strongly about this – A groundswell of opinion demonstrated at matches where a significant proportion chant things like:

‘City till we die.’

Which is a defiant challenge and 1 that can’t be easily discounted. Every person has the right to pick a pebble-mound to die on, metaphorically speaking. You choose carefully because even if it is metaphorical then you only get to die once.

Unless you’re a cat, but let’s be honest, your average feline is not a great 1 for metaphors. The leopard’s spots are a useful camouflage and why would you want to change them?

Those Hull fans like their spots the way they are and so have chosen their pebble-mound – Their identity will live and die on its dewy slopes.

Of course, it isn’t a matter of anyone actually dying. Although this is a point seemingly lost on Assem Allam, who before the Liverpool game attempted to dismiss the protesters with the suggestion that:

‘They can die as soon as they want.’

Wishing your club’s fans to die is not a great marketing strategy.

There are, it’s true, a lot of dead people out there. They do however lack purchasing power. The vast majority of them too are decomposing underground or have been cremated – So you’re not going to boost attendance. At least not in a way that’s agreeable beyond the grave-robbing fraternity.

To be fair to Allam he is at least on to something in English football – The EPL features no fewer than 6 clubs out of a possible 20 with the appellation ‘City’. That’s 30% and so in the EPL at least, ‘City’ is common.

That high rate of occurrence breaks down outside the EPL though -If we extend that to the entirety of the Football League, comprising the 3 tiers below the EPL, out of 72 clubs, only 6 directly attach themselves to a ‘City’.

And it could be worse for Hull – Across the top-4 tiers 9 clubs share ‘Town’ and none of them are in the EPL. So ‘City’ might be common, but at least it’s more successful than being just a ‘Town’. Which does make sense – You by-and-large need a greater urban area in which to sustain a push for glory.

For instance, in the top 4 tiers of English football (The EPL + The Football League) there’s nobody identifying themselves as just a ‘Village’. Or a ‘Hamlet’. Or even a good-sized ‘House’ – 14 players living under 1 roof in the middle of nowhere.

Which is a bit of a ridiculous concept anyway but then so is thinking that dropping ‘City’ and adding ‘Tigers’ to your team name will somehow confer success through being unique or tigerish. There is only 1 ‘Stanley’ (Accrington) among the chosen 92 clubs and as I write this they’re a scant 3 points clear of the drop zone from the Football League. A place above them are Plymouth Argyle, the only ‘Argyle’ I can find.

Yes, tigers are altogether a more fearsome-sounding prospect than Stanleys. The thing is though that there are no actual tigers playing for Hull. Along with metaphors, cats really don’t get Association football. Tigers in particular much prefer to eat things. Sometimes humans even.

For completeness we should also acknowledge that there are no Stanleys currently on the books for Accrington. Which is a shame because they do get football – Sir Stanley Matthews is considered 1 of the greatest Englishmen to have played the game. If he hadn’t died in 2000 (presumably without permission from Assem Allam) Accrington could surely have used his silky skills. Not Hull though – Sir Stanley played almost half his prodigious career with his home-town club Stoke.

Who happen to be a common ‘City’.

As are Cardiff. That Welsh club has entered the EPL this term, in spite of that common appellation and their very unfearsome nickname, ‘The Bluebirds’. They did, it’s true, get an image makeover prior to this elevation to the top-tier – Cardiff had played in blue and had the bluebird alone and centred in their crest until 2012. Then, new owner Vincent Tan, switched them to a red kit and relegated the bluebird of old to the feet of a heraldic Welsh dragon.

This didn’t go down well with the fans. Red is the colour of their fierce local rivals Swansea (Also a ‘City’).

And now Tan has decided to pick a fight with Cardiff’s popular and somewhat successful manager Malky Mackay, telling him that he should resign or be sacked, ostensibly for spending too much of Tan’s money and wanting to spend more. This ultimatum arrived just before the Redbluedragonbirds arrived at Anfield to play Liverpool a week ago. Malky refused to resign, Cardiff were forced to play in a blue away strip (Liverpool’s home kit is red and would have clashed) and the away fans sung their support for their chosen boss and bluebirds in general.

In spite of that vociferous barracking Liverpool won 3-1. Which was the exact opposite of that game against Hull City. In that match the Humberside team beat the Merseyside outfit 3-1, notching up their 1st-ever such triumph.

An uncommon and tigerish victory, achieved as a common ‘City’.

Postscript: Mackay has now been sacked and Tan has promised that whoever the new manager is, they will be granted money to spend.

Everyone Forgot Your Name

  1. My friend, good to be back among the blogosphere once more. Haven’t posted anything in 10 months and read almost as little…but back I am. I hope all is well with you and yours and looking forward to many more piping hot servings of “soup.” After all, it is winter here in Philly! All the best, Bruce B.

    • Hey, it’s the return of SportsAttitudes! Welcome back Bruce – Have missed your articulate opinions across the northern summer of sport.

      Everything is good down here – The family is healthy and happy plus the sporting gods have been oh so kind in 2013, particularly via the Red Sox. Hope the same for you and yours.

      Was actually thinking of you the other day as I looked over the NFL approaching Christmas – Are the Eagles contenders or pretenders? They’re hard to read from here.

      • We’re STILL trying to figure out these Eagles, especially after last night’s unnecessary thriller against the Romo-less Cowboys. Based on the regular season I suspect they will either implode upon themselves in Round 1 or explode upon their opposition. I don’t see any middle ground here for them with the competition they will be facing from here on out. They could be the Road Runner…or the Coyote! Glad to hear all is well…I figured the Red Sox might have made 2013 “pleasant” for you!

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