I’ve been in Hull for seven years now … but have been supporting Leicester City for fifty.
The first time I visited Hull’s home ground, the walk to the KC Stadium was grand: I was part of a mass family outing, generations of Hullites full of banter and cheer. I peeled off to enter through the Leicester turnstile like a traitor. A Leicester man stood in front of me the whole game, screaming vile abuse at the Hull crowd, urging Leicester players to break legs. It seemed abusive, coming to East Yorkshire and treating your hosts that way.
Tuesday I was back, in the East Stand among the Hull supporters, Hull vs. Leicester in the Capital One Cup. I’ve never looked out on a game so objectively. That surge of passion when Leicester scored? I kept it on the inside and stayed in my seat. When Hull scored, I stood with others so I could see and offered gentle applause.
The game wasn’t bad – it picked up in the second half and got a buzz going during extra time. Ben Chilwell made his debut for Leicester, 18 years old with a hairstyle and alertness and posture that seemed to fit fifty years ago – he has a strong future. Most exciting were the chants. The North Stand set it off – ‘The North Stand, the North Stand, the North Stand Hull City’. Women might have been in the crowd but it came out as a vast male roar. The East Stand sang their own version, a call and response, but that North Stand was a choir like no other. The chant was sustained, again and again, swelling in volume like waves in a North Sea storm.
The Hull supporters did scream out their own abuse, but even that was mild-mannered. ‘Cheats!’ they yelled. ‘Cheats!’
It went to penalties. For ten goals I had to suppress my standard fans’ response. Leicester is a buzz of a team to support at the moment, 3rd in the Premier League as I write. I check for online news of them every day, more than once just in case – the rational part of me thinks I should know better and then I click again.
Hull won, as they did the first time I saw the two teams play. I walked away with the home supporters, not minding that they were happy. Maybe we can meet in the Premier League next year. Maybe I’ll sit in the King Power Stadium and see how it feels to welcome Hull.