Confessions Of A Hull City Supporter at Hull Truck
By Nicholas Boldock
There must be few examples of award-winning playwrights penning an entire play to celebrate a
football team winning promotion, even if that promotion took 19 long years to arrive.
After Hull City won promotion from Division 3 last term, local writer Alan Plater
(of The Beiderbecke Trilogy fame) set out to do just that.
An impressively short time later, Plater's play has made it to the Hull Truck
theatre and into the hands of experienced director Gareth Tudor Price.
Martin Barrass makes a swift - and welcome - return to Hull Truck after his outstanding
performance in the recent 20th Anniversary run of John Godber's Up N Under.
This time out Barrass plays Bill, the titular City supporter.
His father, grandfather and great-grandfather, all also christened William (and referred
to throughout as William the first, second and third respectively), were City
supporters before him, the tradition passed on down the generations.
The three older Williams are played with some skill by veteran actor Roy North,
whilst three generations of long-suffering football widows are portrayed by the
impressive Una McNulty, making her third appearance at Hull Truck.
Bill's confession - like City's history - begins in 1904. Bill's great-grandfather
William goes along to Anlaby Road to see the Tigers in action against Manchester City
(City only played friendly fixtures in 1904 - they would not join the football league
until the following season). The result is a goalless draw.
Despite the absence of goals, the seeds of a family obsession are sown.
During that nil-nil draw, Bill's grandfather is born. He too is named William.
This is the pattern which emerges - all of the Williams are born during nil-nil draws
while their fathers are at the match.
In an amusing aside, Bill calculates the mathematical probability of this happening,
helped out by a friend who's in Gamblers Anonymous.
Most significant in Bill's family history is the legend of the cloth cap which
William (the first) bought from (allegedly) City's goalkeeper Martin Spendiff.
Is the cloth cap which is traditionally handed down from one William to the
next the genuine article? Or is it a product of the Hessle Road conman who is
reported to tour the pubs of Hull pretending to be Spendiff and relieving
unsuspecting punters of their cash in exchange for a worthless mud-covered cloth cap?
Alongside Bill's history, and the saga of Spendiff's cap, is the story of Hull City.
All the great (and not-so-great) moments are recalled here, notably the trio of
legendary games which all City supporters can quote - Arsenal 1930, Manchester United 1949
and Chelsea 1966. In all of these games, the relevant William explains, City were,
without doubt, cheated. All of the opposition's goals were questionable.
We are shown photographic evidence of the scorers.
Look at his eyes, William says, pointing at a grainy monochrome photo, Guilty!
William and Bill's explanations that City have never lost on merit are priceless.
In fact, later on, we learn that they may in fact once have done so, against Liverpool
in the 1989 FA Cup.
This was the game in which City led 2-1 at half time, only to go down 3-2 at the
final whistle. So near.. yet so far..
That City are never to blame for their own demise is just one of the facts to
be learnt from Confessions Of A City Supporter.
There is also a memorable section where Bill recounts his favourite 10 facts
about City - among them the fact that Boothferry Park is the only football ground
to have had its own train station; that City (against Manchester United in 1970)
took part in the very first penalty shoot-out; that portly City keeper Iain Hesford
was the first (and so far only) player to be booked for conducting the
crowd whilst they sang moderately offensive songs about him; and, best of all,
that Hull City is the only football league team whose name does not
contain any letters which can be filled in. Brilliantly, and pointlessly, true!
Of course, the reason this play exists at all is that City supporters no
longer have to look to the past for tales of glory.
The play does bring us right up-to-date, to the KC Stadium and to last year's
promotion exploits, images of Waggy and Chillo replaced by Ben Burgess and
Danny Allsopp, architects of City's escape from the basement division.
Plater's play is a great piece of work, and whilst it is primarily and
unavoidably about football, knowledge of Hull City is not a pre-requisite,
although it helps. An appreciation of well-written, cleverly-directed and
delightfully-acted comedy is a more rigid requirement, and for those who fit the bill,
you are advised to don a black and amber scarf and pop along to the Hull Truck
without further delay.
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