Looking back – A rare happy memory of Hull

23 Jan

THE 2002/03 season can be grouped in with many in the late 1990s and early 2000s, before the arrival of Steve Tilson, as utterly forgettable. Fortunately I was away at university in Stoke for much of it, although I remember still being as excited at going to Roots Hall to watch the likes of Barrington Belgrave and Steven Clark as I always was, which is a bit concerning.
My university always used to have a very long Christmas break, so despite our home clash with Hull coming in early February, I was still back in Essex and it was to be my last match before returning to Staffordshire. I do remember sitting in the East Stand with my mate and regular travelling companion Si, whose recent marriage and mortgage keep him away from Roots Hall more often than not these days.
Blues, under the stewardship of Rob Newman, were utterly mid-table at the time and our opponents had been tipped for great things at the start of the season – I remember travelling to the opening game at Boothferry Park when 10,000 fans had been in attendance only for Tes Bramble to score a deflected late equaliser to deflate all but the 400 or so joyous souls at the old “supermarket end”. However, the Tigers had failed to live up to their early-season hype, despite replacing the underachieving Jan Molby with Peter Taylor and moving into the KC Stadium over Christmas.
After 22 minutes, one of the leading lights of that Southend side, Jay Smith, fired a terrific shot into the top corner to give us the lead. Mark Rawle added a second goal on 41 minutes, and on the stroke of half time loanee Danny Marney was felled in the box, and Smith again stepped up in front of the travelling Tigers to rub salt into the wound.
The records show that Tes Bramble was sent off for us in first-half stoppage time. My memory is of him getting into a tangle with Damien Delaney, although that could well not be the case. A trawl through Youtube has failed to yield anything from this fixture, although you can “enjoy” clips of Hull winning at Roots Hall in successive seasons in the late 1990s – both thoroughly miserable occasions as I remember.
Despite being down to 10 men and their opponents featuring the likes of Jamie Forrester, Stuart Elliot and Ryan Williams in their line-up, Southend saw the game out comfortably and it is one of the more memorable results from this most mediocre of seasons. Hull failed to get out of the bottom division on this occasion, but the following season they finally succeeded, finishing second and waving goodbye to the fourth division for the last time. It seems surreal to see them so far ahead of us in the pyramid – indeed the sides were to meet again in the Championship in 2006/2007 – but they were a side we rarely seemed to beat at home or away in those bottom tier days, despite us often finishing higher in the table.
The Phil Brown factor and Hull’s lofty status make this a tasty one for the media this weekend, but back in 2002/03, the only people that really gave a shit about this fixture were the hardy 4,500 or so inside Roots Hall.


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