It has been a long long 18 months but on Thursday, 2nd September 2021, we were back!

After such a long time, whilst Covid-19 pulled us apart, we were able to return and an incredible 139 were chomping at the bit to get some return to normality, to the way it used to be. Everyone was asked to respect the special Guidelines, to keep masks ready and to sit at socially distanced tables in the Kingston Suite. There was hand gel and sanitised wipes but it still seemed like ‘normal’, back among friends. At the front, there was the wonderful League One Championship Trophy, probably the first time any of us had actually seen it. It was magnificent and many members took the opportunity to have photos & selfies alongside – “look, enjoy, but don’t touch!”

At 1.45 pm David, our Chair opened proceedings with a warm welcome. He then handed over to the Club Secretary for Allen to lead us in a short time of Reflection for those members who had passed away since our last meetings. (Members) Gerry Ashton, Ken Atkinson, George Baker, Les Fuller, Brenda Fullerton, Ken Furmage, Graham Kettlewell, Pete Maltby & Ron Philips. (Member’s partners & family) Jill Crossland, John Wood & George Ellis. (Former players/coaches) Colin Appleton, Jeff Barmby, Chris Chilton & Mike Smith. All were remembered and Allen closed with two short prayers. (Following the meeting two more former players were mentioned: John McSeveney & Len Sharpe who both played for the Tigers in the early 1960s.

David then gave special appreciation for the incredible work of Paul Bryan throughout the long lockdown. Month after month Paul would ‘phone every single Senior Tiger to check on how they were. It was an incredible undertaking – 5000+ calls, some short and cheery ones, some long and caring ones. In response, Paul said, “I rang you but you spoke to me, which was great”.

David also mentioned that Alan Acklam (Acklam’s Coaches) had again put forward the sponsorship that covers the costs of our first two meetings.

As the clock reached 2.00 pm our very special Guest, George Honeyman, who was the run-away winner of our Player of the Season (20-21). Warm and spontaneous applause was soon acknowledging George as he took his place on the dais. First things first, George was presented with the wonderful Player of the Season Trophy with Pat Betts once again doing the honours. Once Goerge had lifted and admired his trophy he was then asked to swop it for a rather smaller memento!

The Chair put a string of searching questions to George but started with the most important one – how’s your ankle and when will you be back playing! George mentioned that he had been told 10 weeks at the start but things were going really well and he is hopeful of bringing that down to 10 weeks. He is running well and should soon be back among the other players on the Training Ground with hopes that it won’t be long after the current international break.

Asked about his family background he mentioned that they were not serious sportspeople although his dad supported Newcastle Unt and his mum – Sunderland! George had been turned down by the Newcastle Academy when he was 8 years old, Sunderland gave him the chance two years later. The following years required complete dedication from his parents since the Training Ground was about an hour’s drive away – there and back on two evenings every week, plus most Saturdays and Sundays. It was clear that George appreciated that level of commitment and the opportunity it gave him to follow his ambitions. He talked about key moments, debut in the cup against Bradford City, Premier League debut against Stoke and his first goals too. Asked whether his first goal was ‘good’ or a ‘fluke’ he responded with pride that he had arrived at the back post on time to tap it in. He gave praise to two of his key coaches through the academy – Kevin Ball & Ged McNamee.

Personal highs, like being appointed Captain under manager Jack Ross, the first lad from the Academy to become Captain for many a long year. Lows, relegation from the Championship to League One. He was completely taken by surprise when Hull City came calling for him, completely out of the blue and suddenly he was in Hull, put up in the Beverley Arms Hotel. Playing high tempo saw him quickly win over the fans and he admitted it was hard during the lockdown not having those fans alongside. George admitted he tried to avoid superstitions, rather rife among footballers, he wants to get on with his game. The recent arrival of Tom Huddleston excites him and the team. George admitting it was “great to see someone to look up to and bounce off”. It was clear that he is really looking forwards to playing in tandem with ‘The Hudd’. Spirit seems to be very much alive in the team, loads of fun and constant banter bring many belly laughs – and the culprit in chief? Josh Maginnis!

George recognises that there are challenges ahead in the Championship but we are a team with great local strength, really exciting for the future even if it means some mistakes will occur along the way. Consistency will be the key. Does being in Hull match his experiences at Sunderland? One clear difference is that in the North East everyone follows football and there is simply no place to hide, in Hull those passions are divided between football and rugby league and that can be the difference in doing a bit of anonymous local shopping! Asked about the growing problem of professional fouls, e.g. Shirt tugging, he tried to remain non-committal, “How can I complain? I do it!” He liked the idea of being a rather irritating player for the opposition, always up in their faces. He suggested that what he lacks in stature he can replace with that irritating attitude.

What a fabulous Q&A session from a player clearly comfortable among us. Let’s hope we see him on the field soon.

There was a short break, giving members to sign up for activities and collect their new membership cards. Last opportunities were also taken for photos with the League One Championship Trophy. Members were then welcomed to our Annual Meeting which included the Chair’s End of Year Report, the receiving of our Accounts and an update on the website changes. We shared appreciation for two retiring members of the committee, Helen Carter & John Watt. The remaining seven members were re-elected and joined by Tony Conway. Tony has done a massive job chairing the Memorabilia & Heritage Project and will be a great addition to the committee.

Barbara confirmed that the first two trips (September to Filey & Thornton le Dale and October to Ripon) were now fully booked. The first two visits to The Deep for the Silver Sharks sessions were filling well. Next month we will be taking bookings for the Christmas Luncheon on December 2nd.

We are truly back, yes, The Senior Tigers are back!