Our March meeting was held on Thursday, March 3rd. A large gathering of members gathered in the Kingston Suite and they were really looking forwards to a visit from Tom Huddlestone. There was, however, much to take place first.

First, there were a series of briefings for the members. David, our Chair, referred to the meeting with our new owner, Acun Ilicali, prior to the recent fixture with Preston N E. Representatives from some of the other supporter groups had also been invited.  Acun joined them, along with Tan & Jim. Acun shared his personal story, the loss of his parents in a road traffic accident and his bankruptcy before he was 24 years old. His new life has been a real success and allowed him to fulfil his dream of buying into the English Football system. Acun spoke of how it became Hull City, he loved the team colours, he loved the stadium and he was overwhelmed by the warmth of the people in Hull towards him. From that conversation, he set the supporter groups a challenge to come up with ideas that would lead to bringing more people to the matches. All our members had been briefed to respond to the question and Barbara thanked the members who had been sending her many suggestions prior to the meeting. Others would have the opportunity during the meeting to add their ideas. Barbara and Shirley would then collate these suggestions before they are passed on to the club.

Other bits of news … Barbara is taking bookings for our May ‘Jubilee’ Luncheon and wanted people to let her have any particular groups of members who would like to be seated together. We have a party visiting The Deep next week for their Silver Sharks programme and the visit to Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium on St Patrick’s Day. Paul is putting together a party to visit Beverley Races on Wednesday, 25th May.

Table Tennis is making a slow start on the first Monday morning each month but plans are afoot to set up a session at Haltemprice Sports Centre on Wednesday afternoons. Pat is the person to contact.

The Secretary had sent letters of thanks on behalf of all members. Letters had gone to Assem & Ehab Allam, Grant McCann & Cliff Byrne.

Finally, we were informed that the refresh to our website would be launched in approx. 3 hours and 30 minutes! Members were encouraged to go home and discover just how much more there is to see. All members are encouraged to respond and send messages back, the good and the not so good. Rob is responsible for the website and Tony for the items of memorabilia.

Our first speaker was now introduced:  James Fairbank from KCOM.

KCOM had, of course, covered the cost of the refresh to the website and we are so very grateful. After 20 years of being the stadium sponsors, KCOM was now looking for new ways in which they could be more creative in supporting the local community. They are looking to build a special partnership with the Senior Tigers, hence their support for our website project.

First, they showed the members a special Video that they had commissioned from the local Nova Studios. It featured our members for the work they had done on setting up the memorabilia site and linked back with footage from the original Memorabilia Day.

The future plans include creating Digital Drop-in Centres, including some, especially for Senior Tigers. They would be designed for those who ‘don’t’ and those who ‘do’ use the internet, all levels will be catered for. These sessions will be at the MKM Stadium and free. There would be group sharing and one-one sessions too. All members will be receiving details shortly.

KCOM’s partnership wants to help develop our Memorabilia and, ultimately, build links to other local sports clubs. They would hope that what we have put in place will encourage other local clubs to retain and display their memorabilia & heritage.

They are committed to continuing the offer of free tickets for every home fixture for the remainder of this season and also for next season. They are considering providing 2 spaces at our matches next season which would include hospitality.

James mentioned that another area where they want to support would be on Facebook. They want to help develop conversations between members and will provide training if it was seen to be needed.

Finally, he mentioned the Listening Project which seeks to capture Memories & personal Stories that football fans will have.

We are extremely grateful to KCOM for coming alongside and offering such a wide area of support. We hope that all our members will appreciate it. James was given a very warm round of applause.

There was a rapturous response to Tom Huddlestone as he joined the meeting, Tom had originally joined the Tigers in 2013, a period when they were enjoying life at the top table. In 4 years, he made 135 appearances, 97 in the Premier League. Tom was also a member of the Tiger’s Cup Final team in 2014.

David, our Chair, took him back to his early days, growing up in Nottingham. He admitted that it was not a particularly sporting family although his father had played football for the West Indian Cavaliers. The young boy certainly showed talent and both Nottingham clubs along with Derby County were watching. Forest made the first move and signed him for their Under 11’s but a year later they released him – “not strong enough” was their opinion. The Rams had a different opinion and they offered the young lad a 2-year contract – his mum turned it down saying he had to earn his place like other lads. So, the 12-year-old went through a six-week trial first!

He progressed well through the Derby Academy and eventually made his 1st team debut in a home loss to Stoke City – 3-0. Tom was not the player they blamed as he was immediately voted as Man of the Match!  He played in all but 3 of the County’s games in his first season and had caught the eye of the international selectors. He played 7 teams for England Under 16’s and went on to represent his country at every level except the Under 18’s. This included 33 caps with the Under 21’s before finally being given his first of four full England caps. In 2009 he was a late substitute in a 1-0 loss to Brazil. More caps might have been expected for such a rich talent. His Derby manager, George Burley, described him as “a terrific talent. As a young player he is the best passer of the ball I have ever seen”.

In January 2005, after 3 years with Derby, Tom was transferred to Spurs during the ‘window’ but they allowed him to see out the season at Pride Park. Spurs then loaned him to Wolves for the early part of season 2005/6. Tom scored his only goal for the club when they played away at Derby! In the New Year, 2006, he was back at White Hart Lane and came off the bench away at Fulham. Not so memorable for Tom as he gave away the free-kick from which Fulham scored the winning goal! His first start for the Spurs was a UEFA Cup away against Slavia Prague, a win for the Spurs.

He was asked about his managers. Martin Jol had compared him with Franz Beckenbauer, high praise. Asked whether Harry Redknapp was “really so laid back” he responded saying, “No, there are a few sides to him”. Interesting! When asked which manager had had the biggest influence on his game he gave, perhaps, an unexpected reply. Marco Silva whilst Tom was here at Hull for his first stint. Tom, who has real aspirations to be a coach, mentioned that Marco said things “that I’d never thought about!”

He first joined the Tigers in 2013, “charmed” by the approach of Steve Bruce, ready to help the Tigers in what is clearly our “purple period”. Tom was asked why he seemed to be able to ‘create room’ and pick out the perfect pass. He replied saying that the pass was, itself, not difficult but the pressure of the moment can often bring about panic. I guess what Tom was really saying is that he has mastered the art of not panicking under pressure. Asked how he made space look so easy he responded, “Well, I’ve never been rapid enough to run away from players!”

Tom was asked about the Hair Cut which he’d promised on arrival would only follow his first goal. He said that it was originally a promise which kind of dragged on and on. Having a 3-month injury did not help and taking another 3 months at the KC Stadium before the eventual goal was difficult but such a “relief” when the goal eventually went in!

Asked why the players do not “take the knee” before matches he said it was a team decision. They chose the stand and applaud. Of the new manager, he said that he had a good command of English but usually loses his voice on match days!

Tom’s plan for the future includes coaching. He has already undertaken his coaching badges, alongside Liam Rosenior & Joe Dudgeon. He would also be interested in media opportunities, should they arise. He keeps in touch with many of his old Tiger teammates, like Curtis Davies, Jake Livermore, Paul McShane & Quinny. (ed. Indeed it was rather touching at the match v West Brom that he and Livermore had a warm embrace on the pitch prior to the 2nd half starting.)

What a fabulous interview. Here’s to hoping Tom gets more game time and delight us with his exceptional skills.

The final part of our afternoon saw the Raffles.

First up were the KCOM tickets for March home fixtures against WBA, Luton Town & Huddersfield Town. Two pairs of tickets for each game. The winners were Martin Wilson, Margaret Ware, Denise Wood, Eileen MacKay, Clive Cross & Ernie Addy.

Ernie, fresh from that success, then presented the wonderful Senior Tiger’s Raffle. On display were a number of vouchers (florists, hairdressers & butchers), Gordon’s Gin and packs of lager, and an intriguing sign displaying the famous ‘Dead Bod’. The Raffle made the sum of £275.

News of the April meeting was then shared with BBC’s David Burns joining us.

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