There was an eager expectation as Members gathered for their first meeting in our ‘City of Culture Year’ – they were looking for their first fill of Tiger culture and they would not be disappointed when our first guest of the year was former Tiger, Ryan France.

Ryan is one of the small group of players to have played for our club in all four divisions of the Football League senior pyramid, joining the Tigers in 2003. He played 133 games across the divisions before moving back to his home city of Sheffield. He still lives there but now beyond football, he works as a Financial Advisor.

We were delighted also to have Brendon Smurthwaite who interviewed Ryan for our meeting. From the various questions, we were able to get a brilliant insight into his playing career which had started in the junior network of Sheffield Wednesday. Nothing came from this and he looked to build a career outside football but playing the game in the local leagues. His main club would be Alfreton Town but he, wisely, took his opportunity to study at University.

Things all changed when Hull City unexpectantly called and offered him a full-time 2-year contract. With nothing to lose Ryan took the chance and joined Peter Taylor and Colin Murphy. Suddenly after playing in front of a small crowd, very small, he was playing in front of 18,000 for Hull City. His debut was a dream, his crosses landed to perfection and then the opportunity to score – all on his debut! That first season led to promotion into the third tier and would see the signing of Nick Barmby – Ryan’s vote for ‘best professional’. Incredibly Ryan would be part of the team that would claim promotion into the Championship at the end of his second season, four consecutive promotions for him, having seen back to back promotions before with Alfreton.

The year under Phil Brown would create a real sense of collectiveness and some great training sessions leading to a belief that they could and that they would reach the Premiership. Ryan made his top-flight debut at Arsenal and was persuaded by a friend to get him Van Persie’s shirt and the great striker obliged and duly sent the shirt to the City dressing room after the match – but with the unexpected request that it was swapped for Ryan’s Premiership debut shirt! He hadn’t expected that and muses does V.P. have it displayed on his living room wall? It was also bad news for Ryan, not only had he lost his debut shirt it would also cost him £35 since the club charged players if they gave their shirts away! Nothing new there!!

Ryan had happy memories of the K C Stadium coming with his wife and daughters. The Player’s Bar was more a crèche on those match days. Many great family friendships were forged and still he meets up regularly with the likes of Boaz Myhill, Matt Duke, Andy Dawson and their families.

Questions from the floor would follow:

Your most memorable chant? “Ryan France, France, France” – although he thinks that was a reference to his parents

Best player: Van Persie

Ian Ashbee: As captain in all four divisions he is “unique”, led by passion and example and when he shouted – you listened!!

Stuart Elliott: Probably got the most ear-bashing for always shooting! Ryan recalled doing a fantastic overlap and expected Stuart to slip the ball through to him only to see Stuart ping it towards goal … “Stu’ey …. (he expressed in despair) ….. great goal!!”

Abuse of Refs: Like many he does not like the way that players abuse the referees – regardless as to whether they are right or wrong. Professional players are role models and what young kids see on the TV games they will copy on the park pitches. Abuse of Ref’s – it should be a straight Red Card – and that from someone who was never sent off in his career.

Other things that happened at our January meeting:

Just two hours earlier Marco Silva had been appointed as our new Head Coach. The Senior Tigers offered their warmest welcome. We also acknowledged the loss of two of our members over the recent weeks. Pamela Roberts, mother of Gareth, and Graham Newdick. Graham had been a Steward on Tiger Travel for many years. His funeral had taken place in Withernsea earlier in the day and a group of 30 members had traveled to that service. Even with them absent, although some would join us later, we started with a healthy 120 members present.

David, our Chair, had been present for the award of grants by the Executive Club for members of the Tiger’s Academy. Last year we had contributed £500 towards this fund. Altogether nine young boys were awarded gifts totaling £1500 and there were all very worthy recipients.

There was a plea for the lady who took the wrong coat home after the Christmas Luncheon to claim her own coat and put a smile on the lady who went home without a coat!

The lads who run the Walking Football were present and reminded us that things begin again on Monday, 16th January – 10 am in the Airco Arena. Adam, who works for the Tiger’s Trust as their Disability Sports Co-ordinator, also introduced the scheme. It is open age, children to pensioners, running events across the city to help people with needs to play sport. All very commendable.

Club Poet, and Senior Tiger, Dave Osgerby, read his new poem in tribute to Mike Phelan whilst Pat Ellis read a moving poem by Nora (Nodge) Jones called a “Song for City”. Two brilliant poems which were read live on the Burnsie Show the previous morning.

Here are some photos that were taken at our meeting. They include a photo of the raffle prizes, another great display and all thanks to Pete Wilson for all his efforts.