Of all the weeks to spend travelling the country watching 270 minutes of football, last week probably wasn’t the one I should have chosen.
It wasn’t entirely self-inflicted. Indeed, it was the popularly known ‘Beast from the East’ that influenced the timing of events, rendering that Barnsley away game a regrettable postponement and leading to its rearranged date falling just a day before my dissertation deadline.
Thankfully, the weather-related developments were not to the detriment of my work. I didn’t want to miss a weeknight trip to Oakwell and was fortunately in a position to all-but finish my 15,000 words on First World War propaganda before Tuesday night. What followed that evening, however, really did elicit relief that I completed it before my trip.
My week started last Saturday, however. A journey to the salubrious KCOM called, a visit saturated with nostalgia owing to the frequent trips made there as a teenager to visit my dad when he lived there. City of Culture 2017? Rightly so. Contrary to its largely derogatory reputation, Hull is a nice city, full of character and possessing some underappreciated aesthetic spots.
But onto the football. What followed was a wretched display by City, a game characterised by turbulence, officiating-incompetence and defensive brittleness that saw our developing – albeit very slowly – side ‘f**k up’ a 3-1 lead. Indeed, such a sentiment was one the congregation of home fans outside the away end chose to so eloquently remind us of at full-time.
For the first time since coming into the team on Boxing Day, Jamal Lewis showed signs of teenage naivety, conceding the first – and correctly given – penalty and being caught out of position on several occasions. Despite scoring a flattering three goals, we offered relatively little going forward bar that guilt-edged Onel Hernandez chance.
For large parts of that second-half, it felt like watching an away-day capitulation that became such predictable feature of the Alex Neil epoch.
Twelve points from games against Forest, Hull, Barnsley and Reading? Think again. James Maddison’s magic aside, last Saturday in East Yorkshire was one to forget for City fans. I have some sympathy with the patience-based argument concerning this Webber-Farke project, and that display really was a sobering reminder of just how much work is still to be done.
Onto Barnsley. While the game itself was a largely drab affair despite our rallying efforts of the second-half, my second trip to Oakwell was more memorable owing to events that ensued away from the terraces. Indeed, not all of those memories will manifest themselves in my mind as fond ones.
Following a pre-match interview with the entertaining Rob Butler for BBC Radio Norfolk, a certain Bryan Gunn strolled past us outside the away end. My personal exposure to City players both past and present has remained relatively limited so far – despite meeting Robert Snodgrass in Nandos and Ivo Pinto in Tesco – so it was great to speak to Gunny about his career, Angus’ progress and his ostensibly successful dieting arrangements. So far, so good.
A dull game ensued. While highlights included a composed Josh Murphy finish and a decent showing from the returning James Husband – I’m still convinced he has something to offer in a yellow and green shirt – it wasn’t the greatest spectacle. Even if Murphy had won it for us at the death, I think most would agree the three points would not have been entirely deserved. Nevertheless, so far so good.
Then came the undesired turn. It was always going to be tight to get back to Durham, with train times necessitating some quick changes in order for me and my brother to return to my city of residence that night. As it turned out, we’d left it too tight.
The inevitable delays occurred and a night in a hotel beckoned. York was our chosen location, a £60 incurrence but the most logical option given it was the most northern city we could access that evening. As I entered my unexpected accommodation, thoughts alternated between City’s increasingly futile season and the prospect of handing my dissertation in the next day.
Such are the trials and tribulations of following City. My mantra remains that despite the investment of time, effort and cash it really is always worth it, providing memories and experiences that will resonate for years to come. However, that miserable ending to my evening on Tuesday really did prompt consideration towards my commitment.
Dissertation submitted and term complete, back to Norfolk I went for a much-welcomed albeit arctic Carrow Road return. Two weeks ago, I wrote a piece for this site arguing that City were capable of obtaining maximum points from our last four games, a sentiment rapidly extinguished with that goalless stalemate against Nottingham Forest. As it happened, we went into Saturday’s game against Reading with just two points from a possible nine.
Despite our dwindling season and a series of uninspiring performances, City did well. The trio of Mario Vrancic, Onel Hernandez and Josh Murphy were superb, linking up fluidly and injecting a sense of attacking potency that has so often been acutely lacking this season.
Some of Vrancic’s passes really were glorious, testament to the notion that we should provide our new recruits patience before writing them off. Despite not finishing the game in the second-half – Dennis Srbeny worked hard but missed a sitter – it was nice to finally witness a victory for the first time since January 13.
And so concluded a hectic week. While this City season may have petered out into one less about this year and more about functioning as a formative period for the next, following this side remains a bizarrely moreish pastime that will continue to take me to all corners of the country over the Easter break.
Optimism remains that we will finish strongly, returning after the international break refreshed to leapfrog our local rivals and enter the Championship’s top half. Indeed, I won’t allow a night in a Travelodge to deter me from watching this strange old season reach its eventual conclusion.