In light of the news that Hull City will be ending its iFollow service, this abridged Tigers Eye editorial from the archives was written at a time when online streaming of matches was all we had: June 2021, still more than a month to go until ‘Freedom Day’, barely a couple of weeks since a first vaccine dose, and little over a month since Grant McCann’s side achieved promotion from League One at an empty Sincil Bank
By its very nature, being a Southern Supporters member means I’m living away from Hull, and in ‘normal times’ a matchday for me is rarely spent with family who are living at a distance. The past year changed that, in a way.
Everyone has approached the pandemic in their own way, at least since May 2020 when beauty-spot eye-tests made this effectively endorsed by the government. But whether through circumstance or attitude, I, along with four other family members, spent the past year more locked down than not. And when week after week was filled with never-ending box-sets and any other entertainment to pass the time, having a fixed live event helped put a marker in the week as we waited on the scientific community to get us out of this as rapidly as they could.
We found we were able to negotiate the technology well enough to talk via a conference call while streaming the match, and ended up doing so for every league match. Week by week our familiarity with the team grew – and with the idiosyncrasies of iFollow itself. While we didn’t amass stories from travel, pubs and grounds, we do have the shared experiences of streaming and hearing James Fletcher’s commentary that will forever be canonical now. Mallik Wilks having “a touch of prolificness” – only a touch, mind. Holding on in the final minutes at Lincoln to secure promotion, this era’s “I’m on cloud seven” moment could well be: “They certainly will want to keep the kitchen sink very much still connected.” And one member of the family, whose stream was slightly ahead as the rest of us waited for a penalty to be taken, got a touch of the Roy Walkers to “say what you see” and involuntarily announced “GOAL.”
It’s been a season that has involved watching more football than any other. And yet it involved less of the football than any other. We’ve been able to see every single game, via a web stream, but that’s not the football. The football is getting up at any hour of the morning to catch the earliest train to all lengths of the country. The football is hours of build-up, an empty pub at opening time gradually increasing in buzz as kick-off nears, the increasing roll call of your companions for the day, and conversations that don’t necessarily cross into the sport itself. The football is the clack of a turnstile, the check of block/row/seat, the first sight of the green of the pitch, and scanning the faces as you ascend the stairs. The football is two hours of omnidirectional voices describing what they see – what we all see – and willing the proceedings to align with what they want – what we all want. Without this, there’s just football. Stream after stream of football, all watched through the same 16:9 window, with no other variables, and with the same smells, sounds and tastes as every other day of the week. It appears on a screen at three o’clock, and with the press of a button it’s gone again.
We look forward to when it will be safe and practicable to return to doing what we do before too long. In the meantime, in Tigers Eye we hear about what we’ve been missing, what we’ve remembered more fondly than it necessarily always was, and what we might have ahead of us. And I hope in its own way it helps us to stay very much connected.
This originally appeared in the 2021 edition of Tigers Eye. There is still a limited number of copies of the new 2023 edition of the fanzine, free to anyone who joins or renews their Hull City Southern Supporters’ club membership for 2023/24. Existing members should have recently received theirs.