25. May, 2021

In the unlikely defence of i-follow

One of the few things Hull City fans can agree about is that they don't agree about very much.

This has always been the way since I've supported us. I'm not truly sure why.

I remember once witnessing an absolute tear up in the away end at Kettering Town in the FA cup around 20 years ago where somebody criticised the mediocre larker and nightclub dweller Lee Philpott and a slanging match erupted. The conversation quickly moved on from the balding maestro's crossing to where abouts in Yorkshire the critic came from (allegedly the wrong place in the eyes of the of Lee Philpott fan) and thus the air was blue with people telling each other to foxtrot oscar and (worse still) being dismissed as "Wezzy scum"

I'm not sure the Kettering stewards were ready for such excitement in an otherwise very dull 0-0 draw, so really weren't of much use and to this day I can't really tell you much that happened in the actual game beyond the aforementioned argument. I'm sure you've all witnessed many similar incidents in real life and online.

So when this season concluded and I read many twitterers (is that a word? Twits maybe?) declared their utter hatred of i-follow and burning desire to delete it from their laptop or throw their firestick into the chasms of hell now the season was over, I found myself scratching my head. This also seemed a really quite popular opinion and the posts gathered plenty of likes but this really wasn't my overall feeling after a bit of a surreal season. Was I in a minority? I think quite possibly, but perhaps my take wasn't without merit, so... hear me out.

Firstly, before I even get into the nuts and bolts of the discussion I'd say that if you really think that we're all going to be back at home and away games consistently next season, you're a much bigger optimist than me. With limited attendances and (possibly) very limited away attendances, I don't think we've quite seen the back of i-follow just yet. In fact I'd suggest that if you think nothing will go wrong and that we won't see the arrival of the "Bolivian Variant" at some point that you really haven't been paying attention, this is just apparently the way 2021 works.

But back to the matter at hand. The i-follow haters do have a point. The camera work sometimes looked like it was being executed by a six year old on meth, the replays would regularly interfere with the action being shown, the delay would mean you'd have to turn any notifications off (otherwise you'd know who'd scored two minutes before they did) and I personally didn't mind the city commentary but it's not another widely held opinion, although I think we all enjoyed the hilariously biased takes by the opposition. Mick Mills was one of my highlights of the year as despite the fact we cruised past his hapless Ipswich team he refused to even acknowledge that we were a remotely able team in any capacity.

All these faults and more were true. But and it's a big but.... but this was a famine, and in the famine I'd rather have a cheese sandwich than starve...

Iffy metaphors aside, without i-follow there was nothing, and in a time when (particularly post January) there was nothing at all going on outside the house. No pubs, cinemas, restaurants and on and on. So for me, i-follow was one of the very few things to look forward to. To such an extent I happily handed over my tenner to watch the excitement of the Papa John's trophy and such mouth-watering clashes as Harrogate away and Grimsby at home.

Put simply it broke up the week, it kept me invested, it was different to the Groundhog Day type existence were all going through. Without i-follow an absolutely shocking year on every level would have been even more unbearable. So I'll take it, warts and all because it was far better than the alternative. Older fans will recall hanging on every word of the local radio stations to find out city updates, standing outside Currys on a Saturday at 4.45pm or ringing home from foreign holidays to discover our latest failure. This was as the one of Monty Python's Yorkshire men said "Luxury" by comparison.

Funnily enough I asked my Dad where he was when we won the league in 1966. He just grinned and said "somewhere in the pacific lad". He was in the merchant navy during that time and can still recall the ups and downs of City's exploits via World Service updates received in the middle of nowhere. So I'll count our blessings by comparison.

The last time we got promoted from the third level to the second it was 1984-85, a season where myself, the aforementioned old man and my cousin traipsed around half the country following the exploits of what was a wonderful team. Some of my best memories of watching City are from then, a packed Kempton, heroic comebacks at home to Derby and away to Orient, the iconic Admiral kit and talismanic Billy Whitehurst petrifying every team in front of him. It's therefore a neat coincidence that I watched most of this season with my cousin and could share it with him Normally we'll meet up at a few home games each year but via the magic of the video call we could distract each other with the sort of irrelevant chat that mimicked what we had years before whilst occasionally commenting on how good Super George was. I do concede that other fans have missed that social element in watching us, and maybe that inflates my view of the year too. Football is much less fun without mates, a few beers and opinions. As Jonny Vaughan says on the radio, we need to "kick football out of football" and he adds "don't let a good day out at the football spoil the football". He has a point.

Well this year I think we didn't let the football spoil the football quite as much as it could have and therefore I'll be quietly grateful to i-follow for being the safety net that saved it.

Plus at least nobody could hear my accent and tell me to foxtrot oscar.

Thanks for reading folks.