Fanzines and then message boards are why I’m writing this.
In this case, actually quite literally.
Pre 21st century and most interactions as fans were very limited, perhaps a couple of sternly written letters to the green Sports Mail and a few seconds of fame on Blunderside, or if you were after something a little bit more fan authentic you might get something written in “Hull, hell and happiness” “City Independent” or “Amber Nectar” but either way interactive it wasn’t.
City did produce some really good independent fanzines during an era in the nineties when there wasn’t much of anything to be cheerful about in terms of performance and they gave the fans some inside stories that they’d never have got otherwise, but for pre-match conversations.
I’m not entirely sure when I started to become aware of City message boards, my guess would be around the turn of the century but it was a real boom as the internet became a massive deal and City fans quickly took to this instant form of communication.
I was a big fan of City Independent which at the time was powered by a company called “Rivals.net” the beauty of which was that you not only had messageboards but they were inter linked to all the other football league (and some non-league) clubs so that you had a lot of cross over traffic and if you were playing… off the top of my head Swindon Town, you’d get a couple of Swindon fans posting either some light hearted exchanges, or asking about our team, or in some cases just trolling the living daylights out of us. Ah…. The rivals.net trolls. Oxoman (Oxford United) Rova4Eva (Tranmere Rovers) and Essex Gull (Torquay allegedly but the many incarnations of him that followed generally meant people believed it was just a city fan). They were resident on the City board which was often busier than most others in the golden period of 2000-2005.
Rivals.net really was quite something. I’m not sure a lot of the behaviour would have been ok in 2021 culture so it’s disappearance in and of itself is probably a good thing. The “other” board on City Independent was a really odd group of opinions, the cultural clash between the caps locked right wing EDG Wright and mild mannered Northampton socialist CandW was perhaps the longest running argument in the history of the internet. But society changes quicker than ever and as un-P.C as some of the content was there were plenty of good folk on there too. My name on twitter is the extension of my name from the days of messageboards, Charlie Palmer, one of my favourite players as a kid and someone I’ve met a few times in real life (I’m still friends with his nephew who I grew up with). I’m pretty sure I had another name on Amber Nectar at first, I think “Tigermadboy” which I thought was a really clever reference to a favourite band of the era in Badly Drawn Boy, it wasn’t big or clever and although the Amber Nectar board was slicker, more aesthetic and probably less chaotic and offensive, I only posted here and there.
There were others, I’m really grasping with my old man memory but I want to say “HullCityMad” which was a little more polite and nice than either one of the two previously mentioned but definitely went through a popular phase and much later came Not606 which I believe is probably still quite well used although quite soon after a little blue and white bird had appeared and things would never be the same again.
Perhaps though the biggest impact of the messageboards and I guess latterly the fanzines was where they led. Amber Nectar became a fantastic podcast, award winning and one which truly spoilt us with its sharp analysis and sharper wits. This in itself has led to a lot of other city fan produced products, whether podcasts, the ever brilliant Tigertube, some fantastic writing like Rich Gardham’s “The Decade” and Ian Bunton’s “46 and counting”. What started with a few fans scribbling random notes on typewriters and sneaky photocopying at the end of work has grown into something much bigger and something our fandom is a little richer for.
But back to messageboards, it led me into writing a few match reports for Ian Waterson and they went down ok, which I guess was a factor in starting the blog when lockdown boredom gripped me this spring. I haven’t seen Ian at a game in a while but I guess I’ll need to buy him a beer. It always made my southern mates laugh when I’d go to a London game and fans would call me Charlie, it was how they knew me and it was easier just to respond to, to this very day it still happens. I guess it begs the question was Rod_Hull really called Rod? Did the greatest name ever on a message board in my opinion Hull_Kogan ever wrestle? Perhaps not. But the names were part and parcel of the fun. So many names, Tigerbread, MussiesRedHat, BillyBlysPaperBoy…
I guess Twitter is now the giant messageboard we all go on because I don’t go on the fans forum on FB at all (in fact I think I’m the only person that ever requested to be banned) and there’s fans from the old days here and there. It’s not quite the same though, however as regular readers would know, I’m not always the biggest fan of mainstream media on Hull City (perhaps bar Baz Cooper who has been a breath of fresh air) so I’ll always be grateful for the fan input that first fanzines and then messageboards helped to grow.