Tuesday 25th July 2017 ko 19.30
HULL CITY 0
FC NANTES 0
Att 2,097 at Craven Park (Hull Kingston Rovers RLFC)
Every so often in groundhopping you get a game played at a one-off ground that the case is so compelling for going that you drop everything and go there. It is the footballing version of what twitching is to birdwatching, and yes, there were many groundhoppers at this game.
The game was being played at Hull Kingston Rovers’ (rugby league) ground as Hull City’s KComm Stadium was unavailable due to the pitch being reseeded, so it gave their fans the chance to watch their side play for the first time at Hull KR, whose great rivals are Hull City’s fellow tenants at the KC stadium, Hull FC. That’s not to say that Craven Park hasn’t hosted association rules football before, two seasons ago Hull United played 6 games here in their ill-fated one season stint in the Northern Counties East League. Had that not happened I suspect we’d have seen many more hoppers at this game!
It reminded me of what is for me, the greatest groundhopping bout of twitching I’ve seen, Llanelli’s 2006 UEFA Cup game switched to Stradey Park. Coincidentally that finished 0-0 too, much to the irritation of one infamous hopper!
Craven Park looks older than it actually is, being opened as recently as 1989. It replaced the old Craven Park on Holderness Road, which is now a Morrison’s that rather ironically I filled up the car at in preparation of my long trip home. The ground has been extensively modernised, the new North Stand with it’s translucent red boxes on the roof making the little used South terrace look tired and irrelevant.
That little terrace’s curve does hint at the greyhound racing and speedway that used to take place here. The dogs moved here with the rugby from old Craven Park, but the Hull Vikings speedway team were a 1995 revival of the team that used to ride at Hull FC’s Boulevard home. They lasted 10 years before financial issues saw them once again close down, and if either sport were to be revived again in Hull it would have to be elsewhere as Craven Park’s modernisation has removed the space for them.
For the modern football fan though, it’s the huge East Terrace that appeals. Save for the 4,000 “Big Bank” at Exeter City there are few opportunities left to watch a football match in the EFL on a large terrace and none at Championship level or above. At times I felt as if I was relearning old skills, no bad thing after being sat in a car for 3 hours!
The other little bonus of watching from the East Bank if you look to your left is the ability to watch the ships sailing on the Humber estuary, it’s not quite as obvious as at Canvey Island but still impressive nonetheless. It made the decision to eschew the delights of the main stand and paddock for a view with the sun in your eyes! It also allowed the view of another dying feature in the association game, the main stand and paddock.
But the game, yes that. Did I mention Claudio Ranieri is now manager of Nantes? Take it as read the game was awful, two sides playing at half pace with chances on goal in extremely short supply. But as I’ve said before you can get a lousy game anywhere, so why not here? At least the drive home was hold-up free!