28 August 2008
Busy old week this week; I'm back on the radio in Stockport, covering the mid-morning shift for Pure 107.8 FM, as well as heading back each day for SportsCall in Hull. Then there's the club night, plus a trip to Swansea to watch Hull City on Tuesday night. Given that we haven't been to Swansea since they switched stadia, it was what the more anal football supporter calls a "ground tick" - after the Tigers' wretched exit from the Carling Cup it became the only positive from a very long and lonely trip.
Everyone has their rules on ground ticks. Essentially, there are 92 clubs in the four English divisions and a ground tick is a cross-off from your list of visited grounds. This was easy 20 years ago before the construction of new stadia and the introduction of the non-league trapdoor system, and my compadres all now exercise their own rules and principles on what constitutes a ground tick:-
1 - A ground tick only applies if it is a competitive Hull City match you see there.
Well, I don't go along with this. This is an extremist's view of the ground tick theorem in that the match is only worthwhile and recordable as an official statistic if one of the teams on show was the one to which we happened to have professed our unconditional allegiance. In my case, I saw Stockport County home and away for three seasons in my role as a commentator, and some of the holes they were bound by dint of the fixture list to visit - Cheltenham, Swindon, Carlisle - are places I've never been to (nor, frankly, hope to) while watching the Tigers. But the game was competitive, if not as interesting, and so I proclaim that ground ticks apply irrespective of the sides on show. My mate Andy's only concession to non-Hull City ground tick claims is that they should be written down "in pencil".
2 - A ground tick is declared null and void if the team in question is relegated to the non-league pyramid.
Yep, I go along with this. The 92 Club is so-called for a reason, and so my visits to see competitive matches at York, Halifax and Mansfield, among others, are now no longer applicable. And, with the exception of Halifax, I hold no affection for these clubs anyway - especially York, whose fans were despicable in their mirth when Hull City almost folded a decade ago.
3 - An anulled ground tick is deemed worthy again if a relegated side returns to the top four divisions.
Yep, I go along with this too. It's complex stuff this, though. Look at Exeter City, for example - I've never been there at any stage of their revolving door existence, but friends of mine saw Hull City there when they were last in the 92. That's a ground tick. Using the parameters set out in 2) above, it ceased to be a ground tick the moment Exeter lost their status and slipped into the Conference. Visits to Exeter during their exile, irrespective of opposition or competition, do not count as a ground tick now they have returned to the 92, but visits during their previous stay in the top four divisions do. Clear as day, that.
4 - A ground tick is declared null and void if the club moves to a new stadium.
Awkward one this, which prompts much argument among the loony element of the ground tick splinter group. I went to Maine Road, former home of Manchester City, once. The game was competitive. That became, using my rules set out in 1), a bonafide ground tick. However, Manchester City have since shifted to the Eastlands site created by the Commonwealth Games overspend and I've not been there, well not until Boxing Day anyway. This is where the warring factions commence a separate argument on the merits of having a secondary 'club tick' section, whereby your record of visitation applies to the outfit involved rather than the venue. This now applies to Colchester United, who have (mercifully) moved to a new site this season, and in more bizarre circumstances, Rotherham United, whose incomprehensible stadium issues have forced them into Sheffield's athletics arena at the Don Valley. See also in the last 15 years Huddersfield, Stoke, Arsenal, Derby, Reading, Wigan, Leicester, Middlesbrough, Southampton, Coventry and our own Hull City, among numerous others. Another is Swansea, where I found beer-swilling colleagues having this very debate on Tuesday night, our first visit to their new Liberty Stadium, having previously seen the Tigers play at their heavily-muddied Vetch Field while being pelted with rocks by charming locals.
5 - People who have ground tick standards and rules should grow up and take their head from their own fundament.
Yep. Not arguing here.
Using my rules, I currently stand at 71, rising to 78 by the end of the season thanks to our elevation to the Premier League, allowing us to play clubs we haven't played competitively in generations.