HULL... Just one letter away from dull... And Hell.
Until recently, that was about as much as the rest of the country seemed to know – or wanted to know – about the proud city that is Kingston-upon-Hull.
Derided by people who had never visited and would, more than likely, have trouble even locating it on a map, Hull suffered from an image problem for years with no list of ‘crap towns’ seemingly complete without a mention of the East Yorkshire outpost.
Times have changed, of course, with Premier League football, iconic tourist attractions and multi-million pound investment having transformed the perception of this proud city.
That was even before last year’s naming as the UK Capital of Culture for 2017.
One man who is delighted at the recent upturn in events is Liam Rosenior. Born in London, he spent plenty of time in the East Riding as a youngster due to his grandmother having moved to Hull in the late Eighties.
On those regular family forays north, Rosenior would immerse himself in the city. Watching Hull City at Boothferry Park one day, taking in the museum dedicated to William Wilberforce the next.
These visits left an indelible print on him, so much so that when the chance came to sign for Hull City in 2010 the former England Under-21 international jumped at the chance even though Hull’s financial plight was so poor that the club could neither pay him any wages nor offer him a contract
“I love it here in Hull,” says the 29-year-old, who is now the Tigers’ second-longest serving player behind Paul McShane. “That is why getting to the Cup final is such a big thing for both the football club and the area.
“The fans sing about my Nan being from Hull and we have a laugh about that. But it meant I visited this area all the time when I was a kid. It is a working-class area and it has a working-class ethos throughout the whole city. People stick together and work through adversity.
“There has been no investment in the area. After what happened in the Second World War (Hull was the most bombed city in England) and how the industries declined in the Eighties, this place was almost forgotten.
“But I always saw it as a city with a lot of tradition. I used to go to the William Wilberforce museum all the time when I was a kid. I know what this city has done for this country.
“So, to be a part of a football club that means so much to the people of this area is very special.
“This city has had plenty of adversity so for it to come out the other side and be so successful gives people the chance to be proud of where they come from, as they rightfully should be. For me to be a part of that is just fantastic.”
Rosenior is no stranger to adversity in his own career. After leaving Reading in the summer of 2010, he had a spell without a club.
Every day was the same routine, with a morning run around Wimbledon Common being followed by a return home to a two-bedroom flat that the family – he and his wife had three daughters at the time – had down-sized to without a regular wage coming in.
Happily, a telephone call to then Tigers manager Nigel Pearson elicited an offer to move north with a promise that if the Allams proposed takeover went ahead, he would receive not only back-pay but a new contract.
Three and a half years on, Hull are looking forward to their first Cup final knowing that another year of Premier League football is already guaranteed.
Rosenior said: “People looked at me as though I was crazy when I said I wanted to get to the Premier League during all the financial difficulties.
“But now we are on the verge of something even greater. We want to win this game, then in 20 years’ time we’ll be able to get back together and say, ‘Wow, wasn’t it amazing what we did?’ I want to hold the FA Cup (tonight) and give it a big kiss.”
If the Tigers are able to upset the odds at Wembley, the result would reverberate around the globe thanks to the estimated 500 million fans who tune in to the Cup final across 150 countries. It would also be a further nail in the coffin of those outdated views that suggest Hull is somewhere between Dull and Hell.
Rosenior said: “This is a thriving city, all of a sudden, and that gives people a sense of self-esteem. They all wear Hull shirts with pride now.
“There was a time when you’d see young kids wearing Man United or Liverpool shirts around here, but now I don’t see any of that. It’s more than just the football, though. This is about the area and the city.
“I see buildings going up around Hessle and there are a lot of shops popping up around Anlaby. Everywhere you look, you see little bits of investment. I don’t know if it’s the club being in the Premier League and people looking at the city in a different light, but I do find the city is improving. People are getting back on their feet.
“If the football club can play a part in that, then great. I went to Boothferry Park with my uncle-in-law after I begged him to take me. He was into biking, not football.
“I was 10 and up on my summer holidays so it must have been a League Cup game one night.
“There was probably about 1,500 people in a stadium that was falling apart. Looking at how far the club has come since then is incredible. But it is mirrored with so many other things around the city. Siemens have come in, we’ve won the City of Culture (for 2017) and people are starting to have a reason to be proud to come from the area.
“My kids are growing up in this area and everyone is proud to call this place home. That’s my Nan, too. She will die in this city because she is so happy here.”