12 February ~ As well as hoping that their team staves off relegation, many of Hull City's travelling fans also want to see Nottingham Forest back in the top flight. The last time the Tigers made a competitive trip to Forest was in March 1977. The game ended in a 2-0 victory for the home side who went on to clinch promotion, while Hull City finished in the bottom half of Division Two. The two teams have not been in the same division since and we have not been back to the City Ground in any cup competition. For the ground-tickers, this remains an annual source of irritation.
Ground-ticking involves counting the number of different clubs visited in the course of following one's team. Hull City supporters have had plenty of opportunity to add to their new stadiums total in recent years thanks to three promotions in five seasons. This gave us our first trips to Everton for 45 years and to Spurs, who were last visited when we were the first victims of their victorious FA Cup run of 1981. But a few remain agonisingly beyond reach and Forest is the main one.
Some say that grounds count rather than clubs. This means that Colchester Utd and Cardiff City can't be ticked off until we visit them again as they've moved since Hull City last played there. A few more Tigers fans than expected went to the Liberty Stadium for a Carling Cup tie last season because trips to the Vetch Field a decade ago in the bottom division had been rendered null and void by Swansea City's relocation. Some would refuse to count Morecambe on the list, despite their rightful status as a League Two club, because our FA Cup tie at Christie Park in 1991-92 was against a non-League club.
As there are Football League debutants virtually every season now, ground-ticking supporters of higher-placed clubs have lengthening lists. Last season we lost Luton Town, a club I always rather enjoyed visiting with Hull City in recent years, and gained Burton Albion. Even if the Tigers fall helplessly back down the divisions over the next five years, which many people still seem to think is inevitable, it still seems hard to imagine that we will be playing Burton – or Dagenham & Redbridge, or Accrington Stanley – any time soon.
It seems that your best hope of seeing your club at all of these places is to have a couple of years in the top flight, then sink to the bottom division quickly and stay there for a bit. So the ground-tickers most likely to achieve their target are fans of Bradford City.
Meanwhile, it's only right for us to hope for a Hull City survival and for Forest to climb into the top flight again. In fact, there will be a good chunk of Forest fans aged under 40 thinking precisely the same thing. Although relegation for the Tigers and failure for their side may represent a better opportunity for a first trip to Hull since a goal by debutant Billy Bremner beat them 1-0 at Boothferry Park in October 1976.
Given how we've skilfully avoided one another for the 33 seasons since, it's inevitable that one will achieve its target for this season and the other won't. If that's to be the case, I'd rather stay where I am, even if another trip to the Britannia Stadium doesn't greatly appeal. Say a prayer for us when the next cup draw comes round. Matthew Rudd