Andy Greeves meets one of Hull City's longest-serving fans ahead of the biggest game of his life...
If Arsenal fans think their nine-year wait to see their team win silverware has been tough, they should spare a thought for 91-year-old Hull City supporter Sherard Pearson. The Tigers are yet to win a major trophy in his lifetime and the last time they had a chance of winning the FA Cup back in 1930, it was the Gunners who ruined Hull and Sherard’s big day.
Back on March 22, 1930, a seven-year-old Sherard attended his side’s FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal at Elland Road. While the Tigers - then of the old Division Two (now SkyBet Championship) - put up a valiant display that day against their top flight opponents, a late Gunners equaliser forced a replay after a 2-2 draw. The north Londoners won the second meeting four days later at Villa Park and subsequently went on to achieve the first of their 10 FA Cup triumphs to date by beating Huddersfield in the final.
Hull City and Sherard, meanwhile, have barely had a sniff of FA Cup glory since. That is, of course, until this season, with the team from the East Riding of Yorkshire hoping it’ll be a case of second time lucky in a major FA Cup meeting with Arsenal in Saturday’s final.
“It’s fitting we’re playing Arsenal in the final,” smiles Pearson, who is 91-years-young and a grandfather. “The FA Cup has always been a very important competition in this country, but you have to look back to 1930 for the last time we had a real chance of winning it. It was Arsenal we played back in the semi-final then and I was there. Sadly it was Arsenal that ended up going to the final, not us, that year.”
Unsurprisingly, Sherard has fairly minimal memories of the Elland Road semi between Hull and the Gunners that he and 47,548 other spectators attended back in 1930.
“It was a big crowd… a big presence from Hull City fans given it (Leeds) was just down the road,” he reflects on the match the Tigers had led 2-0 at half-time. “Following Hull over the years has been a real rollercoaster ride and until recently we’ve probably had more downs than ups. The last decade has been good to us though and ever since we got promoted from the fourth tier (of the Football League) to the third, we’ve had some real momentum behind us.”
Hull are currently basking in the glory of one of the best ever seasons in its history, finishing 16th in the Premier League this campaign. They will play in the UEFA Europa League for the first time ever next season and even their surroundings are on the up, with Kingston upon Hull having been named the UK’s next City of Culture in 2017. Sherard too is enjoying something of a 30 minutes of fame; he won a competition that saw him travel VIP-style to the FA Cup Semi-Final last month, and is even doing some filming with BT Sport telling the story of his trip to the 1930 tie.
“Steve Bruce offered to buy any supporter that had attended the semi-final in 1930 a ticket for the game against Sheffield United this season,” explains Sherard’s 24-year-old grandson and fellow Hull fan Dan Aitchinson.
“Cash Converters (Hull's official main sponsor) extended that offer and ran a competition inviting Hull fans that had been at the 1930 semi-final to come forward and tell their story of that day. My granddad did just that and ended up winning hospitality for the semi against Sheffield United, two signed Hull shirts and a chauffeur driven car from our front door to right outside the entrance at Wembley to go with the tickets from Steve Bruce.”
Adding that he “wasn’t sure how many other fans from 1930 actually came forward” to enter the Cash Converters competition, Dan accompanied granddad Sherard to a press conference at Hull’s KC Stadium prior to the 5-3 FA Cup Semi-Final win over Sheffield United on April 13 and met Tigers manager Bruce.
“We found out the Tuesday night in the week of the semi-final that we had won the Cash Converters competition and on the next, we were meeting Steve Bruce and doing a press conference,” laughs Dan. “I managed to get a few hours off work on the Wednesday and took my granddad along to the KC Stadium. It was an incredible day and almost as good as attending the semi-final itself.
“We had our photographs taken with the FA Cup and had a good look around the KC. We were walked out into the stadium bowl itself and Steve came along and had a chat with us both and had photos with us. Steve was a really nice chap and very down to earth. He joked to my granddad and said ‘if these cameras weren’t here, we could sit down and have a smoke’!”
While Dan will be hoping cup finals will start becoming more of a regular fixture for Hull in the decades to come, granddad Sherard will be looking on Saturday’s match as the biggest opportunity for his home city club to win silverware in his lifetime.
“I like the new Wembley Stadium, having seen Hull win the (Football League Championship) Play-Off Final there in 2008 and the recent FA Cup Semi-Final of course,” says Sherard.
“Winning the FA Cup would top it all off though… I’d love to see us lift the trophy.”
If Hull can pull off an upset and lift old big ears on Saturday, there will few supporters inside Wembley more deserving of success than their perennial supporter Sherard Pearson.