Hundreds of people are today expected to attend the funeral of Chris Hull at St John’s Church in Poulton. He was well known to thousands of football fans throughout the town as the larger-than-life PA announcer at Blackpool FC’s Bloomfield Road. Here is a feature written by then football reporter STEVE CANAVAN to mark Hull’s decision to retire from his role with the Seasiders in 2006, after almost three decades in the job.
Somehow it just won’t be the same again.
Chris Hull, the man behind the public address microphone at Bloomfield Road for the last 28 years, has announced he is to retire – bringing to an end the reign of the longest serving PA man at any of the country’s 92 professional clubs.
During his incredible quarter of a century plus stretch, stands have fallen and risen, great players have been and gone, and, let’s face it, there have been some tough old times for the Seasiders faithful to put up with.
But throughout it all, one thing never changed – the dulcet tones which drifted across the ground from the public address box on match days.
“I have spent half my life on the mic at Bloomfield Road and there’s never been a dull moment, ” said Hull.
“It’s all been voluntary but I’ll certainly miss it ... especially when I wake up on that first Saturday and realise I’m not doing it anymore.”
When Hull began his matchday role, Elvis was alive, Jim Callaghan was Prime Minister and Blackpool boss Colin Hendry a 12-year-old paperboy in Scotland.
Since then, eight different Blackpool chairman have been at the helm and more than a dozen managers have come and gone.
But Hull, 55, has done much more than hold a microphone. As a Seasiders fanatic, he has had a colourful history at the club, including raising money with sponsored bed-pushes and parachute jumps when Pool almost went out of business inthe early 1980s.
What makes him so popular is his ever-present grin and his trademark one-liners ... not to mention those occasional gaffes which are part of his appeal.
But what some fans might not know is that, during the week, he has a much more serious role. He runs a successful funeral business on the Fylde coast – and that is the reason he feels it is time to hang up his mike.
“I have been the public address announcer at Blackpool Football Club since 1977 and loved every minute, ” he said.
“However, because of the continuing expansion of the business, it’s impossible for me to commit to being at every single first team fixture and I have let the club know that this will be my last season as announcer.
“I have supported the club for 50 years, have never been paid a penny for doing the PA role and I will always be available to serve our football club.”
And that includes giving a few tips to his successor.
“I would be delighted to show the new person the ropes to ensure a smooth transition, ” he said.
“They can take over as soon as they wish – whether in a week or at the start of next season.”
And although he won’t be in the spotlight any longer, Hull will still be at Bloomfield Road cheering on the team.
“I always hope for great things from our football club – on and off the pitch – and I’ll always be a fan,” he added.
“Everyone connected with the club wants success for the Seasiders and if we can gather some momentum over the next few weeks I hope we can turn things around.
“Off the pitch I think all the Blackpool fans are delighted with the new stands we have had for more than three seasons now and I’m looking forward to them pushing the development on even further in the next 12 months.
“Potentially these could be exciting times for the club and as we have seen from our three trips to the Millennium Stadium in the last four years, we have a strong following in the region of 20,000 fans.
“As you can tell I was born an optimist but I truly believe that this club has so much untapped energy and potential.
“I have seen us play in all four divisions of the professional game and I hope one day that the youngsters of the town will get the opportunity to see Blackpool back in the top two divisions.
“This is my town, I was born here and I will always support it and the football club to the hilt.”
n Chris was a rare breed who had the ability to make others feel better about themselves. Within 10 seconds of speaking to him on the phone I’d be smiling. He was funny, kind, had no ego or side to him, and possessed a zest for life that was infectious. He also loved Blackpool FC to the core and it seems slightly unfair that he began his long stint as the club’s PA announcer just as they were relegated into the third tier of English football ... and then hung up his mic 28 years later just before the club finally clambered back out of the third tier and began their incredible rise to the Premier League. But he continued to go to games as a fan and was there to witness those years, and loved it. A fantastic individual, he will be missed by all who knew him. STEVE CANAVAN