Arsenal visit us today. Now, before this season, there hadn't been a League clash between these two since World War I. Despite this lack of history, the breathtaking victory the Tigers pulled off back in September at the Emirates makes this arguably the top fixture of the weekend - well, certainly until Liverpool and Everton square up on Monday night, that is.
For all this unfamiliarity with one another, you don't have to be a centenarian to recall a good Hull City game against the Gunners, as we had one 20 seasons ago. That fabled 1988-89 season, the one which threw up the Liverpool tie in the FA Cup fifth round, also managed to pair us with Arsenal in the League Cup earlier in the season.
Given that Arsenal and Liverpool would ultimately contest the closest and most dramatic finish to a League season, for Hull City to play against each, competitively, was quite an achievement. Especially as, like with Liverpool later, we gave Arsenal quite a fright.
A warm September evening at Boothferry Park heralded the first leg of this tie, back in the days when the League Cup's opening round was always a home and away affair. City had enjoyed a mixed start to the season, with two wins, two draws and three defeats on the Division Two board by the time Arsenal turned up.
There was no skimping on the team sheet in those days - apologies for the Hovis-esque, cobbled-roads-are-bad-for-your-bike nature of that comment - as the fixture pile-up didn't exist. English clubs were banned from Europe - and even if they weren't, playing European ties in any of the three competitions didn't consist of ludicrous, deceptive group stages anyway - so the League Cup was domestically a target for every club, not shirking on importance even though clubs would make it third in the pecking order of three.
The upshot of this was that Arsenal arrived at full strength. John Lukic was in goal behind that back four which Ron Atkinson would later label as Dad's Army - Dixon, Bould, Adams and Winterburn. Alan Smith led the line up front, but most intriguingly of all, there was a first return to Boothferry Park of Brian Marwood.
Marwood had settled well into his opening season at Highbury, having joined in the spring of 1988 from Sheffield Wednesday. He'd had four years at Hillsborough, his star having increased sufficiently there for George Graham, needing some more natural width to complement future City winger David Rocastle, to invest in him.
It was back in 1984 that Marwood decided that the grass was greener in South Yorkshire than further east. He was, unquestionably, a superb natural wide player, capable down either flank (he played mainly on the right for City, despite later featuring entirely on the left for Arsenal and getting his fabled nine minutes for England there too) and set up countless goals for the Hull City's striker, 1980s-style, such as Billy Whitehurst, Les Mutrie and Andy Flounders. He'd been spotted playing kids' football in his native north east, where the alleged footballing hotbed had no discernible scouting system, so instead of heading for Middlesbrough or Newcastle United, he began his career in Hull.
Marwood spent four seasons in the first team, skinning full backs and centring balls on which strikers based their dreams the night before. An accomplished penalty taker, he top-scored in one of City's strugglesome campaigns thanks to his proficiency from the spot. It was clear that he was the jewel in a tarnished Hull City crown, and it was with some surprise that he wasn't sold in 1981 (because of relegation) or 1982 (because of receivership).
There were claims that Marwood wasn't a robust enough character around the dressing room and his more aesthetic approach and slighter build made him the butt of jokes and prompted some more meatheaded figures to question his attitude. After Colin Appleton rescued the club on the pitch with a superb promotion in 1983, Marwood flowered that year and the eyes began to watch. In 1984, Hull City agonisingly missed out on a second promotion by - wait for it - one solitary goal. That was all that separated the side from a phenomenal consecutive elevation. Marwood took it on his conscience after the 3-0 victory required at Burnley emerged only as a 2-0 by pondering the pair of penalties he'd missed earlier in the season and decided it was time to go. So did Appleton, whose decision to walk out of the club for Swansea shrouded Marwood's inevitable sale a few weeks later.
Fast forward four years, and Marwood is back at Boothferry Park, wearing Arsenal's familiar red and white. He was faced by old team mates Tony Norman, Garreth Roberts and Keith Edwards (who'd left and come back) and was marked by rampaging, uncompromising full back Charlie Palmer. A surprisingly paltry 11,000 came through the turnstiles (we got the 18,000 capacity for Liverpool later in the year) and soon Edwards, 31 and with almost a decade on the two centre backs either side of him, completely outpaced each of them to fire a splendid low shot past Lukic.
City led Arsenal. The great young things of football, winners of this competition two years earlier and beaten finalists of the previous season, were behind to a lower division club with no history whatsoever in the League Cup. For a short while City, with Alex Dyer giving Dixon problems down the flank and young Andy Payton running elf-like around the cumbersome Bould, were in total charge. Marwood was rarely given any space by Palmer. Smith was having little luck up front.
Then Winterburn put in a low cross on the overlap which got a mild deflection and sneaked in. A fluke, credited to Winterburn, gave Arsenal a route back. Half time arrived quickly afterwards, and Arsenal dominated the second period. Yet it wasn't until the last ten minutes when Marwood, taking advantage of tiring Tigers legs, took a flick from Smith and steered the ball past Norman in front of the travelling Gooners in the unsheltered North Stand.
What got some goats was Marwood's needless over-celebration. He milked the Arsenal applause, with the fans beginning their "Brian Marwood on the wing" song instantly. This was an early-round game of the third most important competition against the club which brought him up and on their turf. At the final whistle, he did applaud the West Stand as he reached the tunnel, but general reaction to him was muted, compared to the appreciative applause he got from the crowd prior to the match starting.
Arsenal won the second leg 3-0 and - symmetry at work again here - were knocked out by Liverpool in the next round in a tie which needed a second replay at neutral Villa Park to find a victor. Little more than a month after coming back to Boothferry Park, Marwood was making his first and last England appearance with a nine-minute cameo against Saudi Arabia in Riyadh. He remains the last player to go on to an England career (albeit the second-shortest England career ever) after leaving Hull City.
When he was wrapping up his career at Barnet, Marwood came back to Boothferry Park once more for a crazy 4-4 draw in which a certain Dean Windass scored a hat-trick for the Tigers. He is now, of course, a high-profile summariser for Sky, with some Hull City fans still claiming he has rather airbrushed his early career with the club from his CV, though this didn't prevent the supporters declaring him one of the club's ten greatest ever players when the Top 100 Tigers was announced for the centenary season.
The visit of Arsenal today represents their first since that game in 1988. While some would see it as a write-off fixture, with City's poor form stifling the optimism from the psychological advantage which supposedly exists from the win at the Emirates, others would say that a similar game to 1988, in which City open the scoring but then lose 2-1, would be inexcusable. Oddly, that's the reverse of what happened at the Emirates.