Where Did It All Go Wrong?

When asked about where our present decline started, most City fans will point to the sacking of Brian Horton. Richard Gardham casts his mind back to his appointment in 1984…

Whilst I would agree that this period of time started our decline, it is not necessarily the sacking of Horton that acted as the catalyst for our decline. After Appleton deserted us, we were a promising young team who just needed the necessary shaping. A young, ambitious, tough manager was required so therefore…

The appointment of Brian Horton – Correct.

As we all know, Horton on the whole did an excellent job with City, 6th in the old Division Two was an astounding feat, and considering the budget he had and ordinary players at his disposal who were made to look class, every bit as good a feat as City achieved in the Sixties or Seventies. However, he gradually began to lose it.

City never looked as strong as they had in that season and erratic decisions were beginning to creep in. A dramatic losing streak in what was to be his final season eventually led to his demise, with thousands of fans calling for his head at the Swindon game. Horton had taken City had far as he could, both manager and team needed a new impetus to advance their promising futures and make the most of their obvious talents. Therefore….

The sacking of Brian Horton – Correct.

What City then needed was a wily old figure who could give a team with many Top Division players-in-waiting just what they required to boost them to what we all knew they could achieve. A good short term appointment, a bit like Derby with Jim Smith. We didn’t need a long term employment, say a manager still very much in learning mode who had failed to inspire Rochdale from their seemingly endless stay in the basement. In short, we didn’t need Eddie Gray….

The appointment of Eddie Gray – Incorrect.

Nothing against Eddie you understand. There were some definite high points under his management, most notably a wonderful thrashing of Brighton (and that Payton wonder goal), and the Liverpool game and City’s form in the run up to it. However Gray was never going to bring City instant success. He’d never tasted it as a manager and was therefore going to need time to put his plan into action.

He was a long term appointment, and had given a taster of what he could do. The Payton/Swan partnership was about to be ignited and this promising young manager had shown enough promise in his first season (despite a lowly league position) to be given a fair crack of the whip, however it was not to be……

The sacking of Eddie Gray – Incorrect  (why make a long term appointment and then sack him after just a year?)

The usual suspects were being mentioned now for City’s hotseat. A promising young team still, with Payton ready to blossom and that experienced head, or perhaps someone with international class was needed (Strachan/Wilkins/Rix…), aware of this, City’s board scoured the country, sorry that should read scoured the county and unearthed Colin Appleton from Brid. The man had been out of league football for a long while and had lost his grip of what was needed in our (then) division.

The appointment of Chippy Minton – Incorrect.

Colin burst into Boothferry Park, took one look around and instantly saw what needed doing. He refitted the changing rooms. And then signed Steve Doyle. To be fair the changing rooms probably made more of an impression. Appleton was rubbish, sold Keithy and never won a league game.

The sacking of Colin Appleton – Correct, CORRECT, CORRECT!!!!

Which brings us to a time when things are looking pretty desperate. An ageing squad, bottom of the league but we’ve still got Payton, Swan, Jobbo, Jenks and co, but on the whole we didn’t need a manager, we needed a miracle worker. After phoning Eileen Drewery (whatever happened to…), only for her to be engaged, the board baffled everyone by turning away the likes of John Bond and Lawrie McMenemy (thank god) and employing the little known Stan Ternant, one of the most respected coaches in the game…..

The appointment of Stan Ternant – Correct, we had nothing to lose.

And for a while Stan was indeed the leper messiah. Certain relegation went, our customary 14th in division 2 slot came. We were going to ‘big’ clubs and beating them on their own grounds.

As his first full season approached we believed we were unbeatable. How wrong we were. Stan’s revolutionary tactics (Hey kids – lets not bother with a left back) backfired spectacularly. We were awful. He had to go. He went.

The sacking of Stan Ternant – Correct

We were now so deep in the mire that it was difficult to see a way out. Jobbo had gone and only really Payton offered any hope (Swanny had lost heart by this stage). So where do you go when you need bailing out? That’s right – Rochdale, again, with a manager who’s career is in rapid decline and has never achieved anything in his time as the boss of a club.

The appointment of Terry Dolan – Incorrect

His first job was to steer us to relegation, which he did with consumate ease. He then very nearly exceeded all expectations by managing it again for a second year on the trot, just failing at the final hurdle. Then we all got a bit of a surprise. We got quite good and even flirted with the play-offs for a while, however it was soon apparent that as soon as Dolan got a whiff of promotion he was clueless. Lack of cash could be blamed, but very few teams had any money that we were competing against, and even fewer had players of the calibre of Dewhurst, Linton Brown, Fettis and of course Dean Windass.

After our second year of flirting with the play offs but not realistically having much chance after Easter, Dolan should have gone and given someone else a chance who was capable of getting these talented individuals to a level which their talents deserved. He stayed, we were relegated. He stayed even longer, we settled down in Division Four preparing ourselves for a lengthy stay.

The sacking of Terry Dolan – Correct (should have happened much earlier).

So on to our brave new post-Needler era. It had long been said that City needed a high profile player manager to recreate the glory days of the Carter/Neill/Horton eras. The player manager road was a tried and trusted one as far as City were concerned. Mark Hateley certainly fitted this bill, and seemed to have the necessary pedigree to give us the success we so desperately craved.

The appointment of Mark Hateley – Correct (This is WITHOUT the benefit of hindsight)

And he was totally unable to grasp what was necessary for lower league football. A grim first season included one Boyack-inspired false dawn. The beginning of the next season was a disaster. As a manager Mr Hateley made a good television pundit. Lloyd may have let him down, but that doesn’t excuse his poor tactics and seeming lack of interest.

The sacking of Mark Hateley – Correct

So, shit creek, no paddle, a massive hole in the bottom of the canoe, and man-eating sharks circling us. We did have though, one of the country’s most highly thought of young coaches in our ranks, who came with a reference from Alex Ferguson. Why not…..

The appointment of Warren Joyce – Correct

And in came Warren. His first move, just about, was to sign Justin Whittle, then, for a laugh, he transformed Mark Greaves from being the next Steve Richards to being the next Richard Jobson.

Add a few more excellent signings and that Great Escape thing and Warren was pretty much the most popular man in Hull (sorry, second most, I forgot about Norman Collier). In saving us from dropping out the league Warren became THE most important manager in the club’s history, and this is a fact that should never be forgotten by us.

His sacking had some good grounding, but overall he became a scapegoat for a board that had talked of an ambitious future, but failed to release to funds for Warren to carry out these ambitions. He had built a squad capable of survival, but for various reasons had not got close to one capable of promotion.

The sacking of Warren Joyce – Incorrect. Just.

So where to now? To be fair the appointment of Little came a bit out of the blue. OK, his career was in something of a a rapidly spiralling decline, but for a club which had spent the previous decade in freefall, resting nicely in and around that 88th position in the league, it was quite a coup to get him to Boothferry Park.

It is too early to say what kind of impact he has made or will make, though the most promising signs are that he won’t merely be a yes man to the board and will hopefully bring some professionalism throughout all levels of a club bereft of both hope and idea. The appointment of Brian Little – Correct. Hopefully the off the field distractions will not prevent him from giving the fans what they so richly deserve after our 15 years or hurt (or should that be 96 years?)

Richard Gardham