The Soul of Hull City – Part three

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For some people, Hull City didn’t exist until May 2008, when the club joined the upper echelons and entered the national consciousness. For long time City fans though, the Tigers are far more than a single match or season, they are the sum of childhood memories of standing on Boothferry Park’s ‘well’, of recollections of Simon Gray coach trips to away games, even of events not witnessed first hand but passed down from a previous generation of Tiger Nationals. Hull City is a rich tapestry comprised of many individual and overlapping threads.

Some threads are more important than others though, and we set out to define what it is that makes Hull City unique, different from every other club in the land. What are the 100 key events, people, sights and sounds that combine to form the soul of Hull City? Not every entry has to be of monumental historic importance, but it has to be quintessentially Hull City’…

 

IAN ASHBEE
Dramatis Personae

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Signing Cambridge United’s left back is rarely a sign of Premier League intentions. And let’s be honest, when Jan Molby signed Ian Ashbee in the summer of 2002, jubilant victories at Arsenal were a trillion miles from any City fan’s thoughts. But Ash clearly had something about him and his clenched-fist personality saw him quickly elevated to club captain and midfield dynamo.

Molby soon waddled away from Hull, but his replacement Peter Taylor evidently saw the same attributes in Ashbee as the gigantic Dane and constructed an attacking unit around Ash’s holding and destructive qualities at the base of the midfield. A tough tackler but a hopeless passer, that was Ashbee’s rep in the lower leagues – but despite often playing up to this description with a string of yellow cards and misplaced glory balls, he also showed the occasional flash of brilliance that made you wonder if there was more than plain brutalism to his game – most notably when he flighted a chipped winner into the Yeovil net to secure the Tigers’ first promotion in 19 years.

He’s not good enough for League One, the received wisdom went, and Michael Keane was brought in from Preston to replace Ash. The corpulent badge-kissing Keane was soon sent packing as City punched straight through League One into the Championship. He’s not good enough for the Championship, that was the new mantra, and Keith Andrews was brought in from Wolves to replace Ash. Yet despite a career threatening bone injury Ash bounced back a more mature, more considered player that could still deliver killer tackles but also nurtured those around him. He captained Phil Brown’s Tigers to play-off victory at Wembley, and went on to establish himself as a credible Premier League midfield engine room operator.

Alas, a nasty knee injury may have now finished Ash, but he will remain the man of records – the only player to captain an English side in all four divisions, the only City player to score in all four divisions – and, overwhelmingly, the man that drew little old Hull City around him, imposed his character on it and helped propel it to the highest heights imaginable. Is Ash City’s finest player ever? Almost certainly not. Is he City’s most influential player ever? Absolutely 100% definitely.

 

HDM NICKNAME CITY ‘THE TIGERS’
Keeping up appearances

The Hull Daily Mail is much maligned nowadays, often disparagingly termed ‘the Fail’ by City fans, but we do owe them thanks for a splendid nickname. A week before City’s first ever game against Notts County in 1904, it was announced that the new club would wear black and amber stripes.

It turns out they didn’t, and instead wore white shirts with black shorts for their inaugural fixture, but the colour scheme we are familiar with today was soon adopted. The Mail’s sports reporter noted that stripy strip bore a resemblance to the markings of a tiger, and the nickname stuck, to the extent that the reserves were referred to as ’cubs’ back then.

The sobriquet is a sub-editor’s dream, lending itself to puntastic headlines such as ’Tigers roar to victory’ and all too often ’Toothless Tigers tamed’ or some such, but despite the tired copy, in a league of “Trotters”, “Bantams”, “Hatters” and “Chairboys”, we wouldn’t swap it for anything.

 

DAVE BAMBER’S OWN GOAL AT BRIGHTON
Depths of despair

Rule number one of Hull City management: Don’t buy players who have done well against us in recent years. No player gives a better example of this than Dave Bamber, who had seemingly scored against us at will for Blackpool, Walsall, Swindon (including a brace in Brian Horton’s last game as City manager) and Stoke.

In February 1990, with Billy Whitehurst wanting to link up with Dave Bassett at Sheffield United, City needed to sign a tall centre forward. Of course we had Peter Swan in our ranks, but he was being used more as a centre back in those days, thus meaning that Stan Ternant happily shelled out £125,000 to Stoke for the veteran striker. Feelings among the City faithful were generally optimistic. It was a lot of money, but at the very worst we’d be spared him scoring against us for a while. Or so we thought…

It didn’t take long for Bamber to endear himself to the Boothferry Park boo boys. His lack of goals seemed to mirror his apparent lack of interest, one wonderful volley in a home game against Wolves aside. It was becoming obvious that Swan and Andy Payton was the right combination for our forward line, but Bamber was still messing things up, forcing his way into the starting line-up as (reputedly) one of our top earners.

Bamber’s crowning moment in a City shirt came on the 6th of April, 1990. The relegation-threatened Tigers were visiting the Goldstone Ground to play Brighton in a Friday night match. The home side tore into City from the off. Sergei Gotsmanov, an outrageously skilful Russian forward, seemed capable of winning the game single-handedly, but that first goal just wouldn’t come. That’s where Dave Bamber came in. Mid-way through the first half a Brighton corner from City’s left is swung over. There appears to be no danger of anything happening as the ball gently arcs towards our hero’s tousled locks, with no home attacker anywhere near him. But all those goals for Stoke, Swindon, etc… were obviously lingering in the recesses of Bamber’s mind. A split-second and a perfectly executed header into the top corner later, and we’re 1-0 down. The game’s effectively over (though Gotsmanov is later to round Iain Hesford, start his celebrations, and then score) and all Bamber can do is contemplate just how many times a guffawing Saint and Greavsie will replay it the following lunchtime (three, if my memory is working properly).

Bamber hung around like a bad smell for the rest of that season and then went to Blackpool on loan early in the next. Four goals in five games persuaded the club he started his career with to pay £50,000 to mercifully make the move permanent. With bastard-like inevitability, Bamber was to score two in the first ten minutes of his next encounter with City, as Blackpool beat us 6-2.

I’ve seen worse than Bamber. John Pearson, Robbie Turner and a cast of dozens were inferior footballers to the useless, lanky get. But they didn’t cost us £125,000. They didn’t command huge wages. They didn’t suck a shedload of money out of the club just before we were to suffer a decade of financial crises and winding-up orders. They didn’t score against us with such consummate ease whenever they came up against the Tigers. And, most importantly, they didn’t score the most fuckwitted own-goal in the history of the club.

‘THE TIGERS ARE BACK’ RECORD
Talking points

The football record has all but died a death, apart from every four years when some deluded ego is roped in by the FA to write something for the England team that they mistakenly believe will be a fraction as good as World in Motion. Or Vindaloo, for that matter.

The 70s and 80s were a different matter. Football records were all the rage. You couldn’t move for Nice One Cyrils, Back Homes, Anfield Raps and Ossie Ardiles’ knees going all trembly. Seeing the potential in this, a newly resurgent Hull City decided in 1981 that a seven-inch single was the best way to celebrate our ‘revival’.

We didn’t have a Chas and Dave among our fans, but we did have a soon-to-be award-winning film writer/director and a soon-to-be member of The Christians among our fans, and so schoolfriends Mark Herman and Henry Preistman were soon laying down some beats, or whatever it is that these people do.

The result is interesting. And if you think that ‘interesting’ is a euphemism for ‘a bit shit’, you’d be right. But shit in an endearing way. Lines such as “We used to roar a lot, along with 20,000 others” mixed seamlessly with crowd shouts of “Give ‘em some stick Dennis” in a deliciously low-key offering complete with a classy sounding 80s synth. Sadly, the top 40 didn’t quite beckon for this offering, but it remains the only Hull City record ever to be released. And in the general crimes against music committed by various football clubs or players, there has been much, much worse released.

 

BILLY WHITEHURST
Dramatis Personae

Whitehurst, BillyDefinitively raw when signed from non-league in 1980 by Mike Smith, the brawny and fearless Whitehurst would ultimately carve a reputation as football’s hardest and most brutally unforgiving player, but not before a slow, occasionally comical and sometimes frustrating development into something resembling a League standard centre forward.

A figure who loathed authority and demanded good reasons before offering respect, he fell under the tutelage of Chris Chilton, record goalscorer and assistant manager, whose statistics made the cussing Whitehurst finally bow and scrape.

Using the simple strategy of instructing Whitehurst while throwing balls at him, (“Control!” “Volley!” “Shield!”) Chilton sorted out the previously invisible first touch and subtly brought out a striker’s instinct in him.

Eventually he’d become a valued and valuable goalscorer for both Colin Appleton and Brian Horton, getting more than a half century of them in the League, and Newcastle United paid a fortune for him.

Unsuccessful there, Whitehurst took trips to the backwater of Oxford and sunken hotbed of Sunderland before his return to Boothferry Park under Eddie Gray, complete with welcoming graffiti, a chest (and stomach) like a garage door and a good supply of goals, including one against champions Liverpool in the FA Cup.

But of course, he’s really all about shitting in yogurt pots, bare-knuckle fighting, forcing apprentices into shaving foam blowjobs and threatening to kill Stan Ternent, isn’t he? Well yes, but he was a good player too, made all the better by the fact he seemed to be bloody awful when he first signed. We shouldn’t forget that.

PREMIER CLUB BELL
That’s SO Hull City

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Very simply, a large bell encased in glass that was installed in the KC Stadium’s ‘Premier Club’ hospitality suite upon the grounds opening in 2002, and the edict was it would only ever be rung on the occasion of Hull City’s first Premier League game at the Circle. Making sure the cameras were all present, and expertly milking the moment for as long as he could, Paul Duffen duly rang the bell (sans glass casing) prior to victory over Fulham on August 16th 2008. One assumes it will next be rung when we host our first European game, which makes one almost wish for the Intertoto to make a return. But not quite.

ROBINSON AND HORTON WITH SOME TURKEYS
Keeping up appearances


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That’s Don Robinson, chairman. And Brian Horton, manager. And two turkeys. Not even a predictable joke about the ability of Neil Williams could somehow make light of the image of our chairman and our manager posing with some turkeys. Turkeys. Feathers and beaks and stuff.

It was all because local poultry firm Twydale Turkeys had become sponsors of City’s first team kit in 1986-87 (though mercifully not soon enough for the pre-match team photo, where the shirts remained reassuringly mantra-less and help just a little the attempt to write turkeys out of the club’s history) and so the publicity machine demanded Robinson (not looking embarrassed at all), Horton (putting a brave face on it, aided by emotional shrouding via luxuriant beard) and the turkey (whose expression remains hard to decipher without consultation of an ornithological mood assessor) should all pose for the cameras.

City nearly got relegated as well, and missed out on a juicy FA Cup quarter final date with Leeds United after being beyond shit at (then) lowly Wigan Athletic in the last 16. All of this while promoting turkeys. Turkeys.

HINCHLIFFE CREST
Keeping up appearances

 

Back in 1999, at the start of a period of self inflicted financial turmoil that saw the club evicted from Boothferry Park, players go without pay and the taxman issuing High Court winding-up orders over unpaid VAT, the board saw fit to pay a few grand for an unneeded rebranding exercise. At the behest of vice president Stephen Hinchliffe, (a man disqualified from being a company director by the DTI and later convicted of fraud and jailed for two years) his nepotistically-appointed son James Hinchliffe was tasked to design a new crest. It was an utter abomination.

At the top of a shield was a crudely illustrated Humber Bridge that had three giant coronets hovering ominously, Damocles sword like, over the span. Underneath, inside the escutcheon, was an owl with a goatee beard rendered in iron filings, or maybe it was a clipart crab with a circumcised penis for a nose, or maybe, just maybe, it was a tigers head. It was supposed to be, but it sure didn’t look like one.

Thankfully, that design, which first appeared in a programme in March 1999 and inspired indignant protest, never graced the players’ kit. A hastily redrawn version was used on the Avec strips for 1999-2000 and 2000-2001, and though it was a little bit better, it was awful nonetheless, retaining the nose that looked startlingly phallic (complete with heart shaped glans)

Adam Pearson sought to erase any trace of the ‘Sheffield Stealers’ reign when he brought the club out of administration in 2001 and heroically commissioned a new primary logo that contained the old, beloved tigers head design that had adorned City shirts between 1978 and 1999. Every now and then, however, the Hinchliffe crest is unwittingly used by a lax page editor in the national press, and the Tiger Nation is forcibly reminded of the time our club’s logo was, depending on your perspective, a bearded owl or a cock-nosed crab.

 

BOOTHFERRY HALT
That’s SO Hull City

A fluke of post-war construction rather than a visionary sustainable transport measure, the Tigers’ move to a new ground at Boothferry Park following war-time bombing of their previous Anlaby Road home, saw the side play alongside the Neptune Street Docks Branch of the Hull and Barnsley Railway. And pretty soon this facility was employed on matchdays to transport folk from across the City of Hull – then the beneficiary of a dense rail network and over a dozen suburban stations – to the club’s home games.

Never used for purposes other than matchdays and with turnstiles leading directly from the platform rear to the terraces, Hull City was (and still is) the only football club to have had a dedicated overground railway station that directly served its stadium. And it was used by home and away supporters alike, with the 60s and 70s bringing away supporters’ special trains direct to the ground with only the briefest of time available for stuffing bog roll down the toilets and pulling the emergency cord.

Alas, by the 1980s the railways were in a state of disrepair, so was Hull City, and the motorcar had taken over the train as the preferred mode of travel to City matches. Thus it was that the trains saw their time pass. The final football special transported Derby County supporters into the ground for a rip-snorting Third Division promotion encounter in March 1985, and the last home fans’ shuttle from Paragon station (with tickets dispensed until the end from the fine wood-panelled ticket office flanking WH Smiths) set forth largely empty in May 1986.

The platforms were removed as late as 2007, long after the stadium was abandoned for the brave new world at The Circle, itself flanked by a railway and on the site of City’s pre-WW2 Anlaby Road home, which was demolished to make way for a railway in the 1960s. Hull City and railways, eh? Now, where’s that plaque gone…?

MARK HATELEY
Dramatis Personae

hateley

Orange skin.
Check.
Arrogant.
Check.
Vain.
Check.
Hull City manager.
Check.

The parallels between arguably the best manager in our history and a strong contender for the worst are frightening.

As Hull City tumbled down the leagues under Terry Dolan, many sections of the City faithful claimed that they had the solution to our ills. Harking back to the days of Raich Carter, Terry Neill and Brian Horton, a player-manager was all we needed to turn around our fortunes.

When Dolan was finally ousted, and the Lloyd/Wilby era paraded into Hull to a near orgasmic reception at the City Hall, the promise of a high-profile player-manager was met with rapturous applause. But who would it be? Peter Beardsley? Maybe Ian Rush? Would David Platt slum it with us? Hateley wasn’t mentioned much, but his appointment was still met with great enthusiasm. Boothferry Park wasn’t exactly brimming with England internationals, former AC Milan players or Rangers legends.

And god, we were terrible. A rabid couple of thousand City fans headed for Field Mill for the first game of out brand new era. We lost 2-0. And we kept losing. There were a few highs – a 7-4 win against Swansea, knocking Premiership Crystal Palace out of the League Cup, a David Rocastle-inspired 3-0 victory over Scarborough – but on the whole there was a lot of losing. To Chester, to Scunthorpe, to Shrewsbury (4-1 at home!), to Hednesford…

To call Mark Hateley a player-manager at this point would be a bit misleading. He was injured for much of of the time (but still managed to play in Paolo Maldini’s testimonial at the San Siro). He did start in the high-profile League Cup game against Newcastle, in which he did nothing but rob one of our promising youngsters a chance to play on such a big stage. And he’d come on for the last five minutes of many games, fuelling rumours he was on an appearance bonus and was simply ensuring that he was raking in a bit more cash. There were other rumours doing the rounds too, about his conduct in and around the pubs of Swanland. Hateley’s profile, it appeared, was high, but for all the wrong reasons.

We were thankful in Hateley’s first season that Doncaster were so woeful (never more so than when they beat us at Belle Vue in early April 1998) that the relegation spot to the Conference was wrapped up by mid-November, and a McGinty and Boyack-inspired flurry of goals at the back end of the season had us hoping that better was around the corner.

It wasn’t. The first half of the next season was to the worst in Hull City’s history. A 3-1 defeat at Rotherham in the first game of the season was followed by defeat at home to Darlington. We seemed to keep losing and losing and losing. Hateley was contributing a little more on the pitch – a penalty at Chester, a goal in what was to turn out to be a vital 2-1 win at Scarborough – but managerially he was a disaster. His ego wouldn’t accept it, but he was way out of his depth. And City veered from three to six to (briefly) nine points clear at the bottom of the Fourth Division. Fortunately David Lloyd’s ego was larger than the man managing the football club he owned. Lloyd didn’t seem to understand the lease details on the supermarket attached to Boothferry Park, then blamed the fans for his own shortcomings. His brain disengaged, Lloyd thankfully departed, and in came Tom Belton and a few other board members who didn’t matter for now…

Their first task was to sack Hateley. Former Radio Humberside reporter Chris Harvey once told me that Belton had initially gone to Hateley telling him the budget he had and asking him for a list of players he could start chasing up. Hateley took out a pen and scrawled a number down for the avuncular farmer. When Belton asked him what it was, Hateley replied “It’s the number of my agent, give him a ring and ask him who’s available at the moment.” Hateley’s actions over the previous 18 months, and his erratic transfer ‘policy’, give me no reason to doubt this story’s veracity. Within 48 hours, Hateley was sacked.

Warren Joyce came in and cleaned up Hateley’s mess, and Hateley seemed to give up on management. Far too much like hard work, no doubt. A faltering media career began, and on the odd occasion when Mark was asked what had gone wrong at City, obviously the board upheaval was to blame. Never mind the fact that, for all Lloyd’s faults, he’d given Hateley a much bigger budget in that first season than nearly every other manager in the division.

Earlier this year, Hateley made a surprise return to management. Liberia, ranked the 143rd best international team in the world by FIFA, decided that Hateley was the man to lead them. Poor bastards. Of all the awful managers City have had over the past two or three decades, most of them – Dolan, Ternent, Parkinson, Molby, Appleton – have at least had spells in their careers when they’ve suggested that they have some sort of managerial talent. Hateley didn’t, and was a disaster from his first game to his last, leaving us in our lowest ever league position, a position it took a minor miracle for us to recover from.

Entries by Richard Gardham, Mike Scott, Matthew Rudd and Les Motherby

Missed part one? Read it HERE
Then read part two which is HERE


4 replies
  1. Briston and on and on
    Briston and on and on says:

    Excellent set of articles, nice one – one and all.

    Alternatively, wot no City Giants?

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