While it is easy to recall just how awful Mark Hateley was as manager of Hull City, it is also worth remembering that he was pretty close to useless as a striker as well. This man had scored goals in some of the top leagues in Europe, and had put away a tidy number in an England shirt too, but when it came to leading the line as a Tigers centre forward in England’s least heralded professional division, he was truly wretched.
The supporters who trekked into Boothferry Park for the club’s match against Peterborough United, the second home game of the 1998/99 season, had little notion (yet somehow a horrifyingly good idea) of what horrors were to come in the months ahead, but in the short term at least they were about to witness something absolutely unique for Hateley’s playing career at the club: a goal at home.
Hateley arrived at Boothferry Park in the summer of 1997 with no managerial experience but with an impressive playing pedigree and an enormous ego. His appointment was genuinely impressive due to the actual identity of the man allegedly with a plan to pull City back up the two divisions they had gracelessly exited under the foul, lousy, bitter regime of Terry Dolan. For all that, new owner David Lloyd could have given the job to Bob Carolgees and City fans would have been impressed due to it not being Terry Dolan.
The start was slow, familiarly abysmal but that 1997/98 season acted as a freebie for Hateley with those in charge, due to the timespan of the blueprint for progress and the eye-poppingly bad demise of Doncaster Rovers, who were essentially relegated by Christmas and only won four games all season (one of which, notoriously and inevitably, was against City). Hateley didn’t play for the club between October 1997 and April 1998 due to injury and was not proving generally to be an individual easy to like or rate, but after years of savagery and flimsiness under the previous regime, on and off the pitch, the Tiger Nation were prepared to hang on another year. City finished third bottom and Hateley, from his 14 appearances, didn’t score and seldom looked like doing so.
The following season began with the usual hope and expectation, but defeats to Rotherham United and Darlington soon put paid to that. Hateley then managed to score at Chester as City drew 2-2 and got off the mark, prior to the visit of Peterborough to Boothferry Park.
Somehow City had managed to lose 600 fans between the two opening home games, and the 4,636 that did traipse into the ground in the absence of anything better to do would come away with two clear images; that of Hateley scoring the only goal, and of goalkeeper Steve Wilson actually being the real (and only) hero of the event. The Bransholme-raised keeper had been in danger of losing his place to youth product Matt Baker after a shaky start to the season, but the Harrogate born teenager ruined his anterior ligament leading up to the game. As the footage shows, Wilson played an absolute blinder, making a quartet of stunning saves while the Tigers struggled to create anything of worth at the other end.
Half time approached, (though according to the graphics on the footage it had already been and gone), then Hateley took advantage of a shove and shirt tug in the box, fell over, got the penalty (it’s not a wholly convincing award, even today) and promptly demanded the ball to take it himself. With that incongruous hairdo that combined horsetail with bald patch, he looked oddly unsuited to football as he struggled with the greasiness of the pitch and fell over a lot, though Tigers fans of enough vintage would recognise the Hateley that would lose the ball, either fairly or otherwise, and not show the remotest interest in tracking back. And this was the leader, the manager, the man paid to make decisions about players based on factors such as workrate and attitude, things that you absolutely needed in the bottom division in lieu of natural talent. Still, Hateley was unafraid to take the glory of the penalty, if you can call it that, and it was a good spot kick even though the Peterborough keeper guessed correctly.
Mark Hateley’s first goal at Boothferry Park. A penalty against Peterborough.
In the second half, City became ever-reliant on Wilson in goal as Peterborough, with a fearsome (on paper) three-pronged strikeforce of veteran Jimmy Quinn, ex-City centre forward Martin Carruthers and youthful Crystal Palace loanee Leon McKenzie, had chance after chance. Eventually, and after another wrongly-placed half time graphic (who on earth edited this?), history seemed set to repeat itself five minutes from time when Peterborough’s own ageing pro in the number 10 shirt, Quinn, was brought down for a penalty (courtesy of a silly trip by City sub Mark Greaves) and proceeded to take the kick himself. However, Wilson acrobatically kept out the shot to his left and City held on for the first win of the season.
It was a false dawn, as the Tigers went on to win only two of the next 13 matches, while off-the-pitch Lloyd was losing it with everyone, especially the fans and the council, culminating in a mad rant on national radio and a desire to see the club closed down, though eventually he relented enough to accept an offer from Tom Belton’s consortium, which took the club out of his control and left him only with Boothferry Park itself. Hateley, still in place largely because the owners were occupied with off-pitch dust-ups rather than managerial defects, took the team to Leyton Orient where they lost 1-0. The new bosses immediately got rid, appointed midfielder Warren Joyce, himself not benefitting from a trusting relationship with the City fans, as temporary player-manager with a remit that didn’t go much beyond “Help!”. Joyce changed most of the back four – the excellent teen local boy Mike Edwards, seen on this footage carrying out two tremendous bits of defending, was the exception – and added steel to the midfield as City got nastier and harder in their quest for survival. With games to spare, and still with a setback or two to contend with, Joyce and his charges repaired the damage that Hateley’s carefree, weak and inept spell in charge had inflicted.
Up front with Hateley that day was David Brown, a very good lower division striker who was not loved by the Tiger Nation as much as he perhaps should have been. The midfield had Hateley signings David D’Auria and Brian McGinty in the middle, both effective players for the division, and D’Auria ended up alongside Brown as distantly the most picked player of the campaign. Edwards aside, Joyce got rid of the rest of this team before the season was over, with Gregor Rioch, Matt Hocking, Neil Whitworth, Steve Hawes and Richard Peacock all deemed too lightweight for a relegation battle. McGinty left in the summer, Greaves developed into a superb lower division stopper, and fellow sub Neil Mann succumbed to injury. Even Wilson nearly got chucked aside, but his replacement Andy Oakes was so good that he was sold for nearly half a million pounds to Derby County after just 19 games, allowing the long-serving City custodian another season before he was released. As for Baker, the YTS graduate who nearly played instead of Wilson, he recovered from his awful injury but just managed three sub appearances for the club, infamously including one at Liverpool in the League Cup, before leaving on a free for Hereford.
Peterborough ended the season in ninth, with Quinn quitting before the Christmas to join Swindon, where he eventually became player-manager. Carruthers didn’t ever fulfil the potential he showed as a kid at Aston Villa, during which time he scored six goals in a 13-game loan spell with City, and his career had already peaked by the time he’d pitched up at London Road. McKenzie scored 54 goals in 104 games for the club eventually, having signed a permanent deal in 2000, and Peterborough made a £300,000 profit on him when he then joined Norwich City. Earlier this year he was back in the news when receiving a six month prison sentence after forging letters to the police aimed at dodging speeding convictions.
The following season, Peterborough won at Boothferry Park by the odd goal in five but that remains their last win in the city, and they’ve never taken three points from the KC Stadium. This, along with their pointless start to the current season after seven games, naturally brings along the possibility that they’ll end both of those particular dismal runs when they come to the Circle on Saturday. Whatever dangers lie with an off-colour Peterborough side coming to a ground where they’ve never won are, however, small beer compared to the dangers that come from being a club reliant on Mark Hateley for both your goals and your prospects.
The footage, via our TigerTube page and with commentary from Rory Squires, is from the club’s official Great Escape video, with enough City fans with tendency to self-harm in existence to make such a dubious product a worthwhile investment. That season is now, of course, one we look back upon very fondly providing we airbrush all the evidence of Hateley’s involvement from it and concentrate on the heroics of Joyce and the players he brought in.