An awful lot of unspectacular, unheralded footballers have passed through the revolving doors of Hull City down the years but in most cases, the individual will leave behind one abiding memory or one great achievement. Mark Bonner scoring a vital winning goal in his only game for the club. David Lee’s curling free kick against York. Steve Melton indelibly printing his name on to the club after scoring the KC’s first ever goal. Nathan Doyle fluttering briefly to life in the play-offs. Will Atkinson heading in a beauty at Wigan in the Premier League.
These are all recent examples, but City fans of a certain vintage will always bring up the name of Terry Heath when it comes to underachievers who managed a solitary day in the sun.
Heath was a permanently ancillary member of the squad through the fertile spell of the 1960s, a talented inside forward who, quite simply, hardly ever got a game. As the three-pronged force against nature of Chris Chilton and Kens Houghton and Wagstaff pitilessly took defence after defence to bits, Heath was forever in the reserves, always on call but seldom beckoned over.
He was just 20 years old when he signed for Cliff Britton in the summer of 1964. He came clutching a League Cup winners’ medal, having been in the Leicester City team that had defeated Stoke City earlier the same year. Britton had serious money by Third Division standards to truly strengthen the team but struggled to spend it; his targets were prized by their current clubs and the fees proved too high.
Heath was allowed to exit the East Midlands for £8,000 but never settled down at City, and by Christmas 1964 it was clear the chance taken on the young forward was one too far, and Britton had a frenzied period of investment in order to bring the aforementioned Kens, along with Ian Butler, into the club. Over the next season and a half, Heath played just 13 times in the League – and once in the FA Cup.
The fourth round of the 1965/66 season paired the Tigers with First Division Nottingham Forest. Although there were two divisions between the clubs on the day of the game, the indefatigable appetite for goals that the most famous forward line in the club’s history possessed meant that City were regarded in unofficial quarters as favourites. Forest, finalists just seven years before, were in the bottom half of the top tier while City were second in Division Three. Chuck in home advantage and the habit of Cup games to inspire the smaller clubs and freeze those bigger, and it felt like a win for the Tigers was on.
City had squeezed past Bradford Park Avenue in the first round, battered Gateshead in the second and a solitary Houghton goal disposed of Second Division side Southampton in the third. Forest had won at Northampton Town (a fellow First Division side) in round three and came to Boothferry Park for the first time in ten seasons. There were injury concerns for Britton over Wagstaff and goalkeeper Maurice Swan in the build-up to the game – each had suffered knocks in the previous Saturday’s home win over Brighton & Hove Albion – but both came through. Sturdy left back Dennis Butler had, however, been ruled out after chipping a bone in his foot when colliding with the club’s gymnasium wall, and so perennial reserve Mike Brown, who had played just three times in eight years at the club, was called up. His presence was set to be the only unusual one in the starting XI.
Then, on the morning of the game, midfield stopper Chris Simpkin suffered a pulled muscle. Britton frantically ran his finger down the reserves’ teamsheet from two nights before, looking for an alternative. First he tried to summon the long-serving Les Collinson, only to be told by his wife that he was in bed with ‘flu. Then he picked out utility player Len Sharpe, but couldn’t get hold of him as he was out in his car, an act which in 1966 rendered someone as incommunicado as a coal miner. So, in the end, he turned to Heath. The hastily-concocted plan was for Houghton to drop into the Simpkin role and Heath to hover around Chilton and Wagstaff.
It wasn’t as if Heath was without his admirers. Sporting correspondence to the Hull Daily Mail that very week included a letter from F.E.Tute of Anlaby Park Road South, who rated Heath higher than Houghton and called for him to be given more chances. It included the observation that Heath “overshadows Houghton for speed, ball control and shooting accuracy. Power is useless without direction.” Whether Britton had seen this letter is not known, though as Heath was the third choice replacement for Simpkin for a big Cup tie, it’s perhaps not unwise to suggest the writer judged Heath more favourably than City’s manager.
But Heath had his chance. It was his first start since November and at this stage, he had still never scored for Hull City in the League. His only goal for the club had come in the FA Cup the previous season during a 4-1 cakewalk at non-league Kidderminster Harriers, meaning he had also never put one away at Boothferry Park. A week after that tie, Wagstaff made his Tigers debut and Heath disappeared from view.
Forest, managed by former Manchester United full back Johnny Carey, were without long-serving centre half Bob McKinlay, who was missing his first FA Cup tie in 14 years due to a back injury. Top scorer Colin Addison was also absent, but England winger Alan Hinton and under 23 midfielder Henry Newton were among a very handy and strong side indeed. Allowing for the injuries to Dennis Butler and Simpkin, the City side otherwise picked itself.
It had snowed all week, and by Saturday this had turned to heavy rain, which while making the pitch treacly in consistency did at least bring with it a thaw, and the game was never in real doubt. Forest started brightly with Bob Chapman (not the one who later became City chairman) heading a Hinton corner over the bar and midfielder John Barnwell forcing a stretching save from Swan.
City responded with Chilton heading over an Ian Butler cross but the early stages were about Forest. City skipper Andy Davidson misjudged the syrupy surface with one underhit backpass, allowing Hinton to nip in and shoot, but he hit the side netting. Chris Crowe battered a shot high and wide and City winger Ray Henderson was forced into strenuous defensive work, clearing efforts off the line on two separate occasions.
Houghton, enjoying his fresh role as master of all he surveyed, had a dig from distance which was blocked before City, against the run of play, took the lead. It was a wonderful moment for club and player as Heath intercepted a wretched backpass from right back Peter Hindley and carefully poked the ball past Peter Grummitt in the Forest goal.
So the player brought in from the cold, about whom the City faithful knew so little, and who really wouldn’t have played had three different lots of extenuating circumstances not intervened, had scored the opener in the FA Cup against a much bigger team. All that cobblers about the romance of the FA Cup? Maybe there was something in it after all.
Chilton nearly repeated the trick a minute later as he got to a bad Newton backpass – judging the pace of the pitch was a real issue – but this time Grummitt got there early enough to smother the ball. Wagstaff then proceeded to miskick a good chance in front of goal.
Forest were only taken aback for a short spell, and proceeded to resume their dominance of the game. Terry Hennessey hit one over the bar from distance and Swan needed to be at his agile best to keep out a goalbound header from Chapman, and later a similar effort from Barnwell. Though City did make a couple more half chances, it was Forest who were in the ascendancy at the break in all but scoreline.
The second half began with Wagstaff heading a Henderson cross just too high as City decided attack was the best way to defend their slender lead. Butler and Chilton both went close with efforts supplied by Henderson on the right wing, and Henderson himself headed one really good chance straight at Grummitt. Forest had half a chance through Barry McArthur after a lucky rebound, but the robust Alan Jarvis slid in to rob him as he shaped to shoot, and then Barnwell forced two good stops in succession out of Swan.
Heath shot wide from a long way out before Chilton, just after the hour, proceeded to miss a sitter when put clean on goal with just Grummitt to beat. He miscontrolled horridly, allowing the grateful keeper to snatch the ball from the City centre forward. Undeterred by their main hitman’s rare clumsiness, City continued to bear down on their distinguished opponents and, finally, sealed the win with nine minutes left. It really was to be Heath’s day of glory.
Henderson flew down the flank and crossed high towards Chilton who, with his back to goal, laid on the chance for Heath. He had men in his way but he found room for the shot to sneak in the corner. The photograph shows the goal, with Heath partially hidden on the left. As if to make the circumstances of the goal easier to understand, the Hull Daily Mail put a large downward-pointing arrow above Heath when publishing this picture, to point out where he was. Crueller fans suggested it was to show people what this mystery man actually looked like.
Anyway, at 2-0, with time quickly running out, one of City’s biggest results for some time was now unquestionably on. Forest, indeed, seemed to give up at that point and the game was played out with barely any further incident. The final whistle was greeted by the majority of the 38,055 crowd with absolute joy.
Every dog has his day, and this was Heath’s. He now had three FA Cup goals for the Tigers, three more than he’d managed in the League. His heroism after answering such a late call was such that he could have expected to stay in the side for the League game against QPR the next week, but Simpkin was fit again (he didn’t miss a League game all season) and so the status quo was maintained, although Heath did make the bench. This was something he couldn’t do in the next round of the Cup as City faced Fourth Division Southport at Boothferry Park, as while the League campaigns permitted substitutes, the FA Cup still didn’t. Chilton got both in the 2-0 win, and then after coming from two down at Stamford Bridge, City exited in a quarter final replay at Boothferry Park to favourites Chelsea. That little side adventure over, the Tigers ploughed through the rest of Division Three remorselessly and won it, four points clear of Millwall.
Though the supporters will always remember Heath for that game, it took a while initially for any credit to go his way. Hull Daily Mail reporter Brian Taylor gave massive plaudits to Houghton in his new, deep-lying role, claiming in his report that “it was one of the finest games he has played for the Tigers” – with the sub-editor back at base putting this sentence in bold upper case letters. Houghton also was mentioned in the sub-head beneath the Sports Mail‘s main headline TITLE CHASING TIGERS TURN ON SUPER CUP SHOW. Heath had, seemingly, only impacted on those in the stands.
City’s line up contained the great names of the time, away from the temporary parachuting in of Heath and Brown (who, though flawless on the day, returned to the reserves instantly and played just three more times for the club). Jarvis and Mike Milner shored stuff up ahead of Swan and either side of Brown and Davidson, with Houghton roaming behind the all-powerful front five, of which Heath briefly found himself part. He started three more League games that season and managed seven more the year after, finally scoring his first League goal in a 2-2 draw with Oldham Athletic on November 26th 1966. It was also his last, with Britton selling him to Scunthorpe a year later. At the Old Showground he was much more successful and stuck away more than 50 goals in five years, before a move to Lincoln and retirement to Spain. He died in 2011, aged 67.
Forest finished 18th in the First Division that season but progressed to runners-up a year later, as well as reaching the semi-finals of the FA Cup. They were relegated in 1972 and the two sides played each other for five straight seasons before the notorious 33 year gap that commenced with Forest’s promotion back to the top flight in 1977. Forest’s last win on City territory was on Boxing Day 1974.
Our visitors this weekend, the arrival of Forest always allows an elder generation of City fans to recall the day that Terry Heath finally blossomed in a City kit. It was a brief, momentary bloom, but it is as good an example as any in Tigers’ history of an underachiever managing to achieve.
Photo copyright Hull Daily Mail.