Given that Hull City are now used to being members of English football’s super-duper elite, mixing with the glitterati of the game on a weekly basis, the prospect of the best teams in the land coming for a visit has become almost incidental.
We jest, of course. But as we prepare for Everton’s visit this weekend, it allows us an opportunity to look back at a time when the blue half of Merseyside were the best team in the land and were forced to slum it with an FA Cup trip to ‘yon end of the newly-proposed M62.
City were a Third Division club in 1963/4 and duly remained so, but it was something of a breakthrough year nevertheless. Benevolent owner Harold Needler was ready to inject serious funds to pay for major upgrades to both City’s infrastructure and squad. Free-standing floodlights were on order, a magnificent gym was built, parts of the terracing improved. And the remainder of the cash was put into manager Cliff Britton’s budget to find the players who would raise City to the helm of the game.
That last bit would take a little while longer, but in the meantime a talented City side was doing goodly deeds in the third tier and had lost just six games by the time Everton popped out of the hat in the draw for the third round of the Cup. City had already disposed of Crewe (via a replay) and Wrexham prior to getting the reigning champions and once 1963 became 1964, there was genuine reason (mainly through Everton’s ever-expanding injury list) to believe that Britton’s men could pull off a shock.
At the time, City were getting crowds averaging around the 10,000 mark but it was obvious that this one was going to pull every waverer from Snaith to Skirlaugh into Boothferry Park. City were aided by an unbeaten run that had extended to ten matches by the time Britton’s men were finally permitted to look ahead to Everton’s trip across.
At the time, Everton were managed by Harry Catterick, who had fashioned together a squad of real talent while also being unafraid of the harsher side of the game. The phrase “School of Science” was coined to describe Everton’s brand of pass and move football, something that would become a philosophy of their great rivals Liverpool over the next decade. They were the best team for entertainment as well as results, and City had quite a job awaiting them.
That said, Everton came to Boothferry Park with a depleted squad. Skipper Brian Labone and midfielder Tony Kay, plus regular keeper Gordon West, were all out. City had no such woes, though Britton, who had won the FA Cup as an Everton player in 1933, decided to restore experienced winger John McSeveney to the attack in place of rookie Alan Shaw.
City began the game perfectly and were ahead after just 12 minutes. Winger Doug Clarke’s cross from the right was aimed at Chilton but the ace goalscorer mistimed his jump. The ball sailed over his head but young inside forward Billy Wilkinson, supporting diligently, had timed his run superbly and directed a fine header past Everton keeper Andy Rankin.
Chilton could have made it two when he evaded a George Heslop challenge as he chased Les Collinson’s through ball but fate got in the way – as he swung his boot to shoot with just Rankin to beat, the ball struck a Boothferry bobble and he ended up kicking fresh air.
Rankin saved a Clarke drive from the corner of the box and then pushed away a soaring Eddie McMillan header as City kept almost inexplicable pressure on a shellshocked Everton side. Eventually, Tigers keeper Mike Williams had something to do when a Roy Vernon shot from the inside right position forced him into an excellent save.
Everton nearly lost defensive midfielder Jimmy Gabriel to a complicatedly broken nose, refractured by a willing Andy Davidson elbow which gave him grief for the majority of the game. But in these pre-substitute days, the Scotsman soldiered on and was more influential on the second half, which Everton dominated.
Just five minutes had gone after the break when the Toffees equalised. Vernon made himself available as a target for Alex Scott’s tremendous run down the flank and when the top scorer returned the ball, Scott was free to approach Williams and slam the ball in. At 1-1 with 40 minutes still to go, there suddenly seemed to be trouble brewing for the Tigers.
Chilton, who didn’t have a good day, clouted one shot over the bar on the hour but Everton were utterly dominant of the possession at this stage. Derek Temple was put clean through by the wincing Gabriel but Williams saved the shot courageously to his right. Everton continued to aim potshots and crosses into the City danger zone but the Tigers held on.
Late in the game, Ray Henderson got away from his marker Mick Meagan and laid a chance on a plate for Collinson, but he rushed his shot and ballooned it over the bar. That was the final chance of an enthralling FA Cup tie, with both teams feeling they had done enough to win it.
Needler was triumphant, despite only drawing the game. “I would not swap £500,000 and Everton for our team and £475,000,” he said afterwards. Catterick was, meanwhile, taken ill on the journey back to Merseyside and was still in hospital by the time the two teams lined up for the replay at Goodison Park three days later.
City were unchanged but Everton were, crucially, able to recall Labone while Gabriel played with a nose covering. City again took the lead when McSeveney scored early in the second half but strikes from Scott and Brian Harris got the champions finally into the fourth round. They beat Leeds United therein before going out to Sunderland in the last 16. After losing their title to Liverpool, they made some big changes to the team and the likes of Ray Wilson and Fred Pickering arrived, with local youngsters Tommy Wright and Colin Harvey being promoted to the first team.
City returned to Third Division action but some of their stuffing had been knocked out of them and they won just one of their next ten games, diminishing their hopes of promotion substantially. While Wilkinson did well as an inside forward, ultimately there just wasn’t the support up front for Chilton with neither Henderson nor the ageing McSeveney able to take a big enough share of the goalscoring weight. Chilton top scored with 22 but City ended the campaign a frustratingly inconsistent team, eighth in the table when promotion had seemed so possible.
Several of the players who took on Everton were on their last legs with the Tigers. In goal, Williams was already vying with Maurice Swan for the green jersey and eventually would lose out over the next two seasons. Davidson remained immovable – figuratively, as well as literally – at right back while Dennis Butler was enjoyably consistent on the other side of defence in his first year with the club. But two of the half backs – McMillan and Davidson’s peer Paul Feasey – would never cement a regular first team place again, with the likes of Chris Simpkin starting to make his name after coming through the ranks, and Collinson stayed a few more years but had most of that time in the reserves. Henderson would move to the flank and flourish as the senior member of the soon-to-be-formed famous five, and Chilton’s place was always marked out, but Clarke left in the summer of 1965 after a decade at the club and Wilkinson became a regularly-used jack-of-all-trades in defence and midfield, enabling him to embark on his own ten years of service. McSeveney had one more year before retiring and joining the coaching staff.
Everton have legendarily spent pretty much every season since the dawn of time as a top flight side, meaning that until City joined them there in 2008, fixtures between these two were almost entirely reliant on the cup competitions, including two wins for City. However, a brief three-season interlude in the Second Division at the start of the 1950s yielded two 1-0 victories for City over the Toffees, with Feasey and Davidson both in the squad for the second of those games (though not making the final XI), followed by a 3-1 Everton win in their promotion season of 1953/4. City also beat Everton in the FA Cup in 1951, the year Everton were relegated for, to date, the last time. And the Everton manager throughout this period? Cliff Britton.
Nothing occurred between the two between 1963/4 and 2008/9, when City got a 2-2 draw at the KC in the Premier League after going two goals up, and then beating Everton 3-2 the following season in a game that saw Dean Marney’s only Premier League goal for the Tigers, and a trademark Andy Dawson free kick that was his last for City in what became ten distinguished years. Everton have won at the KC, however; two months before that shock defeat in the Premier League, they battered City 4-0 in a League Cup tie.
It’ll take a new twist this weekend as two teams who will fly England’s flag in next season’s Europa League face one another in the last game of the season. Well, it’s Everton’s last game, obviously, but not City’s. FA Cup finallists Hull City, that’s us. Oh, and that semi-interesting snippet at the top of this piece about facing reigning league champions in a season? It has only happened once since 1964 in all of City’s lower division days – when Liverpool came to Boothferry Park in the FA Cup fifth round in 1988/9 and won 3-2.