The Soul of Hull City #2: Half Time v Liverpool, 1989

Heights of Joy


Rarely do lower league football clubs have moments of genuine global significance. Premier League clubs on the other hand, do so routinely, so City beating Liverpool in successive Premier League seasons can make it easy to lose sight of what a remarkable achievement it can be for a small club to best a genuine world class footballing side, no matter how briefly.

In 1989 the Tigers, an established second tier side thanks to the calm administrations of manager Brian Horton but now piloted by dour Leeds-type Eddie Gray, reached the Fifth Round of the FA Cup after solid wins at Cardiff and Bradford and drew a plum tie at home to Liverpool, a global phenomenon in the 1980s.

The masses crammed into Boothferry Park (the attendance of 20,058 that day wasn’t subsequently bettered in the old place) and watched in amazement as goals from bludgeoner Billy Whitehurst and arch-poacher Keith Edwards saw City return to the dressing room at half time with an unlikely 2-1 lead. Boothferry Park witnessed a remarkable spectacle at half time, an almost deafening hum of people talking in low tones to each other about how unbelievable this all was. It was a sound that many football fans will never experience.

halftimeAlas, it all faded away as quickly as it arose. Liverpool soon assumed a second half lead and the plucky Tigers went down 2-3. City narrowly avoided relegation while Liverpool suffered their worst of tragedies two months later when the South Yorkshire Police force facilitated the death of 96 supporters in the sheep pens of Hillsborough.

But just for a moment, whispering scarcely credible predictions over steaming cups of half-time Bovril, the little guys from Hull believed they were going to rock the footballing world. Nice feeling, that.

14 replies
  1. Bill Carson
    Bill Carson says:

    I remember it clearly and can still sense the quietness (disbelief?) at half-time.
    It was a fantastic feeling.
    I also remember Gareth Roberts being dragged back by his shirt, just as he was homing in on goal and a possible Equaliser.
    Whitehurst and Edwards – how good does that still sound.

  2. gjhdurham
    gjhdurham says:

    Sorry but the 20,058 comment doesn’t ring true…seem to remember being in a crowd of 43k v Chelsea…Cup replay …bigger for several other games at BP. Puzzled by that…
    There was a foul in midfield to get the ball just before their first goal too. Right in front of me… For this game I was in the west stand well. Still was one hell of an atmosphere, and one to remember…

  3. Grimlock
    Grimlock says:

    The game that got me into supporting City. I got excited at the draw, turned up for the Shrewsbury game to get my voucher, and never looked back.

  4. Les
    Les says:

    “Sorry but the 20,058 comment doesn’t ring true”

    Your Chelsea replay, that was after Liverpool ’89 was it?

    It says 20,058 was never bettered, not that it was the highest ever attendance at Boothferry Park. In the years after ’89 we never posted an official* attendance better than 20,058, therefore it wasn’t bettered.

    *Scarborough ’99 is a possibility, but not according to the official attendance.

  5. Matt
    Matt says:

    The Chelsea replay was in 1966, therefore doesn’t apply here.

    If you watch the BBC coverage, you can see my extended 15 year old arm in a green anorak sleeve at half time as the players go off.

    Andy Payton had a great chance at the end but David Burrows blocked it with two feet at once. It was the only time Payton was mentioned in Barry Davies’ commentary, even though it was he who had knacked Gary Gillespie’s shin near the beginning.

  6. Bill Carson
    Bill Carson says:

    I remember the league cup game vs Liverpool, when they only brought about 1,500 fans.
    Remember the rust falling from the West Stand roof everytime the ball hit it.
    Shows the progress we’ve made since 1988.
    Also sad that what was a fine stadium at Boothferry Park, unique with its railway halt and magnificent floodlights, was left to rot over a relatively short 50;years.
    I like the KC but I miss the atmosphere at Boothferry Park in the 70’s. Before my time, it must’ve been awesome in the late 40’s, 50’s and 60’s?

  7. Bill Carson
    Bill Carson says:

    Brady and N’Doye to be gone next week.
    Bruce to meet the Allams on Thursday to discuss transfer budget.
    Given that we were sold passes on a promise of a squad capable of mounting a strong promotion challenge, let’s hope Bruce is given a decent amount to spend.
    At this point I’d happily take 6th place and a play off final win again.
    Something is just not right at the club (pitch side) and this is down to Steve Bruce to sort out.

  8. Bill Carson
    Bill Carson says:

    I hope not but at present our club looks in complete turmoil and is looking more likely to emulate Wigan next season than Norwich.
    Steve Bruce (a decent man) is looking punch drunk from our self inflicted relegation.
    CTID supporters are recovering from their celebrations having retained those exclusive words City AFC.
    They will no doubt be rejoicing that next season they may be rid of the “plastic” Premier League” fans and with a further relegation could be back to just the hardcore fans. Success.
    And whilst Reg and The Peoples Front of Judea fought with their bitter enemies, the Judean Peoples Front, the negativity descended onto the pitch and onto our team
    Massive hikes in ticket prices, North Stand queues, mounting debts and relegation didn’t matter to Reg and The Peoples Front of Judea. Anyone who didn’t support the PFJ 100% was a non-believer, a Premier League glory hunter, who deserved to be stoned to death.
    So we look to face more years in the wilderness, more years without a trophy but at least Reg and his Peoples Front of Judea are happy……….until they decide upon a new cause!

  9. adamhull
    adamhull says:

    (Pedant mode warning) To say “the attendance of 20,058 that day was never bettered in the old place” would suggest in the entirety of time, not just subsequently.

  10. Andy Charlton
    Andy Charlton says:

    I was on a rig in the North Sea that day. We had cabin radio no internet. Dashed back at half time and was buzzing. No idea how I kept watch in the engine room for the next couple of hours but was so disappointed when I got the full time. Another almost there. Ah well

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