IAN McKECHNIE FETED WITH FRUIT
Jovial Scottish custodian Ian McKechnie was a mainstay between the sticks for City over eight seasons in the 60s and 70s, but despite all his agility and bravery – team-mates said he was brave almost beyond the call of duty – it’s the pre-match routine between him and City fans which was dominant in securing his place in City folklore.
Numerous stories have been related, but McKechnie’s own version has to be taken as the definitive: one Thursday afternoon after he’d left Boothferry Park following treatment, he walked along North Road and then Anlaby Road and noticed a Jaffa orange in a shop – a wet fish shop, oddly – and decided to buy it to scoff during his walk.
Two young lads then shouted their good wishes for the coming away game to him, and McKechnie, still chomping on his snack, responded with thanks. Two weeks later, at the next home game, two oranges landed on the pitch near McKechnie’s goal, almost certainly from the same two lads.
McKechnie, who happily sucked on the oranges during the game, related afterwards to the Hull Daily Mail whom he believed had thrown them and why, and subsequently numerous oranges started appearing in his goalmouth as a ritual at each game. Some got squashed or bruised, but he’d end up taking half a dozen or so home each time.
One week, an orange had a phone number and ‘I LOVE YOU’ on it which McKechnie showed to the Mail reporter who then arranged a meet up. Although McKechnie was greeted by an attractive woman upon ringing the doorbell, it was her five year old daughter who had chucked the fruit.
Another time, a fan was arrested at Sheffield United for hurling an orange McKechnie-wards, and the keeper himself appeared in court on the supporter’s behalf later to explain away the reasoning.
Given that McKechnie, who played for City between 1966 and 1974, was also responsible for English competitive football’s first penalty save in a shootout (in the Watney Cup semi against Manchester United in 1970; he also missed a penalty, a further first), he could have got uppity about being more associated with fruit than football when his City career ended. But he was truly proud of his unique contribution to player-fan interaction at a time when fan-fan interactions were rather more feisty.
McKechnie died in 2015 and, at the funeral, his family threw oranges into his grave. It’s impossible to define how fitting as a final gesture this was.