After Tom Cairney’s swirling howitzer in midweek, we bring you five other examples of ex-Tigers haunting their old club with goals…
1: Leon Cort
Cort was a consistent, disciplined tower of strength in the centre of defence for City in two seasons under Peter Taylor and when the manager left for Crystal Palace in the summer of 2006, it seemed more than likely he’d want to take Cort with him. The first seven figure fee received for a City player was duly negotiated, and Cort departed with everyone’s thanks and blessings, a good guy as well as a fine defender.
All that goodwill evaporated when he returned to the Circle at the end of September 2006, with the cheery applause on announcement of his name pre-match turning into venomous spits of derision after he scored a slightly flukey goal to put the Eagles ahead. The goal itself – a low shot from outside the box taking a deflection that turned the trajectory banana-shaped and gave Boaz Myhill no chance – wasn’t the issue. It was the celebration.
Cort turned towards the East Stand of the KC and jogged adjacently to them, laughing. Really laughing. The lovely relationship he’d enjoyed with the same sets of fans was ruined in that single fell swoop, even though he apologised profusely later and said he was laughing to himself that he had scored such an unCort-like goal – he never had a shot from outside the box with City, let alone scored from one – but the damage with many was done. His replacement at City, Michael Turner, scored an injury-time equaliser that at least prevented Cort from being the entire story afterwards, and although his impact as a player remains something easily recalled with fondness to this day, that goal will always slightly blemish Cort’s reputation with the Tiger Nation. The following season, after joining Stoke, he scored against City again – and this time just jogged back to the centre circle with barely a watery smile, let alone a chuckle.
2: Brian Marwood
The best player to come through City’s ranks in the 1980s, sold by the club to Sheffield Wednesday after the agonising failure to gain promotion to the Second Division in 1984, came back to City as an opponent only twice afterwards. The first was in 1988 when Arsenal ventured up to Boothferry Park for the first leg of a second round tie in the League Cup.
Marwood had joined in the summer after four fine seasons with the Owls, and at 28 was coming to the peak of his career. “Brian Marwood on the wing” had quickly become a staple on the North Bank at Highbury after a scintillating start to the season for both club and player, although anyone picked to replace Martin Hayes was always going to be given time to bed in.
City, under new manager Eddie Gray, began the game well, and Keith Edwards outpaced Arsenal’s youthful skipper Tony Adams to crack a fine goal past John Lukic early in the first half, though a deflected Nigel Winterburn shot made it level at half time.
It was clear that Arsenal were in charge afterwards, though as the final ten minutes approached, a 1-1 draw looked useful enough for City to take into the second leg. Then a high ball into the box broke City’s offside trap and Marwood chested it down before steering it under Tony Norman for the winner on the night. The travelling Gooners immediately burst into song as their new hero celebrated flamboyantly in front of them, and Arsenal won the second leg 3-0 in north London.
Marwood made a point of applauding the City fans at the end of each game, but there was always a feeling that as his career rose, he seemed to devalue his long grounding as a City player, something he denied when asked about it long after he hung up his boots. By the end of this season he had a title medal and an England cap, albeit he only managed one of each as injury rendered him a one-season wonder at Arsenal. He later played for Barnet against City in a 4-4 draw at Boothferry Park, but didn’t score.
3: Gregor Rioch
Rioch, combative and corpulent, was dropped by Warren Joyce from pretty much the moment he became manager of Hull City, after a couple of seasons where his ability to tackle well one minute and do something imbecilic the next had made him impossible to love during a period of acute unloveability around the club. By the time he left in the summer of 1999, having played no part in Joyce’s Great Escape™, he was not well regarded, to say the least, so his swift return with Macclesfield Town in August 1999 was an opportunity for the boo-boys to turn again on an old nemesis.
In a farcical game of notable low quality, however, Rioch had the last laugh. After City went ahead, he stuck away the penalty that brought his new club level after keeper Lee Bracey had received his monthly red card for a crazy foul in the box on striker Richie Barker. A defensive catastrophe among the City back four, something with which Rioch had been previously all too familiar, allowed him then to score a second in front of Bunkers in the second half. City levelled, but a fine overhead kick from sub Paul Ware, a unique piece of footballing artistry for this match, won it for the Silkmen late on. It was too much for Gary Brabin to take, with the City midfielder starting a fight with several players on the pitch seconds after the final whistle.
To Rioch’s credit, he didn’t go mad in celebrating either goal, when many a player with history of taking abuse from the terraces would easily use the opportunity to have a go back, but this didn’t enhance his image with the club at all. He remains a player whom the Tiger Nation sees as symptomatic of the ill-disciplined, limited dross that nearly took City into the non-league game at the end of the 90s. In truth, there were worse players than Rioch, but there weren’t many quite so easy to dislike.
4: Charlie Palmer
Palmer was an excellent full back, signed in 1986 by Brian Horton but inexplicably sold by Eddie Gray at the start of 1989, the dour City manager preferring ex-striker Nicky Brown in the number 2 shirt. Notts County, with new manager Neil Warnock, happily took him on, and Palmer played a part in their promotion to the old Division Two at the end of the 1989/90 campaign, reacquainting him with his old club the following season.
The two sides were paired on the opening day at Boothferry Park and early in the game the visitors took the lead when a corner was flicked on and Palmer, not renowned in his City days for going up at set-pieces, won a far post header and scored. In front of the travelling fans he went absolutely berserk in his joy, with nobody feeling the need to chunter among the City fans – the club hadn’t wanted him, not the other way round, and now he was playing for someone that did. It was his first goal at Boothferry Park, despite two and a half years of playing there every other week.
Palmer was exceptional in a season when Notts County got lots of attention thanks to promotion via the play-offs for a second straight season and a run through to the FA Cup quarter finals (which began with another win over City). As they went up, City went down – Palmer was suddenly two divisions higher than the club that had decided he wasn’t their best right back just two years before. And, for the record, Nicky Brown wasn’t even that good.
5: Ben Burgess
Burgess was a fine player for Hull City during the Peter Taylor era, but a combination of injury and the team’s double promotion success left him surplus to requirements by the time Phil Parkinson took over as manager, so a move to Blackpool was organised and the lanky striker left in the late summer of 2006 with everyone’s blessing.
Fast forward two years, and City were playing Blackpool at Bloomfield Road. The Sky cameras were there. Jay Jay Okocha was in the crowd, ahead of making a ridiculous-sounding move to City for the remainder of the season. Caleb Folan, the club’s first million pound player, was on the pitch. Andy Dawson, the most left-footed player in christendom, was playing at right back. It was one of those nights.
The score was 1-1 when Folan then suffered a nasty head injury and the subsequent delay for treatment meant a whole 15 minutes of time was added on, with people worrying about late trains and incurring the wrath of Blackpool’s notorious parking ticket system. Burgess, meanwhile, was then introduced as a late sub, the juxtaposition being that he’d come on in the 83rd minute but had been given something pushing 25 minutes to find a winning goal.
Right at the death, as carriages were preparing to turn back into pumpkins, a cross came in that exploited Dawson’s unnatural turning position and Burgess was able to direct a backwards header beyond Matt Duke and into the net. He, and everyone associated with Blackpool, celebrated well – of course they did. There was barely time to reassemble the players, let alone restart the game, and Burgess was quickly collared by the Sky cameras afterwards, with the interviewer desperate to get a “dish best served cold” line from the hero of the hour who’d just beaten his former club.
A smiling Burgess visibly bristled at the suggestion that he loved scoring that goal more than he would any other, responding with the words “It’s not anything personal against Hull as I had a lot of good times there.” Proof there and then that a player can still tuck up his old mates while simultaneously maintaining a level of professional decency, and he remains in everyone’s good books for it. The fact that Okocha signed, Folan recovered and City got promoted to the Premier League at the end of the season made this kind of thing incidental.