A professional football club can take part in a maximum of five competitions in one season now, but only if they have won the League Cup or FA Cup while also being relegated to League One. Work that out, and after doing so, try to enjoy our look askance at the days when there was more to City’s workload than putting weakened teams out in League Cup ties, accidentally getting to the FA Cup final and recklessly surrendering a Europa League spot…
1: Full Members Cup
Established in 1985 to fill the scheduling gaps caused by the newly-imposed ban on English clubs in Europe, it threatened to take off thanks to a couple of very entertaining, high-scoring finals but was ultimately let down by the four biggest clubs in the country always excusing themselves from participation. The top two divisions only (ie, the league’s “full members”) partook, with City’s involvement reaching a peak in its inaugural season.
It didn’t take a lot to make the last four of the initial Full Members Cup as only 21 teams had a go, and City’s first round victory over Bradford City, followed by a bye, led to a northern semi-final win over Middlesbrough at Boothferry Park and a two legged northern final against Manchester City which was chucked away when the 2-1 lead after the first leg turned into a 3-2 aggregate defeat upon the completion of the return at Maine Road.
This was the closest since 1930 that City had been to a Wembley appearance, and you can imagine that even for a new, tinpot competition formed under English football’s hooliganism cloud, the whole of Hull would have turned out for the final had Brian Horton’s men held on.
Two years before, City had lost the Associate Members Cup final in its first year, infamously not at Wembley, and even more infamously at Boothferry Park. It’s as close to a perfect symmetry between these sisterly competitions as it’s possible to be, without actually, er, being symmetrical. You know what we mean.
Suffice it to say City never got as far again in the Associate Members Cup (which is still ongoing, via random commercial vehicle, windscreen and decorating firms) nor in the Full Members Cup and its subsequent sponsored incarnations (Simod, Zenith Data Systems), and as more teams got involved the Tigers failed to go beyond the second round. Their last game in the Full Members Cup, a 2-1 defeat at Middlesbrough in the first round in 1990/1, was also City’s first ever game live on telly, though only those blessed with a squarial could watch it. Relegation that season meant they didn’t take part in the last throes of the competition the following year, with the authorities abandoning it, claiming it incompatible with the newly-formed Premier League. By then, the European disqualification had also been lifted so its purpose had been served.
2: Anglo-Italian Cup
After a couple of third tier teams won the League Cup in the late 1960s, the Anglo-Italian Cup was formed to atone for UEFA’s killjoyish policy of not allowing clubs from such lowly spheres of the game into their main competitions, and it developed into a mini-league between two groups of eight, with four from each country in each, playing the teams from the other nation.
It passed by without great fanfare before City entered in 1973, played four Italian teams and beat two, with one draw against Bari and a defeat to Fiorentina, who ended up in the final. The sight of City playing Serie A leaders Lazio at Boothferry Park – and winning – was as mad as it sounds, and a massive fight occurred during the game between the two sets of players following a typically vicious piece of Italian defensive thuggery on City striker Phil Holme.
The competition was discontinued afterwards due to lack of interest – almost 4,000 fewer people turned out for City’s second home game (against Verona) compared to the Lazio match – but was resurrected for semi-pro clubs three years later and again as a competition for second tier teams.
3: Division Three North Cup
What it says on the tin. From 1933 to 1939 the two regionalised Third Divisions each also had a knockout competition, and City’s relegation into the northern half in 1937 got them forcibly in on the act. They never won a tie – York beat them in their first season, then Hartlepools after a replay in the second, and eventual winners Bradford (by a hefty 6-0 margin) in the third. To prevent further first round disappointment for City, it was decided that the nation should go to war.
The competition lasted one more season after hostilities ceased, and regionalisation of football ended little more than ten years later.
4: Watney Cup
Ah, yes. This marvellous experimental competition gave a worthy, healthy nod towards flair teams, conceived as it was to provide extra silverware potential for the highest scoring sides in the four divisions (who weren’t already competing in Europe). City, with their legendary forward line, had scored 72 goals in 1970, despite finishing a meagre 13th in the Second Division, and so were offered a place in the inaugural competition which acted as a pre-season bunfight while still apposite as far as the players’ records went.
Peterborough were dispatched 4-0 in the first round thanks to a brace each from Chris Chilton and Ken Wagstaff, then Chilton scored City’s goal in a 1-1 draw in the semi-final against Manchester United, renowned now for its then-unique climax via English football’s first competitive penalty shoot out. We all know the story now – Law, McKechnie, heroic defeat, etc. The competition provided youthful new boss Terry Neill with a first look at his inherited charges and also began the ten-year career as an unshakeable left back for Roger deVries.
City qualified again in 1973 and actually made the final after wins at Mansfield and Bristol Rovers. The eventual defeat to Stoke City was perhaps inevitable, given their general hold on City in knockout games during that era, and the competition was discontinued afterwards. Imagine, if City had just won that final, the trophy would be on display at the KC right now.
5: Anglo-Scottish Cup
Four seasons, 12 games, none against Scottish teams. No, we don’t rate that as a much of an anglo-scottish experience either. This was the old Texaco Cup, renamed after the petrol retailers withdrew their sponsorship. You only ventured north of the border once you’d made the quarter finals and City, almost admirably, never did. Not the highest profile example perhaps, but nevertheless the apophthegm of Typical City rarely has been epitomised more.
In the last season of interest (1980-81), the Tigers even managed to play Grimsby. One imagines this wasn’t what the club signed up for, and the format seemingly grated with others as well; as a result the 1981 winners Chesterfield (who drew 1-1 with City in their group) became the last, and still have the trophy to this day. Given how shocking City were that season, resulting in a first ever relegation to the bottom division, you’d have thought they could at least have sorted a game against Partick Thistle or Airdrieonians to give the fans some respite, but no. Not even that.