Josh Tymon’s goal at the weekend at the age of 17 got us thinking about the teenage scorers of City’s past. There have been quite a lot, thanks to City having a propensity to blood very young players because they were either very talented or they were all that was left. Unlike Tymon, these are all attackers, and they all have a story…
1: Mark Cullen
Flame-haired, buzzcutted striking product from the north east who was given his chance as a last resort towards the end of the wretched and occasionally hateful Premier League ejector seat season of 2009/10. He scored one goal, two weeks after his 18th birthday, when he nodded in a George Boateng cross from close range at Wigan to put City 2-1 up, with fellow youth product Will Atkinson earlier getting City’s first goal.
It was the final away game, and a final chance for City to win one of them, but the inevitable late equaliser meant relegation was confirmed and City’s whole campaign had been free of success on their travels, an extra undesirable mini-stat to accompany what was a rotten, horrid campaign of egos, in-fighting, profligacy and general hopelessness.
Even with a goal that made him the top flight’s youngest scorer in 2009/10, Cullen didn’t benefit from the subsequent step down, with Nigel Pearson not seeing enough in him to take more than a shrugging interest. He did score at Brentford in the League Cup but then the numerous loan spells got underway, prior to a permanent move to Luton Town in 2013. There he was a success, winning a Conference title medal, and he now plays for Blackpool.
2: Craig Dudley
Loanee centre forward who didn’t hang around Boothferry Park very long, but his impact on arrival was instant. On arrival from Notts County in November 1998, weeks after he turned 19, he scored in both of his first two games for City. The first was inconsequential thanks to Scunthorpe winning 3-2, but a week later he headed the only goal in the last minute of a very even game against later-to-be fellow strugglers Carlisle United at Boothferry Park.
Dudley was as one of Warren Joyce’s first bits of business after replacing the sacked Mark Hateley. With the new consortium controlling the boardroom led by the avuncular Tom Belton, and a hated manager gone, it seemed things were starting slowly to go right for City, and Dudley – like fellow loanee striker Mark Bonner two months later – made small but telling contributions to what eventually became the Great Escape. And, naturally, things would only improve afterwards, wouldn’t they? Well, wouldn’t they?
Dudley extended his loan to the end of December and featured in seven games in total, without scoring again. After returning to Notts County, he eventually joined Oldham Athletic before injury forced him to quit the full-time game.
3: Charlie Crickmore
Sharp, fleet-of-foot winger from the ranks who debuted at 17 in 1959 and looked to have a role as City’s face of the 60s written for him, especially as relegation for City at the end of the 1959/60 season seemed to lead to a deep clean of the club.
Crickmore was only small but had good close control and could really shift, and his two spells in the side during that first season at senior level earned him much praise. His long-awaited goal came at the end of the campaign in a 2-0 win over Ipswich during a seven-match spell when a) Crickmore didn’t miss a minute; and b) City didn’t actually lose. For a side to be relegated after ending the season with a seven-match unbeaten spell is a remarkable feat in itself (and showcases how lousy City were earlier in the campaign) and Crickmore, with the experienced Brian Bulless behind him, took all the plaudits.
But then it went wrong. He was injured on the opening day of the next season (a 4-0 hammering at Colchester, during which one Christopher Chilton made his debut) and after an abortive return in December, didn’t get back his fitness, and his place, until February. He stayed in the side, however, scoring four goals as City finished 11th in the newfangled national Division Three.
Cliff Britton took over as manager and picked Crickmore for every game of 1961/62 right up to the point he unexpectedly dropped him just after Christmas. He never played for City again and was sold in the summer to Bournemouth, who were a divisional rival and had just missed out on promotion. Crickmore had eight goals in 23 appearances that season and the sale came as a surprise and a disappointment, as he clearly had a big future.
With Bulless and Doug Clarke ageing, there was much pressure on Britton to revive the wings of the team after Crickmore’s sale, especially as the teenager had been allowed to join a better-placed club. While the eventual conversion of inside forward Ray Henderson and crucial signing of Ian Butler did just that to devastating effect, there are numerous supporters of the era who wonder how good Crickmore could have been in a team that eventually would have Chilton and the Kens Wagstaff and Houghton up front.
Crickmore never played for City as anything other than a teenager – his final game for the Tigers was on Boxing Day 1961, six weeks before he turned 20. He scored 13 goals in 53 league games, by any stretch a tremendous start to his footballing life, especially for someone who wasn’t a centre forward. Injuries played a part in stunting his progress with five more clubs in the league, with his only honour being a Fourth Division title medal with Notts County. He later moved back to Hull and became a fireman. He also refereed county level games well into his 60s.
4: Andy Flounders
Another boy from the ranks, born into the city and the club, and whose dogged presence throughout the 1980s was greatly to his credit given the number of prolific and popular goalscorers with which he had to compete. Not a fully-developed teenager, Flounders looked scrawny and underfed when he debuted just before his 17th birthday in October 1980 during a horrific relegation season, but once in Division Four he came more into his own.
Flounders needed the sale of Keith Edwards and an injury to Billy Whitehurst before his first game of that season in January 1982, a month past his 18th birthday, but when it came he scored the only goal in a 1-0 win over Torquay United at Boothferry Park. In and out for the rest of the season as Whitehurst and Les Mutrie formed a decent partnership, Flounders still managed four more goals before the end of the campaign.
Looking through his City career, it’s hard to see a period when Flounders was truly the first choice striker, but he was nevertheless always there, always learning (and had plenty of good centre forwards to learn from). He struck 13 times in City’s promotion season of 1982/83, more than both Mutrie and Whitehurst, who were still picked an awful lot more. He put away another nine in 1983/84 – during which time he turned 20 – as City failed to win promotion for a second straight season by a single goal.
His best run of games was in the 1984/85 promotion season under Brian Horton when he settled into a proper partnership with Whitehurst, and his return of 14 goals was his best seasonal haul. He partnered new signing Frankie Bunn as City finished sixth in Divison Two in 1985/86. After the team started the following season slowly, with Whitehurst gone and Bunn off form, Horton bought Alex Dyer in February 1987 and recouped some of the money by selling Flounders, still not yet 24, to Scunthorpe United. He had 54 league goals for the club next to his name by the time he left, an impressive total given the difficulties of the club during his early years and the abundance of striking talent he had to topple.
Flounders remained prolific – his best seasonal total for Scunthorpe was 27, twice – and he ended his career in the mid 1990s at North Ferriby United.
5: Gavin Gordon
The youngest of the lot. Manchester-born, musclebound centre forward who was just four months into his YTS when Terry Dolan gave him his bow in the League Cup against Coventry in September 1995, coming on as sub in both legs as City lost 3-0 on aggregate.
His league debut came the following January, by which time it already seemed inevitable City would be heading back down to the fourth tier, and the goal that put him into the record books came in a 3-2 home defeat by Bristol City in April 1996. He was 16 years and 282 days of age.
He got another from the bench in a home defeat by Crewe before Dolan put him in the starting XI for the final three matches of a catastrophic season, and he confidently put away the opening goal in the notorious, toxic 3-2 defeat by Bradford City at Boothferry Park on the final day. It still looks really weird watching a Hull City player score in front of Bunkers Hill and seeing nobody behind the goal celebrate it.
Injuries and his youthfulness meant that Dolan, inexplicably still in a job, used him sparingly the next season but he got five goals in all competitions, then his time was up when Mark Hateley arrived. He scored two goals in five sub appearances under the new manager, five more than the useless Hateley himself managed during that period, but Matt Hocking’s arrival needed funding so, at still only 18, Gordon was flogged to Lincoln. There he did so well he ended up at Cardiff in a £550,000 deal while still just 20 years old.
It never worked for him in Wales due to injuries and competition for places, and he ended his senior career at Notts County. Until recently he was still playing and coaching at non-league Sleaford Town.