NOSTALGIA: City v Liverpool, FA Cup R5, 1989 – from those who were there

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The 1980s were drawing to an end and Hull City had been through an eventful decade. It had begun with a first ever relegation to the bottom tier, followed by a summoning of the receivers as notice of the club’s closure was given in early 1982.

Don Robinson became the saviour, and not only gave the club a future, but also an identity and a charisma that had been lacking at any level since the early 70s. He appointed Colin Appleton, who won instant promotion back to the Third Division, then along came Brian Horton, who in 1985 got the Tigers back into the Second Division and then reached the dizzy heights of sixth in 1986. By 1988, Eddie Gray was the manager and City were again hoping to challenge for a top tier spot, which was still the big ambition.

Within all this, there had been a surprising lack of truly big occasions at Boothferry Park. Attendances weren’t great, personalities were short on supply and even in the more interesting seasons, we didn’t get any promotion six-pointers or winner-takes-all relegation encounters, and most Yorkshire derbies came with little more than regional pride at stake. The cups were unkind, with City either playing poorly, coming out as the away side or just not getting paired with the big names. That is, until Gray’s side began an FA Cup run in 1988/89 with wins at Cardiff and Bradford…

“The Bradford City fourth round tie had been my first ever away game. I went on Tiger Travel and had never seen men drink or need to piss so much. We were in such terrific form, with Garreth Roberts, Keith Edwards and Billy Whitehurst enjoying Indian summers, and Billy Askew simply head and shoulders above everyone else pretty much every time he stepped on the pitch. The excitement of the Bradford game was still seeping into Monday morning, when I’d be meeting the schoolmates that I’d gone to Valley Parade with, and I’d pretty much forgotten that the draw was on. I was upstairs getting ready for school when my mum screamed up the stairs ‘It’s Liverpool. They’ve got Liverpool!'” Richard Gardham, West Stand

“Back then, the FA Cup draw was made on the BBC’s Breakfast Time and I have it in my head that it was John Stapleton who took the viewer across to Lancaster Gate for the fifth round draw. Graham Kelly was the happy-go-lucky chap from the FA who always hosted the draw as if it were a wake, with the only acknowledgement for television being his vague awareness that a camera was somewhere in the room. Two FA committee members whose names were always mumbled to the viewer would empty the balls and do the draw and I’m convinced I didn’t watch it because it ran late and I had to rush to another part of the house to brush my hair or find my coat or something equally as mundane. My mum, who hated football but knew how important this was, shouted the draw up at me and I whooped and hollered like a falsetto schoolboy (which is what I was at the time). During the day, and the next couple of weeks, the South Holderness pupils who were plastic Liverpool fans gave me and my mate Chris, with whom I often attended games, masses of stick over what “their” team would do to City, but it washed over us. We had Liverpool. We just didn’t get days like this and it simply couldn’t come soon enough.” Matthew Rudd, the Well.

“I think they were the top team in Europe at the time. To be honest the first thing came into my mind was I’m colourblind, red-brown-green colourblind. Liverpool play in all red and I’m going to be playing against them! The grass is red to me and when I play against teams in all red, it blends in.” Garreth Roberts, Hull City club captain.

“The thing that is hard to convey to anyone under the age of, say, 30 was the sheer size of the excitement associated with the game. The FA Cup still mattered a lot in those days, and this was City’s first game of real national note in it for a generation – even the run to the fifth round two years previously, fun though it was, didn’t feature any really big (‘plum’, one must doubtless say) ties, nor any at home. Moreover, even though we’d had a few lively fixtures at home in the resurgence of two promotions in the early/mid 80s (Port Vale, then later Leeds, for example), the ground had still been nowhere near full, which it would be for the Liverpool game.” Stephen Weatherill, South Stand.

“First memory was the draw, which I’m pretty sure was on breakfast TV on the Monday morning after the fourth round. I remember dancing round the living room of my bungalow in Gilberdyke before going off to work in the legal department of British Coal in Doncaster.” Ian Thomson, Hull City fan and (at the time) club employee.

“Hard for my own kids to imagine now, but this was THE big game, in fact the biggest game my generation had. For my two, trips to Wembley, seeing multi-million pound players, being in the top flight (‘the best league in the world’) and so on is the norm. For us, it was beyond our wildest dreams. So when we drew Liverpool in the fifth round of the FA Cup, it was a must-see game.” Sue Leighton, South Stand.

“Ask any player, he wants to play against the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United – they’re the games you want to be involved in, playing against the best players. What a team they had – Barnes, Beardsley, McMahon, Aldridge.” Billy Askew, Hull City midfielder.

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“An awful lot of people from the East Riding with zero interest in Hull City suddenly wanted to attend a game. Don Robinson did precisely the right thing by making sure the glory hunters worked hard for their place in the crowd, introducing a voucher scheme for the preceding home game against Shrewsbury Town. If you didn’t have your voucher from the Shrewsbury match, acquired after you’d paid your cash at the turnstiles, you didn’t get a Liverpool ticket. Season pass holders like me – I had a junior pass for the Well – were always guaranteed a ticket in advance, but everyone else had to buy their voucher and then pay. Some of the plastic Scousers at school didn’t like this, which just made me laugh at them.” MR

“If you attended the Shrewsbury game you were entitled to a Liverpool ticket, and on this occasion City blasted the game 3-0. As I watched from the South Stand seats, proud that my team had got 11,000 for a meaningless game, I sat in dismay as at least 3,000 poured out of the ground with 20 minutes remaining to start queuing for the Liverpool tickets.” Brian Lee, East Stand.

“Living down south at the time did nothing to diminish my love for the Tigers. Amidst all the Arsenal and Spurs rivalry where I worked, I did my best to educate the youth in supporting your local team, no matter how shit they are. Barnet should have given me some commission. Somewhere in a staff room in deepest Hertfordshire there will still be a faded 1988 Hull City mug which I decided to leave as a lasting reminder of my time there. Getting a ticket then? Easy – none of this no ticket office, do it online nonsense. I’d been going for years, surely I could get a ticket then. Er no, some things never change – we’d have to do it the hard way and get vouchers at other matches to prove our worth and show we weren’t just turning up to watch the big boys. In the depths of my memory I vaguely remember the now customary outrage as there weren’t enough tickets for everyone, why couldn’t the club do it differently? Oh, and of course, a request from a friend of a friend who was a Liverpool fan to get him a ticket. Yeah, right. Like I said, nothing changes. But I was one of the lucky ones.” SL

“Due to being near neighbours of the Buckley family on North Hull Estate, my brother and I were not only sorted with matchday tickets for the biggest Hull City game of our lifetimes, but also access to the players’ bar afterwards. I don’t know which I was most excited about. That Liverpool team was simply astonishing. When they’d beaten second-placed Nottingham Forest 5-0 the season earlier – in a game that still saw Forest keeper Steve Sutton get the man of the match award, such had been Liverpool’s dominance – Tom Finney declared that they were the greatest club side of all time. Few would argue with him.” RG

“Mumbled to myself all the way home after the Shrewsbury game, then after preparing myself for a big night out in LAs, off I trudged into town. After celebrating our 3-0 victory with fellow City fans, who were also season ticket holders and therefore didn’t have to queue for their Liverpool tickets, I entered LAs. Later that evening I popped up to the ‘cool’ area of the club, and for those of you who knew it, it was Peppermint Park, where [ex-City keeper, retired through injury, subsequent FITC officer] John ‘Gunner’ Davies was standing at the bar. As on most Saturday nights in those days you either bumped into staff or players from the club on a night out in LAs. So, as usual I got into deep conversation with John about City. From what I can remember that night (which isn’t a lot), his parting words were ‘everybody who queued got a ticket, but the ticket office didn’t close until 9.30pm’. As John and I headed our separate ways that night, I was sadistically pleased that those people who were not loyal fans had to queue for so long.” BL

“On the morning of the game I saw Neil Buckley briefly as I’d be attending the game with his family. He seemed completely nonplussed about facing Beardsley, Barnes, Rush, Aldridge, etc. When you think of the inexperience in that defence – three quarters of them, Neil, Wayne Jacobs and Nicky Brown, only had a few dozen first team games between them and were all in their teens/early-20s – it was a terrifying prospect.” RG

“All the frustrations of having poor seasons and nothing to scream and shout about, and all of a sudden we had this huge game against the best team in the world at the time and that’s why everybody reacted to it.” Keith Edwards, Hull City centre forward.

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“On the day itself it was possible to re-imagine the huge sense of occasion that accompanied our bigger games back in the late 60s and early 70s, when I first started going – the Liverpool game was very much the last great Boothferry Park occasion. I don’t remember ever being more full of anticipation about a City game; Stoke in 71 would be on a par.” SW

“I can remember the chairman getting carried away. I walked into the ground on the morning of the game and there was a big banner up on the far side of the ground that said ‘Go Get Them Rambo!’. I asked them what it was all about and they told me it was the chairman that wanted it up. I had to tell them to take it down, you don’t do things like that with Liverpool in town.” Eddie Gray, Hull City manager.

“I remember my ticket being in the East Stand with my cousin, but unfortunately as the game approached he broke his leg playing Sunday league football. Being gutted for our Keith that he couldn’t go in the East Stand, panic set in as there were no disabled facilities available. As it ended up, he had the best seat in the house! If you watch the footage of the game, at half time as the teams are walking off the pitch you can see our Keith sitting next to Eddie Gray and his coaching staff on a bench next to the dugout. Wow. Nowadays that would be equivalent to being the third sub!” BL

“Before travelling to the game, I watched Football Focus and Saint & Greavsie, one after the other. [BBC Look North anchorman and sports reporter] Harry Gration did a Humber-centric report for Football Focus which began with “The Humber Bridge, one of the sights of Europe” which linked City’s game with Grimsby’s tie across the water against Wimbledon, the FA Cup holders. There was footage of an autograph session at, I think, Debenhams in Hull, featuring Garreth Roberts, Keith Edwards and Billy Whitehurst, with the two strikers taking their interview opportunities to praise the other. They also interviewed Emlyn Hughes, who in his usual gregarious way claimed he was supporting City because of his status as a director of the club, despite his long association with Liverpool. Then on the other side, Saint & Greavsie featured a long interview with Keith, showing goals from his Sheffield United days and a famous FA Cup semi-final goal he scored for Leeds just two seasons ago, as well as stuff about his love for greyhound racing and a few words of praise from Eddie Gray. They also showed City beating Brentford in the fifth round back in 1971, the last time we’d won such a tie. Jimmy Greaves waxed lyrical about our legendary forward line of that era afterwards, and my dad said something to the effect of ‘coming from him, that’s very high praise’. By the time I turned the telly off and left the house, I couldn’t have been buzzing more.” MR

“I will never forget Eddie Gray going on TV beforehand and saying with such conviction and style that he had never worked with the lad before but goalscoring is an art, and he has got it off to a fine art. I had watched that and thought ‘bring on Liverpool’.” KE

“From 1983 to 1993 I served the drinks and looked after guests in the Boothferry Park boardroom and so was on duty as usual for the Liverpool game. I didn’t want to go into the boardroom looking like a scruffy get, so went to get my hair cut somewhere on Beverley Road, by a young lady hairdresser who had no idea that City were playing Liverpool that day. There was always a lot of hustle and bustle behind the scenes from about 10am on matchdays, but there was much more of an air of anticipation and excitement that particular day. Eventually directors and their guests started to arrive. Even the Liverpool directors – let alone their players – seemed larger than life, a more imposing and forbidding presence than your average Division Two director, rather like a bunch of Victorian mill owners. The one exception was their patrician chairman, John Smith, a very engaging personality. Well known for his hands-on approach, it was said that he knew all the Anfield staff by name. One of his rituals was to go down to the dressing room before games to speak to the team, and at about 2.20pm he asked me to show him down to the away dressing room. On the way he asked me if I knew the score the last time City and Liverpool met and who scored a hat-trick for Liverpool that day, the only one he ever achieved. He seemed genuinely impressed that I could answer both questions correctly.” IT

“It was the first time in my career that such attention had been on a game I was going to be involved in. As a youngster, the amount of press was incredible. All eyes were on us.” Wayne Jacobs, Hull City left back.

“I was working for BP Chemicals in Hull at the time and went home to Liverpool to get a ticket but it sold out. So I got a Hull City members card and was able to get a ticket in the Hull end. When they took my photo for the members card at Boothferry Park, I had a Liverpool scarf on. They didn’t say anything!” Dom Shields, Liverpool fan, East Stand.

“Before the game, strolling along the walkway behind the Best Stand, I was in a trance. It was if my whole Hull City-supporting life had been leading up to this game. I trod on someone’s toe as I hadn’t been looking where I was going. I quickly apologised and Ian Rush, evidently not playing, looked down at me and said ‘don’t worry mate’.” RG

“It would be hard to get over to younger folk the stature of Liverpool. They were utterly dominant, but also widely liked and admired for playing proper football, over a long period, right back to Shankly. Sure, they were hard enough and couldn’t be bullied, but unlike, say, Leeds under Revie, the football came first, the thuggery mere self-preservation. And it was a club rooted in the city it came from, and respected as such – unlike Manchester United, always tainted by glory hunters and tourists (and sadly unlike Liverpool today). Their fans were better observed from afar than close up, but there was never any doubt that they were the real thing.” SW

“South Stand was packed out, my usual place taken but I managed to get a barrier to lean on just to the right of the goal. To be honest, as with many of our big games, it all became a bit of a blur. Maybe it’s down to the adrenaline, the excitement, the trying desperately to remember it in case this is the only big club you ever get to see, whatever it is, it always bloody happens to me.” SL

“The Well was absolutely stuffed with people, when usually you had lots of walking room. As a 15 year old of below average height, I found my way to the front corner, on the cusp of the wire players tunnel, and rested my chin on the famous white diamond railings while watching the teams warm up. A BBC camera for the following Monday’s Look North was filming the supporters, and a mulleted fellow in a wheelchair who always watched the game from the gravel in front of the Well was filmed shouting ‘Hull City!’ very loudly, with a manic grin on his face. I’m right behind him, blocked entirely from my first ever TV appearance, for which I was disappointed at the time but relieved now. When the players came out of the tunnel for the start of the game, I clenched my fist and muttered “C’mon Billy” to Billy Askew, a wonderful player, and he winked at me. He, and the rest of them, were seriously keyed up for this.” MR

“The boardroom was somewhat fuller than usual that day and the same went for the box, meaning that I had to forego my usual seat and unusually watched the game from the mouth of the players’ tunnel. The north side of the Well was usually kept empty but fans were allowed in that day and I remember thinking how strange it looked. It was genuinely marvellous to see the ground looking so full, the first 20,000 plus crowd – for a City game (several rugby crowds were in excess of that figure) – since a 13,000-strong Sunderland following swelled the gate to 21,000 on Easter Saturday 1974, and indeed the last one ever at Boothferry Park.” IT

“Everywhere was full except the crumbling South East corner terrace, which hadn’t housed any supporters since 1976, so we had the capacity 20,058 on the day but there was likely to be more than that, in truth. Rarely was the North East corner of the old place opened to away fans, but it was that day, and Liverpool brought plenty. The Well’s opposite half was open which I had never seen before and the three main home stands were jammed, with just a small gap of netting separating the [East Stand] Kempton from the Liverpool fans. You could almost touch the excitement – a city had finally come out to see its football team, even if a sizeable number of them were hoping for a day out watching the league champions put on a masterclass.” MR

“I was just proper excited, it was my first away game. Long journey on the train, then escorted on to buses at the train station. The away end wasn’t massive and not under cover either and the toilets were at the opposite end of the stand to where me and my dad were standing. We’d travel from Rhyl to home games but this was just better.” Scott Williams, Liverpool fan, North Stand.

“I had fifty quid on us to win, at 6/1.” BA

“I put a run together in scoring in eight consecutive matches which was a record at the time, I’d done it once with Sheffield United and I did it with Hull City, and of course the eighth game just happened to be Liverpool. So I’m sitting there thinking that I want to equal my record at least, and try and beat it, but it would have to be against Liverpool.” KE

“When the game kicked off, it was horrible for the first 15 minutes or so. We just couldn’t touch them. When John Barnes put Liverpool one up, one of my group leaned over to me and said ‘we are going to get absolutely destroyed here’. It was hard to disagree. The gulf in class looked unbridgeable. But then on about 20 minutes we kicked into life. As I recollect, it was the Billy Whitehurst/Jan Mølby duel that would start it. It seemed to stir something in the players (helped to an extent by Andy Payton clattering into Gary Gillespie to see him stretchered off). Keith Edwards and Billy Askew started with the flicks and tricks. Neil Buckley went close with a header at the far post. We were gaining a foothold.” RG

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“I was too young for broadsheet newspapers at the time, but in Hedon’s library the following week was a copy of the Guardian from Monday 20th February, with the match report stating that Gillespie’s shin had been ‘blackened’ by Payton. As a wannabe football journalist, I loved that description.” MR

“Gillespie getting injured stuck with me always because I remember saying to my old man that he’d forgot his shinpads.” Scott Williams

“Alex Watson came on and our defence was all over the place, in a way we weren’t used to. I remember Hull feeling it was ‘on’ after Gillespie went off, for maybe ten or 15 minutes.” Steven Scragg, Liverpool fan, North Stand.

“John Barnes scored with a header in front of [South Stand] Bunkers. It seemed to take an age to go in and it seemed to take an age for Iain Hesford to dive towards it. The Liverpool fans cheered the goal almost casually but the rest of us went numb. For a while I was terrified that we’d be hammered, and it’d be 4-0 at half time. Already I was thinking of the stick I’d get from those dolts at school whose interest in football was nil but still claimed to support Liverpool.” MR

“I went to the toilet in the middle of the first half and while walking back to my dad we scored. I tripped over my own laces and in the ensuing celebrations, got kicked in the head. I remember the biggest Scouser I’d ever seen in my life dragged me up by my collar and said ‘eh soft lad, get back to your dad’.” Scott Williams

“I scored a goal, more due to Bruce Grobbelaar being a bit frightened than anything else, because it was a one on one and he stopped when he saw me, and it hit my shin and went in.” Billy Whitehurst, Hull City centre forward.

“The equaliser, while not expected, didn’t seem against the run of play. It could easily have gone to 2-0 and we’d have been dead and buried, but I remember Billy Askew starting another attack, the ball being fed in the box, Gary Ablett – who I’d loved in his loan spell at City – slipping, and then everyone standing up so I couldn’t see a thing. It didn’t matter. Everyone started going crazy and I knew that Billy Whitehurst had scored. Hull City had scored against the great Liverpool side. It was surreal.” RG

“Billy held his arms aloft to the Liverpool fans behind the goal and they gave him the finger. He could have taken them all on, no problem. He’d just scored our equaliser and we couldn’t get our heads round it, so when the second went in a couple of minutes later, it was as if we were in another world.” MR

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“A minute or two before half-time I went back up the tunnel in order to be back in the board room straight after the half-time whistle. I therefore watched the final moments of the half – including the Edwards goal – from the top of the Directors’ Box steps. Completely surreal.” IT

“The rest of that half will live with me forever. We just had Liverpool on the ropes. They didn’t want to know. Billy Whitehurst was bullying them and Billy Askew was effortlessly outshining the likes of Ray Houghton and Steve McMahon in midfield. We had them. We just needed to score.” RG

“Then Keith got one.” BW

“I think it hit his [Jan Mølby’s] arm and I can remember standing there thinking ‘God, I hope they don’t give a penalty, I’d rather just rifle it in now’. I just clipped it in and found the corner and to beat Grobbelaar was quite exciting. I was a fairly senior professional, got used to it, and I was always nice and relaxed in front of goal, and for me it was a pass into the corner of the net and if the keeper saves it, well done. I was always a big believer that you shouldn’t miss the target, and that’s all I aimed for, just to get it on target.” KE

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“The chap in the wheelchair in front of me rolled on to the pitch with his arms raised, and even I climbed over the railings and jumped up and down on the touchline. A policeman told me to go back again. We were beating Liverpool, having been behind. It was utterly insane.” MR

“It was like running into a bizarre parallel universe, to a degree. Ken De Mange was running us ragged!” SS

“The goal was brutal and beautiful. Billy Askew brilliantly found Billy Whitehurst’s head. No red shirt wanted to know when the ball went towards Billy. Their defence was in a daze. And the ball fell to Keith. I’ve rarely celebrated goals until a) the ball’s hit the back of the net and b) I’ve had a very quick look at the linesman and ref to make sure it counts. Not on this occasion. As soon as I saw the ball landing on Keith’s foot I knew we were going ahead. We’ve not had a better finisher in my lifetime. I had a quick look over at the South Stand, where I’d normally be stood. It looked amazing. A packed sea of bodies just going crazy. Of all the things I saw that day, that vision will never leave me.” RG

“I shafted my knee in the mayhem as the second went in, thanks to a massive crowd surge in the Kempton. It blew up like a balloon afterwards. I remember moving from well over halfway up Kempton to somewhere near the front by the time the mayhem died down around half time. Twisted my knee, but couldn’t care less at the time. I still often feel that knee pain to this day.” Andy Medcalf, East Stand.

“The footage as the players went off at half time shows Billy Askew and Garreth Roberts, our two longest-serving players, congratulating each other and geeing up everyone else as they went off. They felt it just the same as we did, that a massive, massive shock was on.” MR

“I still remember my cousin Keith on his crutches applauding the teams off as we led Liverpool into the break.” BL

“We obviously think we’re in with a great chance of beating them.” BA

“Made up to be going to a ground I’d never been to, then a bit stunned at 2-1 down from 1-0 up.” SS

“I dashed back to the boardroom on the whistle and the first person to come in was [City director and future chairman] Martin Fish. We both agreed that we could barely believe what was happening.” IT

“I cannot quite recall a bliss of disbelief and euphoria to match that which I felt at half time.” SW

“The dressing room was buzzing at half time, we couldn’t believe we were 2-1 up and they’d outplayed us for 20 minutes. I always say to this day if we hadn’t had half time we’d have been okay and that impetus would have carried on.” GR

“We were a bit tense. We knew if we lost there’d be nothing left for us.” John Aldridge, Liverpool centre forward.

“It was such a fantastic atmosphere and the players responded. At half time I can always remember the team talk with Eddie Gray saying ‘we really have got a chance guys’. We went in 2-1 up and realised we’d got a great chance because Liverpool were a bit off but when you look at their individuals they just got the better of us in the end.” KE

“It was one of the best half times I’ve had, as a rabid Kempton taunted the silent Scousers at the other side of the dividing net thing.” AM

“There wasn’t too much grumbling at half time, like you’d get now. Everyone knew with the team we had that we’d get chances.” Scott Williams

“Yes, us, 2-1 up against Liverpool. The silence at half time was deafening. Disbelief, hope, the realisation that this was City so we knew the outcome but were just enjoying the feeling while it lasted. Half of us couldn’t wait for the second half, half of us wanted it to finish now.” SL

“We didn’t want that half to end. Another five minutes and we could easily have been 3-1 up. We just had them. They didn’t know how to deal with us. When the half-time whistle went, it was Cooper vs Clay in 1963 being replayed in Hull. We didn’t need half-time, but the best team in the country, maybe even Europe, did. Half-time itself felt surreal. Once the players had disappeared down the tunnel there was a sense of disbelief around the ground, among both home and away supporters. There was no time to bask in the glory though. We knew Liverpool would come back at us…” RG

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“We went in 2-1 at half time and then John Aldridge scored a couple. Then I missed an open net in the last minute, but we didn’t show ourselves up, we played particularly well against them.” BW

“It was good, coming back straight after the break. It knocked the stuffing out of Hull.” JA

“Liverpool’s goals seemed to happen in the blink of an eye, and showed why John Aldridge was one of the most underrated strikers of his generation. His two finishes were the type that looked simple, but only because he was so good. Had we held on until the 60th minute or so, who knows what might have happened. Alas, it wasn’t to be. Looking back now, when you watch the game over again, you see just how good Liverpool’s movement was, how each player had an incredible first touch and close control. It makes you appreciate how well we’d done to rattle them in the first half. I was proud of how we carried on battling but it just had a feeling of ‘glorious failure’ after that. The goalmouth scramble in which Billy Whitehurst nearly scored summed it up really. That Liverpool team were never going to surrender a lead twice within the same game.” RG

“Could we? This time? Would we be the giant killer? The stuff dreams are made of? Actually living the magic of the Cup? Well, of course not, but we gave it a damn good go.” SL

“When Barnes scored I jumped around, all eyes were on me, including the police. When Aldridge scored the police dragged me out and stuck me in the Liverpool end.” SS

“There were a couple of chances at the end, Keith and Andy Payton had one, but it wasn’t to be. To lose 3-2 to one of the best teams in Europe, it didn’t seem it was a bad result at the time.” GR

“I wasn’t upset really. Immediately, when you’re walking off a pitch you’re disappointed to be leading any game you then lose. Maybe I was a romantic, but I thought we could win every game and I went out to do that. But you look back and see what a good side played against us that day, full of stars. It was incredible we were winning 2-1 at half time.” WJ

“I never took pride in defeat, that’s one thing you should never do.” EG

“It was great to make a game of it. We didn’t let ourselves down I thought Eddie Gray was fantastic, in his team talks he encouraged everybody to play their normal game and he got a great response from us. It was so special to have that ground full, I’d been there so many times with a lot of poor situations at Hull but to have all the good times there at that moment in time was fabulous and I thought that if successful this is how it would be every week.” KE

“Looking back now, I appreciate that it gave me a glimpse of what the old stadium was like in the days of Raich [Carter, Hull City player-manager 1948-52] and Viggo [Jensen, Hull City player 1948-56], and then Waggy [Ken Wagstaff, Hull City player 1964-75] and Chillo [Chris Chilton, Hull City player 1960-71]. This game, I suppose, was its death rattle.” RG

“I remember after the game people said they had seen Eddie Gray in his car only 20 minutes after the final whistle mulling over the 3-2 defeat.” BL

“The players’ lounge after the game was surreal, like a 3D Panini album. The sight that lives with me to this day, however, is Billy Whitehurst stood next to the old TV they had in there where you’d get the local final scores on Look North’s Saturday bulletin (thank you Elliot Oppel). With him, hanging on to his every word, were former Oxford team-mates John Aldridge and Ray Houghton. However, it was the sheer quantity of beer and cigarettes that Billy was getting through was a particularly satisfying memory of that day.” RG

“After the game I do remember that Kenny Dalglish would not come into the boardroom, maintaining that his place was outside in the hospitality room talking to the press. Inside the boardroom, John Smith gave a brief but very dignified little speech, concluding by saying that he thought that City would grace the First Division.” IT

“Watching on Match of the Day afterwards was brilliant. You could hear the sound of tens of thousands of video ‘record’ buttons being hit across the city.” RG

“Match Of The Day started with our game and they’d sent the great Barry Davies as commentator. Early on in his commentary he described Boothferry Park as a ‘nice ground’ which I thought was decent of him. The highlights were fantastic and heartbreaking at the same time, and the great chance Andy Payton missed in the second half which we all thought was a wild slice by an inexperienced player actually turned into an amazing block tackle by David Burrows, something that wasn’t obvious from the Well. On the final whistle, Barry Davies called it “a good challenge by Hull City, but the right side gained the victory”, and he was correct. There were no routine after-match interviews then, and after the highlights finished we just got Des Lynam confirming Gary Gillespie had suffered a “badly bruised shin” before he moved on to the next game. And that was it.” MR

“As soon as I got home I shaved off the moustache (well, it was the 80s) that I had been growing since Christmas, having decided not to get rid of it until City were out of the Cup.” IT

“I’d been too young to remember the last time we’d been on Match of the Day, so knowing that the likes of Des Lynam even knew we existed was just brilliant. It was the last great game of the 80s – a decade that had been so good for Hull City – and the last great Hull City game for the likes of Richard Jobson, Garreth Roberts, Billy Askew, Billy Whitehurst and Keith Edwards. It didn’t feel like the end of an era at the time – there were a lot of good young players in that team and in that squad – but looking back now it went all downhill from there.” RG

“On the Monday morning, again on breakfast telly, Liverpool were drawn the piss easy home tie against outsiders Brentford in the sixth round – every other team in the last eight were from the top division. That could have been us at home to Brentford, it really could. I went to school to face the plastic Scousers still wondering what might have been. Then Look North on the Monday night did its follow-up report, and that was it.” MR

“The 1989 FA Cup will (rightly) forever be tainted by the events at Hillsborough in the semi-final, and the subsequent actions thereafter of the scum at South Yorkshire Police and at The Sun (among others). That we’d seen that team, those fans, at close quarters just a couple of months before such a tragic event gave it all and added poignancy for me. The minute’s silence at the home game against Oldham the Saturday after Hillsborough was probably the most emotional and heartfelt I’ve ever been a part of. Liverpool had given me my greatest day in football at that point in my life. Yet two months later you saw how, in the grand scheme of things, football didn’t really matter all that much.” RG

“We were in a friendly Hull pub before the match and I’ll never forget that the lads we met phoned us up after Hillsborough. Always had a soft spot for Hull after that.” Ged Wright, Liverpool fan, North Stand.

“The immediate reaction after the game was disappointment, and after that our season tailed off. You can look for excuses and say that was a reason but we weren’t good enough to climb the table.” EG

“We had a bad run after and Eddie got the boot for that, but it was far too early and he should have stayed. It was in pre-season when I got the news that he’d left, and I was immensely disappointed at that.” KE

“Eddie Gray really believed in the youngsters at the club and he’s always given youth a chance. His man-management was fantastic. I personally thought Eddie got a bad deal really, because our successful Cup run cost us in the league. History shows we barely won a game after and Eddie got the sack. If we hadn’t had that Cup run, the league form would have been a bit more successful.” WJ

“I was at home in pre-season and I’d heard Eddie had got the sack. I was devastated, but he was probably too nice to be a manager. You probably need a ruthless streak in you. I wanted to play for him. I thought Eddie was fantastic, but he was probably a bit too nice.” BA

“We didn’t get past the third round of the FA Cup for 20 years afterwards, and often didn’t even get that far, so the Liverpool game was put on a pedestal for a long, long time.” MR

“And kids? Never forget where we came from. Not that your Mum, Dad, Grandma or Grandad will ever let you…” SL

“Nowadays, for my kids it always ends in victory at home to Liverpool!” BL

Livticket

In context:

  • After this FA Cup tie, City won just once in the remaining three months of the season, and sank from the top half of Division Two to finish fourth from bottom. Eddie Gray was sacked at the end of the season.
  • Billy Whitehurst, Keith Edwards and Billy Askew all left the following season.
  • Garreth Roberts retired with a knee injury in 1991 after 12 years of first team football and received a testimonial.
  • Wayne Jacobs was released by the club controversially in 1993 after City claimed he would not recover from a knee injury but went on to play Premier League football for Bradford City.
  • Liverpool beat Brentford 4-0 in the quarter-final before the horrors at Hillsborough in the semi-final took the lives of 96 supporters. They eventually won the rescheduled game against Nottingham Forest and beat Everton in the final, but lost the league title on the final day to Arsenal.
  • John Aldridge scored twice in the rescheduled semi-final and once in the final, and left Liverpool in September 1989.

Sources: KCFM podcast archive; Hull Daily Mail; Daily Mirror.

Thanks to fans of both clubs for sharing their memories via email and social media.

Thanks also to Chris Hughes and Martin Batchelor for their help.

In memory of:
The 96
Iain Hesford
Gary Ablett
Emlyn Hughes

13 replies
  1. Officer Crabtree
    Officer Crabtree says:

    A brilliantly researched, wonderfully written piece Matt. I often worry that those heroes of the 80s – those playing here such as Jobbo, Garreth, the two Billys, Keithy, Wayne Jacobs, along with those who’d left by that point such as Skip, Tony Norman, Garry Parker and a few others – will get forgotten, sandwiched in-between the Waggy and Chillo era and those who achieved so much from 2004 to the present day. Happily, articles like this will prevent that from happening.

  2. Grimlock
    Grimlock says:

    I’d not been a football fan for long before the draw was made (I was 12 at the time), I’m sad to say I was very much a Liverpool fan at the time. I got very very excited that Liverpool where coming to Hull, and begged my family to help me get a ticket.

    Some family members where Hull City season ticket holders and took me to the Shrewsbury game so I could get a voucher. My first ever live football game. We queued for hours after the match for our tickets. Had the time of my life watching the Liverpool game when it came around. 2-1 up at half time and I was bouncing around like everyone else.

    Despite me turning up to the game as an armchair plastic Liverpool fan, I’ve been City through and through ever since!

  3. Dan Hodge
    Dan Hodge says:

    I can remember being sat at home having a nightmare with some homework when my Dad walked in to tell me that I was going to be Mascot for Hull City vs Liverpool. I did not know whether to laugh or cry, so I did both. The homework was forgotten about as I ran upstairs to look at my Panini Sticker Album to see I would meet. When the day came, I couldnt even polish my football boots properly. All the kids at school knew about my “involvement” and I did see a couple of them as I stood on the touchline waiting for autographs. The City players were brilliant but the Liverpool players just pushed past us. I managed to get one, Gary Gillespie. Then we were bundled into the tunnel for the kick off. The tunnel was claustrophobic. Dark and the smells of deep heat/liniment (one for the kids there!) were very strong. As we were walking out there were all sorts of shouts from the players, including some choice words in Scouse! Being on the pitch in front of 20,000 people at Fer Ark was immense. Then my moment of immortality. Miss Hull Daily Mail said “can you kick a ball?”. Cheeky cow! Of course I can. I will show you, then….perhaps…..dinner? She handed me a plastic football to kick into the East Stand. As I launched it from my boot, I thought I could not of connected with it any better……up it went….for once Row Z was the place for it to be…still going up…..up…..as it hit the rood and sailed back into my arms, 6-7,000 fans gave me a torrent of abuse….still, the joke was on them as a dust cloud of Asbestos Cement Sheeting dropped onto their heads! I can still hear the “Waheyyyy” on Match of the Day as the teams are being read out by Barry Davies……but what a day!

  4. Bill Carson
    Bill Carson says:

    I went with a girlfriend whose family all supported Liverpool. I was so proud of the lads for such a great battling performance and if memory serves me well, wasn’t Gareth Roberts through only to be cynically brought down?
    Typical City in those days, so near and yet so far but 20 years later we would beat Liverpool several times! #UTT

  5. Bill Carson
    Bill Carson says:

    Ps. Thanks Les for the team sheet. What a great forward line. Although the defence looks a bit suspect Wayne Jacobs and Jobbo excepted. Harry Maguire reminds me of Richard Jobson, who was the last City centre back to embark on marauding forward runs.

  6. Matt
    Matt says:

    That team page irritates me because Roberts, Payton and Askew are next to the wrong numbers, even though the team had been unchanged for ages.

  7. John
    John says:

    Great memories – thanks everyone. I seem to remember that Bruce Grobbelaar taking time out during his on pitch warm up to have a laugh with some youngsters behind his goal. The ’71 game against Stoke and this game are stand out memories for me and seeing all of the recollections has enhanced my ageing memory and made me realise that my rose tinted spectacles are pretty accurate.

    John South Stand

  8. Jimmy Weekly
    Jimmy Weekly says:

    Top black and amber nostalgia. Some great one-liners in those memories, particularly the parallel universe of Ken De Mange running the Reds ragged. Great idea to get some Liverpool memories too.

    My own, as a Boothferry Park season ticket holder, involve the sudden interest/intrusion of all and sundry into what had previously been a pretty niche interest so far as my family were concerned. My wife’s teenage cousin had got a ticket, and I was leant on to chaperone him. What? And not go to the pub with all my mates before the biggest game I’d known? No chance.

    I remember too going back to my Mum’s after the match. She’d listened, on national Radio 2 it must have been, to second half commentary and remarked on how someone called Billy Askew sounded to have had a good game.

    Despite City being in what we nowadays call the Championship, the gap between us and Liverpool seemed immense. The memories are as if we were some lower league team, not just a division below. I wonder if this is how Huddersfield fans felt playing Man City at the weekend, in front of a record attendance?

    Nostalgia’s OK, but I’m preferring being a team that – not for the first time in recent years – plays Liverpool in a regular fixture and thumps them in front of nearly 25,000 in a modern stadium.

  9. Riochatemyhouse
    Riochatemyhouse says:

    Apart from one seat against the side of the stand, an 11 year old me and my dad were right up in the corner of South Stand, having been part of the Shrewsbury Exodus a couple of weeks beforehand. My lasting memory is the teams running off at halftime, and me jumping up and down on my seat screaming at my dad “WE’RE BEATING LIVERPOOL, DAD!” He’d been at Stamford Bridge in ’66, the Stoke game in ’71, and even he couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Liverpool were just so good back then, and for about 20 minutes that afternoon, our team went toe to toe with them.

    Incidentally, as is pointed out in these comments, we beat Liverpool for fun these days, and a couple of weeks before the cup game in 1989 was the last time I scored a goal in competitive 11 a side football. Until this Sunday just gone. Truly, a metaphor for our times.

    Or maybe not.

  10. gjhdurham
    gjhdurham says:

    Was living in the N.E with young family, so don’t know/remember how I got a ticket for the well…which I’d never been in before. Probably came via my season ticket holding mate…thanks Al!. Thought we did have a chance with our strike force and having been there in 66 & 71. You just need the defence to have an inspired day. Wrt their second goal… which turned the game their way, I’ll always believe the ball was won with a foul on Askew just in front of me. The ball then went forward and they scored for 2-2. When highlights are shown, they always seem to cut the film/tape after that ball winning tackle, so not seen it again. A good game and quite an event/atmosphere, but I came away rather disappointed. Spoilt by Waggy & Chillo I suppose.
    Thought Jacobs had a broken leg, not knee injury, but whatever it was a poor decision to let him go from every point of view. Perhaps someone didn’t like gingers…

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