If Fraizer Campbell plays for Hull City in August, it will represent a gap of nine years and nine months since he last pulled on City colours. Who else has featured for us in two spells with a yawning passage of time in between?
1: Dean Windass, 11 years 1 month
The most famous comeback of them all, rendered all the more remarkable by the length of time. Windass, plucked from non-league to become the best footballer to play for City in the 90s, debuted as a 22 year old in 1991 and was sold to Aberdeen at the end of 1995 as City’s financial woes, combined with a wretched campaign set to end in relegation to the bottom tier, made it look plainly ridiculous that a player of such talent was still involved with his failing hometown club.
Windass managed to receive three red cards in one game while at Aberdeen, and then returned to England for spells with Oxford and Middlesbrough, plus both Sheffield clubs and two spells at Bradford, for whom he was knocking in ample quantities of goals when Phil Brown asked him to come back to Hull on loan in January 2007.
It was a rare loan that saw a player climb a division, but City were in real trouble at the time and the experience of Windass, plus his powerful personality, would eventually take his fairytale return to disbelieving levels when he scored the goal at Cardiff that simultaneously saved City from the drop and sent Leeds down.
He then signed permanently, and a year later fired home the most famous volley in Tigers history at Wembley. The legacy was secured forever.
2: Andy Saville, 9 years 6 months
Another local lad, though unlike Windass, the lanky Saville was successful in graduating from the ranks, making his debut as a 19 year old on New Years Eve 1983 in the side that would eventually miss out on promotion by a single goal, although Saville himself never kicked another ball for Colin Appleton, despite City winning 1-0 on the day.
A centre forward who never really convinced as either a target man or a goalscorer, Saville spent just over five years in the first team picture without ever properly being a first choice marksman for any of his three managers. As time moved on, Billy Whitehurst (in two spells of his own), Les Mutrie, Andy Flounders, Frankie Bunn, Alex Dyer, Andy Payton and Keith Edwards were all rated higher than Saville by managers and supporters, and in the end he left for Walsall on deadline day 1989 for £100,000 as two more forwards, Ian McParland and Peter Swan, arrived. His best tally was nine goals in a disappointing 1986/87 season which saw City hover too close to the drop zone for too long.
Saville improved as he aged and had successful spells with Barnsley, Hartlepool, Birmingham and especially Preston in a nomadic career where he never seemed able to stay long enough to lay down roots. He was a reserve striker at Cardiff in 1998 and pushing 34 when he came back to City for three worthless games on loan under Mark Hateley. He didn’t score and City lost all three. Later the same season he returned to Boothferry Park, having joined Scarborough on a short-term deal and came on as a sub in the notorious 1-1 draw, labelled at the time as a six-pointer in the battle to avoid the Conference. He was relegated with his new side on the last day of the campaign as City fought their way out of bother.
3: Nicky Mohan, 8 years 10 months
Fair-haired centre back from Middlesbrough’s ranks who seemed quite impressive a loan signing by Terry Dolan in 1992/93, as he had notched up more than 100 senior appearances for his hometown club after taking the chance offered to him by Gary Pallister’s big-money move to Manchester United.
Alas, despite signing for the whole season, Mohan only played five times for City (scoring in a 3-3 draw at Fulham) before injury ruled him out for the remainder of the campaign. He went on to make ample appearances for Leicester and Bradford, both of whom paid six figures for him, prior to spells at Wycombe and Stoke, which is how Brian Little got to know him. The City gaffer paid nothing to get Mohan back at Boothferry Park in the summer of 2001 and for a while City had Mohan, Justin Whittle, Mike Edwards, Mark Greaves, Ian Goodison and Jason Perry all vying for defensive spots, with Mohan very often the first name scribbled down, not always deservingly. Again, he managed one goal during this time, the opener in a 4-0 battering of York City.
After three losses in a row in November 2001 (with the concession of ten goals), Mohan was dropped by Little, who himself didn’t stay an awful lot longer. Jan Mølby had a look at him for the last four games of the season but was unconvinced (he wasn’t alone, by this stage) and didn’t pick him again during his own brief stay. Peter Taylor released Mohan as almost his first act as manager, and he went to Harrogate before retiring.
4: Alan Fettis, 7 years 2 months
Terrific goalkeeper from Ulster who broke into the side as a 20 year old on day one of the 1991/92 season and was City’s dependable custodian of the leather under Terry Dolan when injury permitted right through to his inevitable departure just two weeks before Windass. By the time he left, he had made more than 150 senior appearances (and scored two goals as an emergency striker) and, as a seldom seen indication of City having admirable players in their ranks, been capped by Northern Ireland as well.
His initial departure was to West Brom on loan before Nottingham Forest paid a quarter of a million for him in January 1996. He couldn’t break into the team there; he suffered similar frustrations at Blackburn and it was at York – and back with Dolan – that he became a first-choice keeper again in 2000. He returned to City, permanently, in early 2003 and had a decent spell in the side at the end of 2002/03 when Paul Musselwhite was injured, but he was understudy the following season and rendered further surplus to requirements when City signed Boaz Myhill. His last game for the Tigers was the infamous 3-1 reverse at Huddersfield when Peter Taylor’s changes to the defence led to arguments with supporters via the local press.
5: Keith Edwards, 6 years 6 months
Chilton and Wagstaff aside, this chap was the best goalscorer City has seen. The stats back it up – in his two spells, he managed an overall goal ratio in the league of almost one every other game, and all the more remarkable was that he never played in a particularly good City side.
Edwards joined in 1978 from Sheffield United after City had been relegated to Division Three and scored consistently and effortlessly through a couple of watertreading seasons, prior to managing a laudable 13 in the rancorous 1980/81 campaign before relegation again led to him unsurprisingly feeling he could be of better use elsewhere. He went back to Bramall Lane and also played for Leeds and Aberdeen before Brian Horton, desperately trying to reboot a stuttering season, brought him back at deadline time in 1988.
Edwards scored on his second debut and got a brace later in the first game after Horton was sacked, prior to a phenomenal 1988/89 campaign under Eddie Gray when he battered in 26 goals and top scored for the division, even though City finished fourth bottom. He also outpaced both of Arsenal’s youthful centre backs for the opening goal of a League Cup tie against a side who would end the season as champions, and scored in all three of City’s FA Cup ties, culminating in a memorable (and typically coolly despatched) goal against Liverpool that briefly put City ahead in the tie.
He was quickly out of the door when Colin Appleton returned in the summer of 1989, unimpressed by the appointment, and continued scoring for other clubs through to 1991.
Bubbling under (featuring at least one permanent deal): Gareth Williams, 6 years 1 month; Caleb Folan, 5 years 9 months; John Hawley, 4 years 8 months; Pat Heard, 4 years 5 months; Paddy Mills, 3 years 10 months; Billy Whitehurst, 3 years 1 month; Peter Skipper, 2 years 7 months; Craig Fagan, 1 year 2 months. Other players have had more than one spell at the club as a loanee only; several more had long gaps between matches due to global conflict.