FAMOUS FIVE: City reuniting with ex-managers

Phil Parkinson witnessed his Bolton team take a real shoeing at the hands of the Tigers at the weekend, but amazingly it was the first time he’d faced us as an opposing manager in more than ten years since he was given his marching orders by Adam Pearson after a rotten start to 2006/07. Here we find five other examples of a former City manager’s first game against us after leaving…

1: Brian LittleLittleBrianLittle was a successful manager at City and a very affable guy in all respects, and to some his dismissal by Adam Pearson in February 2002 still seems harsh. He’d worked miracles the previous season in getting City to the play-offs in the fourth tier despite the savage off-field acrimony enveloping the club, leading to locked gates, unpaid wages and players training on grass verges while borrowing money for rent and petrol.

Then, with all that sorted out, he spent £1m on new talent and was not in the worst run of form in February 2002 when the news broke that he was leaving. City had just lost at home to Macclesfield but it was only a second defeat in seven, and they were sixth in the table, a play-off position. Jan Mølby arrived, City finished 11th and nothing improved, far from it.

Meanwhile, Little didn’t take a great knock to his reputation – he’d done genuinely well at City and had won the League Cup, Fourth Division title, Conference title and play-off finals with three of his previous clubs. He eventually had 18 months out of the game before Tranmere Rovers appointed him as manager in October 2003.

City’s promotion from the bottom tier in 2004 meant that Little was able to return to Hull with his new charges in December that year. By now he had Ian Goodison and Theodore Whitmore in his team, the two Jamaican internationals of great talent whom he had inherited at City and then prised away from their homecoming at Seba (now Montego Bay) United to go to Merseyside. So a fine former manager and two fine former players (plus a rubbish one, David Beresford) were all on the Tranmere bus that came to the Circle, where none of them had played nor managed before, a week before Christmas 2004.

It was an occasion that will retain its vividness for as long as those present are alive. Both sides had begun the season well in League One but Tranmere needed to make an early change when keeper Jon Achterberg suffered a thigh injury in a challenge with Delroy Facey and hobbled off. Sub keeper Russell Howarth took over, conceded a deflected Ian Ashbee shot, then suffered concussion after Stuart Elliott kicked him in the head as the two challenged for a ball, with Elliott at full sprint.

Howarth didn’t return for the second half, and his replacement as sub was also his replacement as goalkeeper – one Theodore Whitmore. The City fans were able to both love and pity their former midfielder as, gifted playmaker though he was, it really didn’t extend to his keeping skills. The saves he did make tended to be through sliding with his feet or kicking the ball away, but he was powerless when Elliott aimed a header past him for 2-0.

Eugene Dadi pulled a goal back straight from the restart, but from here on it was plain sailing for City and agony for their former manager. Nick Barmby made it three goals in three minutes, and 3-1 to the Tigers, then Whitmore cut an ever more baffled and spaced out figure as Elliott completed his hat-trick, the last of which was a penalty, and then Danny Allsopp made it six near the end.

Little told the press afterwards, very simply: “Everything went wrong for us.” In this case, it really, literally, couldn’t have happened to a nicer man. The corresponding fixture in March 2005 at Prenton Park was also key in City’s season, as the Tigers won 3-1 with first ever goals in City colours for new signings Kevin Ellison and Craig Fagan, and City’s second straight automatic promotion was confirmed when Tranmere, always the nearest rivals to the top two, lost a midweek game in hand. City have not faced Little since, while the only time Tranmere have been on the radar again was in a League Cup tie in 2006.

2: Colin AppletonAppletonCAppleton’s decision to quit his job at City was pre-meditated. Even before the heartbreaking 2-0 defeat of Burnley on the last day of the 1983/84 season which denied City promotion to Division Two by one lousy goal, Swansea had already tapped him up, and as the team bus began its forlorn journey back across the Pennines, he told the chairman and the players that he was off .

Such was the lack of status of the new Associate Members Cup (the Football League Trophy, prior to its numerous associations with light goods vehicle manufacturers and decorating firms) that Appleton didn’t stick around for the semi-final, three days after Burnley. Chris Chilton took charge, with a disheveled City somehow tonking Tranmere 4-1 in the semi (and against a proper keeper, too) before losing 2-1 to Harry Redknapp’s Bournemouth in the final, which was incongruously held at Boothferry Park in the one and only season that it didn’t get a showpiece occasion at Wembley (as Typical City as it’s possible to be). No silverware, but we don’t care.

Brian Horton was appointed as Appleton’s successor, and as City hit the ground running under the new manager, the old gaffer was quickly finding that Welsh grass wasn’t much greener at all. He had started very poorly at the Vetch Field and was already in bother by the time he brought his side to Boothferry Park for a night game in October 1984. The players proved a point quite substantially by winning 4-1 with a Billy Whitehurst brace and further goals by Garreth Roberts and Peter Skipper. Swansea’s goal was scored by a 20 year old homeboy called Dean Saunders.

The Tiger Nation were gleeful and became even more so when Appleton was fired before the end of 1984 after just 18 matches, from which he managed a meagre four wins. He went to Exeter and then back to non-league football before coming briefly back to City in 1989, and we’ll save you further heartache by ending it there.

3: Major Frank Buckley/Raich Carter
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They wouldn’t normally come as a pair, but what’s interesting about these managerial careers is that twice Buckley was succeeded in managerial positions by Carter – first at City, then at Leeds. Buckley went to Leeds in 1948 after helping launch the post-war City, and when Carter’s City side clinched the Division Three (North) title in 1949, the two clubs were pitched together for the first time in more than 20 years, and went on to be divisional rivals for seven seasons.

The first occasion of Buckley facing his former employers was at the sparkly new Boothferry Park in October 1949, and Carter’s City won a tight contest by a single Viggo Jensen goal. In the Leeds side was a beefy 18 year old called John Charles, who would be ever-present that season as Leeds finished fifth and City seventh. Leeds had won the return game at Elland Road 3-0 and the pattern of the home side winning each time would continue over the next four seasons, during which time Buckley left Leeds and Carter had swapped east for west, with a goalless draw at Elland Road in December 1953 his first result against City.

Neither manager faced City again as gaffers after leaving Leeds and the 1956/57 double whammy of Leeds’ promotion and City’s relegation meant the two clubs waited another 30 seasons to meet once more.

4: Peter Taylor
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As infamous a reunion as they come as far as our ex-gaffers are concerned. Taylor, a brilliant manager for City whom fans found hard to love for perceived prickliness and inflexibility, turned down Charlton Athletic’s offer in the summer of 2006 before leaving merely days later for Crystal Palace, the club with whom he had been an immensely talented player in the 1970s, playing for England while on their books.

His connections with Palace made the move understandable, but it stuck in the craw of City fans that he’d supposedly committed himself to the club after refusing Charlton’s advances, prior to going to another London club of similar size and history with barely a glance. However, his relationship with Adam Pearson had soured by this stage and the move seemed, with a small amount of hindsight, the right one for all parties, especially as after a season of lower-half consolidation in the second tier – City’s first at that level for 14 years – it felt like Taylor had probably done as much as he could in three and a half years.

So off he went to Palace, and everyone predicted correctly which two City players he’d come after. He loved Leon Cort, a brilliantly dominant, strong, towering and yet clean as a whistle centre back – never booked despite the role he played – and the £1.2m offer to take this Londoner back to London was accepted and the defender was wished well as the cheque cleared. Taylor’s successor, one Phil Parkinson, had already lined up a Brentford defender called Michael Turner as replacement, and used the remainder of the Cort money on some other expensive names. Meanwhile, midfielder Stuart Green joined Palace on the cheap at the behest of Taylor’s daughter, with whom he was in a relationship.

City were having a poor time of it under Parkinson and already the pressure was on the new gaffer when Taylor brought his Palace side to the Circle at the end of September 2006. He was greeted lukewarmly, and the Palace fans taunted the East Stand with bursts of “Where’s your Taylor gone?” to the opening bars of Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep. It was a tight game, goalless until just before the hour, when the goodwill that oozed out of every pore of every City fan for the returning Cort dried up instantly.

It’s notorious stuff, even now. Cort went up for a set-piece which was cleared, found himself on the edge of the area with the ball dropping in front of him, and hit a low shot that spun wildly via a deflection into the City net. He had never scored a goal like that before, something Parkinson ruefully pointed out afterwards, and proceeded to ruin his well-cultivated image as a good sportsman entirely by laughing in front of the City fans in celebration. Later he apologised, saying he was just laughing at the ridiculousness of the goal, not at the Tiger Nation, but some struggled to forgive him.

Turner scored a late, deserved equaliser and Taylor said afterwards he didn’t like being at the Circle as an opposing manager. Almost exactly a year later it would be another 1-1 draw between the two clubs, this time at Selhurst Park and courtesy of another very late City leveller, that would cost Taylor his job, which was greeted with an abrasive lack of sympathy by City fans, something which upset the emotional Taylor a great deal. He managed anywhere and everywhere afterwards but never faced City again.

5: Terry Dolan
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It took forever to get rid of Dolan, the man who symbolised the bad old, sad old 1990s more than most at Boothferry Park, and even after a second relegation in 1996 was it not considered obvious by chairman Martin Fish to try someone new as City returned to the lowest tier for the first time in 13 years. When Dolan did leave, a year later, thanks to new ownership agreeing that the coaching regime was toxic and grubby and needed cleansing, he spent a couple of years taking the stiffs at Huddersfield, where he had been popular as a player in the 1970s.

Dolan quit this job in early 2000 to become York City’s manager but by then the two scheduled fixtures had already happened, with City having their near neighbours from up the A1079 as their ‘quick turnaround’ opponent (every club has one, every campaign – look at our games against Leeds this season). Both games had ended 1-1, stalemates for which each set of supporters could be grateful with hindsight as, with Dolan’s influence to the fore, standards dropped and both matches in 2000/01 ended 0-0. The most notable thing about the first of these goalless draws, at a rainy Bootham Crescent in October 2000, was the York fans enthusiastically joining in with the Tiger Nation’s chant of “if you all hate Terry Dolan, clap your hands.”

A win apiece and a draw apiece followed in the next two seasons before Dolan lost his job at York. He didn’t manage in league football again.

6 replies
  1. Dave
    Dave says:

    Check facts! I don’t think City lost at Burnley on the last day of the 83/84 season. They needed to win 3 nil or better to go up but only won 2 nil. As I recall Brian Marwood hit the woodwork as well. Heartbreaking indeed.

  2. Andre Myers
    Andre Myers says:

    Speaking of returning managers…I took great pleasure in Nicky Barmby’s City beating Nigel Pearson’s Leicester. He was, unsurprisingly, incredibly ungracious in defeat.

  3. JohnK
    JohnK says:

    I remember the Burnley game well, I was there, and in addition to not winning by the 3 required goals to secure promotion it was memorable for the fact that I tripped on the steps back up to the stand and dropped my halftime tea and pie on the floor having waited an age to get served. I also remember the ground been full of Sheffield Utd. supporters who were there to cheer on their team for the promotion that should have been City’s. Wasn’t sure whether to be respectful of the support for their team or whether to just hate them for being at a game that they had no right to go to. It was just one of those nights!

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