A fair number of players have been on the books of both Hull City and Derby County, and given that two of our most important players of the last few seasons are going to be trying to do us over this weekend, it felt pertinent to pick a random quintet. The stories of people like Raich Carter and Ian Ashbee are well known, but then…
A man with a thick skin and an unwavering self-belief, when considering the number of times he has proved unsuccessful in managerial roles in recent memory. Yet at Hull City, we are able to recall McClaren in only very fond terms. He came through the ranks at Boothferry Park and debuted in the first team two days after his 19th birthday on the final day of 1979/80. It wasn’t a great start for him, as City lost 1-0 at relegated Bury and survived in Division Three by a single point.
But the start of the 1980s brought with it a new breed of gifted youngster, schooled by the club, and alongside Brian Marwood and Garreth Roberts, the visionary midfielder McClaren was to prove integral. After a disorganised and inexperienced side was relegated to the Fourth Division in 1981, McClaren was a regular in the side that, under Colin Appleton, helped City glide back to promotion in 1983. He stayed for two more seasons, coming to within a goal of promotion again in 1984 before finally helping City into the Second Division in 1985 under Brian Horton.
McClaren had impressed Derby manager Arthur Cox when City beat them 3-2 at Boothferry Park in March 1985 as Derby, champions a decade earlier, found themselves slumming it in the Third Division. McClaren joined in the summer of 1985 and contributed stringently to a title-winning campaign but then suffered an injury that forced him to miss the whole of the next season, aside from a loan spell at Lincoln. Derby won the Second Division title, making it two promotions in a row, and McClaren was evidently surplus to requirements once they found themselves back in the big time. He went to Bristol City and Oxford United before retiring at 31 with injury, but by this time he was already a highly-qualified coach.
And that’s what he is, really – a coach. His role at Manchester United made him, yet it didn’t involve any day-to-day decision making and his only tactical input was on an advisory level. Alex Ferguson thought he was the best assistant he’d had, at that time, but like many seconders at Old Trafford (Kidd, Meulensteen, Queiroz, Phelan) he found himself out of his depth when doing it himself. Initially he did well, winning the League Cup with Middlesbrough, but even then critics claimed it was despite him, not because of him, and the first accusations of negative football that have dogged him all his career were aimed his way. Continuity seemed to be the only thing in his favour when he was given the England job after the 2006 World Cup after a long spell as Sven Goran Eriksson’s right hand man.
A year later, with the umbrella cast aside and his name sullied at home, he went to the Netherlands and won the Eredivisie with Twente, something which sticks out like a sore thumb more than ever when looking at the failures that have tarnished his CV time and again. Wolfsburg, Nottingham Forest, Twente again, Newcastle and, most tellingly of all, two spells at Derby County, with the second an all the more incredulous appointment given the catastrophe of the first. We’re sure Derby fans reading this can furnish us with more details; we can just be grateful that on our patch, McClaren is known only as a great player. And we’d like it to stay that way.
Enigmatic, fleet-of-foot full back, signed as a player for the future from Derby by Phil Brown, who had managed him there. He played only nine league games for his hometown club, finding room for a couple of loan spells too, before coming to City in the early part of 2007. His became known as a symbol of an unwillingness to trust youthful talent at City, as despite Brown’s enthusiasm for him, Doyle was very rarely seen in City colours throughout City’s promotion campaign of 2007/08, having debuted on the last day of the previous season in circumstances similar to McClaren – ie, once survival had been secured the previous week. At one point early in the season, Brown chose to play Andy Dawson, the most left-footed player of all time, at right back rather than give the youngster a chance.
Quirkily, Doyle managed just one appearance in each of the three competitions in 2007/08 prior to somehow wangling a place on the bench for the play-offs. In the high midday heat of Watford, he came on midway through the second half and did one bit of fancy danning with his feet over the ball before bending a shot on to the post; in the return, with City coasting at 5-1 on aggregate and preparing for Wembley, Doyle was introduced as a midfielder and scored with a deflected shot before doing the ‘rocking baby’ celebration as the crowd spilled on to the pitch (again). He was on the teamsheet for the final although this time didn’t get off the bench.
In the Premier League, Doyle played three times before going to Barnsley on loan early in 2009/10 and then signing permanently afterwards. He has since had longer spells at Bradford and Luton but has been without a club since the beginning of this year. He’s still only 30.
3: Alf Ackerman + Ken HarrisonA pairing that played together for City and then left together in a £6,000 deal for Derby County. Such was the negative reaction around this double sale that City manager Bob Jackson, solely responsible for the deal, was given ‘leave of absence’ by the directors.
The problem wasn’t just that two effective players had been cheaply disposed of – South African striker Ackerman was the top scorer in the 1954/55 side that was struggling against the drop, while attacking full back Harrison had more than 200 appearances for City next to his name – it was that Derby were, like City, battling the drop. Essentially, Jackson had given two top players to a team who could have an active say in whether City stayed in the Second Division or not, especially as the two were due to face each other on the final day at the Baseball Ground.
Mercifully, new manager Bob Brocklebank managed to keep City afloat just enough over the next half dozen games so that the final day’s result was immaterial. Just as well, really as Derby won 3-0 with Ackerman getting a brace and Harrison, now playing as an orthodox winger, scoring the other. Just imagine how supporters and directors, united in their horror at Jackson’s casual sale of the duo, would have reacted if that scoreline, with those scorers, had sent City down and kept Derby up. It would have made Denis Law look positively generous*.
As it was, Derby went down and City joined them the following season, so all that had happened was a delaying of the inevitable. Ackerman and Harrison stayed at Derby for little more than a year each but Ackerman was still prolific, scoring 21 goals in his 37 senior appearances.
4: Roy Greenwood
An excellent winger who stepped out of the huge shadow cast by the master, Ian Butler, to become a stellar performer on the left flank for City in the 1970s after debuting as a 19 year old in 1971.
When Butler left in 1973, Greenwood grasped the opportunity as well as he possibly could with an ever-present record in 1973/74 along with goalscoring feats above expectations for a wide man. When fit, he was one of the first on the teamsheet right through until Christmas 1975, when he was sold to Sunderland for £140,000.
Injury meant he didn’t excel at Sunderland, though he did pick up a Second Division title medal, and, after turning down the chance to rejoin Terry Neill at Arsenal because he didn’t like the train journeys between Hull and London, he joined Derby in 1979.
He lasted less than a year at the Baseball Ground, making just 13 senior appearances without scoring. He had a more successful spell at Swindon before ending his career with brief stints at Huddersfield and Tranmere.
Essentially, he became an injury-ravaged player from the day he left Boothferry Park, which was a great shame for someone of obvious talent.
5: Andy Oakes
The memories of this 21 year old goalkeeper, signed for nothing from Macclesfield and shoved straight into the relegation battle that became immortalised as the Great Escape, are as loving as it’s possible to be for any player who only featured in 20 senior games for City. He kept nine clean sheets as Warren Joyce tightened and toughened up the team and, after survival was secured, it was obvious he wasn’t going to hang around.
Derby paid £465,000 for him and while City had to start the next season relying on Lee Bracey in goal, Oakes was in the Premiership, as the top tier was then known. He was a reliable and occasionally spectacular back-up custodian to Mart Poom but ultimately couldn’t break into the team on a more permanent basis, leaving after six years with just 43 league games next to his name. Spells at Walsall, Swansea and Darlington followed before he turned his back on football aged just 32.
Presumably it’s just his lack of longevity that stops Oakes being regarded as highly as City’s true goalkeeping greats like Bly, McKechnie, Norman and Myhill. Looking at the situation he was thrown into, it is genuinely hard to imagine a City keeper as important as he was.
*Yes, we know Law didn’t technically relegate Manchester United with that backheel, but it fits the narrative.