Here’s a good one. Saturday’s destruction of Birmingham was the 35th time City have scored six or more goals in a league game. From the first one in 1909 to this latest one at the weekend, there have been gaps of nine, ten and eleven years between victories of six and more. But by contrast, there was one golden year – and it really was a year – when City blasted five different teams for six…
1: Bristol Rovers, 6-1, 11/12/65
The extraordinary events of 1965/66 are well established in Hull City folklore, but it’s worth emphasising over and over just how fierce the front five was, a ferocity further established by the lack of injury suffered all season by Messrs Henderson, Houghton, Chilton, Wagstaff and Butler. Three of them missed just one game each all through the campaign, Wagstaff was ever-present and only Henderson had a spell out, but was fit and established by the end of September.
Christmas approached and City were battering teams with ludicrous self-belief in attack, littering the regular one-sided victories with the odd spectacular defeat and keeping everyone on tenterhooks. Bristol Rovers came to Boothferry Park and Houghton scored a brace, with further goals from Henderson, Butler, Chris Simpkin and a Joe Davis own goal. The most remarkable thing about the game was that City managed to bulge the net six times with neither Chilton nor Wagstaff getting on the scoresheet, though they got a goal apiece in the return fixture in May as City won 2-1 and closed in on the title.
As was the wont of a side so obsessed with attack, the defence ran out of steam prematurely and let the visitors score a consolation. This was a common theme for the whole season, with no a single goalless draw and clean sheets rare – although…
2: Workington, 6-0, 15/01/66
… this was one. Workington were a team that ended up fifth in a tough division, so clumping them for six, without reply, was no mean feat. Again, an own goal contributed (long-serving defender Bobby Brown doing the honours) to proceedings, as did a brace from one of the front five, with Ian Butler taking the attention with the first and last goals of the day. Houghton, Wagstaff and one of three goals for the season from Welsh international midfielder Alan Jarvis completed the scoring.
So now Simpkin and Jarvis have a goal each for the season. There are two own goals, but these are actually two of four, and by the season’s end, five. Simpkin wouldn’t get another league goal. Jarvis would get just two more. So, after the front five, the next highest contributor to City’s season-ending tally of 109 was the opposition.
3: Exeter City, 6-1, 20/04/66
City had won nine in a row and were definite for promotion when relegation-threatened Exeter rolled into Boothferry Park and then rolled out again, utterly shellshocked. This was Chilton’s day as he plundered his second hat-trick of the season, with Henderson getting two and Houghton one. Notably, there were 28,000 and more in the old place that day, twice as many as for Workington. The city was gathering around its heroes.
Obviously, the only way for City to respond after a 6-1 win, the tenth victory in a row, was to lose the next two and rack up the tension more. But then they went unbeaten for the last five and won the Third Division title.
4: Northampton Town, 6-1, 23/09/66
A new division, and times were instantly tougher. Cliff Britton’s only significant change to the team had been to change the goalkeeper, recruiting Ian McKechnie from Southend United and putting Maurice Swan in the reserves. But in defence, little altered, and in Division Two it was assumed that the front five could just carry on as before.
At times, they could, but defences at this level were better, harder, not scared, not respecters of reputation. Chilton took four games to get off the mark, Houghton had a long spell out injured and City ended the season 12th, with 32 fewer goals scored.
But sometimes, just sometimes, it clicked back into place. For Northampton’s visit, Britton was able to choose the classic outfield ten, with McKechnie behind, and four of the five scored. Chilton and Wagstaff got two each while Henderson and Butler got one each. Three days before they’d given Norwich a 5-0 shaped belt in the mouth, so excitement wasn’t in short supply. But it wasn’t the same, mainly by dint of the other teams having the nerve to be any good.
5: Crystal Palace, 6-1, 10/12/66
And the symmetry is perfect. If the Bristol Rovers win was on day one, this cuffing of Crystal Palace, a most useful side, was on day 365.
Houghton was injured so Billy Wilkinson, a hard-running utility player, was shovelled into the inside forward role and, having responded with a brace in a 3-2 win at Derby the week before, he scored another goal in this pummelling of Palace. He couldn’t take too many headlines, however, as Chilton scored thrice again, with Wagstaff and Butler adding the others.
A few fives followed for as long as Chilton, Wagstaff and Houghton were a going concern, but the next sixer wasn’t until a 6-2 defeat of Preston in 1973, by which time Chilton and Henderson were gone, Wagstaff was regularly out with knee trouble and Butler was more often than not on the bench, gradually being phased out by Terry Neill. Still, Houghton scored that day…
City have also scored six or more three times in the FA Cup (eight goals on all three occasions, in fact) and twice in wartime football.