What price a City World Cup winner?


The greatest tournament on earth – no, not Super League – has kicked off, and it’s hard not to be impossibly excited. World Cups are evocative occasions, summoning up memories of competitions past and a time of your life long gone.

You never forget your first World Cup. As a member of Club mid-30s, it’s always going to be Italia ’90. I don’t care that older viewers sniff about the quality of football, and anyway, retrospective viewings support that analysis. I only need to hear the opening bars to Nessum Dorma, the Puccini aria that BBC Grandstand and Luciano Pavarotti made famous in UK households, to be transported back to being a wide-eyed eight year old discovering football for the first time.

They still quicken the pulse. There’s nothing quite like a World Cup – and FIFA’s sordid machinations, the astronomical sums of money involved, the nefarious antics of pantomime villain players, nothing can remove all of the lustre associated with Jules Rimet’s gift to the world.

But one thing has different changed for City fans in adulthood and beyond:  the merging of two different components of our football-watching lives: City, and the World Cup.

You don’t have to go back too far for the World Cup and Hull City AFC to have nothing to do with each other. The demarcation zone was stark and the reason obvious: we were nowhere near good enough to have anyone involved. After all, Italia ’90 coincided with the beginning of the worst decade (so far) in City’s history as we tumbled down the divisions and into semi-permanent financial disarray.

But now look at us! Stricken as we are now, we’re about to enjoy another World Cup with Hull City involvement. The novelty has not quite worn off, but it’s still a real pleasure. But what are the chances of a Hull City player WINNING the World Cup?

They’re obviously not great. Australia are a remote 1000/1 to win the tournament; Jackson Irivine is unlikely to return to East Yorkshire adorned with gold and with tales of antipodean glory. Escaping a group in which they look distinctly fourth best would be a significant achievement for the Aussies. Advancing into the latter stages looks frankly impossible.

But what of Kamil Groscki’s Poland? Progress from a weak group H is probable, and assuming England and Belgium both qualify from neighbouring Group G, they’d hardly be rank outsiders against either. At 80/1 to go all the way, they’re scarcely a shoo-in, and you’d expect them to come unstuck when they encounter the tournament’s serious big hitters. Still, it’s roughly akin to Brighton winning next season’s FA Cup. Even a no deposit free bet may not have you scampering to the bookmakers, but if it happened, it wouldn’t be seismically shocking. Denmark and Greece were even bigger outsiders win Euro 2004 and 1992 respectively.

And even if Grosicki grates, there’d be something exciting and new about City having an actual World Cup winner (though you can already see the pound signs in Ehab’s cold eyes) – even if he didn’t feature in our hypothetical final. Then again, as he’s just left, wouldn’t there be something magnificently TypicalCity about Seb Larsson lifting aloft that magnificent trophy in July…


FAMOUS FIVE: January window departures

The current incarnation of Hull City is desperate for nourishment in this January transfer window, something that in times of feast rather than famine we have happily gorged upon since the restrictions were imposed on clubs outside the Premier League in 2005/06. But, of course, transfer windows are as much about acquiring good money for good players as they are for acquiring good players for good money, and so we present a quintet of memorable, for any reason you choose, January sales…

1: Craig Fagan
FaganCraigThe most telegraphed January departure from City since the window was founded, by dint of his rather prominent refusal to extend a contract that expired at the end of the 2006/07 season. It was a torrid campaign and Fagan’s stance as one of the better and more experienced players didn’t help, though with his personal reputation growing and City on the verge of dropping back into League One he was perfectly entitled to let the weeks of indecision drag on until January came.

Derby County were the club that bit, and Fagan signed for £750,000 as City cashed in rather than risk letting him go for nothing. He missed the game against his old club a month later but started at Wembley in May 2007 as Derby won the play-offs and promotion to the Premier League. Their subsequent season was a record-breaking disaster with just one win, but an out-of-sorts Fagan blinked and missed the worst bit after returning to City on loan, in amber boots, 14 months after leaving.

His contribution as City got to Wembley was minimal, although he managed to get on the pitch as a late sub at Wembley for his second Championship play-off final in a row, before making the return permanent in the summer as City gave Derby every penny of their money back.

This time he knew where the greener grass was to be had and he stayed at City steadily, uneventfully, sometimes frustratingly, occasionally brilliantly, until 2011 when Nigel Pearson released him, three senior appearances short of the 150 mark.

2: Aaron Mclean
aaronmcleandoncasterIn City’s first season in the Premier League under Steve Bruce, perennial reserve striker Aaron Mclean was barely anywhere to be seen. He played just six minutes in the top flight – the only experience of the highest level he would have in his career – before being shipped off to Birmingham on loan until Christmas.

But his return in January 2014, and to the shop window, allowed him a wonderful, symbolic, vital last hurrah. He scored one of City’s two goals in the FA Cup third round win at Middlesbrough, setting the Tigers on their way to Wembley for the final. Less than a fortnight after scoring that goal, Bradford put in an undisclosed offer and Bruce let him go. But what a terrific parting shot.

Mclean fitted the classic lower division profile of a player whose effort and attitude made actual limited ability much easier for supporters to bear. A warm character and consummate professional, Mclean couldn’t properly make the next step up, despite a prolific record with Peterborough, when signed by Nigel Pearson to form a brand new strike duo with Matt Fryatt at the beginning of 2011.

It took a long time for him to score at the Circle – indeed, it was the following season before he was off the mark at home, by which time he had scored at Scunthorpe, Coventry and his old club Peterborough, but even though he helped secure victories in all three games – indeed, in two of them his strike was the only goal of the game – he never convinced anybody of his ability at Championship level while concurrently proving he was a proper, admirable trier who, despite not being the tallest, was very good at winning aerial duels.

Nick Barmby indulged Mclean but Bruce saw through him early in his tenure in 2012/13, despite scoring the only goal in a big win at Sheffield Wednesday. Nonetheless, Mclean’s impeccable attitude meant he wasn’t hastily shipped out, regarded as a good egg around the dressing room. City’s promotion back to the Premier League under Bruce featured him more as a cheerleader than player, and his only further goal that season came during a loan spell at Ipswich.

If the Championship was beyond him, then the Premier League unquestionably was, yet there was something endearing about Mclean being around, and it was befitting that a thoroughly decent man could start the ball rolling on a history-making moment that City fans may never see again, even if he was long gone by the time we – and he – were able to appreciate its full significance.

3: Jason Price
PriceJPrice’s sale took everyone by surprise, as he was a player in form, regularly starting games in the Championship and not angling for a move or very obviously letting his contract run down as the first ever January window for lower division clubs began in 2006.

Yet when Doncaster Rovers made a bid for the fleet-footed winger, City manager Peter Taylor accepted it and Price, who had just partaken in a 3-0 shoeing of Stoke City and seemed a settled presence in a squad that was adapting to Championship football after two straight promotions, duly dropped a division.

Taylor said at the end of season fans forum that he thought long and hard about the offer for Price, who was still only 28 at the time, but in the end let him go because the deal was good for all parties. Price lorded it back in League One and was a success at Doncaster, most notably when he played in their play-off final win at Wembley over Leeds United, 24 hours after his former club had secured Premier League football for the first time on the same turf.

4: Robert Snodgrass
SnodgrassRAnother one of those deals that felt like it was only a question of time when the bongs sounded on a new year. Snodgrass was the creative force and the form player of a squad weakened by lack of Allam investment, or interest, from the summer of 2016, during which time Steve Bruce finally declared he’d had his fill of Ehab Allam’s dimwittedness and walked away.

The saga of Snodgrass was interesting, as he’d spent more than a year on the sidelines with an appalling knee injury, suffered on his league debut for City in August 2014. City had nursed him back to health, as was their duty to a player badly injured while playing for them, but when attention to his good form in a misfiring squad under the ill-equipped Mike Phelan began to grow, it seemed he wasn’t inclined to dampen it down.

On one level, he was entitled to his inaction. After all, City were a basket case, with a hateful owner, a head coach out of his depth and a squad desperate for experience, form and just more bodies to select from. Yet there was also a perception that City’s patience with the well-paid Snodgrass should be replicated by the player, even though other clubs were fluttering their eyelashes his way, knowing that the Allams were far more interested in acquiring money than preserving good footballers.

Burnley and West Ham both bid, and it was the £7m offer by the Hammers that eventually won the day, with Snodgrass heading to London. It smarted with many, illustrated by the photograph of one City fan laughing at Snodgrass after he was substituted following an indifferent display for West Ham when returning to the Circle with his new club. City won that day but were still relegated, while Snodgrass was told in the summer he was surplus to requirements at West Ham, merely six months after joining and now he’s on a season-long loan in the Championship at Aston Villa. No-one won this battle, in the end.

5: Ian Ashbee
AshbeeIanNine years, three promotions, appearances in all four divisions, two career-threatening injuries, lifting a trophy at Wembley… all of this was going to make the exit of our greatest ever leader in January 2011 so much harder to bear.

Although 34 and slowing down, Ashbee seemed to be focused again after missing an entire Premier League season with injury, and under new manager Nigel Pearson, and back in the Championship, he was leading, contributing, tackling and encouraging in his usual manner. He even scored on the opening day of the season in his first match for 15 months. But the lure of working again with Phil Brown, the manager with whom he’d enjoyed the most glorious of days, was too much, and when the ex-City gaffer asked his former club to let their skipper join him at Preston, they agreed.

Despite a testimonial season potentially looming, Ashbee wanted to go, and after nine years of immense service it would have been harsh if City had stood in his way. And yet, just sometimes, one wonders what could have happened if they had…


FAMOUS FIVE: January window signings

Although the January transfer window is 15 years old this month, that’s only in the Premier League. Mere mortals who existed outside the elite in 2003 managed to struggle on for another three years before the restrictions on when to buy and sell players was extended to further down the football pyramid, and as such, City have only been involved in the mad scramble at the beginning of each calendar year since 2006. Most of the players we’ve signed in January during this period have been loanees, or were already at the club as loanees prior to a permanent move. But of those that walked through the door fresh as a daisy in January, not yet burdened by the cynicism and underachievement of Hull City AFC, we’ve plucked out five…

1: Jon Parkin
Despite everything that has gone down at the Circle in the last dozen years in terms of big occasions, promotions, finals, continental delights, subsequent falls from grace and, of course, major signings, the most famous January acquisition we’ve ever made, certainly among longer serving City fans, is still probably the rotund, risible Macclesfield striker on whom Peter Taylor splurged £150,000 in January 2006.

There was little doubt at the time that City, a fledgling side in the second tier after nearly 15 years away, were struggling for a regular goalscoring outlet, although wide on the left Stuart Elliott, against more brutal defences than he’d been used to, was doing what he could. Billy Paynter had arrived on loan and was bumbling along, unaware of his new surroundings (though Taylor made permanent his arrival in January too) while Ben Burgess was still not match fit after a long term injury and Danny Allsopp had been allowed to go home to Australia.

Taylor picked up the nippy Darryl Duffy when the window opened, a free scorer in his native Scotland, but he was an unknown here and reaction was minimal. Within hours, Parkin had also come through the door and the floodgates opened as aghast City fans remembered how ineffective, cumbersome and generally useless he had been when facing us in the colours of both York and Macclesfield.

Yet immediately, Parkin was magnificent.

For such an unathletic figure, he had a marvellous touch, with a sublime debut goal at home to Crystal Palace and a stunning Cruyff turn and finish at Stoke before January was over quickly showing up the doubters. He not only kept scoring but he was also performing – his best team display was at Leicester, even though he didn’t score and City lost 3-2 – right through until a memorable winner against Leeds in April 2006 that gave us our first win over the stained enemy in almost 20 years. As City clambered clear of the drop, Parkin ended the campaign out of the spotlight, his work done.

The tide turned in the close season when he reported for training quite substantially overweight, with City unable to find a shirt to fit him properly, and he was never properly convincing again either in aptitude or attitude, despite two goals against Sheffield Wednesday that earned City a (long overdue) first home win of the season in 2006/07 and a first ever win on live television.

His last act of consequence at City was a penalty at Middlesbrough in a memorable FA Cup third round replay in January 2007, by which time Phil Brown had taken over from the overawed Phil Parkinson as manager and allowed the unprofessional slob that Parkin had become to join divisional rivals Stoke on loan. Naturally, Parkin was a success there for a short time, before being recalled at the end of the season in an injury crisis and having to play against Stoke on their patch, something which angered him and, by dint of his savagely cavalier attitude on the pitch, angered City fans even more. Brown sold him to Stoke with barely a look back that summer.

He bummed around an array of lower league clubs after Stoke saw through him even quicker than we did, and left league football in the summer at the age of 35 to rejoin York, these days in the National League North. In his career he has been sent out on loan eight times and been handed five free transfers, a sure sign that his attitude was always an issue where his talent was not. Despite only 18 months at the club, Parkin’s was one of the most incident-packed, infamous careers at City of the modern era.

2: Nikica Jelavić and Shane Long

LongovicThey have to come as a pair, because in January 2014 we had the usual goalscoring problems that top flight football brings to 75 per cent of the clubs in it, especially newbies like City. Yannick Sagbo wasn’t good enough and Sone Aluko was rarely interested enough, while Matty Fryatt found that the ferocious pace of Premier League football wasn’t an ideal setting to make one’s return from a long-term injury. The likes of Nick Proschwitz and Aaron Mclean had long been ruled out of providing any top tier usefulness. Serious money on serious talent needed to be invested.

Steve Bruce cleverly went to Jelavić, out of favour at Everton but absolutely proven at the very highest level, as he knew the Croatian would be desperate for first-team football in order to make his country’s squad for the World Cup that summer. Two days after clinching his signature for £6.5m, the manager then dished out £7m to West Bromwich Albion in order to put sheer pace alongside Jelavić’s predatory instincts in the shape of Irish striker Shane Long.

The duo caused enough problems over the second half of the season to up City’s game, with four goals each a reasonably healthy return for a side that didn’t create a vast number of goalscoring opportunities per match. Yet their exploits were largely forgotten thanks to an FA Cup run for which both were ineligible, allowing Mclean and Proschwitz (round three), Fryatt (round four, quarter final, semi final) and Sagbo (round five, semi final) to score the goals that took City all the way to the final.

Long stayed until just after City’s debut in Europe, playing in both legs against AS Trenčin before joining Southampton for an inexplicable £12m before the Premier League season began. His reputation for diving to win penalties had begun to grate with City fans, even though he was quite often successful in doing so. Meanwhile, Jelavić went to the World Cup, adding his name to the very short list of City players to take part in the tournament, but once it was over his attitude to the club that hugely aided his prospects visibly deteriorated, despite eight goals in the relegation season that followed. After four games and one goal in the Championship, he joined West Ham for £2.8m, starting just one Premier League game for them, prior to disappearing six months later to take the money in China.

3: Jimmy Bullard
Signed in a blaze of publicity in January 2009, it was undeniably a seriously exciting deal. But the lack of outrage from Fulham fans suggested darker stuff surrounded the chirpy, scampering and ludicrously talented midfielder, mainly to do with the condition of his knees. Whatever actually happened at his medical is anyone’s guess, but after coming on as sub at West Ham for his debut, he took something of a hospital pass from future best mate Ian Ashbee and felt some studs grind down his knee, rendering him injured for an impossibly long time while on a ludicrously high wage for a criminally long time paid by a club that didn’t, it turn out, have any actual money.

How quickly things can change.

After a year of rumour and innuendo about his off-field antics while injured, Bullard finally came back a year later and was still obviously a very gifted footballer. But a second knee injury, albeit to a different knee, put him out of action again towards the end of 2009/10 and by the time he was in any shape to return, City had been relegated and his great defender, Phil Brown, had been replaced by Nigel Pearson. Bullard had his moments in the Championship – a winner in the last minute at Sheffield United won’t be forgotten in any hurry – but his wages, his refusal to accept similar terms elsewhere as a poverty-stricken City desperately tried to get shut of an increasingly poisonous figure and his generally unprofessional conduct while injured meant that when he finally left after a clash with goalkeeping coach Joe Corrigan, which allowed City to dismiss him on gross misconduct, uncompensated, it was a blessed relief. He remains utterly reviled.

4: Dame N’Doye
Senegalese striker signed for £3m on the last day of the 2015 deadline from Lokomotiv Moscow where he had been a reliable goalscorer. Transition to the Premier League, and in an ailing side, seemed quite straightforward at first as he scored in his first three home games as City beat Aston Villa and QPR, and drew with Sunderland.

The inconsistency of the side then enveloped that of the player, although he plundered two excellent second half goals to earn City a win at Crystal Palace that seemed set to aid the Tigers towards safety, especially as it was followed by a home win over Liverpool in which N’Doye excelled at leading the line.

It all came down to what is now an infamous relegation six-pointer against Burnley, and N’Doye’s off day was replicated by the side whose defeat sounded the death knell after two eventful seasons. N’Doye joined Trabzonspor in the summer for £2.2m as the Allams began the now familiar post-demotion task of selling off anyone that another club waves to, although he was soon back in England with a loan spell at Sunderland. He’s still at Trabzonspor today as a backup striker.

5: James Chester
Often the transfer window can be dominated by the acquisition of perceived ‘glamour’ players or the departure of club legends. City, a club learning to like itself again in 2010/11 under Nigel Pearson, did a bit of both during the January window when Matty Fryatt signed for £1.2m while Ian Ashbee called time on his nine years of illustrious service and leadership by going to Preston on a free.

Within all this, Pearson had the Manchester United training ground on speed dial and brought in a stack of players from Old Trafford of enormous promise but not quite deemed good enough to make the final big step. There was a winger, an industrious midfielder, a left back and a central defender, and it was the defender who was most obviously a class act from the start.

Chester was skilful, positionally sound and an excellent reader of the game, as well as consummate in the defender’s art of tackling – one of the cleanest tacklers we’ve ever seen – and aerial domination, despite not being the tallest. Rarely did he put a foot wrong during an illustrious, hugely popular City career that allowed him to develop his game alongside the experienced Jack Hobbs, before Steve Bruce arrived and rejigged the entire squad but without any detriment to the elegant defender he’d inherited.

Chester was a star in the Premier League despite being something of a lesser name alongside the likes of Huddlestone, Livermore, Jelavić et al and his reputation rose so high that talk of him being picked for England began just before he decided to take up an offer to play for Wales.

He scored in the FA Cup final, of course, which was all the more remarkable because injury suggested that he had absolutely no right to be partaking at Wembley at all, and continued to impress and do a quietly efficient job, even though his City career ultimately ended in relegation in 2015.

Chester went to West Brom for big, but not big enough, money and barely played in his favoured position, instead featuring as a left back under Tony Pulis, who quickly sold him after a season to Aston Villa following their own relegation. He is currently captaining the Villa side under Bruce, who knows how lucky he has been to have inherited a very special player twice over. Unquestionably a bargain purchase and one of our greatest ever defenders.


FAMOUS FIVE: Players for City and Leeds

A sizeable number of ex-City footballers down the years have been less than choosy regarding the company they keep when making other career decisions, hence why they have ended up at Leeds United. Still, the usual interest in the trip to Elland Road on Saturday cajoles us into reminding you of some of them. You’ll find here no Bremner nor Barmby, no Revie nor Mills – their involvement with both clubs is well documented enough. In the end, we narrowed it down after a bit of dawdling, and settled on these five…

1: Michael Bridges

Bridges M LeedsUnquestionably a brilliant footballer and few would argue that the ruination of his career by injury was a genuine misfortune for not just the player himself, but for the game, as high things were expected of him when he burst on to the scene at Sunderland, prior to becoming one of the many big-name signings at Elland Road that would cause such excitement.

A product of the Wallsend Boys Club that yielded so many professionals, Bridges was an ice cool finisher but his ruthlessness in front of goal belied a real gift on the ball; two-footed, visionary, intricate and incisive, it was hard not to admire from afar, not least because his height – 6ft 1in – made him unusually tall for such a natural and cultured player. At Leeds, who made £5m for him, he was a revelation with a 19-goal debut season at the age of just 21 as a rejuvenated outfit finished third in the top tier and made deep inroads into European competition.

Then it happened.

In a European tie against Beşiktaş, aged still only 22, Bridges suffered an impossibly broken ankle which, there and then, ruined his high level prospects forever. Over four years he had numerous abortive comebacks with Leeds, with fresh injuries coming as a side order to the original one. Loan moves and a free transfer duly followed. In the end, it was in the less salubrious surroundings of Carlisle United where he began to build a “big fish, small pond” career, knowing his chances of playing top tier football again were nil.

Bridges was excellent at Carlisle, making an immediate impact and scoring plenty of goals, despite only staying nine months. That was when City came in with £350,000 for him in August 2006, one of two strikers signed by new manager Phil Parkinson.

He took a little while to settle, but nobody who ventured to Leicester on an autumnal evening will forget his spectacular long-range goal that earned City – and Parkinson – a first win, but injuries again got in the way and yet again, his potential went unfulfilled. When Phil Brown took over, he questioned Bridges’ attitude a lot. In almost three years on City’s books, he started just nine league games and scored just two league goals. For all of his clubs, Bridges was a classic case of what could have been.

2: Chris Galvin
Galvin CEngland youth international who came through the ranks at Leeds in the 1960s but only played seven times in the league due to something of a strong, self-selecting midfield at the time.

He joined City in 1973 and stayed for six years, being one of the mainstays of a featureless, watertreading, barren decade that saw few flirtations with the top flight before a lousy relegation in 1978.

Galvin was never anything but a good, consistent footballer, but his stellar contribution to matches is always headed by memories of the two-step movement – the Galvin shuffle – he used to regularly deploy on opponents, not always successfully, which would often be more entertaining and darkly humorous than anything the team could achieve at the time.

He had a loan spell at York in 1976 which saw him score six goals, more than half his eventual league total for City, and he was given a free transfer towards the end of the 1978/79 season.

As he disappeared from view, his younger brother Tony was just starting to make inroads at Tottenham Hotspur, with whom he’d win domestic and European silverware.

3: Rui Marques

Marquez R

The Angolan defender was an import from Portuguese side Maritimo, joining Leeds in 2005 as a 27 year old. Yet his league debut in England was with City, whom he joined on loan in March 2006 as Peter Taylor’s side sought reinforcements in an awkward first season back in the second tier for 15 seasons. Marques played in the centre of a five-man defence at Ipswich as City drew 1-1, then got injured in training and went straight back to Leeds. His league debut for the club that actually purchased him came on New Years Day 2007, 18 months after his arrival, and he was part of a incredulously useless side that was relegated to League One that season, amid the chaos of the Bates regime and a ten-point administration penalty.

Marques stayed at Leeds until 2010, making 90 league appearances, and it’s safe to say his time at Elland Road isn’t remembered awfully fondly.

4: Ken DeMange

DeMange KUncompromising Irish international midfielder who emerged from the Home Farm academy of productivity to join Liverpool without getting a sniff of their first team, despite a debut for his country against Brazil, so went to Leeds in 1987. He had one season there, scored within seven minutes of his senior debut against Manchester City, and then left six months later when Brian Horton forked out a few quid for him to come to Boothferry Park.

There was something vaguely heroic about DeMange, who despite his Liverpool pedigree never looked like a properly comfortable footballer but was never slow in the tackle, earning him a hard man tag that got him into the side in 1988/89 under Eddie Gray, who remembered him from Leeds and kept his own signing Lee Warren out of the team. DeMange featured against his former Liverpool team-mates in the famous FA Cup fifth round tie of 1988/89 and played for four City managers in total before leaving in 1991 after relegation. Disillusioned, he retired on the spot aged just 26 to return to Ireland, before his London-based partner, an air stewardess, persuaded him to apply for a job as a baggage handler at Heathrow.

5: Andy Williams
Williams AMuch-travelled midfielder who didn’t turn pro until he was 23 after a long induction to adult football via the non-league game, but afterwards had a consistent, if rather nomadic career in which City was his seventh different club.

Spells at Coventry and Rotherham led him to Leeds in 1988 where he was an unsung but trusted midfield runner as Howard Wilkinson’s side eventually won promotion back to the top flight after an eight year absence.

Like many other players of that side, he was regarded as dispensable when the new season began (see also Vinnie Jones) and he played for four different clubs in three years before joining City in 1995.

Injury initially kept him out of the team, but in the wretched 1995/96 side that hurtled unstoppably towards relegation to the bottom division he was a rare figure of reliability within a side of next to no character at all.

He was freed at the end of that season and went to Scarborough before going back to where it all started in the non-league game.

He later became a rent collector and financial adviser.


FAMOUS FIVE: City in the FA Cup first round

City may not be in the FA Cup first round, but most of us can remember a time when we were always in it – and more pertinently, seldom got any further. As this weekend heralds media over-use of the word ‘proper’, we though we’d have a proper (ahem) hark back to days when City found themselves at the very start of ‘the road to Wembley’…

1: Bradford Park Avenue, 1965/66

The significance of this game was two-fold, and only apparent with a few months of hindsight. But at the time it looked like, and indeed was, an opportunity for City’s rampant Third Division side, scoring and conceding for fun, to put up a cricket score against a team who were a division below and drifting in mid-table.

That was the view when the draw was made anyway, and by the time the game arrived on November 13 1965, City had failed to score in only one league match thus far, with Chris Chilton, Ken Wagstaff and Ken Houghton already on 27 goals between them. The game at Horton Park Avenue was something of a zinger, befitting City’s tendency that season to leak like a sieve almost as prolifically as they scored, and a topsy-turvy tie ended 3-2 to the Tigers, with Houghton, Chilton and Ian Butler on the scoresheet.

City went all the way to the quarter finals, disposing of two higher division sides in the process, and later won the Third Division title. However, Bradford Park Avenue faltered in the bottom division to the extent that they were deselected in 1970 (replaced by Cambridge United) and went out of business in 1974. A team against whom City had battled regularly in the pre-war era and the post-war regionalisation was no more, with the FA Cup tie the last ever meeting between the two. Bradford Park Avenue instantly reformed as a Sunday League club and are now in the (badly-named) National League North, duelling with Ferriby, among others.

2: Morecambe, 2004/05

And to date, the very last FA Cup first round tie in City’s history. Going against the trend of expectation dominated by despair that one assumes when looking back at City’s achievements, the Tigers actually managed to win this, an experience not common during this period, and also tinged with minor regret because of the absence of ground-tickery nerdism made possible by a replay on the Lancashire coast that was four minutes away from happening.

It was no picnic, either. Morecambe led early on with a header from defender Jim Bentley, whose association with the club as a player lasted nine years, and he remains their manager to this day. City responded with a lovely curling shot from Stuart Green and the game was level at the break. Bullet dodged, all would be well.

Ah. Ex-Manchester United trainee Michael Twiss  ran on to a flicked goal-kick in the second half and put the non-league side back in front, but a judicious substitution by Peter Taylor helped City equalise quickly – the newly-introduced Jon Walters made an instant impact by pulling a clever ball back to Michael Keane to shoot into the roof of the net. At 2-2, City weren’t going to let this go now.

Walters steered in the winner – his first goal for nearly a year – with four minutes left and for the first time, City led. The heartbreak in the Morecambe players at the final whistle was visible but their day would come with promotion to the league in two years time. City, meanwhile, even managed to beat Macclesfield in the next round before coming a cropper against Colchester at the Circle in the third, in a game that made Taylor sign Craig Fagan afterwards. It was City’s first trip to the third round in five years, an achievement masked completely by promotion to the Championship in the summer.

And yes, a replay wouldn’t have been a ground tick under some people’s rules because Morecambe weren’t in the league. But they soon would be – so would it have been a ground tick then? Someone needs to come up with a final set of regulations, or alternatively, view more naked women. Maybe City did us all an extra favour by actually winning.

3: Stalybridge Celtic, 1932/33

The 8-4 victory over Whitby Town in 1996/97 might have broken numerous club and competition records, but 8-2 is evidently a more impressive scoreline. Just with that bit of armoury (and the fact that the Whitby game has been discussed to death here and elsewhere) we give a few lines of acclaim to Haydn Green’s marvellous side of 1932/33.

Three seasons before, City had managed a remarkable Jekyll and Hyde turn by being relegated from Division Two while reaching the FA Cup semi-finals, beating a couple of giants along the way. Green’s first full season was the recovery season, and how. Champions of Division Three (North) via a 100-goal attack and an unbeaten home record, they also bullied mercilessly the Cheshire County League side who weren’t long out of the league pyramid.

The season as a whole belonged in individual terms to new signing Bill McNaughton who scored a ludicrous 41 goals in 41 league games, but he was overshadowed at Bower Fold by inside left Russell Wainscoat, who stuck four into the opposition net with McNaughton managing a meagre one. Jack Hill, Fred Forward (a forward), and Charlie Sargeant completed the scoring. The home side, who’d scored also in the first half, got their second late on, meaning the chance to equal the 8-1 scoreline in the qualifying round of 1905/06 (against Grimethorpe United, pleasingly) had been scuppered, though it remains City’s biggest winning margin in the first round. They eventually went out to Sunderland in the third.

4: Hednesford Town, 1997/98

Eurgh. Who would have thought City would’ve sunk so low after appointing a vibrant young manager who could charm the birds from the trees and make rainbows appear with a click of his fingers? Hindsight is everything, but the Mark Hateley era stank from start to finish, yet nothing quite summed up his wretched period at the helm as this defeat to high-spending but still insignificant Conference nonentities.

There wasn’t much to blame the Hednesford players for, to be truthful. Carl Beeston made the most of his contact with Gregor Rioch in the box, and Duane Darby evidently wasn’t happy, but Rioch had no business sticking his leg out and remains vilified for the tackle to this day. Mick Norbury, the ultimate in awkward, limited non-league centre forward brutalists, put away the spot kick and the visitors led at the break.

Darby missed his kick in the six yard box with the goal at his mercy in the second half, then hit the bar with a far post header, before Rioch was robbed from a cleared free kick and Joe O’Connor ran without a moment’s worry to slot the second home in injury time and secure a famous win.

Not Rioch’s finest hour, nor the referee’s, and certainly not Hateley’s. His opposite number, John Baldwin – tinted pilot spectacles, ‘tache, grey suit – didn’t endear himself to the City fans by capering on the pitch at the final whistle, but one suspects to this day he really doesn’t care. Darlington beat his team by a solitary goal in the second round.

5: Rochdale, 1981/82

Three months after this tie was finally settled on neutral territory, it was announced that City would probably go out of business. The club had run out of cash and everyone – and everything – was up for sale. City had only just gone out of the FA Cup, thanks to a third round replay defeat at home to the (not so) mighty Chelsea, and the team were playing well, showing youthful exuberance, talent and no little promise.

What a strange time this was. It was in the Fourth Division, fresh terrain for the club after a hideous, hurtful relegation the year before, and although wounds took a little while to be fully licked, there was an element of peace around the place (barring the odd set-to when Bradford or Scunthorpe were in town). Then the FA Cup campaign began, and Rochdale came out of the hat first, with City following.

They were divisional rivals (though yet to face each other) and the first game at Spotland ended 2-2, with Billy Whitehurst and Steve McClaren scoring. The return at Boothferry Park finished in the same manner – Whitehurst this time joined on the scoresheet by Gary Swann. Extra time couldn’t separate them this time, so a third game was needed. Coin tosses were too controversial so Elland Road was hired, and again with 30 minutes tacked on, City finally won with a solitary McClaren goal.

The three games took place in nine days flat, and City did over Hartlepool at the first attempt in round two before falling – eventually – to Chelsea and then seeing the bottom fall out of their world. Six games can get you to the final of the FA Cup when you’re in the top two divisions; in this case, six games didn’t get City past the third round, but at least they got there. Not yet sick of the back teeth of Rochdale, they went on to win both league games against them with the axe hanging above, before the end of the season brought Don Robinson, Colin Appleton and much relief.


FAMOUS FIVE: Five six-goal hauls in 12 months

66teamHere’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.


A tribute to Les Mutrie,1951-2017

MutrieLIn these supposedly-liberated times, control of our reactions as individuals to the passing of one of our number has been seized by self-appointed trustees of our emotions, directing via mainstream or social media whom we must mourn (regardless we have any connection to or empathy with the departed soul in question) whom we must not mourn and, in the former case, the duration and intensity of our mourning. Fail to conform in any respect and for sure you will be branded cruel, nasty, vicious and possibly a hate criminal. So we conform.

Such is the pernicious effect of this manufactured emoting that it takes an event of huge sadness to shake us out of our blunted, automated response to death.

For most Hull City supporters and, one would hope, certainly all of a certain age, yesterday brought us one of those occasions. Those of us who had the pleasure of remembering Les Mutrie play for Hull City will surely have paused for at least a moment or two on hearing of his death in genuine and fond reflection on his memorable contribution to the Hull City cause.

A Geordie by birth, Mutrie was a talented and committed player for Hull City at a time when we had few that were either and plenty that were neither. The late 1970s, spilling over into the early 1980s, were increasingly grey years for Hull City, as the excitement of the Harold Needler years, Waggy, Chris Chilton, Terry Neill and even Chris Galvin and Dave Sunley, faded remorselessly away and the club’s prospects tipped inexorably downwards. Mike Smith, who had a fine record managing Wales, seemed an inspiring appointment but he never seemed to get to grips with the grind of club management. Players with solid CVs that he acquired, such as Nick Deacy, proved woefully inadequate to cope with the hurly burly of lower League football. The club was rickety off the pitch as well as on it, and descent into administration, though a shock when it occurred during season 1981/82 because in those days, unlike now, such calamities were rare and potentially fatal, was just desserts for wanton neglect. Boothferry Park itself was both reality and metaphor – a crumbling, rusty, increasingly unloved memorial of better but increasingly distant times.

But there was Les Mutrie.

You could clearly see how good he was when he played against us for Blyth Spartans in the famous Cup tie that extended over three matches. Les scored in all three of them before City finally won the second replay in extra-time at Elland Road, although Tony Norman famously saved his extra-time spot kick in the first replay at Croft Park to set up the decider in Leeds.


Impressed by Mutrie’s performances in the Cup games, Smith moved decisively and snapped him up for £30,000, at the time a record fee from a League club for a non-League player. Les was 29 before his League career properly got under way.

Given his evident ability (to which those of us who saw all three episodes of the Blyth trilogy will bear witness) it was a bit of a mystery why Mutrie never got a chance to step up earlier. He was, of course, on Carlisle United’s books in 1977/8, but only managed a mere five first team appearances and little is known of why he failed to make much of an impression. The most likely explanation is that, despite having just suffered relegation to Division 3, in those days Carlisle under manager Bobby Moncur were actually a pretty decent outfit, with a strong, mobile, pacy strike force. They had enjoyed a year in the top flight as recently as three years previously and would soon be back in the second tier with Bob Stokoe at the helm. Competition for places at Brunton Park will have been stiff.

Having returned to the non-League scene with Blyth, he was obviously determined to enjoy his second chance to be a professional, and he was terrific to watch and enjoy in dark times. Strong and mobile, he had a fantastic touch for quite a big man – he was more than  poacher, more than a target man: a really fine all round front man.

In fact there was a sense of watching a man from the past, a player unsullied by the flash and impudent antics that even by the early 1980s had infected the sport. With his matt-black hair, strong-boned features and guilelessly honest attitude to the game Les Mutrie carried a sense of truer times, of proper hard work, of toil for its own sake. There’s no call to begrudge the modern player his cash, his cars and his bling – the market dictates, and footballers create a lot more joy than the typical plummy-voiced hedge-fund manager – but there are few modern millionaire players who generate affection because, deep down, we believe they are just like us, the fans, only better at football. We don’t believe that – they aren’t like us. Not so Les Mutrie. You always felt he truly was just like us, the fans, only better at football. He went out every Saturday afternoon and put in a proper shift, laced it with flashes of genius, never shirked, and he was loved in consequence.

Most memorable goal (apart from for Blyth against us) came in a 4-1 horsing of Sheffield United 24 years ago nearly to the day, at a time when we almost never beat them and usually got royally cheated, when he picked up the ball out wide on the left, sort of near the corner between Bunkers and Kempton, and dribbled square before turning goalwards, beating several men and stroking the ball past whoever was in the Sheffield net (Keith Waugh?). If you’ve ever seen that Eddie Gray goal for Leeds against Burnley that Yorkshire TV used to repeat seemingly every five minutes, well Les’s against the Blunts was just as good. We hounded Sheffield United to perdition that day, and Les Mutrie (along with Brian Marwood) was at the forefront of it.

MutrieLScunHe offered up something equally memorable on a mild Friday evening in October of 1982 at the Old Showground. Games away to Scunthorpe would subsequently become sheer drudgery as we found ourselves in the same Division as the Iron for far too long as the Dolan years dragged us deep into misery, and Glanford Park was and is as uninspiring a football ground as has ever been built. But back in 1982 a trip over the bridge to the town of dreaming steelworks was still a novelty – it was only our second since the imperishable 1965/66 season – and the Old Showground, in the heart of the town and steeped in old-school tradition and long-term failure, was a bearpit. Thousands upon thousands of City fans poured into Scunthorpe, outnumbering the home support, and witnessed a ferocious encounter. We won 1-0. Scorer, Sir Les Mutrie. Superior players make their own time, even when all around them are howling and haring witlessly. So it was that far-off evening, as Les Mutrie showed canny ball skills, the deftest of touches and stroked the winning goal late on past a hapless Joe Neenan.

For long periods in its relatively-recent history Hull City have been a laughing stock, but there have been two points in time when the football world stopped laughing at us. One was of course when Ash’s curling effort took us out of the bottom tier in 2004, but that goal from Les Mutrie at Scunthorpe was another. That was the night when, after almost ten years of inexorable decline, Tigerfolk (and the football world) really started to believe that a promotion challenge was on.

All told, Les notched up 132 appearances in the amber and black, with an impressive half-century of goals, including a hugely-impressive 27 in the ill-fated 1981/2 season during which he found the net a record nine consecutive times. His haul of eleven the following season represented a valuable contribution to the promotion effort, but it was clear that he was not looked upon with as favourable an eye by Colin Appleton as he had been by Smith, and he found himself in the Tigers’ starting line-up with increasingly less frequency as the 1982/3 and 1983/4 seasons progressed and the likes of Steve Massey and Andy Flounders asserted themselves. Eventually after a loan spell at Doncaster he moved on to Colchester and later back to his native north-east with Hartlepool, leaving behind a treasure trove of vivid and wonderful memories and taking with him the affection and gratitude of the Tiger Nation.

But there was more to Les Mutrie than the mere footballer. Two anecdotes from his time with City illustrate this.


The first is a story recounted by one City diehard of long standing whose car was attacked by a bunch of home thugs while stuck in traffic after a City game at Tranmere, Prenton Park and its environs being a bit of a feisty place in those days. Any delight that the fan in question and his passengers might otherwise have felt at City’s victory that day was heavily overshadowed by the damage to the car and the realisation that they were decidedly lucky to have escaped a serous kicking, and it was a morose troupe of City fans sitting in Darley’s that evening and reflecting on the day’s events when Les Mutrie strode through the door and, eyeing the gloomy faces, enquired as to the reason why. On hearing what had happened Les promptly sat down, kept them company all evening and even paid for their beer.

The second story comes from the very early days of Don Robinson’s chairmanship, when the mercurial City supremo, conscious of how badly City’s stock had fallen with the East Yorkshire public against the background of the dramatic resurgence of both rugby league teams, arranged a series of meetings around the area with the players, one of which took place in a pub in Market Weighton, where one of the co-authors of this piece lived at the time. The players who attended were Steve McClaren and Les, and it was a marvellous evening, with plenty of frank opinions expressed, much fine debate about the Club and no question ducked by the City representatives, and one of the abiding memories of that night was the impression that both of them, and Les in particular, gave as thoughtful, articulate individuals, far removed from the increasingly oft-encountered stereotype of the thick, boorish footballer. What was also very apparent was that both of them genuinely cared about Hull City.

His passing at the relatively young age of 66 after a long battle against illness is deeply sobering, and the world –especially the football world – will be much the poorer without him. His final accolade from the Tiger Nation came a few short weeks ago, when the Hull City Southern Supporters launched their Hall of Fame. Aware of Les’s situation, the HCSS Committee (which, incidentally, includes a smattering of Nectarines) decreed that Les should be the first inductee, and sent him a book containing photos of him in City action accompanied by messages and reminiscences of him from HCSS members who had seen him play. Although his illness prevented him from replying personally, message was received from Les’s family that he was delighted by this gesture. Even in his darkest days his affection for Hull City still shone, and that says as much about the man as anything else. Truly one of us.

So farewell, Les, and thanks. You will be missed, but your place in the hearts and minds of the Tiger Nation is assured.

Ian Thomson and Steve Weatherill

Les Mutrie was born on April 1st 1951 and died on October 3rd 2017. He played 115 league games for Hull City between December 1980 and November 1983, scoring 49 goals.


FAMOUS FIVE: City’s longest winless starts to a season

Inspired by Crystal Palace’s woes, and because we’re a sucker for a City sob story right now, let’s “enjoy” the Tigers’ top five winless runs in the league at the start of a season…

1: 16 games – 1989/90
CAppletonIt’s the club record for winless starts and by a street too, and yet somehow did not end in relegation. It went some way though to ruining Colin Appleton’s terrific reputation with the Hull City support, and certainly ruined his elite football management career.

Appleton had been in charge for two seasons from 1982 to 1984 and, with no money to spend and a tight, talented squad grateful to still be in work after fear of liquidation, achieved promotion from the Fourth Division before going within a goal of a second straight elevation the following year. He then quit to go to Swansea but, five years and two more managers later, his old chum Don Robinson blinkeredly brought him back in the summer of 1989, this time to take control of a squad that was capable but misshaped.

A 1-1 draw with Leicester on day one wasn’t the worst of starts, then an incongruous 5-4 reversal at Bournemouth at least showed the team were being encouraged to attack, but the first win didn’t feel close. Appleton deserves a modicum of credit for making that odd-goal-in-nine loss in Dorset the only one in the first five games, but the draws and defeats wouldn’t stop coming. Keith Edwards, the previous season’s top scorer for both club and division, made a hasty exit when it was obvious he and Appleton had mutual dislike, while Billy Whitehurst also didn’t take to the slightly whimsical, offbeat and gentile method of man-management for which Appleton was renowned.

City took the lead in home games against Newcastle and Swindon but still lost on both occasions – the first true signs of unrest among the Tiger Nation came when City twice went ahead against Swindon thanks to creative brilliance from Ian McParland and headers from Peter Swan, but in the second half McParland was subbed and Swindon subsequently scored twice to win. Four of the next five games were drawn, three goallessly, but the torment may have continued for both support and manager had Robinson not stepped down suddenly through illness. His security blanket pulled from him, Appleton had been fired within hours of Richard Chetham becoming chairman.

Stan Ternent took over and immediately inspired the team to a 3-2 win at Bradford, 17 league games into the season. “Little Hull” was how the hateful Elton Welsby described us as he relayed the news on ITV’s results round-up that teatime. The remainder of the season had its setbacks but Ternent did more than enough to get bodies on the line again and City had four game winning streaks over the festive season and in April that aided the great charge up the table. A 14th placed finish turned out to be, bizarrely, better than the two previous seasons when City were never in relegation danger. Ten points clear by the end, and City started the season by drawing ten out of 16 games under Appleton. Coincidence? You figure it out…

2: Eight games – 1946/47
BuckeyMajorFThere had been a war on, you know. The evidence of it was clearer in Hull than it had been in most English cities, with the Luftwaffe flying over on its way out of a bombing mission and lightening its load of leftover explosives over the city on every occasion. The Anlaby Road ground was heavily damaged and City were playing their unofficial, regionalised, game-by-game based football at the Boulevard. There was no regular team available, nowhere permanent to play and no money in the bank, so on the cessation of hostilities, the 1945/46 season was without City.

Harold Needler then came to the fore and took over the club, issued shares to the Hull public which were snapped up hungrily, and as a result, financed the completion of Boothferry Park and raised a team via the appointment of Major Frank Buckley as manager with additional administrative responsibilities. The team, however, was entirely made up of new faces, some had never played professional football before, and as a result cohesion, familiarity and suitable tactical plans led to an eight-game winless run at the start.

Draws against Lincoln and Crewe were followed by five straight defeats and another draw, before finally a Ben Lester hat-trick led City to a 3-1 win at Tranmere. The first win at the new ground followed against Darlington, and despite a season which lasted ten months due to a horrid winter and an often unusable pitch, City finished 11th in Division Three (North). They used 43 players in total; over the first eight winless games they used 20, which was some going in the days before substitutes.

3: Seven games – 1980/81, 1990/91, 2000/01
MikeSmithTottenham used to win a cup when the year ended in one; it seemed City used to start the same seasons really, really badly. Both 1980/81 and 1990/91 ended in phenomenally embarrassing relegations when there was nothing unlucky about it, the team was just really, really poor on both occasions (despite the goals scored by Payton and Swan in the latter). Sharp contrast with 2000/01, however, as the seven game winless sequence at the start contrasted with a run into the play-offs for the first time in the club’s history. All well documented, and Brian Little’s side drew five of their seven, while Stan Ternent’s 1990/91 side and Mike Smith’s 1980/81 lot each drew four.

4: Six games – 1924/25, 1985/86, 2002/03, 2006/07
MolbyJCity stumbled around the middle part of Division Two for a long period between the wars, and the only thing that made 1924/25 more notable, or notorious, was the slightly dodgy than usual start. Four of the winless games saw the Tigers fail to score, and just two draws during this period meant it looked genuinely shaky for a while. Paddy Mills, third in City’s all-time scoring rankings to this day, was the difference, scoring in each of the two games when City didn’t draw a blank and maintaining his form all season to rack up 25 for the campaign as City climbed the table around December and January. The tenth placed finish could have been better but for Mills missing four games through injury around March and April, and City couldn’t find anyone else to put a chance away.

The 1985/86 campaign very nearly ended in promotion to the top flight under Brian Horton, so the winless start is all the more remarkable. New to the Second Division after a seven-year absence, City drew four and lost two before giving Millwall a 3-0 cuffing at Boothferry Park. Form varied for a while as Billy Whitehurst’s future was in doubt, but Horton replaced the big man with Andy Flounders after Newcastle came in with big money, and healthy runs in the New Year helped the Tigers finish sixth, in the year before play-offs were introduced. It was City’s second highest finish in the post-war era to that point, just a place lower than Terry Neill’s side of 1970/71.

In 2002/03, the six-game winless start was genuinely awful, as Jan Mølby struggled to instill his beliefs and discipline levels on a side that contained some exciting talents that just needed to be channeled properly. Four draws and two defeats prior to a win at Cambridge that included a Shaun Smith free kick, but even a 4-0 cuffing of Carlisle the following week couldn’t dispel the nagging doubt that City had appointed the wrong man, and the Dane left after the 12th game of the season, a 1-0 defeat at his old club Kidderminster. Peter Taylor arrived and, despite two worrying disparate goalless spells in the winter, did enough to raise the team to 13th and plot a proper assault on the lowest division the following year.

The 2006/07 start of six without a win feels like it should have been longer, as the need for a first victory under new manager Phil Parkinson seemed to take forever. It could have been so different, as City lost unfairly at West Brom on the opening day and then let a two-goal lead turn into a 3-2 home defeat by Barnsley, still regarded to this day as the moment the inexperienced but highly-rated Parkinson lost his nerve, and lost the dressing room. Eventually, a Michael Bridges stunner at Leicester got City the first win under the manager, and immediately afterwards the TV cameras witnessed a 2-1 victory over Sheffield Wednesday, but the players didn’t believe in the manager and the losses, with truly execrable displays beneath them, piled up sufficiently for Parkinson to lose his job in the December.

5: Five games – 1934/35, 1968/69
BrittonCThe 1934/35 season was a second season of consolidation for City after promotion to Division Two just two years before, but under new manager John Hill, who left the first team squad to become gaffer, it started unpromisingly. Not just in a five game winless run, but within the first game of the campaign, as City took a 6-4 shoeing at Plymouth Argyle. Four of the five were defeats, before City took West Ham apart at Anlaby Road and settled down. The 13th place finih offered some promise, but everyone was off colour the following year and Hill resigned before relegation back to regionalised football was confirmed.

The biggest criticism aimed at Cliff Britton during his near-decade at the helm of Hull City was that he never took defending as seriously as he should. This is proved even in glory days, when one notes the number of goals that City conceded in winning the 1965/66 Third Division title. Britton always felt his masterful front line would outscore the opposition on any given day, but the beginning of 1968/69 suggested otherwise. Chilton, Wagstaff and Houghton all missed a game each through injury as Blackpool and Blackburn Rovers inflicted harsh defeats, before a mild recovery with draws against Fulham (goalless), Oxford and eventual champions Derby. A 3-0 win over Middlesbrough stopped the rot and began a nine-game unbeaten run. With Britton’s side, it really felt like all or nothing, but the 11th placed finish, following a 12th and a 17th since promotion, began to feel like stagnation and prompted the slow process of identifying his long-term replacement. Britton willingly spent the next season (13th, his last league position) helping to find him.

City also began five seasons with a four match winless run.


FAMOUS FIVE: Players for City and Reading

There are currently four ex-City players in the Reading squad, so it feels as opportune a moment as any to remind ourselves of a random quintet of other players who featured for both the Tigers and the Royals…

1: Stephen Hunt
Probably Reading’s most notorious player of the modern era simply for one challenge on a goalkeeper that defined his, and the goalkeeper’s, subsequent careers. Hunt’s knee went in on a diving Petr Čech during a match between Reading and Chelsea in 2006, leaving the keeper with a depressed skull fracture. It led to long recriminations from Chelsea fans (and a raging Jose Mourinho) and Čech has played every game since with a protective helmet. Hunt always denied any malicious intent but his infamy was sealed at that point.

He joined City in the summer of 2009 after Reading’s relegation and started brilliantly, scoring the first goal of the whole Premier League season at, of all places, Chelsea. For long periods, the chippy, skilful Irishman was City’s best player in a difficult, hurtful season and even when he was ruled out for the last couple of months with injury, the general incompetence elsewhere in the side meant he was still voted player of the year by fans.

His parting shot was crossing his crutches above his head to the East Stand during the lap of “honour” after the final game of the season, and again he moved to maintain a Premier League place after City’s demotion, joining Wolves. The recipient of 39 caps for the Republic of Ireland, he also played for Ipswich and Coventry before retiring last year.

2: Mick Tait
TaitMHe’s on a historic list and will never leave it, but it’s fair to say attacking midfielder Mick Tait didn’t live up to expectations after he joined in a club record £150,000 deal from Carlisle in September 1979.

The manager who signed him, Ken Houghton, got the sack three months later and replacement Mike Smith wasn’t interested, happily getting two thirds of the money back in the summer of 1980 when Tait joined Portsmouth.

Tait was, however, a dogged individual and played senior football for 22 years, starting with Oxford as a 16 year old and ending with Hartlepool at 42. In between, he played for eight other clubs, and after seven years and two divisional titles at Pompey, joined Reading in 1987.

He was in the side that won the 1988 Simod Cup, quite famously for such a low profile competition, when having already dumped other top tier teams out in earlier rounds, they beat Luton Town 4-1 at Wembley. Tait, playing up front, scored one of the goals.

When Tait stopped playing for Hartlepool to become their manager in 1998, he had played 760 league games, the 13th most selected performer in English football history. The fewest he played for one club was 33 – at City.

3: Steve Swales
Swales, Steve (2000-2001 photoshoot)One of the footballing sons of Whitby, which feels like it could be quite an exclusive group, Swales began his career down the coast at Scarborough before heading south to Reading, where he played semi-regularly through injuries during a decline for the Royals.

A change of manager meant he was freed after three years, and he returned to Yorkshire for the remainder of his career, starting with a move to City under Warren Joyce, slotting in at left back and making sure in the process that Gregor Rioch would not need to darken black and amber doors again.

Joyce’s rebuilt defence included heroes of the future like Jon Whitney and Justin Whittle, so Swales was left out of the glory of the Great Escape a bit, but he proved to be a hardworking and consistent player.

Injuries took their toll afterwards and eventually he left in 2001. He went to Halifax Town but suffered relegation from the league the following year, and remained in non-league thereafter with a spell at hometown club Whitby Town, followed by stints nearby at Pickering and Bridlington. He now works on oil rigs.

4: Dennis Butler
Long-serving full back of the great 60s side who joined City from Chelsea in 1963 and spent six years supporting and protecting unrelated namesake Ian down the left flank as the Tigers ran riot up front, peaking with the exceptional Third Division title win of 1966.

It was said about Butler that he was so athletic and well balanced, he could run just as quickly backwards as he could forwards, a handy trait to have given that this attack-at-all-costs City era often meant the defence was left a bit wide open when possession was coughed up.

He made his debut on the opening day of 1962/63, missing only four games that season, and went largely unchallenged for the number 3 shirt until a spell out with a rare injury in 1968 allowed Don Beardsley an impressive run in the side. Butler’s last game for City was a 1-0 defeat at Middlesbrough in November 1969, before he joined Reading. He stayed there for nearly five years, making nearly 200 senior appearances.

5: Liam Rosenior
Outstanding, conscientious right back who could well win any vote for the most successful freebie City has ever acquired. After making his name with Bristol City and Fulham, Rosenior joined Reading in 2007 and played Premier League football at the Madejski Stadium, before falling out of favour after relegation in 2008. He joined City in October 2010 as a free agent.

Instantly, it was obvious he was a fine footballer, comfortable at right back as City regrouped and learned to like themselves again under Nigel Pearson. Rosenior continued to excel under Nick Barmby and Steve Bruce, especially when the latter signed Ahmed Elmohamady and the two formed a superb partnership down the right flank. Sadly, the change to a 3-5-2 meant that Rosenior either played out of position or not at all, but even then he continued to perform as an uncomplaining squad member, and his stint at left wing back (including in the FA Cup final) was impressive.

In a move that upset a lot of fans, Bruce controversially released him in the summer of 2015 after 144 league games and he joined Brighton, who are now in the Premier League, although fitness issues and competition for places has meant Rosenior has found it difficult to play regularly. Such is his standing in the game, he is now a columnist for the Guardian, and everyone, including his nan, knows he should still be playing for City.


FAMOUS FIVE: The last five 5-0 defeats

Friday night’s debacle at Derby was the 22nd 5-0 defeat in league football suffered by City. As we can’t resist a spot of black humour, let’s look at numbers 21 down to 17…

1: Wigan Athletic (h) 2008/09
BrownWOoorgh, bit too fresh in the memory, this. Afterwards it was cast by the ever-reserved tabloid media as the day our bubble burst, when the upstarts of the Premier League got put in their place, and similarly condescending, clichéd tosh. Three games into a new season in a wholly new division, blinking furiously at the bright lights of showbusiness in football, and we were absolutely stuffed.

That it happened against the previously least fashionable Premier League team of the modern era made it all the more galling, and bizarre too. We’d beaten Fulham and drawn at Blackburn, so by losing to Wigan (managed by Steve Bruce) it just completed the set. But the manner of it was dreadful.

Sam Ricketts, standing at the near post, miskicked an equally poorly hit Kevin Kilbane corner into his own net to start the ball rolling early, then future Manchester United mainstay Antonio Valencia scored a quick second on the break.

Two in five minutes from Amr Zaki – oh, how we wished he would play for us – midway through the second half scuppered any minuscule hopes of a glorious comeback, then Emile Heskey comfortably stuck away the fifth.

It’s remembered chiefly for being Wayne Brown’s only Premier League game, and he was given such a scorching by Zaki and Heskey that he never played for City again. As for Kilbane, we’d like to think there were other reasons than one mishit corner to prompt City to purchase him the following January.

The bubble was indeed burst, but a reshuffle and an international break later, we went up to Newcastle, put on their shorts and socks and beat them. The two away games that followed were at Arsenal and Tottenham. Any idea what happened?

This is one of only two occasions that City have lost 5-0 at home – the other was against Lincoln in 1959.

2: Wrexham (a) 1995/96

It’s sufficient to say that this was a catastrophic season, statistically among our worst ever and culminating in a relegation that would be felt for years to come. Such seasons make it harder for grieving supporters to hate any other team as much as they hate their own, but Wrexham must still be a candidate.

Basically, by the time they stuffed us at theirs in April 1996, we’d played them four times. A 1-1 draw at Boothferry Park was followed by two truly abysmal goalless draws in the FA Cup, the second of which facilitated the further ignominy of Wrexham winning the penalty shoot-out. Then, finally, this.

Wrexham were in the European Cup Winners Cup that season, too, and made the FA Cup quarter finals the following season. Yet the turnarounds in football can marry poignantly on occasion; the season City were promoted to the Premier League for the first time, Wrexham were relegated to the Conference – and there they remain, having lost three play-off semis in nine seasons.

3: Aston Villa (a) 1987/88
New Years Day. Hangovers everywhere. And the fixture computer sends a semi-resurgent City to the Midlands to take on Aston Villa, still smarting over their relegation the year before with the sense of entitlement that festers through a new generation of Villa fan to this day.

In 1987, relegation was notable though as, unlike the modern incarnation, Villa were recent champions of England and, consequently, able to become even more winners of the European Cup. Five years after lifting the biggest domestic trophy in football into the Dutch night sky, they were down, and still with a handful of players from that glory night on their books.

It was billed as a top of the table clash of sorts, as the Christmas fixtures had left Villa third and City sixth. It didn’t look anything but equal out there, however, and Withernsea’s own Stuart Gray gave the home side a half-time lead.

Graham Taylor slung on second half substitute Warren Aspinall for the second half and he scored a straightforward brace, with goals also from Andy Gray (the one that played for England a few years later) and Alan McInally. Of the European Cup winning squad, only two were on show that day – Allan Evans, stalwart Scottish centre back and skipper, and Pat Heard, unused sub in Rotterdam and City’s left back and penalty taker. And when we got a penalty, the baying Holte End condemned the decision vociferously, so Heard kicked the ball straight at them to shut them up. We think.

Villa maintained their form, for the most part, and went up as runners-up, a tad fortunately, while City beat Leeds two days later before going on a 14 game winless run that cost Brian Horton his job just after transfer deadline day.

4: Millwall (a) 1985/86


Let’s face it, in the mid-1980s if you got away from Cold Blow Lane with a 5-0 defeat and your nose still in the vicinity of your face, you’d had a decent day out. The lack of hospitality at the Den, in either of its incarnations, is renowned but in the 1980s it was at its most seething, spitting, nasty, hateful and perilous, and to visitors who felt needle was part of the game, it was actually good fun. And a late December game there didn’t really include an awful lot of goodwill to all men.

City were a good side and Millwall were burgeoning, so it was a footballing occasion in the making, away from the nonsense on the terraces. Steve Lowndes gave them a half time lead, then a Robert Wilson brace and further goals from Alan Wilson and John Fashanu took it away from the Tigers.

Anything else notable? Well, games like this got Millwall gaffer George Graham noticed by his former club Arsenal, and he was off there before long to win league titles and European trophies. As for City, they somehow didn’t shift from tenth place after losing this one, and ended up sixth – three above Millwall. To be fair, it was a freak result within a terrific run of wins – two on one side of the defeat, and three on the other.

5: Huddersfield Town (a) 1980/81
Three of these five fivers seem to have happened over the festive period. Coincidence? Or did Ian Blakey insist that over-indulgence each Christmas was club policy?

And 1980/81 was another of those seasons impossible to unsee. City were deplorable all season and rarely more so than when they visited Leeds Road for the final game of 1980. Well, we say rarely so, but a month earlier City had gone to Barnsley and suffered the same fate with largely the same team. We couldn’t say we weren’t warned.

Huddersfield, aiming for promotion, were 2-0 up at the break and coasted to their quintet of goals in the second half. Names familiar with YTV viewers of the era – Brian Stanton, Terry Austin, David Cowling, Mark Lillis, Ian Robins. At the other end, Stuart Croft made his 190th and final appearance for City.

We do wonder if Huddersfield fans remember this game at all, as in that season our name is far more familiar to them for the 2-1 defeat we inflicted on them at Boothferry Park late in the campaign thanks to two late goals, scuppering their promotion hopes in the process. We were already down so had to get whatever joy we could.

City have also lost 5-0 once in the FA Cup, twice in the League Cup and three times in wartime football, while there have been other scorelines with five goals margins.