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FAMOUS FIVE: City players and sustenance

Fat goalkeepers eating pies appear to be newsworthy these days so, while not underestimating the bigger picture over betting’s crazy hold on football, we felt obliged to write something about sustenance connected with City players and staff, while dodging the Needlers sweets being chucked into the crowd…

1: Pie
DixonWilfYes, we have a pie story too. Maybe there wasn’t the betting wing of a national newspaper involved on this occasion in 1973, but a pie still made up part of the headlines in an FA Cup tie at Coventry City back then.

It was much less sophisticated than a morbidly obese backup keeper scoffing it on telly for cash, mind. Wilf Dixon, assistant manager to Terry Neill, was struck in the face by a half-eaten crusty foodstuff aimed from someone among the home fans at Highfield Road just as he innocently strolled towards the away dugout. The culprit wasn’t apprehended, the pie was crushed underfoot (what a waste) and City lost the fifth round tie 3-0.

2: Coca Cola

WindassD94Well, we’d hope the Coke can lobbed at Dean Windass during a game at Cardiff contained said fizzy drink and not something more, er, organic, as the City striker opted to swig from it prior to scoring the penalty which had so antagonised the Cardiff fans in the first place. Even if it was flat, it was probably nicer than Tiger Cola.

3: Chocolate mousse

WhitehurstB“Locker room talk” became a buzz phrase during the recent presidential elections in the USA. However, even the most ardent apologist for the apricot-hued misogynist eventually given the role of leading the free world would struggle to comprehend the kind of “locker room” activity that occurred at City during the reign of one William Whitehurst.

The story is grotesque so, assuming you have not heard what is a very frequently told yarn before, don’t read on if you are of a nervous or delicate constitution. Whitehurst consumed a chocolate mousse, filled the empty pot with a similarly coloured, er, “natural substance” and then instructed an unnamed apprentice to return it to Kwik Save at Boothferry Park because it was “off”. Whitehurst admits it happened so there’s nothing apocryphal going on here, and we hope the apprentice in question, not to mention the poor staff member at Kwik Save who had to deal with the complaint (assuming it got that far), was able to recover their belief in humanity, not to mention to consume chocolate without feeling ill or coprophilic.

4: Oranges

McKechnieA well-thumbed tale. Having been spotted eating an orange on his stroll home from training, City keeper Ian McKechnie found a couple in his net at the next home game, sucked on them during his quieter spells and a deluge of oranges would then follow at all his remaining games for City.

It went further on occasion – he once appeared as a defence witness in court for a City fan arrested for chucking an orange his way at an away game, while someone’s declaration of love, complete with a phone number, scrawled on an orange turned out to be a schoolgirl and her embarrassed mum, uncovered when McKechnie and a Hull Daily Mail reporter turned up at their house.

McKechnie died last year, and at his funeral, oranges were thrown into his grave.

5: Onion

PearsonStuFoul and abusive language is commonplace in football, even though it is an offence when used towards an official. City striker Stuart Pearson found this out at Hillsborough in 1972 when, having been denied what he felt was a clear City throw-in, he called the linesman an “onion”.

The linesman flagged furiously to alert the referee and, after a brief discussion, Pearson was sent off. Sadly, the footage doesn’t show the dismissal, though it does show the two goals Pearson scored prior to his vegetablist indiscretion. Given what some players call officials to their faces, it has always felt like a decision that exposed the pomposity of officials rather than teach a lesson of deference to a footballer.

City lost the game 4-2, Pearson got a two-match ban and the linesman couldn’t stop crying for hours. If only Pearson had held him under water while insulting him.

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FAMOUS FIVE: Players for City and Arsenal

Arsenal v City this weekend. We’ve had a few players in common down the years, and we’ve picked an interesting quintet out for you…

1: Jay Simpson

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Stocky striker of the “sticks his bum out” type so loathed by defenders, who was close to proper progression from the ranks at Arsenal – two goals in three League Cup appearances and loads of plaudits and goals in various loan spells – prior to his coming our way on a free in the summer of 2010, one of Nigel Pearson’s first acquisitions as he began clearing up the debris from Premier League relegation.

Simpson took a while to settle and was never prolific, but once Sone Aluko arrived under Steve Bruce in 2012, they formed a genuinely artistic, watchable and successful strike partnership, showcasing an instant understanding as City gained promotion under the new manager at first go. Highlights included the first goal of Bruce’s reign in a 1-0 win over Brighton, and one from the byline that looked a physical impossibility as City beat Wolves at the Circle.

He was the headline-maker among the released players that summer, with 13 goals in 86 senior appearances. He went to Leyton Orient for three years where his scoring record was close to one in two in league football, and is now in the USA. He’s still only 28.

2: David Rocastle

RocastleDavidArseAn all-time hero of Arsenal and a rare breed of Arsenal footballer whom fans of all clubs could admire. Rocastle was the skilful winger with exquisite touch, strength, vision and incisiveness that played a key role in Arsenal’s rise to the top under George Graham, winning two League titles and a League Cup, picking up a smattering of England caps along the way, before he was insanely sold to Leeds United.

His time at Elland Road wasn’t a success, and spells at Manchester City and Chelsea were equally frustrating and injury-hit, and somewhat inexplicably, he joined a struggling City on loan, with Mark Hateley using his contacts to get us someone who was probably the most skilled player we’d ever seen in the black and amber, despite the level the rest of our team was at.

Rocastle played 11 times, scored once, galvanised everyone who was there to witness his performances, and then left again. His last game for the Tigers – a home defeat to Chester on Boxing Day 1997 – was his last game in English football, aged just 30. Three and a half years later, he had succumbed to non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and all of football mourned him.

3: John Roberts

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Gangly Welsh international defender who impressed enough at Swansea and Northampton in the late 60s to earn a move to Bertie Mee’s Arsenal, where he earned a title medal in 1971, although didn’t make their victorious FA Cup final squad. Forever behind Frank McLintock and Peter Simpson in the pecking order, Roberts went to Birmingham City in 1972 and then back to Wrexham, before finishing his professional career with City, signing in 1980.

By now 34, Roberts stayed for two seasons but injury meant he only played in the first of those as City were relegated to the Fourth Division under his former international manager Mike Smith. His last game came in January 1981, when he also scored his only goal for the club in a 3-2 loss against Charlton.

Roberts went back to Wales to play non-league football and subsequently worked as a driving instructor. He died last year, aged 69.

4: Vito Mannone

MannoneArseReliable, fierce-looking Italian goalkeeper who came on loan twice from Arsenal’s reserves and, with City fans wondering if we were ever going to sign a keeper of our own again, the most impressive of the loanees we had in between Boaz Myhill’s sale in 2010 and Allan McGregor’s arrival in 2013.

Mannone’s consistency was his greatest asset and it was irritating that City couldn’t get him permanently due to lack of funds, because Arsenal were quite content to sell him – and did so, to Sunderland, where he remains to this day. He fended off relegation twice before losing his place to youngster Jordan Pickford, but is now back in the team.

5: John Hawley

HawleyJohnArseStill a name of folklore in the game thanks to his apparent status as football’s last amateur, owing to his arrangement with City in the 1970s that saw him score goals for his bus fare home while training as an antique dealer in the family business.

Withernsea-born Hawley finally turned pro in 1976, four years after his City debut. He joined Leeds in 1978 following City’s relegation to the Third Division and he was a moderate success at Elland Road at a time when they were in sharp decline. He only stayed there a year before going to Sunderland, scoring a hat-trick in his first game, and then joining Arsenal in 1981, where he was not a success.

The North Bank got on his back and he returned for a loan at City in 1982 before joining Bradford, where he was on the pitch during the 1985 fire at Valley Parade and took part in the rescue of fans. He ended his career at Scunthorpe before returning to the antiques trade, which he still does to this day while also doing hospitality gubbins at the Circle on matchdays.

When Hawley joined Arsenal, it was the first – and, as it turned out, only – time that Terry Neill had signed one of his former charges at Boothferry Park.

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FAMOUS FIVE: Ex-Tigers scoring against City (version 2.0)

When Tom Cairney put one away against City for Fulham last season, we did a Famous Five on ex-Tigers scoring against us. Now Sone Aluko has followed suit, playing for the same club as Cairney, so we’ve done another round of ’em. It’s not as if there aren’t enough to choose from…

1: Keith Edwards

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Edwards was genuinely as natural a predator as any other striker in City’s history, if perhaps not as obvious a team player as those before him. He joined City in 1978 from Sheffield United, scored a ton of goals in some seriously failing sides, and went straight back to Bramall Lane in a huff three years later after relegation to the bottom tier.

Edwards was not a popular figure by the end, making it clear that Fourth Division football wasn’t for him, a standpoint that might have held firm had the club he scuttled back to not also been demoted alongside City the year before. Edwards banged in 35 league goals on his return to South Yorkshire and the Blades won the title, but none of those goals came against City – for that, he needed an FA Cup tie the following season.

It was a simple process for Edwards; he scored the equaliser in a 1-1 draw in the first round tie at Boothferry Park, and then another in the replay at Bramall Lane which ended 2-0. They ended up in the third round, where they were defeated by Stoke, and Edwards ended up back at Boothferry Park in 1988 after detours via Leeds and Aberdeen. More prolific than ever, he topped the Second Division scoring charts in 1988-89 before Colin Appleton let him go again.

2: Marlon King

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King was superb during his four month loan spell at City. Signed by Phil Brown at the start of the Premier League adventure in 2008, he led the line with strength, real skill, bravery and a self-belief that regularly overflowed into visible arrogance. It made him a great footballer, and also made him a massive idiot.

After scoring a winner against Middlesbrough from the penalty spot in December 2008, King went to London in the evening for a night out. He was then arrested for assault and City terminated his loan instantly, having already dealt internally with a fight between King and Dean Windass in a casino. He temporarily joined, of all teams, Middlesbrough and, still on bail, played against City in April 2009.

The vitriol aimed King’s way was incessant; you could tell that even the Middlesbrough fans weren’t exactly cock-a-hoop at having such a dubious character in their colours. However, when he scored the third goal in a 3-1 win (in which City were appalling) they cheered as loudly as at any other time. The goal was simple for a player of his talent, taking a loose ball as City left bodies up front and sliding it past Matt Duke with total authority.

The abuse he got from City fans as he celebrated, and then sauntered off the pitch victorious a few minutes later, was loud and long – and, as it turns out, justified, as he was eventually given 18 months for ABH and indecent assault, and was sacked by his parent club Wigan Athletic the moment his conviction was confirmed.

3: Andy Mason

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This striker was nothing but insignificant to City fans who remember him clodding hopelessly about the pitch in the latter Terry Dolan era as neither use nor ornament prior to his departure early in the 1996/7 season, considered not good enough for City’s first campaign in the bottom tier for 13 years. He played ever so briefly for Chesterfield before joining Macclesfield, with whom he faced City in the first round of the 1997/98 League Cup.

The early stages of the competition were still two-legged affairs back then, and the opener at Moss Rose saw Mason subbed midway through the second half, his ineffectiveness summing up the goalless game itself. Two weeks later, he trotted on to the Boothferry Park pitch, giving off no air of superiority whatsoever, but still bundled in a 47th minute equaliser to Richard Peacock’s early strike.

Dumbfounded looks, guppy fish at feeding time, enveloped the old place, and extra time was ultimately required. As an away goal, Mason’s strike came within three minutes of winning the visitors the tie, only for Warren Joyce to grab a winner in the 117th minute. City went on to beat Crystal Palace, memorably, in the second round before losing at Newcastle in the third.

Mason, meanwhile, couldn’t make the grade even at Macclesfield, and started a long trawl around the non-league pyramid with Kettering at the end of that season. His goal at Boothferry Park was the only one he got for the Silkmen.

4: Stuart Pearson

PearsonMU

It’s easy to argue a case for Pearson, a burly, fast-paced centre forward from Cottingham, as being the most successful player ever to begin his career with the Tigers. He played in four Wembley finals for two different clubs, winning a brace of FA Cups; he won two Second Division titles, again with two clubs; and was for a short period in the late Revie era of the England team, the first choice striker for his country.

The natural successor to Chris Chilton after the great man left in 1971, Pearson was never quite as prolific, taking stick from the terraces on occasion in the process, but impressed Tommy Docherty sufficiently during his brief tenure as assistant to Terry Neill for him to come back with a £200,000 offer in 1974 as manager of Manchester United.

Pearson was still in the Second Division when he moved to Old Trafford, courtesy of United’s infamous relegation the season before, and was part of a new broom of young, unproven but gifted footballers whom Docherty felt could define the remainder of the decade.

City hosted Manchester United in the autumn but Pearson missed the game, a 2-0 City win, due to injury. However, at Old Trafford in February 1975, Pearson scored one and made one for full back Stewart Houston as United ran out comfortable winners by an identical scoreline, and went on to win the Second Division title.

He was a runaway success at Old Trafford until 1979 when, with knee problems and Joe Jordan ahead of him in the pecking order, he joined West Ham United. He didn’t play against City again.

5: Alf Toward

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The costliest goal by an ex-Tiger ever, explained in mesmerising detail here

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FAMOUS FIVE: City in the FA Cup fourth round

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It may surprise you to learn that City have won more FA Cup fourth round ties than lost, with a 54% success ratio. Of course, statistics can be somewhat blinding, and City have only ever contested the last 32 of the competition 26 times before this weekend, which isn’t a stellar record for a club with 113 years of history. Getting to the fourth round itself used to be regarded as an achievement not so long back, with a notorious 20-season spell of recent vintage seeing the Tigers exiting the competition at the third round stage – at best. Anyway, we’ve looked at those 26 fourth round ties and highlighted five of them…

1: 1927 v Everton
1927cup

The first FA Cup fourth round tie City managed to win came in historically one of the most successful seasons in the club’s history. Everton had their ace goalscorer Dixie Dean settled in their team by now but were struggling at the wrong end of the First Division, whereas City were a comfortable and threatening presence in the top half of Division Two.

The Tigers had already beaten one top tier side in the third round with a 2-1 win on Anlaby Road against West Bromwich Albion but made much harder work of it against the Toffeemen in a first ever meeting between the teams. George Martin scored in a 1-1 draw, then in front of 45,000 at Goodison Park, goals from Henry Scott and big Scottish centre forward George Guyan forced a 2-2 draw.

Five days later the sides met neutrally at Villa Park to try to settle things, and City won a thriller by the odd goal in five with three Georges – Martin, Guyan and Whitworth – all on the scoresheet. Martin impressed Everton so much they signed him midway through the following season, during which time Dean banged in his record 60 goals in the top tier.

City, irritatingly (and perhaps typically) then proceeded to exit the competition in their first ever fifth round tie to Wolves, who were below them in the Second Division table. Cardiff won the competition in the end and to date it’s the only the time the FA Cup has been won by a team not in England.

2: 1972 v Coventry City

Great footballers score great goals. Great strikers score a few great goals, but loads of scruffy goals. Ken Wagstaff was a great footballer and a great striker, and boy, was this a scruffy goal. But as it was the only one of the game, and defeated a useful top flight side on their own patch to snaffle a last 16 place for the second straight season, it was beguiling in its scruffiness.

Six months after leaving the Tigers, Chris Chilton played against his old club for Coventry and was made captain for the day by his manager Noel Cantwell. He was also given a guard of honour by the two sets of players before the game but his day peaked at this point; a forlorn figure, he barely took part in the occasion and was transfer-listed straight afterwards, unable to settle in his new Midlands base. He retired at the end of the season.

Meanwhile, City now had two impressive away wins in the FA Cup as underdogs, having already beaten divisional rivals (and eventual champions) Norwich City at Carrow Road in the third round. And so Terry Neill’s men went into a fifth round tie labelled a “revenge mission” at Stoke, following the controversial and gutting 3-2 defeat at Boothferry Park in the quarter finals the year before. Waggy scored again – he notched seven goals in seven FA Cup ties over those two seasons – but there was no reprisal for City, as their hosts comfortably won 4-1.

There was revenge the following season, however. Unfortunately, it was Coventry who achieved it, beating City 3-0 in the fifth round.

3: 2012 v Crawley Town

If you insist. Having achieved a far harder task by beating Ipswich Town in the third round, Nick Barmby’s side were handed a rather enigmatic tie in the last 32, having never played Crawley Town before at any level. It was only the West Sussex side’s second season out of non-league football and the previous year they had reached the fifth round of the competition, losing to Manchester United.

They also had oafish fraudster Steve Evans in charge, reason alone for City to take the tie seriously and prevent such an unpleasant individual from receiving more of the oxygen of publicity he had gulped up so readily the year before.

So the rest was inevitable.

Matt Tubbs scored just before the hour, and City fans started wondering if the inconvenient but unique replay that acted as distinctly second best Plan B was now the best case scenario. Sadly, the players didn’t even get us that far. Despite being experienced enough – aside from Danny East, in his second and final senior appearance – to avoid banana skins like this, they kept slipping. The box with Crawley’s name adjacent to it remains unticked to this day, and the unlikely scourge of City that season went on to lose to Stoke in the fifth round, having sold Tubbs to Bournemouth just two days after he knocked City out.

4: 1958 v Sheffield Wednesday

1958cup

The phrase “oddly enjoyable defeats” has become a part of footballing parlance within City fans in recent times, with lots of punching above one’s weight on show in the last decade or so, prior (usually) to surrendering the points. It is entirely possible there was something “oddly enjoyable” about losing an away tie at Sheffield Wednesday by the odd goal in seven.

There were two divisions between the sides at the time, with City having a bit of a languish in the Third Division North, but each time Wednesday took a hold on the game, the Tigers roared back. Bill Bradbury, Johnny Stephens and Brian Bulless scored a goal each in an end-to-end, ripsnorting Yorkshire derby under the Hillsborough lights. The 51,000+ crowd departed feeling thoroughly entertained, while the majority were also mightily relieved.

The draw sent Wednesday to Old Trafford for round five, the mouth-watering prospect of facing the Busby Babes soon extinguished by the horrors at Munich a few days later, though a patched up Manchester United, full of kids, reserves and loanees, still won the tie 3-0. Wednesday were relegated, while City stayed in the third tier as regionalisation came to an end.

5: 1987 v Swansea City

  • that X-rated tackle by Frankie Bunn.
  • that insanely celebrated winner by Richard Jobson.
  • those red shorts.

And then it was Wigan Athletic away in the fifth round, an ordinary, history-free side in a lower division. Jackpot for City!

(They beat us 3-0).

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FAMOUS FIVE: Managerial debuts

We have a new manager and so far he has done quite well. Three games, three competitions, two wins, one proud defeat. The players seem to like him, he has fresh ideas, he cuts a dash with his stubble and open-necked shirt and has had inarticulate pundits making wild assumptions about his ability and language skills while panicking in general about foreigners. So this week, we’ve had a look back at managerial debuts in our recent past and, in replicating the situation regarding Silva’s appointment, stuck to ones that happened while a season was ongoing, as summer appointments tend to give new gaffers daft luxuries like time to plan and get to know the club and the squad. Not that it did Phil Parkinson much good, mind…

1: Iain Dowie
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Phil Brown’s dismissal in March 2010 was correct although ill-timed, and beyond the surprise expressed by the national press was a further confusion about what would happen about a successor. Brown had effectively ceased to work for City, but as negotiations began over the terms of his departure, he was placed on gardening leave until the end of the campaign. This meant only someone prepared to a) work until the end of the season; and b) adopt a title that was neither manager nor head coach, was permitted to step into the role.

And that was Iain Dowie.

Adam Pearson had been a long-time admirer of the former Northern Ireland striker with the unorthodox bone structure, and in Dowie’s defence he had been a successful and convincing gaffer at both Oldham Athletic and Crystal Palace. He was a graduate, a man of intellect and also someone whose appreciation of his opportunities had been borne out of a late start to his professional career. But when he was unveiled at the Circle with the title Temporary Football Management Consultant, his credibility went out of the window. He may as well have been called ‘Last Resort’ or ‘Sitting Duck’.

The word ‘temporary’ was just evil. ‘Acting’ might have been better. ‘At Large’ would have been very good. Dowie didn’t have any kind of personal mandate as a consequence of his appointment, but he did have a professional one, to keep City up. He, of course, didn’t.

His first game was at Portsmouth, and instantly the motif of Typical City hit him square between the nostrils, as the recalled Caleb Folan (a player he had once tried to sign) scored a brace to twice give City the lead, only for two disastrous pieces of defending in the 88th and 89th minutes allowing the home side a 3-2 win.

Dowie only won once, and that was at home to a mid-table Fulham side who had ditched the Premier League in favour of a run to the Europa League final. The one tick next to his name was his keenness to blood some further City youngsters, but although Will Atkinson and Mark Cullen scored a goal each at Wigan in the penultimate game of the season (which confirmed our relegation and Dowie’s departure), it was evident that neither were up to it in the way Tom Cairney and Liam Cooper seemed to be, hence why Brown hadn’t picked them himself. Dowie quietly walked away in May, job not done, and City had to begin again, in oh so many ways.

2: Terry Dolan
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Here’s a little poll for you, City fans of 25 years and more vintage: whose relegation was 1990/91? Was it Stan Ternent’s? Or was it Terry Dolan’s?

Ternent, the man who ruined his initial reputation as a supreme troubleshooter after his rescue act of 1989/90, overspent on some truly awful ageing footballers afterwards and got a deserved bullet following a New Years Day shellacking at Portsmouth. That was a correct call, undoubtedly. City were appalling and rock bottom. But the board then dithered like a teenage boy buying condoms when trying to sort out a replacement, as if they had dumped Ternent on a whim (despite his dismissal being entirely deserved) without realising it was then their job to get someone else in to take over.

Dolan, in charge of Rochdale, was mentioned quite quickly, and his reputation was good after coming within a whisker of getting an overplaying Bradford side promotion in 1988, something City fans witnessed through gritted teeth as their own team fell markedly down the table. But whoever it was going to be didn’t get his feet under the table prior to the FA Cup third round defeat to Notts County on January 5th, and caretaker boss Tom Wilson ended up taking charge for two further games, both of which ended in defeat.

The City board finally gave the job to Dolan on the last day of January, 30 days after Ternent’s exit and approximately 29 after his name was first mooted, and instantly City responded with a 2-0 win over Bristol Rovers, courtesy of Peter Swan and Neil Buckley. Dolan only made one change from the last team Wilson picked but the effect was clear.

City were relegated via a five-point shortfall, despite having a strike partnership in Swan and Andy Payton that put away 27 goals. Nobody is saying Dolan would have had the same effect had he walked through the door three days after Ternent instead of 30, but he won five games in charge when seven would have proved enough, so the board take some mild blame for the demotion just through their own indecision, which proved final.

To answer our own question then, the relegation was principally the fault of Ternent, unquestionably, but the board that fired and then hired need to accept some of the flak. As for Dolan, his many days of vilification would come.

3: John Kaye
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When the great Bill Nicholson, wiping away furious, bitter tears after seeing Tottenham fans rioting at the end of their 1974 UEFA Cup final defeat to Feyenoord, decided that football wasn’t for him any more, Spurs needed a new manager. This wasn’t something anyone at the boardroom table within White Hart Lane had needed to ponder for 16 years. Nicholson had been at the helm of everything that had made Tottenham revered, feared and respected, kicking it off in 1961 with the 20th century’s first League and FA Cup double. In total, a league title, three FA Cups, two League Cups and two European trophies was quite a haul during an extremely competitive era.

Seeing the evidence that young managers can build destinies as well as clubs – Nicholson was only 39 when he got the job – Spurs decided to try the trick again. There were problems with their choice though – he had not achieved anything tangible in his current job and he was previously an Arsenal man, albeit one who quit at 29 because he couldn’t get in the team any more. Round these parts, a further problem was pointed out that Hull City were about to lose a manager who, if not entirely enveloped by achievements, had at least done something acquainted with a passable job within a long term plan. That was, of course, not an issue once the compensation chequebook came out, and Harold Needler let Terry Neill join Spurs from City, and presumably took back the E-Type Jaguar, in September 1974.

The immediate future for both clubs was to prove very ordinary. Neill nearly got Spurs relegated in 1975 and then wangled – and, given his record at the Lane, heaven knows how – a trip across North London and back to Highbury in 1976, again replacing a retiring winner of the Double in Bertie Mee. His first team coach at City, the tough-talking Goole-born John Kaye, became City’s gaffer. He began with a trip to Nottingham Forest, themselves still four months away from a significant managerial alteration of their own, and who, like City, had only won one of their opening six matches of the season.

We’ll put it down to the trauma of seeing their boyish manager leave, but City’s players utterly froze on the day. Only two of the dozen on duty – Ken Wagstaff and Malcolm Lord – had played for the first team prior to Neill’s appointment, so the rest had placed their careers thus far in the hands of a manager who had believed in them, and now he was very suddenly gone. Scottish striker Alan Martin scored twice for Forest, with further goals from future City midfielder George Lyall and European Cup winner in waiting Martin O’Neill.

Kaye did take a while to get going, and a return to the same city later in the season resulted in a 5-0 cuffing by Notts County, but the Tigers recovered well to finish eighth that season (eight places higher than Forest, who appointed Brian Clough in the January), and Kaye stayed in the job until 1977, unable to get higher in the Second Division than Neill’s 1970/71 peak of 5th. The players who had invested their professional feelings in Neill may have ruefully noted later on that perhaps he didn’t think much of them after all, as he didn’t come back to Hull to sign a single one of them.

4: Nick Barmby
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It took approximately nine thousand years for Nigel Pearson to finally leave Hull City after initially admitting that he wanted to go back to his old job at Leicester, and when it finally happened the Allams – a popular, charitable family whose intentions for Hull City were entirely selfless and philanthropic in 2011, children – installed Nick Barmby as his replacement.

Though Barmby had no experience, this was probably the most popular managerial appointment in Hull City’s history. He was local, worshipped, symbolic of the club, a phenomenal player and had the absolute respect of the squad. He also was winding down his own career – indeed, the moment he got the job he stopped playing entirely – and had been doing some coaching under Pearson prior to his elevation.

Pearson still gets some stick now from City fans because of the way he left the club and also the perception that his tactical preferences were rather safe and limited. Neither were fair – he saw through the Allams before anyone else, and we did play some fine football on his watch at times – but it nonetheless cannot be said that Barmby’s first game in charge replicated anything Pearson would have encouraged or plotted, as City went to Derby and ripped them to pieces.

The first half was a stupendous, mesmeric exhibition of flowing pass and move football, with each player on duty making themselves permanently available to receive the ball. It was utterly unbecoming of a City side to play like this, which made it all the more fantastic. Matt Fryatt and Cameron Stewart scored in the first 25 minutes and the game was won. Derby were spared further torture in the second half as City played the percentage game to guarantee the points, and the Tiger Nation wandered away afterwards thinking, with inevitable excess of ambition, that promotion was a cert.

The bubbles were popped quickly the following week when Burnley scored three times in the final 12 minutes at the Circle to win 3-2 and in truth, only at Cardiff later that season did City play as freely and dominantly under Barmby again. That was the one highlight of a crazy nine-match March for City, which ended in exhaustion, five straight losses and zero hope of the play-offs. On the final day, after a gallant 2-1 defeat at West Ham, Barmby calmly told the local press that he’d like a bit of cash to spend on players in the summer, and all hell broke loose.

5: Brian Little
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After, and indeed despite, three straight wins, the ultimate managerial hero is sacked by an ownership everyone despises, then you come in for the last day of the season and oversee a 3-0 home defeat to ten-man Hartlepool United which is over by half time. Welcome to Hull, Brian.

Brian Little, one of the nicest men in football, must have wondered what he had let himself in for. He’d won a League Cup as Villa manager just four seasons before, after all. Did he need all this? Fortunately, he then had a summer to think about it, decide it really was worthwhile and show a remarkable combination of tactical acumen, professional gallantry and mental strength over the next 12 months to earn City a play-off place rendered all the more improbable with the vitriol and posturing off the field that had left the club unable to access their own training facilities and put players into financial difficulty when wages went unpaid.

The play-offs didn’t work out for Little and City, but boy had he done enough to allow fans pining for Warren Joyce to accept that life had now moved on, and would continue to do so. The arrival of Adam Pearson as owner and saviour allowed everyone to concentrate on on-pitch matters afterwards, to everyone’s relief and delight, and although Little didn’t quite do enough to warrant another full season, he left Boothferry Park with everyone’s gratitude and warm wishes. A home defeat to Hartlepool was now more than forgivable.

We didn’t include Stan Ternent’s mid-season debut as manager, despite it being probably the most impressive, because we’ve featured it on a previous edition of Famous Five.

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FAMOUS FIVE: Goalscoring teenagers

Josh Tymon’s goal at the weekend at the age of 17 got us thinking about the teenage scorers of City’s past. There have been quite a lot, thanks to City having a propensity to blood very young players because they were either very talented or they were all that was left. Unlike Tymon, these are all attackers, and they all have a story…

1: Mark Cullen

CullenGoalFlame-haired, buzzcutted striking product from the north east who was given his chance as a last resort towards the end of the wretched and occasionally hateful Premier League ejector seat season of 2009/10. He scored one goal, two weeks after his 18th birthday, when he nodded in a George Boateng cross from close range at Wigan to put City 2-1 up, with fellow youth product Will Atkinson earlier getting City’s first goal.

It was the final away game, and a final chance for City to win one of them, but the inevitable late equaliser meant relegation was confirmed and City’s whole campaign had been free of success on their travels, an extra undesirable mini-stat to accompany what was a rotten, horrid campaign of egos, in-fighting, profligacy and general hopelessness.

Even with a goal that made him the top flight’s youngest scorer in 2009/10, Cullen didn’t benefit from the subsequent step down, with Nigel Pearson not seeing enough in him to take more than a shrugging interest. He did score at Brentford in the League Cup but then the numerous loan spells got underway, prior to a permanent move to Luton Town in 2013. There he was a success, winning a Conference title medal, and he now plays for Blackpool.

2: Craig Dudley
Loanee centre forward who didn’t hang around Boothferry Park very long, but his impact on arrival was instant. On arrival from Notts County in November 1998, weeks after he turned 19, he scored in both of his first two games for City. The first was inconsequential thanks to Scunthorpe winning 3-2, but a week later he headed the only goal in the last minute of a very even game against later-to-be fellow strugglers Carlisle United at Boothferry Park.

Dudley was as one of Warren Joyce’s first bits of business after replacing the sacked Mark Hateley. With the new consortium controlling the boardroom led by the avuncular Tom Belton, and a hated manager gone, it seemed things were starting slowly to go right for City, and Dudley – like fellow loanee striker Mark Bonner two months later – made small but telling contributions to what eventually became the Great Escape. And, naturally, things would only improve afterwards, wouldn’t they? Well, wouldn’t they?

Dudley extended his loan to the end of December and featured in seven games in total, without scoring again. After returning to Notts County, he eventually joined Oldham Athletic before injury forced him to quit the full-time game.

3: Charlie Crickmore

Sharp, fleet-of-foot winger from the ranks who debuted at 17 in 1959 and looked to have a role as City’s face of the 60s written for him, especially as relegation for City at the end of the 1959/60 season seemed to lead to a deep clean of the club.

Crickmore was only small but had good close control and could really shift, and his two spells in the side during that first season at senior level earned him much praise. His long-awaited goal came at the end of the campaign in a 2-0 win over Ipswich during a seven-match spell when a) Crickmore didn’t miss a minute; and b) City didn’t actually lose. For a side to be relegated after ending the season with a seven-match unbeaten spell is a remarkable feat in itself (and showcases how lousy City were earlier in the campaign) and Crickmore, with the experienced Brian Bulless behind him, took all the plaudits.

But then it went wrong. He was injured on the opening day of the next season (a 4-0 hammering at Colchester, during which one Christopher Chilton made his debut) and after an abortive return in December, didn’t get back his fitness, and his place, until February. He stayed in the side, however, scoring four goals as City finished 11th in the newfangled national Division Three.

Cliff Britton took over as manager and picked Crickmore for every game of 1961/62 right up to the point he unexpectedly dropped him just after Christmas. He never played for City again and was sold in the summer to Bournemouth, who were a divisional rival and had just missed out on promotion. Crickmore had eight goals in 23 appearances that season and the sale came as a surprise and a disappointment, as he clearly had a big future.

With Bulless and Doug Clarke ageing, there was much pressure on Britton to revive the wings of the team after Crickmore’s sale, especially as the teenager had been allowed to join a better-placed club. While the eventual conversion of inside forward Ray Henderson and crucial signing of Ian Butler did just that to devastating effect, there are numerous supporters of the era who wonder how good Crickmore could have been in a team that eventually would have Chilton and the Kens Wagstaff and Houghton up front.

Crickmore never played for City as anything other than a teenager – his final game for the Tigers was on Boxing Day 1961, six weeks before he turned 20. He scored 13 goals in 53 league games, by any stretch a tremendous start to his footballing life, especially for someone who wasn’t a centre forward. Injuries played a part in stunting his progress with five more clubs in the league, with his only honour being a Fourth Division title medal with Notts County. He later moved back to Hull and became a fireman. He also refereed county level games well into his 60s.

4: Andy Flounders

FloundersGoalAnother boy from the ranks, born into the city and the club, and whose dogged presence throughout the 1980s was greatly to his credit given the number of prolific and popular goalscorers with which he had to compete. Not a fully-developed teenager, Flounders looked scrawny and underfed when he debuted just before his 17th birthday in October 1980 during a horrific relegation season, but once in Division Four he came more into his own.

Flounders needed the sale of Keith Edwards and an injury to Billy Whitehurst before his first game of that season in January 1982, a month past his 18th birthday, but when it came he scored the only goal in a 1-0 win over Torquay United at Boothferry Park. In and out for the rest of the season as Whitehurst and Les Mutrie formed a decent partnership, Flounders still managed four more goals before the end of the campaign.

Looking through his City career, it’s hard to see a period when Flounders was truly the first choice striker, but he was nevertheless always there, always learning (and had plenty of good centre forwards to learn from). He struck 13 times in City’s promotion season of 1982/83, more than both Mutrie and Whitehurst, who were still picked an awful lot more. He put away another nine in 1983/84 – during which time he turned 20 – as City failed to win promotion for a second straight season by a single goal.

His best run of games was in the 1984/85 promotion season under Brian Horton when he settled into a proper partnership with Whitehurst, and his return of 14 goals was his best seasonal haul. He partnered new signing Frankie Bunn as City finished sixth in Divison Two in 1985/86. After the team started the following season slowly, with Whitehurst gone and Bunn off form, Horton bought Alex Dyer in February 1987 and recouped some of the money by selling Flounders, still not yet 24, to Scunthorpe United. He had 54 league goals for the club next to his name by the time he left, an impressive total given the difficulties of the club during his early years and the abundance of striking talent he had to topple.

Flounders remained prolific – his best seasonal total for Scunthorpe was 27, twice – and he ended his career in the mid 1990s at North Ferriby United.

5: Gavin Gordon

The youngest of the lot. Manchester-born, musclebound centre forward who was just four months into his YTS when Terry Dolan gave him his bow in the League Cup against Coventry in September 1995, coming on as sub in both legs as City lost 3-0 on aggregate.

His league debut came the following January, by which time it already seemed inevitable City would be heading back down to the fourth tier, and the goal that put him into the record books came in a 3-2 home defeat by Bristol City in April 1996. He was 16 years and 282 days of age.

He got another from the bench in a home defeat by Crewe before Dolan put him in the starting XI for the final three matches of a catastrophic season, and he confidently put away the opening goal in the notorious, toxic 3-2 defeat by Bradford City at Boothferry Park on the final day. It still looks really weird watching a Hull City player score in front of Bunkers Hill and seeing nobody behind the goal celebrate it.

Injuries and his youthfulness meant that Dolan, inexplicably still in a job, used him sparingly the next season but he got five goals in all competitions, then his time was up when Mark Hateley arrived. He scored two goals in five sub appearances under the new manager, five more than the useless Hateley himself managed during that period, but Matt Hocking’s arrival needed funding so, at still only 18, Gordon was flogged to Lincoln. There he did so well he ended up at Cardiff in a £550,000 deal while still just 20 years old.

It never worked for him in Wales due to injuries and competition for places, and he ended his senior career at Notts County. Until recently he was still playing and coaching at non-league Sleaford Town.

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FAMOUS FIVE: City in the FA Cup third round

“The greatest day in the football calendar”, say some. “A day off to go on the lash”, say many a first team player. FA Cup third round day has lost some of its charm today, but it does still hold some great memories. And of course, a few crap ones – quite a few, in City’s case. We have five City-centric days in the last *keeps multiplying by two* 64 of the competition for you…

1: 2014 v Middlesbrough

3CupBoroIt’s rare that Teesside can act as the location for the beginning of something uniquely beautiful, but all successful FA Cup teams have to start their run somewhere, and for once, City were destined to be a successful FA Cup team in 2014. Of course, nobody knew this when the draw sent us up to the Riverside in January, and Steve Bruce made sure everyone’s dreams of victory, progress, Wembley, Europe, global domination even, were stiffly dulled by picking a half-strength side, allowing fringe strikers Aaron McLean and Nick Proschwitz a rare game.

But the two players in question didn’t read the script, if there ever was one. They propelled the new issue pink ball into the Boro goal once each as City’s run all the way to the final commenced professionally and emphatically, but they were nowhere near the remainder of the adventure, as Bruce sold the pair of them before the month was out. There’s gratitude for you.

2: 1931 v Blackpool

3Cup1931So there was the glorious run of 2014 that ended in defeat to Arsenal in the final, then it was very much a case of after the Lord Mayor’s show, as we got Arsenal – again – in 2015 and went out very, very early. A return to the norm. Prior to 2014, City’s best run in the FA Cup had been as a relegation-doomed Second Division side in 1930, which inexplicably beat a handful of seriously big teams before succumbing to, erm, Arsenal in a semi-final replay. It’s not quite symmetrical, but it feels like a pattern nonetheless.

The Tiger Nation who supported the club during the Depression era (which could be any generation of the Tiger Nation, all told) were presumably not blaming the FA Cup run for their relegation and couldn’t wait to embark on yet another life-enhancing escapade in the competition when it swung round again the following season.

City, despite being now of Division Three North, were given a bye from rounds one and two and in the third round were paired up with Blackpool, who had left the second tier in the opposite direction the previous season. Though the two sides were now two divisions apart, Blackpool were struggling in their new surroundings and City, with home advantage, felt capable of a mini-shock and another jaunt to glory in the FA Cup, especially against a side whom they had dispatched in the fourth round the previous season. The divisional gap felt almost incidental; the omens were just too good.

So naturally, City lost 2-1. The Depression era felt even more real.

3: 1975 v Fulham

3CupWaggySignificant FA Cup tie between Second Division rivals for two reasons, though neither were apparent at the time. Firstly, the initial game at Craven Cottage saw the last FA Cup appearance in City colours of Ken Wagstaff. Having scored City’s goal in a 1-1 draw, he didn’t make it to the end of the match due to a knee injury which would force him into retirement before the end of the calendar year, and an iconic City career was over.

Secondly, once Fulham finally beat City by a single goal in a neutral third game at Leicester City’s Filbert Street (the replay at Boothferry Park had ended 2-2), they embarked on a run that would see them reach the final, where they lost to West Ham United and two goals scored by future City striker Alan Taylor. Aside from their being outplayed completely at Wembley, it was City who gave them their toughest test on the way to what remains their only FA Cup final appearance.

4: 2009 v Newcastle

3CupNewcWhile the first game at the Circle was a goalless draw that irritated everybody involved, the replay was quite an occasion for City. The context was set down firmly, with Newcastle a basket case of a club thanks to boardroom meddling and paperclip appointments leading to Kevin Keegan quitting and the notorious ‘COCKNEY MAFIA OUT’ banner going on a tour of St James’ Park on the day City won there in the Premier League.

We didn’t expect to play Newcastle again quite so soon, so the third round draw felt like an opportunity. City twice hit the frame of the goal in a largely uninteresting first game, so it was back up to Tyneside. City took a huge number of supporters, sang retro songs all evening (a tradition as important in FA Cup ties of the era as Phil Brown’s change to a black shirt) rode some luck with Michael Owen missing a sitter and Nicky Butt hitting the bar, and then won the game in the 82nd minute with Daniel Cousin sliding in a cross from Richard Garcia. It was, remarkably, City’s first success in a third round tie for 20 years.

It was also the one time that season – and the final time ever – that City wore the very popular white away kit of 2007/08, avoiding an embarrassing repeat of the Premier League game when City, with a flint-coloured away kit, had to wear Newcastle shorts and socks. Meanwhile, Newcastle’s joke of a manager Joe Kinnear got so worked up after a touchline row with Phil Brown that he ended up needing heart bypass surgery.

The FA Cup run continued to the quarter finals, when it was – YES – Arsenal who brought it to an end, while Newcastle did City yet another favour by not winning on the final day of the Premier League season and taking the last relegation place.

5: 1992 v Chelsea

3CupDolanCity were back in the third tier after a seven year period of careful avoidance, thanks to a wretched 1990/91 season under principally the overspending, outspoken, unpleasant Stan Ternent, who was sacked by the club for the first time. Still, we had Terry Dolan now in charge, so all would be well…

Dolan did six years with City but in truth the final two seasons are the ones which make him reviled for life by supporters who were there, as although the football under his tenure was never exactly watchable, he built teams that could be hard to beat and not afraid of being out on their feet by the final whistle. However, the first signs of Dolan’s difficulty in outwitting opponents came during the same period when an underperforming Chelsea were drawn out of the hat for a visit to Boothferry Park in January 1992.

City had sold prolific striker Andy Payton for £750,000 in November 1991, and the barren run immediately began. It was no coincidence. Chelsea arrived seven winless games into what would eventually be a total of 11, and won more than comfortably with a headed goal in front of Bunkers by a gleeful Vinnie Jones and a second half shot from Dennis Wise, both of whom had won the FA Cup with Wimbledon four seasons earlier. City simply did not compete in the game and there were much mutterings that a very ordinary Chelsea team had triumphed so easily.

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FAMOUS FIVE: City on New Years Day

There is no New Years Day game for City this season for the first time since 2012, although they are less common than you may think. The calendar – both the footballing one and the Gregorian one – has much say on this, as does the weather at a more instant level, but generally City haven’t had as many as is assumed. Not that it’s an especially memorable footballing day of course, and in compiling this little list, we’ve tried to look at context and sub-plots in making our choices. That doesn’t explain entry number three, mind – blame laziness for that or, better still, blame City…

1: 1st January 1990

Ternant, StanWhen one considers the prime candidacy of the 1990s to run away with the title of “worst decade in City’s history, ever”, it is gratifying a generation on to see how well City played in their very first game of the new decade. Of course, context is always everything, and at the time the Tigers were trying to burrow their way out of a relegation battle, having begun the season with Colin Appleton’s 16-game spell of uselessness which left us winless and humiliated at the bottom of what was still then known, accurately, as the Second Division.

Stan Ternent then came in and began to rescue the season. City had won three in a row under the brusque, belligerent, bespectacled curmudgeon as 1989 fizzled out, but few performances on his watch were better than the 3-2 win over Sunderland, a yo-yo club over the previous decade but still a mighty presence at this level, and one of the few teams with a fanbase that demanded the hasty checking of the safety certificate for the north east corner of Boothferry Park.

City took the lead on 12 minutes through a piece of opportunism by Andy Payton, then Wayne Jacobs scored in similar circumstances against a Sunderland defence playing as if they’d brought in the new decade a bit too enthusiastically at Finos the night before, though obviously the great and good Tony Norman, a City legend making his first return to his old club after a ludicrous transfer the previous season, had been tucked up in bed by 9.

The second half saw Sunderland’s comeback begin with a free header from sub Thomas Hauser, but within a minute Peter Swan had climbed majestically to power a Billy Askew corner into the top of the net to restore the cushion. Marco Gabbiadini snuck in a deflected shot with 15 minutes left, but City held on for a fourth straight win, and a fifth from eight since Ternent took over.

City ended the season in a comfortable 14th, a bizarre joint-highest position since their first season back in the second tier in 1985/86. Swan’s goal at Roker Park completed a double over Sunderland in April, though the Mackems still went up, rather spawnily, after their play-off conquerors Swindon Town were barred from entering the First Division due to making irregular payments to players.

2: 1st January 1955

MannionWIt looks an otherwise insignificant game – City at home to Nottingham Forest, both in the bottom half of the Second Division. City were actually in a catastrophic run of form, with no wins in their previous nine games. Forest weren’t faring much better, and had already lost to City at their own place back in August, which had been part of a purple patch for City of four straight wins that now seemed forever ago.

But as the festive period beckoned, City had found themselves all over the newspapers thanks to a notable, controversial signing. Wilf Mannion, now 36, had won 26 England caps and played at the World Cup in 1950. But the distinguished tenure at hometown club Middlesbrough of the man dubbed the “Golden Boy” had been hit by a contract dispute that trailed Jean Marc Bosman by almost 50 years. Wishing to leave Middlesbrough in 1948, he eventually took an office job after they refused to relinquish his registration, eventually returning a year later after the club agreed to sell him for what would have been a world record £25,000. Even then, Mannion fanned the flames further by refusing to join any club that would pay such a sum, citing a creeping commercialisation in football of which he disapproved.

So it was an outspoken figure, popular with fans but not authority, who joined the Tigers at Christmas 1954. He became City’s oldest debutant in a home defeat to Luton, and then along came Forest. He scored one of City’s goals in a 3-2 defeat, which would turn out to be his only goal for the club. He played for the rest of the season, despite the rest of the January programme succumbing to a harsh winter, and was an influential inside forward as City, who never really emerged fully from their rut, stayed up essentially on their August form. Ipswich and Derby both beat City at the end of the season but still went down.

The story ended peculiarly for Mannion, as he revealed in a newspaper article that he had been offered a financial inducement – or, as it’s more commonly known now, a signing-on fee – of a whopping £3,000 to sign for a club he then refused to name. Unable to wheedle the information out of him, the FA suspended him, and he decided to retire and go into non-league football. He eventually returned to Middlesbrough to work on building sites and a statue of him is outside the Riverside Stadium, and he remained City’s oldest debutant until Andy Hessenthaler’s arrival in 2005.

3: 1st January 1972, 1974, 1977

70steamThe only three New Years Day games of the 1970s (Portsmouth away, Bolton at home, Blackpool away respectively) yielded three goalless draws within three featureless seasons culminating in three mid-table finishes, embodying the dullness of City in the 70s as a whole. All we can say by way of consolation to the players involved is that at least nobody took part in all three matches.

4: 1st January 2008

StokeawayNYD

Indulge your author for a moment, because he has always marked this date down as the one which sparked up his belief that City could actually win promotion to the Premier League for the first time. Yes it was a 1-1 draw (albeit an entertaining one), yes City were still no better off than upper mid-table, and yes we had still to play West Bromwich Albion, who had already marked themselves out as the team to catch for the campaign. But it’s true, and there is audio from that season (somewhere) to back it up. That we’d taken a point off Stoke at theirs, again, was also quite satisfying.

They had taken the lead in the first half with as typically a Stoke goal as it was possible to get, when ex-City defender Leon Cort managed to glance in a Rory Delap long throw, which he wisely chose not to celebrate in front of the City fans this time (though at least part of this may have been because nobody, including him, seemed to realise he’d touched the ball, though Stoke players cleverly congratulated him to persuade the referee, as direct throw-ins into the net are not allowed). But City clawed back into it with a gritty and dynamic second half display, and Caleb Folan, our shiny new £1m signing, got above the tortured Cort to nod in a Dean Windass cross on the hour.

No further goals but we genuinely didn’t look back after this game, despite West Brom doing the expected job on us in front of the TV cameras at the Circle the following week. Meanwhile, New Years Day 2008 also brought a last moment of magnitude with ten minutes left of the game when Stuart Elliott was thrown on as a sub to find a winner. He couldn’t. It was his 193rd and final league appearance for City.

5: 1st January 1966

GymTraining60s

The great goalscoring achievements of the 1965/66 team should never cease to amaze. In winning the Third Division title – lest we forget, the only non-regional title we’ve ever managed – City scored 106 goals, 100 of which came from just five men. The two wingers – Ray Henderson and Ian Butler – got 13 each, the centre forward – Chris Chilton – got 25, and the two inside forwards – Ken Wagstaff and Ken Houghton – got 27 and 22 respectively. Three of these men each only missed one game in all competitions all season and a fourth was ever-present.

Yet because the defence still leaked like a sieve, it seemed nothing was going to be easy, or predictable, or straightforward. City’s main challengers all season were Millwall, and the two played each other on consecutive days just after Christmas 1965, taking a win each. Then along came Swansea Town to Boothferry Park on New Years Day, and the Tigers went to, er, town on them, stung by the shoeing Millwall had given them by three goals, without reply, three days before, which had swapped the sides round at the top of the table and was to be only the second of three occasions all season that City would draw a blank.

A whopping 17,531 fewer people attended the Swansea game than did the previous home match against Millwall, but it didn’t affect anyone’s celebrations. Wagstaff scored first, then Henderson, then Chilton, then Wagstaff again. Swansea, who had beaten City in south Wales back in October, did pull one back, immaterially. Typically, City followed it up with a defeat to an otherwise characterless Swindon side the following week, but then went on a 14-game unbeaten run which produced a preposterous 41 goals (39 from the front five) and made City strong favourites for the title, while simultaneously getting as far as the quarter finals of the FA Cup.

When one looks at those scoring stats again, it remains something of a surprise that no more than three of those five magnificent attacking forces ever scored in the same league game during 1965/66 (though four, with Chilton the exception, managed a goal each in the FA Cup second round tie at Gateshead). It is more of a surprise to learn that four did manage to score in the same match the following season in two consecutive games (and two different foursomes at that), even though the division was far tougher and City as a whole scored 29 fewer goals. Henderson left in 1968 but the others stayed in attack together until 1971 and yet never managed it again. Funny game, football…

On New Years Day 1987, City lost a phenomenal seven-goal thriller against Barnsley at Boothferry Park. But we’ve already written about that. Happy new year to you…

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FAMOUS FIVE: Phil Brown

It really was ten years ago this week that Phil Brown took charge of Hull City for the first time. This was simply an opportunity we could not turn down to review and reassess a phenomenal period for the club, for both good and bad reasons. Fitting the brief, we’ve told his whole association with City in five chronological chunks…

1. Saving City while condemning Leeds

PhilBrown1When Brown took over the City job, we were in a wall of trouble. The squad was decent but lacked direction. New recruits were struggling to bed in, establishment figures were being shunted out and the tactics under Phil Parkinson – able, amiable but naive – were easily sliced apart by opponents. Brown, brought in as a first team coach, was an older and more worldly-wise figure, but when Adam Pearson asked him to save the club from the drop upon his elevation in December 2006, it seemed a tall order.

After all, he was still something of an unknown quantity. His only previous foray into a top job had been a brutal spell at Derby which had already prompted him to be written off as someone of the calibre to run a footballing project from its very top. Other names were mentioned but Brown had a chance and he clearly intended to take it. There were scrapes and near-misses, not to mention some especially rancid games, but he made significant enough improvements and changes to get City into the last fortnight of the season with an opportunity to survive. He had restored Nick Barmby and Stuart Elliott to the squad and, with a combination of nerve, shrewdness and an eye on his personal standing, re-signed a 37 year old Dean Windass on loan from Bradford City.

The final away game of the season was not promising. Cardiff had been in the top half all campaign. City had to go there in the knowledge that a win could keep them up, providing Ipswich did them a favour at none other than Elland Road at the same time. With Southend and Luton already gone, just one place remained.

Windass scored the only goal at Ninian Park, Ipswich got a 2-2 draw at Leeds and City were hailed by sport and mankind as a whole as saviours of all that was good and right, beyond even mere football. With a game to spare (which City lost) the herculean task assigned to the smiling man with the tan and the soft South Shields vowels had been completed. He couldn’t now not get the job full time.

2. Promotion to the Premier League

PhilBrown2For all that, there were plenty who didn’t want Brown. Gratitude for not exiting the Championship in the wrong direction only went so far. They pointed to his inexperience, his tactical limitations, his inconsistency, his clichés, his rictus grin. All sorts of reasons, fair and less fair, were offered. But only Adam Pearson’s opinion counted, or so we thought.

Pearson had promised Brown the job in the event of survival but clearly that also depended on his own continued involvement with the club. In the summer of 2007 he sold up to businessman Russell Bartlett, who installed the media-friendly Paul Duffen as his face and voice. Duffen and Brown hit it off straightaway, Brown got his mandate, astutely recruited ex-City boss Brian Horton as his assistant, and a two year plan to reach the Premier League was drawn up. It took only a year.

It is still remarkable that in one and a half seasons at the club, Brown prevented what had looked a predictable, horrific relegation and then followed it up without a pause for breath with a history-making promotion to the top tier, giving City fans the kind of emotional upheaval and utter joy that none thought would ever come. And he did it with a marvellous tight-knit squad, talented and committed, while making a handful of adroit purchases and injecting occasional showbiz into it to make the wider world notice.

In truth, it could have been an automatic promotion. With a month to go it was two from three to go up automatically, with West Bromwich Albion and Stoke City – contrasting in style, identical in effectiveness – keeping City just about at bay, with the occasional opportunity to topple one or both going astray, although City’s earlier win at the Hawthorns, a result gleefully unanticipated by the national media, proved to both Brown and the Tiger Nation that we were ultimately good enough to go on and do this. In the end, City finished a clear third, destroyed Watford in the play-off semis and then went to Wembley, for the first time ever, to face their destiny.

Windass scored the “wonderful, magical goal” (as Sky’s Bill Leslie had it) but the team performance was dogged and inspiring, especially as Bristol City, a most useful side who had taken four points from us during the regular season, laid siege to the City goal in the second half. This was where the commitment and togetherness displayed all season by City was required more than ever, for one final time, and isolated acts of immense defending by Michael Turner and Sam Ricketts, as well as a promotion-clinching catch of a high ball by Boaz Myhill, completed the job. For a second season in a row, Brown had done exactly what he had expected to do.

3. Premier League ubiquity

PhilBrown3Oh, 2008/09. What an emotional maelstrom you were. What headlines you created, of all kinds, in the name of Hull City AFC. And there, causing or responding to them all, was Phil Brown.

We had some star players in our first Premier League season. Geovanni was an impish master of controlling a football and making it dance for him. Michael Turner nullified top flight attackers as if he’d been doing it forever. Ian Ashbee led, fought, inspired and put our lives in his hands. Bernard Mendy and Kamil Zayatte were both bonkers in the nut and sometimes brilliant. And yet nobody seemed to emerge from it as big a star, a more important figure, than the manager.

Brown loved the adulation. And while City were flan-flinging in the early weeks of the season – wins at Newcastle, Arsenal and Tottenham made us the most talked-about club on earth, in all probability – the adulation was deserved. But from December onwards, when it started to level out and then go horrendously wrong, he still wanted the adulation.

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What he expected when he sat the whole team down on the park at half time at Manchester City on Boxing Day 2008 and gave his team talk publicly is anyone’s guess – and City fans still say it wasn’t a big deal – but he wasn’t exactly praised for it. In defending his actions, Brown was able to stay in the headlines as his team sank through to mid-table, and that wasn’t right.

Between December and March, City didn’t win any of 13 Premier League games. The earth-stopping successes at Arsenal and Tottenham before the clocks had gone back seemed a lifetime ago. In the end, the 1-0 win at Fulham in March thanks to an injury time winner defined the season more than any of those victories on lighter days. City were now in the midst of a famine, but still Brown didn’t seem fully focussed on the job. He didn’t back off from the spotlight, rumours of unrest within the squad spread, the expensive signing of Jimmy Bullard failed spectacularly as a man with a known knee problem promptly suffered a serious knee injury and the manager was ridiculed on exiting the FA Cup at Arsenal in the quarter finals after some odd comments about Cesc Fàbregas’ clothing. That win at Fulham was the only one City achieved in 23 Premier League matches. In the end it was Newcastle’s ineptitude as much as City’s that kept us up on the last day and, by now, nobody outside of the Circle wanted us in the Premier League.

The celebration on the final whistle was natural but most City fans just felt sheer relief. In taking the microphone at the Circle moments after a game which City had lost to a bunch of Manchester United teenagers (supposedly because the authorities thought Brown could persuade fans to leave the pitch), Brown misjudged the fans and the whole situation entirely. The achievement had become about him and him alone; the players hugged each other knowing they’d dodged a bullet; the fans hugged each other knowing they weren’t going to be a laughing stock any more, only to then see the gaffer give us a new reason to be sneered at. As he tunelessly misquoted the City version of Sloop John B and the cameras crowded round him, his ego peaked. That City had stayed up felt more despite him than because of him, but his ultra-close relationship with Duffen, who blubbed on the pitch and hugged his manager during a post-match TV interview, meant it was inevitable Brown would be around for another go in August. We could only hope someone would tell him over the summer to wind his neck in and remember what a fine football coach and manager he was, and being such should be his priority.

4. Gardening leave

PhilBrown4The 2009/10 season was horrible. It genuinely didn’t seem to have a redeeming feature. No away wins, scraps between players near the Humber Bridge, the heartbreaking sale of Michael Turner for a (later to be revealed) pittance, the season-long injury absence of Ian Ashbee, and the threat of near bankruptcy. In the middle of all this was Phil Brown, who lost his security blanket when Bartlett, a silent owner responsible for the reckless financial outlays, recruited Adam Pearson to look at the books. What the man who had built the modern, responsible, abstemious Hull City found was so horrible that he feared for the future of the club, even short-term. Duffen was removed from his position and Pearson had the chance to get shut of Brown too, around the Hallowe’en weekend of a controversial defeat at Burnley when City only had two wins on the board. He should have done it. He didn’t.

The factions in the squad were now pronounced – dedicated professionals like Nick Barmby, Kevin Kilbane (a man who halved his wages voluntarily), Andy Dawson, George Boateng and Richard Garcia on one side; less responsible wildcards led by Bullard on the other, with the greedy perma-crocked midfielder also having an unsavoury influence on youngsters like Tom Cairney, which felt unforgivable.

A last minute defeat to Arsenal at the Circle finally instilled action from Pearson, and Brown was placed on gardening leave while negotiations for the terms of his permanent exit were thrashed out. Because City had come close to snaffling a heroic point with ten men against the Gunners, the reaction to Brown’s departure on a national scale patently failed to see a bigger picture, labelling it harsh. City fans, while sad at the demise of Brown, were little short of relieved. Suddenly, thanks to the terms of his gardening leave, the manager who had achieved so much personally and professionally was silenced and invisible. The clean-up operation began.

Iain Dowie was installed in a ludicrously titled job, won just once, and City went down gracelessly, without even a single away win. Football seemed to think they had been cleansed by Brown’s dismissal and City’s demotion, but City fans just craved the chance to reboot their club, get away from all the recrimination and madness, settle back in the Championship and start again. It had been a hell of a ride but everyone wanted now desperately to get off.

5. Rehabilitation

PhilBrown7Brown was formally let go in the summer of 2010 and Nigel Pearson was appointed. As he started assessing the playing situation, introducing austerity measures within the club not seen since liquidators transfer-listed the whole squad in 1982, Brown looked around for work. His name was sullied around the Circle, at one glance a crazy development when considering the joy of his first two years (exactly) in charge, but by another token not surprising when seeing the state of the club, financially and emotionally.

Brown did media work to keep his name alive, applied for a few jobs, got close to one or two, and eventually took over at Preston North End. In January 2011, he persuaded Ian Ashbee to sever his nine year association with City and go across the Pennines, and not long afterwards both were back at the Circle. Their reception was muted, though Brown was less well received than the former skipper, even though both had ended their spells with City peculiarly and unsatisfactorily. City won the game 1-0, with only one player in the starting XI – Andy Dawson – who had played under Brown.

Preston didn’t work out for either. Ashbee retired and Brown again went back to the studio. He was a good pundit and an excellent radio summariser, then got a job at Southend United. When they were then paired with City in the fourth round of the FA Cup in 2014, it allowed Brown another opportunity to heal the pain.

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And this time, it worked. Almost four years had passed, City had recovered and were back in the Premier League, and Brown gave a series of interviews which made plain his love for the club and the appreciation he had for what it had done for him. City fans responded with some well-aimed, affectionate chants his way during the match, which ended in a 2-0 win as the Tigers maintained a run that would culminate in a first ever FA Cup final.

Some would have Phil Brown back today; one suspects that Brown, who is proving an effective manager on the Essex coast, would walk back to the Circle any day if asked, irrespective of where City are at the time. Perhaps that boat has sailed now. But, ten years on from his appointment, we can again say that he was a brilliant manager and clearly a very good man. But for the recent achievements of Steve Bruce, there is an argument for calling him our greatest ever manager, just for the long-term dreams of the Tiger Nation that he made come true. Before him, we had nothing next to our badge at all. No top tier, no Wembley trips, no international name.

And however difficult some of his era in charge was for all involved, life with him as manager was never dull, for any of us. And if had been, who’s to say he would have been so successful so early on? Phil Brown had self-belief and coaching acumen, and it was both of those things that got us where we had always wanted to be. Ten years on, it’s easy to appreciate that all over again, and we salute the man unreservedly.

Phil Brown, Hull City manager, 9th December 2006 – 13th March 2010*:

Played 157 games, won 52, drew 40, lost 65, in all competitions. Achieved promotion as winners of the Championship play-offs in 2007/08.

*Brown remained Hull City manager until June 2010 but was on gardening leave from 13th March until the end of his tenure was confirmed.