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.


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.


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.


FAMOUS FIVE: City in penalty shootouts


The penalty shoot-out against Newcastle was the 12th in our history, and the fifth we have won (had it been the sixth, this article would have been much easier, and more celebratory, and far duller). Certainly we are familiar with a time when defeat on penalties was a racing certainty the moment the final whistle on 120 minutes of turgid knockout football was sounded, with the tedium of the stalemate about to transform into the disappointment of sudden death exit. Yet we’ve included one win to go with the losses too, so have five examples of City going through the wrongly-termed “lottery” of what is officially known as “kicks from the penalty mark”…

1: Manchester United, Watney Cup, 1970/71

pkWatneyIdentifying the full season is important here, as the Watney Mann Invitation Cup was a bonafide competition, affiliated by the authorities, meaning all stats from the games went on to the records of clubs and players, but mistaken by some as a friendly competition because it was hosted and concluded in August, before the league season commenced.

It was contested by the two top scoring teams in each division who were not participating in European competition and had not been promoted. The latter stat was irrelevant anyway, as both City (72 goals in 1969/70, 13th place) and Yorkshire rivals Sheffield United (73 goals, sixth place) comfortably outscored champions Huddersfield (68 goals) and runners-up Blackpool (56 goals) and their place in the new summer contest was cemented. Indeed, the fact that City conceded 70 goals, more than all bar three sides (and more than the two teams who were relegated) summed up everything about Cliff Britton’s chaotically enthralling reign as manager, though by mid-season he had been instructed by Harold Needler to find his replacement.

So Terry Neill was installed as player-manager in the summer of 1970, and his first job was to prepare his new charges for a Watney Cup game against Peterborough United, which City coasted 4-0. Four days later, Manchester United, European champions two years before but in sudden and steep decline, were heading for Boothferry Park.

The crowd of 34,007 was the biggest at the old place in four years, and saw a rip-roaring, pulsating occasion which went the distance. Chris Chilton got City’s early goal; Denis Law equalised in the second half. Extra time couldn’t separate the sides, so the newly-ratified penalty shootout was required, literally a new experience and a new set of emotions for everyone involved. The coin toss decided Bunkers would bear best witness to it.

FIFA had set out the basic rules of shootouts: best of five, only players left on the pitch could partake, no rebounds, sudden death if level after ten kicks, alongside the usual regulations when taking and facing regular time penalties. It was impossible for some players not to make names for themselves. George Best was the first to take and score a penalty in a competitive shootout; Denis Law the first to take and miss with Ian McKechnie simultaneously becoming the first to save one. Neill himself became the first City player to take and score a penalty in a shootout; Ken Wagstaff the first to miss (bloody loads would follow), then the showman (and former winger) McKechnie decided to become the first keeper to score one, only for him to fail. That was the crucial fifth kick, and with successful shots also from Bobby Charlton, Brian Kidd and Willie Morgan, Manchester United went through 4-3. They lost the final to Derby County.

So, City had lost their first shootout, which would just happen to be forever enshrined in English footballing folklore. Hurrah!

2: Hartlepool United, League Cup, 2006/07

pkHpoolWe won!

It had been seven shootouts and 36 years coming, and that it followed one of the least compelling 120 minutes of football in history – fans resorted to the Mexican wave for entertainment and warmth – made it all the more difficult to be bothered about.

City had finally hung their monkey of live TV days earlier against Sheffield Wednesday at the Circle, and now a second round tie in the Carling-sponsored third competition, against a side with very recent form for doing us over on pens, was the “reward”. It was cold. But at least we were at home as we watched a game that was inevitably going to be goalless the moment it started. One Hartlepool lady was so unmoved by the football on show she responded affirmatively to E1’s request that she remove her décolletage from its corsetry for the delectation of the gentlemen present, and promptly got kicked out.

As if to prove it really was City taking part in the shootout, Phil Parkinson’s men proceeded to go one up in the contest courtesy of a Boaz Myhill save and a Jon Parkin kick, then miss two (Stuart Elliott and Darryl Duffy) and find themselves behind. Mercifully, Hartlepool were even worse, and missed their own two in a row, either side of a successful Craig Fagan kick, which allowed Andy Dawson to clinch the win, 3-2.

Despite another club “first”, nobody celebrated. The win did nobody any favours. City lost in the next round to Watford, without the need for extra time, let alone penalties. Parkinson was out on his ear within three months.

3: Wrexham, FA Cup, 1995/96

The only time City have contested a penalty shootout in the FA Cup, and it was inevitably as dismal as you can imagine for a season among the most shocking in the club’s history, and after two games had failed to yield a single goal.

The total pointlessness of each match was felt by both sides, divisional rivals in the third tier who were forced to play for a second time in seven days after a 1-1 draw at Boothferry Park in the league. The initial goalless draw on the Saturday was turgid; the 120 minute version ten days later at the Racecourse Ground appalling, despite the obvious appeal of a home tie against Chesterfield in the second round. City angered their fans further by telegraphing the forthcoming sale of Dean Windass and dropping him from the replay.

That one set of supporters then had to suffer the indignity of seeing their team lose on penalties after suffering 210 minutes of scrappy, idealess garbage bordered on human rights abuse. Naturally, it was the travelling City fans who would go through this further ignominy, though it was briefly predictable once the unskilled Chris Lee was assigned the first City penalty. He missed.

Wrexham scored three in a row, which was enough as Rob Dewhurst and Craig Lawford skied their pens either side of City’s solitary success from Simon Dakin. Wrexham went on to overcome Chesterfield but then lost at Peterborough in the third round.

In an attempt to thicken a somewhat runny plot thus far, the return to Wrexham in the league in April offered an already doomed City the chance to exact some mild form of revenge, but of course it never, ever worked like that for City. Wrexham won 5-0. And in a final act of brutal cruelty, they beat us on penalties again in the League Cup nine seasons later – they remain the only side to get past us on pens twice.

4: Rochdale, Associate Members Cup, 1999/2000
City had made reasonable progress in what had become the Auto-Windscreens Shield under Warren Joyce, befitting their rejuvenation as a whole under the architect of the previous season’s Great Escape. Indeed, between August 1999 and January 2000, City played a total of eight cup ties in three competitions (consisting of 12 games) and made friends in doing so. It took the multi-national might of Liverpool and Chelsea to apply the brakes in the two more prestigious competitions to what was clearly set to be a juggernaut of non-stop success, or so we thought.

The third team to end City interests in knockout football were Rochdale, however. Perennial clingers to league status, rarely interested in exiting the bottom division in an upwards direction, and from whom City would acquire four points in the lowest tier that season. But in the northerly quarter final – yes, the quarter final; we had expertly disposed of York and Chester already, with clean sheets too – they had much interest in beating City, albeit not via the usual method of attacking the opponent’s goal.

It’s the repetitiveness that you love about these articles, obviously, so it befalls us again to detail a directionless, low quality game in which neither team looked keen on winning, really, so it made for a peculiar occasion for the hardy 1,745 braving the millennial frost. Extra time at Spotland prolonged the agony, with City fans demonstrating their boredom (and exhibiting their inebriation) with a sort-of conga along the away terrace, though the shootout when it came was almost a credit to football, eventually ending 5-4 to Rochdale, with Steve Harper and, fatally with kick number six, Jon Schofield missing for City. Rochdale, buoyed by their success, got all the way to the northern final, where they were beaten by Stoke City.

5: Tottenham Hotspur, League Cup, 2013/14

pkSpursWithout doubt the most dramatic shootout in City’s history, coming after a heroic and quite brilliant tie at White Hart Lane which ended 2-2. It even saw Paul McShane score with a bullet header to put City ahead, and then race the length of the pitch to celebrate with the Tiger Nation. What more could we possibly take?

Answer: a long and high quality shootout; high quality not just in entertainment value, but also in terms of footballing prowess. Both teams missed one in the original five, with a certain Eldin Jakupović clawing away Erik Lamela’s kick, the fourth for Spurs, to cancel out Aaron Mclean’s weak earlier effort.

After five kicks each, nobody had any nails left, but the players on both sides continued to hold their nerve until Ahmed Elmohamady, whose body language as he sidled up to the penalty area did not promise great things, put one far too close to Brad Friedel and City were out. Only Jakupović and the hobbling Curtis Davies did not take kicks for City. Spurs promptly ruined their hard work with defeat to West Ham in the quarter finals.

For the record:
1 – Watney Cup SF v Manchester United, 1970/71, lost 4-3
2 – Full Members Cup R1 v Charlton Athletic, 1987/88, lost 5-4
3 – FA Cup R1 replay v Wrexham, 1995/96, lost 3-1
4 – Associate Members Cup NQF v Rochdale, 1999/2000, lost 5-4
5 – League Cup R1 v Wrexham, 2004/05, lost 3-1
6 – Associate Members Cup R1 v Hartlepool United, 2004/05, lost 4-1
7 – League Cup R2 v Hartlepool United, 2006/7, won 3-2
8 – League Cup R1 v Rotherham United, 2012/13, won 7-6
9 – League Cup R4 v Tottenham Hotspur, 2013/14, lost 8-7
10 – League Cup R1 v Accrington Stanley, 2015/16, won 4-3
11 – League Cup R4 v Leicester City, 2015/16, won 5-4
12 – League Cup QF v Newcastle United, 2016/17, won 3-1


FAMOUS FIVE: Players for City and Sunderland

We go to Sunderland this weekend, a club with whom we have shared a lot of players down the years. Some of the tales are well-thumbed – the upsetting Michael Turner deal, the bizarre triangular arrangement involving Norman, Hesford and Whitehurst, the arrival in Hull of Raich Carter, the merry dances led by Fraizer Campbell’s dad – while currently the two squads have three players with experience of each club. We’ve looked at the rest and picked out five at random for you…

1. John McSeveney
McSeveneyJUndersized winger and ex-miner, capable on each flank, who began his career in his native Scotland with Hamilton Academical before joining Sunderland as a 20 year old in 1951. The Mackems were at the top end of the English game and had acquired the tag of the “Bank of England” club due to the large transfer fees they were prepared to pay.

McSeveney played tidily on the wing in four exciting years on Wearside, with mid-table finishes in his first three years followed by a terrific 1954/55 campaign which saw the top seven clubs separated by just six points. Sunderland finished fourth and got to the semi-finals of the FA Cup, losing to Manchester City. By now, McSeveney was being kept out by Billy Elliot, an England winger who was a huge success at Roker Park, and he was sold to Cardiff in the summer of 1955.

A spell at Newport then followed before he arrived at Boothferry Park for the 1961/62 campaign as one of Cliff Britton’s first signings and showed terrific versatility across the forward line, able to use his low centre of gravity to act the nippy nuisance on the flanks or the off-ball runner supporting the centre forward. He created an awful lot of goals for the emerging Chris Chilton and even outscored him in 1962/63 with 22 goals, a terrific achievement in his first season.

The ever-perfectionist Boothferry Park crowd were not slow to get on his case when his trickery went wrong but McSeveney was known for being unafraid to exchange a few choice words in return, which became part of his legacy after he retired in 1964. He stuck around as a coach and middle man as Britton rebuilt the forward line before becoming manager of Barnsley, and later was a scout and assistant manager at various clubs. He is now 85 and lives in South Yorkshire.

2. Peter Daniel


Outstanding full back from the ranks, Hull through and through, and the man who managed to dislodge the long-serving Frank Banks from the first team while still a teenager, to the extent that Banks insisted on an instant sale and, to his later regret, got his wish.

Daniel was very quick indeed, and his natural pace allowed him licence to overlap at every given opportunity and gained him a number of assists courtesy of his darts to the byline. He quickly became an England Under 21 international and was courted by numerous top clubs from the start of the 1977/78 season when it became clear that City were going to struggle to stay in the Second Division.

He left a relegated side to join a promoted side in Wolves, moved into midfield, and set up Andy Gray’s winner in the 1980 League Cup final. He was popular at Molineux but had injury issues, and after Wolves were relegated back to the Second Division, he signed for Sunderland in 1984 via a summer in the States. He only stayed one full season but it was eventful – he played in another League Cup final (losing to Norwich) and Sunderland were then relegated, meaning Daniel had suffered the indignity of consecutive demotions from the top flight.

He joined Lincoln City afterwards in a cost-cutting exercise and, as if to prove these things come in, er, fours, was player-manager (albeit only for two months) when they became the first club to exit the Football League via the automatic trapdoor system in 1987. If he was never given the nickname Jonah (no matter how unfair it would be), he was lucky.

After retiring from the full-time game, Daniel returned to East Yorkshire. He has been manager of pretty much every Yorkshire and Lincolnshire non-league club you can think of.

3. Michael Reddy

ReddyMIrish striker whose goalscoring record at City is somewhat odd, in that he only started one league game but ended up with four goals. His loan move from Sunderland, for whom he had started only a brace of League Cup ties, installed him as backup to the fresh partnership up front of Gary Alexander and Lawrie Dudfield, and he scored against Mansfield and Halifax (twice) before netting the only goal against Torquay in a game more famous for returning City hero Gary Brabin being sent off for the visitors.

Reddy was 21, ambitious and being hyped to the nth degree by Sunderland manager Peter Reid, so he didn’t want to stay any longer at Boothferry Park than he had to, but he was 24 when he finally left Sunderland, without ever starting a league game for them and with four other loan spells around the north of England on his CV.

He became a big-money move for Grimsby Town and while he scored regularly, he also struggled with a hip injury and ended up retiring at the age of 27 when surgery couldn’t correct the problem. He did a bit of travelling – notably marrying a woman from the Falkland Islands – and then took his coaching badges.

4. Eddie Burbanks

BurbanksEYorkshire-born left winger who was a long-term contemporary and chum of Raich Carter, with the two scoring in Sunderland’s FA Cup final win of 1937.

He was a latecomer to the professional game, going up to Wearside at the age of 22, but he had four successful years there prior to the outbreak of war, and a further three afterwards, making more than 150 league appearances.

At 35, he reunited with Carter at Boothferry Park in 1948 and was instrumental in City winning the Division Three North title, though he was injured for most of the FA Cup run that season, including the quarter final defeat by Manchester United.

In his final season, he was mentor to Andy Davidson, with the young Scot occasionally replacing the 39 year old when he needed a rest, and the two eventually appeared twice in the same XI when Davidson dropped back into defence.

Burbanks made his 143rd and final league appearance for City on April 16 1953, two weeks after his 40th birthday.

Even then it wasn’t over as he spent a season at Leeds before retiring, and he settled in Hull to run a shop, like a number of other City stars of the era. He died in 1986.


5. John Moore

A skill-free gobbet of Mackem hopelessness whom Eddie Gray signed in the summer of 1988, apparently believing him to be a better option than Andy Payton or Alex Dyer or Andy Saville, who were dropped, marginalised or played out of position to accommodate the new arrival.

Moore was from Consett and came through the ranks at Sunderland but the huge number of loan spells he had over five years at the club suggests that they didn’t really have much faith in him. How they must have laughed when Gray offered £25,000 for him in the summer of 1988. We mean really, really laughed. Guffawed. Hollered and hooted with mirth and disbelief. Gone out on a four-day bender on it, probably.

There wasn’t a lot wrong with Moore’s centre forward play if you can handle watching a striker who cannot control, trap, head the ball, run properly, stay onside, dribble, shake off a marker, pass, challenge aerially, stay fit, look interested or, of course, finish. The boo-boys tore into him early on but Gray stubbornly kept picking him and Moore’s substantial frame visibly sank into the lush Boothferry Park turf a bit more each time.

Even the goal (singular) he did score was accidental, with Ken De Mange’s goalbound shot against Swindon Town smacking Moore on the side of his head as he tried to get out of the way, fooling the goalkeeper entirely. Moore’s defiant fist to the crowd as his team-mates congratulated him suggested a “now I’ll show you” attitude (a prototype of that tossy celebration by Caleb Folan at Portsmouth) but in his remaining four games he just got worse.

Gray substituted him at half time against Birmingham at Boothferry Park after an especially spiteful round of abuse from the South Stand, and he wasn’t seen at a home game again.


FAMOUS FIVE: City players against England

No City player has ever played for England, of course*, but a decent handful have lined up against them down the years. Robert Snodgrass and David Marshall are in contention to do so for Scotland this weekend, so we’re looking back at five others. No overseas City player has ever done it against England while on our books**, so they’re all from the British Isles…

1: Stuart Elliott

ElliottSCity’s great hero of the lower divisions under Peter Taylor also became a semi-regular Northern Ireland international after joining the Tigers. Two of his 38 appearances came against England when the two sides were put in the same qualifying group for the 2006 World Cup, with wildly mixed results.

Elliott made little impact in England’s 4-0 win at Old Trafford in March 2005, marked out of the game as he was by Gary Neville, but six months later at Windsor Park he was up against the less experienced – and less good – Luke Young and was able to contribute to a fine team performance that resulted in a shock 1-0 win for Lawrie Sanchez’s side. Elliott is the player following in as David Healy’s shot hits the back of the net.

Even by the mid 2000s, City had few international players at any level of the global game, and there was genuine interest in Elliott’s escapades with his country beyond the usual prayers – perhaps appropriately, in his case – that he wouldn’t come back with an injury at a time when we were over-reliant on his goals.

Elliott is only the second City player to feature twice against England for his country while on the books with the club – his fellow Ulsterman Terry Neill was the first.

2: Dave Roberts

Massively underrated and admirably hirsute centre back of the 1970s, spoken of in equal terms to modern heroes of the defensive art by those who saw him play, and a semi-regular for Wales at a time when they had temerity to get to the last eight of the European Championships.

Within his 11 appearances for Wales as a City player, Roberts wore the wonderful 70s Welsh kit with that yellow bordered stripe down from each armpit of the red shirt a number of times. One such game was against England at Wembley in the 1977 Home Championship, which Wales won 1-0 courtesy of a first half penalty from Leighton James.

It was only as a late sub for Leighton Phillips that Roberts made his appearance, but he stiffened up a Wales rearguard that manfully held off swathes of second half England attacks (which included ex-City striker Stuart Pearson) to clinch what remains their only ever win at Wembley. He left City after relegation in 1978, a year before his international manager Mike Smith came to Boothferry Park.

3: Gerry Bowler
A largely unremarkable centre half who spent just one season with City but during that time played in a dually infamous game against England.

Firstly, England won 9-2 (NINE-TWO, as the earliest vidiprinter would have it) with Jack Rowley scoring four times for England in a match played at Manchester City’s old Maine Road ground. Bowler’s debut had come in the previous tie against Scotland, which had ended in an 8-2 (EIGHT-TWO) defeat. Few international careers have started so unpromisingly, you could say, though Bowler was played out of position on both occasions.

Beyond the on-pitch incompetence, though, political storms were brewing as Bowler and co were playing for what was effectively a united Ireland side, as two teams existed but players from either side of the border were eligible for each, leading to the ludicrous situation of some players featuring in two different sides during a World Cup qualifying campaign. FIFA put a stop to it afterwards and the FAI and the IFA were told to pick players born within their own borders only (until Jack Charlton and others found a way round it a generation later).

Bowler, born in Londonderry, only played for the incarnation north of the border anyway, preventing us from having the novelty of a player to be picked by two different national associations. He featured in all three games in that 1949/50 tournament (the third was a goalless draw against Wales) and at the end of that season he left City for Millwall and his international career ended simultaneously.

4: Andy Robertson

Not just played, but scored. Good day all round for City fans that care about the international team – win the match but see a promising City player, still in new and fresh surroundings at both levels of the game, score a cracking consolation for the opposition. And this was when he was a meagre 20 years of age and still a year away from getting his first goal for City.

Robertson is only the second serving City player to score against England – Neill, again, was the first, in 1972 (Neill is the first at pretty much everything when it comes to linking City players with international football) – and the gifted left back would have been first pick to play at Wembley this weekend but for his injury. Whether the Scotland hierarchy have checked the birth history of Josh Tymon’s family is unclear.

5: Alan Jarvis

JarvisATireless midfielder of the mid 1960s, one of the workhorses that did all the unglamorous stuff while the likes of Chilton and Wagstaff took the glory, Wrexham-born Jarvis acquired all three of his Wales caps in a six month period following City’s Third Division title win of 1966.

The second of these appearances was in a 5-1 cuffing by an England side whose success in the World Cup certainly ran City a close second for most impressive footballing achievement of the year. Alf Ramsey’s men carried an aura and a mystique that made lesser men weaken visibly, and he notably picked the exact same winning XI from July that year (for the sixth and final game in a row, in fact), with Jarvis having to do battle with the likes of Nobby Stiles and Alan Ball, both at the top of their game in the middle of the park.

Jarvis stayed at City until 1971 but found himself marginalised at club level as the likes of Malcolm Lord and Billy Wilkinson began to get more games. His international career ended almost as soon as it began.

*Gordon Wright was registered with Cambridge University at the time of his only full England cap.
**Jozy Altidore was never a fully-registered Hull City player and his loan spell with the Tigers was over by the time he lined up for the USA against England at the 2010 World Cup.


FAMOUS FIVE: Own goals by City players

Michael Dawson’s effort was a bit pathetic, wasn’t it? It brushed apologetically in off him in a game in which City were competitive, and left ample time for an equaliser, while garnering him and the team extensive sympathy afterwards. Cuh. If you’re going to score an own goal, do a proper job of it. Make it heartbreaking, or spectacular, or career-defining, or comical, or totally worthless in the context of the game. Like these were…

1: Kamil Zayatte v Aston Villa, 2008/09

OGVillaZayatteWe had a bit of a selection to pick from with the Guinean defender, of course, as he became renowned for spannering the ball between his own sticks on a notable handful of occasions during his eventful period with the club. But the most notorious – and the most costly – was the one against Aston Villa at the Circle in the final game of 2008.

City were freefalling down the Premier League table in their first ever season of top flight football, while Villa were their usual effective, slightly charmless, moderately unambitious selves in the upper half of the table. On a bitter December night, with the nation watching on TV, City had a Nick Barmby goal disallowed for blundering into ex-Tigers loanee keeper Brad Guzan in a game generally of few chances, and as injury time approached, a goalless stalemate looked likely.

For City, it would have been quite welcome after a run of games which had yielded just one win in nine, having lost two in the previous ten days. But when Ashley Young turned Sam Ricketts on his backside and galloped for the byline, trouble was clearly afoot. Zayatte was closest to the ball as it was whipped towards Gabriel Agbonlahor at the near post and had to do something; sadly, what he had to do was not stab it past a helpless Boaz Myhill and into his own net.

City fans were sickened, but their devastation turned to anger when posturing ref Steve Bennett awarded a penalty for handball near the Villa crossbar, then gave in to protests from the visiting players and changed his mind. That he was actually right to do so when viewing the replay still feels neither here nor there. City only won once again all season and stayed up on the final day.

2: Gareth Williams v York City, 1999

OGWilliamsGWhat can you say? It was a shocking mistake by Williams, who had always been something of a reliable presence in the City squad during the two loan spells in his early career and then after his permanent move from Scarborough. But lower division players are such for many reasons, and the occasional brainfart is one of them.

John Eyre had only just given City the lead at Boothferry Park when a cross hit too deeply by Mark Sertori seemed easy pickings for Williams. He could have left it, he could have chested it down and raced away with it, he could have played safe and nodded it away for a throw-in or, at worst, a corner. To be fair to him, he didn’t panic – his aim was to guide the ball gently back to Lee Bracey. Unfortunately, where he put the ball bore no resemblance to the position Bracey found himself in.

York’s fans celebrated, and so did their mascot. Williams was clearly unimpressed. Entertainment wise, nothing could beat a player scoring a daft own goal and then being baited by a bloke in a lion  suit, and so the remaining hour of the game was uneventful.

3: Dave Bamber v Brighton, 1990

OGBamberIt’s probably the most notorious own goal in City history, scored by one of the most notorious players in City history. Quite a combination, really.

Bamber was an expensive, boneidle liability whose habit of scoring frequently against City could inevitably not be transferred to scoring frequently for City after he joined for £125,000 in 1990. But he was quite able to score against us, still.

A night trip to Brighton, then. A corner is forced. It’s swung in, quite dangerously but, it seems no Brighton player is set on making a late run to challenge Bamber, back on the far post allegedly “helping” the defence. What went through his mind over the next second or two is anyone’s guess but the header was placed impeccably, calmly. That it was in the wrong net seemed to escape Bamber’s notice during what was a craven act of dimwittery.

City lost 2-0 and Bamber rarely looked like he was worth his colossal salary, to the extent that he was actively hated rather than pitied by the time he was packed off the following season. This website related to his badness as a footballer every season since inception and his own goal at the Goldstone Ground played a leading role in the lifelong acrimony aimed his way by City fans.

4: Mike Edwards v Rushden & Diamonds, 2001
That time the ball smacked him full in the face.

5: Neil Buckley v Notts County, 1991

OGBuckleyThird round day in the FA Cup. A popular, keenly-awaited day in the game’s calendar. It’s one, however, that Neil Buckley won’t forget in a hurry as he scored the first two goals in a seven-goal thriller at Boothferry Park against Notts County.

Sadly, the first was into his own net as City failed to deal with a long throw from their own former full back Charlie Palmer. Buckley was unfortunate as Iain Hesford had come flying out to deal with the throw and, typically, got nowhere near the ball and the City defender certainly had to do something. Just not this.

To his credit, Buckley didn’t take long to head in the equaliser, so we’ve included this because there aren’t many examples of City players scoring for both teams in a match. The recovery on a personal level didn’t extend to the team, mind, as the game wound up with five of the seven goals going in City’s net, resulting in the usual instant exit from the Cup.


FAMOUS FIVE: The Watford recruits of the 80s

We go to Watford this weekend. Back in the 1980s, we seemed to have a “go to Watford” recruitment policy, with largely excellent results. Rarely for us, we’ve put them in chronological order…

1: Neil Williams
WilliamsNeilGolden-haired midfielder who was the first of the quintet to join up. He came through the ranks at Vicarage Road but never made the first team and was a full 20 years old by the time Brian Horton brought him to Boothferry Park and gave him his senior debut. He settled in gently, peripherally contributing to the 1984/85 promotion season, even scoring three goals, but over his three subsequent full seasons he never quite did it.

An issue with Williams, which wasn’t necessarily his fault, was that he was an orthodox wide midfielder without being a natural winger, and Horton liked wingers. So even if he showed a bit of form, a change of formation would often see him miss out, and as a result his frustrations were clear, matched by those of the supporters who expected better from him.

He is memorable, sadly, for two open goal misses – one against Wigan in the fifth round of the FA Cup in 1987 (which City lost 3-0, despite being the higher placed side at the time) and a weird left footed slice in front of Bunkers against Leeds in January 1988, which was less costly as City went on to win 3-1, though he did manage to score against his old club in an FA Cup replay the same season (though it went to a third game, which City lost). He was in and out for the remainder of that season but had been earmarked for a free transfer by Horton even before the manager got the sack in the spring.

Williams went on to play for Preston and Carlisle but clearly we had an effect on him round our way, as he settled in Cherry Burton after retirement.

2: Richard Jobson

JobsonRAnother fair-haired recruit, and this time a total, unqualified success. Indeed, to many it is Jobson that still sets the benchmark for defending ability that the likes of Turner, Chester and Davies have followed.

He made the grade at Watford but was a squad player, and left after missing out on a place in the 1984 FA Cup final, which the Hornets lost to Everton. Signed by Horton in February 1985, Jobson was technically coming home when he pitched up at Boothferry Park, as he was born in Hull, although he’d left for Burton-upon-Trent with his family as a toddler and had the accent to match.

Starting out with City as a right back, he showed elegance and class in a role not ideally suited to someone of his height. But he and City were not a perfect match immediately. Jobson went AWOL shortly after signing, casting doubts on his fortitude as a first team player, but upon his return he settled down properly in the centre of defence and for the remainder of his City career was the ultimate in reliable, watchable marshalling of a back four, aided by the somewhat more industrial methods of Peter Skipper. City had that wonderful luxury of a centre back partnership that could both play and spoil.

He had a poor run in 1988/89, a period when he was made team captain (but not club captain) ahead of Garreth Roberts (who maintained the club captaincy and his place in the side, bafflingly) but regained some form in 1989/90 as City clawed their way up the table after a wretched start. Skint and unambitious, City sold him for a shoddy £460,000 to Oldham three games into the 1990/91 season, which not coincidentally ended with City’s relegation.

After Oldham won promotion and performed admirably in cup competitions, his former Watford manager Graham Taylor called him into the England squad in the early 1990s, though he never won a cap, and Jobson continued to play until he turned 40, including spells at Leeds United and Manchester City, with whom he won a brace of promotions. He later became the chairman of the PFA.

3: Charlie Palmer

PalmerCThe 1986/87 season was an important one culturally for Hull City, as the club fielded a black player for the first time. The player was Ray Daniel, a left-sided midfielder whom Horton had encountered at Luton Town. Daniel began the season in the team and as barriers came down – and there were some, as City’s lack of black representation had been noted during a period when England had taken two black players to the 1986 World Cup and major clubs were recruiting black footballers, while the city itself had a reputation for racial illiberality – two more joined at the same time.

Palmer was one, and again he had been a Watford player at the beginning of his career, though had left after just ten league games and settled into a decent career at Derby County. He joined in February 1987 and promptly stayed in the side for the remainder of the season – and, indeed, pretty much all of the next one – with a brand of incisive overlapping full back play beloved of the more athletic defender, while also being capable of winning the ball and stifling wingers.

He lost his place to Nicky Brown midway through the 1988/89 season and didn’t hang around to try to regain his spot after Notts County put in an offer. He later came back with his new club to score at Boothferry Park, something he never managed as a City player. He won promotions with Notts County and played in the top flight for them, and became a social worker, as well as a coach at non-league level, after he finished playing.

Palmer was never one to make a big deal of being one of three black players all recruited by City at the same time, and one suspects the other two weren’t either, but they did wonders off the pitch for everybody’s reputation.

4: Alex Dyer

DyerADyer joined and debuted at the same time as Palmer, but again had not come directly from Watford; indeed, like Williams, he had not been deemed good enough for the first team at Vicarage Road.

Instead, he carved out a good name at Blackpool as a hip-swivelling, close controlling centre forward who was also useful in wide positions and he played both of these roles to great effect after he joined the Tigers.

Dyer was a fine target man, awkward around defenders and strong, proven no better than when he literally shoved weakling Leeds defenders to the deck at Elland Road to score the opener in a memorable 2-0 win in 1987/88. He also scored in the 3-1 win against the same oppositon at Boothferry Park later the same season and, like Williams, netted against his former club in the FA Cup.

The arrival of Eddie Gray gradually marginalised Dyer, who found himself out on the left wing, though he was still effective and dangerous. After a particularly good personal performance against Crystal Palace, they signed him for big money in the autumn of 1988 but he was never the player they thought he was going to be, and he moved around a fair few clubs for the remainder of his career. He is still in the game as a coach, having worked for Chris Powell at both Charlton and Huddersfield.

5: Steve Terry

TerrySThis was all about Dennis Booth, who clearly was the driving force behind the recruit of so many Watford trainees of yore when he became assistant manager under Horton. Booth had been at City since 1980 and was scaling down his career under Colin Appleton, before Horton appointed him to the coaching staff in 1984.

Prior to all this, Booth had spent three years at Watford and knew his old club’s youth system inside out, so recruiting promising players who would have been 16 by the time he left Vicarage Road would have been an obvious policy to adopt. With Horton’s own knowledge of the young, gifted but unchosen players nearby at Luton, a whole new team of hungry stars of the future could be constructed.

So, Booth suggested the Watford graduates, while Horton got Daniel, Frankie Bunn and Garry Parker from Luton. All good, and all successful. Then Horton got the bullet towards the end of the 1988 season (having sold Bunn and Parker during the campaign) and Booth became temporary manager. Don Robinson made a promise to him that he would be unveiled as the full time gaffer in the summer, and told him to manage as if he had a mandate already.

To that end, Booth went out and bought Steve Terry, a familiar figure to all due to the large sticking plaster that he would attach to his forehead prior to every game (presumably due to scar tissue). Terry had debuted for Watford in 1980 in a game that had also been Booth’s last for the club, and went on to become a competent stopper for many years, playing a part in their promotions, Cup runs and jaunts to Europe, but marital problems meant he needed a move, and he was even prepared to sacrifice the remainder of the 1987/88 season – he joined after the deadline and therefore couldn’t play – to get to Boothferry Park and start afresh.

So Booth had done as Robinson instructed by being a proper manager and purchasing a player, parading him for the photographers under the Humber Bridge. But Terry’s debut came under Eddie Gray in August after Robinson performed a volte-face in the summer and denied Booth the job. Remarkably, and to his great credit, Booth took it on the chin and returned to his previous role as assistant.

After displacing Skipper, the new man spent a few months hoofing the ball great distances while Jobson did the tidier stuff, before injury allowed Neil Buckley a route into the team at his expense. Terry left midway through the following season and joined Northampton.

(All five of these players were technically team-mates after Terry’s arrival in the late spring of 1987/88, though never played together due to Terry’s ineligibility and then Williams’ departure).


FAMOUS FIVE: 6-1 scorelines

Bournemouth was a vile experience, but at least it gave us a chance to look at a quintet of other 6-1 scorelines involving City and, ever the optimists, we’ve picked three victories to two defeats (though mainly because they were the first five we found)…

1: Chelsea, 1999/2000 (L)


World Cup winners at Boothferry Park. It had happened before, but there was something slightly more glamorous about Didier Deschamps and Frank Leboeuf cavorting around the hallowed turf than when Nobby Stiles popped down with Middlesbrough for a Second Division game in 1971.

Chelsea’s visit in the third round of the FA Cup came with no expectations whatsoever on the part of a City crowd just grateful to still be in the league following the Great Escape under Warren Joyce the year before. Any half-arsed pretensions that such a cosmopolitan, cultured side (albeit one still including Chris Sutton and Jon Harley) couldn’t do it on a cold December afternoon with the biting Humber breeze up their shorts were soon expunged as Chelsea gave the Tigers a severe seeing-to.

Gustavo Poyet scored a brilliant hat-trick, while Roberto di Matteo and Sutton (notably with an insane and amusing overreaction to the City support, who’d been taunting him through the game) both put away smart goals, though David Brown could be proud of his chipped consolation near the end of the first half after leaving Ed de Goey on the deck. Mike Edwards’ knowing smirk to himself after erroneously putting Chelsea’s sixth into his own net summed up everyone’s mixed emotion of disappointment and resignation, while Jon Whitney was close to nomination for the Order of Merit for trying to snap Dennis Wise.

2: Exeter City, 1965/66 (W)


Chris Chilton with a hat-trick, a brace from Ray Henderson and a further strike from Ken Houghton during a season when just five City players scored 100 league goals between them. It was third of three sixers from Cliff Britton’s all conquering side that season, so was actually fairly standard, though ranks as the best because the other two each featured own goal gifts from the opposition.

3: Lincoln City, 1914/15 (W)


The first 6-1 scoreline involving City was at the correct end of the scale, though conflict was well underway on the mainland and it was clear that the very men banging in the half dozen goals would likely be required for somewhat more serious shooting accuracy before long.

Sammy Stevens and Billy Halligan got a brace each with Kilt Cameron and John Lee adding the other two. It is pleasing to note that all four of these men survived the war, with two of them continuing to turn out for the Tigers after peace returned to the world.

4: Liverpool, 2009/10 (L)


The most recent example before the trip to Bournemouth, and just as likely to induce shudders from those who witnessed both games. City were abject at Anfield but with Michael Turner sold and defensive reinforcements feeble, to say the least, it never looked good once Phil Brown’s decision to give raw teenager Liam Cooper a debut alongside calamitous “will this do?” Turner non-replacement Ibrahima Sonko.

Fernando Torres, in his alice-banded pomp, had a field day, rolling in one of the simplest hat-tricks anyone will score, and while Geovanni had briefly volleyed City level at 1-1, it was a procession for Liverpool and the beginning of the end for Brown and City’s initial stay in the top tier.

Sonko remained a disaster for the whole time he was on loan at the Circle but the debut was unduly harsh an experience for Cooper, who later proved he had some real use as a defender, though his spirit had been broken within the club by the time Nigel Pearson and, finally, Nick Barmby, tried to use him more productively in the Championship, and he needed fresh surroundings.

5: Kidderminster Harriers, 2003/04 (W)


With a proper manager in place and a proper forward line looking for goals, it felt like finally City had a team that could drag itself out of the toilet that was football’s lowest division, and victories like this helped greatly. Ben Burgess, one of the two new strikers, opened the scoring with a shot that the keeper essentially carried over the line, then got another with a marvellous overhead kick in the second half.

There was a sumptuous shot from Andy Dawson and a first goal in City colours for Ryan France, recruited from Scunthorpe and Alfreton respectively (clubs of equivalent size and importance, there) while Danny Allsopp scored a tidy volley and Stuart Green swerved in a bamboozling free kick. City breezed to promotion, with the two strikers banging in 33 between them.


FAMOUS FIVE: City’s shortest-serving managers

Sam Allardyce. 67 days, one competitive game. That’s almost something to admire, in a way, even though he’s clearly a bloody idiot. So, we decided to look at the shortest spells in charge in City’s history. We’ve not included caretaker managers or temporary football management consultants because those people were, by definition, not more than stopgap appointments to the job. And we’ve done it only on the number of competitive games in charge, as we have insignificant off-periods to consider, like summertimes and global conflict…

1: James Ramster (No games, 1904/05)

RamsterJIt looks ridiculous to have a full-time manager who didn’t actually get a team on to a pitch for a competitive game, although the just-departed England boss came mighty close, but Ramster (fourth from left on top row, above, next to the Lord Mayor) was City’s first gaffer, appointed after the club was formed in 1904. He was there for a year but City weren’t able to gain immediate election to the league, so he picked teams for friendlies until a place in the Second Division was confirmed, at which point he was replaced by Ambrose Langley, a player-manager with a strong reputation.

Some City tomes refuse to acknowledge Ramster was a proper manager at all, but this feels a bit cruel. He was permanent in the role – City’s (lack of) league status was incidental and not his fault, and he’s worth his place here.

2: Colin Appleton (16 games, 1989)

AppletonCWe try to colour another grey area with this one, as Appleton managed City for more than 100 competitive matches in total and gained a fine promotion from the Fourth Division with a small, tight-knit and talented squad in 1983, made all the more admirable because the club had been about to fold the previous year. However, his return for a second spell for the start of 1989/90, five years after he had left, was one of the dumber decisions taken by any City chairman, not least because Don Robinson’s judgment was evidently clouded by sentiment.

Appleton won only one of the 16 games (a League Cup tie against Grimsby which City still lost on aggregate), signed just one player (Steve Doyle), sold prolific scorer Keith Edwards and was fired when Robinson’s ill-health prompted a reshuffle of the seating in the boardroom, and Richard Chetham wasted no time in getting rid. His replacement, Stan Ternent, promptly won his first game in charge and City, a national laughing stock to this point, stayed up.

There remains masses of goodwill for the eccentric Appleton because of his achievements first time round, though at least some of it must also be down to the fact that the season that started so catastrophically under his tenure when he came back didn’t end in relegation. In some ways, he is a fortunate man.

3: Jan Mølby (17 games, 2002)

MolbyJCity’s only non-British manager, a cosmopolitan appointment by Adam Pearson after the slightly controversial sacking of Brian Little, with the hope that his vast experience as a player would rub off on a team of fourth tier triers who’d had a momentary taste of the play-offs.

Alas, Mølby was a disaster, largely due to his frosty relationship with the players and some odd training methods and tactical decisions. Long term, City did benefit from the Dane’s reign because he acquired Ian Ashbee, Stuart Elliott and Stuart Green, players who would be crucial to the long-awaited renaissance of the club over the next few years, but nobody was anything but relieved when he packed his bags six months after his appointment.

4: Bobby Collins (19 games, 1977/78)
CollinsBThe three-manager season, ending in a hurtful relegation after 12 years in the second tier, and during football’s simpler days it’s hard to imagine City being in more turmoil at any other time.

The campaign began with John Kaye in charge, where he had been for three years, but he had been given an “improve or else” ultimatum by the board which he couldn’t act upon. His sacking led to first team coach Collins receiving an unexpected elevation to the job.

Fans were surprised, as Billy Bremner, skipper of City and with an unwritten agreement when he signed from Leeds that he’d get a crack at the manager’s gig when the chance came, was overlooked in favour of the chap who had been once his own captain at Leeds. Collins, despite starting with a win over Spurs, was staggeringly out of his depth and in February, after a boardroom change, new chairman Bob Chapman gave him his cards. Ken Houghton took over but couldn’t prevent the drop.

5=: David Menzies (24 games, 1936) and Phil Parkinson (24 games, 2006)
Menzies was a proto-Appleton, a Scotsman whose short tenure as gaffer was actually his second, and in the end he took charge of 114 games. He first became manager during World War I after two years on the medical staff, waited three years for a competitive match, and stayed until 1921 before, like Appleton, choosing to quit for a new job.

A whole 15 years passed before he returned, after six years at Bradford and a successful eight-year stint at Doncaster, which included lifting the Division Three (North) title in 1935. He started the 1936/37 season with a nine-match unbeaten run before his sudden death from a heart attack, the only City manager to die in his post. At least his inclusion in a semi-dubious list like this isn’t due to any incompetence on his part…

Parkinson, meanwhile, was the bright young manager whom everyone connected to City wanted upon Peter Taylor’s exit in the summer of 2006, having just guided the deeply unfashionable Colchester United into the Championship with football that was both decisive and incisive. It took a lot of negotiation – and a lot of cash – to prise him away from Layer Road as, unsurprisingly, his chairman wasn’t keen on letting him go, but he was a massively welcome and popular appointment. Soon, however, it was clear he had taken too big a step too early.

His reputation is partially saved, similarly to that of Mølby, thanks to the initial signings he made, with Michael Turner and Sam Ricketts among his recruits, but he struggled to gain the confidence of his players, was tactically very naïve, alienated very influential figures in the dressing room and was responsible for some shocking defeats, including a 5-1 reversal at his gleeful old club that we suspect still gives him cold sweats to this day.

A relegation battle was already in full swing by the time he was removed just before Christmas, with Phil Brown moving up from first team coach to take over and salvage things.

And, as you’re asking: 1 – Cliff Britton (406 games, 1961-69); 2 – Billy McCracken (375, 1923-31); 3 – Terry Dolan (322, 1991-97); 4 – Ambrose Langley (318, 1905-13); 5 – Bob Brocklebank (302, 1955-61). We’ll leave this here, as let’s face it, it isn’t going to come up as a topic in its own right any time soon…


FAMOUS FIVE: Players for City and Liverpool

We’re off to Anfield this weekend. There aren’t many players who have worn the colours of both clubs – so narrowing it down to five was easy. And no, we haven’t included Nick Barmby, because nothing tops this piece on him here

1: Emlyn Hughes

HughesEmlynThe most successful Liverpool captain ever (three League titles, two European Cups, a UEFA Cup and an FA Cup during his time with the armband) who combined marauding runs with madcap tackling, all while berating referees when annoying and sporting one of the most famous shiteating grins when happy.

Four years after leaving Anfield, he joined City for the end of the victorious 1982/83 season, when City were clambering their way out of the Fourth Division, thanks to a long-time friendship with chairman Don Robinson, who had played rugby with Hughes’ dad. Nobody outside of Hull remembers the future star of A Question Of Sport playing in black and amber, though more remember his split loyalty in 1989 when, as a board member at Boothferry Park, he was asked who he’d be supporting when Liverpool were paired with City in the FA Cup.

2: Jon Otsemobor

OtsemoborJonShortlived loanee who played for Peter Taylor in defence on eight occasions at the end of 2002/03, scoring three times. He left Liverpool, his boyhood club, in 2005 after failing to become a first team regular, and lived a nomadic existence afterwards, playing for six clubs without ever commanding a fee or achieving anything major, though he was popular at MK Dons. He retired, disillusioned, at the age of just 31.

However, even a long, spectacular, decorated and blameless football career would likely not have stopped him being most memorable for the time he was shot up the arse by a gunman during an attack in a Liverpool nightspot at the end of 2003. It’s with this everyone outside of Milton Keynes associates him.

3: Gary Ablett

AblettGElegant left-sided defender who spent a short time on loan at City in 1986/87 before breaking into the Liverpool team the following season, aided by the sudden retirement of Mark Lawrenson, and having the gall to stay there, initially as a left back and then in the centre of defence.

He was evidently too good for the second tier when he came to City for a spot of experience, and his later form at Liverpool, which earned him two title medals and an FA Cup, proved this conclusively.

During this time he made a further appearance at Boothferry Park in the famous FA Cup tie of 1989, making an error that led to Billy Whitehurst’s equaliser.

Graeme Souness sold him to Everton, where he won the FA Cup again (he remains the only player to win the competition with both Merseyside clubs) before a lower profile swansong to his career and a delve into management. He died of cancer in 2012, aged just 46.

4: Péter Gulácsi

GulacsiPPrematurely balding Hungarian goalkeeper of dubious actual goalkeeping ability, signed on loan by Nigel Pearson in 2011 and sent back, 15 games and a knee injury later, to Anfield with nobody really benefitting at all from the move. Difficult to conclude he was any good, and it’s notable he never once played for Liverpool in five years there, sitting on the bench more than 50 times.

The knee injury was real although the way he suffered it, reacting long after the event in conceding a goal at Burnley in December 2011, led to accusations of feigning from livid City fans, and his reputation never recovered. City at the time had an aversion to signing permanent goalkeepers for the long term and Gulácsi was one such bit of short-termism that never worked. He is still only 26 (!) and now plays for Leipzig, sometimes…

5: John Welsh

WelshJohnHistory ought to be kind to Welsh, a battle-hardened England Under 21 midfielder who was superb when he first joined City on loan from Liverpool in 2005/06 under Peter Taylor, having been cast as the next Steven Gerrard, whatever that meant. He scored a fantastic brace at Coventry early on and then made his move permanent mid-season thanks to Liverpool, for whom he’d played ten times, having eyes on City youth product Paul Anderson.

The swap deal worked better for City, as Anderson didn’t make it at Anfield, and Welsh was a regular in a comfortable first season back in the second tier for City after 15 years away, but his luck changed when Taylor quit in the summer. Phil Parkinson disliked Welsh, tried to find numerous ways to avoid playing him, and would always make him a scapegoat in the event of a poor performance, which under Parkinson was a regular occurrence.

Phil Brown, on succeeding Parkinson, tried harder with Welsh but questioned his attitude, and given that Welsh wasn’t as tough as Ian Ashbee, he decided not unreasonably that there wasn’t room for two “hundred percenters” in the midfield, especially as only one of them always gave that one hundred percent. Welsh then went in for a stupid two-footer on his ex-Liverpool team-mate Neil Mellor in a game against Preston in March 2007 and broke his leg in two places, ending his season and leaving him unable to contribute to a fine escape from relegation under Brown who then wouldn’t give him the time of day for the remaining two years of his contract.

Welsh made the bench a couple of times when injury crises left Brown with no choice, but he didn’t play again for City, going on loans to Chester, Carlisle and Bury prior to his release in 2009. Ironically, he is now a fixture in the midfield at Preston.

There is little doubt he was a fine footballer, skilled and industrious, and with a bit more fortune and a lot more focus he could have been one of City’s enduring presences during a time of transition and progress. There are those of us, however, who’ll forgive him all his shortcomings just because he still looks like the grandson of CJ from The Fall & Rise of Reginald Perrin – and because we remember how insanely we celebrated when he scored his wonderful second goal at Coventry.


FAMOUS FIVE: Great City free kicks

Robert Snodgrass curled in a beauty last weekend, and that it was a) at “bloody” Burnley, and b) in the 95th minute made it even sweeter. Any excuse to recall some previous sweet, timely or just memorable goals from a dead ball…

1: Garry Parker v Plymouth Argyle, 1987/88

ParkerFKProbably the most individually gifted player in City colours during the 1980s, and certainly one of the most successful in his post-City life, Parker’s parting shot was just that, a belter of a free kick that showcased his tremendous talent irrespective of whether the ball is in transit or not. City were a goal down against a middling Plymouth side courtesy of an early bit of typical close-range plundering from Stewart Evans and the locals were getting restless.

This wasn’t surprising, as City’s record from the early part of 1988 onwards wasn’t exactly stellar; no wins since giving Leeds a seeing-to three days into the new year. Parker, with his streaked mullet and laconic style on the ball, was very much the player through whom City tried everything in the centre of the park, and when a free kick was won on the edge of the visitors’ box, there were no other candidate to have a pop at goal.

Now Parker was known for his deliciously accurate flighting of the ball. His trajectories were special, his ability to curl the leather with either inside or outside of the foot with precision bordering on legendary, but power hadn’t been his great strength in two and a half years at Boothferry Park. So it was with surprise as well absolute delight that the shot he crashed past wall and keeper (the bewildered Steve Cherry) and into the top corner of the net was, as anyone in the South Stand seats that day will attest, one of the straightest, fastest and most devastating he had ever hit.

It was also the last. The game settled for a 1-1 draw and Parker, who was being watched by Nottingham Forest assistant manager Ronnie Fenton, signed for them three days later, transfer deadline day, for a club record £260,000. The deal provided an extra stick with which to beat the under-fire Horton, even though the manager brought in Keith Edwards and Wayne Jacobs on the same day, and he was out of a job within a month.

2: Geovanni v Tottenham Hotspur, 2008/09

GeoFKThe Brazilian was brought in to sprinkle some stardust over City’s newly-promoted, history-making but limited bunch of players, and did so with real style. After blootering in the greatest goal of any City player in the Premier League era, he followed it up with this (1’06” in, below).

Early though the goal was, it knocked the stuffing out of Tottenham a meagre week after he – and we – had done the same further along the Seven Sisters Road at Arsenal.

3. Andy Dawson v Middlesbrough, 2006/07

DawsonAFKMost of the elder Dawson’s goals for City in ten distinguished years were free kicks, and you could name any of them as special. We’ve gone for this one because it was not an obvious free kick for a left-footer, making it all the more impressive; it formed one half of his only brace of goals in City colours (he’d already scored with a header) and because it satisfyingly clattered the crossbar on the way in. Oh, and it brought the score back to just 4-3 behind against a Boro side who had been 3-0 up in a pulsating FA Cup third round replay.

We have no way of backing this up, but we reckon Dawson scored more free kicks for City than anyone else, and if Stan McEwan’s official historian is reading this and would like to state anything to the contrary, we’d be delighted to hear from you. And, on that very note…

4. Stan McEwan v Orient, 1984/85

McEwanFKTalk of the devil. McEwan was the uncompromising centre back who, unusually for a man of his position on the field of play, was also City’s mid-80s go-to player for set-pieces and penalties. However, the subtlety levels he showed when introducing a centre forward’s buttocks to the toe of his right boot were replicated when it came to his delivery of these dead balls, reliant as he was on sheer brute force.

As good an example as any came against Orient in the spring of 1985, with City on the way to promotion from Division Three. He took a run-up that would have made Seb Coe do a series of precautionary stretching exercises, prior to wellying the ball into the net from 30 yards with keeper Rhys Wilmot barely able to blink. Had Billy Whitehurst not had the temerity to score a hat-trick in a game which City won 5-1, more attention would have gone McEwan’s way. Free kicks like this, not to mention the penalties, became as much of a trademark as his uncompromising defending and meant that extra strong twill was on order each season to hang between the posts at Boothferry Park.

5. Billy Bremner v Nottingham Forest, 1976/77

billy-bremnerIt was 40 years ago this weekend that Bremner played his final game for Leeds United. Two weeks later he was making his Hull City debut, and as a result a bunch of glory-hunters made the Boothferry Park railings groan somewhat, with Brian Clough’s future European champions providing the opposition. The free kick wasn’t amazing – it bounced once before crossing the line and John Middleton, in the Forest goal, should have had it, but it was the perfect way for a genuine icon of the game – albeit one with a controversial, divisive career behind him – to mark his new territory, 70 miles away from his old one.

Bremner peaked on his debut, all told. He lasted two years, missed out on the manager’s job during his second season after John Kaye got the boot, and walked away in a huff after relegation in 1978. He isn’t remembered fondly in East Yorkshire, but we suspect he’d have rather been remembered negatively than forgotten completely.