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FAMOUS FIVE: Ian Ashbee

The greatest captain in Hull City’s history celebrated his 40th birthday on Tuesday. We barely need an excuse to wax lyrical about his phenomenal career with the Tigers between 2002 and 2011, but hey, we’ve got one. So, we’ve selected five things that epitomise the colossus that is Ian Ashbee…

1: That goal at Yeovil

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Ashbee wasn’t ever a prolific scorer from midfield but was also not expected to be, with his tenure as City captain coinciding with the hiring of some fine natural strikers and decent goalsniffing midfielders. Yet when he did score, it was often memorable. His header at Barnsley in the 2007/8 promotion season, the similar one that won a tight game against Crystal Palace shortly afterwards, his strike on the opening day of 2010/11 against Swansea after a year out with injury. But when we think of Ashbee and goals, we can only think of his curling shot at Yeovil, 2003/4.

It would have still been a brilliant, brilliant goal even if City had been mid-table nonentities and 4-0 down in the game, let alone chasing a first promotion since 1985. But it was a goal that iced a particularly delicious cake, as City finally dragged themselves out of English football’s putrid lowest division after eight unforgiving and, at times, embarrassing years.

What made it all even better was that Ashbee’s goal directly took City up. It was the winner in a 2-1 victory in Somerset. And it’s a goal nobody will ever tire of watching again and again.

2: That spat with Danny Mills

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You imagine a character as abrasive and self-satisfied as Mills could start an argument in an empty room, so crossing Ashbee would have been very simple for him indeed. Mills was, of course, an effective loan signing when he turned up early in the 2006/7 season but whatever talent he showed on the pitch didn’t equate with his popularity in the dressing room, the domain of Ashbee and Ashbee alone.

The disagreement between two of football’s stronger personalities continued in a game at the Circle against Charlton the following season when, after an 18-man brawl, Ashbee got his marching orders after Mills opened his sizeable gob to implicate the skipper to the referee. Ashbee continued the row with Charlton assistant manager Phil Parkinson – the man who brought Mills to East Yorkshire when manager of City – as he headed down the tunnel and, presumably, plotted his revenge.

He didn’t have to wait long. Ashbee’s clinical, professional and delightful baiting of Mills in the return fixture at the Valley was a joy to witness as Mills trudged off the pitch, dismissed for abusing a ref when booked for simulation. One cannot imagine Ashbee and Mills meeting for ale and reminiscences much to this day.

3: That exclusive scoring record

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We’ve already said Ashbee shouldn’t be remembered for his goalscoring activities – he only got 12 throughout his time with us. But he is unique among City players as the only one to score in all four divisions for the club – something he completed innocuously against Blackburn in 2009 when volleying in a close-range consolation in a 2-1 loss.

But of the three outfield players to feature in all four divisions for City, Andy Dawson somehow failed to score in the League One promotion season and Ryan France hardly had a shot during the Premier League era, so once again it was down to the captain. It turned out to be the only Premier League goal he would ever score.

4: That ability to bounce back
Ashbee missed all bar the first six games of the 2005/6 Championship season after the degenerative bone condition he had previously endured was re-diagnosed, threatening his future mobility, not just his footballing career. City had to make do with Keith Andrews anchoring the midfield and to say it wasn’t the same was something of an understatement.

Back he came early the following season, picked still impossibly early for a game at Birmingham, but City were struggling under Phil Parkinson and drastic measures were needed. With Phil Brown taking over as manager and Ashbee leading again on the field, City avoided relegation, got promoted to the Premier League and, finally, stayed up.

Ashbee missed the finale of the Premier League season, however, when a cruciate ligament injury at Aston Villa ruled him out for initially six months, which eventually became a year. A whole 15 months passed before he played again, thereby missing the entirety of the 2009/10 season, at the end of which City were relegated back to the Championship.

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It isn’t beyond the wit of many to surmise that City might have had a better chance of staying up if Ashbee had been even partially fit.

5: That sense of belief

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Whenever a new manager was appointed – Ashbee was acquired by Jan Mølby, and subsequently played for Peter Taylor, Phil Parkinson, Phil Brown and Nigel Pearson – they bought immediately into the Ashbee legend. Only as Ashbee began to age and his form dipped did a manager dare consider the skipper’s future, and Pearson was aided by a bid from Brown, now at Preston, to take his former batman across to Lancashire.

Ashbee didn’t get along with Parkinson but it was obvious the manager needed him desperately as things nosedived during his five months at the helm. Meanwhile, either side of the Parkinson debacle, Taylor and Brown could not praise him highly enough and the very idea of dropping him was a non-starter.

Finally, that sense of belief applies to Ashbee in himself. It’s a strong man who battles back from two injuries that would scupper many a lesser career, and Ashbee’s strength was his, well, strength. His belief also extended to his ability, as well as his fortitude – every time City got promoted, questions were raised about whether Ashbee was up to the task of competing in a higher division. Every time, he proved comprehensively he was.

Ashbee wasn’t perfect, and our definitive account of his City career details a handful of downs to accompany the many ups his eight and a half years in black and amber experienced. But as a midfielder, a captain, a leader and just as a man, we have never had, and will never have, anybody better. The achievements and standing of Ian Ashbee will be forever without parallel.

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FAMOUS FIVE: City losing in injury time

There doesn’t seem to be anything quite so Typical City as injury time defeat, does there? After the weekend’s heroic but fruitless attempt to cling on against Manchester United, we feel it is our solemn duty to remind you of some (quite painful) last-ditch losses of the recent past…

1: Arsenal (h), 2009/10

BentArseThe last game of Phil Brown’s eventful reign at Hull City actually came as a surprise when it was declared so by Adam Pearson, as it involved a spirited, energetic and downright dogged display that resulted in heartbreaking – and preventable – defeat.

City had conceded early to Andrei Arshavin but then Jimmy Bullard equalised from the spot after Sol Campbell fouled (a clearly offside) Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink. All seemed peachy enough at the break, despite general concerns about City’s chronic decline since the turn of the year, and anything that irritated Arsenal was always welcome following some spicy encounters in both Premier League and FA Cup in the previous 18 months.

The second half was a masterly exercise in determination and bravery, as City spent all of it with ten men after George Boateng’s shocking tackle on Bacary Sagna earned him a second yellow. Brown threw on teenage defender Liam Cooper, apparently not at all spooked by the occasion despite previously making a Premier League debut at Liverpool which City lost 6-1. He played a total blinder as City’s rearguard held out to injury time.

Then Denilson hit a speculative shot which, for reasons we still cannot fathom, Boaz Myhill couldn’t hold. His weak palming of the ball landed at the feet of Nicklas Bendtner, who drove in the rebound.

Arsenal celebrated in their usual classless manner while City cursed their luck and Myhill looked for a convenient hole in the ground to engulf him. While hindsight suggests Brown should have gone a lot earlier in the season, one still wonders whether a 1-1 draw against title contenders while playing with ten men would have made it impossible for Pearson to put him on gardening leave 48 hours later. Decision-making at the very top wasn’t at its strongest that season, really, and City went down without a whimper, or a penny to their name, or a permanent manager picking the team.

2: Leeds United (a), 1989/90

Leeds80sA phenomenal game of football, all told, and the last that City would play at Elland Road in the days when it was a seething, spit-flecking, white-hot cauldron of hatred and atmosphere, and therefore, enormous fun. But City still lost, and should have won.

Two Andy Payton penalties, as neat and tidy as they came and both for fouls on new signing Dave Bamber, had twice restored parity after a looping header from John Hendrie and then a sumptuous volley from an oddly Platini-like Vinnie Jones had given the unhygienic hosts the lead. Then Steve Doyle blootered in a volley of his own that touched the stanchion on the way in, and with 13 minutes to go, City were ahead.

Typical City has, of course, existed for as long as philosophers have identified a concept of seeking out failure as a preference to holding on to success, and an equaliser from Imre Varadi made it 3-3. Then the ageless (brilliant, actually) Gordon Strachan clattered an angled drive past Iain Hesford a whole one minute and 49 seconds into injury time. Leeds went up; City would wait almost 16 years to go to Elland Road again, and more than 22 years before they’d eventually get another win there.

3: Doncaster Rovers (a), 1997/8
The “thank God for Doncaster” season didn’t stop the worst league side in living memory still beating City when the two met at Belle Vue. The home side were doomed from the start thanks to a chairman in Ken Richardson who, after being denied the chance to build a new stadium, ordered three blokes to torch the old one. We can be but grateful that he didn’t choose to do so while people were in it.

City were having their own woeful time under the lousy Mark Hateley, and in most other seasons would have been relegated to non-league. Come the game at Doncaster, it was already confirmed who would be going down – in the days of just one down, one up, mercifully – and it was a bitter occasion in which both sets of fans invaded the pitch to protest at the shoddy ways their clubs were being run.

When football was played, it was of unsurprisingly low quality, emphasised by the dreadful communication between Mark Greaves and Steve Wilson in injury time that allowed former England schoolboys striker Adie Mike to score a winner that gained Doncaster only a fourth win of the season. Mike was one of only two senior professionals – the other was former City midfielder Lee Warren – in a Doncaster side that had been deliberately asset-stripped through the campaign. From City’s point of view, it was arguably the lowest point on a football field the club had ever had. We could simply be grateful that another club was concurrently going even lower.

4: Port Vale (a), 2004/5

PortVale03One of those last-ditch defeats that few could complain about, just because the hosts had been the dominant force in the game, and yet also that many could moan like mad about, because City had equalised right on 90 minutes. City, with a swathe of new players, had been forced into something of a retreat, even when added time was being played.

It was an important game, however, because one Nicholas Barmby scored his first goal for the Tigers, and it came against the early run of play. The great man would score much more sophisticated efforts than this, but to open his account it didn’t matter that it was from Stuart Elliott flicking on a massive Boaz Myhill punt upfield. City were ahead and the local hero with the global name had made his first mark in black and amber.

Port Vale equalised through future City meathead Sam Collins, who stabbed in a rebound after Myhill failed to hold a free kick. They maintained momentum after the break and took the lead with a shot from Steve Brooker. City only began to exercise some influence in the last 15 minutes as they hunted down an equaliser, but had to wait until the 90th minute to get it, with Elliott steering in from close range.

That was that, it seemed. But, if Typical City can include losing with ten men against one of the world’s greatest clubs, losing to hated rivals on their own patch when winning with ten to go, and losing to the worst football team in Christendom, then losing after getting an injury time equaliser can be right up there. Brooker made sure of it in the 94th minute after City only half-cleared a corner and couldn’t regroup for the returning ball.

5: Scunthorpe United (h), 2001/2

Scunts0102We had no manager, and we lost to an injury time free kick, taken quickly when nobody in the City defence was concentrating. And it was Scunthorpe. At home. And then we thought Jan Mølby would be the answer.

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FAMOUS FIVE: Goalscoring City subs

Shaun Maloney scored a crucial goal for City after coming on as a sub at the weekend. Obviously, loads of City subs have scored goals, but some were more memorable than others – indeed, we’ve had to leave a couple of truly heroic ones out (we’re offering apologies to you Stuart Elliott). Anyway, have these five on us…

1: Ray Henderson, 1965

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Substitutes were introduced for the start of the 1965/66 season, though only in league football, and were strictly limited to injuries only. Henderson was an established inside forward for City for much of the early 60s but by the time the 1965/66 season started, he was only on the bench. It took three games for him to be introduced, as a replacement for injured left back Dennis Butler, and he scored in a 2-1 win at Brighton.

So City’s two substitution firsts happened in the same game. It initially didn’t help Henderson, who still didn’t feature in the next four matches but after a 4-1 defeat at York, he was put on the right wing and never looked back, completing the front five of unprecedented repute that scored exactly 100 of City’s 109 goals that ended in the Third Division title.

2: Dean Windass, 2008

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Nothing makes a manager look good quite like an instant goal from a substitute, and when Phil Brown brought on Dean Windass to replace Caleb Folan at Barnsley in April 2008, City were comfortably 2-0 up with eight minutes left. Within seconds, the 39 year old icon had steered in a low left foot shot in front of a delirious Tiger Nation happily getting soaked in a packed away end.

Picking Windass in this context feels a tad harsh, as Folan scored priceless goals from the bench against Coventry, Blackpool, Leicester and Watford (twice – here and here) in that promotion season alone, and then did likewise against Fulham in the opening Premier League game the following August. But, well, he’s Deano, and his goal capped a really wonderful night for the team.

3: Stephen Quinn, 2014

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Three minutes after coming on as a sub at Wembley against his former club Sheffield United, the flame-haired midfielder got on the end of a cross to nod home City’s fourth of the FA Cup semi-final of 2014 and just about confirm City’s place in the final.

Quinn didn’t celebrate the goal, but it didn’t matter, as plenty did. That his former club still got back to 4-3 and took it to past the 90th minute before finally giving up the ghost probably made him feel a bit easier about it, along with his manager deciding, belatedly, he was better for being in the team and giving him a free role in the final, in which he excelled.

4: Frankie Bunn, 1985

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It took a tad more than 20 years since the 12th man was introduced to league football for a City sub to score twice in a game. The occasion couldn’t have been any lower in profile, however – City’s first ever match in the Full Members Cup, introduced for the 1985/6 season to fill gaps in the footballing calendar for teams in the top two divisions following the post-Heysel ban from European competition.

City were in the inaugural competition following promotion under Brian Horton the previous season, and Bunn was a close-season signing from Horton’s old club Luton. He settled in quickly, scoring on his debut and putting away six goals by the first day of October. He managed a brace after replacing Andy Flounders in the second half as City comfortably overcame Bradford 4-1 in the new competition, following it up with goals in the next two rounds, though City went out in the process after losing the northern final on aggregate to Manchester City.

Bunn ended the campaign with 20 goals in all competitions but only got five the next season, so in 1987/88 he became an undeserving boo-boy target (despite five goals in the first 11 games) and Horton impetuously sold him to Oldham, where his goalscoring feats took him into the record books.

5: Andy Payton and Ian McParland, 1989

From 1-0 up to 2-1 down, and then your two substitutions pay off handsomely…

This was Stan Ternent’s first game in charge. He was, after just 90 minutes of football, clearly a genius.

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FAMOUS FIVE: City players out of position

Following the successful redeployment of Jake Livermore as a centre back on Saturday, we remember five other occasions where City players were forced into unfamiliar roles, with some more successful than others…

1: Andy Dawson – right back

DawsonAndyIt is pretty much footballing law that left-footed players, and especially left backs, should look unbalanced and foolish would they ever find themselves in the position of having to manoeuvre the ball with their right foot. Peter Taylor was famously so obsessed with specialist left backs that he had at least two, sometimes three, at his disposal during his time in charge at City.

Dawson, almost definitely the best left back in the club’s history, was nothing less than hugely comfortable in his natural position. Whether he was delivering set pieces, nutmegging lower division wingers of limited ability or clean tackling Theo Walcott, his left foot was as versatile as a digestive biscuit and never let down him, or us, or any of his six managers. His right foot, however, was not exactly extensive in its usefulness, as we all found out during an injury crisis at the start of the 2007/08 promotion season when all senior right backs were unavailable.

Phil Brown took a mighty risk in switching Dawson’s flank, presumably deciding that a right-sided Dawson was less of a liability-in-waiting than a right-sided Damien Delaney, but it spectacularly didn’t work, with Dawson horribly ill-at-ease, unbalanced, frightened even, in all three games, although City only lost one of them. The return after suspension and injury of Sam Ricketts restored the status quo and Dawson never had to concern himself with such tricky tactics again, and nobody would have been more relieved than him.

2: Ken Houghton – defensive midfielder

138622-2Houghton was such a great footballer that he really could have played anywhere, as long as he had possession of the ball. He was an outstanding, consistent inside forward, scheming around and behind Messrs Chilton and Wagstaff, feeding them both gilt-edged chances, serving the wingers and scoring plenty of goals of his own. But a new role was thrust upon him with some urgency in February 1966 as Nottingham Forest, of the First Division, travelled to Boothferry Park for an FA Cup tie.

On the morning of the game, midfield lynchpin Chris Simpkin pulled a muscle, and so manager Cliff Britton began ringing round the reserves, seeking a like-for-like replacement. He phoned Les Collinson and Len Sharpe, only to learn that one was in bed with ‘flu and the other already driving to the stiffs’ match against Scunthorpe in his car. Britton considered a debut for bright teenage midfielder Malcolm Lord, part of the junior side that had won the Northern Intermediate League the previous season, but then instead chose to disrupt his usually unimpeachable forward line, and shift Houghton back into midfield.

It couldn’t have worked better. In fact, it worked twice over – Houghton totally ran the game from his deeper-lying position, controlling the flow and pace and receiving more touches than anyone else, while his replacement higher up the pitch, the unheralded Terry Heath, scored both goals in City’s 2-0 win. It was a one-off tactic for a one-off occasion caused by a one-off injury, and became one of the definitive games of Britton’s tenure as manager and City’s brilliant season, which saw them crowned Third Division champions while reaching the FA Cup quarter finals.

3: Junior Lewis – centre forward

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Only happened once, which most would think was enough. This squarest of pegs failed to convince an awful lot of City fans wherever he played, and disbelieving laughter could be heard in the pubs around the Circle when he was named as a striker for a home game against Chesterfield in October 2004.

Peter Taylor’s belief in Lewis was unshakeable, however, and it was repaid by a stout, disciplined, hard-working performance up top in which the gangly twerp held the ball up well and set up the game’s only goal for Stuart Green. At the time, City had centre forwards who were either injured or chronically off-form, and spent the entire season – which still ended in promotion – relying on Stuart Elliott to blooter them in from the wing. So putting Lewis up front was far from stupid.

He played there again a couple of further times as a sub, but that one occasion against the Spireites will live very long in the memory and is as good a reminder as any that managers are managers for a reason, and fans aren’t.

4: Peter Skipper – goalkeeper
The prospect of any outfield player going in goal these days is bordering on ludicrous. It would take two incidents of injury or dismissal, or both, to force any side to look to someone else to act as custodian. But the idea of an outfield player actually starting a match in that position at professional level could be close to unique, certainly within any modern era of the game. But that’s what happened back in November 1986.

For away games that weren’t in the league, City didn’t often take a reserve keeper along, which sounds crazy today, not least because such games are actively used as tryouts for reserve keepers as a matter of course. In the 1980s, however, Tony Norman’s place was non-negotiable, and the man himself seemingly uninjurable. Tiny knocks, twisted fingers, head wounds, bruised elbows – all were sorted out between matches and he had been literally irreplaceable for four years. The most brutal of lower division centre forwards couldn’t get him off the park, so it was left to a coach to do it instead.

Not a human coach, mind. Dennis Booth or Tom Wilson are innocent here; they had no part to play in Norman injuring his back prior to a midweek Full Members Cup second round tie at Southampton. The coach responsible was of the motorised variety; City’s incomparable Welsh keeper had finally been crocked by a hardened seat that had, after a long, inactive trip to Hampshire, tweaked a back muscle. Had it been a league game, one of reserve keeper John Davies (who himself was about to quit through injury) or youth prospect Gavin Kelly (who had yet to play a first team game) would probably have travelled, but it wasn’t, and they hadn’t. So centre back Peter Skipper, who’d messed about in goal during training sessions and in his schooldays, was given the green jersey.

This wasn’t the only thing that made the game significant – Garry Parker scored his first City goal in the 2-1 defeat, Leigh Jenkinson made his first team debut and the Tigers would never visit the Dell again – but it really was all about a defender playing in goal from the start. Peter Shilton, probably the best keeper in the world at the time, was at the other end. You can barely begin to imagine what the two of them smalltalked about as they tapped gloves on the halfway line.

Four days later Skipper was back in defence and Norman was back in goal. It was the only first team game he would miss in five years and eight months, although as it was in a long-forgotten and now defunct competition, a lot of people think it doesn’t actually count. Well it does.

5: Alan Fettis – centre forward
If you think a defender playing as a goalkeeper is nutty, try a goalkeeper coming on as a substitute striker. And intentionally so, with tactics and everything.

And then scoring.

And then, six months later, starting a game as a striker.

And scoring again.

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FAMOUS FIVE: City facing reigning champions

The visit of Leicester City this weekend will be only the 11th occasion in their history that City have competitively faced defending champions, with eight of those coming since parity with the elite was first established in 2008. These ten matches have come against just four different clubs, so prepare for a mild bit of repetition as we look back at occasions when City have faced teams who are – literally – the best.

1: Manchester United (2008-09)

BRITAIN SOCCER

The first time we ever played a reigning champion as an equal, and it remains arguably the most enjoyable defeat, odd occurrence though that may be, in City’s modern history. Fresh from the Championship and still blithely undervalued by every big shot on the glittering Premier League walk of fame, City’s feast at the top table involved spitting out pips at quite a few such sides.

It was November, and City had jointly been in first place, done over Arsenal, Tottenham and Newcastle on their own grounds, swatted aside various others and only really been outfoxed by Wigan (yes) and Chelsea. The trip to Old Trafford was hugely intriguing; the victory at the Emirates, especially, meant there was genuine logic behind what would otherwise have been utterly wild belief in victory.

Manchester United scored first and early. Everyone instantly thought it would be a whitewash, obviously. Cristiano Ronaldo’s turn and shot edge its way in via a post, but City settled down, showing the total trust in one another that team spirit, fitness and self-belief can create. Daniel Cousin headed an equaliser in from Andy Dawson’s free kick and the travelling support went a bit daft, to say the least.

In truth, this was the nearest City ever came to winning the game, but it didn’t matter. Michael Carrick scuffed the champions back in front before half time, then Ronaldo headed his second from a corner just before the break. It didn’t take long upon resumption for the fourth to go in either, courtesy of another set-piece which City didn’t defend well, allowing Nemanja Vidić to steer in from close range.

But then the fun started.

Phil Brown slung on Bernard Mendy, resplendent in City gloves from the club shop, and he latched on to a crossfield pass from George Boateng, got away from Patrice Evra and lobbed the onrushing Edwin Van Der Sar, the ball dropping just over the line prior to Vidić hoiking it clear. Goal given, rightly; the same Frenchman, ridiculous at times but crazily talented at others, then ran from his own half at, then past, Rio Ferdinand and got as far as the box before falling under the desperate England defender’s nudge. Penalty. Geovanni. 4-3.

There were still eight minutes left and although City didn’t really look like scoring again, the sight of Ronaldo booting the ball away in a panic to waste time was one of the most hilarious things the seasoned City fan, drizzled in cynicism, had ever seen. When the final whistle went, the acclaim went to City even though the points went to Manchester United, while Alex Ferguson charmlessly berated the officials all the way to the tunnel in the corner over their temerity to give a (correct) penalty to opponents at Old Trafford. The bulbously-nosed boss was still in a strop with the BBC at the time, so it was his assistant – a certain Mike Phelan – who was assigned to talk to Match Of The Day that evening, and they only broadcast the part of the interview when he praised what City had done.

2: Everton (1963-64)

McSeveney, John

The moniker ‘School of Science’ was attributed to Everton in the early 60s after their 1963 title win, and it was a strong Toffees side that ventured across the Pennines in January 1964 for an FA Cup third round tie. They still felt beatable to an ambitious Third Division City side due to the absence of first choice keeper Gordon West, skipper Brian Labone and midfielder Tony Kay.

City, still a few months from completing their famous forward line, took the lead through a Billy Wilkinson header but Everton equalised shortly after half time courtesy of Alex Scott. A draw – to this day the only time City have not lost a game against champions – was fair and a mini-triumph for City, although it felt like the chance to dump the title-holders out of the FA Cup had gone.

Yet the replay at Goodison Park was a ripsnorter of a game, missed by Everton manager Harry Catterick (taken ill on the journey home from East Yorkshire). Everton did have Labone back, however, and this was crucial as Chris Chilton got little change from him.

Nonetheless, Everton’s 2-1 win was achieved the hard way, as John McSeveney gave the Tigers the lead early in the second half before Scott and then Brian Harris prevented what would have been quite a shock result. City chairman Harold Needler’s praise for the players was thickly laid in the press, and the game went some way to convincing him that the right investment in the team would take City towards Everton’s level. Before the year was out, Wagstaff, Houghton and Butler had arrived.

3: Manchester City (2014-15)

Much of this niche fixture’s history is very recent, and City’s previous Premier League season brought them into contact, twice, with the grossly common Manchester Hunter. It was an expensive occasion, with home tickets costing £50 in areas. It was also an eventful and, as with all of these games, ultimately fruitless occasion.

Six goal thrillers against the title holders during which the underdog recovers from two goals down don’t happen all the time, but it’s worth qualifying that an own goal from the comical Eliaquim Mangala and a penalty from Abel Hernández were all it took to get City back on terms after early strikes from Sergio Aguero and Edin Džeko had given the champions the early advantage.

HullManC

City couldn’t do much more, however, and the hosts went through the gears in the second half with two goals in as many minutes from Frank Lampard and Džeko.

4: Liverpool (1988-89)

As eagerly anticipated an FA Cup tie as any until 2014, the visit of Kenny Dalglish’s champions in the fifth round of the competition was a marvellous, remarkable event which, at half time, City were on course to win. Liverpool had been runaway champions the year before, swatting aside decent teams with devastating ease (they remain this author’s most impressive title-winners of his lifetime) but the following season it hadn’t quite been so plain sailing.

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City were going well in Division Two under the dour Eddie Gray and got Liverpool at home out of the hat after beating Bradford City in round four. Boothferry Park managed to squeeze a capacity 18,000 and a bit within its walls as goals from Billy Whitehurst and Keith Edwards gave the Tigers an eye-rubbingly impossible 2-1 lead at the break.

John Aldridge scored twice in the opening ten minutes after the break and Liverpool never looked like relinquishing the lead again, but for a long time it was the most talked about game at the old place for many a year.

5: Manchester United (2013-14)

BruceGiggs

Ryan Giggs played 963 competitive games for Manchester United, and the very last of them was against City at Old Trafford in a static, end of season affair.

City were awaiting the FA Cup final and were desperate not to pick up injuries, something which illustrated the whole final month or so of the season. The game was notable for young Manchester United striker James Wilson’s brace, Matt Fryatt’s superb 25-yard strike that brought City back into the game at 2-1 and Eldin Jakupović apologising for saving caretaker manager Giggs’ late free kick. It finished 3-1.

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FAMOUS FIVE: Bargain buys

It’s something called Black Friday, apparently. Apropos of this, here are five black and amber clad equivalents of a sixty-inch Samsung telly from Sainsbury’s at 70% off…

1: Boaz Myhill

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Nicked from under Stockport’s noses after a successful loan spell there, the 21 year old Aston Villa keeper signed for City as a long-term replacement for Paul Musselwhite at the end of 2003 for a meagre £50,000 and was almost entirely undisputed as City’s custodian during six and a half years, three glorious promotions and two seasons in the top division.

His sale for a million to West Brom in the summer of 2010 was wretched because a) he was worth a lot more; b) he didn’t want to go; c) City were to blame for committing fiscal suicide; and d) it took us years to replace him properly. That he is now first choice keeper at the Hawthorns and looks set for a trip to a major international tournament is fair reward for a cracking career that still has a long way to run and, well, sentimental this author may be, but we’d have him back at City tomorrow.

2: Les Mutrie

MutrieL
City played non-league Blyth Spartans in the second round of the 1980/81 FA Cup and, after disposing of them at the third attempt, manager Mike Smith decided to spend £30,000 on the inelegant but effective 28 year old centre forward who had caused all sorts of problems in the marathon tie and scored three goals. The risk was obvious; he had only made five league appearances previously and there was a natural sense of doubt, especially as Smith’s record in the transfer market hadn’t exactly been exemplary.

Though City were relegated to the Fourth Division for the first time ever the same season, Mutrie became a revelation the next year, especially after Keith Edwards was sold. He banged in 28 goals including 14 within a club record of nine consecutive scoring games. Nobody has matched or broken that.

Alongside either Billy Whitehurst or Andy Flounders, the Geordie hitman was never short of confidence or form even if the team was, and in the 1982/83 rebirth season, when City won a thrilling promotion back to the third tier not long after the paymasters were prepared to leave them for dead, he clobbered in 12 goals while adding his share of assists for the 35 collectively scored by Whitehurst, Flounders and Brian Marwood alongside him.

Colin Appleton decided to sell Mutrie after a tactical disagreement the following season – indeed, he was the only major departure in 1983/4 as City nearly went up again, and although his career quickly petered out afterwards, his status as both a bargain buy and a cult figure was secured for life.

3: Stephen Quinn

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The Irish midfielder signed in 2012 for one of these newfangled “undisclosed” fees, though it was soon set down as a bargain when Quinn found instant form in Steve Bruce’s promotion-bound side while details of the terms leaked out. It was two grand to Sheffield United per appearance, capped at 50 appearances, so City were never going to pay more than £100,000 to the Blades for a player who had spent seven distinguished years in their team. That must have smarted a bit.

Quinn was peripheral for much of City’s two seasons in the Premier League under Bruce but the manager occasionally noticed him when the going got tough, and it was most infrequent that Quinn didn’t play well. He also wangled himself a free role in the FA Cup final of 2014, playing a part in both of City’s goals, having previously scored against his old club in the semi-final after coming on as a sub.

Few begrudged him his right to a free transfer last summer after he – and many others – felt he had been misused or underrated by Bruce during the relegation season, but it’s unlikely the City boss has ever spent a better hundred grand in his career.

4: Ken Houghton
HoughtonKForty grand was a lot of money in 1965 – though to most people, it’s a lot of money now, of course. City had been under pressure through the mid 1960s to get some decent attacking forces in alongside Chris Chilton and, after a couple of false starts, they arrived.

Ken Wagstaff came first, then on the same day in 1965, Ian Butler and Ken Houghton joined up. Houghton, the eldest of the three newbies at 25, was the man who cost the £40,000 but the money was deemed incidental very quickly indeed.

He was the missing link in many ways; a magnificent foil for Chilton and Wagstaff, a creator and decoy runner, a visionary player on the ball and a smart maker of space off it. He could feed Butler on the wing or Chilton down the middle with equal aplomb while making opponents think he was doing something entirely different. He could track back and help the defence. And even though it wasn’t his principal job, he could score too.

In the 1966 title winning season, Wagstaff got 27 and Chilton 25 – yet Houghton, with the huge number of assists alongside his 22 goals, was arguably the most important player within an impossibly good, exciting team.

In the second tier, he scored less regularly but still provided the brains and the footballing instinct that made him such a beloved figure among the more earnest football watchers going to Boothferry Park at the time.

He dropped further back into midfield as his legs aged, and his departure in the summer of 1973 at 33 was met with real sorrow and great thanks. He, of course, would later return as manager and despite proving unsuccessful, his copybook remains forever unblotted with those who saw a real master playing the game.

5: Stuart Elliott

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Eyebrows were raised when £230,000 was exchanged between Motherwell and City to bring a largely unheralded Ulsterman to Boothferry Park in 2002. Five and a half years later, the City faithful were bidding farewell to probably the most exciting player to grace both sets of turf used by the club.

Ostensibly a winger, Elliott was nevertheless more finisher than provider, with a killer left foot, a nature-defying ability in the air that mocked his lack of inches and a supreme confidence in his ability and belief in himself, no doubt aided (and we don’t say this flippantly) by his deep Christian faith. He had off-form periods but he was never one to mope or look around for scapegoats, and usually his fallow spells were brief, coming to an end with something either spectacular, or crucial, or both.

He scored 65 league goals in three different divisions, top scored in the second tier in 2005 with a ludicrous 27 strikes despite hardly ever being a centre forward and missing six weeks with a ruined cheekbone, and gave City fans some of their greatest moments of the modern era. That £230,000 was repaid many, many times over.

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FAMOUS FIVE: City third kits

City’s 2015/16 third kit makes a belated debut at Bristol City on Saturday, so we thought we’d take a look at five other third kits worn by the Tigers over the years…

1: 1971/72

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We tend to think of third kits as a relatively modern innovation, a Premier League-era method of generating extra revenue from shirt sales, but City were wearing a third kit over forty years ago, long before replicas were available in club shops. The striking thing is that the third shirt had black stripes.

Though there is nothing unfamiliar about City playing in shirts with black stripes these days (six of the last ten home kits have featured amber and black striped shirts), that wasn’t the case in the early 1970s, when the Tigers were well into an 11-season streak of plain amber shirted home kits.

Monotone shirts became the norm post-war: plain light blue shirts were used in Boothferry Park’s inaugural season of 1946/47 before amber and black made a comeback in 1947, but with the stripes that inspired the nickname of ‘the Tigers’ out of fashion, City wore solid amber home shirts until 1961.

The shirts with black stripes used as part of the 1971/72 third kit were unfamiliar because of the contrast tone, which was red. City’s regular change kit was all-white, and evidently deemed enough of a contrast with red as we wore it at Liverpool in the League Cup and at Swindon Town in Division Two, but in other games City went Milan-a-like.

The first time was for the third game of the league campaign, a 1-1 draw with Cardiff late in the August. Amber and black causes no colour clash with Cardiff’s blue and white, but the red and black was more distinguishable than our home kit when viewed in black and white photographs (or had it appeared on a black and white TV set), and perhaps that is the reason for the third kit’s introduction.

We later wore the third kit at Fulham (white shirts, black shorts) in a 1-0 loss on 9th October, at Blackpool (tangerine and white) in a December 1-1 draw and at Oxford in March 1972 in a 2-2 point share. It’s hard to envisage us wearing red and black stripes ever again, but the alternate outfit is a fascinating footnote in City’s kit history.

2: 1995-97

9597thirdCity’s rather fetching maroon away kit, used most notably at Coventry in the League Cup, covered almost every colour clash eventuality if the home shirt was unsuitable in 1995/96, but one fixture necessitated a third kit that season.

Bradford City’s claret and amber, or rhubarb and custard if you’re unkind (and we are), rendered both the plain amber home shirt and solid maroon away kit inappropriate at Valley Parade, so City took to the field in the all-white third kit’s shirts and shorts.

The alternative change kit’s white socks, seen on the squad photo worn by manager Terry Dolan, assistant Jeff Lee, keeper coach Rod Arnold, youth coach Billy Legg and physio Jeff Radcliffe, were never used in competitive action. Instead, the amber home socks were used in the 1-1 draw at Bradford.

As on the home kit, sponsor IBC’s initial were applied in red felt on the third shirt, though only in 1995/96. Retained for 1996/97, the third shirts for that season appear to be have been a freshly produced batch, as IBC appeared in black felt rather than red.

Just as in the year before, the third kit made just one appearance, a 1-0 win at Lincoln that was memorable for forward Andy Brown replacing Roy Carroll in goal. Again the shirts and shorts were paired with different socks, in this case the away kits maroon hose with amber fold over bands.

Rectangular Nationwide League sleeve patches were added in 1996/97, whereas the kitman overlooked competition badges in 1995/96. Terry D, when speaking of the third kit commented: “The players feel pure in all white, that’s PURE in capital letters”. Righto, Tel. Fans never got to feel that purity as sadly, the white kit was not available to buy in Tiger Leisure, making the player issue shirts quite rare indeed.

3: 2005-07

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Superstition can play as much a part in a kits use as its clash-avoidance properties. That was the case when the centenary year’s away kit was still in use two seasons later, albeit with subtle changes. Phil Parkinson got it into his head that the away kit shared some responsibility for City’s poor form on their travels, and maybe he had a point, the Tigers lost at Queens Park Rangers and Burnley in black shirts. So to he pushed for the powder blue and white kit to be used instead, and it worked, for a while. We wore it at Southend in a 3-2 win and in a 1-1 draw at Norwich.

The 2004/05 shirts marked a hundred years of Hull City with a slightly amended crest, instead of carrying the club’s nickname, the scroll banner read 1904-2004. Later versions of the shirts, used in 2005/06 at Blackpool and Wolves, and later on in 2006/07 carried the standard club crest with ‘The Tigers’ in the scroll banner.

The blue shirt gambit couldn’t affect performances and consecutive heavy defeats, 5-1 against Colchester and 4-2 versus Southampton did for Parkinson. He was replaced by the man he’d brought in to coach the first team, Phil Brown.

4: 2008/09

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It doesn’t take a genius to work out that neither a black and amber home kit or a ‘flint grey’ away kit would provide sufficient contrast to Newcastle’s black and white. Club staff however missed it, creating a diabolical situation at St James Park where City had to borrow white adidas branded shorts and socks from the hosts.

To prevent a recurrence, the previous season’s away kit was put back into active service as a third kit. It was only used once in 2008/09, when we returned to St. James Park in an FA Cup third round replay after a 0-0 draw at the KC Stadium, The match was embellished by boss Phil Brown’s touchline spat with Joe Kinnear, City won courtesy of a Daniel Cousin strike and advanced to the fourth round to face Millwall at home.

Although used in the FA Cup, the white shirts had Premier League sleeve patches, numbers and letters applied. The wordmark of Gemtec appeared under the numbers in the 2007/08 Championship campaign, but back of shirt sponsors are not permitted in the Premier League so the shirt tails were blank on the 2008/09 versions of what is surely the best looking change kit City have ever had.

5: 2014/15

201415thirdThough a de facto third kit, Umbro’s white and blue get up was listed as a European change kit, in expectation of a long run in the Europa League. That plan was scuppered when City succumbed to away goals rule elimination in the play-off round, meaning the kit was worn just once in UEFA-sanctioned competition, in the 1-0 defeat at Lokeren in Belgium.

The Tigers commissioned a unique font for use in Europe, and the stylised numbers and letters made their debut at Lokeren’s Daknamstadion. The font, which vaguely resembles a cargo crate stencil, fitting for a port city side’s continental excursions, was too good to abandon after a premature Eurexit, so it was used in domestic cup games, though only on the UEFA rule compliant ‘Euro’ home shirts which had plain amber panels on the back for greater name/number clarity.

No longer needed as a Euro change kit, the white and blue set (which fused two commonly used City away colours together) was used as a Premier League third kit at Newcastle and Liverpool with league standard name and number appliques. Umbro’s wordmark appeared on the arms of these shirts, underneath the Premier League sleeve patches, though they were absent in Lokeren, peeled off to satisfy UEFA kit regulations on maker logos.

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FAMOUS FIVE: Mind-blowing City signings

For almost all of City’s existence, we’ve rarely been troubled by the showbiz side of football, but just occasionally, a signing would come in that would make City fans brought up on joyless cloggers and limited spannerers sit up and rub their eyes. Some were obviously too good, others deemed too old and an admirably big selection thought too unhinged to be of use. Have five right here…

1: Peter Barnes

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He was hardly a veteran when he joined City at the age of 30, but this super-skilled winger who’d featured regularly for England in the 70s and scored in a major cup final at the age of just 19 had unquestionably not fulfilled his potential. From the moment Manchester City sold him (when Malcolm Allison returned to the club and wantonly got rid of the ones who could play football), Barnes never got his mojo back, with West Bromwich Albion, Leeds United and even Manchester United unable to get the best from him.

He’d gone back to Maine Road, and his first love, in 1987 but they were a shadow of their former selves and he came to Boothferry Park when Brian Horton agreed to take on the remainder of his contract in March 1988. The buzz around his signing was notable, even though plenty knew that the hip swivelling tormentor of the best full backs in the country had pretty much expired, and a different kind of Barnes was coming. He was, nevertheless, given his favourite role wide on the left and proceeded to put in one of the finest debuts we’ve ever seen as City, in the midst of the slump that would see Horton sacked within weeks, lost 2-1 at home to Barnsley.

Barnes never played like that again, however. He peaked immediately, and while his place was secure for the remainder of the season he never scored (though missed a couple of sitters) and didn’t take on full backs in the same way again. In the last home game of that season, against champions-elect Millwall, he was anonymous, with legendary Lions full back Keith Stevens keeping him in his pocket, never to escape. Barnes was released by a managerless City as soon as the season ended.

2: Neil Franklin

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The most notorious of all City signings, even though it would take signing a player out on parole for terrorism offences to attain a 2015 level of horror worthy of that expressed when Franklin arrived at Boothferry Park in 1951. Less than 12 months before, the dominant England defender had left Stoke City after a decade there to go play his football in Colombia, where their league was outlawed by FIFA due to their dubious methods of attracting and paying players. Franklin became an outcast in football, unable to play any more for his country, and found little sympathy when the adventure ended prematurely due to homesickness.

He turned up at City, who had tried to sign him a few years before, but injuries got him and his five years with the Tigers were spent largely on the treatment table. He left in 1956 and drifted around the lower leagues, never to regain the presence held prior to his ill-fated decision, motivated by money, in 1950. It all seems very tame more than 60 years later, but Franklin’s arrival at City caused a national stir unmatched by any arrival since.

3: Andy Hessenthaler

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He was 39 and a half and had already been a player-manager with Gillingham when he joined City on loan during the 2004/5 promotion season under his former gaffer Peter Taylor. He featured ten times, tackled a lot, encouraged the younger players, ticked things over nicely and put a runners-up medal round his neck before going back to Kent in the summer. He is on record as City’s oldest debutant.

The only time this signing seemed to be utterly mental was when it was announced; as soon as he stepped on to the park, the reasons for it were obvious. Good player, age immaterial.

4: Terry Curran
Through Panini sticker albums in the 70s and 80s, junior football fans became familiar with the phrase “much-travelled” as those one-paragraph biographies of players struggled to list the numerous clubs certain players of ill repute had attained in their short careers. Curran was one of them.

Like many players of his era, he was a) incredibly skilful; b) shaggy haired and ‘tached; and c) something of a “character”, hence why managers got shut of him quickly. Even Brian Clough, who usually tamed disorderly players with ease, let Curran go after promotion with Nottingham Forest in 1977. Various clubs took him and jettisoned him again, including both Sheffield clubs (while with whom he developed a hateful relationship with City fans), and Everton, for whom he played nine matches in their 1984/5 title-winning team, not enough to earn him a medal.

City took him on in October 1986 but let him go again quickly. He played six senior games, scored once (in the Full Members Cup at Grimsby), got on the nerves of the City fans even more, and headed next for Sunderland. In total he played for 15 clubs, won two promotions and featured in a League Cup final, yet nothing sums him up more than the title of his autobiography – “Regrets Of A Football Maverick”.

5: David Rocastle

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One of the best English footballers of his generation, decorated greatly by the game and capped by England, and yet by the time he was 30, Rocastle was arriving to play for a City team at their truly crappest. Where did it all go wrong?

Well, a couple of ill-advised moves and a couple of bad knees provide the answer. The knees may have flared up anyway, but Rocastle’s move from Arsenal to Leeds United in 1992 remained a regret held keenly by Arsenal fans ever after, even though Leeds had just won the league title. Rocastle couldn’t settle, nor could he do so at Manchester City after that, while Chelsea barely looked at him.

Yet he was still in the top tier, with four clubs of real prestige and history on his CV. He had 14 England caps and won two league championship medals and a League Cup, effortlessly destroying full backs with a swivelling, cavorting style of wingplay that only Chris Waddle could match at the time. City had sunk to the bottom of the football pile, but in he came, thanks to some persuasion from manager Mark Hateley. The two had England careers that hadn’t quite overlapped but nevertheless Hateley’s very name proved enough.

The squad Rocastle joined hardly had names comparable to that of Seaman, Adams, Winterburn or Merson, and it showed. In his ten games, interrupted every so often by his bad knees, he shone ridiculously brightly, which was unsurprising and slightly crazy to watch. He reduced Scarborough to jelly on his debut, scoring in a 3-0 win, and played beautifully and professionally for the remainder of his short loan.

Sadly, it didn’t do his career any good, as on his return to Chelsea he was freed and, at 30 with bad knees, a club genuinely worthy of his talents (which City weren’t) wouldn’t come forward. And, of course, within little more than three years of his wowing the City faithful, he had succumbed to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the age of just 33.

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FAMOUS FIVE: The best players to manage City

We’ve wanted to do this for a while. One or two City fans of our acquaintance of wisdom and righteousness were asked for the best five footballers to later go on and manage City – making it clear that they didn’t have to have played for City at all. That didn’t stop two ex-City players making the cut, for all that. And to have a couple of these names in any kind of City ‘best of’ list is odd, given their lack of achievement in the dugout, but, well, their exploits elsewhere say it all.

There wasn’t a lot of debate among our correspondents, by the way: four of the below were miles ahead of the rest.

1: Eddie Gray

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As a manager he lasted a single season, presiding over one of our most memorable FA Cup runs prior to a dismal, winless run through the spring that convinced Don Robinson that the dour Scotsman he’d brought in to replace Brian Horton wasn’t the right call. As a player, however, he was one of the most entertaining footballers of his generation.

It is the not the job nor purpose of any Hull City supporter to talk with great admiration for the Leeds United team of 1965 to 1975, but it is impossible to ignore the merits of Gray, a burly, nippy left winger with an exquisite touch and array of tricks that made him a shoo-in throughout the Revie era from the moment he debuted as a 17 year old in 1966.

There are two facts about Eddie Gray that people always refer to: he was so mesmeric in the 1970 FA Cup final against Chelsea that the London club changed his marker for the replay and got him kicked out of the game; and he was injury-prone to the extent that he missed the 1974 World Cup and was then told by his new club manager Brian Clough upon the return to pre-season training that if he’d been a racehorse, he’d have been shot by now.

By the time he arrived at City in the summer of 1988, he was still only 40 years old and such was his considerable talent on the training pitch there were momentary calls for him to come out of retirement. It obviously didn’t happen, and his season in charge had a handful of highs – the FA Cup run (ending with a 3-2 defeat in the fifth round to Liverpool after going in 2-1 up at the break) and a 3-0 hammering of eventual Second Division champions Chelsea – and a number of lows, the one he is most culpable for being the unnecessary sale of iconic keeper Tony Norman.

But back to Gray the player. This says everything about how good he was.

2: Cliff Britton

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Evidently we can’t produce much material footage to back up Britton’s claims, but given that he was the main playmaker in an Everton side of the 1930s that won the FA Cup and made Dixie Dean the most prolific and feared goalscorer since the game’s inception, he is worth his place. In eight years at Goodison Park, he was a mainstay of the team in the old-fashioned wing half position while also representing England.

As manager of City, he turned Harold Needler’s visions into reality, making the 1960s a rollercoaster of excitement and progress at Boothferry Park, culminating in the 1966 Third Division title win. Many of his charges during that period claim that Britton’s own achievements as a player, plus the sense of frustration at honours denied to him because of the outbreak of war, made them even more determined to succeed.

He moved upstairs in 1970 and died in 1975, and is still recalled with fondness and serious loyalty by those who played for him, and also the manager that succeeded him. Evertonians, meanwhile, hold him in high regard because of his exploits on the field, even though a spell as manager in the 1950s did not go well.

3: Raich Carter

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Take a look at this.

4: Nick Barmby

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And this.

5: Jan Mølby

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Dismal as City’s manager in 2002 but a truly wonderful footballer in his pomp, both with the Denmark national team and the Liverpool side of the mid 1980s. His bulk and consequent lack of pace was no barrier to a player whose passing range and quickness of thought led to the phrase being coined that “the first yard is inside his head”.

His Liverpool days are actually slightly skewed, as he peaked in 1986 with a display of great class and style in the FA Cup final, but lost his midfield place for two straight years afterwards when Kenny Dalglish transferred creativity to the wings and the secondary striker’s role, while packing the midfield with runners and hitters. Mølby couldn’t complain too much as the best ever modern club side in England won the 1988 title with grace and flair before being unexpectedly done by Wimbledon in the FA Cup final.

The next season, he emerged from a spell in prison for drink-driving to play in defence when both of the main Liverpool centre backs suffered injuries, and came on as a sub early in the game against City in the fifth round of the FA Cup. A move to Barcelona broke down and he ended up staying at Liverpool until 1996, even though he was never fully trusted by Dalglish or his successors Graeme Souness or Roy Evans to rule a midfield again, especially as his weight became more of an issue.

As for his time as City manager, he has a three-fold saving grace in that he gave us Ian Ashbee, Stuart Elliott and Stuart Green, but his tactics and man-management skills were questionable. It took him ages to win a game, and it didn’t take long after that first win for him to depart.

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FAMOUS FIVE: One-goal wonders

We thought we’d better get this done straightaway, just in case Alex Bruce scores again this weekend and it becomes irrelevant once more. There is a whole thread on the forums about City’s one goal wonders, which makes entertaining reading. We’ve picked out five in particular who each scored fewer goals for City than Alan Fettis. Chew on that thought and enjoy reading…

1: Chris Hargreaves
There was something oddly entertaining about Hargreaves. He was a Lincolnshire lad, rejected initially by Everton who joined City after returning home to Cleethorpes and looking half decent in a Grimsby shirt. Yet despite being a boy with a decent touch and a good attitude, he was absolutely rubbish at goalscoring in his two years with City.

He’d joined in the autumn of 1993 – money even exchanged hands, something rarer than a skinny Floridian back then – and capered around the forward and advanced midfield areas with enthusiasm and no little skill for the whole season. But the sitters he missed were plentiful and frustrating, even with Dean Windass and Linton Brown manfully showing him the way to go.

The exception came in November 1993, a month after his debut. The rearranged FA Cup tie against Runcorn was set down for Northwich Victoria’s ground after the initial abandonment following the collapse of a perimeter wall in the away end at Canal Street, which trapped and injured City fans. The freshly organised game was a straightforward affair in Cheshire mist, and after Brown put the Tigers ahead, he laid the second on a plate for Hargreaves, who nevertheless seemed to stall, delay and take too many touches before mercifully putting the ball under the keeper.

He left in the summer of 1995, with 49 league appearances for the Tigers yielding precisely no goals whatsoever. For an attacking player who wasn’t bad, that is almost impressive, in its own way. Hargreaves ended up scoring a few more with numerous other clubs and continued playing in the lower divisions until he was 38, complete with shoulder length hair and a collection of anecdotes that became a decent book.

2: Roger deVries
The local boy deVries was a mainstay in the City team for ten whole seasons but for all the talents that keep a player in the senior picture for so long, goalscoring wasn’t one of them. Indeed, shooting was something he tried on a reasonably frequent basis if he ever dared venture forward, but in most cases it simply meant someone in the crowd was going to get their fingers bent backwards.

It was almost exactly 42 years ago, however – Hallowe’en night, 1973 – when the left back opened his account, a meagre 116 games into his City career. The bellbottomed diehards in the firing line steeled themselves for another random visit to casualty, while the club mentally calculated the bill for another match ball. But it nestled nicely into the net with England’s Peter Shilton stranded and aghast as City beat First Division middlers Leicester City 3-2 on the night, 6-5 on aggregate.

A crowd of 16,003 saw what became a unique occasion, despite the best efforts of deVries to repeat the trick over another 246 games for the club. The fact that he wasn’t given even longer to try – he was freed by Mike Smith in 1980 when not yet 30, and when happy to spend his whole career in his home city – was and remains a disgrace.

3: Mark Bonner
We do wonder whether Bonner is unique among City’s one goal wonders in being the only player to have a “played one, scored one” record. To be in such a position could only point to injury, and Bonner turned an ankle in training a couple of days after scoring the only goal against Rotherham in January 1999.

His loan from Cardiff, intended to be for a month, lasted just a few days as a result, though the context of his goal became obvious as the season wore on and under Warren Joyce, the team refused to accept what seemed to be certain death and engineer the Great Escape. Bonner’s winner, a shot struck from the edge of the box, gave City their first victory in five and only their second in 12. The recovery had begun.

4: John Moore
We appreciate there is a lengthy list of contenders for this particular accolade, but there is a genuine case to be argued for labelling this beer-bellied, mulleted Mackem centre forward as City’s most clueless footballer ever. Eddie Gray signed him after becoming manager in the summer of 1988, with Sunderland apparently snapping the Scotsman’s hands off with the kind of glee that would make most of us wonder what they knew that we didn’t. The truth was soon obvious: he was bloody awful.

It’s not as if he didn’t have the chance, but a combination of fitness issues, positional ineptitude and catastrophic finishing meant that Moore became a boo-boy target within just a few games of signing, especially as the likes of Alex Dyer and Andy Saville were being played out of position, or not at all, in order to accommodate him. His every touch was booed to the nines during the first half of a game against Swindon on Guy Fawkes Afternoon (yes, we know it doesn’t really exist) until a Ken De Mange shot from an angle smacked him on the side of the face and ricocheted into the net. It was his goal, unwittingly so, and it was cheered just like any other, with Moore offering a clenched fist of defiance and retribution to Bunkers as he jogged back to the halfway line. “Now I’ll show you…”

Four games later, he was so appalling in a home match against Bournemouth, and the abuse so unmitigating, that Gray substituted him at half time and never picked him again. A month later, the City manager was back on the phone to Sunderland, asking if they had any other oversized centre forwards available to purchase, although preferably this time one who knew what a centre forward was actually supposed to do. Billy Whitehurst was earwigging.

5: Shaun Smith
Peter Taylor always liked to have two left backs “in the building”, due to it being the single hardest position to cover if someone goes down with injury. This became apparent pretty much immediately after he became City’s manager, because the main one he inherited really wasn’t much cop.

And why remains a genuine mystery, because Smith had, in eleven years at Crewe Alexandra, been a consistent player and exceptional professional. Undroppable throughout his decade under Dario Gradi, he was released aged just 31 and became one of Jan Mølby’s summer signings in 2002, and spectacularly failed to impress or settle. He played only 22 times in total for the two bosses, with Taylor quickly deciding that Damien Delaney represented a better option, prior to snapping up Andy Dawson the next summer.

Smith did, however, score one fine goal, and that’s why we’re here. It came, fittingly, in Mølby’s first win of the 2002/3 season via a gorgeous curling free kick at Cambridge United that eventually proved the difference in a 2-1 win. City followed that up with a 4-0 trouncing of Carlisle but then went three without a win with the evidence truly stark that something wasn’t working, and Adam Pearson pulled the plug on the Dane’s era.

It’s not as if Smith was quickly packed off though. He remained a City player until the summer of 2004 with an iceberg in hell’s chance of ever playing during that second season; in the end, he featured in an LDV Vans game at Darlington and that was it, with loans at Stockport and Carlisle taking up his time. The free kick he stuck away was divine, but to add insult to injury, the geezer who replaced him long-term turned out to be pretty good at them too.