FAMOUS FIVE: City’s telly “firsts”

We’re on the telly this weekend. Even in the Championship, we can expect this to be a reasonably frequent occurrence, but it took us a long time to achieve basic stuff on the box when other clubs can count their televised achievements as readily as the blades of grass on their pitch. Let us pass some of your time by recounting of a few of City’s “firsts” when a few channel-hoppers were also watching…

1: First game


The Zenith Data Systems Cup. We mentioned it in our previous Famous Five in its original guise of the Full Members Cup, a filler competition for the top two divisions imposed on clubs to fill gaps caused by a sudden lack of European involvement after Heysel. Most clubs never quite took to it, on the perfectly reasonable grounds that only half a dozen teams ever played in Europe each season, yet suddenly extra matches were being added to the schedules of 40 and more.

City were in the Second Division throughout this period, and were even 90 minutes from a Wembley final in 1986. Afterwards, participation in the competition became pretty much a non-event, save for defender Peter Skipper’s appearance as a goalkeeper at Southampton after Tony Norman injured his back on the team coach. All that was left to salvage any interest (in what was regarded as a “distraction” even prior to the word joining football parlance) was a debut on live TV.

BSB, they of the squarials, had the rights to the ZDS in 1990/91 and chose, for reasons best known to their executives, to screen City’s trip to divisional rivals Middlesbrough in the first round on November 20th 1990. Your teenaged author had yet to convince his parents that satellite television was a worthy investment, but fortunately had a close friend in the next village with both the right dish and requisite interest, and so we settled down in his living room for this truly unique, novelty occasion. Not many others saw it, obviously.

The game itself was uncompelling but there was genuine excitement when Paul Waites managed to head home a 92nd minute equaliser to force extra time and give himself a bit of City history within what was one of many totally anonymous playing careers that passed through the symbolic revolving doors of Boothferry Park at the time. Middlesbrough went on to win 3-1, however, prior to exiting in the next round to Manchester City.

City never played in the competition again due to relegation at the end of that season. They also, incidentally, went back to Ayresome Park in the league ten days later, lost 3-0, and never went to Boro’s old ground again. Meanwhile BSB, having just inflicted a fairly rotten City side on a potential audience of millions, punished themselves by disappearing into Rupert Murdoch’s Sky empire within days of the game.

2: First win


This took bloody ages in coming. For a long time, there would be a collective groan whenever fixtures were changed for television coverage because City were “always shit on the telly” (© the Amber Nectar forums) and even a draw was regarded as a lucky escape. City had been promoted twice under Peter Taylor and then settled into the Championship by the time the first win before an armchair audience was secured.

It was September 15th 2006. Taylor had gone and Phil Parkinson had arrived to great fanfare but had suffered a worryingly slow start in the job, though had finally secured his first league win at Leicester just three days before. The visitors to the Circle on a drizzly Friday night were none other than Sheffield Wednesday, themselves still coping with Championship life after a slightly jammy promotion in 2005 at the same time as City, but they settled into the game quickly and won a dodgy penalty in the fourth minute. Replays from Sky showed the hand that touched the ball in mid-air was attached to an arm draped in blue and white, but the referee thought differently and Deon Burton put the kick away.

Jon Parkin scored twice in succession – a flick header and a fine volley on the turn – to get City ahead before 20 minutes were up, and the Tigers held on for the remainder of the game. A first victory on telly also doubled up as a first home win, and with two victories in four days, it felt like the journey to glory under Parkinson had commenced. Alas, this was not the case, and he was fired in December with City in deep trouble, while Parkin also fell sharply from grace, with no more goals in open play, or in the league, for the club as questions regarding his weight and attitude remained unsatisfactorily answered.

Oh, and Danny Mills, one of football’s most irascible and self-loving figures, made his debut for us after joining on loan. Interviewed after the game, he suggested that the referee should apologise in front of the cameras for giving the penalty, a demand you can’t imagine Roland Edge or Alton Thelwell making. Just for 90 minutes we rather liked him, but that affection didn’t last long.

3: First at Boothferry Park


Not just the first, but the only, too. On September 14th 1999, the old place squeezed in tonnes of Sky hardware as well as more than 10,000 fans for the visit of Liverpool in the League Cup second round, whereupon the growing City side, fresh from the Great Escape, were given something of a footballing lesson, really.

The lessons weren’t always good; Liverpool’s five goal masterclass was overshadowed entirely by a vile challenge from Michael Owen on Neil Mann which ended his season and pretty much his career too, but the infiltrators in red were 2-0 up within half an hour thanks to a Danny Murphy brace, then Erik Meijer (who he?) also got two in the second half, either side of a close range consolation from David Brown in front of Bunkers which gave the Tiger Nation something to cheer.

Steve Staunton made it five right at the end, and Liverpool won the second leg 4-2. Sky should have chosen that one as well, really, as City were down to ten men thanks to one of Lee Bracey’s standard red cards but came from two down to level up. We’re not sure Colin Alcide ever assumed he’d one day score at Anfield when he was playing for Emley in the mid-90s on pitches covered in glass and turds.

4: First game on the BBC


It was a mere four seasons ago, you know, that the BBC had the rights to screen live Championship football. This was between Premier League stints for City, and so we were on the radar, yet our only games beamed to the world that year were on Sky. The Beeb were seemingly obsessed with West Ham that season, as most of the media is anyway, irrespective of how good they are or which division they are in.

So we have still to see a City game in the league live on the Beeb, which given that the corporation very rarely screens any league matches in English football, and is continuing to haemorrhage its sporting contracts to the satellite broadcasters at an alarming rate, is unlikely to alter soon. Our only commercial-free games were in the FA Cup, and even then there have only been two.

We head back, therefore, to January 7th 2006, and City’s developing side under Peter Taylor, back in the second tier after 15 years’ exile, were drawn at home to Aston Villa, at the time a decent but watertreading Premier League side managed by David O’Leary. The game was a lunchtime affair in the third round of the competition, one which City habitually and historically had little interest in winning, and so it proved when Villa, themselves seemingly uncommitted to doing any more than the basics, won with a deflected goal on the hour scored by the right foot of Gareth Barry, at the time the best left-sided Englishman in the game but being resolutely ignored by his country.

So before an audience that could actually watch them without trying, City fluffed their lines. In the studio, pundit Garth Crooks marked Kevin Ellison out as a dangerous player, one to watch. Misplaced though it was, it was the sort of praise for which poor Kev, a player of serious endeavour but very limited ability, would have killed from his own supporters.

It took nine years for the BBC to pick us again, and that was the exit to Arsenal at the same stage last season. Still, at least the nation got to see The Deep.

5: First Premier League game


It was either this or the play-off final, really. But as life-enhancing and definitive as our first Wembley occasion was, we have to mention that our first game on the box in top tier football was the 2-1 win at Arsenal on September 27th 2008. It was a teatime job, on Setanta (ha!), and City won it with goals from Geovanni and Daniel Cousin after we’d even scored Arsenal’s goal for them in going behind.

The perfection of that day is made by the fact that it was so bloody unexpected. Even at 2-1 there was half an hour to go and it was obvious to everyone that Arsenal would somehow fashion an equaliser, and probably a winner too, either by being ridiculously good or fantastically jammy or savagely dishonest. But they never got near. That it was on Setanta is disappointing in hindsight, as not enough people would have settled down to watch it in the way they would – and, to this day, do – on Sky, but that’s just us being picky.

Geovanni never gets mentioned in the pantheon of scorers of the greatest Premier League goals, but City have never scored a better one at that level in any of our four precious seasons of top flight football, and we doubt Arsenal fans have seen a better one slapped into their net from 30 yards by a Brazilian playing for a club that was locked out of its own ground less than ten years before.

City self-destructed later in the season, of course, and didn’t win on telly again for the whole campaign (and very nearly went six months without winning off the telly, too) but once relegation had been avoided, that didn’t matter. That game at Arsenal, and the fact that the world could see it (if they subscribed to Setanta), was always going to be ours.


FAMOUS FIVE: City in defunct cup competitions

A professional football club can take part in a maximum of five competitions in one season now, but only if they have won the League Cup or FA Cup while also being relegated to League One. Work that out, and after doing so, try to enjoy our look askance at the days when there was more to City’s workload than putting weakened teams out in League Cup ties, accidentally getting to the FA Cup final and recklessly surrendering a Europa League spot…

1: Full Members Cup
FullMembersCupEstablished in 1985 to fill the scheduling gaps caused by the newly-imposed ban on English clubs in Europe, it threatened to take off thanks to a couple of very entertaining, high-scoring finals but was ultimately let down by the four biggest clubs in the country always excusing themselves from participation. The top two divisions only (ie, the league’s “full members”) partook, with City’s involvement reaching a peak in its inaugural season.

It didn’t take a lot to make the last four of the initial Full Members Cup as only 21 teams had a go, and City’s first round victory over Bradford City, followed by a bye, led to a northern semi-final win over Middlesbrough at Boothferry Park and a two legged northern final against Manchester City which was chucked away when the 2-1 lead after the first leg turned into a 3-2 aggregate defeat upon the completion of the return at Maine Road.

This was the closest since 1930 that City had been to a Wembley appearance, and you can imagine that even for a new, tinpot competition formed under English football’s hooliganism cloud, the whole of Hull would have turned out for the final had Brian Horton’s men held on.

Two years before, City had lost the Associate Members Cup final in its first year, infamously not at Wembley, and even more infamously at Boothferry Park. It’s as close to a perfect symmetry between these sisterly competitions as it’s possible to be, without actually, er, being symmetrical. You know what we mean.

Suffice it to say City never got as far again in the Associate Members Cup (which is still ongoing, via random commercial vehicle, windscreen and decorating firms) nor in the Full Members Cup and its subsequent sponsored incarnations (Simod, Zenith Data Systems), and as more teams got involved the Tigers failed to go beyond the second round. Their last game in the Full Members Cup, a 2-1 defeat at Middlesbrough in the first round in 1990/1, was also City’s first ever game live on telly, though only those blessed with a squarial could watch it. Relegation that season meant they didn’t take part in the last throes of the competition the following year, with the authorities abandoning it, claiming it incompatible with the newly-formed Premier League. By then, the European disqualification had also been lifted so its purpose had been served.

2: Anglo-Italian Cup

AngloItalianAfter a couple of third tier teams won the League Cup in the late 1960s, the Anglo-Italian Cup was formed to atone for UEFA’s killjoyish policy of not allowing clubs from such lowly spheres of the game into their main competitions, and it developed into a mini-league between two groups of eight, with four from each country in each, playing the teams from the other nation.

It passed by without great fanfare before City entered in 1973, played four Italian teams and beat two, with one draw against Bari and a defeat to Fiorentina, who ended up in the final. The sight of City playing Serie A leaders Lazio at Boothferry Park – and winning – was as mad as it sounds, and a massive fight occurred during the game between the two sets of players following a typically vicious piece of Italian defensive thuggery on City striker Phil Holme.

The competition was discontinued afterwards due to lack of interest – almost 4,000 fewer people turned out for City’s second home game (against Verona) compared to the Lazio match – but was resurrected for semi-pro clubs three years later and again as a competition for second tier teams.

3: Division Three North Cup
What it says on the tin. From 1933 to 1939 the two regionalised Third Divisions each also had a knockout competition, and City’s relegation into the northern half in 1937 got them forcibly in on the act. They never won a tie – York beat them in their first season, then Hartlepools after a replay in the second, and eventual winners Bradford (by a hefty 6-0 margin) in the third. To prevent further first round disappointment for City, it was decided that the nation should go to war.

The competition lasted one more season after hostilities ceased, and regionalisation of football ended little more than ten years later.

4: Watney Cup

Ah, yes. This marvellous experimental competition gave a worthy, healthy nod towards flair teams, conceived as it was to provide extra silverware potential for the highest scoring sides in the four divisions (who weren’t already competing in Europe). City, with their legendary forward line, had scored 72 goals in 1970, despite finishing a meagre 13th in the Second Division, and so were offered a place in the inaugural competition which acted as a pre-season bunfight while still apposite as far as the players’ records went.

Peterborough were dispatched 4-0 in the first round thanks to a brace each from Chris Chilton and Ken Wagstaff, then Chilton scored City’s goal in a 1-1 draw in the semi-final against Manchester United, renowned now for its then-unique climax via English football’s first competitive penalty shoot out. We all know the story now – Law, McKechnie, heroic defeat, etc. The competition provided youthful new boss Terry Neill with a first look at his inherited charges and also began the ten-year career as an unshakeable left back for Roger deVries.

City qualified again in 1973 and actually made the final after wins at Mansfield and Bristol Rovers. The eventual defeat to Stoke City was perhaps inevitable, given their general hold on City in knockout games during that era, and the competition was discontinued afterwards. Imagine, if City had just won that final, the trophy would be on display at the KC right now.

5: Anglo-Scottish Cup
Four seasons, 12 games, none against Scottish teams. No, we don’t rate that as a much of an anglo-scottish experience either. This was the old Texaco Cup, renamed after the petrol retailers withdrew their sponsorship. You only ventured north of the border once you’d made the quarter finals and City, almost admirably, never did. Not the highest profile example perhaps, but nevertheless the apophthegm of Typical City rarely has been epitomised more.

In the last season of interest (1980-81), the Tigers even managed to play Grimsby. One imagines this wasn’t what the club signed up for, and the format seemingly grated with others as well; as a result the 1981 winners Chesterfield (who drew 1-1 with City in their group) became the last, and still have the trophy to this day. Given how shocking City were that season, resulting in a first ever relegation to the bottom division, you’d have thought they could at least have sorted a game against Partick Thistle or Airdrieonians to give the fans some respite, but no. Not even that.


FAMOUS FIVE: City winning upwards

It was hardly the giant-killing of the century, but it is a rare thing nevertheless for Hull City to beat opponents from a higher division in a competitive game. The win over Swansea City in the League Cup earlier this week adds itself to a semi-exclusive list of games when the Tigers have punched above their weight and succeeded. We’ve managed to recap a whole quintet of them for you. Take a look…

1: 1930, Manchester City


Until two seasons ago, the year of 1930 was synonymous with Hull City. Then, in the next breath, it was declared irrelevant. The FA Cup run of 2014 switched the spotlight on the heroes of 84 years earlier when Steve Bruce’s men matched them in making the semi-finals, before it was turned off again, the power disconnected, when the modern day side went one step further and reached the final.

This isn’t some misty-eyed, hindsight-strewn review now, but even in only making the semis, it has to be said that the 1930 side’s achievements were more impressive, simply by dint of them being not just a Second Division side, but a struggling Second Division side. It’s not just in the days of HD telly and squads of 30-odd players that Cup runs can be viewed a distraction, as while the ‘tween-the-wars City would never have thought of the phrase in the first place, they were certainly a dishevelled, shattered team by the time their exit in the last four and relegation to the regionalised Third were confirmed. Bruce’s men were a top tier team, comfortably placed, had just one replay in the run, and only played one equivalent side from their division prior to the final.

But still, this is about good things done against bigger teams, and in the 1930 adventure, there were actually two to enjoy. The quarter final win over Newcastle after a replay was obviously worthy, but we’ve picked out the Manchester City game in the fifth round for some very simple, plain, understandable reasons: the game was at Maine Road, the home side were top three all season, City skipper Matt “Ginger” Bell was injured and the Tigers went a goal down early on. But the tie was won in 90 minutes thanks to Paddy Mills’ equaliser before the break and a Billy Taylor winner in the second half. It wasn’t just the surprise that came with such a victory; it was the unfussy way City went about it.

If you’ve never read the story of the 1930 team, you really should. It’s here.

2: 2007, Wigan Athletic

Plenty of respect was attained by the Latics for their rise to the top tier and fairly long stay there, even though for many clubs with longer histories but less experience of the upper end of football, the respect was proffered with strongly clenched teeth. There was something ever so unclean, dispiriting, about Wigan in the Premier League, which was both to its credit and detriment, so when City dumped them out of the 2007/08 League Cup in the second round, the thrill of beating a top tier side didn’t quite feel as we believed it should.

Nevertheless, it was a memorable night for City at the-then JJB, poignant and significant in equal measure. In the Wigan team was striker Caleb Folan, whose 90s loan at City while a kid at Leeds had proved something of a non-event, but who had since scored enough for Chesterfield to make Wigan take an expensive punt on him. The lanky, saturnine striker hadn’t quite cut it at the top and so was now in what every Premier League squad had by this stage – a League Cup XI – but rumours had circulated that City were keen on him, with a first ever £1m layout mentioned.

Folan didn’t play especially well but at the other end, there was what became a fitting crescendo to the wonderful Hull City career of Stuart Elliott. On the half hour, a mishit high pass across the Wigan back line was anticipated by the Ulsterman and, in a way somehow only he could, he took it with an instant, leaping, sideways-on volley, the ball looping incongruously over Mike Pollitt and into the net.

It was the only goal of the game, and became City’s first win over top flight opposition for 25 seasons. It was also Elliott’s last goal for City, as Phil Brown phased him out of contention gradually over the coming months – his final game for the club, New Years Day 2008 at Stoke, was also a game in which Folan scored for City. It felt somehow fitting that Elliott’s last strike of so many in City colours would be arguably his most spectacular – and definitely against the toughest opponents. Even if those opponents were Wigan.

3: 1998, Luton Town


Gather round young urchins, and let us tell you of a time when Luton Town were in higher divisions than Hull City. No, don’t run away, we do not speak with forked tongue here. The Hatters were a top tier side in the 1980s and early 1990s, even winning the League Cup in 1988 (in one of Wembley’s best ever games) and even as fortunes dwindled after missing out on the Premier League riches by a single season, they were still better, flusher and more steeped in history than City by the time the two were drawn against each other in the second round of the 1998/99 FA Cup.

City fans packed out Kenilworth Road’s away end, notorious for being part of a row of terraced housing which meant that the urinals were essentially on the back of someone’s garden wall, and were rewarded in what had thus far been a catastrophic season. The ghastly Mark Hateley had just left and Warren Joyce was now player-manager, immediately sorting out the defence and instilling a good deal more character into a team that had an awful lot of work to do to stay in the league at all.

If top sides view the FA Cup as a distraction, then the bottom ones could be forgiven for viewing it as a holiday, given the patent difficulty in uncovering any relevance in a game in an unwinnable competition that won’t earn you league points while still potentially causing injury to your players. But while the City fans certainly jollied it up, anxious glances rendered unnecessary for one November afternoon, the players didn’t – they won brilliantly, thanks to the only senior goal of Ben Morley’s enveloped City career and a far post header by Rob Dewhurst, whose days had otherwise been numbered by Joyce’s new arrivals. The 2-1 win got City into the third round for the first time in seven seasons, where they were beaten by Aston Villa in the “1st v 92nd” tie.

4: 1966, Nottingham Forest


The saviour of Terry Heath’s career, this. The striker had won the League Cup with Leicester prior to joining City in the summer of 1964, but in four years at Boothferry Park could barely get a game. The reason, of course, was that Chris Chilton and Ken Wagstaff would, within a few months of Heath’s own debut, be united up front and would never be parted on the perfectly acceptable grounds that they could score goals as prolifically as any partnership at any level that had, or has, ever played the game. Heath couldn’t compete with that. Nobody could.

But as the all-conquering City side of 1965/66 found themselves progressing in the FA Cup as effortlessly as they were in the Third Division, a rare problem landed on Cliff Britton’s desk on the morning of the fourth round tie against mighty Nottingham Forest. Midfield anchor Chris Simpkin was injured, unable to play. Britton’s initial solution was to telephone long-serving square-peg player Les Collinson, but his missus matter-of-factly said her husband was in bed with ‘flu, and couldn’t report for the game. Running his finger down the reserve list further, he then rang utility player Len Sharpe, but he was out somewhere in the car, according to Mrs Sharpe.

In the absence of a like-for-like replacement for Simpkin, and unwilling to give a debut to promising teenage midfielder Malcolm Lord, the manager then had to shuffle the remaining side to fill the gap and create a different hole in the XI. Ken Houghton was therefore dropped back into midfield. So now, an inside forward was required – and Heath, who was about to leave his house to drive to the reserve match at Scunthorpe, answered the phone.

The rest is well-known; Heath scored both goals as City won 2-0 against a team two divisions above them. For a second successive game, the Tigers had won upwards, having done over Second Division side Southampton in the third round. Yet Heath’s reward for one of the finest footballing days in club history was nothing more than the sub’s shirt for the next league game, and he ended up playing no part in the subsequent ties against Southport and Chelsea as a heroic City eventually bowed out in the last eight.

By the time he left the club in 1968, Heath had scored more goals for City in the FA Cup than he had in the league – a less than august tally of three to one. But without two of those goals, City’s cup run of 1966 would have become as insignificant as most others, instead of being one of the grandest in the club’s history.

5: 1952, Manchester United

It’s only a churl that would point out that Manchester United weren’t the all-conquering, corporate megalomaniacs of football at the time City beat them in the third round of the FA Cup.

It’s only the fastidious who would claim that the achievement by Bob Jackson’s side is rendered less impressive by the fact that United hadn’t won the league for 41 years.

It’s only a pedant that would clarify that Manchester United were not a European force (as no European club competition had been established as yet).

It’s only the indecently dogmatic that would iterate that Matt Busby’s side were ageing and lacking in star quality when City won 2-0, at Old Trafford, with first half goals from Syd Gerrie and Ken Harrison.

Let them. After all, United were champions by the end of that season, while City finished it 18th in Division Two. No City side has won at Old Trafford since. Beating the champions elect is probably as good as it gets when you are placed in a lower section of the food chain.


FAMOUS FIVE: Ahmed Elmohamady

Elmo? Dropped? But…….how? Seems our Egyptian wonder of the wing is human after all. It’ll be a meagre blip, of course, and he’ll be pinging them back into the box on a regular basis before long. But while you try to soothe the scratch marks on your head, the moment is opportune to look at the achievements, eccentricities and occasional nadirs of this finest of City flankers…

1: Record-setter

His number of consecutive appearances isn’t a club record – Tony Norman’s superhuman status as custodian in the 80s sees to that, and Elmo has missed a couple of cup games – but the fact that he played in all 76 of our Premier League appearances under Steve Bruce is a pretty good start (and, for the top tier at least, an obvious record). Chuck in 18 straight appearances he made in the build-up to promotion from the Championship in 2013, plus the six this season prior to Tuesday, and you have a cool 100 consecutive league matches for City. It’s like something from the 60s, and it makes the idea of squad rotation look foolish, frankly.

2: Skullduggery

He’s not perfect, and we won’t claim him to be. The time when he raised a left arm against Newcastle to divert a ball into the net, then wheeled away to celebrate a goal and, finally, looked aghast when he was given a booking for unsporting behaviour, was not his finest hour. It was downright unsavoury, in fact, and even the City fans who adored him gave him short shrift through their keyboards. It’s indefensible, and it’s a part of him that we don’t wish to see again – yet at the very best, it makes him human and, therefore, susceptible to temptation.

3: History-maker

If the Premier League appearances thing isn’t enough, then remember the early August evening at the Circle when Robbie Brady made room on the left to clip a cross to the far post for Elmo to power a header into the bottom corner?

Hull City’s first ever goal in European competition was his.

And it will always be so. How nonplussed would we be now if Tom Huddlestone had put that penalty away in the first leg, eh?

4: That rubbish penalty

Not that aforementioned rubbish penalty in Slovakia, but another rubbish penalty. You know, for a confident man so fleet of foot, Elmo’s reluctance to take a penalty – actually, make that blind terror of doing so – was just so baffling and so frightening for the hoarse, emotionally drained City supporters who had travelled down to Tottenham for the second time in four days for a blistering League Cup tie in 2013.

It was 2-2 after extra time, and Elmo stepped up at 8-7 down, deep into sudden death, to face Brad Friedel. His body language suggested he was babbing his pants; the weak, directionless penalty suggested the escaped bab was so weighty, it had caused severe distortion to his leg muscles. The save was easy, the tie lost.

Only injured skipper Curtis Davies had not taken a kick among the outfield by this stage (both sides had missed one during the regular five apiece bit) but it’ll remain a great mystery why someone as gifted and confident with a football as Elmo should be so unsuited to a fairly basic act of shooting, convincingly and unchallenged, at a big net.

5: Dancing

“We’ve been promoted? Great! Is that camera on?”


FAMOUS FIVE: Notorious free transfers

With the trip to Brighton this weekend, we have a reunion with Liam Rosenior, whose release by City in the summer upset an awful lot of supporters. Sometimes free transfers are controversial because of the club’s impetuosity, or they become infamous because they are prompted by the player’s actions – or inactions. Five examples of City players placing their boot-filled bindle on their shoulder and trudging down North Road for the last time, either cursing or celebrating, are recalled below…

1: Wayne Jacobs

There was an awful lot to admire about Wayne Jacobs without there being, conversely, an awful lot to say. He was a left back, a damned fine one, whose consistency was a regular talking point and whose mistakes in three years with the club could be counted on no fingers at all. It both described him perfectly and yet did him a disservice to call him ‘steady’. A teenager upon arrival from Sheffield Wednesday in 1988, he made the left back position effortlessly his own instantly and remained in place as no fewer than five managers oversaw the prolonging of City’s late 80s and early 90s mediocrity.

Then, in January 1992, he injured his cruciate ligament. Jacobs had endured a few injuries during his time, minor ones, while also achieving the rare distinction of playing every minute of every game in 1989/90. But this one was, obviously, highly serious. It is only in the last 15 years or so that professionals have been able to overcome cruciate ligaments enough to resume their playing careers, and so there was forlorn hope for Jacobs. So forlorn did the wicked City regime of Martin Fish and Terry Dolan (with others, it has to be said) see Jacobs’ chances that just before Christmas the same year, almost 12 months since he first jarred the knee, they fired him.

Officially, he was given a free transfer. But essentially it was a sacking, and no supporter nor sympathetic media commentator saw fit to label it as anything else. More room was allocated to the letters page of the Sports Mail as infuriated correspondence dropped through the letterbox day after day on Blundells Corner. A fine player, a brilliant servant, a player whose facility to cause trouble of any description was non-existent, just ditched at the drop of a Santa hat. The timing made it worse, but the decision itself would have been bad enough had it been made at Whitsun. City owed far more to Jacobs and his recovery than its paymasters seemed prepared to give, convinced as they were that he would not play the professional game again.

Jacobs, stoic and dignified through it all, duly recovered, got a contract at Rotherham, who were then foolish enough to release him themselves. Bradford came calling and he ended up playing with them through three divisions, including two in the Premier League, even ending up as their assistant manager after nine years as a player. Somehow, his achievements after City squalidly let him go act as a far greater two fingers to those who made such a cretinous decision than anything the Tiger Nation could do or say, though typically, Jacobs would never seek to apportion blame. Such was the character that accompanied the ability.

2: Billy Bremner

Arrived from Leeds, scored on debut against Nottingham Forest while attracting a huge crowd to the game, didn’t take the manager’s job apparently “out of loyalty” to the sacked John Kaye, then left without a whimper when, after two seasons, City were relegated to the Third Division. Went from adored over 16 years at Elland Road to scorned in two at Boothferry Park. Sinking ships, rats, and all that.

If the City fans had been nonplussed by his contribution on the pitch, they were deeply cynical about the ease with which he departed following relegation, and despite his considerable ability as player and leader, those who watched him play in black and amber never believed in him. This meant a curious, paradoxical mixture of anger and relief heralded his exit.

3: Mike Edwards

Still the last East Riding boy to join City from leaving school and work his way all the way up to senior level, Edwards was a very good defender of composure and versatility who was quickly marked out for good things by Mark Hateley when he was placed into the defence as a 17 year old in 1997 and pretty much stayed there through the many downs and further downs to follow. He was key to the Great Escape under Warren Joyce the next season (and made into a man by Jon Whitney and Justin Whittle’s arrival beside him), fantastic when Brian Little’s side got into the play-offs as administrative hell broke loose, and looked the part under Jan Molby too. Then, in a familiar tale, he damaged his cruciate ligament.

During his recuperation, City replaced Molby with Peter Taylor, and as he neared completion of his recovery and began training again, Taylor gave him the horrible option of leaving the club because of what had been built in his absence (John Anderson, Richard Hinds, Damien Delaney and Carl Regan had all arrived, with the likes of Andy Dawson and Alton Thelwell to come). Edwards took this as an indication that Taylor wasn’t interested in seeing him actually play and accepted a contract from Colchester (who were a division higher) to see out the 2003/04 season before joining Grimsby (also a division higher).

There weren’t any effigies of Taylor burning in Hessle when the news of Edwards’ exit was confirmed, but it was still a rotten and unjust way to end the truly local boy’s career.

4: Roger deVries
In May 1980, deVries was three months short of ten years’ service as a first team regular with City, and still not 30 years old, when he was given a free transfer by Mike Smith. He wasn’t alone in going, but there was genuine shock among City fans that an unfussy, capable and consistent servant, who also happened to be Hull through and through, had been given the elbow.

It was hindsight, however, that hauled Smith over the coals eventually. Releasing deVries was one thing, but the players with whom he was replaced were another entirely. In 1980-81, there wasn’t a single specialist left back played in the position, despite it being one most managers of gumption would make sure wasn’t just covered properly, but plentifully. Micky Horswill, a combative midfielder but not a left back, started there, then teenager Bobby McNeil, a right back but not a left back, had a go, then Paul Haigh, England under 21 centre back, but not a left back, had a spell (prior to being sold), the inadequate Brian Ferguson, not a left back, stopgapped there for three festive games (by which time City were already certs for the drop) and lastly, Dennis Booth, not a left back, stepped in and at least used his nous as a long-serving pro to take on a position that he still didn’t find wholly comfortable. He ended up staying there for the foreseeable future, even seeing out Smith’s own time at the club after the threat of liquidation overcame the club in the early spring of 1982.

All of this came back to the decision to free deVries who, despite being a long-serving player, wasn’t exactly holding the shareholders upside down to extract loose change from their pockets. His release on the proviso that the wage bill needed reducing seemed disingenuous at the time – the prospect of having to fund a testimonial season for him was probably more of a factor – and for a player who had seen all the big days and nights of the 1970s, starting with the Watney Cup adventure against Manchester United and the FA Cup run of 1970/71, it simply looked sly, as well as premature. He was good, fit, untroublesome and experienced and, as it turned out, fatally impossible to replace.

5: Michael Keane

The cubic midfielder made 20 appearances in the 2004/05 promotion season and his late winning goal on debut at Barnsley was one of the most memorable moments of a memorable campaign.

But when he headbutted a teenager in a reserve game the following season, he had to go. Peter Taylor made no secret of his distaste for the incident (and, indeed, the player, whose attitude had been questionable from the moment he joined) and sent him to Rotherham, where he had been on loan briefly the previous season. And they couldn’t stand him either.


FAMOUS FIVE: International players at City

It wasn’t so long ago that international breaks didn’t exist at City, as we were so low in the divisions that no self-respecting, vaguely ambitious country would want any of our players. The odd Welsh goalkeeper aside, we were replete with players and our fixtures weren’t postponed. But then it changed. Here are five of the more interesting City alumni who regularly journeyed round the world to sing their national anthem…

1: The Reggae Boyz

City’s first proper foray into football exotica, courtesy of the surprising but entirely galvanising acquisition of two of Jamaica’s 1998 World Cup squad, making City fans understand exactly how Spurs supporters had felt 20 years earlier when Ardiles and Villa pitched up.

Jamaica hadn’t progressed beyond the group stages in France but had entertained greatly, and Theodore Whitmore especially looked like rather extraordinary a talent to be bumbling around in England’s basement division when he signed, alongside Ian Goodison, in 1999. His creativity in midfield and Goodison’s composure in defence were rare treats at a time when City, improving vastly from the worst of bad days earlier in the decade, were still trying to find enough self-belief to return to higher footballing plains.

Though it was Warren Joyce who signed them, they became most associated with Brian Little, at City and beyond, as after his sacking in 2002 he took both of them to Tranmere, where Goodison ended up staying for ten years. Both had their careers chequered by off-field problems – Whitmore’s trial and acquittal over a car accident that killed a Jamaica team-mate, Steve Malcolm; Goodison over unfounded match-fixing allegations – but their presence in the City team felt decidedly less square-pegged as time wore on, and they became popular and valuable team players, as well as excellent individual performers who could lord it over the rest of the division. Crucially, both were absent when City lost in the 2001 play-offs to Leyton Orient.

They won 225 caps for Jamaica between them, which tells pretty much its own story about what their country thought of them, while Whitmore went on to coach the national side for four years after numerous spells as an interim manager. Bizarrely, it was Whitmore, of all people, who ended Goodison’s international career at the age of 39 when his old mate didn’t turn up for pre-tournament training prior to the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

2: Julian Johnsson

He may be the only Faroe Islands international any of us could name, and not just because he spent a season at Hull City in 2001/2. Johnsson, a well-built midfielder, won 62 caps for his country and is among their top goalscorers, a feat one would usually suppose is impressive for a midfielder until one recalls the whipping-boy status of the Faroes.

He was also skipper of his national side when he signed for Brian Little and was a mainstay in City’s midfield throughout a frustrating season in the bottom tier, when the promise of the play-off near-miss of the previous year was not built upon, leading to Little’s dismissal. There wasn’t time for any successor to make a decision on Johnsson’s future as his wife did that for him, citing chronic homesickness.

They returned to the Faroes afterwards, and Johnsson pursued his career in more familiar climes, though he also played in Iceland and, in a career that continues even after turning 40 this year, now plies his trade in the Danish league.

Johnsson’s time with the Tigers was brief, but it was more than a cameo. He was one of the first names on Little’s teamsheet and scored six goals too, with a consistency to his game even in an inconsistent season that allows the fans to think fondly of him. It may not surprise you to know that no more Faroe Islanders have since represented the club.

3: Terry Neill

Initially, we vowed to keep the home nations out of this. What’s exotic about Dave Roberts or Mick Gilhooley, after all? But it’s impossible to ignore Neill, something which the infamously bullish man himself would agree with today. WJT Neill, the only person this author has heard of who is known by their third name, was a regular for Northern Ireland throughout his Arsenal heyday in the 1960s and was captain of his country by 1968.

Jaundice was the reason for this composed centre back’s slow decline at the end of the 60s; he lost his place for club and country while in recovery and, at Highbury at least, he was unable to get it back, missing the 1969 League Cup final even though some of the squad had caught the flu. His arrival as player-manager at Boothferry Park in 1970, at the age of just 28, did at least revive his international career, meaning that City’s manager was still playing international football, as well as club football. He was then asked to manage Northern Ireland too. It felt like a lot to take on, but Neill did so nonetheless.

The early 70s coincided with the decline of George Best, and so Northern Ireland became largely characterless as a team but Neill at least provided a moment to savour when he scored the only goal in a 1-0 win over England at Wembley in the Home Internationals. It was only the second goal of his Northern Ireland career; there would be no more. He made his 59th and final appearance a few days short of a year later and retired on the spot from all forms of football. His 15 appearances while on City’s books made him the club’s most capped player until 1995, when he was equalled by countryman Alan Fettis. He was eventually usurped by Theodore Whitmore in 2000.


As player-manager of both club and country from 1971 to 1973, Neill achieved something which it is hard to imagine being equalled by anyone else within a major footballing nation, and his status – and ego – even brought a Northern Ireland game to Boothferry Park in 1972, giving Best a run-out under the free-standing floodlights in a 1-1 draw with Spain. A month after Bloody Sunday, Northern Ireland was deemed too dangerous at the time for such a big game so 20,000 people, the vast majority from Hull, got the chance to see a European Championship qualifier on their doorstep.

That was the kind of thing Neill could wangle – you can imagine him going to the head of the IFA and saying Harold Needler had approved, then going to Big H himself and saying the IFA thought it was a really good idea. A good player and a good manager Neill may have been, but it seems his vanity and spirit was what most made the man.

4: Jamie Wood

Substitute. That’s the word most associate with Wood, a former Manchester United trainee who counts 32 introductions from the bench from his 47 league appearances for the Tigers, and that doesn’t take into account the number of times he was benched and never got on. Suffice to say, nobody thought he was any good.

Save, that is, for the Cayman Islands Football Association, who decided to bend the rules on eligibility by recruiting British players with no caps for another nation to play for their national side as a technical resident, due to the Islands’ status as a territory of the UK. Salford-born Wood, whose hopes of usurping Alan Shearer and Michael Owen in the England team were now a little slim, took up this opportunity. City fans reacted with incredulity and an awful lot of laughter, as nobody thought he was any good.

After two games – a friendly in October 1999 against Jamaica (featuring Ian Goodison), which ended in a 4-1 defeat, and a 1-0 defeat to the same opponent (now with Theodore Whitmore too) three months later, Wood’s fledgling international career was over. Kinder souls would say that this was due to FIFA’s quick closure of the loophole. The less charitable would say it ended because it turned out nobody within the Cayman Islands Football Association thought he was any good.

5: Richard Garcia

City’s most celebrated international, even if some supporters unjustly bemoaned the squeaky Aussie’s dogged and professional four years with the club. Garcia, a skilful and natural footballer, became City’s first World Cup player when he was picked by Australia to go to the 2010 tournament in South Africa.

It had been a long time coming, and even as the competition neared it began to look like black and amber involvement on the globe’s biggest single sporting stage would be scuppered again, as our herd of Irishmen were denied in the play-offs by Thierry Henry’s rogue main gauche and Seyi Olofinjana and Kamel Ghilas were omitted at the last knockings from the final 23s of their national teams, while Jozy Altidore’s shoo-in status with the USA led to disagreements about whether he was our player or not at the time of the finals (as a loanee, he never was, and he’d gone back to his parent club by the time of the tournament anyway).

Garcia had been ignored by Australia during a fine Championship season in 2007/8, and as is often the case, his national FA decided he was worth a look only once City had been promoted, even before he had played any Premier League matches. But once in, he remained a fixture and even though life with City was hard over those two top tier seasons, he was in the Socceroos’ starting XI against Germany. It was a genuinely proud moment for every City fan. Despite a 4-0 defeat, he even played well.

A sub appearance against Serbia followed before elimination, but finally a massive footballing monkey was off City’s back. Less than four years later, Nikica Jelavić signed for City to specifically guarantee himself a place in Croatia’s squad for the summer tournament in Brazil, showing how much further we had come.

In 2012, Garcia left City and returned to his homeland. However far away he remains from Hull, his name will always be on the roll of honour, never to be removed. We should be grateful that our first World Cup representative was someone professional, likeable and uncontroversial. After all, imagine if Jimmy Bullard had stayed fit…


FAMOUS FIVE: City on transfer deadline day

As the clock ticks towards 6pm and the window “slams shut” (until the one labelled ‘loan’ opens up a bit later), we remember five big deals done by City on the various incarnations of “deadline day”…

1: Michael Turner

The one every modern day City fan thinks of. Barely 24 hours after Turner had saved City a point at Wolves at the end of August 2009 by dint of unflinchingly putting his meat and two veg in the way of a goalbound shot in the 93rd minute, he was on his way to Sunderland in a deal to a value that was infamously ‘undisclosed’. Having heard numerous rumours of bids to the tune of £9m and more coming in from Liverpool, distraught City fans tried to take consolation in the expected size of the fee that Steve Bruce, of all people, agreed to pay for City’s finest defender of any era.

Within days, Turner had “scored” against City on debut for the Black Cats (he muted his celebration, and later the goal was given as an own goal by Kamil Zayatte) and City fans, already upset, began to fear the worst, but their fears at this stage were confined to events on the pitch. The truth of the Turner deal was unravelled in the months ahead when Adam Pearson, fresh on his return to the club, declared that among the many financial mistakes, mismanagements and misdemeanours committed by the outgoing regime, was one of true paltriness, borne out of desperation, when it came to the Turner deal. Once sell-ons for Charlton and Brentford had been correctly creamed off, it seemed City got no more than £4m for a player who was on the edge of the England squad and had been a runaway player of the season in both 2008 (promotion to the Premier League) and 2009 (survival).

Though those responsible for the deal had either departed or were in too high an ivory tower to feel the wrath of City fans, wrath there still was, especially as the general fiscal upkeep of the club had, according to Pearson’s initial declarations, rendered us close to extinction, particularly when relegation from the Premier League was confirmed at the end of the 2009/10 campaign. Turner had clearly been sold because the club was in dire straits, desperate for cash. Nobody knows if Turner would have kept us up, but everyone knew that his hastily signed replacement, the immobile and entirely hopeless Ibrahima Sonko, was going to help us down.

The sub-plot to all this was the simultaneous signing from Sunderland of Paul McShane, who had been a qualified success on loan for part of the previous season. It seemed none of his first three City managers actually had any use for him, until the man who flogged him to City turned up as manager and rebooted his career … before kicking him out this summer. McShane was, it has since been vehemently said, not a makeweight in the Turner deal but a separate signing in his own right. The 2012-2015 version of McShane alongside Turner would have truly been a sight to behold, wouldn’t it?

Turner, meanwhile, wasn’t fancied by Bruce’s successor Martin O’Neill, who sold him to Norwich, and currently they don’t want him either. He is now enduring a second loan spell in the Championship after joining Sheffield bloody Wednesday, of all teams. The heartache was all so unnecessary, for player, club and especially supporters.

2: Peter Swan

Mick Tait. It was a name that appeared in City’s record books and on the designated Rothmans page every year for nearly a whole decade, until finally it was expunged on deadline day 1989, initially by Ian McParland, then by Peter Swan. Tait was ineffectual after City bought him for a record £150,000 in 1979 from Carlisle United and was gone within a year, but the 1980s brought skintness and austerity to City like not seen before, with the Don Robinson regime largely reliant on bargains, loanees and freebies to rebuild a club that was set for liquidation in 1982.

Some wonderful performers arrived during the mid-80s era – Richard Jobson, Garry Parker, Charlie Palmer, Bobby Doyle, Frankie Bunn, Alex Dyer and more – but inexplicably, none of them cost more than Tait despite all being evidently finer players. Only when Eddie Gray became manager in 1988 were sufficient funds to exit the bargain basement made available by Robinson, and McParland joined for £155,000 on deadline day 1989. Tait’s status as any kind of benchmark footballer was obliterated forever – although almost immediately, so was McParland’s, when Swan joined hours later for £200,000.

Swan had been on City’s radar for some time, with Brian Horton previously interested in him. When Gray then took over, his Leeds connections made the deal more viable, and Swan had already tabled half a dozen transfer requests. A central defender who was also a useful centre forward, Swan was too square-pegged for Billy Bremner’s Leeds team and had absolutely no role to play when Howard Wilkinson arrived, so now the deal was on. The excitement at his arrival was palpable; he instantly was a hit, though his preference to play in defence was soon overridden by his obvious ability in attack when he and Andy Payton, in 1989/90, started to form a decent target man/poacher partnership, despite their well-known mutual dislike personally.

He left after relegation in 1991 and bummed around a handful of lower league sides but became Tait-like in his unwavering status as City’s costliest player due to the incompetence, lawlessness and innumeracy that poisoned the club in the 1990s, rendering us skint and crap for the whole decade. It took 12 years before the club had been resuscitated enough to shell out more than they did for Swan, when Lawrie Dudfield joined. Swan is still occasionally introduced as “City’s former record signing” when working today for BBC Radio Humberside at City games.

3: Gary Lund

Lund only made 22 appearances for City, scoring six goals, but he is unique in City’s lifetime as the only player ever to have three separate loan spells with the club. Two of these came in August and January of the 1992/3 campaign when exactly half of his eventual stats were achieved – 11 games, three goals – before he returned to parent club Notts County, with whom he was out of favour after more than 150 appearances. But in 1992/3, August and January weren’t the exclusive months for transfer dealings as they are today, as teams could buy or loan players whenever they wished from summer to spring, with the March deadline day the only one in the calendar to render such deals no longer permitted.

So when was Lund a deadline deal? In March 1995, when Terry Dolan turned to him again – two years and 60-odd more games for Notts County later – as a potless City punched ludicrously above their weight in the third tier but had an atrocious injury crisis leading up to some crucial springtime games. It had got to the stage where if you were employed as a footballer by City and you could walk and see, you were in, while Dolan refused to make tactical substitutions in games to up the odds of having enough players fit for the next one.

Lund arrived, played 11 more times, scored three more times, defended an awful lot too (his antics on his own goal-line during a 1-1 draw at Huddersfield over Easter remain much discussed by those present) and then went back to Meadow Lane, where he spent a full nine seasons in the end. There was never the prospect of signing him permanently because he was evidently way too good for City’s minuscule to non-existent transfer budget, but Dolan did well to get him each time he did. Lund was unremarkable for anything more than the unusual details attached to his spell at City, but those very circumstances mean he won’t be forgotten in a hurry.

4: Ken Knighton
The 1970/1 season is famous for quite a few things – the arrival of Terry Neill as manager, the last full season of Waggy and Chillo, the run to the FA Cup quarter finals (and the chucking away of a two-goal advantage against Stoke) and a fifth placed finish as City came as close as they had been in living memory to reaching the top tier.

But many supporters of the time will remember first the fabled “Battle of Bramall Lane” during that season, when City won a violent, savage Yorkshire derby 2-1, a meagre three days after that Cup exit. Having licked their wounds, City were ready to inflict a few, and the attitude of the players was at its seasonal peak when goals from Ken Wagstaff and Chris Simpkin earned a vital two points for a Tigers team still hoping to go up.

Debuting that day were a pair of experienced deadline day signings in defender Billy Baxter, who had won the league with Ipswich, and schemer Ken Knighton, signed from Blackburn. The latter made an instant mark on the team when, early in the game at Bramall Lane, he dealt with the Blades’ flamboyant young midfielder Tony Currie in a rather uncompromising way by kicking him high in the air. Literally kicking him, literally high in the air. Currie landed on the turf with a thud and was rarely seen in the game again, which wasn’t something you could also say about that type of spicy tackle – such was the brutality on show, the referee at one point stopped the game and gathered all the players in a circle for a lecture.

Knighton played little more than two seasons at City before moving to Sheffield Wednesday, later becoming manager of Sunderland. A good player, he made 92 first team appearances and yet somehow nothing could endear him to the City supporters more than his first.

5: Roy Carroll

Back to the debt-ridden, hate-filled 1990s we go, and a deadline day sale that was probably as telegraphed as any City made during that era, yet somehow more hurtful because within the stench of debt, it still managed to enable some vile club figures to make a killing.

Carroll is high up in the back-up list behind Bly, Norman and Myhill when it comes to City’s finest custodians of the leather, yet it’s worth remembering that all of his time at the club was as a teenager. Unscouted as a boy in Northern Ireland, he joined the Tigers as he turned 18 and left a few months before turning 20, but his short time between the sticks made him a much-loved figure among the long-suffering support.

We’d been here before: Andy Payton, Leigh Jenkinson, Dean Windass and Alan Fettis had all been sold for good sums in the 1990s to cover crazy debts and now, in 1997 and with again more pecuniary doom afoot, it was Carroll’s turn. The Inland Revenue were sharpening their knives, with a High Court appearance due and so ….. off he finally went.

The deal was for £350,000 and Carroll joined Wigan, some years yet from completing their rise from non-league small fry to Premier League gatecrashers and FA Cup winners. That was galling enough, that a club so comparably wet behind the ears in the professional game was minted enough (and well-run enough) to snatch a truly fine young keeper from us for such a lowly sum. Furthermore, it became more frustrating when Carroll then had to wait eight months to make his debut, when during that time he could have been doing something more useful, like keeping goal for City.

But that was nothing compared to the subsequent revelation that despite the penuriousness of the club, and the red letters scribbled daily by Hector and his bowler-hatted cronies, Terry Dolan managed to trouser a 15% cut of the transfer fee. The mathematician in you will know that’s a cool £52,500, the kind of money that could fund a couple of midfielders with enough left over to locate a better right back than Simon Trevitt.

Beyond that, Carroll eventually went to Manchester United for £2m, City’s 20% cut of which wouldn’t materialise thanks to the Sheffield Stealers selling the clause back to Wigan for a meagre £80,000. Again, the maths make grim, anger-inducing reading. Carroll went on to win major honours at Old Trafford but his time at City, despite his excellence on the pitch, will be forever associated with tainted names feathering their nests or making woeful business decisions, and for a fine goalkeeper it’s such a shame that his City career mainly becomes him via the antics of others upon his exit.

Thanks to Martin Batchelor for his assistance.

FAMOUS FIVE: Ex-Tigers scoring against City

After Tom Cairney’s swirling howitzer in midweek, we bring you five other examples of ex-Tigers haunting their old club with goals…

1: Leon Cort


Cort was a consistent, disciplined tower of strength in the centre of defence for City in two seasons under Peter Taylor and when the manager left for Crystal Palace in the summer of 2006, it seemed more than likely he’d want to take Cort with him. The first seven figure fee received for a City player was duly negotiated, and Cort departed with everyone’s thanks and blessings, a good guy as well as a fine defender.

All that goodwill evaporated when he returned to the Circle at the end of September 2006, with the cheery applause on announcement of his name pre-match turning into venomous spits of derision after he scored a slightly flukey goal to put the Eagles ahead. The goal itself – a low shot from outside the box taking a deflection that turned the trajectory banana-shaped and gave Boaz Myhill no chance – wasn’t the issue. It was the celebration.

Cort turned towards the East Stand of the KC and jogged adjacently to them, laughing. Really laughing. The lovely relationship he’d enjoyed with the same sets of fans was ruined in that single fell swoop, even though he apologised profusely later and said he was laughing to himself that he had scored such an unCort-like goal – he never had a shot from outside the box with City, let alone scored from one – but the damage with many was done. His replacement at City, Michael Turner, scored an injury-time equaliser that at least prevented Cort from being the entire story afterwards, and although his impact as a player remains something easily recalled with fondness to this day, that goal will always slightly blemish Cort’s reputation with the Tiger Nation. The following season, after joining Stoke, he scored against City again – and this time just jogged back to the centre circle with barely a watery smile, let alone a chuckle.

2: Brian Marwood


The best player to come through City’s ranks in the 1980s, sold by the club to Sheffield Wednesday after the agonising failure to gain promotion to the Second Division in 1984, came back to City as an opponent only twice afterwards. The first was in 1988 when Arsenal ventured up to Boothferry Park for the first leg of a second round tie in the League Cup.

Marwood had joined in the summer after four fine seasons with the Owls, and at 28 was coming to the peak of his career. “Brian Marwood on the wing” had quickly become a staple on the North Bank at Highbury after a scintillating start to the season for both club and player, although anyone picked to replace Martin Hayes was always going to be given time to bed in.

City, under new manager Eddie Gray, began the game well, and Keith Edwards outpaced Arsenal’s youthful skipper Tony Adams to crack a fine goal past John Lukic early in the first half, though a deflected Nigel Winterburn shot made it level at half time.

It was clear that Arsenal were in charge afterwards, though as the final ten minutes approached, a 1-1 draw looked useful enough for City to take into the second leg. Then a high ball into the box broke City’s offside trap and Marwood chested it down before steering it under Tony Norman for the winner on the night. The travelling Gooners immediately burst into song as their new hero celebrated flamboyantly in front of them, and Arsenal won the second leg 3-0 in north London.

Marwood made a point of applauding the City fans at the end of each game, but there was always a feeling that as his career rose, he seemed to devalue his long grounding as a City player, something he denied when asked about it long after he hung up his boots. By the end of this season he had a title medal and an England cap, albeit he only managed one of each as injury rendered him a one-season wonder at Arsenal. He later played for Barnet against City in a 4-4 draw at Boothferry Park, but didn’t score.

3: Gregor Rioch


Rioch, combative and corpulent, was dropped by Warren Joyce from pretty much the moment he became manager of Hull City, after a couple of seasons where his ability to tackle well one minute and do something imbecilic the next had made him impossible to love during a period of acute unloveability around the club. By the time he left in the summer of 1999, having played no part in Joyce’s Great Escape™, he was not well regarded, to say the least, so his swift return with Macclesfield Town in August 1999 was an opportunity for the boo-boys to turn again on an old nemesis.

In a farcical game of notable low quality, however, Rioch had the last laugh. After City went ahead, he stuck away the penalty that brought his new club level after keeper Lee Bracey had received his monthly red card for a crazy foul in the box on striker Richie Barker. A defensive catastrophe among the City back four, something with which Rioch had been previously all too familiar, allowed him then to score a second in front of Bunkers in the second half. City levelled, but a fine overhead kick from sub Paul Ware, a unique piece of footballing artistry for this match, won it for the Silkmen late on. It was too much for Gary Brabin to take, with the City midfielder starting a fight with several players on the pitch seconds after the final whistle.


To Rioch’s credit, he didn’t go mad in celebrating either goal, when many a player with history of taking abuse from the terraces would easily use the opportunity to have a go back, but this didn’t enhance his image with the club at all. He remains a player whom the Tiger Nation sees as symptomatic of the ill-disciplined, limited dross that nearly took City into the non-league game at the end of the 90s. In truth, there were worse players than Rioch, but there weren’t many quite so easy to dislike.

4: Charlie Palmer


Palmer was an excellent full back, signed in 1986 by Brian Horton but inexplicably sold by Eddie Gray at the start of 1989, the dour City manager preferring ex-striker Nicky Brown in the number 2 shirt. Notts County, with new manager Neil Warnock, happily took him on, and Palmer played a part in their promotion to the old Division Two at the end of the 1989/90 campaign, reacquainting him with his old club the following season.

The two sides were paired on the opening day at Boothferry Park and early in the game the visitors took the lead when a corner was flicked on and Palmer, not renowned in his City days for going up at set-pieces, won a far post header and scored. In front of the travelling fans he went absolutely berserk in his joy, with nobody feeling the need to chunter among the City fans – the club hadn’t wanted him, not the other way round, and now he was playing for someone that did. It was his first goal at Boothferry Park, despite two and a half years of playing there every other week.

Palmer was exceptional in a season when Notts County got lots of attention thanks to promotion via the play-offs for a second straight season and a run through to the FA Cup quarter finals (which began with another win over City). As they went up, City went down – Palmer was suddenly two divisions higher than the club that had decided he wasn’t their best right back just two years before. And, for the record, Nicky Brown wasn’t even that good.

5: Ben Burgess


Burgess was a fine player for Hull City during the Peter Taylor era, but a combination of injury and the team’s double promotion success left him surplus to requirements by the time Phil Parkinson took over as manager, so a move to Blackpool was organised and the lanky striker left in the late summer of 2006 with everyone’s blessing.

Fast forward two years, and City were playing Blackpool at Bloomfield Road. The Sky cameras were there. Jay Jay Okocha was in the crowd, ahead of making a ridiculous-sounding move to City for the remainder of the season. Caleb Folan, the club’s first million pound player, was on the pitch. Andy Dawson, the most left-footed player in christendom, was playing at right back. It was one of those nights.

The score was 1-1 when Folan then suffered a nasty head injury and the subsequent delay for treatment meant a whole 15 minutes of time was added on, with people worrying about late trains and incurring the wrath of Blackpool’s notorious parking ticket system. Burgess, meanwhile, was then introduced as a late sub, the juxtaposition being that he’d come on in the 83rd minute but had been given something pushing 25 minutes to find a winning goal.

Right at the death, as carriages were preparing to turn back into pumpkins, a cross came in that exploited Dawson’s unnatural turning position and Burgess was able to direct a backwards header beyond Matt Duke and into the net. He, and everyone associated with Blackpool, celebrated well – of course they did. There was barely time to reassemble the players, let alone restart the game, and Burgess was quickly collared by the Sky cameras afterwards, with the interviewer desperate to get a “dish best served cold” line from the hero of the hour who’d just beaten his former club.

A smiling Burgess visibly bristled at the suggestion that he loved scoring that goal more than he would any other, responding with the words “It’s not anything personal against Hull as I had a lot of good times there.” Proof there and then that a player can still tuck up his old mates while simultaneously maintaining a level of professional decency, and he remains in everyone’s good books for it. The fact that Okocha signed, Folan recovered and City got promoted to the Premier League at the end of the season made this kind of thing incidental.


FAMOUS FIVE: City in the League Cup first round

From a goal by Ralph Gubbins that was technically historic, to a result for Colin Appleton that was technically unique, we bring you five examples of City slumming it at the very start of football’s least respected competition. Please note: it only briefly alludes to any actual victories…


1: Start as you mean to go on

It’s not as if City’s hate-hate relationship with the League Cup is a new thing. The competition was inaugurated for the 1960/1 season, to allow more evening fixtures and exploit the installation of floodlights by most clubs, and the Tigers’ first ever match was at home to Bolton Wanderers, a declining force in the top division after the retirement of Nat Lofthouse, who had nonetheless won the FA Cup three seasons before.

A healthy crowd just 20 short of 12,000 turned up to see an uninspiring 0-0 draw, with Bolton crushing Bob Brocklebank’s men 5-1 in the replay, so setting a rough standard for the lion’s share of League Cup openers the club would endure over the coming decades. The early years of the competition were also notable for the biggest guns not choosing to take it seriously – they were already playing midweek European ties, and the final wasn’t to be held at Wembley, so they excused themselves. One by one they came in, however, especially when Wembley was promised for the 1967 final, though the authorities waited a whole decade before making participation compulsory.

All of this was of little use to City, who made the third round the following season but never troubled anyone of note through the 60s. Still, Ralph Gubbins, a Bolton player the year before, had something permanently next to his name after that exit to his old club as he scored the Tigers’ first ever League Cup goal, though he was on his way to Tranmere before the season was out. Bolton went out in the fourth round to Rotherham United, who had a certain Ken Houghton in their ranks and who eventually lost the two-legged final to Aston Villa.


2: An impish hoodoo

Lincoln City were and remain City’s unquestionable bogey team in the League Cup. In 1966/7, a full-strength City, with all their firepower intact up front, inexplicably lost 1-0 at Sincil Bank to the team that would eventually finish bottom of the whole pyramid, exactly 20 years before an identical placing would drop them into the Conference. But the 1980s was when they really got stuck into City. In four of five seasons, the two were paired with each other in the first round (even allowing for regional draws, this was ridiculous) and the aggregate scores were as follows: 0-7, 1-4, 1-3, 6-1. So only the last of these was in favour of the Tigers, when in 1984/5, a team on its way to promotion to the Second Division under Brian Horton gave their divisional rivals a long overdue good hiding in what was, by then, the Milk Cup.

The 7-0 was during the competition’s last unsponsored season of 1980/1 and for City fans was especially symbolic, as it featured in one of the most unwatchable and horrific City seasons of all, as Lincoln, a division below but heading the opposite way, scored five at Sincil Bank and then added a brace more at Boothferry Park, with Mike Smith putting out largely the same team. Losing by seven without reply in a League Cup first round tie gave the City fans every indication they feared that the bottom tier, for the first time ever, was looming. They were right to hold that fear.

It’s not as if Lincoln were especially inspired by their hold on City; only once did they progress even further after beating the Tigers, and even then it was over by round three. Upon finally getting rid of them in 1985, City lost over two legs to Southampton in the second round. Lincoln haven’t haunted City since in the League Cup, and plenty of City fans of appropriate vintage are probably grateful for that.


3: Silk, no steel

If Lincoln had been a bogey side for City in the 1980s, then the era of more modern times points dominantly (if not exclusively; hello Burnley, see you on Boxing Day) to Macclesfield for the side that unexpectedly copped us an unfortunate one way too often. It started so well – League Cup success in August 1997 set us up for the famous tie against Crystal Palace that guaranteed Steve Wilson something to be remembered by in his ten years with the club.

But as far as the league itself went, we just couldn’t get any hold on them. In a dozen games to date, City have won just two. Victories of 4-0 in the FA Cup in 1999/2000 and 2004/05 were tempered by a 3-0 loss in the same competition exactly in between. Then came the collective groan of inevitability when City, under Nigel Pearson, were drawn at home to the Silkmen in the first round of what was now the Carling Cup in 2011/12.

You just knew. City were two divisions higher and in a notable recovery period after the Premier League excesses had forced considerable acts of cloth-cutting, while Macclesfield were not just in their usual place at the bottom of everything, but in serious peril of returning to the non-league game after 15 seasons in the sunshine.

So it all pointed to one result, though the way Macclesfield executed it was still something to begrudgingly admire, and Emile Sinclair scored a brace of goals that would act as his big parting gift to the Macclesfield fans, as he was off to Peterborough before the end of the month. His exit proved bittersweet, as without him Macclesfield sank without trace and went down, meaning City had lost to a side not good enough for the league any more (and not good enough to this day to come back). As if to prove his point even further, meanwhile, Sinclair scored a hat-trick the next season when Peterborough came to the Circle in the Championship and won 3-1.


4: Back to reality

City didn’t play in the first round between 1969 and 1977, thanks to the introduction of (inconsistent) rules giving the top two divisions a bye to the second round, something which only applies now depending on the teams in Europe, the presence of an ‘R’ in the month and the direction of the wind, or something. Upon a hurtful relegation from Division Two in 1978, however, it was back to life for the Tigers, with the wound-licking including the re-introduction of an earlier summertime tie.

The game against Peterborough actually occurred before the league season started, with an unusual Saturday kick-off for the first leg at Boothferry Park (for reasons to do with power shortages – City lost 1-0) followed by a quick dart to London Road for the return three days later. Back then, the two-legged first round ties gave short shrift to extra time (introduced in the 80s) and away goals (more recent, and as flawed in their practice as any rule in the knockout game) so when goals from Bruce Bannister and Paul Haigh gave City a 2-1 win in the second leg, a coin was tossed and City won the right to host the replay as a one-off game. Which, of course, they lost 1-0.

The same starting XI was used for all three games, yet only in 90 minutes on unfamiliar ground could the Tigers get a foothold; the 180 minutes in front of their own (with more than 800 extras turning up second time round) was entirely blank. Welcome back to the bottom half, lads.

5: Cod wars

GrimsbyLCIn the league, the last time City played Grimsby Town, still regarded by many (with justification) as our biggest rivals, was in the 1986/7 Division Two season, when the Mariners were relegated and, despite both teams having flirtations with all three of the unsexy divisions thereafter, paths never crossed again before Grimsby were relegated into the Conference. So we were reliant on the various cup competitions to renew hostilities, and in 1989/90, the first draw for what was then the Littlewoods Cup obliged.

City scored early through Andy Payton in the home leg, with only slightly more than 5,000 attending, but couldn’t finish the tie off and by the end of 90 minutes in the second leg at Blundell Park a week later, Grimsby were level through Keith Alexander and forcing extra time.

They duly finished the job off over the next 30 minutes, with a goal from Gary Childs that rookie City keeper Gavin Kelly should have saved, and for Colin Appleton, in his second spell as manager, the most minute of consolations came for him after his sacking three months later, as the home leg was his only victory in charge. And even that wasn’t a victory, really.

On top of that, there was the usual tastiness between the two sets of supporters – Grimsby had a genuinely fearsome contingent of toerags in the 1980s – with a pitch invasion at the end and one or two scraps afterwards

Grimsby threw away a 3-1 first leg lead to go out to eventual semi-finalists Coventry in the next round, and City have only played them once since – an Auto-Windscreens Shield second round tie in January 1998. Which, of course, they lost 1-0. Seeing a pattern…?


Thanks to Ian Thomson, Martin Batchelor and John Tondeur.


FAMOUS FIVE: City on the opening day

From the greatest goalscorer in our history to the most punchable manager, we bring you five occasions where City’s inaugural game of a campaign has induced excited recollection, or just left a scar struggling to heal…


1. Things can only get better for Chillo

Heavily in debt and with fans criticising them for a wretched pre-season programme, City turned to youngsters, triallists and amateurs on the opening day of the 1960/61 Division Three season, and a 17 year old forward from Sproatley called Chris Chilton was summoned to the first team. Given the inside right position, it wasn’t exactly a dream debut; he had only one chance on goal (a header that went wide) as Colchester United tore into the Tigers at Layer Road, with Les Collinson and debutant Eric McMillan both handling the ball in the area to allow Cyril Hammond to put away two comfortable penalties.

Martin King scored twice in the second half, the second after a dire back pass from the haunted McMillan, whose debut may go down as one of the worst in City’s history, and the U’s triumphed 4-0. Manager Bob Brocklebank responded by switching Chilton to centre forward for the next game, a decision that did wonders for player and club long-term. His fellow debutant up front, 23 year old Peter Nicholson, who made up “surely the youngest attack any League side has ever fielded” according to the Hull Daily Mail‘s Brian Taylor, was dropped and never featured again. Despite this remarkable opening day success, meanwhile, Colchester were relegated at the season’s end, while City finished 11th and Chilton, still not 18 by the end of it, had his first 19 League goals next to his name.


2. Hateley’s new beginning comes to an instant end

“He’s warming up, he’s warming up, he’s warming; Hateley’s warming up” chanted the South Stand singing corner as Hull City’s bright, young, fresh symbol of the future did some cursory stretches on the Boothferry Park touchline during a pre-season friendly against Huddersfield after his summer of 1997 appointment as player-manager. After six years of the hateful Martin Fish and Terry Dolan era, there was a new dawn breaking over the old ground, with modern-thinking owners looking to a seriously big (if somewhat inexperienced) name to finally fulfil the several decades’ worth of potential that had built up.

Thousands decamped on Mansfield before the opening game of the 1997/8 campaign, expecting everything to slot into place, or at least a decent display from players inspired by the achievements, charisma and general human qualities of the new manager. The result was markedly different; City were disjointed, unfit and completely hopeless, and Mansfield’s 2-0 win brought about one of the biggest comedowns in the emotionally-charged life of the loyal City fan. City didn’t score for two more games before sticking seven past Swansea, but the season was as bad as any in the club’s lifetime, made only salvageable by the self-destruction exercise going on at Doncaster which prevented relegation into the non-league pyramid. Hateley was quickly defined as being out of his depth and not a pleasant individual, and his exit the following season came just in time for City to avoid the Conference again.


3. Four scored, still no win

In the pre-war era, football was just as deferential to the class structure as anything else in life, and criticising professionals was just not cricket, or indeed any other well-heeled sport, at all. In the modern game a 6-4 tonking will get you brickbats from the press while the manager will be either ashen-faced and sighing heavily or the colour of rhubarb, blaspheming intensely. In 1934, it wasn’t even the done thing to ask the manager a gentle question or two after the game, any game, yet one suspects City boss Jack Hill would have had plenty to say after a Devonian defeat that would have perfectly fulfilled the cliché of “a good game for the neutral.”

City bounced between the Second Division and the regionalised Third during the 1930s, and were back in the higher, national tier at the commencement of the 1934/5 campaign which involved a long old boneshaking slog to Plymouth. Jack Vidler scored for the home side on two minutes and Frank Sloan soon added a second, but City came back with Andy Duncan scoring from distance.

Vidler’s second made it 3-1, but City were level by the half hour mark through a brace from Les Dodds, both headers from corners. In the second half, Plymouth re-established the lead through Eugene Melaniphy, then Vidler completed his hat-trick. The game still wasn’t safe, however, as Dodds completed his own hat-trick, and City were pressing for the equaliser right to the last minute when Jimmy Cookson broke away to seal it.

“On the run of their play, Hull seem destined for a profitable season,” said the ‘special correspondent’ (ie, a Plymouth-based agency hack) in the Hull Daily Mail. “It was a really enjoyable tussle, and in many ways Hull City were more impressive than their opponents.” Except in the crucial fields of scoring goals and not leaking them. You can imagine maybe not Hill, but some of his successors as City manager, balking at the idea that their teams would be worthy of such praise after a 6-4 defeat. City’s predicted “profitable season” didn’t emerge; as was the case for their second tier existence during all eras up to 2008, they finished mid-table, with the first win not coming until the sixth game of the season.


4. Premier League, piece of cake

Promotion to the top flight in 2008 brought about the expected plethora of articles digging into City’s chances of staying up, with that globulous cretin David Mellor even suggesting that we should be disallowed from taking our place in the top division for reasons no more compelling than we hadn’t been there before. Phil Brown bought well over the summer (albeit with money we actually didn’t have) and a fresh, history-making City lined up at the KC with the world, this time literally, watching over them.

Fulham were the beatable visitors, yet this Premier League adventure started poorly and made every City fan wonder if we were going to be humiliated from August to May, just as Derby were the previous season. Seol Ki-Hyeon headed the visitors in front early in the game, and the short period that followed brought about yet another of those great comedowns from major hope to the despair of the reality awaiting us.

Then Geovanni, on debut, took the ball from a wide right position, flitted inside and swept a marvellous shot into the bottom corner of the Fulham net. The feeling was beautiful; the relief touchable. The goal itself was divine to observe as well as experience, and the Brazilian had a few even better moments to share with his new devotees before stereotype took over in the winter months and he hid for a bit. At 1-1, the sun came back out.

The second half was hard going and both sides could have won it, but two subs eventually sealed it for City with eight minutes left. Craig Fagan robbed a dithering Paul Konchesky on the edge of the box and, in a rare moment of clear-thinking and accurate delivery of a horizontal ball, he found Caleb Folan, who in turn belied his own reputation for straying offside by being in the right place to steer the ball in. He would never have glory in a City shirt again as better players than he were to make the next three months some of the most stirring we’d ever witness, but for now he had his place in club heritage, and City had won their first ever top tier game.


5: Back, and forth, and back, and forth, and…

Still City under the brash Terry Neill had hopes of getting to the First Division, but four seasons under the Ulsterman in his salad days had failed to deliver, even though some of the football had been tremendous to watch and the emphasis on a controlled attacking mindset had made for some memorable matches. Consistency was an issue more than anything, and as the 1974/5 season approached, Neill had a plan for the opening day trip to Southampton.

His hand was forced by injuries to senior players and the big-money sale of Stuart Pearson to Manchester United, but nobody let Neill believe the idea wasn’t anything but his. He shoved in stacks of youthful talent for the game at the Dell alongside the experience of Ken Wagstaff, with Brian Taylor in the Hull Daily Mail claiming that most of the side would still have “clear memories of their 21st birthday.”

Southampton had gifted players in their ranks – an international strikeforce of Mick Channon and Peter Osgood was ludicrously good for the Second Division – but they’d been relegated the year before and were seen as a scalp in the making. It started exceptionally, with Vince Grimes scoring on six minutes, but everything City did, the home side could match.

Paul Gilchrist equalised early in the second half, but Wagstaff restored the advantage three minutes later. City then went down to ten men when John Hawley, fabled to this day as football’s last amateur player, retaliated to a hefty Paul Bennett challenge and was giving his marching orders under what Taylor termed “soccer’s get tough policy”. Osgood levelled for Saints with 15 minutes left, but unbelievably, the ten men regained the lead straight from the kick-off through Wagstaff. City clung on into injury time but Gilchrist forced in a third for the Saints with the last touch of the game, leaving Neill proud but visibly frustrated.

Five games later, with the all-out attack and emphasis on youth yielding just one win and a three straight blanks, Neill had gone, having been offered a route back to north London and the Tottenham Hotspur job, one which football as a whole scarcely believed he had earned. John Kaye, who retired from playing when he was declared unfit for Southampton, took over straightaway and made the team more pragmatic in its approach, ending the season in eighth but, again, never truly looking like taking the last big step.