Watney ‘ells that?

The terms ‘cup run’ and ‘Hull City’ are a bit like the Jackson Five, in that they haven’t been seen together in years, which is why a paragraph in a programme reading ‘If Hull City beat Manchester United, tickets for the final will go on sale at Boothferry Park on Thursday’ would be enough to make any City fan cream their pants in excitement. So, just how many teams did the intrepid Tigers overcome to reach a semi-final against such illustrious opposition? Well, just one actually. Confused? Then read on.

The competition was, unfortunately, not the grand old FA Challenge Cup, nor its less coveted cousin the League Cup, but rather the Watney Cup. “The What Cup?” you ask inquisitively. No, the Watney Cup we answer glibly. “What a crap pun” you retort. Anyway, the Watney Mann Invitation Cup, to give the competition its full title, was introduced shortly after the 1970 World Cup Finals, when Pele, Jairzinho and their canary clad pals had dragged football out of defensive darkness and illuminated the way with bold, beautiful attack minded play. The cup took the two highest scoring teams from each of the four divisions (excluding those recently promoted, relegated or those engaged in European competition) and pitted them against each other in a straight knockout tournament.

City had qualified as the second highest scoring Second Division team during the 1969-70 season when they had made the onion bag bulge 72 times in 42 games.

City’s opponents in the first round (essentially the quarter finals) were Fourth Division battlers Peterborough away at London Road. The Posh started brightly, but soon began to buckle as the Tigers moved ominously forward. On the stroke of half-time the irresistible Ken Wagstaff broke into the home side’s box and unleashed a low drive into the bottom corner to break the deadlock. The second half saw ‘Boro washed away by a tide of amber, ‘Waggy’ striking again early on before Chris Chilton grabbed himself a brace to set up the mouthwatering semi-final against Manchester United, who edged past Reading with a 2-3 away win.

And so the day arrived: Wednesday 5th August 1970, warm sunshine heralding the arrival in Hull of (Sir) Matt Busby and a full strength United squad.

Can you imagine Alex Ferguson doing the same? A man who can barely contain his contempt for domestic cups bringing Schmeichel, the Nevilles, Beckham et al to Boothferry Park for a relatively insignificant kickabout. Yet here they were, the backbone of the side that had conquered Europe just two years previous, mixing it with the black and amber. And looking back, it was quite appropriate for an encounter that would make footballing history.

United though, were no longer the dominant force they had been in recent years. A year on from their victorious European Cup campaign, Matt Busby left, and without it’s inspirational leader the club lost its way. Busby’s successor, Wilf McGuiness, transformed the club from title contenders into midtable makeweights. George Best, who McGuiness had suspended for alleged ‘disreputable behaviour’, later said: “You could hear the energy and ambition sighing out of the club.” The final straw came when United were humiliated by arch-rivals Man City in the League Cup semi-final and McGuiness was ousted to make way for Busby’s emotional return to the Salford club. In spite of the worsening league position, United’s squad of household names was still proving to be crowd pullers.

Thirty-four thousand and seven filed into fortress Boothferry for Terry Neill’s second game in charge in which the new player-boss fielded an unchanged side consisting of: McKechnie, Beardsley, Devries, Wilkinson, Simpkin, Neill himself, Lord, Houghton, Chilton, Wagstaff and Butler (with Pearson sub). United boss Busby also plumped for the side that had got him here, choosing: Stepney. Edwards, Dunne, Crerand, Ure, Sadler, Morgan, Law, Charlton, Kidd and Best (with toothy raver Stiles warming the bench).

The Red Devils got the game underway, but it was City who looked the more accomplished of the two sides and just eleven minutes in, Bob Dewhurst lookalike (but not playalike) Chilton volleyed home a ball from tricky winger Ian Butler to give the Tigers a one-nil lead. The home side continued to pile on the pressure after the restart and Stepney in the United goal had many lucky escapes before the halftime whistle. The second half brought no respite and three minutes in Butler rounded the keeper only to see his shot rebound off the woodwork.

The game continued to flow in City’s favour but with twelve of the ninety minutes remaining, disaster struck: a centre from Willie Morgan was brilliantly seized upon Denis Law, who glanced the header home past McKechnie. One-one. Undeterred, the Tigers again pressed forward, and on 88 minutes an advancing Wagstaff was brought crashing down by Stepney in United’s box, penalty!

No said referee Jim Finney waving play on. Moments later the Hereford official blew for full-time. With Derby awaiting the victors for a final showdown, the tie had to be decided. Thirty minutes of extra time passed with neither goal breached and as Finney blew time three times again, he called time on not only extra time, but also sounded a death knell for the ‘umpteenth replay’. The tournaments organisers had declared it would act as a test bed for a pioneering method of deciding games still tied after extra time and by quirk of fate Boothferry Park would host the world’s first penalty shootout.

There was then just as now, arguments against the idea, football ‘purists’ branded the system a mockery of football, claiming that luck and not skill would decided games, which was an incredulous statement considering the previous way of settling games. Surely five unimpeded strikes on goal are infinitely better than drawing lots or…gasp…tossing a coin! The pain of England’s elimination by Argentina was bad enough, but imagine if we had gone out because Alan Shearer. as the gleaming coin flipped in the air, had chosen the ‘tails never fails’ option.

And so, with the ball placed twelve yards from the goalline, the first two personae stepped up for this penalty dramatis as Boothferry Park’s occupants collectively drew breath. The imperilous George Best once said: “I spent a lot of money on fast cars and fast women, the rest I just wasted.” He didn’t however waste this opportunity and scored with a low shot to McKechnie’s right. First up for City was boss Terry Neill, and the ex-Arsenal duly equalised. The following four spot kicks were also dispatched, Kidd, Butler, Charlton and Simpkin making it 3-3.

Regardless of their other endeavours, Messrs Pearce, Waddle, Southgate and Batty, will always be remembered for their shootout failures, an honour which has seemingly eluded Denis Law, who stepped up and saw his right hand strike repelled by a diving McKechnie, a Scot thwarting a Scot. Ken Wagstaff then had the chance to put the Tigers in front but missed. Still 3-3 after eight spot kicks. Willie Morgan then lashed his spot kick away, and McKechnie, picking himself up off the floor, made his way to the penalty spot and placed the ball. A goalkeeper? Taking the final crucial penalty? Yep. But the decision was not as crazed as it now seems, as a year previous City’s number one had, along with Ian Butler, reached the final of a penalty knockout tournament. However, it was not be, and his fierce left foot strike hit the bar and went over.

The game ended and United advanced to the final leaving City to continue preparations for the new season (I suppose I should mention the final, but, hey who cares, we weren’t there). Soon after, the shootout method was adopted by UEFA and then FIFA, cue rejoicing at the Deutscher Fussball Bund and future despair for the English footballing populous in 1990, 1996, 1998…

 

Les Motherby

Up The Swanny – INTERVIEW

It’s twenty past six on a balmy summers evening, we’re sitting in the lobby of a swanky West Yorkshire hotel, pondering titles for this article. “Swan…but not forgotten”, I proffer, punctuating the near silence.

At this point, the man himself breezes in with a confident swagger and greets us with a broad, golden toothed grin and a firm handshake. He turns to the bar and gives a rueful glare to the shutters keeping man from beer. “When’s the bar open?” he enquires, we shrug in ignorance. “I’m just off for a piss, then I’ll get us some beers in.” he utters before retiring to the porcelain commode. True to his word, he returns shortly after clutching three pints and taking a seat.

Physically, Peter Swan hasn’t changed much, the lack of blonde hair an exception, “I don’t why I did that.” he later commented, “Stan [Ternent] once told me if I did it again he’d fine me a week’s wages. I remember going to Brighton once, they’re all faggots down there and they were whistling and that, so…”

We enquire how he picked up his tan. “I was at the World Cup in France.” said Swanaldo, picking up a size five tricolore ball and running with it. “The World Cup was brilliant.” He somehow managed to get caught up in the trouble before the England-Tunisia game. “We were staying in Cannes, so we drove to Marseille for the game. We were walking down the streets and the Tunisians were outnumbering the English and we thought ‘there’s gonna be trouble here, we’ll get battered’ like, and I’d gone in shorts, flip-flops and me England shirt.

When we got nearer the ground itself about 75 per cent of the people there were English. You know that fella who caused the trouble, the bald fella with the tattoo on his stomach, well he knocked me out of the way. You could see his eyes were gone and he was just walking up and down. Then he chucked a sandwich in the middle of all the Tunisians and World War Three broke out…bricks, bottles, chairs… everything’s going crazy and I’m stood watching it all. The missus screamed and ran off somewhere. It spilled over into the reception area where all the VIPs from England were.

Viv Anderson says to us ‘Swanny, you might as well come with us and sit down, but take your shirt off.’ We then got an escort…me, the missus, Bryan Robson and Viv Anderson.

I remember the missus said ‘has it calmed down?’ So I looked out of the window and there’s coppers battering the fuck out of everyone, I just said ‘Yeah, it’s calming down.’ In the ground though there was no problems. I went to the Columbia game, that was brilliant. We went down on a shuttle, got in the arena and there’s Zoe Ball and Dani Behr sat behind us, she’s gorgeous ‘er! She has this big massive hat on and this skimpy beige vest. When the Mexican wave came round I thought ‘something’s going to pop out here, and I’ll be there to help you pack!”

Those three pints are now a distant memory and noticing that we’ve not even mentioned Hull City yet, we remedy that. Peter Edward Swan was born in Leeds on 28th September 1966. He was raised a Leeds United fan (though he held latent feelings for West Ham, for a reason he knows not why) and signed for the White Shite as a lad, principally as a striker. He left Leeds for City in March 1989, Eddie Gray paying out a record fee of £200,000 (a record that still stands) for the 22 year old. “It was a big wrench to leave Leeds, Howard Wilkinson didn’t want me to leave but we didn’t see eye to eye.” The move saw Swanny take on a new role. “I was a striker at Leeds but I occasionally filled in at the back. When I signed for Hull Eddie wanted me as a centre-half, so that’s where I played.”

The move perplexed many City fans who had earlier in the month witnessed Swan playing for Leeds in defence, being taken to the cleaners by the bustling Billy Whitehurst in a midweek game at Boothferry Park. The ordeal has evidently traumatised him as his recalls little of that game. He quickly settled in here and made 11 appearances scoring once before the 1988-89 season came to an end, bringing a close to Gray’s brief stint as manager. “I thought we were going places with Eddie and then he left.” Left, or was he pushed? “A bit of both, I think.”

Following Gray’s departure, Colin Appleton returned to do a spot of light carpentry. “I came in one day for treatment, two or three days before preseason. I walked into the dressing room to get changed and there’s this guy putting veneer up and knocking nail in, and he never said nowt. When I came out I said to someone ‘who’s that fella in there?’ and they didn’t know. Three days later at a press conference he was introduced as the new manager and I thought ‘fucking ‘ell, we’ll struggle here, a carpenters the manager.” Jesus was a carpenter, but he never managed us, whereas Appleton’s second coming saw a new trophy added to our bulging showcase, it was only the Yorkshire Cup mind.

It was while beating a path to the final against Bradford that the legendary ‘Swan Option’ was first unveiled. At a time when big centre-back/forward versatility in the form of Dion Dublin was unheard of, Swan was switched from towering rock in defence to marauding bloody-lusty striker. Against Scunthorpe at the fairly new Glanford Park, the method was used to devastating effect. The yellowbellies took the lead, but Swanny, unfettered from his defensive duties began his rampaging up front the net result being a goal, and an assist, a rattled crossbar and a 3-1 win for us.

The ‘Swan Option’ also proved a success in the League and Swanny became a firm favourite with Boothferry’s baying hordes. No mean feat for an ex-Leeds player. He struck up a fine partnership with Andy Payton and shoved in his fair share of goals. A few were quite memorable, there was two at Portsmouth in a 2-2 draw one of which was a stunning volley from outside the box which flew past Alan Knight in the Pompey goal. There was also a thumping header to equalise in a 1-1 at Bristol Rovers.

Appleton’s stay as manager was brief, his departure possibly due to his disregard for personal hygiene. “He used to train in this light blue tracksuit with a single stripe down it. After training he’d put his suit on, on top of it and then a sheepskin and go out scouting. He’d never get changed, he stunk.”
Alternatively, it may have had to do with his inability to make team selections and see them through. “One game, Colin pulled us in and said ‘Swanny, I’m playing you instead of Billy [Whitehurst] up front today’ and after talking tactics I’d gone to get changed into the number 9 shirt but Bill’s already changed…in the number 9 shirt, so I said nowt and sat down. Colin comes in and looks around, then said ‘here’s the team for today, err, Swanny, you put number 12 on…’ he wouldn’t tell Bill he wasn’t playing.”

Ah, Big Billy, it seems every man and his dog has at least one anecdote regarding the Mexborough born forward. “Billy was a dying breed, he was frightening. He wanted to be the top man and no-one was going to argue…Bill was Bill, great fella. He was fascinated with shit, he would shit in cups and put it in the freezer. He once had a mousse, and after eating it he shit in the pot, then gave it to an apprentice to take back to Grandways. He stood outside laughing while the kid, warm sensation on his hands, took it back saying it was off!”

Are there any other players that he remembers as vividly from his City days? “Dave Bamber, When we signed him Bamber bought a house in Blackpool! He wanted petrol and removal expenses paid for moving from Stoke to Blackpool. The gaffer says ‘no, you’re supposed to move to Hull’ like.” Dave Bamber was just one of the costly (in more ways than one) signings made by Appleton’s successor, Stan Ternent. Swanny’s opinions of Ternent vary a fair bit from our own. “Stan was brilliant. I don’t think he needed to bring anyone in though, but when a new manager starts he wants to bring his own men in to prove he can do it with his own players. He brought in Mail, Bamber, Hockaday and Finnegan but they made no difference. When Finnegan came I thought ‘f*cking hell, he’s hot shit him, but after that he kept tripping over the ball, I’ll never forget that.” (Finnegan later did a different kind of tripping, but I digress). Ternent’s expensive failures achieved only relegation, and the fund-frittering boss’ services were dispensed with.

Swanny left shortly after that, joining Port Vale in August 1991 for £300,000 after having played 88 times for the Tigers, scoring 25 times. The move lost him a little credit with the supporters, who viewed the switch as unambitious. “I thought it was me, and looking back it proved to be. I thought I could play at the level we were at before relegation and I wanted to stay at that level.” There is as well, the Dolan and Lee factor and he was right when he said the move proved ambitious, fortuitous also. “I once met them two. I’m always messing around and I was in the treatment room starkers, wi nowt on. There was two beds and I got underneath one of them for some reason (?!?) and stuck my legs up in the air. I’d never met the manager or his assistant before and they both walked in. I stood up, nowt on and said ‘Pleased to meet you.’ Dolan tried to sell me to Sunderland just after that.”

In addition to Port Vale he’s played for Plymouth, Burnley and Bury since leaving Hull. At Burnley he played alongside City’s midfield hero Warren Joyce. “Joycey is a weirdo. I thought he was bent at first but he’s a great lad, I got on brill with him. He never used to train at Burnley, you’d come into the dressing room after training and he’d be on the floor doing like…yoga! We’d say ‘fucking ‘ell Joyce, what’re’ya doing’ and he’d say ‘I’ve got to do it’, he’d done it at other clubs. He’s a good lad, weird but good.” Upon joining Bury he was reunited with Stan Ternent who was in charge at Gigg Lane.

Now 32, he states he’d like to go on playing until he’s 35 and then? Management may be an option but does he feel he’s qualified? And how do you go about getting into management? “It’s about being in the right place at the right time, innit? I’ve enough experience in the game. I couldn’t manage at Premier League level, though saying that you never know.”
“I’ve had eighteen managers and Stan was the best, for me, cos he knew how to get the best out of me. A lot of players (at Bury) don’t like him after last year, cos he probably says too much to ’em and they don’t like it.” “The manager’s gotta pick the players he can work with and he can get the best out of. ‘Swanny may not be the best centre-half I’ve got, but I can make him do what I wannim to do.’ I’ve got to get players that’ll do what I want them to, respect me and gerron with the job. You might have the best centre-half in the league but if he don’t like yer he won’t perform.”

“Stan didn’t buy me at Hull, yet I respected him straight away, he’s a hard man and a shouter and bawler. At Bury he had no money, whereas Hull was his first managerial job. I think he learnt from that. Hull was the first chance he had to buy and sell.” Ternent recently left Bury to take the Burnley job. I his place, Bury appointed Neil Warnock with dire consequences for Swanny. “I had problems with him at Plymouth, he’s a prick, we hate each other.” Shortly after Warnock’s installation Bury granted Swan a free transfer. “I’m speaking to clubs, I’ve spoken to Stoke and Halifax. Although Bury have given me a free, I’ve got a year left to run on my contract, so they’ve got to pay me.”

The papers in Bury linked me with a move back to Hull, I thought that’s why you rang me.” Unfortunately not. We didn’t know anything of this, but we did get word to Mark Hateley of his availability after this interview. “I could be on my way back to Burnley with Stan and Andy Payton.” he states. There’s always the possibility of taking up another profession, much to our dismay. “I’ve always wanted to play rugby (NOOOOOOO!!!-Ed) I’ve said to the chief executive at Swinton ‘what contracts could you give me?'”
At this point Swanny’s mobile rings. It’s his agent, ‘Stilesy’. The phone conversation last for about twenty minutes and Swanny sounds unhappy. “He’s fucking crap, he must be the worst agent in the league, he rings me to tell me nothing’s happening,” he sighs. “Me agent’s shit.”

Another round is ordered, we’ve lost count by now though I’m sure the barstaff haven’t, they’ve taken a credit card as assurance. The conversation now becomes more informal, though to tell the truth it’s not been very formal anyway. Yet another round is consumed and we settle the bill, “It’s a shame you didn’t come on another night, we could have gone round Wakey, Wakefield’s brilliant on a Thursday, it’s ladies’ night” he reveals. “We used to go out every Thursday when I was at Leeds.”

Since driving is out of the question for him, we give him a lift home (our driver was sober, of course). A prolonged goodbye and we are on our way home. There’s not many better ways to spend a Sunday evening than interviewing one of your heroes from your schooldays, and whereas some players shatter your deified images of them by being knobheads, Peter Swan is definitely not one of these. Rather, he’s a bloody nice bloke.

NB. Shortly after our interview, Peter Swan signed a 12 month contract with Burnley joining Stan Ternent for a third time.

Les Motherby

With thanks to Mike Scott, Steve Weatherill, Angie Rowe and the staff of the Cedar Court Hotel, Wakefield. Profound apologies to Warren Joyce!

Fatty Flagstaff

“When I was playing, back in the 60s, early 70s football was a man’s game played by proper men, with a real leather ball, and we had far worse winters than these pampered jessies today. You’d never catch me wearing cycling shorts either, or gloves, it took me all my time to fasten my shorts up, not women’s knickers either like today’s players, ours were made of corrugated iron and hung a quarter of an inch above the knee. Andy Davidson’s shorts were made at Hessle Shipyard and Jock McSeveney had to be crane lifted into his. I looked great in mine though.”

“I remember playing once at Carlisle in the grip of an icy winter storm. There was 50,000 in the ground and it was two foot deep in snow at one end. Fans were making igloos at t’other, three Carlisle players died of exposure, no substitutes then, but me and Chillo scored four goals apiece in the first half, before a polar bear got on the pitch and ate the ref causing the game to be abandoned. You’d never see that today, today’s players don’t know what cold weather is, I loved it me, and someone once said Alf Ramsey would have been at that game but he got stuck in a snow drift.”

“Did you see the World Cup on telly? I thought it was crap, none of the players looked fit and that Hoddle bloke doesn’t know owt about football. I was spotted when I was two dribbling around the entire Mansfield first team squad by Raich Carter and he signed me up there and then. If I’d have been Scottish I’d have been better than Kenny Dalglish. Biggest regret of Alf Ramsey’s life was discovering that I was allergic to Wembley stadium otherwise I’d have even better and more famous than I already am.”

“Don’t think much of City’s chances this season. That Hateley couldn’t pick a team to beat the ex-Tigers, if I was playing. I read that Dean Windass, who I discovered, has signed for Oxford which proves my theory that today’s players are all bigheads. In my day we didn’t have to go to any fancy dan university, we were too busy signing autographs to bother with education. Thousands used to come to watch me to get an education!”

“One of my regulars actually knows someone who’s seen City play in the last ten years and he tells me that Andy Payton looks sharp but the rest of them are crap, so unless I get the managers job you won’t see me at Boothferry Park in person but I’ll be telling Hateley what to do from behind this bar. I’ll be supporting whoever is at the top of the Premier League and my SKY subscription, sponsored by the brewery, keeps my finger on football’s pulse so I can tell you all who’s doing what wrongly.”

“Next issue I’ll tell you all about the time I turned down the England job, how I was hotly tipped to be the next James Bond and how I taught Bob Charlton to shoot, until then I’m available most evenings, at a price, where I’ll talk for four hours, non-stop, about myself.”


Gary Clark

Annual General Bleating

Hull City’s 1997 annual general meeting was eventually held on Friday 27th March, 1998 – nearly four months late, so what did another twenty minutes matter as shareholders were belatedly allowed access into Willerby’s Grange Park Hotel? The delay in starting the meeting was evidently caused by an earlier press conference which in turn had been delayed because David Lloyd’s overheads had not arrived from London and hastily had do be drawn up locally. They needn’t really have bothered.

On stage, David Lloyd sat behind a long table with our other director Mr Harrison to his right, a tense looking Mark Hateley immediately to his left before Michael Appleton and finally Brian “Calamity” Calam who has been a wonderful asset to the football club….Bradford, that is. However, there was no sign of the mystery personality Radio Blunderside had promised us six days earlier.

Lloyd came to the floor to open the meeting, telling us he would show us exactly the same overheads as he’d shown the press apart from one which was only relevant to Hull Sharks shareholders.

After all, in Lloyd’s precise words: “Why is rugby relevant to football?” You said it sir! We still appear to be in the dark exactly as to whether City and the Sharks yet come under one banner and the answer seems to be at Mr Lloyd’s convenience. Mr Lloyd immediately took a defensive stance. It quickly became apparent he would be telling us nothing new as his slideshow was simply a case of getting his excuses in early, pre-empting questions over why we are in the mess we are in.

He demonstrated he’d spent £3.3 million on the Tigers, £0.9 milion on the Sharks, including £50,000 on ground improvements at Boothferry and double that at the Boulevard. He projected a loss of over £700,000 for City this year and a profit of £125,000 at the Sharks. He listed the nine players signed by City during his reign, conveniently overlooking the fact they were all free transfers. He closed his opening address by declaring: “I remain fully committed to Hull, but clearly can’t keep losing large sums of money”. Was that you I heard Mr Needler?

And that was it. Nothing of his plans and certainly no vision for the future. It baffles me how he “allegedly” threatens to close the clubs down unless the people back his plans when, even with the ideal opportunity this meeting presented, he fails to let us know exactly what those plans are. Every week when we look at the paper or listen to the radio we are getting a different story. Lloyd didn’t take the opportunity to set the record straight so we were going to have to try to batter some answers out of him. That was to prove very hard work.

One of the first questions went to a now much more relaxed looking Mark Hateley, along the lines of would he have come here if he had any idea of how things were going to turn out? He seized on the opportunity to confirm he was operating under different circumstances at the start of the season and had been promised a lot of money. Promises promises!

In response to questions from the floor David Lloyd admitted that if his spending in Hull reached the £5 million mark he would be wanting out. It doesn’t take a genius with the figures quoted above that that figure could be reached in less than a year.

So what of the plans for a “super stadium”? The “state of the art” stadium might have to be at the Boulevard according to our chairman. You may hope that there was some emphasis on the word “might” in his voice, but no, Mr Lloyd was definitely hinting that this would be were our future lies if he ever managed to shift the supermarket. Later in the meetng he actually said he couldn’t promise a new stadium even if Boothferry Park was sold. The obvious thing to do is redevelop Boothferry Park was the cry from the floor, greeted by rapturous applause and “here heres” reminiscent of the House of Commons. However, a non-starter we were told: we need the cash from the sale of Boothferry to fund a new stadium. They cost £1,000 per seat you know.

Most people would subscribe to the ‘run before we can walk’ approach: we would like a team capable of winning games and bringing back the crowds before we even think of selling up and moving to a bright new home. Why have a ‘super’ stadium if you can’t fill it? And how can you have anything super at the Boulevard….a contradiction in terms if ever there was one.
As Mr Lloyd was accused of failing to invest in the side to try and tap at least some of our huge potential support, he made reference to the opening home game of the season and indeed scoffed at the fact that we only got 7,000 (over 1,000 more than the Sharks got for their home opener). Deliberately missing the point, he conveniently forgot that gate was nearly three times last season’s average and that the previous week’s thrashing at Mansfield had hit home that it was still last season’s rubbish on offer. It was only Mark Hateley who paid testimony to the potential crowds bursting for success.

There was a sense of frustration on the floor as we were gleaning little from David Lloyd who offerered little other than sob stories, quite genuine though they are, about fighting to balance the books and fending off questions about why he hasn’t invested in the squad. The Bosman thing, too many players and all that….

Lloyd in turn was fed up with a line of questioning that seemed to be going round in circles. “You seem to think I’m some mysterious body that will rape you and take all your money,” he protested. Nobody argued. It niggles me though when he says he can’t profit from the sale of Boothferry, it has to go back to sport in Hull. Sport maybe, but there’s never any mention of Hull City…. or even football.

It doesn’t seem to add up somehow. There’s no money left, the squad is as weak as last year, if we can sell Boothferry Park the best we may realistically be hoping for is redevelopment of the Boulevard….

My chosen question was exactly this: Mr Lloyd, why did you come to Hull? You knew from the outset how much it would cost to buy the club, what the debts were, what the weekly losses were, what the crowds were, how big the squad was, what the contract situation was, how low down the league we were (to put it as nicely as possible!)….. so what’s changed? Mr Lloyd threw his shaking head into his hands and said: “I haven’t got any more money”. Not exactly answering the question was it?

So what about the money promised to Mark Hateley? “I didn’t promise Mark Hateley one penny, I wasn’t even a director at the time.” Quite an astonishing response from a man who has just shelled out £3.3 million in buying his own football club. “It was promised by an ex-chairman and that’s why he isn’t here any more.” The Lloyd-Wilby partnership has never been explained. Wilby seemed to be telling us in good faith at the city Hall that David Lloyd was going to do this and David Lloyd was going to do that, before he breezed in as chairman with his entourage of managing directors, commercial directors, executive directors, marketing managers, etc. Come October they’d all gone soon after the appointment of Lloyd’s henchman from his tennis centre days Michael Appleton. The letter to shareholders at the time of the takeover refered to Wilby as an agent acting on behalf of David Lloyd, so how come Lloyd let it get so far out of control?

It was only when answering a later question that Lloyd divulged that his failure to persuade Kwik Save, and so far Sommerfields, to surrender the supermarket lease has put paid to everything he had been working towards. Of course, the feeling amongst everybody is that it would make good business sense to have all these details sorted before splashing out £3.3 million. What is more, it is very worring that Mr Lloyd came to Hull with just one brittle plan and not a single contingency. An ill-thought-out plan A, no plan B and certainly no plan C.

It appears to me David Lloyd has bitten off far more than he can chew. For many the AGM was our first glimpse of Mr Lloyd and he wasn’t exactly the kind of leader we were hoping for. However, the general concensus which was conveyed to Mr Lloyd several times during the meeting was that we are pleased to have him here as there can be little doubt he has saved us from extinction.

David Lloyd is not the knight in shining armour he was built up to be, but he has millions of pounds of his own money invested in Hull City and he needs the club to be a success as much as we do. If he were to leave the club now he would want his £3 million back and that is not the kind of price people are going to be willing to pay for Hull City.

It has been a bungled takeover from the start but David Lloyd and the supporters of Hull City are stuck with the situation as it stands and we have to try and make it work. To all City fans I would urge them to show support for David Lloyd, although I certainly don’t mean we should go along with everything he says because I would fight any move to the Boulevard to the hilt. He inherited a huge mess at Boothferry Park, bigger than most people realise, and he has to be given time to sort things out. In turn I would urge David Lloyd to get involved with the club more than he has done to date and demonstrate to people that his heart is really in it. Let’s have no more secrets. Most importantly he needs to invest in the team.

The Doncaster game demonstrated how bad things have become. Mark Hateley has consistently been thwarted in his attempts to capture players who have agreed to come. If that continues we will be filling Doncaster Rovers’ shoes next season.

His plans to introduce Think Tanks is excellent in theory, but Lloyd needs to have hands on involvement if he is finally to win the trust of both the of fans and the local business community. If his absence from Boothferry Park for such long periods continues he will simply be seen as Mr Needler in a different guise and the only way will be down.

 

Geoff Bradley

Annual General Bleating II

Just when you thought it was safe to enter the Grange Hotel, the Hull Sharks go and hold their AGM on the same day as ours. AMBER NECTAR infiltrated enemy lines to investigate:

The tiny world of rugby league was rocked to its foundations when tennis supremo David Lloyd stamped his foot firmly and announced with a pet lip that he didn’t like been called naughty names, and that rude ones upset him, writes E. I. Erewego, our man at the blunt end. Sparks and accusations flew at the the Hull Sharks AGM when the irate shareholders had the cheek to ask Lloyd why he wanted to devalue their shares from £1 to a bargain 5p each.

One well-known shareholder, Mr Tubby Lard, who had already clashed with Lloydearlier in the carpark when he blocked the chairman’s Porsche in with his Robin Reliant, demanded to know if Lloyd was in fact “a Southern poofter with a dodgy haircut and no real interest in rugby league”.

With a lot of armwaving, Lloyd shocked the couple of dozen sad looking shareholders, not including the two whippets tied to the top table, by giving Mr Lard a real dirty look, which produced a gasp from the assembled throng, followed by a barrage of four letter words, twenty-one flat caps and an escaped racing pigeon.

Stewards had to restrain one angry shareholder who threatened Lloyd with a prize leek (which incidentaly won second prize at the Coltman Street Allotment Association recently) and another promised to withdraw his £20 worth of shares if Lloyd didn’t stop trying to baffle us all with long, fancy-dan words.

By now the meeting resembled the night Tim Wilby last showed his face in the Hull F.C. supporters social club, when someone nutted him and with that in mind, Lloyd’s right-hand man Michael Appleton, hid under the table with Brian Calamity, a man used to organised chaos. On a show of hands those present voted twenty-four to none that Lloyd was in fact a nancy boy, and a second resolution was also passed that Appleton most likely was as well. A hat was then passed around for the bus driver and a request was made for the pie n peas to be served. By now, Lloyd had stormed out of the hall, a bit like that Wash ‘n’ Go advert, trouble was the bingo cards were now on sale and no-one noticed. Indeed the only sign of the chairman’s hasty departure was his footprints in whippet shit leading to the door.

Outside the meeting, a rather harassed looking Mr Lloyd, brushing his hair to one side, sulked: “I’m deeply offended. Everyone knows my track record in sport. Look at what I’ve done for British tennis for example. We won the cup at Wimbledon in, er, nineteen-seventy-something, and that’s the kind of success I want to bring to Hull Tiger Sharks. Besides that, I’m not very happy with the dogshit on my trousers and when that pigeon crapped on my hair. Then I thought ‘Hey David, is this what I really want, what I really really want?'”

Thank Goodness AGM’s are only held once a year!

Gary Clark

Pete Skipper Interview

What? I never had a dodgy knee!” Peter Skipper, the ex-City centre-back is fixing me a stare and daring me to argue. “Are you saying I had a dodgy knee!?” Jesus! We’d been sat in the guys pub, letting him supply us drinks and chatting amiably when I just happen to mention a supposedly dysfunctional leg joint and suddenly the cool as ice defender is on the attack. “There was often a lot of strapping,” I offer as meek explanation. Luckily the now 39 year olds still babyish face begins to betray a smile. “Yeah well, it might have been strapped but that was more for protection. There was only ever one exploratory operation on it, y’know.”

The knee wasn’t my only mistake. My first suggestion that Skip made his league debut in 1979 at left-back. Total bollocks! I hadn’t realised that the Tigers under Ken Houghton were the true originators of the wingback system. “It was more or less three centre backs,” Skip helpfully explains, “I played left hand side but Roger De Vries played that game as well and I just filled in behind when he pushed on.” It was not though to be an auspicious debut, City lost 5-3. “They gave us a bit of the run about that night.” Admits the defender, “they had all those ex Liverpool players, John Toshack, Ian Callaghan, Tommy Smith, Max Thompson and Alan Curtis.”

Skipper signed for City from Schultz joining other youngsters like Ian Dobson, Derek Hood and Garreth Roberts and more experienced first-teamers Jeff Wealands, Stuart Croft, Bruce Bannisters and Alan Warboys. With Micky Horswill also their spirits, in every sense must have been at an optimum. “We all mixed well but I think City is a club where players are usually happy. There’s always been a good social side.” And every fan has a favourite story about the social side of the club. Unfortunately for us, the ever loyal, dependable defender refuses to confirm any of them.

The Mike Smith era, pre-Dolan at least, must have been the most depressing time ever at city. Results, relegations and the failure of big money, high wage signings were disasters but they weren’t to be the reason Skipper’s city career finished almost before it had started.  “I left because I wouldn’t play left back. Centre half was my position and where I should be playing. It was disappointing to be given a free transfer but you’ve just got to prove yourself elsewhere. Fortunately Dave Hawker was at Darlington at the time and he had a word . Billy Elliott, their manager came to watch me in a reserve game. He took me on and I had two enjoyable years at Darlington.”

Enjoyable maybe, but obviously two years at Darlington is enough for anyone and Tigers supporters were prepared to dig deep into their own pockets to buy him back.

What did he know about the negotiations that were to return him to Boothferry Park ? “I had a couple of discussions with Colin Appleton and Don Robinson before everything was finalised but I didn’t realise at the time that it was the supporters who were paying my fee but it’s nice to come back to your home town club and that was an added responsibility.”

Even then, though a deal had been struck Skipper couldn’t sign a contract until everything had been finalised with the receivers and Don Robinson had actually taken over. After that all the talk was of playing on the Moon and mega-bowls. “Don Robinson was a great man for the club. He put as much effort in as anyone could to promote City. I wouldn’t say he was always around but he did always encourage the players, he mixed in. It was good fun. I don’t think any of the players had any objections to doing the things he put forward, he put us on a strict wage structure and at the end of the day he was good for the club because the club was successful and he brought the supporters and the players closer together.”

His enthusiasm for those times is still evident as the goal-scoring stopper talks. So were the Red Robbo years his happiest time in football? “I’ve enjoyed all my time in football,” he states categorically. “Yes because we won things but its not all about winning, just to get paid for something you love doing is what a lot of people dream of.”

Football might not always be about winning but for ninety minutes most players take it deadly serious. Typical of a kill to win approach was big Billy Whitehurst. Rumours abound about Pete’s erstwhile colleagues on and off field aggressions. “I haven’t heard any rumours,” says the skilful stopper, keeping a steady eye on the ball, closing down a potentially dangerous question and again giving nothing away. “Billy was a good friend of mine. I got on very well with him. Everyone knows he was a character and yes he was a handful at times but I think if you asked any manager that he played for they’d all say that although he might have been difficult to handle when he went out on the pitch he knew what was expected of him and he knew how to deliver it.” Does that include being expected to splatter the opposition goalkeeper in the opening minutes? Pete smiles, “He was an old-fashioned centre forward. Billy never went out to hurt anyone but if the ball was there to be won and someone got in the way then sorry for them. You don’t pull out of a challenge do you?” Not someone to make an enemy out of then? “Bill was a handy lad but having said that if you were fair with him he was fair with you. There were some people who didn’t like him and there were others he didn’t like. I mean wherever you work you aren’t going to get along with everyone but he was never any trouble in the dressing room. It’s like even people weren’t friendly with him respected the way he played and were often just thankful they were on his side and not playing against him.”

Of course there were times when certain opposition forwards knew they had come up against the Skipper/McEwen pairing. The name Fashanu springs to mind. “I never had any personal clashes,” Skipper states almost convincingly. “I mean it’s important to stand your corner always. Names are nothing are they, and you have to try to impose yourself on an opponent no matter who they are, whether Justin Fashanu, John Fashanu or even when we played up against Billy when he was at Oxford or Reading. That doesn’t matter cos you’re there to do the best for the side.”

There must have been forwards who gave even the ever reliable Pete Skipper a particularly hard time. “Yeah, plenty, but I’m not telling you who.”

There’s no doubt in an ideal world Pete Skipper, a Hull lad in body and soul should have continued to play for the Tigers for eternity. Eventually though Skip lost his first team spot. “Steve Terry came into the side and the manager played Steve and Richard Jobson together. I couldn’t get into the side. No disrespect to Steve but I thought I was a better player than him. I wasn’t playing well, struggling with my form and deserved to be out of the side for a while but even after getting some form back I got the impression the manager didn’t fancy me so I went in to see him. I was 31 years of age and reserve team football wasn’t what I wanted at that time.”

Enter Oldham. “I think Joe Royle was probably the best manager I played for. Brilliant at man management, well organised and super staff around him. I think Hull had better facilities than Oldham but Oldham were much more forward thinking.”

Skipper was with the Latics for more than two seasons before finally moving on to Walsall and then Wigan. There’s a look of smug satisfaction when the ex-Tiger claims that whenever he played against City he was never on the losing side. Even so you can see that he is still Black and Amber through and through. Obviously this means the Gospel according to St Peter is not the book of revelations it could have been and there’s a reluctance on his part to dish any dirt. Peter Skipper, a nice bloke may be a shock to some opposition forwards but apart from a couple of questioning stares that’s the kind of guy he is.

“KEN HOUGHTON had a bit of a rough deal. He was a players manager, was Ken. People said he was too soft, he wasn’t! We got beat 7-1 and I think that was his last game in charge. At the time he’d put each player on a ten pound bonus if they scored, which was a mistake cos everyone piled forward, but that was Ken. I mean, there was no chance of us been relegated, we just went through a bad patch. Anyone can blame injuries, but we did have a lot of key players out and Ken tried bringing the Youth players through. Although most went on to become good players, I don’t think they were ready at that time.” “What always happens is clubs always find extra money from somewhere and ex-managers always complain that they could have signed him or done that. MIKE SMITH came in and was given a few extra pounds to spend. He came from a teaching background, but just because he didn’t play football didn’t mean he didn’t know his stuff. I mean, he was a manager of an international side before he came here.”

“COLIN APPLETON got us organised. We were very disciplined the way we approached games, the areas players should go in, what we did with and without the ball and who should cover who. Colin always got his point over. Some of the phrases he used took a bit of understanding, but at the end of the day it’s just about playing football. There were times when someone like Les Mutrie had scored a couple of goals the match before and was then sat in the stands the next game. The same with Andy Flounders. Colin picked teams for each individual game. I wouldn’t say he was overly-defensive. Being a defender I suppose I think defensively, but if you don’t concede you don’t get beat. He just walked into the dressing room after the Burnley game and said ‘Right, I’ve got another job, I’m going.’ He wished us all the best and that was it, he was gone. The timing probably wasn’t right from a players point of view but he made a decision for himself, his wife and his career.”

“It was BRIAN HORTON’s first managerial job, and it was a bit of a surprise to us. There were a lot of other names banded about. We were away in America at the time and he flew out to us. He mixed well with us and got on well with all the players but obviously on an end-of-season tour just after we’d missed out on promotion he didn’t see us at our best. He laid down the foundations of what he wanted very early on. Some players came in, others went. He brought in players that were creative and gave us all much more freedom to express ourselves.”

“EDDIE GRAY was the most skilful player I’ve ever seen and was still really fit when he came here as manager. He came in, changed the style a little and brought some players in. If anything, looking back I think he could have been a little more disciplined. Certain players he let get away with a bit too much, but if that was the way to get the best from a player, all well and good.”

Ian Farrow