ARTICLE: Chris Chilton at 70

chillo4Since I know you lot are all suckers for the classics, let me start by saying that seldom in life can the expression haec olim meminisse juvabit be used more aptly than when it is applied to the career of Chris Chilton.

Saturday, 30th April 1983. The pre-penultimate matchday of the season.  It’s not long after noon, and a couple of scruffy student shit-kicker types are shuffling along City Road in Chester, a long straight thoroughfare leading from the city centre to the station.

Their mission is to rendezvous with a mutual friend who was arriving by train before heading off, via a local hostelry by the name of The Old Custom House, to Sealand Road, the then home of Chester F.C. (as they were then called), to witness the afternoon’s Division 4 game between Chester and their own team, Hull City, a game of huge importance for the away team, as a single point would see them secure their first promotion in seventeen years, a remarkable turnaround of fortune for a club on the brink of extinction a little more than a twelve-month previously.

Finding they had a few minutes to spare, it was decided that alcohol was called for, but the only available source of that commodity was the rather grand and forbidding-looking hotel next door to the station. Still, needs must, and in our intrepid duo trooped, spotted the door to the bar and went in, to find only one other customer, perched on a stool at the bar, pint in front of him and wearing a contemplative expression. An unremarkable encounter in itself, except that the identity of the customer in question rendered it anything but.

Fuckin’ ell, it’s Chillo”.

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In praise of Andy Dawson

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Andy Dawson: model professional.

Ten years, seven managers, more than 300 appearances. No issues. No arguments. No rants and raves.

As Dawson’s tenth and final season as a player at Hull City concludes, the glowing tributes to him as player and man are well deserved. And yet, despite a well-supported testimonial campaign, he remains under the radar, his existence as humble and modest as the man himself. This, somehow, seems extremely fitting. Read more

A paean to Ian Ashbee

The following article isn’t for those with a short attention span, but the story of how Ian Ashbee became a bonafide City legend justifies lengthy prose.

Hull or Barnet? I know of two people who have been faced with this choice. One is myself. I ended up in Barnet, purely for career reasons. The other is Ian Ashbee. Happily, he chose Hull, albeit reluctantly. I think it’s fair to say that Hull got very much the better of that particular deal.

It seems almost unthinkable that the summer of 2002 saw Ian Ashbee as good as admit that he wanted the Underhill club to come in with an offer to match Hull City’s three-year contract so that he wouldn’t have to relocate from his Barnet home to Yorkshire. He also didn’t seem averse to staying at Cambidge should they offer him better terms. However, both teams refused to budge so Ashbee had to. One Wembley appearance, two career-threatening injuries and three promotions later, Ash must have looked at Barnet’s position at the end of any given season – rarely veering outside of the 90th and 94th positions in the English football pyramid – or Cambridge’s plummeting through the leagues, and allowed himself a wry smile at the hand that fate had dealt him. For both player and club, that simple offer of three years of employment was to result in the wildest of journeys.  Read more

HERO: Phil Brown

December 9th, 2006. 3pm. Home Park, Plymouth. Phil Brown is about to take charge of his first game as Hull City’s manager, albeit a caretaker at this point. Over the next three years, three months and five days – about half as long as Terry Dolan’s reign as City’s manager – Hull City will narrowly survive relegation to League 1, sign one of the world’s most skilful midfielders, storm into the Championship play-offs, play at Wembley for the first time, win promotion to the top flight for the first time, win at White Hart Lane, at St James’ Park, at the Emirates, hold Liverpool and Chelsea to draws at Anfield and Stamford Bridge, lose by the odd goal in seven at Old Trafford, be ranked the seventh best team in the world in FIFA’s official rankings, sit in third place in the richest football league on the planet, survive a relegation that most people in football had seen as a mere formality, be patronised, mocked, lauded and hated by players, pundits and fans who wouldn’t have known what colours we played in through the many, many dark days of the 1990s.

Yet when Phil Brown was relieved of his duties on the 15th March, 2010, days after losing to a last-minute Arsenal goal despite playing half the game with 10 men, there were no protests in the streets of Hull. As many people seemed to believe that Brown had stayed in the job too long as thought the sacking to be harsh. Read more

Hero – Raich Carter

Horatio Stratton Carter. The past few years may have skewed things slightly, but even after our first ever promotion to the top flight, after Okocha, Ashbee, Windass, Barmby, Turner, Geo, Huddlestone, Aluko, Elmohamady, Chester, after 60 subsequent years of good and bad, Raich is still talked about in hallowed terms by football fans in Hull. And Derby. And Sunderland.

Raich would walk into the greatest  XIs of any of the three teams he graced in England at inside left or inside right. Had the war not punctuated his career when he was at his most productive, he’d have more than a few supporters for a role in an all-time England XI too.

Born in Hendon, a ship-building area of Sunderland (his ‘posh’ Christian name was from his grandfather, Stratton his mother’s maiden name), in 1913, Carter was a prodigious youth sportsman. It was football, however, that had Raich marked out as a star from an early age, following in the footsteps of his father, who had played for Port Vale, Fulham and Southampton. An England schoolboy international, despite his slender build, Carter was fast-tracked into the Sunderland first team aged 18, and didn’t look back… Read more

HERO – Wayne Jacobs

The story of Wayne Jacobs has an almost Dickensian feel to it. Bad lad made good, carving out a decent career after escaping trouble in his home town, starts to build a new life and then crippled by a knee injury and sacked at Christmas. And the Jacobs story gets bleaker still.

After such a heartless release from his contract at Hull City, he manages to find employment at the grimy mill town of Rotherham. After a season there, he’s released again, and questions are raised about his fitness once more.

Instead of giving up on football, Jacobs perseveres and finds a job in the backstreets of Bradford, and makes the left-back position at Valley Parade his own, plays in the Premiership, stays with Bradford for 11 years and ends up being the Bantams’ assistant manager.

In this time of richly deserved success on the pitch, one of his children dies. Even Dickens would have thought twice about inflicting such cruelty on one of his characters.

When Wayne Jacobs joined Hull City, the move had ‘typical Horton signing’ stamped all over it.

The fee was in the £25,000-£60,000 range that Horton loved and generally signalled we were getting someone a bit special, as we had done with the likes of Garry Parker, Richard Jobson and Alex Dyer. Wayne joined as a teenager who had played a handful of games for Sheffield Wednesday. It seemed strange that they were letting him go, and rumours circulated that the reason was because ‘he’d got in with a bad lot’. Still, Wednesday’s loss was our gain. The left-back position at City had been a bit of a poisoned chalice, with all and sundry having a go, from peaked-on-his-debut junior Les Thompson to the inept-wherever-he-played utility man Neil Williams. Jacobs’ signing in March 1988 was overshadowed by the return of Keith Edwards in the same week, and while Keith picked up where he had left off in his previous spell at the club, Jacobs quietly but efficiently went about making the left-back position his own. On debut at Leicester, Jacobs crossed to Edwards for City’s equaliser in a 2-1 defeat, a game for which he received a seven out of ten in Match magazine. I have no proof of this, but I’m quite sure that Wayne received a seven out of ten for every game he ever played in, be it in Match, Shoot, the News of the World or The People. He was that kind of player. Eights and nines would just be showing off, while fives and sixes were never an option.

A month after signing Jacobs, Horton was sacked by City. In Horton’s final game, Jacobs headed the ball off the line for the goal that gave Swindon the lead. Sadly, the inept officials ruled that the ball had crossed the goal line, even though Jacobs was stood on it as he headed the ball out. Had that goal not been given, who knows how different City’s subsequent fortunes would have turned out. Interestingly, at this point caretaker managers Tom Wilson and Dennis Booth started playing Wayne at centre-back for the juniors (for whom he still qualified, and at the time were going on a Northern Counties Cup run that saw them narrowly lose to Newcastle in a two-legged final). Whether this was to toughen him up or in the vain hope that he’d undergo some sort of late growth spurt, I don’t know, but Wayne’s excellence at left-back meant that he never needed to be considered anywhere else on the park. When you’re a master of one trade, you don’t need to be a jack of any other.

For the sake of the article, I’ll separate the seasons Jacobs was with us, but things tend to get a little monotonous. Rarely put a foot wrong… was one of our best two or three players of the season… a model of consistency… repeat to fade. During these seasons City were struggling to find a decent right-back (cough… Malcolm Murray… cough…) which only served to emphasise Jacobs’ value to the team. Whether it was Billy Askew, Leigh Jenkinson or Graeme Atkinson in front of him, the left *midfielder could go about his business knowing that he would receive ample support from Wayne’s overlaps and that tracking back wasn’t as essential as it might have been when partnering other full-backs, as Wayne’s abilities meant that few would pass without being dispatched into Kempton or the Well.

The 1988/89 season started with Jacobs as first-choice left-back, ahead of Ray Daniel and Les Thompson. A couple of injuries blighted this season to some extent for Wayne, but he was a vital member of the team that went on the memorable cup run that culminated in the epic 3-2 home defeat to Liverpool. Wayne was City’s best defender on that day (though given that the rest of defence was Nicky Brown, Neil Buckley and an unusually nervy Richard Jobson, that’s not much of a claim) and coped admirably with Liverpool’s slick attacking play. By this point, the Boothferry faithful were beginning to realise that we had someone a bit special; his eager runs to assist attacks were typical of one so young, but his defending showed all the anticipation and awareness of a weathered veteran.

The 1989/90 season saw Wayne play for his fourth and fifth set of managers before he’d completed two years at the club. Colin Appleton returned and went, and Stan Ternant took up managerial duties. Both managers saw what was blindingly obvious: that despite his youth, Jacobs was undroppable. It was during this season that Wayne scored his most remarkable goal for the club. Away to Barnsley and City 1-0 down, midway through the second-half a corner is cleared to Wayne who is, for some reason, lurking about 25 yards from goal. What to do was obvious: head the ball back in the mixer and hope it causes a bit of panic in their defence. But not Wayne. Oh no. Wayne calmly lobbed the keeper with an incredible floating header that seemed to take an eternity to nestle in the back of Barnsley’s goal, and earn us a vital point in our struggle against relegation. Wayne was an ever-present in what was an invigorating season, scoring three goals and, despite the fact that the Payton/Swan partnership had been ignited and Jobbo was in his prime, there was no one more popular than Jacobs among the City faithful.

The next season was the beginning of the end for City, as it was the season that Terry Dolan took the helm, and it was also to prove so for Wayne Jacobs. Ternant’s heroics of the previous season had been difficult to emulate and he wasn’t helped by an injury to Jacobs in the early part of the season. This meant that for the first time since his appointment, Ternant had to come up with a replacement for Wayne. His solution? Not to bother. Stan’s no-left-back plan worked well in an away victory at Watford but was cruelly exposed seven times by West Ham at Upton Park. We all knew Wayne was irreplaceable but we didn’t expect the manager to take this so literally. Ternant was eventually sacked and went on to eke out a career as a poor man’s Neil Warnock, while City stumbled to relegation under Dolan. Jacobs only managed 19 games this season, though did score a belter in a 2-1 home win against Newcastle. However, his injury-prone season was something that would play heavily on the minds of the Hull City board when making the most moronic decision of their lives a few months later.

The season of 1991-92 was to be the last time we would see Wayne Jacobs in a Hull City shirt. Despite the club’s financial worries and the sale of Andy Payton, a decent start had been made, with Wayne playing a crucial part. However, a cruciate ligament injury ended Wayne’s Hull City career and, in the eyes of Fish and Dolan, ended his playing days for good. His release was handled in the usual blundering way we’d become accustomed to by now from the City board. After not having played all season, but having played 150 games for City in all competitions, Wayne was unceremoniously dumped on the football scrapheap, aged 24, during Christmas 1992 in a manner in which you wouldn’t wish on the Kevin Gages of this world, never mind a player that had given loyal service to the club both on and off the pitch, and who was immensely popular with the fans. The whole affair reflected badly on everyone involved, from the uber-unpleasant Christopher Needler to, I’m sorry to say, Jeff Radcliffe and the medical staff.

Players released by City tend to follow a certain route: get picked up by another Yorkshire team, get released by that team pretty quickly, sign for North Ferriby, get fat, sign for Hall Road Rangers, get fatter, spend your early 40s waddling around in the Hull Sunday League kicking anything that moves (when you’re not face-down in a pool of your own vomit in your local after spending the evening boasting to everyone how you once marked Tommy Tynan out of a game). Jacobs followed the first step of this well-trodden path; the summer after being ditched by City he was picked up by Rotherham. However, the Millers’ board and management were to prove as inept as their counterparts at Boothferry Park and released Jacobs after a season. Another crushing blow for Wayne and his young family. Then, as Church Road beckoned, upwardly mobile Bradford made their move, and Wayne found his home for the next decade or so, during which time he could and should have been sparing us from Craig Lawford, Greg Rioch, Michael Price, etc…

When Bradford City made it to the Premiership, Hull City fans weren’t exactly forthcoming with their messages of congratulations. This was understandable given the handing of the home end to them at Boothferry Park and the fact that the evil Geoffrey Richmond was at the helm at Valley Parade. However, even the most begrudging of those fans will have raised a smile for Wayne. Despite all the efforts of Tigers 2000 and the fanzines, Wayne’s resurrection and time in the Premiership was possibly the most satisfying two fingers that the Needler/Fish/Dolan regime received. The fact that he carried on playing into his late 30s further emphasises what a mistake it was to get rid of Jacobs. Wayne’s deep religious beliefs probably meant that he didn’t give those that had mistreated him at Hull a moment’s thought when his career was at its peak; as a committed atheist, I like to think that every time Needler, Dolan and Fish saw Jacobs holding his own in the top flight they put their heads in their hands and muttered “what a bunch of inept, moronic fuckwits we are”.

Wayne had two seasons pitting himself against the likes of Henry, Zola, Shearer and company, and the step up in the quality of the opposition didn’t seem to affect his performances. He was still that solid seven out of ten, week in, week out. Richmond’s ‘money’ was used to bring in big-name signings, left-backs Andy Myers, Ian Nolan and err… Lee Todd to name but three, but Jacobs saw them off with Whittle-like ease. The similarities with Justin don’t stop there; Jacobs’ status with the fans meant that managers were being judged on how they treated him. Even Richmond himself attempted to get rid of Jacobs, using his despicable business practices to try to force Wayne out by offering him far below what he was worth in contract negotiations. They didn’t work, however, and Richmond was to depart Valley Parade before Jacobs as the club’s fall from grace saw most of its stars desert the sinking ship. Jacobs remained loyal to the team that had been loyal to him, despite the utterly hateful Richmond at one point attempting to sack all of Bradford’s players to avoid going into liquidation (after he had dreamt up the Phoenix League – a ‘feeder’ league for the Premiership that Bradford would unsurprisingly be integral to). In modern football, such loyalty is a rare thing. In modern football, the likes of Wayne Jacobs are a rare thing.

All of the achievements of Wayne’s career, and the enemies and heroes created along the way, are put into perspective by a single event in the 1997/98 season. This is when Wayne’s baby son died. Wayne’s strong faith, which was later to be the subject of a feature on Songs of Praise, combined with the commendable support of fans and staff at Valley Parade helped Wayne through an unimaginably tough time. Wayne displayed incredible dignity and courage throughout this period, and was to play a vital role in Bradford’s promotion to the Premiership the following season. Wayne continues to work for the Faith & Football charity, and in 2005 took part in walk along the Great Wall of China with a handful of Premiership footballers. You won’t have read about this in the Press, as no impressionable young girls were lured into group sex sessions, no racist attacks were made, no cars were being recklessly driven by a pissed up millionaire that couldn’t be arsed to flag down a taxi. You won’t read about Wayne and the incredible stuff he’s done for communities home and abroad unless you deliberately search for the information. More’s the pity.

Wayne Jacobs’ time at Hull City was all too brief. The loyalty that he showed to Bradford suggests that had our then board not been so short-sighted and inept, Jacobs would have gone on to challenge Andy Davidson’s appearances record for the club. For those that never saw him play, Wayne is second only to Justin Whittle (and ever so slightly ahead of Pete Skipper) in being the most consistent player to have donned the amber and black in the past 30 years or so. Unlike Whittle, however, Jacobs didn’t seem to have a weakness: strong in the tackle, skilful on the ball, willing to overlap, an excellent reader of the game and always capable of supplying a decent cross. And then there are those 25-yard headers. He was also one of those players who would be the last off the pitch at the end of the game because he was acknowledging the support of the fans, win or lose. I know such things shouldn’t really matter, but it’s strange how it’s always the likes of Jacobs, Whittle and Skipper that make a point of doing this. Never the big-money, big-name superstars whose seasons tend to fizzle out once the grey afternoons of October kick in.

Jacobs was the best full-back Hull City have had in a long, long time, possibly since the 1960s. Until Sam Ricketts came along, Jacobs was so far ahead of the competition in the past 25 years or so, it’s embarrassing. He wasn’t the only loyal servant to Hull City that received disgraceful treatment at the hands of those that pissed on the club from a great height in the early 1990s – Gareth Roberts and Tom Wilson are but two others that will testify to that – but Jacobs’ treatment was the hardest to stomach. Seeing his career reach such heady heights after enduring such lows was immensely gratifying for any Hull City fans that could look beyond tribal loyalties. From a purely selfish point of view, however, it’s just a shame that Martin Fish and his cohorts’ crass mismanagement ever gave him the opportunity to reach his full potential outside of East Yorkshire.

Richard Gardham

HERO – Stuart Elliott

They say that God moves in mysterious ways, and many a City fan will testify to that. God has given us the entertainment of Reverend Allen Bagshawe’s one-man Christmas carol choir for quite a few years now. And more recently, He acted as an agent to Jay-Jay Okocha when the Nigerian legend was pondering which club to treat to his ineffective tricks.

Jay-Jay’s time at Hull hasn’t really worked in the manner God intended, but there is a very good reason why we should forgive Him, and not just because it’s the Christian thing to do. For it was God who brought Stuart Elliott to Hull City, and without the Ulsterman, we might still be languishing in the lower leagues.

Stuart Elliott was born in a Troubles-ridden Belfast in 1978. While his religious beliefs weren’t to develop for a few years, his love of football was apparent from an early age as Stuart spent his formative years playing for youth teams down the city’s infamous Shankhill Road.

Despite a few early rejections (due to his lack of height) Stuart progressed to the Glentoran first team, while continuing with his day job as a window cleaner. His goalscoring form for Glentoran soon attracted the attention of scouts from the UK mainland, and before long Stuart was on his way to Motherwell for a fee of £100,000.

The move to Motherwell was no coincidence. Elliott had found God in his late teens, and belonged to a denomination that had three churches in the world: one in Belfast, one in Motherwell, and one in Hull…

Despite an early struggle to settle in Scotland, Stuart soon became a huge favourite with the Fir Park faithful, and the freescoring wing play of Elliott and Stephen Pearson briefly made Terry Butcher look like a talented manager. However, financial difficulties in 2002 forced Motherwell to sell their better players for well below value, and Hull City and Jan Molby made their move with a cheque heading to Edinburgh for £230,000. Despairing Motherwell fans couldn’t believe Elliott had gone for less than £1m. The fact that he’d gone to a club in England’s bottom-tier only added to their misery. For such a prized asset in the SPL to join a League 2 team was quite a coup, and it soon transpired that Stuart’s decision to relocate to East Yorkshire had more to do with Hull’s religious offerings than any desire he had to play alongside Greg Strong and Shaun Smith. Would Elliott have come to City if his faith hadn’t led him here? God knows.

Sorry.

Jan Molby’s tenure at City was an unmitigated disaster, but in his brief spell he attracted three players that were to be integral to our two promotions: Stuart Green, Ian Ashbee and, of course, Elliott. While injury blighted much of Stuart’s first season with the Tigers, and the manager who had signed him was sacked after a handful of games, City fans were justifiably excited by what they had seen. Elliott’s pace was what you’d expect from a winger, but his finishing prowess, positional play and his ability to find space in the opponent’s penalty area. Most impressive of all though, was the gravity-defying manner in which he could seemingly float, therefore rarely losing a header. The Boothferry Park faithful were won over from an early stage.

A goal on debut against Southend in the first game of the 2002/03 season settled Stuart into his new surroundings nicely. A dazzling second-half display at Bristol Rovers as 10-man City came back to claim an unlikely 1-1 draw whetted the appetite further. Then, as a run of injuries kicked in, Elliott was in and out of the side for the rest of 2002, but he did provide the only memorable thing about the final game at Boothferry Park, coming on as an early substitute and tormenting the Darlington defence in an otherwise tame 1-0 defeat. The season petered out as Molby’s replacement, Peter Taylor, got to know his squad, but Elliott finished the season with 12 goals as his new manager tried to work out if the Ulsterman would work better as a left winger or a striker.

The answer, quite emphatically, was a left-winger, as Stuart would show in some style over the next two years. The 2003/04 promotion year saw a front four of Elliott on the left, Jason Price on the right, and Danny Allsopp and Ben Burgess up front. As City stormed to promotion, that quartet finished with 14, 10, 15 and 18 goals, respectively; the first time since 1966 that four City players had passed double figures in the league (Waggy, Chillo, Houghton, Butler and Henderson, if you’re interested).

City’s threat down the flanks was vital to the team’s success. While Price’s hat-trick against Doncaster over Christmas was probably the most memorable such contribution, Elliott’s goals were also to prove priceless. His quite brilliant header in the home game against Swansea, the first watershed game at the KC, saw us beat the then league leaders 1-0. A late equaliser, finished with what previous generations would describe as ‘aplomb’, saw us snatch a late, ill-deserved equaliser against Torquay and keep the unbeaten run going that was to the foundation for the season’s success. A goal in a 1-1 draw at Scunny, a brace at home to Cambridge in a 2-0 win and the winner in a 1-0 win at Darlington over December and January emphasised Elliott’s value to the team as we inched towards our first promotion in 19 years.

Fourteen goals in a season is quite a benchmark to set for a winger. When stepping up a level, Stuart would maybe have had his eyes on getting into double figures during the 2004/05 season in League 1. However, with an Burgess sitting the season out and Allsopp running out of form, Taylor was to move to pull off the incredible signing of another forward that would revolutionise Elliott’s role within the team. Local hero Nick Barmby signed for City, and League 1’s defences had no idea what was about to hit them.

When discussing Stuart Elliott, City fans will generally start a conversation with, “Well we wouldn’t have got to the Championship without him”. And so they should. Because it’s true. Without his incredible tally of 29 goals that season, 27 of them in the league, we’d have struggled to make the play-offs. True, others contributed massively to that season’s success, notably Leon Cort, but Elliott’s goalscoring, effectively from midfield, was the difference between us and the likes of Tranmere, Sheffield Wednesday and Brentford.

But before going through Elliott’s annus mirabilis, it is worth dwelling on the contribution to Stuart’s cause of Nick Barmby. Regardless of who was playing as City’s main centre-forward that season, and duties were shared between Allsopp, Aaron Wilbraham, Jon Walters, Delroy Facey and Craig Fagan, Taylor struck gold with a defence-shredding tactic. Elliott liked to press on past his full-back; Barmby liked to drop deep and dictate play from the gap between the opposition’s defence and midfield. It was as simple as that. Given Stuart’s finishing and aerial ability, so many City goals started with the ball finding a deep-lying Barmby and ended with a cross being swung over to the left where Stuart would escape or outjump his marker and inevitably score. In only the second game of the season, a 3-0 away win at Torquay in which Elliott scored twice, the bewildered opposition manager, Leroy Rosenior, commented how he couldn’t see City failing to score all season.

Elliott netted four times before the end of August: two against Torquay, a late strike which looked as though it would clinch City a point in an exhilarating 3-2 defeat at Port Vale, and a thumping header from an Andy Dawson corner in a memorable 2-1 away win at newly relegated Barnsley. September brought four more; one at home to Blackpool to help us to a 2-1 win, a brace away to Peterborough in a 3-2 win and strike away at Hartlepool in the LDV Vans Trophy.

You’re probably already noticing how many of these strikes come in games that we would win by the odd goal. Stuart seemed to have a nice habit of doing that. With City already handily placed in the league table, only denied top spot by Luton’s incredible start to the season, the Tigers were then to go on a run that would see them lose just once between mid-October and early January, and during this time play some of the most impressive football ever, and I mean ever, seen in a black and amber shirt.

Hard-of-thinking revisionists who deride Peter Taylor as a defensive manager would do well to remember this. Of course, Elliott was to play a vital part in this run, a run which could only be curtailed by the bony end of a cowardly West Yorkshire elbow. Form during this two-and-a-half-month spell was beyond anything seen in a City shirt for a long, long time. In terms of goalscoring, only Deano, Andy Payton and Keith Edwards had really come close to showing such prolificacy in front of goal in the previous 30 years, all from a centre-forward position. Fifteen goals in 13 games led our charge to the top of League One, and planted a foundation that meant we would not drop out of the top two for the rest of the season. So, starting with the first of those 13 games, Elliott scored twice as we beat leaders Luton 3-0 at the KC. The first a cross-shot that swirled into the top corner, the second a close range volley. Elliott was goalless in the 2-2 away draw at Wrexham, but found the net once more with a deflected shot at the KC as Walsall were soundly beaten 3-1.

After beating Morecambe 3-2 in the FA Cup, a journey to a snowy Swindon saw City on the receiving end of their only defeat of this spell, Elliott scoring a last-minute consolation in a 4-2 defeat. Better was to follow though. Play-off chasing Brentford were beaten 2-0 at the KC, with Elliott scoring both. The first followed an excellent passing display from the Tigers, which Elliott rounded off by rising to head home a Marc Joseph cross. The second was a piece of individual brilliance; a 30-yard volley that had Chris Kamara comparing Elliott to Steven Gerrard when awarding him the Sky player of the month award. Elliott was top of the goalscoring tables and City were applying pressure on Luton at the top of League 1. Our only worry would be whether we’d be able to keep hold of the freescoring Ulsterman.

We did, and he kept on scoring. Elliott’s next was in the FA Cup as we beat Macclesfield 4-0. We didn’t need Stuart to score as we hammered Sheffield Wednesday 4-2 at Hillsbrough, but Elliott played a full part in one of City’s finest performances in living memory. He did score in City’s next away game four days later though, a skidding volley that flew underneath Aidan Davidson as Colchester were put to the sword in a comfortable 2-1 victory. Third-placed Tranmere were up next. Elliott scored his only hat-trick for City, and concussed substitute keeper Russell Howarth, meaning Tranmere fielded former Tiger Theo Whitmore in goal for the second half. City won 6-1. A Boxing Day trip to Blackpool is never the warmest of prospects, but Elliott had other ideas. A 2-0 win ensued, with Elliott scoring twice – first with a low shot after out-pacing the Tangerines’ defence, and second with rocket after out-pacing the Tangerines’ defence.

You’ll all have a favourite Stuart Elliott memory. For most of you it will be, understandably, that winner against QPR. For some it will be the goal at Wigan. Or perhaps the lob against Plymouth. For me, however, there is no competition. At about 9.25pm on Tuesday 28th December, 2004, Stuart Elliott cemented his name as one of the all-time Hull City greats. Older heads may chunter about Waggy and Chillo, cynics may sneer about his lack of goals in the Championship, but anyone who witnessed this incredible season close at hand will not deny Stuart such an accolade. Any one of the 20,000 or so City fans at the KC that night will be shouting it from the rooftops. Doncaster, more of an irritant than a bona fide rival, had come to the KC and were drawing 1-1. The visitors had been applying most of the pressure in the second half, but had come up against an inspired Bo Myhill. The usual Doncaster tactic of playing like scum bastards had reared its ugly head in the 80th minute when McSporran clattered Barmby and then bravely had a kick at him while he was on the ground. Barmby retaliated and both saw red. Donny still looked the most likely to score when on 85 City hoofed clear a corner. The ball was sailing harmlessly to Donny’s right-back and there seemed to be no danger of anything happening. However, Elliott saw things differently. The right-back made a hash of things and the ball sailed over his head. Elliott sailed past the hapless defender and advanced into the Donny half. In his way were a Doncaster centre half and goalkeeper. Elliott coolly skipped past the lumbering defender and slotted the ball under keeper Warrington. The KC exploded as Elliott cartwheeled away. It was a thing of beauty. Total, utter, unadulterated beauty. Then as Doncaster sought another equaliser, McIndoe waltzed into the Hull City penalty area. He got as far as the penalty spot and drew back his foot, an unmissable goal awaiting him. However, a defending foot got in and blocked the winger’s shot. That foot belonged to Stuart Elliott. You’d already guessed that, hadn’t you? Some people will tell you that Stuart Elliott didn’t do defending. While it was by no means his strongest suit, he did his fair share.

That was to be the last 90 minutes Elliott would complete for a couple of months. Our next game, against Huddersfield, saw City win 2-1, and Elliott had done his duty by slotting home an equaliser a couple of minutes after the Terriers had taken a fortuitous lead. A winner coming from the unlikely combination of Stev Angus and Aaron Wilbraham sealed the victory, but late in the second half, as City were defending a corner, Elliott was left motionless on the ground and stretchered off. He’d broken a cheekbone, after his head had unwisely made contact with Efe Sodje’s elbow. Sodje’s career seems to be littered with unsavoury incidents, and thanks to this act, we were robbed of Elliott’s presence for six weeks, just when he was at his peak.

Considering the booing Paul Rachubka has received when playing City after his challenge that crocked Ben Burgess, a challenge that was clumsy but in no way malicious, I’ve always been disappointed at the relatively easy time Efe Sodje has been given by the City faithful since that day. A cynic would suggest that Sodje’s elbow was deliberate and targeted, by a player that has a history of thuggish on-pitch behaviour. I consider myself a cynic. Apparently many the then City players and Adam Pearson consider themselves to be too.

Elliott was ruled out for the best part of two months, and City’s promotion charge became more of an amble. After a 3-1 win at Stockport on January 3, City failed to win in their next six Elliottless games, and – a colossal 3-1 win at third-placed Tranmere aside – it was only when Elliott returned that City regained their swagger.

On his first game back in a 1-0 home win against Hartlepool, Elliott scored a rebound after his own penalty was saved. He scored from the spot a few days later in a 2-0 home win against Torquay. Then came the game where City fans finally started to believe that promotion was more of a likelihood than a possibility, a 4-0 win at Bournemouth on a sunny spring day. Elliott scored twice as Bournemouth – then in the play-off places – were torn apart. Stuart then went on to score again in the game that would effectively seal Championship status at the first time of asking in a 2-0 win at Bradford in April. He would score only once more during the season, a penalty in a home defeat to Sheffield Wednesday, leaving him one short of the 30 mark and level as the division’s top scorer with a certain Dean Windass. Championship here we come…

There seems to be a general consensus that Stuart Elliott hasn’t cut it in the Championship. And there is good reason for this. His goal tally has decreased and his appearances have been sporadic. An asthmatic-type condition hasn’t helped either. But to write off Elliott’s time with City in the Championship would be foolish. His seven goals in our first season back in the second tier, a season largely interrupted by injury and a glimmer of good form from Kevin Ellison, was a good return, and included a terrific lob in a 1-0 win at Plymouth to give us our first away win of the season, after Marc Joseph had been sent off. He finished our top scorer that season. Ask any wide player in the division at the start of a season if they’ll be happy with seven goals come May and the vast majority will reply in the affirmative. But ultimately, the start of Barmby’s injury problems and the increase in standard of the defenders he was facing meant that Stuart was, for the first time since his move from Motherwell, not an automatic first choice.

Elliott was a first choice, however, for Northern Ireland. And in September 2005, Stuart played a full part in his country’s biggest win since qualification for the 1986 World Cup when England were beaten 1-0 at Windsor Park. Elliott, like the rest of his team-mates, worked his socks off in a game that the Ulstermen thoroughly deserved to win. A year previously he’d scored a last-minute equaliser at Windsor Park as Northern Ireland came back to tie 3-3 against Austria. In the game before the England victory he scored with a 25-yard free-kick – an under-rated aspect of his game – in a 2-0 home win against Azerbaijan. His international record stands at 31 caps and four goals, and is likely to stay this way, given Chris Brunt’s emergence.

Taylor departed and Phil Parkinson arrived in the 2006/07 season, and Elliott started in Parkinson’s first game, away at West Brom. Stuart was, frankly, abysmal that day, as the newly relegated Baggies tore through City in the first half. Elliott seemed to be on a different planet, and was merciful taken off by Parkinson at the earliest available opportunity. Elliott was to retain his place in the team for a short while until injury meant he was spared the horrors of City’s start to that particular season. As news of Elliott’s asthmatic problems spread, many wondered if we’d see him in a City shirt again. However, within a week of the news breaking, Elliott allayed such fears with a return to the team and a return to form during a mini-spell in which it looked as though Parkinson might be able to make a go of things at City. A thumping free-kick in a memorable 3-2 win at bottom-of-the-table Southend followed by a trademark late-run-into-the-box goal in a 2-0 win at home to Wolves reminded us that Elliott still had a role to play with City. Sadly, we were to only see him score four more goals in the amber and black.

Half of that tally, however, could possibly be viewed as Elliott’s most telling contribution to the Tigers’ cause. In January 2007, City were still in dire relegation trouble, despite a handful of wins as the Tigers improved under Phil Brown. QPR were also in relegation trouble, and the match at the KC was the archetypal six-pointer. QPR were evil that day. Pure evil. Their special brand of diving, feigning injury, time-wasting, haranguing the referee and general thuggery was football at its worst. Sadly, with five minutes to go they were 1-0 up. Scum. Utter scum. Defeat would have been a bitter blow that we may not have recovered from, but it was something that we didn’t have to worry about thanks to goals in the 85th and 90th minute from Elliott, who came on as a sub in the 80th minute. Of all the goals he scored for Hull City – and let’s not forget how vital some of them were – none would come near to this brace. In the fight against relegation, many players made important contributions and scored important goals but Deano’s goal against Cardiff aside, nothing matched Stuart’s double that day, in terms of importance or sheer jubilation. Elliott was a peripheral figure for the rest of the season, scoring only once more in the last game of the season, when relegation had been successfully avoided. He’d done his bit in helping stave off the threat of a return to League 1, though.

Elliott’s final contribution of note in a City shirt was scoring a typically spectacular volley in a 1-0 away win at Wigan in the League Cup, the first time we’d beaten a top-flight team away from home since victory at Coventry in 1972. It is sad that Elliott was pushed out, and rumours that Phil Brown made Stuart train with the juniors in the final weeks of his time at City are hopefully just that. It would be no way to treat such a legend. Many City fans will maintain that Elliott was worth a place in the 16, that his value as an impact sub was something that we lacked. Whether that was a romanticised notion, wanting to believe that a player whose contribution to the Tigers’ cause was unparalleled by all but a handful, isn’t something I’m prepared to go in to. I’d have sacked Allen Bagshawe and offered Stuart a job for life: chaplain, carol singer and a permanent role on the left wing in the reserves, teaching the juniors how to float. I love the guy. But fans can afford to be romantic where football is concerned. Managers can’t. And, at the time of writing, Phil Brown’s Elliottless revolution is hardly faltering.

Those of us that had the pleasure of seeing Elliott at his peak have been privileged. His Hull City record finished with 68 goals in 211 games (166 starts). His stats for the 2004/05 season were 29 goals in 40 appearances. From the left wing, I remind you yet again. It’s a shame that so many of City’s most cherished players of recent years haven’t been given a proper goodbye. Players like Stuart, Justin Whittle and Damien Delaney should have been carried round the KC pitch shoulder high at the final whistle of their last game, receiving a standing ovation before giving a tearful interview to Radio Humbers… er… KCFM about how we’re the greatest fans in the world. Instead they get a smattering of applause from 6,000 or so fans as they return during a pre-season friendly, or ironic chants of ‘City reject’ should they come back to the KC in a game that matters. Hopefully Stuart didn’t need such an occasion to know what he meant to Hull City’s fans. He’s a legend, make no mistake, and I’m sure I won’t be alone in looking straight for Doncaster’s results on getting back from any City games for the remainder of this season.

Richard Gardham

HERO – Warren Joyce

Warren Joyce’s nomination as a Hull City hero would be contested by few in the present day, and looking back at his contribution to our club there can be no question that we may very well owe our whole existence to his achievements at the tail-end of the decade of horror that was the 1990s. It wasn’t always so clear cut however – there were days when his inclusion in a section of villains may have seemed more probable.

Pre-City

Warren Joyce followed his father Walter into football, a defender whose own career started at Burnley following the completion of his National Service in 1958. He experienced First Division football during the Clarets’ glory days of the 1960s, and later saw spells at Blackburn and the Joyces’ home-town club Oldham. He retired to become a coach at Boundary Park and remained in football for many years.

After a lengthy and successful career for his father, Joyce junior had plenty to live up to. His first club was Bolton Wanders, for whom he signed in 1981 as a 16 year old. He began making a name for himself as a combative defensive midfield player.

His time at Burnden Park was happy for the young Joyce, despite the club mostly scuffling about in the lower leagues. He made over 200 appearances in six years before Lancastrian neighbours Preston paid £35,000 for him in October 1987, a move that united him with his father – he’d since moved to Deepdale in a coaching capacity. He continued to impress, spending five years there as Preston hauled themselves back towards respectability, having recently fallen into Division Four for the first time.

He was the Lillywhites’ Player of the Year in 1990 and was made club captain, but when Plymouth Argyle offered a hefty £150,000 for him in summer 1992 he was persuaded to head south to Home Park. It wasn’t the best of times however, and just a year later he returned to his native Lancashire to join Burnley, who paid £140,000 for the now 28-year old. He played over eighty times at Turf Moor in this spell, chipping in with a dozen goals – despite his customary deployment as a deep-lying midfielder, his ability to contribute a decent number of goals made him an important player.

Two years later came his first association with City, when Terry Dolan took him on loan in January 1995 as his Tigers made an unsuccessful attempt to reach the (new-ish) Second Division play-offs. He scored three times in nine games at Boothferry Park but returned to Turf Moor for Burnley’s doomed attempt to stay in the second tier. City were to finish eighth that season.

1995/6 saw Burnley achieve a mediocre 17th in the third division of English football, although Joyce’s contribution continued to be solid. However, they rarely threatened to make the play-offs and their season limped to an uninspiring conclusion.

Joyce returns to Boothferry Park

As Burnley sought to rebuild for promotion, Burnley agreed to sell him to City for £30,000 in July 1996, but the club he returned to was strikingly different. The Tigers had been relegated into the bottom division after a catastrophic season that culminated in the infamous Bradford riot, and a summer of bitter recrimination led to those remaining supporters declaring war on the Fish/Dolan axis of evil. It was amid this unpromising backdrop that Hell Tel installed Joyce as his captain. It was a thankless task. As Dolan’s representative in earth, he was a conduit for the abuse that rained down upon the regime as City struggled in the bottom half of the division, with the spectre of financial ruin continually stalking the club.

City’s season began with what we soon realised was false promise, as the Tigers remained unbeaten until October. It sounds better than it was. The football was drab and only Duane Darby’s goals made things vaguely bearable. When that unbeaten run ended at home to Scunthorpe, it gave fresh impetus to the protests as the supporters continued their struggle to the death with the now universally despised regime.

Plenty of the vitriol being spat from the terraces was directed at Warren Joyce. His role of captain compelled him to defend his manager, an awkward position for a man who could surely appreciate the harm that was being visited upon us. With hindsight, it was probably unfair to target Joyce over the dreadful wasters defiling City shirts at the time, though as Dolan’s choice of skipper and with the frustrations boiling over on a weekly basis, it was perhaps inevitable.

It is to his credit that he rarely complained about this. Perhaps the one manifestation of his feelings about the supporters’ treatment came in a memorable episode during a 3-0 win over Brighton in March 1997. After thudding home a volley from the edge of the area, he bounded over to “celebrate” his goal in front of the Kempton. In one of the sorriest symbols of the club’s gut-wrenching decay, this stood empty at the time, off-limits to all.

Yet Joyce sped over to its echoing terraces, aping the love-in that customarily occurs when a beloved scorer rushes to his adoring public, choosing to celebrate with broken concrete over his abusers. It was a potent gesture, one that split opinion. There were those who saw it was a comic riposte delivered in the only way he safely could, though many of those who harboured irreconcilable animosity towards The Regime viewed it with scorn and saw themselves further alienated from City’s captain.

Even at the time, it really was a tough action to correctly interpret. Many viewed it as a put-upon player expressing himself in an amusing fashion, a deserved indulgence for a proud man in an unwinnable war. Some were less understanding, seeing it as a rebuke to the ongoing campaign against the board and manager.

The misery continued, with Joyce chugging along in a thoroughly unappreciated fashion as the warring factions continued to fight for control of the club. City were to finish 17th in Division Four, then our lowest ever finish. Our prospects looked heart-rendingly bleak.

Post-Dolan

The summer of 1997 was a momentous one for City, and also for Joyce. Fish sold to the Tim Wilby/David Lloyd consortium, which immediately sacked Dolan and installed former England striker Mark Hateley as player-manager. This fuelled wild dreams of imminent glory among the success-starved fans, although ultimately the Tigers finished in a new-record low of 22nd. The desperate times for City were continuing and even worsening off the pitch…but about Joyce, opinions were shifting.

The experienced influence in City’s hopelessly brittle midfield, he held the side together on numerous occasions with his unfussy play and quiet determination. When one considers that his team-mates for Hateley’s first game at Mansfield included Tony Brien, Gregor Rioch, Michael Quigley and Simon Trevitt, one marvels that we didn’t challenge the stricken Doncaster for relegation.

As a player, Joyce was fairly undemonstrative. Not for him the flashy slide-tackle that brutalises an opponent and gains throaty cheers irrespective of the outcome – his method of containment showed a more cerebral preference for blocking an adversary’s easiest route forwards. Always half-a-second faster to understand a situation than most of his team-mates, he was able to impede the opposition by finding himself in the right position and could intercept a pass with a flash of instinctive manoeuvring.

That is not to suggest that he was nothing but a spoiling player. He was effective in possession, seeing greater value in its retention than attempting a spectacular pass with little chance of success. He also took many of City’s set-pieces, imparting a deceptive curl upon a ball that gained him a couple of fortuitous goals during his time at Boothferry Park. All teams need a Warren Joyce – a calm and composed player, thinking his way through a game rather than rashly surrendering to the impulse for manic activity.

The season 1997/8 was not without incident, and even sporadic enjoyment. A staggering afternoon in August 1997 saw City defeat Swansea 7-4, while a two-legged Steve Wilson-inspired League Cup success over Premier League Crystal Palace earned City a trip to Newcastle, where Warren Joyce played in City’s creditable 2-0 defeat.

However, in other competitions things were grim. A 4-1 home defeat to Shrewsbury was followed up by a 2-0 Cup exit to Hednesford, a dire afternoon that provided sickening amusement to the smug Match of the Day interlopers and no little satisfaction to referee G Laws, now and forever the only game in which I have genuinely doubted the motivations of an official.

With dissent building against absentee chairman David Lloyd and with Tim Wilby mysteriously no longer with us, City aimlessly stumbled along in the bottom three of English football’s fourth tier.

Thank fuck for Donny Rovers” was a regular refrain among the exasperated supporters, with their spectacular implosion keeping City and Brighton mercifully free of the relegation concerns that our awful form would have generated in any other season. The Tigers were thrashed 5-1 at Torquay, a low point of early 1998, but yet another nadir appeared to have been reached at Belle Vue. City travelled to Doncaster knowing a win would relegate the South Yorkshire club…and promptly lost 1-0 in a match delayed several times by incursions onto the pitch by both sets of fans, Gregor Rioch even attempting a pass to a home fan. Throughout these desperate times, one man’s stock was steadily rising. Cries of “Warren Joyce Joyce Joyce” rang out from the same Bunkers that used to scorn him as Dolan’s pet. In a season filled with sloth and incompetence, Joyce was among our best players. His redemption on the pitch was complete. However, his finest hour was still to come.

Joyce as manager

1998/9 was a season viewed with trepidation from the very beginning. Mark Hateley’s unsuitability as a manager was painfully obvious, though he remained in place. So too did David Lloyd, whose popularity was sinking rapidly. The campaign began indifferently, but plans by Lloyd to shift City to the Boulevard while building a super-stadium for his Tiger-Sharks (and how we cringe at that term) lost him any lingering goodwill and open dissent could once again be heard.

The vivid tennis ball protest instigated by Amber Nectar and City Independent collusion that held up a League Cup tie at Bolton was the tipping point for the thin-skinned southerner, who shrilly bailed out as a new group took charge of City. Genial pig-farmer Tom Belton assumed the chairman’s role, with the backing of “colourful” company law criminal Stephen Hinchliffe (and future jailbird) together with fellow Sheffield lowlife Nick Buchanan.

By this time, City’s plight on the pitch had become desperate. Hateley was finally sacked, and things were typified by a 2-0 home defeat against a numerically-deficient Brighton side, the fans mocking their own side with a rendition of “they’ve only got nine men” in recognition of the visitors’ comfortable win despite seeing a brace of red cards.

Marooned at the bottom of the Football League, relegation into the non-league abyss stared us in the face. Joyce had taken temporary charge for the Brighton debacle, but Belton appointed him permanently as the player-manager, bringing in former European Cup winner John McGovern to assist him.

Joyce’s first game in long-term charge of City came at Salisbury Town in the first round of the FA Cup, City edging to a nervy 2-0 win over the Wiltshire part-timers. This was followed up shortly after with a stirring 2-1 win at Luton, then eighth in the division above. However, our league form remained wretched and many questioned the sense in appointing a total rookie as player-manager. Another meaningless cup win was achieved, this time a 1-0 victory in the Auto Windscreens Shield at Notts County, but a Yuletide loss at Shrewsbury left City stranded six points adrift of safety. Demotion out of the League now looked inevitable.

An FA Cup jolly at Aston Villa saw City lose 3-0, a game notable for pitting 1st in the League against 92nd. Three days later, Joyce’s men feebly lost 2-1 against Wrexham in the Auto-thingy in front of 2,331 cold and miserable souls at Boothferry Park…and while this may not sound like one of the more consequential games in City’s century-long history, some continue to see it as a pivotal moment in a pivotal season.

Joyce reportedly read his hapless squad the riot act for the first time after this fixture, finally asserting himself as the manager and not merely a player. He began earnestly recruiting for the task of keeping City in the league, and in the first few weeks of 1999 he made two signings, Justin Whittle and Gary Brabin. Added to the Lincoln duo of Jon Whitney and Jason Perry, and suddenly he had brought together a side of battle-scarred winners instead of timid losers.

City began scraping together a few results. Mark Bonner scored the only goal in his only game for City against Rotherham to keep us at least in touch, while a 4-0 thumping of Hartlepool the following week gave us genuine hope of a miraculous escape.

Suddenly we were on a run. A 2-0 win at leaders Brentford, inspired by debutant Colin Alcide (criminally under-rated, now and then) took us off the bottom, prompting delirious cries of “we are ninety-first” at Griffin Park.

There were setbacks – the televised trauma at Spotland, a miserable loss at Cambridge – but we finally believed that salvation could be ours. Joyce has expertly assembled a side of winners, and their conviction flooded onto the terraces. A streaky 1-0 win at Southend was characterised by incessant renditions of The Great Escape, which became both the title and the theme tune for our improbable rescue act.

In our place had fallen Carlisle and Scarborough, the latter coming to Boothferry Park in April for a game that they had to win. Officially, 13,949 squeezed into the old place for the game, only a few hundred over capacity, although the actual attendance must have exceeded comfortably 16-17,000. We drew the game in a white-hot atmosphere, a trifle disappointingly, but by now safety was almost assured as our North Yorkshire neighbours hit a bad run of form from which they could not escape.

Finally, on the penultimate day of the season, Joyce’s City side secured a 1-0 win over Torquay United that guaranteed The Great Escape. He signed a new contract on the pitch, the fans cheered wildly, there was untold glory ahead.

There is no possible way in which Warren Joyce’s achievements in 1998/9 can be underestimated. Heading into the New Year, the Tigers were a broken side, adrift at the bottom of the table, morale at rock-bottom, their supporters bleakly resigned dropping into the Conference. What followed was fairytale stuff, all thanks to Warren Joyce. He took over a shattered squad, bought superbly and guided us to the giddy heights of 18th. It is a contribution to our story that deserves the very highest of commendation.

After the Great Escape

Were this a piece of fiction, the script would require Warren Joyce to lead us to promotion the following season. City started among the favourites to go up, and he was given cash to spend, recruiting Swales, Harper and Harris among others.

Sadly, it was not so. Our success of the Great Escape was based upon shuddering commitment, tireless effort and heroics in defence and midfield. Joyce failed to alter the side sufficiently to allow for a serious tilt at promotion, relying (perhaps understandably) upon the same attributes that had clawed us to safety. However, battling for a point is different to working out how to win a game, and City hovered frustratingly in midtable.

Joyce brought the Jamaican duo of Theodore Whitmore and Ian Goodison to Boothferry Park in an attempt to bring greater fluidity to our staid football, but the effect was only temporary. Having drawn Liverpool in the League Cup earlier in the season, another run to the Third Round of the FA Cup brought Premiership Chelsea to the Ark, although an anti-climatic 6-1 cuffing was served up. City’s fun in the cups wasn’t really covering for our disappointing League form…but by now, familiar storm clouds were brewing.

Nick Buchanan had assumed the role of chairman in a boardroom coup that toppled the popular Tom Belton, and his shady accomplice Stephen Hinchliffe had become City’s Vice-President – he was banned from acting as a company director for various malpractices throughout the years, though he lingered on the periphery like a fetid stench. And the money had totally dried up, with many questioning exactly where it was going – “South Yorkshire” being a popular source of suspicion.

However, while previous evildoing regimes were universally despised and fought against, the Buchliffe tyranny was not. Many didn’t have the heart for a third war against their own club, many simply refused to believe that they were deliberately acting against City’s best interests. They may repent now, they may amend history to disguise this, but the sad fact is that City fans were again divided.

Caught in the middle was Warren Joyce, Belton’s choice of manager but evidently not favoured by the Sheffield Stealers. A 3-0 gubbing at Rotherham finally saw some vocal discontent uttered against the owners, although plenty of derision was also aimed at the team. Even Joyce wasn’t immune. A 4-0 win at Carlisle the following month was too late to ignite a run to the play-offs, and with no ability to strengthen the side and no support from the board forthcoming, Joyce was finally sacked by Nick Buchanan, with Brian Little his high-profile replacement.

After City

Warren Joyce was badly treated by the nefarious duo who had taken over City, of that there is no doubt. It was – again – to his credit that he refused to speak out in public, remaining as ever the consummate professional. His standing in the game was recognised by Leeds United, with the (then) Premiership side appointing him as a youth coach within a week of his dismissal at Boothferry Park. He went on to work in a coaching capacity with Royal Antwerp via Manchester United, the Belgian club who have established close links with Old Trafford.

He was recently invited to speak on a DVD produced by City celebrating the Great Escape he masterminded. His media performances while the Tigers’ boss saw a reserved, almost shy man – a demeanour even echoed when speaking during an interview with Amber Nectar. However, now in his 40s and a highly-regarded coach, he spoke fluently about his time at City, appearing to show a genuine affection for the club he helped to save.

Some time after leaving Boothferry Park, and perhaps embittered by his shabby treatment, he affected to have no desire to re-enter management. This remained the case until invited to become the manager of Royal Antwerp – one of Belgium’s most famous clubs, yet marooned in the Second Division. He took them to fourth in his first season and quickly became a popular manager. When he brought his side to the Circle in August 2007 for a pre-season friendly, all four sides of the ground hailed him. One hopes he realises that however badly a wicked pair treated him, his contribution remains sincerely appreciated by those stood on the terraces and watched as he worked a miracle.

Joyce’s legacy

City’s eventual recovery to the club we now see was long and often painful. It necessitated the removal of another hateful regime, financial ruin, exclusion from our own ground, the arrival of another saviour, a change of stadium and several different managers. We finally escaped Division Four, stormed through Division Three and now sit in what most would regard as our natural position, a middling second-tier club.

None of this would have been possible without Warren Joyce. Yes, it is fair to say that relegation to the Conference need not finish a club, although Scarborough fans may question that. However, by the end of the 90s, City were in a near-terminal decline. We cannot be certain that swapping the terrible football of the basement for the even more terrible football of the Conference would suddenly have seen us conquer all. It is not hard to imagine a scenario in which City would have continued to slide, failing to get back into the League several times in succession, particularly with only one promotion spot to aim for. With financial crisis a constant companion for so long, the ultimate disaster of no more professional football in Hull could never have been entirely ruled out.

We’ll never know. Thank goodness we never had to find out. And while the Great Escape of 1999 did not immediately set us on the path to restoring our standing in the football world, it at least meant we still had a club that we could eventually nurse back to health. For that, and for one of the most thrilling half-seasons we’ll ever know, for playing the game in a committed and intelligent fashion, and for being a decent and honest man amid a succession of liars, chancers, inadequates and thieves, we give our eternal thanks to Warren Joyce – an authentic Hull City hero.

Andy Dalton

Warren Joyce’s nomination as a Hull City hero would be contested by few in the present day, and looking back at his contribution to our club there can be no question that we may very well owe our whole existence to his achievements at the tail-end of the decade of horror that was the 1990s. It wasn’t always so clear cut however – there were days when his inclusion in a section of villains may have seemed more probable.

Pre-City

Warren Joyce followed his father Walter into football, a defender whose own career started at Burnley following the completion of his National Service in 1958. He experienced First Division football during the Clarets’ glory days of the 1960s, and later saw spells at Blackburn and the Joyces’ home-town club Oldham. He retired to become a coach at Boundary Park and remained in football for many years.

After a lengthy and successful career for his father, Joyce junior had plenty to live up to. His first club was Bolton Wanders, for whom he signed in 1981 as a 16 year old. He began making a name for himself as a combative defensive midfield player.

His time at Burnden Park was happy for the young Joyce, despite the club mostly scuffling about in the lower leagues. He made over 200 appearances in six years before Lancastrian neighbours Preston paid £35,000 for him in October 1987, a move that united him with his father – he’d since moved to Deepdale in a coaching capacity. He continued to impress, spending five years there as Preston hauled themselves back towards respectability, having recently fallen into Division Four for the first time.

He was the Lillywhites’ Player of the Year in 1990 and was made club captain, but when Plymouth Argyle offered a hefty £150,000 for him in summer 1992 he was persuaded to head south to Home Park.

It wasn’t the best of times however, and just a year later he returned to his native Lancashire to join Burnley, who paid £140,000 for the now 28-year old. He played over eighty times at Turf Moor in this spell, chipping in with a dozen goals – despite his customary deployment as a deep-lying midfielder, his ability to contribute a decent number of goals made him an important player.

Two years later came his first association with City, when Terry Dolan took him on loan in January 1995 as his Tigers made an unsuccessful attempt to reach the (new-ish) Second Division play-offs. He scored three times in nine games at Boothferry Park but returned to Turf Moor for Burnley’s doomed attempt to stay in the second tier. City were to finish eighth that season.

1995/6 saw Burnley achieve a mediocre 17th in the third division of English football, although Joyce’s contribution continued to be solid. However, they rarely threatened to make the play-offs and their season limped to an uninspiring conclusion.

Joyce returns to Boothferry Park

As Burnley sought to rebuild for promotion, Burnley agreed to sell him to City for £30,000 in July 1996, but the club he returned to was strikingly different. The Tigers had been relegated into the bottom division after a catastrophic season that culminated in the infamous Bradford riot, and a summer of bitter recrimination led to those remaining supporters declaring war on the Fish/Dolan axis of evil. It was amid this unpromising backdrop that Hell Tel installed Joyce as his captain. It was a thankless task. As Dolan’s representative in earth, he was a conduit for the abuse that rained down upon the regime as City struggled in the bottom half of the division, with the spectre of financial ruin continually stalking the club.

City’s season began with what we soon realised was false promise, as the Tigers remained unbeaten until October. It sounds better than it was. The football was drab and only Duane Darby’s goals made things vaguely bearable. When that unbeaten run ended at home to Scunthorpe, it gave fresh impetus to the protests as the supporters continued their struggle to the death with the now universally despised regime.

Plenty of the vitriol being spat from the terraces was directed at Warren Joyce. His role of captain compelled him to defend his manager, an awkward position for a man who could surely appreciate the harm that was being visited upon us. With hindsight, it was probably unfair to target Joyce over the dreadful wasters defiling City shirts at the time, though as Dolan’s choice of skipper and with the frustrations boiling over on a weekly basis, it was perhaps inevitable.

It is to his credit that he rarely complained about this. Perhaps the one manifestation of his feelings about the supporters’ treatment came in a memorable episode during a 3-0 win over Brighton in March 1997. After thudding home a volley from the edge of the area, he bounded over to “celebrate” his goal in front of the Kempton. In one of the sorriest symbols of the club’s gut-wrenching decay, this stood empty at the time, off-limits to all.

Yet Joyce sped over to its echoing terraces, aping the love-in that customarily occurs when a beloved scorer rushes to his adoring public, choosing to celebrate with broken concrete over his abusers. It was a potent gesture, one that split opinion. There were those who saw it was a comic riposte delivered in the only way he safely could, though many of those who harboured irreconcilable animosity towards The Regime viewed it with scorn and saw themselves further alienated from City’s captain.

Even at the time, it really was a tough action to correctly interpret. Many viewed it as a put-upon player expressing himself in an amusing fashion, a deserved indulgence for a proud man in an unwinnable war. Some were less understanding, seeing it as a rebuke to the ongoing campaign against the board and manager.

The misery continued, with Joyce chugging along in a thoroughly unappreciated fashion as the warring factions continued to fight for control of the club. City were to finish 17th in Division Four, then our lowest ever finish. Our prospects looked heart-rendingly bleak.

Post-Dolan

The summer of 1997 was a momentous one for City, and also for Joyce. Fish sold to the Tim Wilby/David Lloyd consortium, which immediately sacked Dolan and installed former England striker Mark Hateley as player-manager. This fuelled wild dreams of imminent glory among the success-starved fans, although ultimately the Tigers finished in a new-record low of 22nd. The desperate times for City were continuing and even worsening off the pitch…but about Joyce, opinions were shifting.

The experienced influence in City’s hopelessly brittle midfield, he held the side together on numerous occasions with his unfussy play and quiet determination. When one considers that his team-mates for Hateley’s first game at Mansfield included Tony Brien, Gregor Rioch, Michael Quigley and Simon Trevitt, one marvels that we didn’t challenge the stricken Doncaster for relegation.

As a player, Joyce was fairly undemonstrative. Not for him the flashy slide-tackle that brutalises an opponent and gains throaty cheers irrespective of the outcome – his method of containment showed a more cerebral preference for blocking an adversary’s easiest route forwards. Always half-a-second faster to understand a situation than most of his team-mates, he was able to impede the opposition by finding himself in the right position and could intercept a pass with a flash of instinctive manoeuvring.

That is not to suggest that he was nothing but a spoiling player. He was effective in possession, seeing greater value in its retention than attempting a spectacular pass with little chance of success. He also took many of City’s set-pieces, imparting a deceptive curl upon a ball that gained him a couple of fortuitous goals during his time at Boothferry Park. All teams need a Warren Joyce – a calm and composed player, thinking his way through a game rather than rashly surrendering to the impulse for manic activity.

The season 1997/8 was not without incident, and even sporadic enjoyment. A staggering afternoon in August 1997 saw City defeat Swansea 7-4, while a two-legged Steve Wilson-inspired League Cup success over Premier League Crystal Palace earned City a trip to Newcastle, where Warren Joyce played in City’s creditable 2-0 defeat.

However, in other competitions things were grim. A 4-1 home defeat to Shrewsbury was followed up by a 2-0 Cup exit to Hednesford, a dire afternoon that provided sickening amusement to the smug Match of the Day interlopers and no little satisfaction to referee G Laws, now and forever the only game in which I have genuinely doubted the motivations of an official.

With dissent building against absentee chairman David Lloyd and with Tim Wilby mysteriously no longer with us, City aimlessly stumbled along in the bottom three of English football’s fourth tier. Thank fuck for Donny Rovers” was a regular refrain among the exasperated supporters, with their spectacular implosion keeping City and Brighton mercifully free of the relegation concerns that our awful form would have generated in any other season. The Tigers were thrashed 5-1 at Torquay, a low point of early 1998, but yet another nadir appeared to have been reached at Belle Vue.

City travelled to Doncaster knowing a win would relegate the South Yorkshire club…and promptly lost 1-0 in a match delayed several times by incursions onto the pitch by both sets of fans, Gregor Rioch even attempting a pass to a home fan.

Throughout these desperate times, one man’s stock was steadily rising. Cries of “Warren Joyce Joyce Joyce” rang out from the same Bunkers that used to scorn him as Dolan’s pet. In a season filled with sloth and incompetence, Joyce was among our best players. His redemption on the pitch was complete. However, his finest hour was still to come.

Joyce as manager

1998/9 was a season viewed with trepidation from the very beginning. Mark Hateley’s unsuitability as a manager was painfully obvious, though he remained in place. So too did David Lloyd, whose popularity was sinking rapidly. The campaign began indifferently, but plans by Lloyd to shift City to the Boulevard while building a super-stadium for his Tiger-Sharks (and how we cringe at that term) lost him any lingering goodwill and open dissent could once again be heard.

The vivid tennis ball protest instigated by Amber Nectar and City Independent collusion that held up a League Cup tie at Bolton was the tipping point for the thin-skinned southerner, who shrilly bailed out as a new group took charge of City. Genial pig-farmer Tom Belton assumed the chairman’s role, with the backing of “colourful” company law criminal Stephen Hinchliffe (and future jailbird) together with fellow Sheffield lowlife Nick Buchanan.

By this time, City’s plight on the pitch had become desperate. Hateley was finally sacked, and things were typified by a 2-0 home defeat against a numerically-deficient Brighton side, the fans mocking their own side with a rendition of “they’ve only got nine men” in recognition of the visitors’ comfortable win despite seeing a brace of red cards.

Marooned at the bottom of the Football League, relegation into the non-league abyss stared us in the face. Joyce had taken temporary charge for the Brighton debacle, but Belton appointed him permanently as the player-manager, bringing in former European Cup winner John McGovern to assist him.

Joyce’s first game in long-term charge of City came at Salisbury Town in the first round of the FA Cup, City edging to a nervy 2-0 win over the Wiltshire part-timers. This was followed up shortly after with a stirring 2-1 win at Luton, then eighth in the division above. However, our league form remained wretched and many questioned the sense in appointing a total rookie as player-manager. Another meaningless cup win was achieved, this time a 1-0 victory in the Auto Windscreens Shield at Notts County, but a Yuletide loss at Shrewsbury left City stranded six points adrift of safety. Demotion out of the League now looked inevitable.

An FA Cup jolly at Aston Villa saw City lose 3-0, a game notable for pitting 1st in the League against 92nd. Three days later, Joyce’s men feebly lost 2-1 against Wrexham in the Auto-thingy in front of 2,331 cold and miserable souls at Boothferry Park…and while this may not sound like one of the more consequential games in City’s century-long history, some continue to see it as a pivotal moment in a pivotal season.

Joyce reportedly read his hapless squad the riot act for the first time after this fixture, finally asserting himself as the manager and not merely a player. He began earnestly recruiting for the task of keeping City in the league, and in the first few weeks of 1999 he made two signings, Justin Whittle and Gary Brabin. Added to the Lincoln duo of Jon Whitney and Jason Perry, and suddenly he had brought together a side of battle-scarred winners instead of timid losers.

City began scraping together a few results. Mark Bonner scored the only goal in his only game for City against Rotherham to keep us at least in touch, while a 4-0 thumping of Hartlepool the following week gave us genuine hope of a miraculous escape.

Suddenly we were on a run. A 2-0 win at leaders Brentford, inspired by debutant Colin Alcide (criminally under-rated, now and then) took us off the bottom, prompting delirious cries of “we are ninety-first” at Griffin Park.

There were setbacks – the televised trauma at Spotland, a miserable loss at Cambridge – but we finally believed that salvation could be ours. Joyce has expertly assembled a side of winners, and their conviction flooded onto the terraces. A streaky 1-0 win at Southend was characterised by incessant renditions of The Great Escape, which became both the title and the theme tune for our improbable rescue act.

In our place had fallen Carlisle and Scarborough, the latter coming to Boothferry Park in April for a game that they had to win. Officially, 13,949 squeezed into the old place for the game, only a few hundred over capacity, although the actual attendance must have exceeded comfortably 16-17,000. We drew the game in a white-hot atmosphere, a trifle disappointingly, but by now safety was almost assured as our North Yorkshire neighbours hit a bad run of form from which they could not escape.

Finally, on the penultimate day of the season, Joyce’s City side secured a 1-0 win over Torquay United that guaranteed The Great Escape. He signed a new contract on the pitch, the fans cheered wildly, there was untold glory ahead.

There is no possible way in which Warren Joyce’s achievements in 1998/9 can be underestimated. Heading into the New Year, the Tigers were a broken side, adrift at the bottom of the table, morale at rock-bottom, their supporters bleakly resigned dropping into the Conference.

What followed was fairytale stuff, all thanks to Warren Joyce. He took over a shattered squad, bought superbly and guided us to the giddy heights of 18th. It is a contribution to our story that deserves the very highest of commendation.

After the Great Escape

Were this a piece of fiction, the script would require Warren Joyce to lead us to promotion the following season. City started among the favourites to go up, and he was given cash to spend, recruiting Swales, Harper and Harris among others.

Sadly, it was not so. Our success of the Great Escape was based upon shuddering commitment, tireless effort and heroics in defence and midfield. Joyce failed to alter the side sufficiently to allow for a serious tilt at promotion, relying (perhaps understandably) upon the same attributes that had clawed us to safety. However, battling for a point is different to working out how to win a game, and City hovered frustratingly in midtable.

Joyce brought the Jamaican duo of Theodore Whitmore and Ian Goodison to Boothferry Park in an attempt to bring greater fluidity to our staid football, but the effect was only temporary. Having drawn Liverpool in the League Cup earlier in the season, another run to the Third Round of the FA Cup brought Premiership Chelsea to the Ark, although an anti-climatic 6-1 cuffing was served up. City’s fun in the cups wasn’t really covering for our disappointing League form…but by now, familiar storm clouds were brewing.

Nick Buchanan had assumed the role of chairman in a boardroom coup that toppled the popular Tom Belton, and his shady accomplice Stephen Hinchliffe had become City’s Vice-President – he was banned from acting as a company director for various malpractices throughout the years, though he lingered on the periphery like a fetid stench. And the money had totally dried up, with many questioning exactly where it was going – “South Yorkshire” being a popular source of suspicion.

However, while previous evildoing regimes were universally despised and fought against, the Buchliffe tyranny was not. Many didn’t have the heart for a third war against their own club, many simply refused to believe that they were deliberately acting against City’s best interests. They may repent now, they may amend history to disguise this, but the sad fact is that City fans were again divided.

Caught in the middle was Warren Joyce, Belton’s choice of manager but evidently not favoured by the Sheffield Stealers. A 3-0 gubbing at Rotherham finally saw some vocal discontent uttered against the owners, although plenty of derision was also aimed at the team. Even Joyce wasn’t immune. A 4-0 win at Carlisle the following month was too late to ignite a run to the play-offs, and with no ability to strengthen the side and no support from the board forthcoming, Joyce was finally sacked by Nick Buchanan, with Brian Little his high-profile replacement.

After City

Warren Joyce was badly treated by the nefarious duo who had taken over City, of that there is no doubt. It was – again – to his credit that he refused to speak out in public, remaining as ever the consummate professional. His standing in the game was recognised by Leeds United, with the (then) Premiership side appointing him as a youth coach within a week of his dismissal at Boothferry Park. He went on to work in a coaching capacity with Royal Antwerp via Manchester United, the Belgian club who have established close links with Old Trafford.

He was recently invited to speak on a DVD produced by City celebrating the Great Escape he masterminded. His media performances while the Tigers’ boss saw a reserved, almost shy man – a demeanour even echoed when speaking during an interview with Amber Nectar. However, now in his 40s and a highly-regarded coach, he spoke fluently about his time at City, appearing to show a genuine affection for the club he helped to save.

Some time after leaving Boothferry Park, and perhaps embittered by his shabby treatment, he affected to have no desire to re-enter management. This remained the case until invited to become the manager of Royal Antwerp – one of Belgium’s most famous clubs, yet marooned in the Second Division. He took them to fourth in his first season and quickly became a popular manager. When he brought his side to the Circle in August 2007 for a pre-season friendly, all four sides of the ground hailed him. One hopes he realises that however badly a wicked pair treated him, his contribution remains sincerely appreciated by those stood on the terraces and watched as he worked a miracle.

Joyce’s legacy

City’s eventual recovery to the club we now see was long and often painful. It necessitated the removal of another hateful regime, financial ruin, exclusion from our own ground, the arrival of another saviour, a change of stadium and several different managers. We finally escaped Division Four, stormed through Division Three and now sit in what most would regard as our natural position, a middling second-tier club.

None of this would have been possible without Warren Joyce. Yes, it is fair to say that relegation to the Conference need not finish a club, although Scarborough fans may question that. However, by the end of the 90s, City were in a near-terminal decline. We cannot be certain that swapping the terrible football of the basement for the even more terrible football of the Conference would suddenly have seen us conquer all. It is not hard to imagine a scenario in which City would have continued to slide, failing to get back into the League several times in succession, particularly with only one promotion spot to aim for. With financial crisis a constant companion for so long, the ultimate disaster of no more professional football in Hull could never have been entirely ruled out.

We’ll never know. Thank goodness we never had to find out. And while the Great Escape of 1999 did not immediately set us on the path to restoring our standing in the football world, it at least meant we still had a club that we could eventually nurse back to health. For that, and for one of the most thrilling half-seasons we’ll ever know, for playing the game in a committed and intelligent fashion, and for being a decent and honest man amid a succession of liars, chancers, inadequates and thieves, we give our eternal thanks to Warren Joyce – an authentic Hull City hero.

Andy Dalton

Hero – Peter Taylor

I love divisive individuals. They enhance the debate, and an amalgam of compliments and insults, congratulations and denouncements, make for fascinating reading, with nobody ever able to say fully that they are right. Except for me, right here, right now – as while somebody out there could write 15 paragraphs right now on why Peter Taylor is a villain (try tepid football, Junior Lewis and leaving the club behind when he did, for starters) they would be categorically wrong to do so.

Peter Taylor is a proper hero and anyone who holds contrary views was ruined as a child. And possibly dropped on their heads as part of the ruination.

The background then… Taylor was a terrific player. He was a burly, hip-swivelling left-footed right-winger (the explanation for Kevin Ellison at Luton suddenly becomes clear as day) who shot to national fame when he scored two stunning goals for Third Division sash-wearers Crystal Palace at Chelsea in an FA Cup fifth round tie in 1976, earning him an England call-up (only Steve Bull has since matched that particular achievement) which prompted bigger-name players to ask who he was during training. Palace made the semi-finals that season and Taylor’s increased standing got him a move to Tottenham a year later. After his playing days, er, petered out, he went into coaching through the then-traditional method of starting at some non-league jokers (Dartford, in his case) and working his way up.

By the time he arrived at Hull City in 2002, he had acquired a terrific coaching reputation and a momentarily chequered but largely efficient managerial CV. A weirdly unsuccessful spell at Leicester in the Premiership had sullied his references, but he’d just done a devastatingly effective job at Brighton, taking them up as champions of the third tier in his only season, and had previously managed a similar masterly task at Gillingham.

He also had a nation’s sympathy and goodwill, having been maliciously fired by Howard Wilkinson as England under 21 coach (because he was associated with the ‘disgraced’ Glenn Hoddle) despite a 100 per cent record in qualifying matches, only for him to be then handed the caretaker’s job for the full squad prior to Sven Goran Eriksson’s arrival. It was he, of course, who gave David Beckham the England captaincy. So, despite paying £5million for Ade Akinbiyi and losing an FA Cup quarter final to a FNLS team that bought its winning goalscorer off the internet, clearly City had landed a chap who was nationally lauded and had the notices to back it up.

And the Tigers needed one. Jan Molby’s three months in charge had been a case study in underachievement. Molby’s complaints and excuses didn’t become him, and Adam Pearson quickly acknowledged he’d erred in appointing the salad-dodging Dane. Yet one thing Molby did leave behind was a team – a team yet to gel, but a team nonetheless. Three of his summer signings would go on to become indelibly linked with Taylor’s reign at Boothferry Park and the KC, and predominantly for positive reasons.

Much of Taylor’s attainments over the next four years emerged from his own bloody-mindedness. An immediate example of this would be Damien Delaney, a rosy-cheeked Irish defender whom he collared from his old club Leicester for £50,000, and who initially would look out of place wherever he played. Taylor threw him into the left back position which with its initial lack of wisdom did at least rid the side of the wholly ineffective Shaun Smith.

Sadly, Delaney seemed rarely better and became something of a target of the South Stand. Taylor, for the first of many times, would ignore the faithful and be proved right as Delaney developed into a fine central defender who would spend five and a half gratifying years with the club. There seemed to be something poetic from Taylor’s point of view that his first acquisition would also secure an indelible entry in the club’s record books by scoring the last City goal at Boothferry Park, albeit entirely unintentionally.

Delaney issues aside, City began well under Taylor. Molby’s talented but unentwined team, which had won only twice, were victorious in four of his seven opening matches, drawing the other three. Boothferry Park’s farewell match also heralded the farewell of Taylor’s unbeaten record, but as City settled into the KC Stadium, things remained on course for sufficient recovery. Molby’s new boys – Stuart Green, Stuart Elliott, Ian Ashbee, Dean Keates – reacted well to their new manager, and gently City began to look like a side ready for an assault on the division in the second half of the season.

A bad January got worse; City lost poorly at Leyton Orient and Southend, drew with York at the KC and then were done by Lincoln at home too. During this time, Green undertook his bit of vintage toy/pram separation after being left out of the Lincoln match (he and the others had stunk at Southend), while Marc Joseph joined to cause havoc in his own defence. Green was packed off to Carlisle on loan and though he rehabilitated himself in the summer, Taylor’s unequivocal refusal to rule out Green’s return to City prompted derisory comments from the Tiger Nation over remaining loyal to players whose ability, bottle or attitude was in question. Taylor’s bloody-mindedness would, again, win the day.

Joseph’s arrival was uncontroversial to begin with. Fans’ favourite Justin Whittle, plus the impressive John Anderson, maintained their partnership, and so Taylor more frequently stuck Joseph in at right back (having told Mike Edwards, just back from a cruciate injury, that he was releasing him without watching him play). The issue of Joseph’s inclusion at a higher emotional cost would come later.

Although the departure of Edwards, to this day the last lad from the ranks to become a fully-fledged first team player, left a sour taste, Taylor also succeeded in clearing out genuine deadwood. Injury-ravaged horizontalist Richie Appleby and talented shirker (and utter waste of a shirt) Ryan Williams were escorted from the premises. In came new striker Ben Burgess, ugly and surly but in possession of a smart left-foot and a facility to score goals, while loan signings Jon Walters and Jon Otsemobor made tidy contributions to the season’s end, which proved to be mixed but clear in its potential. City managed numerous five-figure crowds at the Circle in the last five weeks, by which time a push to the play-offs had been largely ruled out. The football wasn’t always pretty, but for the first time since Brian Little’s play-off season, there was a groundswell of hope.

Yes, the football wasn’t always pretty. This is a stick with which Taylor’s plentiful detractors use to beat the man regularly. He bought and utilised good attacking players but was often seen as unduly negative, especially at home, and was rarely seen trying to win away matches with anything other than breakaway football. Yet sometimes, maybe even despite Taylor sometimes, City won away from home superbly, freely, flamboyantly. His brand of football was sometimes hard to call, and his regular refusal to express any regret over stifling or lukewarm tactics, irrespective of their effectiveness, put backs up.

This was also a contributory factor to a general media image Taylor procured – that of a moody, monotonous and soundbitten bore. He was probably none of these, and certainly those who ever had his company privately said he was a pleasant and sometimes amusing man and clearly a talented thinker on the game. He didn’t enjoy the media obligations which management brought; rarely did he give elongated post-match interviews or provide great insight, in spite of any respectful questions put his way. He liked getting players “in the building” and used north-south rivalries to try to inspire his players with accents of a higher geographical origin than his own. But the freer-thinking supporter tolerated Taylor’s blandness in voice; what mattered was his first full season in charge of the Tigers, which was ahead.

Numerous things went Taylor’s way in the Division Three (now League Two, keep up) promotion campaign. He purchased well in the summer; clinical Aussie striker Danny Allsopp formed a 33-goal partnership with Burgess; twinkle-toed winger Jason Price pleased the crowds with some scrumptious displays on the right flank; and left back Andy Dawson, deliciously snatched as he fell out of contract at Scunthorpe, became an effortless presence in defence. Other players hit big spells of form; Delaney had shifted into the centre of the back four and became almost superhuman (not to mention ever-present, a remarkable feat); Ashbee was a fantastic spoiling presence and a natural captain; Elliott cracked in a splendid 14 goals from the wing and Green, rejuvenated and repentant, returned from his Carlisle-based period of chokey to play an active and sometimes spellbinding role in the centre. And midway through the season, Taylor shelled out £50,000 on the oddly-named Villa reserve keeper Boaz Myhill, who quickly provided extra security behind a tightened back line and provided the final piece of a long-awaited jigsaw.

Taylor, however, didn’t help himself with a couple of decisions which fray his legacy to this day. His decision to sign Karl “Junior” Lewis, a trier of negligible skill who had followed Taylor round various clubs, was treated with a mixture of concern and humorous consternation. Lewis, however, sometimes redeemed himself with the odd vital goal and could, at least, tackle. He just couldn’t pass, trap or dribble.

While the decision to deploy Lewis was capable of emitting laughs as well as groans from the Tiger Nation, the regular re-assignment of Whittle to the reserves did not. Whittle, already relieved of the captaincy thanks to Ashbee’s arrival and his own lack of rubberstamped involvement, had now seen his place disappear in favour of Joseph, whose lack of positional sense and aggression, among other things, made the decision all the more galling for the large number of Whittle devotees in the seats.

Strike me dead if you desire, but Whittle was never quite as good as many made out. City have certainly had better defenders in the last generation, even though the context needs applying, and as such, Whittle was marvellous for the sort of scrap City required when he joined as the Conference loomed. There was no doubt, however, that he was the better option to partner the talented Delaney when held up alongside Joseph, and Taylor knew that the supporters were all behind Whittle. He dropped Whittle after a 2-2 home draw with Macclesfield, having used as many excuses involving Whittle as he could for City’s disappointments; then watched, undoubtedly in horror, as City succumbed 3-1 at promotion rivals Huddersfield, with Joseph making a mockery of the central defensive position in Whittle’s place. The City fans’ unabashed calling of Whittle’s name during the match just served to tighten Taylor’s resolve, and by the time the fans forum, broadcast on the radio, came round he had pinned down every answer to every question he doubtlessly expected from the Whittle camp. For his part, the former skipper kept a dignified silence and remains uncommitted on the subject to this day. He started just one more game for City and, unpalatable though it may be, City managed to clinch promotion without his help.

City were inconsistent at the end of a relief-filled campaign, with wonderful wins over Scunthorpe United, Leyton Orient and especially away at Swansea tempered by maddening defeats to Torquay, Mansfield (Mansfield, for God’s sake!) and Northampton. Doncaster Rovers – whose post-Christmas visit to the KC produced a 23,000 crowd, a tremendous away support and a flukey but symbolic hat-trick from Price – were the worthy (if rather too territorial) winners of the title, and City secured second place and a first promotion for 19 years with a famous win at Yeovil, with Ashbee rounding off a fine season of collected leadership with a ludicrously unAshbee-like winner.

Taylor’s shtick and standing was now familiar to the City supporters. We had a manager who was very hard to like. He wasn’t warm, he didn’t seem to identify with the area or lay down any roots. He had no real feeling in his post-match (or pre-match) musings, he was just doing a job and being paid for it. Yet it was also very hard not to respect him, not to wish him well, not to admire his ability. And his demeanour paid dividends for him – City’s promotion proved he made the right decisions when the Tiger Nation would have had it differently – he was right to bring back Green, to buy a seemingly ordinary Scunthorpe defender, to replace the reliable Paul Musselwhite in goal with an untried youngster with a daft name, and to utilise Junior Lewis and Marc Joseph. Maybe he was lucky in some respects. But when luck is on your side, you don’t bemoan it, as you’re quick to curse its absence when fortune goes against you. Peter Taylor had done what plebs like Hateley and Molby and triers like Joyce and Little had failed to do – get City out of the bottom division.

The detractors didn’t give up – okay, so he’d got us up, but with the money and players available, he should have got us up as champions, they say. It’s a point, certainly, and some of the aforementioned defeats at uninhabitable holes like Field Mill were galling and contributory. But Doncaster, painfully, deserve credit for a freakishly outstanding season during which we didn’t lose to them (though the televised goalless draw at Belle Vue was unarguably the least compelling match Sky has ever covered). Maybe the newcomers who didn’t ever entertain the idea of watching City at Boothferry Park but quite liked the KC when they went for a nosey were responsible for this blinkered viewpoint. Those who watched the team under Ternent, Dolan and Hateley would surely be more grateful for a promotion, irrespective of its nature. Frankly, anyone who did complain that Taylor hadn’t earned any plaudits because we only went up as runners-up and with a small silver plate should shut up.

So, along came League One (and it was League One by now), and again with Adam Pearson stumping up the readies for an immediate attack on a weak-looking division, Taylor stuck his fingers in his ears and made more crucial and controversial decisions on strengthening.

With Burgess suffering from a long-term injury, he signed goal-free strikers Aaron Wilbraham and Jon Walters and persevered with putting both Lewis and Joseph in his starting line-ups.

However, he also acquired Leon Cort, an imposing, balanced and remarkably fair-playing centre back from Southend on a free transfer – and then sent us all silly by adding Hull-born ex-England player Nick Barmby to the squad, fresh from his release by the declining Leeds. Much will always be speculated upon as to who really decided to bring Barmby in. Pearson, with one eye on the PR and another on the finances, was seemingly more enthusiastic about the securing of the Wolfreton High alumnus than Taylor himself, though enthusiasm was something Taylor rarely did about anyone or anything. And, frankly, once Barmby settled in and began to lord it over a division in which he could have played with tuxedo and cigar, the origin of the move was insignificant.

Cort and Barmby were immense signings, among Taylor’s best. For every missed chance from Walters (a shadow of the player who’d been in on loan two seasons before) or scuffed piece of confidence-free marksmanship from Wilbraham, there’d be a blessed bit of Barmby genius or, more stunningly, a goal from Elliott. And another. And another. City looked promotion candidates from the outset, and this heralded the most joyous season under Taylor, despite the odd regression into tedium beyond definition. Elliott became the most important player of the Taylor reign from this point, and perhaps the detractors could take some form of mediocre, ironic consolation from this, in that despite signing a lorryload of players, the best one to serve Taylor was one already in place before he arrived.

Sometimes, City were mesmeric. A fantastic 3-2 win at Peterborough, which included the first of a neat handful of crucial goals from the dangerous Cort, was a particularly memorable treat for the travelling support. City were also dogged, something Taylor could claim real pride from – the late 2-1 win at Barnsley thanks to a very late goal from the circular, pygmy-like, about-to-be-ditched-for-twatting-someone-in-the-stiffs Michael Keane was a typical example of this, and the nature of the display did not dampen the sheer joy of the win.

Through the latter part of 2004, City began a sequence of eight straight League wins which began with Elliott’s brace in a 2-0 success over Brentford and ended with a 3-1 win at Stockport and goals from Wilbraham, Price and Allsopp. Yet medicine inevitably followed the sugar, and the four match winless sequence – hindered by the madly prolific Elliott’s absence with a busted cheekbone – which followed almost certainly cost the Tigers the League One title, especially as it included a defeat to main rivals and eventual champions Luton. Taylor again fended off the brickbats about unmotivated players or uninspiring tactics and instead set about securing the player who would inspire a final push to promotion.

Elliott’s goalscoring from the wing had been a welcome antidote to the collective inability of the centre forwards to score – Allsopp was homesick and allowed to go after a humdrum season, while Walters and Wilbraham were unqualified calamity signings who scored three League goals between them. Barmby was very much the second-position striker who sometimes played wide, but nine goals from him eventually proved vital. Taylor’s supposedly uneven relationship with his superstar did not effect either the manager’s judgment in picking him, nor Barmby’s facility to deliver. It was still obvious, however, that one more forward was required – and here Taylor’s influence and reputation as a national coach of distinction as well as a club coach of efficiency was confirmed, as he gently persuaded Craig Fagan, a former Birmingham player, out of Colchester and up to Hull.

Fagan, despite a mild doubt about his temperament, was a roaringly instant success, scoring on his debut in a fabulous win at chasers Tranmere (which also brought a goal for Ellison, the more typical Taylor signing – the limited trier). Fagan’s arrival coincided with Elliott’s return and City embarked on a thrilling couple of months of matches – a 4-0 win at Bournemouth putting to bed last-ditch doubts and a thoroughly satisfying, dominant 2-0 win at Bradford (where the City fans were given one of the home stands – justice in evidence right there) turning the probable into the inevitable.

The fact that City didn’t win any of their last four matches and went up thanks to Tranmere losing a midweek game in hand was also, perhaps, typical of Taylor’s reign. Yes, two promotions, but the hardline anti-Taylor extremists would state that we didn’t go up with panache, with a fantastic destruction of some collective of lower league shiteaters. They can get lost.

Certainly, as the Championship loomed, the prospect of Peter Taylor leading Hull City into her first season of second-tier football since 1991 seemed a viable one. His brand of occasional negativity and baffling dullard’s football would perhaps be an astute way of making sure we kept our heads above the surface. After all, we were no longer going after promotion – this was now a season of survival. City were going to be beaten and seriously outplayed at times and reach troughs in performance not experienced since the months prior to Taylor’s arrival. A manager who knew the division (which Taylor did) and could handpick his tactics depending on availabilities and form (which Taylor could) was vital.

Again, supporters occasionally despaired of Taylor’s short-sightedness. The Championship holiday was over by Christmas, when even though some sound home performances had given City a base to secure their survival, occasional personnel issues gave City fans mild causes for concern. In a marked contrast to his two successors thus far (plus his transfer policy at his own next club), Taylor’s recruitment ideal consisted almost exclusively of gathering players from the lower divisions in the hope of nurturing them into Championship performers.

This was mainly a failure – Sam Collins and Danny Coles would be limited and error-ridden (not to mention injury-prone) centre backs (though to be fair to Coles, he barely played a game under Taylor); striker Billy Paynter was noticeably unable to raise his game. Signings from above, such as full back Mark Lynch and midfielders Keith Andrews and John Welsh were – in order – overused, misused and just not used. Ultimately it was old guard players – Barmby, Elliott, Delaney, Cort, Dawson, Myhill – who would prove most crucial in City’s eventual survival. Oh, and the one signing from below which did work – for Taylor at least.

Jon Parkin’s arrival in January was somewhat divisive; an arrival in Taylor’s own image, you might say. City fans with memories of the large striker’s comic displays at Macclesfield, to whom Taylor paid £150,000, were apoplectic. But Parkin became City’s saviour, defying and demolishing supposedly capable defenders, scoring fine goals against Crystal Palace, Stoke (in a stunning 3-0 away win), Millwall, Luton and, eventually, the goal of all goals against Leeds at the KC which earned a generation-making 1-0 win. His fitness (put down to the lack of a pre-season) let him down at the death but by then City had done enough. Parkin had delivered, and again Taylor could look at those waiting for his downfall and stick two more fingers up in their direction. Parkin’s subsequent decline was nothing to do with Taylor.

Come the season’s end, and Taylor had led a scratchy, inelegant but entirely efficient team to safety with some ease. He had now taken the club to two promotions and unflustered Championship survival in his three full seasons. Charlton began sniffing and maybe, just maybe, some of his detractors were wondering if the grass would really be greener if a new manager came in. When Taylor pledged his future to the Tigers, the sigh of relief was almost wholly collective. But there was clearly strain between his chairman and himself, and a week later the lure of Palace, the team with which he enjoyed his shot to fame as a player, was too much. Rightly, people mourned his departure and offered scolding words his way for going so soon after a pledge of loyalty. But Taylor had perhaps taken City as far as he could, and albeit messily, had secured his place in the Tigers history by leaving. When the Bright Young Thing of football management, Phil Parkinson, arrived at great expense and to everyone’s approval as Taylor’s replacement and proceeded to lose numerous things – opening games, his nerve, the support of the dressing room and his job – the shadow of Taylor’s prosaic achievements loomed larger.

Taylor paid a seven figure fee to take Cort to Palace with him, thereby earning City a profit of £1.25m after just two seasons; and more comically took Green with him too, almost certainly as much for family reasons as for playing reasons. The anti-Taylor brigade finally got their wish to see their man dismissed following a Hull City match when the Tigers got a 1-1 draw at Selhurst Park in October 2007 and Taylor, whose side were on a poor run, paid with his job. Glee was expressed among the lamer brains within the Tiger Nation. He is now managing Stevenage Borough in the Conference.

Peter Taylor’s legacy may include some dodgy signings and a distinct unwillingness to lighten up and embrace his surroundings, but these foibles should be easily outweighed by two promotions and a rather comfortable opening Championship season. If you can’t see beyond his character shortcomings and ignore his actual achievements, then you’re the one with a problem. Peter Taylor is the best manager, on stats, to work for Hull City. Only the unduly churlish, emotionally disadvantaged or cranially vacant would try to deny him status as a Hero.

Matthew Rudd

HERO – Jon Whitney

Heroes are different things to different people. A high octane, box-to-box midfield terrier is the definition of a hero to some, whereas others deeply admire the nihilistic, almost anti-establishment figure of a lazy but gifted playmaker.

Mulleted penalty box sharpshooters are fondly eulogised in some quarters, in others they worship calm headed defenders who can bring the ball out of defence instead of hopefully punting it upfield.

Rarely though, are heroes described as relics from a by-gone age (unless of course they actually played in a by-gone age, when referees wore top hats and boots were made from iron salvaged from sunken warships) but the player I loved to watch and can most readily term as a hero was described as such by one manager. He didn’t play in an era of black and white tellies and wooden playstations though.

His tenure at City straddled the second Millennium, and I can’t claim to love him for his technical ability, rather for unvarnished, brute thuggery delivered with charisma and a wry smile. That man was Jon Whitney.

Whitney signed on the same day as fellow Lincoln stopper Jason Perry in December 1998 as Warren Joyce looked to transplant a backbone into a City team that had as much spine as your average invertebrate. Whittle had already arrived to great effect – and sowed the seeds of his new held legendary status – while Gary Brabin was soon to follow. This new approach, to kick and fight our way off the bottom of the Football League suited Whitney down to the ground and was quickly appreciated by those on the terraces after months of watching a supine defence led by the narcissistic Matt Hocking who refused to go near opposing forwards for fear of putting a hair out of place.

Born in the Cheshire market town of Nantwich, Whitney started his career as a junior at Wigan although the young left back was quickly cast into the non-league ranks in 1989. He spent four and a half years as a jobbing non-leaguer before catching the eye of then Huddersfield manager, gobby knobhead and Mrs Doubtfire lookalike Neil Warnock.

After a brief trial, Whitney accepted a two year contract and left Winsford to return to the full time ranks. An observer from the time noted that Whitney’s first action in League football was to tackle an opponent’s testicles, a case of start as you mean to go on if there ever was one! Unfortunately, after a successful start, Whitney damaged a cruciate ligament and only made a handful of appearances for The Terriers, also taking on a loan spell back at Wigan.

Whitney didn’t impress Brian Horton after the ex-City boss was appointed as Warnock’s successor, and he joined Dambuster bragging yellowbellies, Lincoln, where he immediately established himself as a regular first teamer and gained promotion with the Gimps from the bottom rung of the Football League in 97/98. This was despite missing much of the previous season with another damaged cruciate ligament.

Recovering and then returning in a higher division proved to be a little too much for him and he could only muster 14 games in Division Two. Prior to signing for City, he hadn’t played first team football for two months although his attempts to get back into the first team were hampered by a suspension from training for a week for injuring two of Lincoln’s better players with ‘over-enthusiastic’ challenges in five-a-side kickabouts.

This lack of match fitness did hamper him and his first few games were indifferent. It didn’t help when he scored an own goal in the home game against Chester, calmly sliding the ball past a bewildered Steve Wilson from six yards. This really was as bad as it got in his first season though and he turned in better, if unspectacular, performances as the season progressed and results improved.

There was the odd spectacular moment, however, and there were several abrasive challenges that folded an opponent in two and even stirred the West Stand regulars from their eternal slumber. The one moment that does stand out from his first season was his goal at Peterborough, a howitzer of a left foot shot that broke the sound barrier and nearly uprooted the goal. It made Hot Shot Hamish’s rocket-propelled shots in the Tiger comic look like some feeble Darryl Duffy effort that barely made its way to the goalmouth, let alone break the net. Sadly, the goal wasn’t the winner as Peterborough equalised in injury time in the game but it was a valuable point nonetheless.

As we know, City scrapped for their lives and escaped what appeared to be non-league oblivion. Everyone played their part. Andy Oakes in goal to David Brown and Colin Alcide up front, everyone did their bit and it was clear that team spirit had a huge part to play. In a piece about ‘The Great Escape’ on a recent City Magazine DVD, one player noted that in pre-match warm-ups, Whitney would regularly pick up and eat worms he’d found on the pitch in front of the team to ‘bond’ the squad. It’s difficult to comprehend how this ‘team building’ exercise would transfer over into a nine to five pen pushing job – gobbling up the weevils found in the stale Skelton’s breadcakes in the canteen perhaps…?

The superhuman efforts of Whittle and the ever-improving Mike Edwards and Mark Greaves, the signings of Steve Morgan and Steve Harper and some niggling injuries meant that Whitney didn’t appear until the October of 99/00 although he was a regular on the left of a centre back trio and then as a left wingback during the second half of the season. He only missed games through suspension after racking up an impressive ten yellow cards and one red in 25 appearances.

The red card came at Peterborough in February after Whitney laid a haymaker on some unsuspecting Posh player and led to City reverting to the Dolan-esque 5-4-0 formation later in the game. Whitney also had an interesting time in the 6-1 defeat to Chelsea in the FA Cup third Round, kicking anything in a blue shirt that came within a five-yard radius of him and ruffling the feathers of Frank Leboeuf.

Harper’s unfortunate injury in the spring led to Whitney switching to left wingback, a position he wasn’t ideally equipped for as his slow turning circle and lack of pace were occasionally found out by those that were fleet of foot but the change of position yielded his first goal of the season and his first at The Ark against Orient in April. An Edwards centre from the right was met by Whitney with a bullet header at the far post and that was that for the season…

Well, actually, it wasn’t. Whitney played on as a painfully disappointing season petered out and he faced the prospect of having to win over a new manager with the sacking of the defensively-minded Joyce the appointment of the technically-demanding Brian Little.

The eventful summer of 2000 followed with Buchanan lies, Lloyd tantrums, ground lockouts and transfer embargos although Little managed to sign Lee Philpott, Phil Brumwell and David Brightwell before the season began. The signing of Brightwell was a threat to Whitney, he came with a similar amount of experience and while he certainly wasn’t quicker than him, he was better with the ball at his feet and that was what the new manager required. With a fit again Harper commanding the left flank, the future looked bleak for Whitney – indeed, he only played in three first team games before the turn of the year – both legs in the 1st round League Cup tie against Notts County in the first month of the campaign and the annual reserve team run out in the LDV Trophy game at Chester in December.

So, the reserve team beckoned and he found himself a regular at left back surrounded by other first team outcasts and young kids. However, his approach to a game never changed – tackle the man first and if you get the ball, happy days. I saw three reserves games that season and Whitney was sent off for scything down a pencil-thin, 16 year old winger in the South-West corner of pitch in every game. It isn’t a word of lie when I say it was exactly the same way in every game as well. Whitney always walked off with a wry smirk on his face although I imagine his manager wasn’t smiling – yet as the season progressed, and the situation off the pitch came to a head as the club lurched toward another financial crisis, the man who you need in a crisis got another break.

The Sheffield Stealers’ antics saw the club served with a winding up order in February 2001. Players hadn’t been paid for months and cut backs to training were made as those travelling from out of town could no longer afford petrol. Brightwell and Harper took advantage of the Football League laws allowing unpaid players to leave their clubs after a period of time and joined Darlington along with Clint Marcelle. Those that remained, bound by an uncertain future, started putting together a run of decent form after a relatively indifferent first half of the season, forcing their way up the table and making themselves play-off contenders.

Whitney was restored to the team in the wingback slot once again as players left the club, and he formed a solid partnership down the left with the fit-again Neil Mann. As with the relegation scrap he found himself in when he joined, he went about his business with minimal fuss and again his contribution went largely unnoticed by those in attendance, apart from the occasional winger who landed on the train lines at the rear of the Kempton. The weeks progressed, Little reverted to a 4-4-2 formation and new loan signing Andy Holt took Whitney’s left back role although his thrusting runs and Mann’s loss of form saw him returning to the team in midfield for the Humber derby against Scunthorpe at Fer Ark.

On 28 minutes, he justified his inclusion. Attacking the North Stand end, a right wing corner found Whitney at the far post, he was marked but he had the run on his marker as he powered a header onto the underside of the bar. Then the net rippled, three quarters of the ground erupted and Whitney was mobbed by his team mates. However, he didn’t move or celebrate, he just glared at the six-fingered types behind the goal with a stare so intense, it probably turned a few of the unwashed fools to stone. Finally, after what seemed like minutes rather than seconds, he turned away, ran back to the centre circle and set about marking highly rated Scunt winger Matt Sparrow out of the game. This he did with gusto, although that was not the end of his involvement. The game entered the last ten minutes with the score at 2-1 (Holt’s awesome freekick had given City a second half lead after future Tiger Andy Dawson had equalised for the Scunts on the stroke of half time) when Mark Clattenburg awarded Scunthorpe a dubious penalty. Shirt-pulling from Whitney was the claim, although it was harsh, incredibly harsh, and the bemused left back was booked for his protestations. Fortunately for City, stumpy goon and former City target Lee Hodges kindly blasted the penalty against the post in front of his own fans and City won. Ha.

City ploughed through the remaining fixtures, peaking with a 3-1 win over cheating Chesterfield and securing a play off place in the following game, drawing at Southend. Unfortunately after leading 1-0 on aggregate, City came unstuck down at Leyton Orient and lost 2-0 and so ended Whitney’s City career. Little was given a large chequebook to rebuild the side and it was clear early on that Whitney wasn’t going to be retained. At the age of 30 and with a long standing knee complaint, Whitney’s days as a pro were over and after another serious knee injury ended a brief spell with Kings Lynn, he decided to retire from playing altogether.

He wasn’t out of the game long, gaining his qualifications as a fully qualified physiotherapist and joining the backroom staff at Walsall in the 04/05 season. It was the game against City at the Bescot Stadium late into that season that provided a bit of closure to Whitney’s City career.

During the first half, Whitney was called to treat a Walsall player in front of the City fans and having done his duties he jogged along the side of the pitch, applauded and cheered on by the travelling contingent.

He didn’t know how to respond at first, although a broad grin quickly appeared and a thumbs-up was given. It probably made his day.

Whitney remains Walsall’s man with the magic freeze spray and occasionally plays in pre-season friendlies and reserve team games. He also rejected the chance to move to Wolves at the beginning of last season so it’s clear he’s highly regarded in his new profession and looks set to progress to a higher level than his playing days.

Brian Little once remarked in a post-match interview that Whitney would have been a top flight player if he’d played in the 70s and he’s probably right – he was a relic from football past, but he was a committed and entertaining relic that I loved to watch play.

James Richardson