HughesWembley

PODCAST: Bryan Hughes on Wembley 2008, ten years on

Wembley10A decade ago today, we made our first ever visit to Wembley and promptly won promotion via the play-offs to the Premier League for the first time in our history.

We’ve been back three times since for varying reasons, but nothing quite matches that first occasion. It was unique, immortal, historic and acted as a springboard for the many good things that have happened under the banner of Hull City AFC since.

Our final podcast of 2017/18 looks back at that momentous, sweltering day in 2008 and, to add some priceless insight into how the club and the team went through the occasion, former City midfielder Bryan Hughes, who played 39 league games and all of the play-off campaign, joins us.

It’s a long, unashamedly nostalgic and truly uplifting way to end what hasn’t been a great season under any circumstances. We hope you enjoy it, and thank you for listening to our podcasts throughout the campaign. Happy Wembley Day!

FEAT WembleyBarmby

Wembley Day, 10 years on

Wembley2

It’s ten years today since perhaps the greatest day in our entire history: the day that Hull City AFC, after 104 long years, were promoted to English football’s top flight for the first time.

So much has changed since then, and the decade that followed even produced some occasions to almost match it.

But not quite.

So, Tiger Nation, enjoy reminiscing with us about this most glorious of occasions:

  • Read the AN match report from that day
  • Peruse our photo special (warning: contains Paul Duffen)
  • This afternoon, we’ll be live-tweeting the day 10 years to the minute, so join us over on the Twitter
  • Tonight, we’ll have a special podcast with Bryan Hughes, one of the Heroes of 2008

Happy Wembley Day!

FEAT-TWTWT

Amber Nectar at 20

Nectar

To the surprise of everyone – not least ourselves – today marks the 20th anniversary of Amber Nectar being founded.

We started, as you did in the late 1990s, as a paper fanzine being hawked on the streets approaching Boothferry Park, before migrating – as you also did in the early 2000s – exclusively online.

To celebrate our 20th anniversary, we’re going to become even more insufferably self-referential than usual by casting our minds back to the best 20 things we’ve done or seen during that couple of decades. If nothing else, it serves as a handy recap of our generation’s life and times, and as grey hairs, families and mortgages increasingly occupy us, let’s seize the opportunity to celebrate a milestone. So here goes:

20. Sponsoring Mike Edwards’ kit (1999-2000)
MEdwardsAD
: One thing that a paper fanzine has over a website is that they tend to make money, rather than lose it. And at a quid a throw, the fanzine usually had a surplus at the end of each edition. Keen to put at least a little something back into City (remember, this was when the players’ and fans’ wages and were not wildly divergent), we decided to sponsor Mike Edwards’ kit. It was £50 for the season for the privilege, which guaranteed a place in the programme. The prominence of the mention depended upon what you sponsored – you could, for a mere £15, sponsor Gregor Rioch’s shinpads. Being all flash, we decided to blow some cash on a full kit. Only for those bastards* at City Independent to trump us by having a proper hoarding on the perimeter of the pitch.

* they’re not really bastards, in fact despite the mild but weird antipathy that once existed between our forum’s users and theirs, the CI editors are some of our best mates, we’ve regularly travelled away with them and – when CI was TOSS! we jointly formed a 5-a-side team in 1998 that, insanely, still exists

LM: It’s not true that we did it because we fancied his sister.

19. Standing in the pissing rain at Scarborough (1998)

McStad

AD: October in Scarborough. Glamorous it ain’t, but 1998 did at least see a real collectors’ item during the ill-fated reign of Mark Hateley: an away win. Neil Mann scored early, then Jamie Hoyland levelled, only for the City “player”/”manager” to score what would ultimately be the winner. We’ll remember it for something else though: drinking too much before the game and thinking it would be a great idea to tough out a North Yorkshire monsoon.

Because it rained, and rained, and rained some more. Early on, the uncovered overspill terrace to the right of the seated and covered away end behind the goal had almost emptied, as the stewards compassionately opted to let the seated area become over-full. But too young and too stupid, we thought that editors of a new fanzine should probably stick it out. I’ll never understand why. By half-time we were drenched; midway through the second mild hypothermia was setting in. “Still”, we optimistically opined, “at least this sort of caper is sure to get a mention in Steve Weatherill’s match report” – for then, as now, Mr Weatherill’s match reports and general air of scholarly magnificence inspired awe.

We never did get that mention, and upon traipsing forlornly back to the post-match pub, too sodden to care about the win, all we got was a derisive “what on earth were you soppy c*nts up to?” (see also: breakdancing on the away end during an Auto Windscreens tie at Chester, sharing a full bottle of whiskey en route to a League Cup tie at Watford, etc).

LM: What utter meffs we were (/are). I remember one bloke constantly berating us about how shit Hateley was and that he had to go (as if it was somehow our fault), but when Hateley scored he was the first person on the pitch to hug him.

18. Teletext entries (1999-2002)
Teletext
AD: Like more and more of the stuff we used to like, this is one for “those of a certain age”. It’s been a while since Teletext was a thing, but once upon a time ITV’s Teletext service in the Yorkshire TV area used to give over a page every Thursday to each of its regions clubs’ fans – Leeds, Bradford, City et al, usually provided by a fanzine.

And so, they asked us. And we happily obliged. But it was oh so tricky. Each line was a fixed 39 characters long, and they wanted three paragraphs of text. No exceptions (and no hyphenation either). So we bought some graph paper to help us plot things, and agonised over how best to use our allotted 11 lines, usually deployed in an 4-4-3 formation.

Still, at least we tried to talk about City. Younger viewers may not remember, but back when City were scuffing in the lower leagues, all of the other local clubs were desperate for our fans’ attention. York, Rotherham, all of them anxious to generate a rivalry with the bigger boys. We’ll never forget how this culminated with Rotherham, who became weirdly fixated with us between 1998-2001: to them, we were “Dull Pity” from “Toothfairy Park”. No wonder Teletext was shut down.

textcolourLM: The fewer words there are to work with, the harder I find it to write articles, and as much fun as writing for Teletext every week was, conveying the events and emotions of a game, or week, was quite painful at times.  After a while we started having fun with it, and began cultivating rivalries with other club’s fanzines. Andy mentioned the Rotherham fanzine ‘Moulin Rouge’ and their odd obsession with us, but my favourite ‘Teletext Rivalry’, which sounds weird, was with a Hartlepool fanzine.

We’d made some offhand remark about making them pay for crimes against simianity after beating them, and the week after they had a dig about us with their last paragraph. It set in motion this odd short attention span soap opera… they’d insult us one week, we’d retort the next, it was quite enjoyable seeing how hurt they appeared to be by a jibe that was tame enough to get by the Teletext editors as you ate your Coco Pops every Thursday morning. Then a quick game of Bamboozle.

17. Getting the Hull Daily Mail banned (2003)HDM

LM: We’d been asked to write a weekly column for the green Sports Mail starting in 1999, and we took it in turns, Andy one week, then me. It was tricky to write sometimes, given that the articles went in a paper that came out about an hour after a game, and you’re talking about events from the previous week. We were largely uncontroversial, although someone once had a go at me in Spiders one Friday night because in his words “I disagree with every single thing you write!”, which was both funny and odd as I was complimentary whenever City’s performances allowed me to be.

Later on the pieces got switched to the main Hull Daily Mail on a Monday, in the sports pull out, and we were asked for extra bits to go into a side column: ‘best player, chant of the match, pub team moment’ and others. I wasn’t fond of those bits, they felt like a gimmicky add-on to a column we took seriously, I always did them last and often I was scratching around for something to include if it had been a poor game with little atmosphere.

After starting the 2003/04 season like a house on fire, City had a real wobble that lasted a month, starting mid November. The collapse of 2001/02 still felt raw, most City fans thought promotion was a certainty that year after spending a shitload of money (relative to our fourth tier standing) and playing sexy sexball football, but our arse fell out when it mattered, and here we were two seasons later, now in a shiny new stadium and more desperate than ever to get out of the bottom division, and a comprehensive loss at Huddersfield, an insipid 0-0 against Yeovil and a loss at Bristol Rovers gave many the jitters. What didn’t help matters was Peter Taylor having a thin-skinned spat with fans over his preference for the average at best but mostly crap Marc Joseph over Justin Whittle, a hero from the Great Escape year and very much beloved on the terraces.

When we lost quite feebly against Mansfield, I thought Joseph was particularly culpable so I took aim in the Mail piece after that game, using the sidebar columns to really stick the boot in. After that City went on an ace run, seven league wins in a row, and midway through that winning run, City took the step of banning the Hull Daily Mail from interviewing players. The Hull Daily Mail didn’t tell me about this, the first I knew of it was reading the Friday preview and John Fieldhouse wrote that he couldn’t offer a view on our match prospects as he’d been denied access because of my piece. There was a picture of John Fieldhouse outside the West Stand getting a dressing down from Adam Pearson a few days later, which I found a little bit funny but it also made me feel quite bad. I didn’t have a great deal of respect for John Fieldhouse from a professional standpoint; I thought his stuff was cliché-riddled bobbins, but I didn’t ever wish being prevented from doing his job properly on him,  and I told him that.

I was summoned to see Adam Pearson and he gave me a real earful in his office, properly shouting at me, after which I said I stood by what I’d written in the main column and that I thought waiting till we’d won several games on the spin before calling me out on an article about a string of defeats was a bit cynical. The tone of the meeting changed at that point. He said the manager was upset at the article and he was going to back his manager, which was admirable. But then he said it wasn’t the column that Taylor took exception to, it was the sidebar stuff, in particular the ‘pub team moment’ box. Normally I’d deliberately choose an opposition player’s actions to mention there, but after the Mansfield game, full of righteous anger about Marc Joseph’s lame showing, I put him in it. Taylor, said Pearson, thought referencing professional players at an upwardly mobile club in terms of a ‘pub team moment’ was massively disrespectful, and frankly I was in agreement, I didn’t like the ‘fanziney’ sidebar bits which didn’t reflect how we did things at Amber Nectar and I resented doing them. We left the meeting with a good relationship restored, but the Hull Daily Mail decided Peter Swan should decide the pub team moments going forwards, and John Fieldhouse went back to calling players ‘big hearted’ and upcoming games ‘showdowns’.

AD: If we admit now that we always used to make up the comments and names for the “Fans’ Vox Pop”, the Hull Daily Mail will want their money back? Or that we sometimes used to sneak in deliberately wanky terms (“pastoral care”) in order to win bets with workmates at the time?

16. Meeting Tom Belton in Tropical Knights (1998)
TKnightsLM: 
With City fans hoping for a new, new owner little over a year after David Lloyd strode into town, dummy in mouth ready to be spat out, the Hull Daily Mail‘s Matt Barlow and I were invited to meet Tom Belton, Lincolnshire pig-farmer and one time Scunthorpe United chairman in, of all places, Tropical Knights on the Marina to talk Tigers and takeovers.

It was a surreal rendezvous, attempting to talk over Corona’s ‘ Rhythm of the Night’ on seemingly endless repeat and the braying of slags, meffs and meffoslags. Belton seemed happy as a pig in shit (if you’ll forgive the obvious metaphor) speaking of the city of Hull in glowing terms, “it’s got TWO casinos!” he beamed, like the type of TripAdvisor contributor Ehab would rather keep happy than City fans.

He spoke of Hull City in equally positive terms too, convinced the club was worth investing in, hinting that he headed a consortium keen to do just that. He spoke winsome words about how the population of Hull should be involved in part owning the club, noting that no one person owned more than 10% of the shares in Scunny during his tenure. This was all music to our ears, as was his assertion that he had no interest whatsoever in rugby and little time for the quasi-merger of City and Hull FC that David Lloyd was working towards.

An interesting night came to an end, and we left hopeful, but knowing optimism tended to bite you on the arse when you’re a City fan. As it happened he was part of a consortium that bought City, but the undoubtedly genuine Belton was soon cast aside by a malevolent group that would  become known as the ‘Sheffield Stealers’. Hull still has two casinos, and thankfully better hostelries than ‘Tropical Knights’.

AD: I didn’t go, because I was still under 18 and didn’t think they’d let me in. Bah.

LM: Pffft! You looked 36 in 1998 Andy.

15. Being bottled in Belgium (2014)Lokeren

MR: The preliminary round of the Europa League was memorable for numerous reasons, although the actual football match was, for the second tie in a row, not one of them. City lost the game 1-0 and, with a 2-1 win at home the following week, went out on away goals, leaving supporters gutted at missing out on a jolly-up around more continental beauty spots and war zones via the group stage, giving us something genuinely new to look forward to in between the usual turgid, predictably one-sided occasions the Premier League forced us into.

No, the whole social, and indeed sociological, experience of following City abroad remained the most stirring memory of the campaign. And the visit to Belgium to take on KSC Lokeren evokes plenty of vivid memories, one of which was more vivid – and less pleasant – than the others: namely, the moment City fans were rendered sitting ducks for local hooligans wielding bottles.

We wrote a contemporaneous travelogue about the 48 hours in Belgium and it remains the most reliable account of the whole episode, but the upshot was that after the final whistle, we were kettled outside the ground by mounted, armed East Fleming rozzers with the keys to a water cannon, despite there being zero trouble before and during the game. Eventually, after much delay and annoyance (and a few uneducated songs about Belgian involvement in global hostilities) we were led down a residential street towards the town centre, the same residential street that in early evening springtime sunshine had featured homeowners waving to us amiably as we strolled happily towards the ground. This time it was dark, surprisingly unlit, and very few locals were hanging out of their windows. A small, unremarkable looking pub called De Mierennest (on the “no go” list issued pre-match) was built within the terraced housing, (think Malt Shovel, but with cleaner brickwork), and as the police and the front swathe of City fans approached it, the first of many bottles came flying over the driveway gate from the covered beer garden.

Innocent fans of all ages were injured, some tried to fight back but were kept at bay by the police who nevertheless didn’t seem inclined to put an urgent stop to the sharpened missiles continuously aimed over the top, nor move the City fans forward quicker to alert danger, nor regard those hurt as in need of any urgent medical attention, despite some deep cuts to faces and heads. Young fans were seen using the flags of other supporters to try to mop up the blood, in the absence of any actual first aid paraphernalia.

Eventually the aggro was brought to an end and it was to the enormous credit of the City fans that they didn’t go apeshit as they continued their walk towards the town centre, complaining bitterly but not without reason to the few officers on duty who had a smattering of English. There was still much chuntering going on at Lokeren station as City fans boarded trains for Antwerp and Gent, where many were staying for the night prior to heading back to Zeebrugge the next day.

Two of us were asked to describe the ruckus and comment on it for on the radio the next morning – over a bucket of boiled eggs in our hotel breakfast room, Andy spoke to KCFM and I chatted to BBC Radio Humberside, both of us making it amply clear that there was zero culpability to be attached to the City fans, who were ambushed, isolated and furious. When we alighted from the ferry the next day (well, some of us did – Andy’s absence from that ferry is another story which the travelogue will tell) we were filmed by Look North, because hooliganism will always get more publicity than the sport it follows. If we’d lost 1-0 and then spent the rest of the evening playing charades with the locals, it would have been less of a story.

For all this, we bear no ill will to Lokeren, either the club or the town. The fans who attacked us were already on the banned list, so had no dealings with us prior to their attack and evidently the club had done as much as they could to deter their nefarious ways. Those we did meet in the daylight were very hospitable, the town itself looked after its visitors impeccably and there was a No To Hull Tigers banner unfurled in the home end during the first half.

14. Asking Brian Little if we could go home (2001)

BriLittleLM: I remember how giddy with excitement we were when we found out Brian Little had agreed to do an interview with us, and we figured he might give us 15 minutes of his time at most. So we went down to the training grounds at the University of Hull and watched the players train and then hung about in the lounge bit next to the changing rooms and I remember thinking as the scheduled time came and went that he had far better things to do than talk to us dickheads and if he forgot or sacked us off then fair enough, he owes us meffs nothing.

He did turn up though, and we packed our presumed 15 minutes with questions about how he planned to improve a fourth tier side with limited resources. He didn’t seem eager to get away so we widened the scope of questions. Time passed and we’re still asking and he’s still answering, and we’re now onto his playing career, being a Premier League manager and so on. This was great, who doesn’t enjoy a convivial chat with a man who won the League Cup three times as both player and manager?  But we slowly started to realise he’d be happy to talk for hours and hours, we’d already been there for several and by this point there was no-one else around and Andy was giving me looks that said “my tea will be on the table.” We got to the point where we had to meekly ask if it’s, err, ok if we go home now please Brian? Lovely man, great discussion which started to become an endurance trial. I wonder sometimes just how long it would have continued for if we’d continued asking questions.

13. The paper fanzine (1998-2002)
an1
LM: I was an avid collector of City fanzines, from On Cloud Seven, Hull Hell and Happiness, From Hull to Eternity, Last Train to Boothferry Halt, the fabulously surreal Fearful Symmetry to Tiger Rag. With David Lloyd in charge of Hull City and merging the business side of the club with Hull Sharks (nee Hull FC), there was lots to talk about but Tiger Rag seemed to be gone for good. I was stood on the South Stand terrace talking to a few fans I knew and said “there really needs to be a new City fanzine”.

I wasn’t meaning that I’d write one, but a voice behind me said “I’ll help you”, and that voice belonged to Andy Dalton. I didn’t know him, but I did recognise him from waiting outside Y.E.B. for Simon Gray buses to away games. Within a few weeks we were sat in his house working on a paper fanzine and a rudimentary website hosted by Angelfire, while his mother provided an ongoing supply of refreshments. On February 21st 1998, the first issue of Amber Nectar went on sale before the Scunthorpe United game, with City third bottom in Division Three and fans driven to ‘Thank God for Donny Rovers’. It was an amateurish first effort in truth, but it was an arch to build upon.

AD: In some ways it’s a shame the internet so rapidly supplanted the paper fanzine, which was ideal for both pre-smartphone half-time reading and then a few days of bogside perusal. We admire CI‘s doggedness in sticking it out for so long, loved Three O’Clock at Kempton‘s brief and vivid time and the nostalgic part of us welcomes FanaticHull‘s recent resurrection of the tradition.

There was definitely something to be said for it. Working out how many pages you’d need (always divisible by 4, of course). Creating a page order. Chasing up promised contributions. Meticulously arranging pages on screen – we used Coral Draw, which was pretty ancient technology even around the turn of the century. Then we’d save it all, Les would obsessively check and re-check it all, take it to the printers, they’d create lithographic films and a few days later, thousands of sheets of paper would arrive. Then it was on with the really back-breaking task: folding and stapling. It’d generally take at least a day of solid effort from a team of several. I don’t miss that bit. But seeing your creation in a physical rather than digital format was always very satisfying.

12. Being threatened by the Sheffield Stealers (2000)

Hinch

LM: We’ve gotten used to breaking bread with chairmen over the years. Adam Pearson regularly sought our views at Fans Liaison Meetings and we met Assem Allam at the abortive attempt to respectfully make the case for not vandalising the club name (more on that later), but frankly our first encounter with club hierarchy was the most memorable. It wasn’t planned either, we were just doing what we did after every Boothferry Park home game: drinking in Three Tuns.

On this occasion, a load of suits swarmed into the place, oh look there’s marketing type Andy Daykin, oh and now there’s Nick Buchanan, and oh my! Vice-Chairman and convicted company law criminal Stephen Hinchliffe is now propping up the bar, flanked by a pale looking chap wearing a worried look.  Daykin introduced ‘Hinch’ to us as we queued for a Riding Bitter (Les) and a Fosters (Andy), at which point the man who definitely wasn’t involved in the day to day running of the club said “If you say anything negative about us I’ll have your legs broken”. There was an amazed, amused silence before the wan-faced chap, clearly a legal professional, added “That definitely wasn’t a threat.”

Righto. “Err, barkeep, we’ll have some pork scratchings too.”

AD: Nick Buchanan’s dead now. So I guess we’re in the clear. But there was a real stench of unpleasantness about those two – and we’ll never understand why some City fans who really ought to have known better fell for their palpable bullshit.

11. China (2009)
ChinaAD:
Have City ever done anything as utterly preposterous as spending a week in the People’s Republic of China? Perhaps not. Rather than attempt to distil that chaotic week into a few paragraphs, the diary of those days is probably the best starting point. Enjoy.

LM: Bah, my biggest regret in life is not going to China to see City. It just edges going out with that bog-eyed wretch who made me miss seeing Daniel Cousin’s goal at the Emirates live by being an attention seeking divomeff.

MR: I couldn’t afford it. But at least Andy hasn’t spent the subsequent years randomly reminding Les and I that he went to China and we didn’t, with any level of smugness or superiority. Not the sort of thing he would do, at all. He is also convinced that the tournament over there was official enough for him to add the host stadia over there to his ‘ground tick’ list, which is preposterous.

10. Attending that bonkers meeting with Assem Allam (2013)
AllamMeetingLM:
Have you ever walked out of a building and thought “What the hell was all that about?” A Christopher Nolan film can do that to you, a few Hull 2017 events evoked that too, but those things are positively abounding in accessibility compared to an audience with Assem Allam.

He talked about prostate cancer for nearly an hour, to the bemusement of the group waiting for a point relevant to the meeting to be made, then made libellous and implausible remarks about several local Councillors (this was the reason minutes weren’t released, as the collective of fans were concerned about embarrassing the club, we needn’t have been so conscientious), before praising Coventry City for monetising the Ricoh Arena with a Jaguar showroom, oblivious to the fact Coventry were playing in Northampton even after this was explicitly stated.

Looking back now though, what’s notable isn’t the surreal, non-sequitur conversations that made sense to only one person in the room, it’s what a spectacular waste of time the whole exercise was. Reading notes about recent meetings between fans and the Allams generates a sense of déjà-vu, or history repeating itself, as they clearly have no intention of genuinely working with supporters, they just want the illusion of fan consultation, just as they cultivate the illusion of philanthropy which looks more like tax avoidance and buying goodwill in the absence of people who’ll speak highly of them (unless they gain from it monetarily), the more you scrutinise things.

AD: “Yes, I will definitely consult the fans before trying to change the name”. He gave that assurance, three times, in a room full of people (and another Hull City official). Then tried changing it a few days later. Man. Of. His. Word.

9. First steps online (1998)AN2000

AD: As AN formed in 1998, so the internet was becoming increasingly more mainstream, with fully 9% of UK households having access to the newfangled “World Wide Web”. And it was an opportunity to make AN a multi-platform operation. So we borrowed access from that sliver of the populace with connection, or used my college access, and scoured “the web” for free website providers. Everyone seemed to favour Geocities, but a competitor named Angelfire seemed to offer a better service and less intrusive advertising – so off we went.

It’s easy to scoff, but this was new and interesting stuff, and the online City community was burgeoning. Andy Medcalf’s Tiger-Chat was in its pomp, and new City-themed offerings were popping up on a regular basis, some destined for greater longevity than others. Our stay with Angelfire was brief – by March 2000 we were confident enough to buy our own domain and host our own website – but it got us going. Incredibly, it’s still there, with its last ever page suggesting just how long ago it all was.

And, because you’re no doubt all itching to either remember or discover afresh what we looked like online in 2000, that’s also possible. As if we ever found enough time to list the juniors’ fixtures…

MR: I joined the site as a forum user in about 2001 and one of the first things I remember reading was a debate about the shape of Sophie Ellis Bextor’s face.

LM: Shaped like a BSB Squarial, obvs.

8. The FA Cup Final (2014)
CupFinalMR:
The FA Cup final is a bit like a multiple orgasm – something you read about it in magazines and only other people experience. The prospects of City reaching one (an FA Cup final, that is), even after promotion to the Premier League in 2008 and again in 2013, seemed absurd. We’d managed one semi-final, back in 1930, and even quarter finals were usually beyond our reach, though in 2009 we had a decent run that ended with Arsenal scoring a blatantly offside goal to knock us out.

Football clubs also were not interested in winning the FA Cup, really. If they did so, it was done by accident, because their second string teams kept turning up and winning. In 2014, Steve Bruce was evidently interested little in the FA Cup, as proved by his selection of the ultimate duo of castaways in Aaron Mclean and Nick Proschwitz to play up front in the inconvenient third round tie at Middlesbrough. Each scored in a 2-0 win and were sold afterwards. Matt Fryatt, another player unable to make a Premier League impact, scored both in a fourth round 2-0 win at Southend. Yet another backup striker, Yannick Sagbo, scored a late equaliser at Brighton in the fifth round, prior to City winning the replay. Fryatt got another during a 3-0 win in the sixth at home to Sunderland and then our second ever visit to Wembley saw us chuck all our dreams away in a rank first half against League One side Sheffield United, before turning the 2-1 deficit into a 5-3 win, with Fryatt and Sagbo among the scorers.

And so, we were in the final.

Europe would welcome us in the summer, which was a separate headfuck we’d have to deal with later.

First, Arsenal.

Obviously, nobody gave us a chance. We didn’t give ourselves a chance. There was a defensive crisis going into the match, with Paul McShane and James Chester ruled out, while Robbie Brady was also injured and Bruce couldn’t trust anyone except Fryatt to run around selflessly up front while Arsenal inevitably dominated possession. But then we didn’t know that Chester had miraculously passed a fitness test, McShane had declared himself fit enough for the bench, and Bruce was going to deploy the hitherto criminally underused Stephen Quinn as a roaming forward behind Fryatt. Arsenal, blatantly thinking this was a cakewalk, didn’t know where they were.

My experience of the day was a bit rushed. I worked all morning and hopped on a 1.25pm train, which was supposed to get me to London for 4pm, allowing an hour for the tube journey and light jog up Wembley Way. The train was delayed arriving, the tube kept doing those unexplained stops in the middle of nowhere, and I didn’t just jog, I ran like my life depended on it. I walked along my row and found my seat next to Andy and the City Independent lads just as the players were waiting for the referee’s whistle to start the game. I missed Abide With Me, which I regret still, but I didn’t miss the kick off, mercifully.

The celebrations when Chester, then Curtis Davies, put us 2-0 ahead early on were among the most intense acts of mayhem I’ve ever seen grown, mature humans put themselves through. I was in the middle of them. We all were. We didn’t think we could win. And, in truth, we probably still didn’t. It was back to 2-1 at half time, and we all knew what would happen in the second half.

The Arsenal comeback, which included 30 minutes of extra time, was like watching a beloved pet die  after receiving the shot of cyanide. It was horrendous, and slow, and we suffered. There was no way I was going to stick around and watch Arsenal lift the trophy, so I walked through to the concourse and waited. I wasn’t a sore loser, but I was upset and I hated Arsenal, so the combination was quite a pungent one.

I cannot possibly foresee City getting to an FA Cup final again. But that word ‘again’ is so important. It wasn’t so long ago that we failed to get past the third round for 20 whole years. Now we had at least experienced the grandest of football’s occasions. Nobody can take it away. My match report for AN was included in the Guardian‘s Pick of the Week and I might say that I’m still very proud of it, written as it was the next morning via a mixture of coffee, Resolve and tears.

7. FLC meetings with Adam Pearson (2001-2007)
FLC

AD: Keen to do things differently, and better, upon assuming control Adam Pearson created a new Fans’ Liaison Committee. A mix of fans’ reps from the fanzines, websites and individuals representing the different stands, it met roughly every two weeks, with Pearson always in attendance.

And yes, they got bogged down in minutiae every so often, with easy-to-caricature stuff about pie flavours, hot water in the toilets and so on. But they did also represent a genuine opportunity to place fans’ concerns to an owner who cared, and where possible, acted.

He was also a great figurehead. No matter how City were doing, Les and I would leave meetings convinced that a brighter tomorrow was inevitable and imminent – and he delivered that too.

Post-Pearson, the meetings faded when Duffen took them over, and clearly couldn’t be arsed. Nick Thompson half resurrected them with a Fans’ Liaison Advisory Group (FLAG – geddit?), but that didn’t last. James Mooney vainly acted as the Allams’ human shield for a bit (though improved the quality of the catering), while the present rabble want nothing to do with us. It’s mutual, however.

LM: I loved FLC meetings, though at times it felt like we were the only ones who took it seriously.  In terms of fan representation that is, we’d canvas questions and opinions via the Amber Nectar forums and dutifully take these to the monthly meetings, doing our damnedest to be the terrace equivalent of parliamentarians representing constituents. The meetings always started with Andy and I, we’d raise six or seven points and then it all went quiet. Hardly anyone else had anything to say and sometimes you wondered why some of them bothered, and then you realised that they just felt special being around the chairman and participating fully didn’t come into it. There was that one bloke that made just one suggestion of note all the time he attended, and that was to answer Adam Pearson’s request for suggestions about improving half-time entertainment by saying “I’ll bring my dogs if you like!” Err.

Meanwhile, and I’m not really one for trumpet blowing, we’d helped Amber Nectar readers effectively shape how many club processes would work when City moved to the KC(om) Stadium: ticketing arrangements (Away Direct was Andy’s idea), stadium details (I insisted on World Cup style box nets but was overruled on amber and black striped nets by a superstitious Michael Branch *shakes fist*) and even kit design, which being a kit geek was really my bag (Adam Pearson changed the 2005/06 home shirt at my behest because I was adamant it had too much white on it). Better than what we suggested, many AN Forum member suggestions were implemented too, This was real fan engagement, so no wonder we scoff at the current sham that passes as consultation. What really irritated me was meffs on forums such as Hull City Mad questioning why we got invited, well if you ever read our copious notes from each meeting you’d know, and why did you never question anyone else, such as that bloke who only seemed to go to get a free packet of crisps? Or Bill Holt who used to love to say ‘Get it done!’ to Adam Pearson in order to feel important, or who when asked who City should play in pre-season responded thus: “Any Prem. Mega draw.”

Bah.

6. Wembley (2008)
Wembley

MR: The 2007/08 season became all about firsts. We paid £1m for a player for the first time, we got to Wembley for the first time and ultimately, faintly ludicrously, we were promoted to the top tier for the first time. Really, nobody could see this coming, ever. It was my 20th year supporting City and even though the first four of those, plus the last three, had been in the second division of the game, the very idea of a team as lacking in history as City actually fighting its way into the Premier League, or its less wanky predecessor, was as crazy as any you could think of.

But in 2007/08, the chutzpah of Paul Duffen, the new man in the boardroom, and the brazen confidence and not inconsiderable coaching ability of Phil Brown got us there. It wasn’t easy, sometimes it wasn’t convincing, and for a long time it didn’t even look on the cards. In January 2008, City began a run that prompted a sharp rise up the table, getting us into the play-off positions by the spring and greedily challenging not just for automatic promotion, but the Championship title. Alas, we didn’t quite manage that but we were already in unprecedented territory for the club in finishing third and immediately being installed as favourites for the play-offs.

City were as cool as cucumbers in the midday sun at Watford in going 2-0 ahead in the semi-final first leg, then finished the job with a 4-1 pummeling of our fading opponents in arguably the greatest night occasion the Circle has seen to this day. A first ever trip to Wembley, then. Bristol City were to be our opponents (the only team in the play-offs we’d not beaten during the regular season) on Saturday 24th May. My birthday. And that of Les, too.

Because of the restrictions and logistical stuff that comes with a trip to Wembley at such short notice, we all made our way down to London at different points of the weekend, but the AN regulars made a rendezvous to meet up for a magnificent pre-Wembley beano at a gothic pub called The World’s End, in Camden Town. Though we all drank plentifully and had a fine night out, you could even sense then a bit of tension. We were going into so many unknowns, all at once. The fixture would make history by itself; victory would make further history. We almost dared not contemplate it, not tempt fate. It was notable just how little we talked about the game as we shelled out London ale prices until closing, prior to catching the tube back to our respective accommodation in different parts of the capital.

My birthday morning was spent in the company of a chum at talkSPORT, who had offered me a guided tour of the station. This helped take my mind off it, although the hacks in the newsroom who noticed my amber replica shirt were quick to remind me once again of the momentous occasion that awaited. I had only ever been to Wembley twice before and on neither occasion was I emotionally involved in the fixture. Today I couldn’t have been more emotional if I’d tried. I felt like breaking down a few times. I think a lot of City fans who had experienced the succession of disasters and catastrophes that befell the club over the years were feeling the same – we could touch tangible success, national respect, international fame. All it needed was 90 good minutes.

In the afternoon, I met up with everyone else at our allocated Wembley pub. We sang a lot of retro City songs and I drank a lot of Guinness, my tipple of choice at the time, but it was so bloody hot that none of it got far enough to lighten my head or fill my bladder, because the perspiration was so immense. I was a fair few quid lighter but absolutely no drunker by the time Andy and I wandered down Wembley Way, trying to calm ourselves before it got seriously crazy.

The overpriced fish and chips, the massive concourses, the enormous seats, the pre-match pageantry. We saw it all. Our beloved club crest was emblazoned on a huge kite from some carrying contraption or other on the pitch, next to that of our opponents. The referee blew his whistle.

And so, the game.

Can’t remember a bloody thing.

Well, I remember Deano’s goal. It’s a beautiful thing to this day. It was at the opposite end to us, but I was central enough to see the mild swerve to the shot after the ball left his instep following one of those perfect connections that footballers bemoan usually happen during five a sides in training, rather than life-changing occasions at the national stadium.

I remember nothing else until Boaz Myhill caught that ball at the end and the unexpurgated cheer of total relief enveloped the stadium. The rest of the day was bedlam. The final whistle, the trophy presentation, the laps of honour. Then there was something I’ll always treasure – the moment when City fans of my acquaintance, whom I’m proud to call friends and whom I’d not seen all day because they holed up in a different pub and a different bit of Wembley, spot me and dash over for manly celebration. We’d grown up knowing little more than failure, disappointment and mistrust in our club and now we were, for once, the hip kids, new on the Premier League block.

By the time I got back to Kings Cross, I was spent. I sat down on the platform, drained of all emotion, feeling, articulacy. Things perked up on the train and I remember getting a photo text from JR showing Ian Ashbee raising the trophy. You couldn’t relax, no matter how tired you were. You didn’t want to. You wanted to talk about the game, the achievement, the history, with anyone you saw on the train, whether they were City fans or not.

I got home at 11.30pm, cracked open a final beer and watched the whole thing on telly again. And although we’ve experienced different highs and greater successes in the decade since, this victory remains the sweetest and most beautiful, because it allowed us to feel something we’d never felt before, and never thought we would. The 07/08 team and coaching staff will be forever unique, and they have my gratitude for life.

LM: I blubbed like a girl. I don’t even do that at family funerals.

5. Helping to found City Till We Die (2013-14)

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AD: What, if anything, can you remember about City’s 1-0 victory over Huddersfield in the League Cup on Tuesday 24th September 2013? If it’s anything at all, well done. But it could be one of the more interesting dates in our recent history – because before this eminently forgettable affair, an angry group of people convened in the Halfway House pub on Spring Bank West to grouch about Hull City AFC’s bizarre sudden decision to stop calling themselves that. Except that something actually became of it. Plans were hatched. A new group suddenly coalesced, with the means and will to try to protect the club’s heritage. That group was City Till We Die, and it announced itself to the world two days later.

What happened next was quite crazy. From nowhere, a team of committed and capable individuals (and us) began an extremely professional campaign that was quickly running rings around Assem Allam and his unimpressive lackeys at the club. A huge petition was organised, No To Hull Tigers badges were produced, leaflets were distributed outside the stadium, a website with accompanying social media emerged, and as support grew a membership scheme was even launched.

There were wristbands, scarves – well, it’s all stuff fairly recent so much of it can be recalled easily. The CTWD group, including both fans’ groups and enthusiastic individual volunteers, created an internail mailing list for discussing ideas and tactics that eventually generated over 20,000 e-mails. It was close to a full-time job for some, and such a pressurised campaign – we were fighting for our club’s identity – inevitably didn’t always run smoothly. There were occasional missteps and internal quarrels. But Allam panicked and got almost everything wrong, evidenced by his weird fans’ meeting in late 2013, and his subsequent slandering of City fans as “hooligans” who can “die when they want”.

We thought we were winning. Eventually CTWD, with AN representation, was invited to Wembley in February 2014 to put the fans’ case. The OSC was invited separately, though whether they represented the fans or the club is open for debate.

It was thrilling, exhausting, and absolutely well worth every single moment, and on 9th April 2014, when the FA announced we’d won and Assem Allam had deservedly and humiliatingly lost, we partied long and hard. And though it’s easy to knock City fans for letting the Allam family get away with too much lately, it’s always worth remember that collectively we all took a stand against the name change, and made football history.

4. Winning the FSF’s podcast of the year (2017)
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MR: We first did a podcast in the summer of 2013, in readiness for our second crack at the Premier League. It was shambolic for quite a while, utilising a cheap microphone covered by an Absolute Radio muffler perched on a suit hanger, itself standing on a small round table, to give us the height we needed to talk semi-intelligible guff about Vito Mannone’s likeness to Serbian warlords while making up brand new swear words and gabbing on about the sponsor’s positioning on the away shirt of 1995/96, all for far too long for people’s attention spans to manage. But eventually it became more sophisticated, with the addition of live streaming that allowed the audience to enjoy the splendour of the matchworn kit collection attained by Les, a desk containing a few well-chosen props, and a few distinguished guests among the local media – Dave Burns, Simon Clark, Phil Buckingham – and former playing staff, including Mark Greaves, Lawrie Dudfield and Adam Lowthorpe, as well as semi-regular AN alumni who always had plenty to say.

But we still genuinely don’t know how this fun but somewhat niche and tinpot operation snowballed into us walking onstage in the hospitality area of the Tower of London in December 2017 to pick up the Football Supporters Federation’s Podcast of the Year. Prior to the ceremony, we’d spent the car journey and the meal at our plush table (at the back of the room, natch) simply wondering, repetitively and loudly, what the hell we were doing there. When our category came up, we imagined how much more slick and professional and well-researched and all-inclusive the other nominees were, especially as most were following Premier League clubs and seemed to have official backing.

Then we were announced as the winners and ventured on to the stage like the proverbial guppy fish at feeding time, our only aim to not trip on the steep steps leading up there. Afterwards in the bar, strangers grasped whichever one of us was clutching the elegant trophy to talk about how amazing our podcast was and how appalling City’s owners were. We ended the evening replete with a solidified kinship with fans of Brentford, Nottingham Forest, Doncaster and even Leeds, who were all up for the fanzine award. Of our fellow nominees, the Watford guys were most affable and sporting and chatted to us for ages afterwards, mainly about Marco Silva, the 2008 play-offs and Richard Jobson. The Arsenal guys told us we deserved to win the FA Cup final. The Manchester City guys congratulated us on Twitter. The Liverpool guys invited one of our number on to their podcast.

Notably, the footage of our onstage chat with host James Richardson and the interview we did for the FSF in front of their cameras afterwards has never been released, unlike all other acceptance interviews and reactions on the night. Let’s face it, only we had previously been responsible for all our unexpurgated opinions on some City-related subjects that can cause anger, dismay and bitterness (though we were disappointed that the world couldn’t enjoy a final description from Les of Leonid Slutsky, sacked 24 hours earlier, as “a man who looks like he’s about to vomit a basketball”). But the state of our club since promotion in 2013 is solely responsible for the strong opinions expressed and, to that end, a podcast can only be as good as the topics it has to discuss. So thanks Ehab, sort of.

LM: I consider this a total vindication of my sweariness. Oh and, having met the Queen a month before, meeting James Richardson of Football Italia fame was far better. Is saying that treasonous?

3. Selling the first copy of Amber Nectar (1998)Ark

AD: “New City fanzine, Amber Nectar, only 80p!” So we began nervously exclaiming on North Road from about 2pm on Saturday 21st February 1998. We’d made about 500 copies of the fanzine at our own expense, and were now frantically seeing if anyone would buy it. God, it was nerve-wracking.

Eventually, a few people did. Then a few more. And as kick-off neared and the queues grew outside the Ark, so did the people shovelling a pound at us, wondering what the hell we were arsing around with 20p change for (we never sold it for 80p again). When we convened on Bunkers to swap stories about how it’d gone, we were flushed with delight that it’d gone so well. Costs had been covered, and more. Best of all, as we digested a half that’d seen City take the lead against Scunthorpe, only for Andy Dawson to peg us back, people could be seen reading our humble offering.

LM: Ugh, I hated this part of fanzine production. It made staying up till 3am on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, then spending Friday evening stapling the frigging things together feel joyous.

2. Mariánske Square, Žilina (2014)

City fans on the square (31-7-2014)MR: City in Europe! Honestly, if it wasn’t actually happening you’d have laughed. Yet here we were, boarding a plane at Luton Airport at 7am at the end of July 2014 to fly to Košice, prior to catching a train to Žilina, with the ultimate reward of watching Hull City AFC, a Fourth Division club a decade before, playing in proper continental competition, earned for reaching the previous season’s FA Cup final.

The team we were playing in the Europa League third qualifying round were Slovak top tier side FK AS Trenčín (now just AS Trenčín), but their ground wasn’t up to snuff for the visit of a club representing The Greatest League In The World, apparently, so the tie was shifted to nearby Žilina and it was into there that the trains stopped to allow hundreds of City fans to disembark after the sort of picturesque journey not normally seen when heading for away games at Stoke or Blackburn.

But the memory so many City fans will treasure the most of the 48 hour beano has nothing to do with football – the game was a tedious goalless draw and we missed a penalty – but everything to do with the hospitality. Žilina’s transformation in the 25 years or so since communism fell had clearly been done with love and appreciation for itself, and the very long spells in hot sunshine and evening breezes while enjoying the bars of Mariánske Square were utterly delightful, to the extent that you felt genuinely bereft when it was all over and we were back to avoiding dog turds on Spring Bank West. The beer was cold and refreshing (and worked out at 58p a pint), the waiting staff utterly tireless on our behalf, and the place itself completely beautiful to look at. And we were there because City were in Europe, forchrissakes.

Even with the years that have passed, it sometimes feels like it didn’t actually happen. The fact that we so quickly exited Europe at the next stage (after beating our Slovak opponents 2-1 in the return leg, we went out on away goals to Belgian side Lokeren in the preliminary round, see entry 15 above) and are unlikely to get back there anytime soon means we need to hold on unyieldingly and eternally to the memory of Žilina and its glorious, vivid, scenic centrepiece.

LM: Teaching locals City chants at 4.30am while drinking throat-scorching slivovica (plum brandy) was truly amazing. Matt’s shorts were not.

1. Tennis balls at Bolton (1998)
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LM: The more things change, the more they stay the same eh? As now, there was protest in the air in September 1998: City fans were less than impressed with owner David Lloyd (he of gym club and tennis tossery fame) and his half baked plan to merge the financial sides of the Tigers and egg-chasers Hull Sharks (as Hull FC were then known). When he announced that he’d decided to relocate City to the dilapidated Boulevard ground so he could sell Boothferry Park as part of his not quite concrete plans to build a new stadium (ooh, another similarity to current events) it was the straw that broke the Tiger Nation’s back.

After a game of 5-a-side, the ‘Amber Tossers’ (a combined TOSS and Amber Nectar fanzines team was named) plotted to draw attention to the ghastly Lloyd’s schemes and encourage him to put the club for sale. The forthcoming League Cup tie at Premier League Bolton seemed the perfect time, and it was agreed that in order to truly grab the attention of the media, and in turn the sporting public, we needed to delay or disrupt the game somehow.

A pitch invasion was deemed unacceptable, as the publicity would be wholly negative, so what to do? “What about throwing tennis balls on the pitch?” I asked, and quickly the group saw the potential: it was non-violent, highly visible and amusingly ironic as former tennis pro Lloyd was the current Davis Cup captain.

A few hundred tennis balls were purchased and randomly distributed to willing supporters on the coaches bound for the Reebok Stadium. Just before kick off, they were hurled onto the turf, a few at first, then en masse creating a vivid shower of luminous orbs to the bemusement of the players, officials and watching media. Radio Humberside’s Gwilym Lloyd, despite having been tipped off about the protest, curiously stated on air that it was apples being thrown at Steve Wilson, musing that maybe it was a twist on the old ‘oranges for Ian McKechnie’ ritual of yore. Nonetheless the media lapped it up, and each subsequent report in the national press increased the estimate of tennis balls used, a few hundred had become ‘thousands’. The protest worked better than anyone could have anticipated, and a humiliated Lloyd soon announced he was putting the club up for sale. Game, set and match to City fans.

AD: Who said that protest doesn’t work? People who are wrong, that’s who. This was our finest hour, and I’ll remember seeing the first luminous yellow orb arcing from the upper tier just before kick-off –  well worth having a police dog set on me by local rozzers angry at this all being done under their nose…

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Finally, if you’ve made it through all of this, thank you. Sincerely, thank you – to anyone who’s contributed to us over the years, read our articles in print or online, offered feedback (good or bad), sent us criticism, death threats (yep, we’ve had a couple), chucked money into our occasional appeals so we can pay our hosting fees and remain ad-free, sold the fanzine in exchange for a pint in Three Tuns, let us appropriate match reports, given us juicy gossip, offered us lifts to away games, tolerated our drunken excesses all over Europe, voted for us to win anything, listened to or appeared on the podcast, done techy stuff (huge pops to Steve Broadbent here), to our WAGs for putting up with this madness, to the Hull City Association Football Club themselves for being both total bastards and utterly amazing while being a permanent and ultimately compelling part of our lives, and basically anyone who’s made the past twenty years possible and an absolutely brilliant bloody time…thank you.

PS. Allam Out.

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FAMOUS FIVE: January window signings

Although the January transfer window is 15 years old this month, that’s only in the Premier League. Mere mortals who existed outside the elite in 2003 managed to struggle on for another three years before the restrictions on when to buy and sell players was extended to further down the football pyramid, and as such, City have only been involved in the mad scramble at the beginning of each calendar year since 2006. Most of the players we’ve signed in January during this period have been loanees, or were already at the club as loanees prior to a permanent move. But of those that walked through the door fresh as a daisy in January, not yet burdened by the cynicism and underachievement of Hull City AFC, we’ve plucked out five…

1: Jon Parkin
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Despite everything that has gone down at the Circle in the last dozen years in terms of big occasions, promotions, finals, continental delights, subsequent falls from grace and, of course, major signings, the most famous January acquisition we’ve ever made, certainly among longer serving City fans, is still probably the rotund, risible Macclesfield striker on whom Peter Taylor splurged £150,000 in January 2006.

There was little doubt at the time that City, a fledgling side in the second tier after nearly 15 years away, were struggling for a regular goalscoring outlet, although wide on the left Stuart Elliott, against more brutal defences than he’d been used to, was doing what he could. Billy Paynter had arrived on loan and was bumbling along, unaware of his new surroundings (though Taylor made permanent his arrival in January too) while Ben Burgess was still not match fit after a long term injury and Danny Allsopp had been allowed to go home to Australia.

Taylor picked up the nippy Darryl Duffy when the window opened, a free scorer in his native Scotland, but he was an unknown here and reaction was minimal. Within hours, Parkin had also come through the door and the floodgates opened as aghast City fans remembered how ineffective, cumbersome and generally useless he had been when facing us in the colours of both York and Macclesfield.

Yet immediately, Parkin was magnificent.

For such an unathletic figure, he had a marvellous touch, with a sublime debut goal at home to Crystal Palace and a stunning Cruyff turn and finish at Stoke before January was over quickly showing up the doubters. He not only kept scoring but he was also performing – his best team display was at Leicester, even though he didn’t score and City lost 3-2 – right through until a memorable winner against Leeds in April 2006 that gave us our first win over the stained enemy in almost 20 years. As City clambered clear of the drop, Parkin ended the campaign out of the spotlight, his work done.

The tide turned in the close season when he reported for training quite substantially overweight, with City unable to find a shirt to fit him properly, and he was never properly convincing again either in aptitude or attitude, despite two goals against Sheffield Wednesday that earned City a (long overdue) first home win of the season in 2006/07 and a first ever win on live television.

His last act of consequence at City was a penalty at Middlesbrough in a memorable FA Cup third round replay in January 2007, by which time Phil Brown had taken over from the overawed Phil Parkinson as manager and allowed the unprofessional slob that Parkin had become to join divisional rivals Stoke on loan. Naturally, Parkin was a success there for a short time, before being recalled at the end of the season in an injury crisis and having to play against Stoke on their patch, something which angered him and, by dint of his savagely cavalier attitude on the pitch, angered City fans even more. Brown sold him to Stoke with barely a look back that summer.

He bummed around an array of lower league clubs after Stoke saw through him even quicker than we did, and left league football in the summer at the age of 35 to rejoin York, these days in the National League North. In his career he has been sent out on loan eight times and been handed five free transfers, a sure sign that his attitude was always an issue where his talent was not. Despite only 18 months at the club, Parkin’s was one of the most incident-packed, infamous careers at City of the modern era.

2: Nikica Jelavić and Shane Long

LongovicThey have to come as a pair, because in January 2014 we had the usual goalscoring problems that top flight football brings to 75 per cent of the clubs in it, especially newbies like City. Yannick Sagbo wasn’t good enough and Sone Aluko was rarely interested enough, while Matty Fryatt found that the ferocious pace of Premier League football wasn’t an ideal setting to make one’s return from a long-term injury. The likes of Nick Proschwitz and Aaron Mclean had long been ruled out of providing any top tier usefulness. Serious money on serious talent needed to be invested.

Steve Bruce cleverly went to Jelavić, out of favour at Everton but absolutely proven at the very highest level, as he knew the Croatian would be desperate for first-team football in order to make his country’s squad for the World Cup that summer. Two days after clinching his signature for £6.5m, the manager then dished out £7m to West Bromwich Albion in order to put sheer pace alongside Jelavić’s predatory instincts in the shape of Irish striker Shane Long.

The duo caused enough problems over the second half of the season to up City’s game, with four goals each a reasonably healthy return for a side that didn’t create a vast number of goalscoring opportunities per match. Yet their exploits were largely forgotten thanks to an FA Cup run for which both were ineligible, allowing Mclean and Proschwitz (round three), Fryatt (round four, quarter final, semi final) and Sagbo (round five, semi final) to score the goals that took City all the way to the final.

Long stayed until just after City’s debut in Europe, playing in both legs against AS Trenčin before joining Southampton for an inexplicable £12m before the Premier League season began. His reputation for diving to win penalties had begun to grate with City fans, even though he was quite often successful in doing so. Meanwhile, Jelavić went to the World Cup, adding his name to the very short list of City players to take part in the tournament, but once it was over his attitude to the club that hugely aided his prospects visibly deteriorated, despite eight goals in the relegation season that followed. After four games and one goal in the Championship, he joined West Ham for £2.8m, starting just one Premier League game for them, prior to disappearing six months later to take the money in China.

3: Jimmy Bullard
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Signed in a blaze of publicity in January 2009, it was undeniably a seriously exciting deal. But the lack of outrage from Fulham fans suggested darker stuff surrounded the chirpy, scampering and ludicrously talented midfielder, mainly to do with the condition of his knees. Whatever actually happened at his medical is anyone’s guess, but after coming on as sub at West Ham for his debut, he took something of a hospital pass from future best mate Ian Ashbee and felt some studs grind down his knee, rendering him injured for an impossibly long time while on a ludicrously high wage for a criminally long time paid by a club that didn’t, it turn out, have any actual money.

How quickly things can change.

After a year of rumour and innuendo about his off-field antics while injured, Bullard finally came back a year later and was still obviously a very gifted footballer. But a second knee injury, albeit to a different knee, put him out of action again towards the end of 2009/10 and by the time he was in any shape to return, City had been relegated and his great defender, Phil Brown, had been replaced by Nigel Pearson. Bullard had his moments in the Championship – a winner in the last minute at Sheffield United won’t be forgotten in any hurry – but his wages, his refusal to accept similar terms elsewhere as a poverty-stricken City desperately tried to get shut of an increasingly poisonous figure and his generally unprofessional conduct while injured meant that when he finally left after a clash with goalkeeping coach Joe Corrigan, which allowed City to dismiss him on gross misconduct, uncompensated, it was a blessed relief. He remains utterly reviled.

4: Dame N’Doye
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Senegalese striker signed for £3m on the last day of the 2015 deadline from Lokomotiv Moscow where he had been a reliable goalscorer. Transition to the Premier League, and in an ailing side, seemed quite straightforward at first as he scored in his first three home games as City beat Aston Villa and QPR, and drew with Sunderland.

The inconsistency of the side then enveloped that of the player, although he plundered two excellent second half goals to earn City a win at Crystal Palace that seemed set to aid the Tigers towards safety, especially as it was followed by a home win over Liverpool in which N’Doye excelled at leading the line.

It all came down to what is now an infamous relegation six-pointer against Burnley, and N’Doye’s off day was replicated by the side whose defeat sounded the death knell after two eventful seasons. N’Doye joined Trabzonspor in the summer for £2.2m as the Allams began the now familiar post-demotion task of selling off anyone that another club waves to, although he was soon back in England with a loan spell at Sunderland. He’s still at Trabzonspor today as a backup striker.

5: James Chester
ChesterJ
Often the transfer window can be dominated by the acquisition of perceived ‘glamour’ players or the departure of club legends. City, a club learning to like itself again in 2010/11 under Nigel Pearson, did a bit of both during the January window when Matty Fryatt signed for £1.2m while Ian Ashbee called time on his nine years of illustrious service and leadership by going to Preston on a free.

Within all this, Pearson had the Manchester United training ground on speed dial and brought in a stack of players from Old Trafford of enormous promise but not quite deemed good enough to make the final big step. There was a winger, an industrious midfielder, a left back and a central defender, and it was the defender who was most obviously a class act from the start.

Chester was skilful, positionally sound and an excellent reader of the game, as well as consummate in the defender’s art of tackling – one of the cleanest tacklers we’ve ever seen – and aerial domination, despite not being the tallest. Rarely did he put a foot wrong during an illustrious, hugely popular City career that allowed him to develop his game alongside the experienced Jack Hobbs, before Steve Bruce arrived and rejigged the entire squad but without any detriment to the elegant defender he’d inherited.

Chester was a star in the Premier League despite being something of a lesser name alongside the likes of Huddlestone, Livermore, Jelavić et al and his reputation rose so high that talk of him being picked for England began just before he decided to take up an offer to play for Wales.

He scored in the FA Cup final, of course, which was all the more remarkable because injury suggested that he had absolutely no right to be partaking at Wembley at all, and continued to impress and do a quietly efficient job, even though his City career ultimately ended in relegation in 2015.

Chester went to West Brom for big, but not big enough, money and barely played in his favoured position, instead featuring as a left back under Tony Pulis, who quickly sold him after a season to Aston Villa following their own relegation. He is currently captaining the Villa side under Bruce, who knows how lucky he has been to have inherited a very special player twice over. Unquestionably a bargain purchase and one of our greatest ever defenders.

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All the better for snowing

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Snowflakes! No, we’ve not gone all alt-right and taken to denigrating Millennials, we’re talking about actual snowflakes.

Right now 24 hour rolling news channels will be losing their shit, ‘SNOW BLASTED BRITAIN IN TRAVEL CHAOS’ across the bottom of the screen ticker as a blonde in a Berghaus fleece stands outside in Dundee for no good reason to bemoans slow moving traffic and possible school closures.

But you know what? Snow is PRETTY, and what’s PRETTIER STILL is football games played after, or even better, during snowfall. So we’ve scraped the ice off some FRANKLY ACE snow game photos. Just ‘cos.  Enjoy.

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29/12/1962: City 1 Southend 2. The winter of 1962/63 was the coldest on record since 1895 and laid waste to the English football calendar. After this game City didn’t play again until the February!196263

19/02/1963: City 0 Leyton Orient 2. The Tigers’ next home game was an FA Cup 3rd round replay against Orient after a 1-1 draw at Brisbane Road. City had bested Crook Town and Workington in earlier rounds but came a cropper in extra time against the Londoners at Boothferry Park.1963Southend

What is there to not love about this image? The Boothferry Park green wearing a white blanket, the gas powered ‘Best Stand’  floodlights glinting as people at the back of Bunkers look like they may tumble to their doom any moment.196465

28/12/1964: City 4 Port Vale 0. Two days after beating Port Vale 3-0 in Stoke, The Tigers put 4 past them at a snowy Boothferry Park.  Waggy grabbed a hat trick, our image shows the only goal he didn’t score, as Ray Henderson nets. 1965-66 Nov 27 Hull City v Grimsby Town

27/11/1965: City 1 Grimsby 1. Waggy was up to his goalscoring antics the following campaign, scoring against the Fishpackers in the slushy stuff.Match 1966-01-15@1966 Jan 15 Hull City v Workington

15/01/1966: City 6 Workington 0. The Tigers avenged a 3-0 defeat at Workington’s Borough Park in October 1965, Ian Butler grabbed 2 goals, the rest coming from Waggy, Ken Houghton, Alan Jarvis and an own goal.Match 1967-01-07@1967 Jan 07 Hull City v Preston North End

07/01/1967: City 2 PNE 2. Waggy and Chillo lie down on the job against Preston, leaving the goalscoring to Wilkinson and Jarvis.1968-69 Dec 26 Hull City v Norwich City

26/12/1968: City 0 Norwich 1. Perhaps the Tigers couldn’t see the white clad Canaries on a snow covered pitch on Boxing Day.
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02/01/1971: City 3 Charlton o. Ooh, a colour shot! City made light work of Charlton on FA Cup Third Round day, later meeting Blackpool, Brentford and top flight Stoke.198485Brighton

05/01/1985: Brighton 1 City 0. Another FA Cup Third Round tie, this one at the Goldstone Ground. Steve McLaren contests the ball with Mike Ring. Just look at that orange adidas Tango ball! *girly scream*201011Boro1

27/11/2010: Boro 2 City2. The most recent notable snow game came at the Riverside Stadium. City’s white shirt camouflage plan almost worked, with goals from Anthony Gerrard and Robert Koren.201011Boro

Will this wintry scene be replicated on Saturday at Sunderland? Here’s hoping!

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FAMOUS FIVE: Players for City and Leeds

A sizeable number of ex-City footballers down the years have been less than choosy regarding the company they keep when making other career decisions, hence why they have ended up at Leeds United. Still, the usual interest in the trip to Elland Road on Saturday cajoles us into reminding you of some of them. You’ll find here no Bremner nor Barmby, no Revie nor Mills – their involvement with both clubs is well documented enough. In the end, we narrowed it down after a bit of dawdling, and settled on these five…

1: Michael Bridges

Bridges M LeedsUnquestionably a brilliant footballer and few would argue that the ruination of his career by injury was a genuine misfortune for not just the player himself, but for the game, as high things were expected of him when he burst on to the scene at Sunderland, prior to becoming one of the many big-name signings at Elland Road that would cause such excitement.

A product of the Wallsend Boys Club that yielded so many professionals, Bridges was an ice cool finisher but his ruthlessness in front of goal belied a real gift on the ball; two-footed, visionary, intricate and incisive, it was hard not to admire from afar, not least because his height – 6ft 1in – made him unusually tall for such a natural and cultured player. At Leeds, who made £5m for him, he was a revelation with a 19-goal debut season at the age of just 21 as a rejuvenated outfit finished third in the top tier and made deep inroads into European competition.

Then it happened.

In a European tie against Beşiktaş, aged still only 22, Bridges suffered an impossibly broken ankle which, there and then, ruined his high level prospects forever. Over four years he had numerous abortive comebacks with Leeds, with fresh injuries coming as a side order to the original one. Loan moves and a free transfer duly followed. In the end, it was in the less salubrious surroundings of Carlisle United where he began to build a “big fish, small pond” career, knowing his chances of playing top tier football again were nil.

Bridges was excellent at Carlisle, making an immediate impact and scoring plenty of goals, despite only staying nine months. That was when City came in with £350,000 for him in August 2006, one of two strikers signed by new manager Phil Parkinson.

He took a little while to settle, but nobody who ventured to Leicester on an autumnal evening will forget his spectacular long-range goal that earned City – and Parkinson – a first win, but injuries again got in the way and yet again, his potential went unfulfilled. When Phil Brown took over, he questioned Bridges’ attitude a lot. In almost three years on City’s books, he started just nine league games and scored just two league goals. For all of his clubs, Bridges was a classic case of what could have been.

2: Chris Galvin
Galvin CEngland youth international who came through the ranks at Leeds in the 1960s but only played seven times in the league due to something of a strong, self-selecting midfield at the time.

He joined City in 1973 and stayed for six years, being one of the mainstays of a featureless, watertreading, barren decade that saw few flirtations with the top flight before a lousy relegation in 1978.

Galvin was never anything but a good, consistent footballer, but his stellar contribution to matches is always headed by memories of the two-step movement – the Galvin shuffle – he used to regularly deploy on opponents, not always successfully, which would often be more entertaining and darkly humorous than anything the team could achieve at the time.

He had a loan spell at York in 1976 which saw him score six goals, more than half his eventual league total for City, and he was given a free transfer towards the end of the 1978/79 season.

As he disappeared from view, his younger brother Tony was just starting to make inroads at Tottenham Hotspur, with whom he’d win domestic and European silverware.

3: Rui Marques

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The Angolan defender was an import from Portuguese side Maritimo, joining Leeds in 2005 as a 27 year old. Yet his league debut in England was with City, whom he joined on loan in March 2006 as Peter Taylor’s side sought reinforcements in an awkward first season back in the second tier for 15 seasons. Marques played in the centre of a five-man defence at Ipswich as City drew 1-1, then got injured in training and went straight back to Leeds. His league debut for the club that actually purchased him came on New Years Day 2007, 18 months after his arrival, and he was part of a incredulously useless side that was relegated to League One that season, amid the chaos of the Bates regime and a ten-point administration penalty.

Marques stayed at Leeds until 2010, making 90 league appearances, and it’s safe to say his time at Elland Road isn’t remembered awfully fondly.

4: Ken DeMange

DeMange KUncompromising Irish international midfielder who emerged from the Home Farm academy of productivity to join Liverpool without getting a sniff of their first team, despite a debut for his country against Brazil, so went to Leeds in 1987. He had one season there, scored within seven minutes of his senior debut against Manchester City, and then left six months later when Brian Horton forked out a few quid for him to come to Boothferry Park.

There was something vaguely heroic about DeMange, who despite his Liverpool pedigree never looked like a properly comfortable footballer but was never slow in the tackle, earning him a hard man tag that got him into the side in 1988/89 under Eddie Gray, who remembered him from Leeds and kept his own signing Lee Warren out of the team. DeMange featured against his former Liverpool team-mates in the famous FA Cup fifth round tie of 1988/89 and played for four City managers in total before leaving in 1991 after relegation. Disillusioned, he retired on the spot aged just 26 to return to Ireland, before his London-based partner, an air stewardess, persuaded him to apply for a job as a baggage handler at Heathrow.

5: Andy Williams
Williams AMuch-travelled midfielder who didn’t turn pro until he was 23 after a long induction to adult football via the non-league game, but afterwards had a consistent, if rather nomadic career in which City was his seventh different club.

Spells at Coventry and Rotherham led him to Leeds in 1988 where he was an unsung but trusted midfield runner as Howard Wilkinson’s side eventually won promotion back to the top flight after an eight year absence.

Like many other players of that side, he was regarded as dispensable when the new season began (see also Vinnie Jones) and he played for four different clubs in three years before joining City in 1995.

Injury initially kept him out of the team, but in the wretched 1995/96 side that hurtled unstoppably towards relegation to the bottom division he was a rare figure of reliability within a side of next to no character at all.

He was freed at the end of that season and went to Scarborough before going back to where it all started in the non-league game.

He later became a rent collector and financial adviser.

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FAMOUS FIVE: City in the FA Cup first round

City may not be in the FA Cup first round, but most of us can remember a time when we were always in it – and more pertinently, seldom got any further. As this weekend heralds media over-use of the word ‘proper’, we though we’d have a proper (ahem) hark back to days when City found themselves at the very start of ‘the road to Wembley’…

1: Bradford Park Avenue, 1965/66

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The significance of this game was two-fold, and only apparent with a few months of hindsight. But at the time it looked like, and indeed was, an opportunity for City’s rampant Third Division side, scoring and conceding for fun, to put up a cricket score against a team who were a division below and drifting in mid-table.

That was the view when the draw was made anyway, and by the time the game arrived on November 13 1965, City had failed to score in only one league match thus far, with Chris Chilton, Ken Wagstaff and Ken Houghton already on 27 goals between them. The game at Horton Park Avenue was something of a zinger, befitting City’s tendency that season to leak like a sieve almost as prolifically as they scored, and a topsy-turvy tie ended 3-2 to the Tigers, with Houghton, Chilton and Ian Butler on the scoresheet.

City went all the way to the quarter finals, disposing of two higher division sides in the process, and later won the Third Division title. However, Bradford Park Avenue faltered in the bottom division to the extent that they were deselected in 1970 (replaced by Cambridge United) and went out of business in 1974. A team against whom City had battled regularly in the pre-war era and the post-war regionalisation was no more, with the FA Cup tie the last ever meeting between the two. Bradford Park Avenue instantly reformed as a Sunday League club and are now in the (badly-named) National League North, duelling with Ferriby, among others.

2: Morecambe, 2004/05

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And to date, the very last FA Cup first round tie in City’s history. Going against the trend of expectation dominated by despair that one assumes when looking back at City’s achievements, the Tigers actually managed to win this, an experience not common during this period, and also tinged with minor regret because of the absence of ground-tickery nerdism made possible by a replay on the Lancashire coast that was four minutes away from happening.

It was no picnic, either. Morecambe led early on with a header from defender Jim Bentley, whose association with the club as a player lasted nine years, and he remains their manager to this day. City responded with a lovely curling shot from Stuart Green and the game was level at the break. Bullet dodged, all would be well.

Ah. Ex-Manchester United trainee Michael Twiss  ran on to a flicked goal-kick in the second half and put the non-league side back in front, but a judicious substitution by Peter Taylor helped City equalise quickly – the newly-introduced Jon Walters made an instant impact by pulling a clever ball back to Michael Keane to shoot into the roof of the net. At 2-2, City weren’t going to let this go now.

Walters steered in the winner – his first goal for nearly a year – with four minutes left and for the first time, City led. The heartbreak in the Morecambe players at the final whistle was visible but their day would come with promotion to the league in two years time. City, meanwhile, even managed to beat Macclesfield in the next round before coming a cropper against Colchester at the Circle in the third, in a game that made Taylor sign Craig Fagan afterwards. It was City’s first trip to the third round in five years, an achievement masked completely by promotion to the Championship in the summer.

And yes, a replay wouldn’t have been a ground tick under some people’s rules because Morecambe weren’t in the league. But they soon would be – so would it have been a ground tick then? Someone needs to come up with a final set of regulations, or alternatively, view more naked women. Maybe City did us all an extra favour by actually winning.

3: Stalybridge Celtic, 1932/33

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The 8-4 victory over Whitby Town in 1996/97 might have broken numerous club and competition records, but 8-2 is evidently a more impressive scoreline. Just with that bit of armoury (and the fact that the Whitby game has been discussed to death here and elsewhere) we give a few lines of acclaim to Haydn Green’s marvellous side of 1932/33.

Three seasons before, City had managed a remarkable Jekyll and Hyde turn by being relegated from Division Two while reaching the FA Cup semi-finals, beating a couple of giants along the way. Green’s first full season was the recovery season, and how. Champions of Division Three (North) via a 100-goal attack and an unbeaten home record, they also bullied mercilessly the Cheshire County League side who weren’t long out of the league pyramid.

The season as a whole belonged in individual terms to new signing Bill McNaughton who scored a ludicrous 41 goals in 41 league games, but he was overshadowed at Bower Fold by inside left Russell Wainscoat, who stuck four into the opposition net with McNaughton managing a meagre one. Jack Hill, Fred Forward (a forward), and Charlie Sargeant completed the scoring. The home side, who’d scored also in the first half, got their second late on, meaning the chance to equal the 8-1 scoreline in the qualifying round of 1905/06 (against Grimethorpe United, pleasingly) had been scuppered, though it remains City’s biggest winning margin in the first round. They eventually went out to Sunderland in the third.

4: Hednesford Town, 1997/98

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Eurgh. Who would have thought City would’ve sunk so low after appointing a vibrant young manager who could charm the birds from the trees and make rainbows appear with a click of his fingers? Hindsight is everything, but the Mark Hateley era stank from start to finish, yet nothing quite summed up his wretched period at the helm as this defeat to high-spending but still insignificant Conference nonentities.

There wasn’t much to blame the Hednesford players for, to be truthful. Carl Beeston made the most of his contact with Gregor Rioch in the box, and Duane Darby evidently wasn’t happy, but Rioch had no business sticking his leg out and remains vilified for the tackle to this day. Mick Norbury, the ultimate in awkward, limited non-league centre forward brutalists, put away the spot kick and the visitors led at the break.

Darby missed his kick in the six yard box with the goal at his mercy in the second half, then hit the bar with a far post header, before Rioch was robbed from a cleared free kick and Joe O’Connor ran without a moment’s worry to slot the second home in injury time and secure a famous win.

Not Rioch’s finest hour, nor the referee’s, and certainly not Hateley’s. His opposite number, John Baldwin – tinted pilot spectacles, ‘tache, grey suit – didn’t endear himself to the City fans by capering on the pitch at the final whistle, but one suspects to this day he really doesn’t care. Darlington beat his team by a solitary goal in the second round.

5: Rochdale, 1981/82

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Three months after this tie was finally settled on neutral territory, it was announced that City would probably go out of business. The club had run out of cash and everyone – and everything – was up for sale. City had only just gone out of the FA Cup, thanks to a third round replay defeat at home to the (not so) mighty Chelsea, and the team were playing well, showing youthful exuberance, talent and no little promise.

What a strange time this was. It was in the Fourth Division, fresh terrain for the club after a hideous, hurtful relegation the year before, and although wounds took a little while to be fully licked, there was an element of peace around the place (barring the odd set-to when Bradford or Scunthorpe were in town). Then the FA Cup campaign began, and Rochdale came out of the hat first, with City following.

They were divisional rivals (though yet to face each other) and the first game at Spotland ended 2-2, with Billy Whitehurst and Steve McClaren scoring. The return at Boothferry Park finished in the same manner – Whitehurst this time joined on the scoresheet by Gary Swann. Extra time couldn’t separate them this time, so a third game was needed. Coin tosses were too controversial so Elland Road was hired, and again with 30 minutes tacked on, City finally won with a solitary McClaren goal.

The three games took place in nine days flat, and City did over Hartlepool at the first attempt in round two before falling – eventually – to Chelsea and then seeing the bottom fall out of their world. Six games can get you to the final of the FA Cup when you’re in the top two divisions; in this case, six games didn’t get City past the third round, but at least they got there. Not yet sick of the back teeth of Rochdale, they went on to win both league games against them with the axe hanging above, before the end of the season brought Don Robinson, Colin Appleton and much relief.

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FAMOUS FIVE: Five six-goal hauls in 12 months

66teamHere’s a good one. Saturday’s destruction of Birmingham was the 35th time City have scored six or more goals in a league game. From the first one in 1909 to this latest one at the weekend, there have been gaps of nine, ten and eleven years between victories of six and more. But by contrast, there was one golden year – and it really was a year – when City blasted five different teams for six…

1: Bristol Rovers, 6-1, 11/12/65
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The extraordinary events of 1965/66 are well established in Hull City folklore, but it’s worth emphasising over and over just how fierce the front five was, a ferocity further established by the lack of injury suffered all season by Messrs Henderson, Houghton, Chilton, Wagstaff and Butler. Three of them missed just one game each all through the campaign, Wagstaff was ever-present and only Henderson had a spell out, but was fit and established by the end of September.

Christmas approached and City were battering teams with ludicrous self-belief in attack, littering the regular one-sided victories with the odd spectacular defeat and keeping everyone on tenterhooks. Bristol Rovers came to Boothferry Park and Houghton scored a brace, with further goals from Henderson, Butler, Chris Simpkin and a Joe Davis own goal. The most remarkable thing about the game was that City managed to bulge the net six times with neither Chilton nor Wagstaff getting on the scoresheet, though they got a goal apiece in the return fixture in May as City won 2-1 and closed in on the title.

As was the wont of a side so obsessed with attack, the defence ran out of steam prematurely and let the visitors score a consolation. This was a common theme for the whole season, with no a single goalless draw and clean sheets rare – although…

2: Workington, 6-0, 15/01/66
ButlerI
… this was one. Workington were a team that ended up fifth in a tough division, so clumping them for six, without reply, was no mean feat. Again, an own goal contributed (long-serving defender Bobby Brown doing the honours) to proceedings, as did a brace from one of the front five, with Ian Butler taking the attention with the first and last goals of the day. Houghton, Wagstaff and one of three goals for the season from Welsh international midfielder Alan Jarvis completed the scoring.

So now Simpkin and Jarvis have a goal each for the season. There are two own goals, but these are actually two of four, and by the season’s end, five. Simpkin wouldn’t get another league goal. Jarvis would get just two more. So, after the front five, the next highest contributor to City’s season-ending tally of 109 was the opposition.

3: Exeter City, 6-1, 20/04/66
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City had won nine in a row and were definite for promotion when relegation-threatened Exeter rolled into Boothferry Park and then rolled out again, utterly shellshocked. This was Chilton’s day as he plundered his second hat-trick of the season, with Henderson getting two and Houghton one. Notably, there were 28,000 and more in the old place that day, twice as many as for Workington. The city was gathering around its heroes.

Obviously, the only way for City to respond after a 6-1 win, the tenth victory in a row, was to lose the next two and rack up the tension more. But then they went unbeaten for the last five and won the Third Division title.

4: Northampton Town, 6-1, 23/09/66
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A new division, and times were instantly tougher. Cliff Britton’s only significant change to the team had been to change the goalkeeper, recruiting Ian McKechnie from Southend United and putting Maurice Swan in the reserves. But in defence, little altered, and in Division Two it was assumed that the front five could just carry on as before.

At times, they could, but defences at this level were better, harder, not scared, not respecters of reputation. Chilton took four games to get off the mark, Houghton had a long spell out injured and City ended the season 12th, with 32 fewer goals scored.

But sometimes, just sometimes, it clicked back into place. For Northampton’s visit, Britton was able to choose the classic outfield ten, with McKechnie behind, and four of the five scored. Chilton and Wagstaff got two each while Henderson and Butler got one each. Three days before they’d given Norwich a 5-0 shaped belt in the mouth, so excitement wasn’t in short supply. But it wasn’t the same, mainly by dint of the other teams having the nerve to be any good.

5: Crystal Palace, 6-1, 10/12/66
66team3
And the symmetry is perfect. If the Bristol Rovers win was on day one, this cuffing of Crystal Palace, a most useful side, was on day 365.

Houghton was injured so Billy Wilkinson, a hard-running utility player, was shovelled into the inside forward role and, having responded with a brace in a 3-2 win at Derby the week before, he scored another goal in this pummelling of Palace. He couldn’t take too many headlines, however, as Chilton scored thrice again, with Wagstaff and Butler adding the others.

A few fives followed for as long as Chilton, Wagstaff and Houghton were a going concern, but the next sixer wasn’t until a 6-2 defeat of Preston in 1973, by which time Chilton and Henderson were gone, Wagstaff was regularly out with knee trouble and Butler was more often than not on the bench, gradually being phased out by Terry Neill. Still, Houghton scored that day…

City have also scored six or more three times in the FA Cup (eight goals on all three occasions, in fact) and twice in wartime football.

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A tribute to Les Mutrie,1951-2017

MutrieLIn these supposedly-liberated times, control of our reactions as individuals to the passing of one of our number has been seized by self-appointed trustees of our emotions, directing via mainstream or social media whom we must mourn (regardless we have any connection to or empathy with the departed soul in question) whom we must not mourn and, in the former case, the duration and intensity of our mourning. Fail to conform in any respect and for sure you will be branded cruel, nasty, vicious and possibly a hate criminal. So we conform.

Such is the pernicious effect of this manufactured emoting that it takes an event of huge sadness to shake us out of our blunted, automated response to death.

For most Hull City supporters and, one would hope, certainly all of a certain age, yesterday brought us one of those occasions. Those of us who had the pleasure of remembering Les Mutrie play for Hull City will surely have paused for at least a moment or two on hearing of his death in genuine and fond reflection on his memorable contribution to the Hull City cause.

A Geordie by birth, Mutrie was a talented and committed player for Hull City at a time when we had few that were either and plenty that were neither. The late 1970s, spilling over into the early 1980s, were increasingly grey years for Hull City, as the excitement of the Harold Needler years, Waggy, Chris Chilton, Terry Neill and even Chris Galvin and Dave Sunley, faded remorselessly away and the club’s prospects tipped inexorably downwards. Mike Smith, who had a fine record managing Wales, seemed an inspiring appointment but he never seemed to get to grips with the grind of club management. Players with solid CVs that he acquired, such as Nick Deacy, proved woefully inadequate to cope with the hurly burly of lower League football. The club was rickety off the pitch as well as on it, and descent into administration, though a shock when it occurred during season 1981/82 because in those days, unlike now, such calamities were rare and potentially fatal, was just desserts for wanton neglect. Boothferry Park itself was both reality and metaphor – a crumbling, rusty, increasingly unloved memorial of better but increasingly distant times.

But there was Les Mutrie.

You could clearly see how good he was when he played against us for Blyth Spartans in the famous Cup tie that extended over three matches. Les scored in all three of them before City finally won the second replay in extra-time at Elland Road, although Tony Norman famously saved his extra-time spot kick in the first replay at Croft Park to set up the decider in Leeds.

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Impressed by Mutrie’s performances in the Cup games, Smith moved decisively and snapped him up for £30,000, at the time a record fee from a League club for a non-League player. Les was 29 before his League career properly got under way.

Given his evident ability (to which those of us who saw all three episodes of the Blyth trilogy will bear witness) it was a bit of a mystery why Mutrie never got a chance to step up earlier. He was, of course, on Carlisle United’s books in 1977/8, but only managed a mere five first team appearances and little is known of why he failed to make much of an impression. The most likely explanation is that, despite having just suffered relegation to Division 3, in those days Carlisle under manager Bobby Moncur were actually a pretty decent outfit, with a strong, mobile, pacy strike force. They had enjoyed a year in the top flight as recently as three years previously and would soon be back in the second tier with Bob Stokoe at the helm. Competition for places at Brunton Park will have been stiff.

Having returned to the non-League scene with Blyth, he was obviously determined to enjoy his second chance to be a professional, and he was terrific to watch and enjoy in dark times. Strong and mobile, he had a fantastic touch for quite a big man – he was more than  poacher, more than a target man: a really fine all round front man.

In fact there was a sense of watching a man from the past, a player unsullied by the flash and impudent antics that even by the early 1980s had infected the sport. With his matt-black hair, strong-boned features and guilelessly honest attitude to the game Les Mutrie carried a sense of truer times, of proper hard work, of toil for its own sake. There’s no call to begrudge the modern player his cash, his cars and his bling – the market dictates, and footballers create a lot more joy than the typical plummy-voiced hedge-fund manager – but there are few modern millionaire players who generate affection because, deep down, we believe they are just like us, the fans, only better at football. We don’t believe that – they aren’t like us. Not so Les Mutrie. You always felt he truly was just like us, the fans, only better at football. He went out every Saturday afternoon and put in a proper shift, laced it with flashes of genius, never shirked, and he was loved in consequence.

Most memorable goal (apart from for Blyth against us) came in a 4-1 horsing of Sheffield United 24 years ago nearly to the day, at a time when we almost never beat them and usually got royally cheated, when he picked up the ball out wide on the left, sort of near the corner between Bunkers and Kempton, and dribbled square before turning goalwards, beating several men and stroking the ball past whoever was in the Sheffield net (Keith Waugh?). If you’ve ever seen that Eddie Gray goal for Leeds against Burnley that Yorkshire TV used to repeat seemingly every five minutes, well Les’s against the Blunts was just as good. We hounded Sheffield United to perdition that day, and Les Mutrie (along with Brian Marwood) was at the forefront of it.

MutrieLScunHe offered up something equally memorable on a mild Friday evening in October of 1982 at the Old Showground. Games away to Scunthorpe would subsequently become sheer drudgery as we found ourselves in the same Division as the Iron for far too long as the Dolan years dragged us deep into misery, and Glanford Park was and is as uninspiring a football ground as has ever been built. But back in 1982 a trip over the bridge to the town of dreaming steelworks was still a novelty – it was only our second since the imperishable 1965/66 season – and the Old Showground, in the heart of the town and steeped in old-school tradition and long-term failure, was a bearpit. Thousands upon thousands of City fans poured into Scunthorpe, outnumbering the home support, and witnessed a ferocious encounter. We won 1-0. Scorer, Sir Les Mutrie. Superior players make their own time, even when all around them are howling and haring witlessly. So it was that far-off evening, as Les Mutrie showed canny ball skills, the deftest of touches and stroked the winning goal late on past a hapless Joe Neenan.

For long periods in its relatively-recent history Hull City have been a laughing stock, but there have been two points in time when the football world stopped laughing at us. One was of course when Ash’s curling effort took us out of the bottom tier in 2004, but that goal from Les Mutrie at Scunthorpe was another. That was the night when, after almost ten years of inexorable decline, Tigerfolk (and the football world) really started to believe that a promotion challenge was on.

All told, Les notched up 132 appearances in the amber and black, with an impressive half-century of goals, including a hugely-impressive 27 in the ill-fated 1981/2 season during which he found the net a record nine consecutive times. His haul of eleven the following season represented a valuable contribution to the promotion effort, but it was clear that he was not looked upon with as favourable an eye by Colin Appleton as he had been by Smith, and he found himself in the Tigers’ starting line-up with increasingly less frequency as the 1982/3 and 1983/4 seasons progressed and the likes of Steve Massey and Andy Flounders asserted themselves. Eventually after a loan spell at Doncaster he moved on to Colchester and later back to his native north-east with Hartlepool, leaving behind a treasure trove of vivid and wonderful memories and taking with him the affection and gratitude of the Tiger Nation.

But there was more to Les Mutrie than the mere footballer. Two anecdotes from his time with City illustrate this.

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The first is a story recounted by one City diehard of long standing whose car was attacked by a bunch of home thugs while stuck in traffic after a City game at Tranmere, Prenton Park and its environs being a bit of a feisty place in those days. Any delight that the fan in question and his passengers might otherwise have felt at City’s victory that day was heavily overshadowed by the damage to the car and the realisation that they were decidedly lucky to have escaped a serous kicking, and it was a morose troupe of City fans sitting in Darley’s that evening and reflecting on the day’s events when Les Mutrie strode through the door and, eyeing the gloomy faces, enquired as to the reason why. On hearing what had happened Les promptly sat down, kept them company all evening and even paid for their beer.

The second story comes from the very early days of Don Robinson’s chairmanship, when the mercurial City supremo, conscious of how badly City’s stock had fallen with the East Yorkshire public against the background of the dramatic resurgence of both rugby league teams, arranged a series of meetings around the area with the players, one of which took place in a pub in Market Weighton, where one of the co-authors of this piece lived at the time. The players who attended were Steve McClaren and Les, and it was a marvellous evening, with plenty of frank opinions expressed, much fine debate about the Club and no question ducked by the City representatives, and one of the abiding memories of that night was the impression that both of them, and Les in particular, gave as thoughtful, articulate individuals, far removed from the increasingly oft-encountered stereotype of the thick, boorish footballer. What was also very apparent was that both of them genuinely cared about Hull City.

His passing at the relatively young age of 66 after a long battle against illness is deeply sobering, and the world –especially the football world – will be much the poorer without him. His final accolade from the Tiger Nation came a few short weeks ago, when the Hull City Southern Supporters launched their Hall of Fame. Aware of Les’s situation, the HCSS Committee (which, incidentally, includes a smattering of Nectarines) decreed that Les should be the first inductee, and sent him a book containing photos of him in City action accompanied by messages and reminiscences of him from HCSS members who had seen him play. Although his illness prevented him from replying personally, message was received from Les’s family that he was delighted by this gesture. Even in his darkest days his affection for Hull City still shone, and that says as much about the man as anything else. Truly one of us.

So farewell, Les, and thanks. You will be missed, but your place in the hearts and minds of the Tiger Nation is assured.

Ian Thomson and Steve Weatherill

Les Mutrie was born on April 1st 1951 and died on October 3rd 2017. He played 115 league games for Hull City between December 1980 and November 1983, scoring 49 goals.

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NEWS: Les Mutrie dies, aged 66

MutrieLFormer City striker Les Mutrie has died at the age of 66 after a long battle with cancer.

Mutrie played professional football for Carlisle United briefly at the age of 26 but otherwise was a non-league centre forward in his native north east throughout the 70s, playing for Gateshead and most famously, Blyth Spartans, for whom he was a notoriously difficult opponent during a marathon FA Cup tie in which he scored in all three games against the Tigers, even though Blyth eventually lost the second replay 2-1.

Mike Smith snapped him up immediately, paying a record £30,000 for a non-league player, and on Boxing Day 1980 Mutrie, aged 29, made his league debut for City, just four days after scoring the last of his three goals against his new club.

City were poor in 1980/81 and were relegated to the Fourth Division for the first time in their history but Mutrie, who had ended the season with five goals, came into his own at this level. After Keith Edwards’ departure, Mutrie became City’s main source of goals and he responded with 27 in the league in 1981/82 including a run of nine consecutive scoring games, which remains a club record. During this sequence of scoring, he managed 14 goals, including four in a 5-2 win over Hartlepool.

In 1982/83, by now with Colin Appleton in charge, he scored 12 more in a side now more competitive for places up front and with numerous sources for goals as City won promotion back to the Third Division as runners-up.

Appleton only made one significant change in 1983/84 and that was to offload Mutrie, whom he deemed too old for the Third Division. Mutrie’s last game for City was a 3-2 win over Bournemouth in November 1983; his last goal (one of five in 1983/84) was in a 1-1 draw at Brentford a month earlier. He had a loan spell at Doncaster before joining Colchester, but his stay in the south was brief and he was swiftly back in the north east playing for Hartlepool before retiring from the professional game in 1985.

Mutrie clobbered in 49 league goals in just 115 games for the Tigers and remains an icon of the early 1980s when City had both dark hours and moments of glory. A hugely popular figure with the City fans and his team-mates of the time, he will be sorely missed. We offer our condolences to his family.