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
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
… 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
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
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
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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


FAMOUS FIVE: City’s longest winless starts to a season

Inspired by Crystal Palace’s woes, and because we’re a sucker for a City sob story right now, let’s “enjoy” the Tigers’ top five winless runs in the league at the start of a season…

1: 16 games – 1989/90
CAppletonIt’s the club record for winless starts and by a street too, and yet somehow did not end in relegation. It went some way though to ruining Colin Appleton’s terrific reputation with the Hull City support, and certainly ruined his elite football management career.

Appleton had been in charge for two seasons from 1982 to 1984 and, with no money to spend and a tight, talented squad grateful to still be in work after fear of liquidation, achieved promotion from the Fourth Division before going within a goal of a second straight elevation the following year. He then quit to go to Swansea but, five years and two more managers later, his old chum Don Robinson blinkeredly brought him back in the summer of 1989, this time to take control of a squad that was capable but misshaped.

A 1-1 draw with Leicester on day one wasn’t the worst of starts, then an incongruous 5-4 reversal at Bournemouth at least showed the team were being encouraged to attack, but the first win didn’t feel close. Appleton deserves a modicum of credit for making that odd-goal-in-nine loss in Dorset the only one in the first five games, but the draws and defeats wouldn’t stop coming. Keith Edwards, the previous season’s top scorer for both club and division, made a hasty exit when it was obvious he and Appleton had mutual dislike, while Billy Whitehurst also didn’t take to the slightly whimsical, offbeat and gentile method of man-management for which Appleton was renowned.

City took the lead in home games against Newcastle and Swindon but still lost on both occasions – the first true signs of unrest among the Tiger Nation came when City twice went ahead against Swindon thanks to creative brilliance from Ian McParland and headers from Peter Swan, but in the second half McParland was subbed and Swindon subsequently scored twice to win. Four of the next five games were drawn, three goallessly, but the torment may have continued for both support and manager had Robinson not stepped down suddenly through illness. His security blanket pulled from him, Appleton had been fired within hours of Richard Chetham becoming chairman.

Stan Ternent took over and immediately inspired the team to a 3-2 win at Bradford, 17 league games into the season. “Little Hull” was how the hateful Elton Welsby described us as he relayed the news on ITV’s results round-up that teatime. The remainder of the season had its setbacks but Ternent did more than enough to get bodies on the line again and City had four game winning streaks over the festive season and in April that aided the great charge up the table. A 14th placed finish turned out to be, bizarrely, better than the two previous seasons when City were never in relegation danger. Ten points clear by the end, and City started the season by drawing ten out of 16 games under Appleton. Coincidence? You figure it out…

2: Eight games – 1946/47
BuckeyMajorFThere had been a war on, you know. The evidence of it was clearer in Hull than it had been in most English cities, with the Luftwaffe flying over on its way out of a bombing mission and lightening its load of leftover explosives over the city on every occasion. The Anlaby Road ground was heavily damaged and City were playing their unofficial, regionalised, game-by-game based football at the Boulevard. There was no regular team available, nowhere permanent to play and no money in the bank, so on the cessation of hostilities, the 1945/46 season was without City.

Harold Needler then came to the fore and took over the club, issued shares to the Hull public which were snapped up hungrily, and as a result, financed the completion of Boothferry Park and raised a team via the appointment of Major Frank Buckley as manager with additional administrative responsibilities. The team, however, was entirely made up of new faces, some had never played professional football before, and as a result cohesion, familiarity and suitable tactical plans led to an eight-game winless run at the start.

Draws against Lincoln and Crewe were followed by five straight defeats and another draw, before finally a Ben Lester hat-trick led City to a 3-1 win at Tranmere. The first win at the new ground followed against Darlington, and despite a season which lasted ten months due to a horrid winter and an often unusable pitch, City finished 11th in Division Three (North). They used 43 players in total; over the first eight winless games they used 20, which was some going in the days before substitutes.

3: Seven games – 1980/81, 1990/91, 2000/01
MikeSmithTottenham used to win a cup when the year ended in one; it seemed City used to start the same seasons really, really badly. Both 1980/81 and 1990/91 ended in phenomenally embarrassing relegations when there was nothing unlucky about it, the team was just really, really poor on both occasions (despite the goals scored by Payton and Swan in the latter). Sharp contrast with 2000/01, however, as the seven game winless sequence at the start contrasted with a run into the play-offs for the first time in the club’s history. All well documented, and Brian Little’s side drew five of their seven, while Stan Ternent’s 1990/91 side and Mike Smith’s 1980/81 lot each drew four.

4: Six games – 1924/25, 1985/86, 2002/03, 2006/07
MolbyJCity stumbled around the middle part of Division Two for a long period between the wars, and the only thing that made 1924/25 more notable, or notorious, was the slightly dodgy than usual start. Four of the winless games saw the Tigers fail to score, and just two draws during this period meant it looked genuinely shaky for a while. Paddy Mills, third in City’s all-time scoring rankings to this day, was the difference, scoring in each of the two games when City didn’t draw a blank and maintaining his form all season to rack up 25 for the campaign as City climbed the table around December and January. The tenth placed finish could have been better but for Mills missing four games through injury around March and April, and City couldn’t find anyone else to put a chance away.

The 1985/86 campaign very nearly ended in promotion to the top flight under Brian Horton, so the winless start is all the more remarkable. New to the Second Division after a seven-year absence, City drew four and lost two before giving Millwall a 3-0 cuffing at Boothferry Park. Form varied for a while as Billy Whitehurst’s future was in doubt, but Horton replaced the big man with Andy Flounders after Newcastle came in with big money, and healthy runs in the New Year helped the Tigers finish sixth, in the year before play-offs were introduced. It was City’s second highest finish in the post-war era to that point, just a place lower than Terry Neill’s side of 1970/71.

In 2002/03, the six-game winless start was genuinely awful, as Jan Mølby struggled to instill his beliefs and discipline levels on a side that contained some exciting talents that just needed to be channeled properly. Four draws and two defeats prior to a win at Cambridge that included a Shaun Smith free kick, but even a 4-0 cuffing of Carlisle the following week couldn’t dispel the nagging doubt that City had appointed the wrong man, and the Dane left after the 12th game of the season, a 1-0 defeat at his old club Kidderminster. Peter Taylor arrived and, despite two worrying disparate goalless spells in the winter, did enough to raise the team to 13th and plot a proper assault on the lowest division the following year.

The 2006/07 start of six without a win feels like it should have been longer, as the need for a first victory under new manager Phil Parkinson seemed to take forever. It could have been so different, as City lost unfairly at West Brom on the opening day and then let a two-goal lead turn into a 3-2 home defeat by Barnsley, still regarded to this day as the moment the inexperienced but highly-rated Parkinson lost his nerve, and lost the dressing room. Eventually, a Michael Bridges stunner at Leicester got City the first win under the manager, and immediately afterwards the TV cameras witnessed a 2-1 victory over Sheffield Wednesday, but the players didn’t believe in the manager and the losses, with truly execrable displays beneath them, piled up sufficiently for Parkinson to lose his job in the December.

5: Five games – 1934/35, 1968/69
BrittonCThe 1934/35 season was a second season of consolidation for City after promotion to Division Two just two years before, but under new manager John Hill, who left the first team squad to become gaffer, it started unpromisingly. Not just in a five game winless run, but within the first game of the campaign, as City took a 6-4 shoeing at Plymouth Argyle. Four of the five were defeats, before City took West Ham apart at Anlaby Road and settled down. The 13th place finih offered some promise, but everyone was off colour the following year and Hill resigned before relegation back to regionalised football was confirmed.

The biggest criticism aimed at Cliff Britton during his near-decade at the helm of Hull City was that he never took defending as seriously as he should. This is proved even in glory days, when one notes the number of goals that City conceded in winning the 1965/66 Third Division title. Britton always felt his masterful front line would outscore the opposition on any given day, but the beginning of 1968/69 suggested otherwise. Chilton, Wagstaff and Houghton all missed a game each through injury as Blackpool and Blackburn Rovers inflicted harsh defeats, before a mild recovery with draws against Fulham (goalless), Oxford and eventual champions Derby. A 3-0 win over Middlesbrough stopped the rot and began a nine-game unbeaten run. With Britton’s side, it really felt like all or nothing, but the 11th placed finish, following a 12th and a 17th since promotion, began to feel like stagnation and prompted the slow process of identifying his long-term replacement. Britton willingly spent the next season (13th, his last league position) helping to find him.

City also began five seasons with a four match winless run.


FAMOUS FIVE: Players for City and Reading

There are currently four ex-City players in the Reading squad, so it feels as opportune a moment as any to remind ourselves of a random quintet of other players who featured for both the Tigers and the Royals…

1: Stephen Hunt
Probably Reading’s most notorious player of the modern era simply for one challenge on a goalkeeper that defined his, and the goalkeeper’s, subsequent careers. Hunt’s knee went in on a diving Petr Čech during a match between Reading and Chelsea in 2006, leaving the keeper with a depressed skull fracture. It led to long recriminations from Chelsea fans (and a raging Jose Mourinho) and Čech has played every game since with a protective helmet. Hunt always denied any malicious intent but his infamy was sealed at that point.

He joined City in the summer of 2009 after Reading’s relegation and started brilliantly, scoring the first goal of the whole Premier League season at, of all places, Chelsea. For long periods, the chippy, skilful Irishman was City’s best player in a difficult, hurtful season and even when he was ruled out for the last couple of months with injury, the general incompetence elsewhere in the side meant he was still voted player of the year by fans.

His parting shot was crossing his crutches above his head to the East Stand during the lap of “honour” after the final game of the season, and again he moved to maintain a Premier League place after City’s demotion, joining Wolves. The recipient of 39 caps for the Republic of Ireland, he also played for Ipswich and Coventry before retiring last year.

2: Mick Tait
TaitMHe’s on a historic list and will never leave it, but it’s fair to say attacking midfielder Mick Tait didn’t live up to expectations after he joined in a club record £150,000 deal from Carlisle in September 1979.

The manager who signed him, Ken Houghton, got the sack three months later and replacement Mike Smith wasn’t interested, happily getting two thirds of the money back in the summer of 1980 when Tait joined Portsmouth.

Tait was, however, a dogged individual and played senior football for 22 years, starting with Oxford as a 16 year old and ending with Hartlepool at 42. In between, he played for eight other clubs, and after seven years and two divisional titles at Pompey, joined Reading in 1987.

He was in the side that won the 1988 Simod Cup, quite famously for such a low profile competition, when having already dumped other top tier teams out in earlier rounds, they beat Luton Town 4-1 at Wembley. Tait, playing up front, scored one of the goals.

When Tait stopped playing for Hartlepool to become their manager in 1998, he had played 760 league games, the 13th most selected performer in English football history. The fewest he played for one club was 33 – at City.

3: Steve Swales
Swales, Steve (2000-2001 photoshoot)One of the footballing sons of Whitby, which feels like it could be quite an exclusive group, Swales began his career down the coast at Scarborough before heading south to Reading, where he played semi-regularly through injuries during a decline for the Royals.

A change of manager meant he was freed after three years, and he returned to Yorkshire for the remainder of his career, starting with a move to City under Warren Joyce, slotting in at left back and making sure in the process that Gregor Rioch would not need to darken black and amber doors again.

Joyce’s rebuilt defence included heroes of the future like Jon Whitney and Justin Whittle, so Swales was left out of the glory of the Great Escape a bit, but he proved to be a hardworking and consistent player.

Injuries took their toll afterwards and eventually he left in 2001. He went to Halifax Town but suffered relegation from the league the following year, and remained in non-league thereafter with a spell at hometown club Whitby Town, followed by stints nearby at Pickering and Bridlington. He now works on oil rigs.

4: Dennis Butler
Long-serving full back of the great 60s side who joined City from Chelsea in 1963 and spent six years supporting and protecting unrelated namesake Ian down the left flank as the Tigers ran riot up front, peaking with the exceptional Third Division title win of 1966.

It was said about Butler that he was so athletic and well balanced, he could run just as quickly backwards as he could forwards, a handy trait to have given that this attack-at-all-costs City era often meant the defence was left a bit wide open when possession was coughed up.

He made his debut on the opening day of 1962/63, missing only four games that season, and went largely unchallenged for the number 3 shirt until a spell out with a rare injury in 1968 allowed Don Beardsley an impressive run in the side. Butler’s last game for City was a 1-0 defeat at Middlesbrough in November 1969, before he joined Reading. He stayed there for nearly five years, making nearly 200 senior appearances.

5: Liam Rosenior
Outstanding, conscientious right back who could well win any vote for the most successful freebie City has ever acquired. After making his name with Bristol City and Fulham, Rosenior joined Reading in 2007 and played Premier League football at the Madejski Stadium, before falling out of favour after relegation in 2008. He joined City in October 2010 as a free agent.

Instantly, it was obvious he was a fine footballer, comfortable at right back as City regrouped and learned to like themselves again under Nigel Pearson. Rosenior continued to excel under Nick Barmby and Steve Bruce, especially when the latter signed Ahmed Elmohamady and the two formed a superb partnership down the right flank. Sadly, the change to a 3-5-2 meant that Rosenior either played out of position or not at all, but even then he continued to perform as an uncomplaining squad member, and his stint at left wing back (including in the FA Cup final) was impressive.

In a move that upset a lot of fans, Bruce controversially released him in the summer of 2015 after 144 league games and he joined Brighton, who are now in the Premier League, although fitness issues and competition for places has meant Rosenior has found it difficult to play regularly. Such is his standing in the game, he is now a columnist for the Guardian, and everyone, including his nan, knows he should still be playing for City.


FAMOUS FIVE: The last five 5-0 defeats

Friday night’s debacle at Derby was the 22nd 5-0 defeat in league football suffered by City. As we can’t resist a spot of black humour, let’s look at numbers 21 down to 17…

1: Wigan Athletic (h) 2008/09
BrownWOoorgh, bit too fresh in the memory, this. Afterwards it was cast by the ever-reserved tabloid media as the day our bubble burst, when the upstarts of the Premier League got put in their place, and similarly condescending, clichéd tosh. Three games into a new season in a wholly new division, blinking furiously at the bright lights of showbusiness in football, and we were absolutely stuffed.

That it happened against the previously least fashionable Premier League team of the modern era made it all the more galling, and bizarre too. We’d beaten Fulham and drawn at Blackburn, so by losing to Wigan (managed by Steve Bruce) it just completed the set. But the manner of it was dreadful.

Sam Ricketts, standing at the near post, miskicked an equally poorly hit Kevin Kilbane corner into his own net to start the ball rolling early, then future Manchester United mainstay Antonio Valencia scored a quick second on the break.

Two in five minutes from Amr Zaki – oh, how we wished he would play for us – midway through the second half scuppered any minuscule hopes of a glorious comeback, then Emile Heskey comfortably stuck away the fifth.

It’s remembered chiefly for being Wayne Brown’s only Premier League game, and he was given such a scorching by Zaki and Heskey that he never played for City again. As for Kilbane, we’d like to think there were other reasons than one mishit corner to prompt City to purchase him the following January.

The bubble was indeed burst, but a reshuffle and an international break later, we went up to Newcastle, put on their shorts and socks and beat them. The two away games that followed were at Arsenal and Tottenham. Any idea what happened?

This is one of only two occasions that City have lost 5-0 at home – the other was against Lincoln in 1959.

2: Wrexham (a) 1995/96

It’s sufficient to say that this was a catastrophic season, statistically among our worst ever and culminating in a relegation that would be felt for years to come. Such seasons make it harder for grieving supporters to hate any other team as much as they hate their own, but Wrexham must still be a candidate.

Basically, by the time they stuffed us at theirs in April 1996, we’d played them four times. A 1-1 draw at Boothferry Park was followed by two truly abysmal goalless draws in the FA Cup, the second of which facilitated the further ignominy of Wrexham winning the penalty shoot-out. Then, finally, this.

Wrexham were in the European Cup Winners Cup that season, too, and made the FA Cup quarter finals the following season. Yet the turnarounds in football can marry poignantly on occasion; the season City were promoted to the Premier League for the first time, Wrexham were relegated to the Conference – and there they remain, having lost three play-off semis in nine seasons.

3: Aston Villa (a) 1987/88
New Years Day. Hangovers everywhere. And the fixture computer sends a semi-resurgent City to the Midlands to take on Aston Villa, still smarting over their relegation the year before with the sense of entitlement that festers through a new generation of Villa fan to this day.

In 1987, relegation was notable though as, unlike the modern incarnation, Villa were recent champions of England and, consequently, able to become even more winners of the European Cup. Five years after lifting the biggest domestic trophy in football into the Dutch night sky, they were down, and still with a handful of players from that glory night on their books.

It was billed as a top of the table clash of sorts, as the Christmas fixtures had left Villa third and City sixth. It didn’t look anything but equal out there, however, and Withernsea’s own Stuart Gray gave the home side a half-time lead.

Graham Taylor slung on second half substitute Warren Aspinall for the second half and he scored a straightforward brace, with goals also from Andy Gray (the one that played for England a few years later) and Alan McInally. Of the European Cup winning squad, only two were on show that day – Allan Evans, stalwart Scottish centre back and skipper, and Pat Heard, unused sub in Rotterdam and City’s left back and penalty taker. And when we got a penalty, the baying Holte End condemned the decision vociferously, so Heard kicked the ball straight at them to shut them up. We think.

Villa maintained their form, for the most part, and went up as runners-up, a tad fortunately, while City beat Leeds two days later before going on a 14 game winless run that cost Brian Horton his job just after transfer deadline day.

4: Millwall (a) 1985/86


Let’s face it, in the mid-1980s if you got away from Cold Blow Lane with a 5-0 defeat and your nose still in the vicinity of your face, you’d had a decent day out. The lack of hospitality at the Den, in either of its incarnations, is renowned but in the 1980s it was at its most seething, spitting, nasty, hateful and perilous, and to visitors who felt needle was part of the game, it was actually good fun. And a late December game there didn’t really include an awful lot of goodwill to all men.

City were a good side and Millwall were burgeoning, so it was a footballing occasion in the making, away from the nonsense on the terraces. Steve Lowndes gave them a half time lead, then a Robert Wilson brace and further goals from Alan Wilson and John Fashanu took it away from the Tigers.

Anything else notable? Well, games like this got Millwall gaffer George Graham noticed by his former club Arsenal, and he was off there before long to win league titles and European trophies. As for City, they somehow didn’t shift from tenth place after losing this one, and ended up sixth – three above Millwall. To be fair, it was a freak result within a terrific run of wins – two on one side of the defeat, and three on the other.

5: Huddersfield Town (a) 1980/81
Three of these five fivers seem to have happened over the festive period. Coincidence? Or did Ian Blakey insist that over-indulgence each Christmas was club policy?

And 1980/81 was another of those seasons impossible to unsee. City were deplorable all season and rarely more so than when they visited Leeds Road for the final game of 1980. Well, we say rarely so, but a month earlier City had gone to Barnsley and suffered the same fate with largely the same team. We couldn’t say we weren’t warned.

Huddersfield, aiming for promotion, were 2-0 up at the break and coasted to their quintet of goals in the second half. Names familiar with YTV viewers of the era – Brian Stanton, Terry Austin, David Cowling, Mark Lillis, Ian Robins. At the other end, Stuart Croft made his 190th and final appearance for City.

We do wonder if Huddersfield fans remember this game at all, as in that season our name is far more familiar to them for the 2-1 defeat we inflicted on them at Boothferry Park late in the campaign thanks to two late goals, scuppering their promotion hopes in the process. We were already down so had to get whatever joy we could.

City have also lost 5-0 once in the FA Cup, twice in the League Cup and three times in wartime football, while there have been other scorelines with five goals margins.


FAMOUS FIVE: Players for City and Derby

A fair number of players have been on the books of both Hull City and Derby County, and given that two of our most important players of the last few seasons are going to be trying to do us over this weekend, it felt pertinent to pick a random quintet. The stories of people like Raich Carter and Ian Ashbee are well known, but then…

1: Steve McClaren

A man with a thick skin and an unwavering self-belief, when considering the number of times he has proved unsuccessful in managerial roles in recent memory. Yet at Hull City, we are able to recall McClaren in only very fond terms. He came through the ranks at Boothferry Park and debuted in the first team two days after his 19th birthday on the final day of 1979/80. It wasn’t a great start for him, as City lost 1-0 at relegated Bury and survived in Division Three by a single point.

But the start of the 1980s brought with it a new breed of gifted youngster, schooled by the club, and alongside Brian Marwood and Garreth Roberts, the visionary midfielder McClaren was to prove integral. After a disorganised and inexperienced side was relegated to the Fourth Division in 1981, McClaren was a regular in the side that, under Colin Appleton, helped City glide back to promotion in 1983. He stayed for two more seasons, coming to within a goal of promotion again in 1984 before finally helping City into the Second Division in 1985 under Brian Horton.

McClaren had impressed Derby manager Arthur Cox when City beat them 3-2 at Boothferry Park in March 1985 as Derby, champions a decade earlier, found themselves slumming it in the Third Division. McClaren joined in the summer of 1985 and contributed stringently to a title-winning campaign but then suffered an injury that forced him to miss the whole of the next season, aside from a loan spell at Lincoln. Derby won the Second Division title, making it two promotions in a row, and McClaren was evidently surplus to requirements once they found themselves back in the big time. He went to Bristol City and Oxford United before retiring at 31 with injury, but by this time he was already a highly-qualified coach.

And that’s what he is, really – a coach. His role at Manchester United made him, yet it didn’t involve any day-to-day decision making and his only tactical input was on an advisory level. Alex Ferguson thought he was the best assistant he’d had, at that time, but like many seconders at Old Trafford (Kidd, Meulensteen, Queiroz, Phelan) he found himself out of his depth when doing it himself. Initially he did well, winning the League Cup with Middlesbrough, but even then critics claimed it was despite him, not because of him, and the first accusations of negative football that have dogged him all his career were aimed his way. Continuity seemed to be the only thing in his favour when he was given the England job after the 2006 World Cup after a long spell as Sven Goran Eriksson’s right hand man.

A year later, with the umbrella cast aside and his name sullied at home, he went to the Netherlands and won the Eredivisie with Twente, something which sticks out like a sore thumb more than ever when looking at the failures that have tarnished his CV time and again. Wolfsburg, Nottingham Forest, Twente again, Newcastle and, most tellingly of all, two spells at Derby County, with the second an all the more incredulous appointment given the catastrophe of the first. We’re sure Derby fans reading this can furnish us with more details; we can just be grateful that on our patch, McClaren is known only as a great player. And we’d like it to stay that way.

2: Nathan Doyle

Enigmatic, fleet-of-foot full back, signed as a player for the future from Derby by Phil Brown, who had managed him there. He played only nine league games for his hometown club, finding room for a couple of loan spells too, before coming to City in the early part of 2007. His became known as a symbol of an unwillingness to trust youthful talent at City, as despite Brown’s enthusiasm for him, Doyle was very rarely seen in City colours throughout City’s promotion campaign of 2007/08, having debuted on the last day of the previous season in circumstances similar to McClaren – ie, once survival had been secured the previous week. At one point early in the season, Brown chose to play Andy Dawson, the most left-footed player of all time, at right back rather than give the youngster a chance.

Quirkily, Doyle managed just one appearance in each of the three competitions in 2007/08 prior to somehow wangling a place on the bench for the play-offs. In the high midday heat of Watford, he came on midway through the second half and did one bit of fancy danning with his feet over the ball before bending a shot on to the post; in the return, with City coasting at 5-1 on aggregate and preparing for Wembley, Doyle was introduced as a midfielder and scored with a deflected shot before doing the ‘rocking baby’ celebration as the crowd spilled on to the pitch (again). He was on the teamsheet for the final although this time didn’t get off the bench.

In the Premier League, Doyle played three times before going to Barnsley on loan early in 2009/10 and then signing permanently afterwards. He has since had longer spells at Bradford and Luton but has been without a club since the beginning of this year. He’s still only 30.

3: Alf Ackerman + Ken HarrisonAckermanHarrisonA pairing that played together for City and then left together in a £6,000 deal for Derby County. Such was the negative reaction around this double sale that City manager Bob Jackson, solely responsible for the deal, was given ‘leave of absence’ by the directors.

The problem wasn’t just that two effective players had been cheaply disposed of – South African striker Ackerman was the top scorer in the 1954/55 side that was struggling against the drop, while attacking full back Harrison had more than 200 appearances for City next to his name – it was that Derby were, like City, battling the drop. Essentially, Jackson had given two top players to a team who could have an active say in whether City stayed in the Second Division or not, especially as the two were due to face each other on the final day at the Baseball Ground.

Mercifully, new manager Bob Brocklebank managed to keep City afloat just enough over the next half dozen games so that the final day’s result was immaterial. Just as well, really as Derby won 3-0 with Ackerman getting a brace and Harrison, now playing as an orthodox winger, scoring the other. Just imagine how supporters and directors, united in their horror at Jackson’s casual sale of the duo, would have reacted if that scoreline, with those scorers, had sent City down and kept Derby up. It would have made Denis Law look positively generous*.

As it was, Derby went down and City joined them the following season, so all that had happened was a delaying of the inevitable. Ackerman and Harrison stayed at Derby for little more than a year each but Ackerman was still prolific, scoring 21 goals in his 37 senior appearances.

4: Roy Greenwood
roygreenwoodAn excellent winger who stepped out of the huge shadow cast by the master, Ian Butler, to become a stellar performer on the left flank for City in the 1970s after debuting as a 19 year old in 1971.

When Butler left in 1973, Greenwood grasped the opportunity as well as he possibly could with an ever-present record in 1973/74 along with goalscoring feats above expectations for a wide man. When fit, he was one of the first on the teamsheet right through until Christmas 1975, when he was sold to Sunderland for £140,000.

Injury meant he didn’t excel at Sunderland, though he did pick up a Second Division title medal, and, after turning down the chance to rejoin Terry Neill at Arsenal because he didn’t like the train journeys between Hull and London, he joined Derby in 1979.

He lasted less than a year at the Baseball Ground, making just 13 senior appearances without scoring. He had a more successful spell at Swindon before ending his career with brief stints at Huddersfield and Tranmere.

Essentially, he became an injury-ravaged player from the day he left Boothferry Park, which was a great shame for someone of obvious talent.

5: Andy Oakes

OakesAndyThe memories of this 21 year old goalkeeper, signed for nothing from Macclesfield and shoved straight into the relegation battle that became immortalised as the Great Escape, are as loving as it’s possible to be for any player who only featured in 20 senior games for City. He kept nine clean sheets as Warren Joyce tightened and toughened up the team and, after survival was secured, it was obvious he wasn’t going to hang around.

Derby paid £465,000 for him and while City had to start the next season relying on Lee Bracey in goal, Oakes was in the Premiership, as the top tier was then known. He was a reliable and occasionally spectacular back-up custodian to Mart Poom but ultimately couldn’t break into the team on a more permanent basis, leaving after six years with just 43 league games next to his name. Spells at Walsall, Swansea and Darlington followed before he turned his back on football aged just 32.

Presumably it’s just his lack of longevity that stops Oakes being regarded as highly as City’s true goalkeeping greats like Bly, McKechnie, Norman and Myhill. Looking at the situation he was thrown into, it is genuinely hard to imagine a City keeper as important as he was.

*Yes, we know Law didn’t technically relegate Manchester United with that backheel, but it fits the narrative.


FAMOUS FIVE: Ex-England players at City

There are only two types of Hull City player to have won caps for the full England team – those who did so before joining City, and those who did so after leaving City. Taking a break for a moment from sticking pins in a knitted effigy of Gareth “as soon as Jake and Harry leave Hull, I’ll pick ’em” Southgate, we give you a quintet of players of the nation who slummed it at City when their best days were “apparently” behind them…

1: Jake Livermore
LivermoreJ“Apparently”, indeed. He’s unique among our players with England connections, is Jake, as he is the only one to have played for his country first before and then after his time with the Tigers, emphasising the “but not during” more than is good for our sanity. He never made it as a first team regular at Tottenham yet somehow got an England call-up from Roy Hodgson in August 2012 for a friendly against Italy. He came on as a sub for Frank Lampard with 20 minutes to go, enough time for people to assume his loan spells at MK Dons, Crewe, Derby, Ipswich, Peterborough and Leeds must have been killer, and then returned to the reserves at White Hart Lane.

He joined City in 2013, initially on loan, became a permanent signing after the FA Cup final in 2014 and left at the start of 2017 when West Brom put in a surprise bid. He had barely been allocated his peg in the dressing room when his England recall arrived, allowing us the torturous prospect of wondering if he had impressed Gareth Southgate while playing for City, and therefore would have got the same call if his move to the Midlands hadn’t happened. We’re unlikely to ever know, though if you do bump into the personable England boss any time soon, make sure you ask him.

Livermore, a fine player, has three caps at the time of writing and is in the latest squad, to the continued incredulity of football writers and Mark Noble fans everywhere. Fraizer Campbell, meanwhile, kind of holds an opposite record to Livermore, in that instead of playing for England either side of his City spell, he played for City either side of his England spell. Or if you prefer, instead of playing for England before and after City, he actually did it after and before.

2: Danny Mills
MillsDHas anyone ever liked Danny Mills? You can admire him, if you are a Charlton or Leeds fan, as he was a good player for both, albeit one who always seemed to have too much to say for himself and a chip on both shoulders. If he wasn’t at your club he was a personality easy to despise and you can imagine that he was quite adept at starting fights in empty rooms.

Mills was a Leeds player when he was first called up by England in 2001 and the following year he played every minute of England’s campaign at the 2002 World Cup after becoming first choice right back following injury to Gary Neville. He was soon jettisoned when the Manchester United defender regained his fitness and his international career ended in 2004 with 19 caps.

Two years later, out of favour at Manchester City, he came to the Circle on loan as Phil Parkinson desperately sought reinforcements, experience, friends, spies, anything. Mills played at centre back when he first arrived, giving away a penalty after four minutes of his debut for handball (despite the hand that struck the ball actually belonging to someone else) and after initially performing well, he returned to Manchester after nine appearances, by which time it was well known that he was not a popular figure among the City players, something underlined the following season when he and Ian Ashbee had a few ding-dongs during City’s games against Charlton Athletic, where Mills had gone back for a loan spell.

In retirement, Mills cuts a more sympathetic figure and he is a fair-minded and articulate talking head on the game, but his knack for bearing grievances and causing commotions during his playing days is not one easily forgotten.

3: Stan Mortensen
MortensonS“Never fear, Morty’s here” was the phrase he apparently used on signing for City in 1955, at the age of 34. Mortensen’s career with England had ended two years before via a stellar 23 goals in 25 games, and oddly, on the back of his hat-trick in the FA Cup final of 1953, a feat that remains unique to this day.

City weren’t high fliers by any stretch in 1955 when he joined and Mortensen was long past the peak of his powers, but he scored the only goal on his debut against Port Vale and remained consistent in a side that couldn’t shape up to the standards of their new centre forward. City were relegated in 1956 with Mortensen injured for the last month, and he left in February 1957 with 22 goals from 46 senior games next to his name.

4: Emlyn Hughes
HughesEmlynEngland qualified as holders for the 1970 World Cup and then failed spectacularly to reach any tournaments until the 1980 European Championships, and only one player featured in both squads. Hughes was a utility defender and midfield player of endless exuberance who in 1970 was the youngest squad member in Mexico, there to act as cover for numerous positions, and he never kicked a ball. In 1980, he was the former skipper picked for his unique tournament experience as a squad in wholly new territory went to Italy for the eight-team Euro finals, and again he never kicked a ball; indeed, he had by then played his final England game.

Three years later, he joined City. It was all larks, really; it looked odds-on that Colin Appleton’s hardworking but supremely entertaining team was going to be promoted out of the Fourth Division, and chairman Don Robinson asked his manager if he fancied giving Hughes, now 35, a few games in the City defence to put a few extra bums on seats and attract a camera or two. Appleton agreed and Hughes, a personal friend of Robinson’s as his dad was an old rugby chum, played a handful of matches as City went up in second place. A few years later he joined the board.

Of the 62 caps he won, 59 were while he was winning all and sundry with Liverpool and in the week when he would have turned 70 it’s nicely fitting to note that he remains the most capped England player ever to pull on a City shirt.

5: Anthony Gardner
GardnerAnthonyIt never ceases to amaze the football-loving majority that Gardner, one of the most injury prone players not to have his career actually ended by injury, managed to play for England. Never mind whether he was good enough (he wasn’t), just having him fit for any period of time was a novelty in itself, miraculous even. This was a centre back who had eight years with Tottenham Hotspur and only played 114 league games because he was never fit for any acceptable length of time.

His cap came under Sven Goran Eriksson, who sent him on as a half time substitute for John Terry in 2004 against Sweden. Also coming on as a sub at half time to play alongside him was one Gareth Southgate. Sweden won the game 1-0 (Ibrahimović, no less) and Gardner didn’t feature again. In the build up to Euro 2004, Eriksson was exploring all centre back options available as Rio Ferdinand was suspended following his missed drugs test; after this one, he discounted Gardner entirely.

City bought him after a short loan spell in 2008 to partner, and possibly guide, Michael Turner in the art of Premier League defensive mastery yet it was Turner who ended up doing the educating, but mainly to Kamil Zayatte, as Gardner couldn’t stay fit over two seasons and when he was healthy enough to be picked, rarely impressed. After City were relegated, he left for a loan spell at Crystal Palace and joined them permanently, then went to Sheffield Wednesday (as did, later, both Zayatte and Turner, coincidentally). He has been without a club since 2014 but there is no evidence he has actually retired. Maybe he still wants to make up for all the games he missed when he was younger.

We’ve counted 17 players in the post-war period who played for England during the glitzier part of their careers and then joined City afterwards.


FAMOUS FIVE: City reuniting with ex-managers

Phil Parkinson witnessed his Bolton team take a real shoeing at the hands of the Tigers at the weekend, but amazingly it was the first time he’d faced us as an opposing manager in more than ten years since he was given his marching orders by Adam Pearson after a rotten start to 2006/07. Here we find five other examples of a former City manager’s first game against us after leaving…

1: Brian LittleLittleBrianLittle was a successful manager at City and a very affable guy in all respects, and to some his dismissal by Adam Pearson in February 2002 still seems harsh. He’d worked miracles the previous season in getting City to the play-offs in the fourth tier despite the savage off-field acrimony enveloping the club, leading to locked gates, unpaid wages and players training on grass verges while borrowing money for rent and petrol.

Then, with all that sorted out, he spent £1m on new talent and was not in the worst run of form in February 2002 when the news broke that he was leaving. City had just lost at home to Macclesfield but it was only a second defeat in seven, and they were sixth in the table, a play-off position. Jan Mølby arrived, City finished 11th and nothing improved, far from it.

Meanwhile, Little didn’t take a great knock to his reputation – he’d done genuinely well at City and had won the League Cup, Fourth Division title, Conference title and play-off finals with three of his previous clubs. He eventually had 18 months out of the game before Tranmere Rovers appointed him as manager in October 2003.

City’s promotion from the bottom tier in 2004 meant that Little was able to return to Hull with his new charges in December that year. By now he had Ian Goodison and Theodore Whitmore in his team, the two Jamaican internationals of great talent whom he had inherited at City and then prised away from their homecoming at Seba (now Montego Bay) United to go to Merseyside. So a fine former manager and two fine former players (plus a rubbish one, David Beresford) were all on the Tranmere bus that came to the Circle, where none of them had played nor managed before, a week before Christmas 2004.

It was an occasion that will retain its vividness for as long as those present are alive. Both sides had begun the season well in League One but Tranmere needed to make an early change when keeper Jon Achterberg suffered a thigh injury in a challenge with Delroy Facey and hobbled off. Sub keeper Russell Howarth took over, conceded a deflected Ian Ashbee shot, then suffered concussion after Stuart Elliott kicked him in the head as the two challenged for a ball, with Elliott at full sprint.

Howarth didn’t return for the second half, and his replacement as sub was also his replacement as goalkeeper – one Theodore Whitmore. The City fans were able to both love and pity their former midfielder as, gifted playmaker though he was, it really didn’t extend to his keeping skills. The saves he did make tended to be through sliding with his feet or kicking the ball away, but he was powerless when Elliott aimed a header past him for 2-0.

Eugene Dadi pulled a goal back straight from the restart, but from here on it was plain sailing for City and agony for their former manager. Nick Barmby made it three goals in three minutes, and 3-1 to the Tigers, then Whitmore cut an ever more baffled and spaced out figure as Elliott completed his hat-trick, the last of which was a penalty, and then Danny Allsopp made it six near the end.

Little told the press afterwards, very simply: “Everything went wrong for us.” In this case, it really, literally, couldn’t have happened to a nicer man. The corresponding fixture in March 2005 at Prenton Park was also key in City’s season, as the Tigers won 3-1 with first ever goals in City colours for new signings Kevin Ellison and Craig Fagan, and City’s second straight automatic promotion was confirmed when Tranmere, always the nearest rivals to the top two, lost a midweek game in hand. City have not faced Little since, while the only time Tranmere have been on the radar again was in a League Cup tie in 2006.

2: Colin AppletonAppletonCAppleton’s decision to quit his job at City was pre-meditated. Even before the heartbreaking 2-0 defeat of Burnley on the last day of the 1983/84 season which denied City promotion to Division Two by one lousy goal, Swansea had already tapped him up, and as the team bus began its forlorn journey back across the Pennines, he told the chairman and the players that he was off .

Such was the lack of status of the new Associate Members Cup (the Football League Trophy, prior to its numerous associations with light goods vehicle manufacturers and decorating firms) that Appleton didn’t stick around for the semi-final, three days after Burnley. Chris Chilton took charge, with a disheveled City somehow tonking Tranmere 4-1 in the semi (and against a proper keeper, too) before losing 2-1 to Harry Redknapp’s Bournemouth in the final, which was incongruously held at Boothferry Park in the one and only season that it didn’t get a showpiece occasion at Wembley (as Typical City as it’s possible to be). No silverware, but we don’t care.

Brian Horton was appointed as Appleton’s successor, and as City hit the ground running under the new manager, the old gaffer was quickly finding that Welsh grass wasn’t much greener at all. He had started very poorly at the Vetch Field and was already in bother by the time he brought his side to Boothferry Park for a night game in October 1984. The players proved a point quite substantially by winning 4-1 with a Billy Whitehurst brace and further goals by Garreth Roberts and Peter Skipper. Swansea’s goal was scored by a 20 year old homeboy called Dean Saunders.

The Tiger Nation were gleeful and became even more so when Appleton was fired before the end of 1984 after just 18 matches, from which he managed a meagre four wins. He went to Exeter and then back to non-league football before coming briefly back to City in 1989, and we’ll save you further heartache by ending it there.

3: Major Frank Buckley/Raich Carter
They wouldn’t normally come as a pair, but what’s interesting about these managerial careers is that twice Buckley was succeeded in managerial positions by Carter – first at City, then at Leeds. Buckley went to Leeds in 1948 after helping launch the post-war City, and when Carter’s City side clinched the Division Three (North) title in 1949, the two clubs were pitched together for the first time in more than 20 years, and went on to be divisional rivals for seven seasons.

The first occasion of Buckley facing his former employers was at the sparkly new Boothferry Park in October 1949, and Carter’s City won a tight contest by a single Viggo Jensen goal. In the Leeds side was a beefy 18 year old called John Charles, who would be ever-present that season as Leeds finished fifth and City seventh. Leeds had won the return game at Elland Road 3-0 and the pattern of the home side winning each time would continue over the next four seasons, during which time Buckley left Leeds and Carter had swapped east for west, with a goalless draw at Elland Road in December 1953 his first result against City.

Neither manager faced City again as gaffers after leaving Leeds and the 1956/57 double whammy of Leeds’ promotion and City’s relegation meant the two clubs waited another 30 seasons to meet once more.

4: Peter Taylor
As infamous a reunion as they come as far as our ex-gaffers are concerned. Taylor, a brilliant manager for City whom fans found hard to love for perceived prickliness and inflexibility, turned down Charlton Athletic’s offer in the summer of 2006 before leaving merely days later for Crystal Palace, the club with whom he had been an immensely talented player in the 1970s, playing for England while on their books.

His connections with Palace made the move understandable, but it stuck in the craw of City fans that he’d supposedly committed himself to the club after refusing Charlton’s advances, prior to going to another London club of similar size and history with barely a glance. However, his relationship with Adam Pearson had soured by this stage and the move seemed, with a small amount of hindsight, the right one for all parties, especially as after a season of lower-half consolidation in the second tier – City’s first at that level for 14 years – it felt like Taylor had probably done as much as he could in three and a half years.

So off he went to Palace, and everyone predicted correctly which two City players he’d come after. He loved Leon Cort, a brilliantly dominant, strong, towering and yet clean as a whistle centre back – never booked despite the role he played – and the £1.2m offer to take this Londoner back to London was accepted and the defender was wished well as the cheque cleared. Taylor’s successor, one Phil Parkinson, had already lined up a Brentford defender called Michael Turner as replacement, and used the remainder of the Cort money on some other expensive names. Meanwhile, midfielder Stuart Green joined Palace on the cheap at the behest of Taylor’s daughter, with whom he was in a relationship.

City were having a poor time of it under Parkinson and already the pressure was on the new gaffer when Taylor brought his Palace side to the Circle at the end of September 2006. He was greeted lukewarmly, and the Palace fans taunted the East Stand with bursts of “Where’s your Taylor gone?” to the opening bars of Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep. It was a tight game, goalless until just before the hour, when the goodwill that oozed out of every pore of every City fan for the returning Cort dried up instantly.

It’s notorious stuff, even now. Cort went up for a set-piece which was cleared, found himself on the edge of the area with the ball dropping in front of him, and hit a low shot that spun wildly via a deflection into the City net. He had never scored a goal like that before, something Parkinson ruefully pointed out afterwards, and proceeded to ruin his well-cultivated image as a good sportsman entirely by laughing in front of the City fans in celebration. Later he apologised, saying he was just laughing at the ridiculousness of the goal, not at the Tiger Nation, but some struggled to forgive him.

Turner scored a late, deserved equaliser and Taylor said afterwards he didn’t like being at the Circle as an opposing manager. Almost exactly a year later it would be another 1-1 draw between the two clubs, this time at Selhurst Park and courtesy of another very late City leveller, that would cost Taylor his job, which was greeted with an abrasive lack of sympathy by City fans, something which upset the emotional Taylor a great deal. He managed anywhere and everywhere afterwards but never faced City again.

5: Terry Dolan
It took forever to get rid of Dolan, the man who symbolised the bad old, sad old 1990s more than most at Boothferry Park, and even after a second relegation in 1996 was it not considered obvious by chairman Martin Fish to try someone new as City returned to the lowest tier for the first time in 13 years. When Dolan did leave, a year later, thanks to new ownership agreeing that the coaching regime was toxic and grubby and needed cleansing, he spent a couple of years taking the stiffs at Huddersfield, where he had been popular as a player in the 1970s.

Dolan quit this job in early 2000 to become York City’s manager but by then the two scheduled fixtures had already happened, with City having their near neighbours from up the A1079 as their ‘quick turnaround’ opponent (every club has one, every campaign – look at our games against Leeds this season). Both games had ended 1-1, stalemates for which each set of supporters could be grateful with hindsight as, with Dolan’s influence to the fore, standards dropped and both matches in 2000/01 ended 0-0. The most notable thing about the first of these goalless draws, at a rainy Bootham Crescent in October 2000, was the York fans enthusiastically joining in with the Tiger Nation’s chant of “if you all hate Terry Dolan, clap your hands.”

A win apiece and a draw apiece followed in the next two seasons before Dolan lost his job at York. He didn’t manage in league football again.


FAMOUS FIVE: Players for City and QPR

QPRThere has never been much love in recent times between QPR and Hull City. Think the kneecapping of Mark Lynch, McGregor’s penalty save, punishing the timewasters of 2007, John Gregory scampering down the touchline like a six year old, the Snodgrass knee injury, Taarabt’s tantrum, Myhill’s red card, Charlie Austin’s ill-advised chutzpah, the premature pitch invasion, Diomande’s hilariously unintentional winning goal… we could go on forever. And yes, a certain chant by a dozen or so children back in 2006, too. Not pleasant.

Maybe we’ll look back on some of these instances later in the season, when we have time to garner more pure hatred for everyone. As it is, it’s still August, the sun is out and we have seen Leonid Slutsky dance, so we’ll go easy, plaster on a smile and just give you five players who turned out for both clubs, for now. There weren’t many to choose from, as it goes…

1: Adam Bolder
BolderAdam smallElegant youngster from the City ranks during the bad old, sad old days of the late 90s. He got into the team as an 18 year old and immediately impressed, and with the club always a bit too quick to cash in on anyone with a modicum of talent, was soon allowed to join Derby County for an undisclosed fee.

Still not yet 20, Bolder debuted for Derby against Manchester United and eventually settled into the first team, staying there for almost seven years during which time Derby exited the Premier League and had a short spell with Phil Brown at the helm.

He joined QPR midway through 2006/07, missing out on Derby’s return to the top tier at the end of that season (and their record-breaking relegation the following year).

Bolder was instrumental in helping the Hoops stay up in 2006/07 and became captain the following season, eventually spending two years at Loftus Road. It was Iain Dowie who decided he no longer fitted into QPR’s plans, and he had spells at Sheffield Wednesday, Millwall, Bradford City and Burton Albion before returning to Yorkshire to play non-league football.

He featured for North Ferriby United in their historic 2014/15 season, winning the FA Trophy at Wembley and finishing second in the Conference North, and his last playing role was at Scarborough Athletic last season, where his brother Chris is assistant manager.

2: Patrick Gilmore
HP Gilmore, as he was also known, was a Hartlepool boy who was playing colliery football when he failed a trial at City as a 20 year old in 1934. He ended up playing for Mansfield and the then Bournemouth & Boscombe Athletic before going to QPR in 1937.

A half back with strength and energy, he joined City again in May 1939 and played in one of the two games of the abandoned 1939/40 season – a 1-1 draw with Southport – before the campaign was halted for hostilities. Gilmore didn’t receive an immediate call up and carried on playing for City in the unofficial North East Regional League (in which City finished seventh out of 11) and the Football League War Cup, a trophy that could perhaps have been more subtly titled and from which City made a second round exit.

It feels unfair sometimes that wartime appearances are not always officially recognised, so here are Gilmore’s for City: One Division Three (North) game, 19 NERL games (including one with Billy Bly in the team), five War Cup games, all in 1939/40. He then received his call-up papers.

Happily, he returned to play twice more for City – once in War Cup qualifying (!) on Christmas Day 1944 and in the so-called “Second Championship” (seasons had to be split in half due to lack of player availability) against Bradford City on April 2nd 1945.

City didn’t take part in the 1946/47 season and Gilmore, by now 33, went back to QPR for a short second spell before retiring. He then returned to Hartlepool with his family and died in 1966.

3: Rowan VineMuch travelled and completely pointless centre forward, whose shocking record of nine goals in 69 league games for QPR should have been enough to put City off a loan spell in 2010, but they did it anyway. He played five spectacularly wasteful games for the Tigers, before showing an equivalent ineptitude at three other clubs prior to his Loftus Road contract finally expiring. The remainder of his career was spent in Scotland and non-league and he hardly scored then either.

4: Ernie Shepherd
Skilful, nippy left winger whose best years were taken away by the Second World War. Barnsley-born Shepherd bookended his professional career in London, thanks to being scouted by Fulham while playing junior football in Bradford and then spending his latest years with QPR.

He was associated with Fulham for ten years, seven of which he spent on active service, returning to Craven Cottage on the cessation of hostilities and staying until 1948. He then had a few months at West Brom before joining a City side needing reinforcements at outside left under Raich Carter as they chased promotion to Division Two.

He scored the only goal at Darlington on his debut but was unceremoniously dropped after two games for the returning Eddie Burbanks, and thereafter was in and out of the team, though did play in the last three games of the 1948/49 season as City clinched the Division Three (North) title. Carter preferred Burbanks the following season, as City fought their way to a highly creditable seventh place in Division Two, and Shepherd played just nine league games. He scored twice, both in 2-0 home wins, one of which was against his boyhood club Barnsley.

Shepherd, now 31 and needing first team football, returned to London in the summer and joined QPR. He was a huge success there, staying for six years and making more than 200 league appearances, scoring 51 goals. He was 37 by the time he went into the non-league game and later became a coach, mainly overseas. He was manager of Southend United in the late 60s and died in 2001, aged 81.

5: Mark Hateley“Ill-judged” is how QPR fans charitably describe Hateley’s stay at Loftus Road in the mid-90s, after a long and illustrious spell with another Rangers, further north. We can empathise. The ex-England striker had been a success everywhere he went until he pitched up for £1.5m in White City, signed by his old chum Ray Wilkins, with whom he had played for Milan, Rangers and England. He scored just three times in two years and was part of a relegated side in 1996.

He went back to Glasgow, momentarily, and then got the call to come and be player manager for Hull City. The level of incompetence he showed as gaffer at Boothferry Park remains staggering to this day, matched by ratio and worsened by dint of his savage, all-dominating ego. And it’s not as if he was any good when he played, either, as by the time he gave up playing (and was sacked as manager) he had scored the same number for City in the bottom tier – and at the very bottom of the bottom tier – as he did for QPR further up.

We could have done Damien Delaney, Jay Simpson and/or Simon Walton, but all three have featured in F5 articles in recent times.