The Soul of Hull City #12: The Railway Plaque

Keeping Up Appearances


Acquired from LNER B17 class steam locomotive 2860 (later BR 61660), built in Darlington in 1936 and one of a group of locomotives named after football clubs, the elegant black and amber plaque, one of two that adorned the sides of the aforementioned train, enjoyed iconic status above the Boothferry Park tunnel for decades until the dastardly Martin Fish sold it to a collector and replaced it with a tatty plastic replica.

In the grand scheme of things it didn’t seem the most savage action of the Fish era, but it was witless and, thanks to no official club announcement until they were found out, desperately underhand. More than ten years on, and ever aware of a chance to show his caring, sharing side, Paul Duffen managed to find the purchaser and re-acquire it for the club, and it is now tacked resplendently to the very centre of the West Stand at the Circle.


Things We Think We Think #200


1. A fine victory at Nottingham Forest. City created chances in the first half, controlled the game smoothly, took a deserved lead and held onto it well. Not quite the complete performance, and there’s still that feeling we have higher gears to click into, but nonetheless this was a very encouraging and enjoyable afternoon.

2. If there’s a gripe, it’s that City had to hold on a little in the closing stages, even against ten men. The Tigers ought to have settled the game earlier and it meant we had to experience an anxious finale.

3. Nonetheless, there was plenty to savour. With Mo Diamé and the excellent Jake Livermore providing him with cover, Tom Huddlestone was able to run the game in a way we’ve seen him do regrettably infrequently. On this occasion, he was a delight. His passing was immaculate, his contribution to the tempo of our play fluid and even his tracking back and tackling were impressive. Where a month ago he wasn’t worth picking, if he can replicate that form more often, he’ll be undroppable.

4. At the back, Dawson and Davies were superb. Forest didn’t create much, but most of what they did floundered on our defensive rocks. They may still harbour Premier League ambitions, but there’s been no evidence of sulking from either -and when things got tough, they didn’t shirk.

5. Who saw Abel Hernández tirelessly leading the line for us this season, then? Another goal, albeit from a distance of approximately 6 microns, another game harassing the opposition defence, he was again terrific. An honourable mention to Sam Clucas too, who sometimes looks as though he’s taking a little while to adjust to playing for a side in the upper reaches of the Championship – increasingly, he looks comfortable doing so.

6. Outside the ground and on the way home, we learned from Nottinghamshire types that our victory was ill-deserved and owed itself to the referee. So now we know. While that does completely spoil our fourth successive victory in a row at an appositely named ground, nothing could spoil the fun that was being had on the terrace and the concourse. Two thousand City fans in fine voice was a reminder that although football seems determined to destroy itself (see next point), it won’t be allowed to go without a fight.

7. Saturday saw the Football Supporters’ Federation’s “Twenty’s Plenty” campaign receive plenty of publicity. The campaign aims to encourage clubs not to charge more than £20 for away tickets, something Forest did, that City routinely do and is commonplace virtually everywhere in the top two divisions.

8. Doubtless, the accounting staff at clubs pore over supply and demand graphs and justify their steepling annual price rises with continued full or mostly full stadia, and secretly dismiss fans as annoying pests intent upon greedily saving themselves a few quid. But that really isn’t the case. Football’s demographic crisis has been written about extensively and the clubs are going to seriously hurt themselves if they don’t stop constantly extorting ever greater sums. The problem is that this damage will occur in the long term, and this is a sport notorious for its short-termism. But City, believe us, for your own good as much as ours, £20 really is enough.

9. Apropos short-termism, it was noted on Twitter that Steve Bruce is now the 8th longest serving manager in the country. Madness.

10. Of all the people who did harm to City in the recent past, it was a surprise to learn that Nick Buchanan was the first to shuffle off this mortal coil. His reign, alongside Stephen Hinchliffe, feels a long time ago now.


The Soul of Hull City #11: Harold Needler

Dramatis Personae


As chairmen and owners go, Hull City know what it’s like to see both compassion and spite rule the roost in the boardroom. So many of the recent besuited figureheads have either emerged as icons worthy of immortalisation or villains worthy of incineration. Harold Needler’s commitment to the Tigers was long, unflinching, loyal and active to the very end – literally so, given that he was in control of the club until the day he died.

Needler bought the club when it was dead, gave it the new home that the previous regime had only seen half completed prior to the war dissolving any short term hope of a future, sorted out the identity as far as team colours were concerned (despite an initial period in an unattractive blue kit while awaiting the materials ordered) and appointed Major Frank Buckley as manager after initially using him as a go-between in a futile attempt to attract Stan Cullis from Wolves.

The 30 years that followed were sometimes eventful and regularly interesting. Needler’s natural character cut that of a benevolent and forward-thinking chairman, the type who would make the great Raich Carter the first player-manager of the type commonplace today and put his faith and confidence into the people who knew their job, offering Cliff Britton a ten-year contract to develop the club to the extent that it would be ready for the top flight of English football.

He transferred £200,000 of his profits from sale of his construction company into the club in 1963 that funded a redevelopment of Boothferry Park and allowed Britton to purchase good players, most notably Ken Wagstaff. The ultimate ambition to reach the top tier didn’t quite happen, although the Tigers came mightily close in 1971 under youthful player-manager Terry Neill, one of many individuals associated with the Needler area that ferociously promote the man’s legacy to this day.

Needler’s sudden death in the summer of 1975 heralded a decline in the club’s fortunes, with his unsympathetic, undynamic son Christopher taking over for two years and maintaining a notorious family stranglehold on the club for many dark years afterwards. It is testament to the impact and stature of Harold Needler that he is still referred to reverentially by those who worked with him and supported the club during his tenure, even though the surname dually represents, thanks to his son, periods of disappointment, greed and profligacy.


FAMOUS FIVE: City winning upwards

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

1: 1930, Manchester City


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

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

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

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

2: 2007, Wigan Athletic

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

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

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

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

3: 1998, Luton Town


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

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

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

4: 1966, Nottingham Forest


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

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

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

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

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

5: 1952, Manchester United

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

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

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

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

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


Things We Think We Think #198


1. The 2-0 win at Cardiff on Tuesday was very encouraging. It was close to the perfect away display: start the game with positive intent, score early, defend stoutly and pinch another on the break. Not that it’s saying much, but that was easily City’s best performance on the road this season.

2. Cardiff slightly played into City’s hands, however. Perhaps they were wrongfooted by our reversion to 3-5-2 (of which more shortly), but seeking to rescue the game by pumping high balls into our penalty area was stodgy stuff and easily repelled by a back three whose aerial prowess is formidable. That said, Cardiff are a decent side and we kept them at bay with reasonable comfort – and their shortcomings needn’t overshadow what was a very good defensive performance.

3. Elsewhere, Alex Bruce starting and Ahmed Elmohamady being dropped after 100 consecutive games raised eyebrows before the game, though the outcome vindicated the manager. The move back to 3-5-2 was perhaps less controversial – it just seems to fit City better. It could be a coincidence that our perhaps our best victory of the season followed it. It also may not be.

4. Meanwhile, City beamed this game back to the Circle, for a few hundred souls gathered in the posh parts of the West Stand. It’s no substitute for being there, and the focus really ought to be on the 300 or so who actually made it to Cardiff (disclaimer: none of us managed it), but nonetheless there’s no harm in acknowledging the club’s effort in making an otherwise unwatchable fixture available back in Hull.

5. QPR was a little less enjoyable, obviously. City did well to come from behind, but in the second half with the game there to be won we were a short of inspiration when trying to break them down.

6. Their miserable negativity was a bit of a surprise – if City so wholly abandon ambition in any League game this season, we’ll be quite annoyed. No game is unwinnable, unless you don’t try to win it. But perhaps we’re blaming QPR for shortcomings on City’s part. A bit slow, a bit predictable – all the same worries we’ve had so far this season showed themselves.

7. Still, the situation is much improved upon a week ago. After the rotten defeat at Brighton, we’d have certainly taken four points from the next two games. We got that, and the League table shows that this is a good start to the season and that we’re definitely in the hunt for promotion – even if things at the moment feel slightly flat.

8. An interesting midweek awaits. Swansea will fancy a League Cup tie in Hull like a hole in the head, and it’s anyone’s guess what side they’ll put out. This is a tie we can win. And the Fourth Round of the League Cup is no mean feat. All it’d take is a few big sides to be knocked out, a favourable draw, and…okay, we’ll stop there.

9. Fresh from his defeat at the hands of Hull City fans, Assem Allam is taking on the new Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn. At least it’ll give him something to do other than serially annoy us.

10. A court has prevented Hull City Council’s attempt to serve an injuction on the SMC over their attempt to evict numerous local sporting clubs following the installation of a pitch designed to benefit City. It’s all so unsatisfactory: the Allam’s high-handed arrogance, the local council frittering over £100,000 of taxpayers’ money (if the SMC are to be believed) – it really shouldn’t be this way.


The Soul of Hull City #10: Caleb Folan joins for a million

Talking Points


Finally, we paid a million pounds for a player. And frankly, it was the first time our finances could really justify it. Adam Pearson’s support for Peter Taylor in the market was unflinching, but never could either chairman or manager have been able, even after elevation to the Championship, to apply reason to shelling out seven-figures on one player, especially as Taylor preferred to recruit from below.

So, long after Taylor and Pearson had gone, it was Phil Brown who selected the player, using Paul Duffen’s endorsement and Russell Bartlett’s resources, who would create City spending history. Caleb Folan had been deeply lacking in distinction during a brief loan spell years earlier during his kindergarten days with Leeds, but on August 31st, as the window was being pulled to, Brown offered a cheque to Wigan Athletic, whom City had dumped out of the League Cup, complete with Folan, days earlier, and they accepted.

Folan’s first act was to have his skull dented by a wayward Blackpool forehead on his debut, but once he returned he proved an agile, able and awkward character who diminished initial doubts about his finishing (first goal wasn’t until December) by scoring crucially at Stoke, West Brom and in the play-offs against Watford, along with some invaluable strikes as a sub when Fraizer Campbell and Dean Windass were on form as the starting pair.

He subsequently scored the goal that earned our first ever Premier League win, although injuries and an obvious inability to step up a level (or run around, or control a ball or – most memorably – stay onside) made him peripheral and frustrating thereafter as relegation was fought against, and though he started the first four games of the second Premier League season, it was obvious that he wasn’t cut out for the job on any level, and was soon packed off on loan to Middlesbrough via a few disparaging words in Brown’s direction. Despite this, and irrespective of where he or the Tigers ended up, his contribution to promotion made the historic investment in his services prove more than shrewd.


Things We Think We Think #197


1: An awful lot to ponder after a wretched, really wretched display at Brighton, where City lacked shape, consistency, ideas and, in many cases, footballing competence.

2: Steve Bruce constructed a 4-2-3-1 formation to try to get Mohamed Diamé on the ball, but it genuinely seemed like he hadn’t told the players this. Diamé was isolated in the first half, rarely finding space to exploit but even when he did, the number of touches, worthy or not, that he achieved during a distressingly one-sided affair were minimal. City were as clueless as they’ve been in recent memory during that opening 45 minutes.

3: It improved only with 20 to go, as Brighton finally decided to sit back, and while there was willingness from Ahmed Elmohamady on the right and honest endeavour up front from Abel Hernàndez, it simply didn’t ever look like City were going to score. David Stockdale, not one of our more confidence-inspiring keepers of the Caretaker Custodian years, was not stretched. He had two saves to make, both of them the type you’d expect of him.

4: Proper negative marks have to go adjacent to the names of Isaac Hayden (absolutely bypassed), Sam Clucas (not a left back at all) and especially – and this saddens us – David Meyler, who was ill-disciplined and utterly limited, to the extent that Bruce realised he needed someone capable of finding Diamé in the first place, and replaced him with Tom Huddlestone as the half hour mark ticked by and a yellow card flashed before the Irishman’s eyes. Huddlestone never gave it away (and one classic searching ball that set up the Elmohamady chance fleetingly made us wonder if he could actually be back) but City’s midfield was still more pedestrianised than King Edward Street.

5: We made Brighton look good, but then again Brighton actually are good, though not a team that look like they could walk the division. They lack a touch of star quality but boy they’re quick, they’re incisive and they work hard. Liam Rosenior played on the right wing for them. We obviously never needed him there while Elmohamady was phlegmatically refusing to be injured, but his pace, positivity and general demeanour was exactly what we could have done with, anywhere on the park.

6: It’s a pity Shaun Maloney tweaked his hamstring while playing for Scotland. His experience and professional desire to work on rather than off the ball was also something City could have done with.

7: There were 892 supporters of City who turned up, and 14 players who…. yeah, okay, telegraphed joke. Meanwhile, when the announcer revealed this news on the tannoy, we were applauded by the home fans. We’re still not sure they clapped us for making such a long trip, or for having to endure this cobblers from the players on this, or any trip. Probably a mixture of the two.

8: We offer our unconditional sympathy to the families of the two young footballers from Worthing United who were killed at Shoreham, as well as the bereaved of those others who died. However, a minute’s applause instead of silence feels inappropriate on such an explicitly sad occasion, and the ten minute tribute prior to the game afforded Brighton’s marketeers a cynical opportunity to play a DVD of their greatest (televised) moments of the last 50 years or so on their big screen while people were still committed to paying their undivided attention. This felt cheap. For all that, the tasteful memorial outside the Amex, with a five-a-side goal filled with flowers and scarves, was genuinely poignant to see.

9: Cardiff on Tuesday night. A second madly long trip in four days, but hopefully not a second madly lousy display by City. By the time we play QPR at home next weekend, it’d be nice for the players – and manager – to have got some of their mojo back. If a reliance on making the Circle a fortress is playing a big part in the ambition for the season as a whole, thereby making the away form a distant secondary issue, City are set to have their fingers burned. At some point we’re going to lose at home, and losses can often be followed by more losses. The away form proves this.

10: With the facts now known, or at least barring those redacted for their sheer sensitivity, the Jake Livermore situation sounds astonishingly bleak. The FA have shown wisdom and compassion in not punishing this desperately troubled young man; it’s hard to imagine he’ll be playing again soon in any case. His focus may be on rebuilding his life rather than his football career, and rightly so. Best of luck.


FAMOUS FIVE: Notorious free transfers

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

1: Wayne Jacobs

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

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

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

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

2: Billy Bremner

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

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

3: Mike Edwards

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

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

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

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

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

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

5: Michael Keane

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

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


FAMOUS FIVE: International players at City

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

1: The Reggae Boyz

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

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

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

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

2: Julian Johnsson

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

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

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

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

3: Terry Neill

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

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

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


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

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

4: Jamie Wood

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

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

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

5: Richard Garcia

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

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

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

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

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


Things We Think We Think #195


1. Another home game, another victory. It’s already becoming something of a habit, and a very welcome one too. You could perhaps argue that City’s succession of wins at The Circle owes plenty to limited opponents with little ambitions – and it’s hard to imagine that Preston, Fulham or Huddersfield will be vying for the automatic promotion spots, while Rochdale aren’t even in the Championship. But that’s also unfair on City, who can only beat who they play – and they’ve beaten them all.

2. Saturday’s win over Preston was the most comfortable and encouraging so far. While Huddersfield and Fulham both had spells in which they caused City problems, and Rochdale’s grim determination to stay in their cup tie made it a dissatisfying evening, rarely did it seem that City would yield anything to Preston.

3. There are reasons aplenty. Defence first: Dawson and Davies look immensely assured at this lower level, and even with the game theoretically in the balance at 1-0, there was no desperate holding on in evidence. They’re a superb pair and if they stay here (and stay fit) all season, we won’t concede many.

4. The midfield looked a lot sharper with the indolent presence of Tom Huddlestone removed. David Meyler is in marvellous form anyway, but the restoration of Mohamed Diamé to the side adds ominous impetus to City in the centre of the pitch. Let’s just hope he hasn’t returned to fitness just in time to be sold.

5. Because the transfer window is casting not light but darkness upon the season so far. Nikica Jelavić’s unjust reward for not giving a toss this season appears to be that of joining a club more suited to his elevated sense of entitlement – what a shame that one of the stars of the ill-fated 2014/15 campaign is blotting his reputation at the end of his time here.

6. But who else could go? Huddlestone, maybe – and frankly he won’t be missed on current form. Diamé would be a gamble for any side with his return to fitness being so recent and as yet unproven, however there are always sides ready to take such a risk. Abel Hernández has looked admirably committed so far this season, though his long-term aims are presumably not to play in the Championship. Add in to that the potential of a lowly Premier League side deciding to bulk up their defensive options with Dawson or Davies, or rain in a few cross with Elmohamady, and it’s clear that a squad that presently looks capable of winning the League could be ripped apart very quickly.

7. The transfer window, in case you hadn’t already realised, is an appallingly stupid idea. And we’ll refrain from justifying Sky Sports News’ revolting lauding and dramatising of this orgy of excess by watching anything the absurd Jim White tries to vomit at your television tomorrow.

8. Swansea at home in the Third Round of the League Cup is an interesting tie. With plenty of lengthy hikes already in the offing next month, it’s a relief it’s at home – and despite Swansea being demonstrably the superior side, this isn’t an unwinnable tie. Go for it, City.

9. Before that, we’ll be back in League action. The next couple of fixtures are testing ones, and you suspect that City will need to improve upon their current performances to prosper. Luckily, you suspect that there’s plenty more to come from this side. It’s down to Steve Bruce to extract those performances from the immense potential his squad possesses.

10. Aren’t Saturday afternoons at the football nice without inveterate attention-seekers in attendance?