Debunking the myth of City’s white 1904/05 ‘home’ shirts


There is a school of thought that says Hull City played their first game in plain white shirts rather than the black and amber stripes which gave rise to their Tigers nickname. Prominent in this commonly held belief is a photograph of two teams, one wearing white shirts and the other in Notts County-like black and white striped jerseys, surrounded by dignitaries and posing alongside a smiling female who holds a large floral tribute. This image is usually captioned as depicting the pre-match formalities of the club’s historic first game on September 1st, 1904. But does it?

Analysis of the photo reveals anomalies which cast doubt over the occasion it depicts, from the presence of Harry Taylor, captain of rugby side Hull FC, in the ‘whites’ line-up, to the absence of any readily identifiable City players. So if we accept that this photo wasn’t taken on the day of City’s first game v Notts County, then what game is it from?

In January 1906, The Hull tug Star sank in the Humber, leaving two men, James Atkinson and Walter Brammer Ferndale dead and two families fatherless. In response, local politician, fancy-goods retailer, former Hull City director (and prominent supporter) S.T. Smurthwaite used his energy and contacts to organise a fundraising game at the Boulevard for the families of the deceased.

Through Smurthwaite’s connections, he got future City manager Fred Stringer to referee the game and Tigers trainer Bill Leach to run the line. At this time City were playing on the Circle cricket ground, but still had a lease to use the Boulevard. Their own Anlaby Road ground was nearly ready and would open in the March of 1906.

The resulting fixture was a match between a Cyd Smurthwaite XI and the ‘Lady Madcap’ Company team. This unusually-named side were representing the theatrical company appearing in the musical comedy “Lady Madcap” at the Grand Theatre in Hull.


The undoubted star of the company was Marie Studholme who was described in a local paper as ‘the famous musical comedy actress, the most photographed woman in the world and generally considered the loveliest woman on the English stage’. It was she who kicked the game off at 2.30pm on Thursday February 22nd 1906 and who features at the centre of the commemorative postcard by RC Garside, flanked by Smurthwaite in the white shirt. Next to him is Harry Taylor.

The event prompted the following verse in ‘The Globe':-

They talk of epoch-making things,

And eras ne’er to be forgot,

But to my mind more fondly clings

The mem’ry of sweet Marie’s shot;

To me it was a precious treat,

To watch the twinkling of her feet.


With graces matchless, glances coy,

She glided forward at the call,

And then, oh blest seraphic joy,

Her shoe shot out to kick the ball;

She failed, but ah, what thrills of bliss

Were mine in watching such a Miss!


Taylor would have needed no introduction to the city’s sporting public as captain of Hull FC. He had also represented Yorkshire and England in his sport, and in this game was playing in goal. Antony Starks of Hull Kingston Rovers had been due to play but had suffered a family bereavement on the morning of the game. Other players representing the ‘whites’ were Goodin, Stather (captain) Reid, Carney, Hopper, Bolton, Norman, Smurthwaite, Harper and ‘A.Special’.

CydLetterMatthew Carney and Walter Goodin were fringe players for Hull City that season. Carney played as centre half at Denaby in an FA cup qualifying game on October 28th and Goodin played as full back in the final league of the season at home to Lincoln City. Neither player was retained after the 1905/06 campaign ended. ‘A.Special ‘, possibly another City player, scored a hat trick in the game that ended 3-3.

After the game, Smurthwaite expressed gratitude in a letter published in the Hull Daily News:-

“We must thank the football club for the free use of their ground, the courteous secretary of Hull Football Club (Mr Charlesworth) for his great help, the Hull City club for the loan of goalposts, ball &c., Mr Stringer for officiating as referee and Messrs Harry Hampson, Leach and Coates for their help, and the gatemen of the Hull and Hull City Clubs.

We heartily thank Miss Maris Studholme for not only putting the ball in motion but for her enthusiasm on the fund’s behalf ever since the charity match was mooted; to the members of the “Madcap” company for their whole-hearted support; to Commander Wheeler for allowing the H.T.S. Southampton band to play; to Messrs Winter for sending a wagonette gratis for our use; to Messrs Owbridge who, through Mr Turner, sent us some novelties which created much merriment; to Mr Sykes for the use of a room at the Manchester Hotel; and although I mention it last, it is by no means least, the kind co-operation of the Eastern Morning and Hull Daily News Company, who, through their mediums, made known to so many people this charity effort was at such short notice to take place.”

It was reported that ‘The receipts from the game were estimated to be around £40. There would be a couple of thousand people present, a great proportion being of the gentler sex.’

According to ‘The Fly‘ in the Hull Daily Mail’s match report the next day “the ladies of the ‘Madcap’ Company were busily engaged extracting hard-earned shekels from the male visitors, and even had the audacity to relieve me of 2d for a copy of the teamsheet. The flowers were selling well at prices which would make a florist’s mouth water”. A second Garside postcard depicts this fund-raising activity, with the ladies and their flower baskets. Marie Studholme also features in this card, and a smirking Smurthwaite has managed to position himself cross-legged at her feet.


It can be concluded then that the photograph purported by many (including the club in programmes and on a large canvas displayed near the Chairman’s suite in the West Stand of the KC Stadium) to show the pre-match scene at the Tigers’ inaugural game, the basis of the common assumption about the first primary kit, in fact depicts a charity match that took place some 18 months later. What City wore in their first game remains unconfirmed.

A team photo of City in white shirts, black ‘knickerbockers and stockings’ with the season year of 1904-5 on a ball could understandably be thought to corroborate the white shirts as part of the primary kit belief if the ‘Madcap’ game photo was instead from the first game, but even that photo needs to be put into a wider context.


This team photo is just that, a team photo, rather than a photograph of the squad, as City used over 40 players that first season and the image has just 11 players and trainer Bill Leach.

Those players are F Wolfe, J Whitehouse, J Turner, T Jones, W Martin, JE Smith, G Spence, P Howe, A Raisbeck, G Rushton and H Wilkinson.

J Turner’s presence helps us narrow down when this photograph was taken, as he played just seven games for City, all of them consecutive and five of them at home. Of those five games, only two featured an XI identical to the team photographed in white jerseys: v Burton United on November 3rd and v Bradford City on November 12th.

Burton United’s first choice kit in 1904/05 was a terrifyingly garish outfit of green and Indian red (a hue between pink and brown) quartered jerseys, white shorts and green socks, no clash with either white shirts or jerseys of black and amber stripes. Bradford City’s main colours though, would clash: The Bantams kit at that time was claret and amber striped jerseys worn with white ‘knickerbockers’ and black stockings.

It is important to note that at this stage of Association Football’s development, there was no such thing as an ‘away kit’. The convention of the time was for the home side to change shirts in the event of a colour clash, it wasn’t until 1921 that the visitors were the team required to change after a Football League ruling. If the norm in City’s first season was to wear white jerseys then no change would be required, but the match report of the game makes a specific reference to the need for a change.


It also refers to us early on as the “wearers of the amber and black”, signifying that the soon to be nicknamed Tigers’ primary colours were already well established by this point, just over two months and 17 games into their first season. The next reference to kits is the even more telling: “[Hull] City turned out in white shirts [because of ] the Bradford shirts being very similar to those of the home team.”

The clear implication is that white shirts are part of a change kit, and not the first choice City kit. So whereas some believe the Tigers began wearing amber and black at the start of our first Football League season, the 1905/06 campaign, the club were in fact wearing the now familiar colours much earlier than that, perhaps even in the first game against Notts County.

IllustratedHullCertainly by March 1905 when Hull Daily Mail writer Athleo suggested the Tigers nickname based on the striped jerseys, though the Mail’s cartoonist was depicting City players in stripes five months before.

The illustration shown here, drawn by RW Lawson, has caricatures of several prominent players from the club’s first season and trainer Bill Leach. There’s “Lightning Goal Getter” George Rushton who scored City’s first goals against Notts County, George Spence “The Skipper of the Crew”, H Wilkinson as “Wilkie on the Warpath”, ‘keeper Jimmy Whitehouse (wearing stripes, it wasn’t until 1909 that goalkeepers were required to wear distinct jerseys), Tom Jones who “returns the argument” and “Marcus Superbus”, or Mark Andrews, a teacher (and club director) who played eight times for City.

His last appearance came on 29th October 1904 against Stockton. That game, a 2-2 draw, came a fortnight before the Bradford game and subsequent report which calls City “the wearers of the amber and black”.

It would be absurd to assume that the cartoonist incorrectly drew striped shirts when City’s first choice kit included white shirts, so it seems safe to assume that ‘The Citizens’, not yet known as The Tigers, were clad in amber and black stripes by October, at the most just 59 days after their first game.

We now know that the whites v stripes photograph is not from a Hull City game, and can reasonably deduce that the white shirted team photo is from a specific game when City were compelled to wear a change kit rather than representative of what was worn for the full 1904/05 season, leaving no evidence at all that the club did not wear amber and black from their outset.

The nearest thing we have to a record of what Hull City wore in their first game is a photograph evidently taken on the day. As well as the XI that drew 2-2 with Notts County (lined up here in the order of Joe Leiper, Jimmy Whitehouse, Tom Jones, Billy Martin, Frank Wolfe, George Rushton, George Spence, Peter Howe, T McKiernan, Andy Raisbeck and Henry Wilkinson) it features some of the men who founded the club, Ben Frost, Ernest Morison, Alf Spring, Fred Levitt, Jack Bielby, James Ramster, Chairman William Gilyott, James Barraclough,  Marcus Andrews, vice Chairman Dr. George W. Lilley and Ben Crompton. Also present are trainer Bill Leach and rather significantly, the Lord Mayor Alderman W. Jarman JP, who kicked off the first game, with his behatted beadle E Rodgerson. FirstGame

What the players appear to be wearing here opens up a whole new can of worms, as it seems they are wearing all black, but it doesn’t offer anything to support the white shirts in the first game theory, so we consider that school of thought expelled, totally debunked.

So let’s consider what we see in this photo. It could be that they players are wearing training/warm up tops before the game and changed for the match, but that’s not a theory we are minded to subscribe to. Maybe the truth is hiding in plain sight.

We consider it possible that City are wearing amber and black here, but that the print quality is so low that the lighter stripes are indistinguishable. Without further corroborative evidence we can’t say for sure, but our current belief is that City wore amber and black in their first game.

Consider that on the 24th of August, 1904, in announcing the formation of the club the Hull Daily Mail wrote: “The Hull City team, we are informed, have decided to play in black and amber vertically striped shirts.”

No mention of what City wore against Notts County is given in the Mail’s match report, but since they’d previously announced what the club’s colours were, and that by November 12th they were calling City “The wearers of the amber and black” as if this was common knowledge, then there is little basis to assume we wore anything other than amber and black against Notts County. No Football League team wore all black between its formation and City playing for the first time, so a team intent on joining the professional ranks wearing monotone kits would be a notable occurence.


The British Film Institute have a short motion picture on their website of a Mitchell and Kenyon (the Blackburn based film producers) recording that shows a City game from the 1904/05 season that could well be against Notts County, as City, clad in amber and black are playing a team in striped jerseys that appear to be black and white as worn by the Magpies in 1904. Only two of the teams that came to the Boulevard in 1904/05 were known to wear a kit similar to that seen in this video, Notts County and Derby. Grimsby might seem an obvious candidate, but in 1904 the Mariners wore brown and blue quartered shirts.

There can’t be many games in a season of friendlies that were deemed worthy of filming (both FA Cup ties against Stockton were played away) though the first game seems a more likely choice than the visit of Derby. Sadly, Mitchell and Kenyon have captured only one half of the game, seemingly the second half if the manner in which the players take to the pitch is a clue, and not the pre-game activities which may have included Mayor Jarman kicking off, identifying it for certain as the Notts County game.

The footage is still very useful though, it confirms what we suspected about City playing in amber and black before the start of the 1905/06 Football League campaign, and suggests that the first amber used was a very dark shade compared to what was used in subsequent years. The corner flags are striped, with the lighter bands not altogether distinguishable from the darker stripes, which lends credence to notion that dark amber stripes and black stripes, if worn in the team photo with the Mayor and club directors, would not be easy to make out on a very grainy photograph.

In summary then, we know that white shirts were used as a change kit in 1904/05 but it was not the primary kit, and the balance of probability is that Hull City wore amber and black in their first ever game.

Research by Nicholas Turner. His books Now Tigers! and Hull City in the 1920s should be on the booksheves of all Tiger Nationals.


The Soul of Hull City #8: The Hinchliffe Crest

Keeping Up Appearances


Back in 1999, at the start of a period of self inflicted financial turmoil that saw the club evicted from Boothferry Park, players go without pay and the taxman issuing High Court winding-up orders over unpaid VAT, the board saw fit to pay a few grand for an unneeded rebranding exercise. At the behest of vice president Stephen Hinchliffe, (a man disqualified from being a company director by the DTI and later convicted of fraud and jailed for two years) his nepotistically-appointed son James Hinchliffe was tasked to design a new crest. It was an utter abomination.

At the top of a shield was a crudely illustrated Humber Bridge that had three giant coronets hovering ominously, Damocles sword like, over the span. Underneath, inside the escutcheon, was an owl with a goatee beard rendered in iron filings, or maybe it was a clipart crab with a circumcised penis for a nose, or maybe, just maybe, it was a tigers head. It was supposed to be, but it sure didn’t look like one.

Thankfully, that design, which first appeared in a programme in March 1999 and inspired indignant protest, never graced the players’ kit. A hastily redrawn version was used on the Avec strips for 1999-2000 and 2000-2001, and though it was a little bit better, it was awful nonetheless, retaining the nose that looked startlingly phallic.

Adam Pearson sought to erase any trace of the ‘Sheffield Stealers’ reign when he brought the club out of administration in 2001 and heroically commissioned a new primary logo that contained the old, beloved tigers head design that had adorned City shirts between 1978 and 1999. Every now and then, however, the Hinchliffe crest is unwittingly used by a lax page editor in the national press, and the Tiger Nation is forcibly reminded of the time our club’s logo was, depending on your perspective, a bearded owl or a cock-nosed crab.



REPORT: City 2-1 Fulham


Sustained dominance. Some silken football. A deserved lead. An advantage prematurely relaxed upon. A deflating leveller.

For quite some time, it appeared that the above would tell the story of Hull City v Fulham in August 2015, and that lessons would need to be learned about putting sides away more clinically.

That lesson remains valid, but can now be taught with the comfort of a late winner securing a win that looked both certain and lost at varying times.

Because on the early evidence of this season, Huddersfield and Fulham at home are fixtures that anyone challenging for promotion ought to be collecting six points from. City have done that. And for that, credit.

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The Soul of Hull City #6: Best Stand Dust Showers

Fan Culture


Best: a superlative of ‘good’, meaning of the most excellent or desirable kind – though the word is often loosely used to describe something that’s less shit than whatever is surrounding it. Hence, Mel C was the ‘best’ singer in the Spice Girls, Benidorm is the ‘best’ ITV sitcom of the past 25 years, Carlsberg is probably the ‘best’ lager in the world, and Boothferry Park’s ‘Best Stand’ was fractionally less shit than the South Stand, North Stand or Kempton.

The Best Stand had very little going for it, other than the fact that it wasn’t one of the three other stands. Yes it housed The Well, and it was where the dignitaries and sponsors sat, but it was still shit. In the final 30 years or so of its existence, when it had basically been left to rot, it had the added benefit of showering City fans with dust, rubble and bits of masonry whenever a clearance from a City player (or a pin-point pass from Steve Terry) hit any part of the stand’s upper areas. If the ball happened to hit the part of the stand’s roofing above the players’ wives, it was often the highlight of a Saturday afternoon watching these ladies, done up to the nines (well, more like threes for the most part), having to pick bits of concrete out of their Mark Hill hair-dos. The KC has yet to show any signs of fraying, but should the day come it can only be hoped that it does so in as comical a fashion as its predecessor.


Things We Think We Think #193


1. Well, that was refreshing. Going to support your local team should, regardless of the result, be an enjoyable experience, and on Saturday it actually was. None of the division and rancour that befouled many a matchday last season was evident, the atmosphere was at all times positive and the focus entirely on football and football alone between 3pm and 4.50pm. Brilliant.

2. City did their part too, sending fans home still happy with a resounding 2-0 win. The performance wasn’t at all times convincing against limited opposition, but the Tiger Nation was given reason to believe that Steve Bruce’s men can play much better than they did, and if you can win well when not at your best, that’s a very good sign for the season ahead.

3. Disappointingly, the Allams have managed to create a negative headline or two amidst the joy of winning on the opening day, initially with their decision to boycott matches, and then with their later claim (not made directly by them, but revealed by the manager) that this was due to their property being vandalised by City fans. Notwithstanding the fact that we would condemn any such action, the fact remains that such allegations should go to the police, not to the media, and we have strong cause to suspect they haven’t. Their failure to rebrand the club still haunts them and eats away at them, and still they cannot bring themselves to stop besmirching the good name of their own customers. Shame on them.

4. Irrespective of their reasoning behind the boycott, we can now move on. In their absence, there is less need to call for the owner to do one and more need – indeed, necessity – to unite as supporters in concentrating on singing pro-team songs, as opposed to anti-Allam songs. The “City Till We Die” chant existed long before his signature on the deeds did, and so it should be reclaimed as the exclusively pro-team song it has always been. Re-singing ditties with the words “The Tigers” in should be considered too.

5. It has been a sadly rare occurrence for us to acknowledge a job well done by the club of late, especially if it has any connection with history, but the decision to allow supporters to hurl symbolic oranges on to the pitch before the game, in memory of Ian McKechnie and in homage to the unique way City fans of the late 60s and early 70s used to herald him pre-match, was a truly commendable one. It’s nice to see that someone crucial from the club’s past could be remembered appropriately and quite innovatively, especially in an age where football as a whole has become too sanitised and distant to allow such activity to occur regularly again. Anyone chucking an orange at Allan McGregor would now be arrested and banned, after all.

6. There’s always some medicine with the sugar though. Have you seen how the club have altered the Championship table? Putting ‘The Tigers’ instead of Hull City, while keeping all other surrounding club names intact, smacks of juvenile pettiness. Club nicknames have never appeared on a league table, and that’s what ‘The Tigers’ is – a nickname. The FA said so. If they’d actually doctored it so it was a table entirely full of nicknames, that might have been taken as a decent, if predictable, joke. As it is, those who made this decision just look total buffoons.

7. Accrington Stanley will, hopefully, be such a laugh. Hull City and the League Cup are hardly bosom buddies, and a first round exit feels almost inevitable given the circumstances (and our current regime’s less than exemplary record of respecting cup competitions), but we almost don’t care. It’s a ground tick, it’s a summer night’s trip to the devil’s county and it’s an opportunity to emphasise again, what being a proper City fan is like. We can’t wait.

8. See also Wolves next weekend, which is on Sunday, kicking off early and provides a proper opportunity for a Sabbath on the sauce at a ground which is always an enjoyable awayday.

9. On Thursday night, a group of supporters were invited to the stadium to taste, and opine on a variety of produce supplied by the deservedly much vaunted local firm Hull Pie. The outcome was a decision on which flavour pie would be stocked in limited numbers at stadium food outlets against Huddersfield, and a commitment to increase orders to satisfy demand if they sold well. Everything about this is admirable, it shows that there are people at the club actively engaging supporters to improve the matchday experience (even if the owners don’t like what the fans think) and that efforts are being made to showcase locally made produce and support local businesses. Barbecue pulled pork was the winning pie incidentally, we could have recommended that long before Thursday night having scoffed many, and if you haven’t tried Hull Pies wares, made by long standing City fan Matt Cunnah, you should. (

10. Bloody hell, Channel 5’s Football League highlights show was jenk wasn’t it?


MATCH REPORT: City 2-0 Huddersfield


Sometimes, it’s helpful to be reminded why we do this. Why a lifelong attachment is formed to a football club by dint of geographical accident, parental coercion or simple adoration of the game.

Sometimes, it’s useful to block out the external cacophony, reduce things to their simplest, to the way they were when Hull City AFC began to worm its way into our affections, and see how we go.

Yesterday, City played in the second highest tier of English football, contesting a Yorkshire derby in a three-quarters full stadium in which they played fairly well and won quite convincingly.

Doesn’t that sound handsome? Yes, life isn’t that easy, particularly when your cause is sometimes less a football club and more an outlandish soap opera. Which is why, just for ninety minutes yesterday, this humble observer tried to focus on one thing. The only thing that ought to matter. The football.

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FAMOUS FIVE: City on the opening day

From the greatest goalscorer in our history to the most punchable manager, we bring you five occasions where City’s inaugural game of a campaign has induced excited recollection, or just left a scar struggling to heal…


1. Things can only get better for Chillo

Heavily in debt and with fans criticising them for a wretched pre-season programme, City turned to youngsters, triallists and amateurs on the opening day of the 1960/61 Division Three season, and a 17 year old forward from Sproatley called Chris Chilton was summoned to the first team. Given the inside right position, it wasn’t exactly a dream debut; he had only one chance on goal (a header that went wide) as Colchester United tore into the Tigers at Layer Road, with Les Collinson and debutant Eric McMillan both handling the ball in the area to allow Cyril Hammond to put away two comfortable penalties.

Martin King scored twice in the second half, the second after a dire back pass from the haunted McMillan, whose debut may go down as one of the worst in City’s history, and the U’s triumphed 4-0. Manager Bob Brocklebank responded by switching Chilton to centre forward for the next game, a decision that did wonders for player and club long-term. His fellow debutant up front, 23 year old Peter Nicholson, who made up “surely the youngest attack any League side has ever fielded” according to the Hull Daily Mail‘s Brian Taylor, was dropped and never featured again. Despite this remarkable opening day success, meanwhile, Colchester were relegated at the season’s end, while City finished 11th and Chilton, still not 18 by the end of it, had his first 19 League goals next to his name.


2. Hateley’s new beginning comes to an instant end

“He’s warming up, he’s warming up, he’s warming; Hateley’s warming up” chanted the South Stand singing corner as Hull City’s bright, young, fresh symbol of the future did some cursory stretches on the Boothferry Park touchline during a pre-season friendly against Huddersfield after his summer of 1997 appointment as player-manager. After six years of the hateful Martin Fish and Terry Dolan era, there was a new dawn breaking over the old ground, with modern-thinking owners looking to a seriously big (if somewhat inexperienced) name to finally fulfil the several decades’ worth of potential that had built up.

Thousands decamped on Mansfield before the opening game of the 1997/8 campaign, expecting everything to slot into place, or at least a decent display from players inspired by the achievements, charisma and general human qualities of the new manager. The result was markedly different; City were disjointed, unfit and completely hopeless, and Mansfield’s 2-0 win brought about one of the biggest comedowns in the emotionally-charged life of the loyal City fan. City didn’t score for two more games before sticking seven past Swansea, but the season was as bad as any in the club’s lifetime, made only salvageable by the self-destruction exercise going on at Doncaster which prevented relegation into the non-league pyramid. Hateley was quickly defined as being out of his depth and not a pleasant individual, and his exit the following season came just in time for City to avoid the Conference again.


3. Four scored, still no win

In the pre-war era, football was just as deferential to the class structure as anything else in life, and criticising professionals was just not cricket, or indeed any other well-heeled sport, at all. In the modern game a 6-4 tonking will get you brickbats from the press while the manager will be either ashen-faced and sighing heavily or the colour of rhubarb, blaspheming intensely. In 1934, it wasn’t even the done thing to ask the manager a gentle question or two after the game, any game, yet one suspects City boss Jack Hill would have had plenty to say after a Devonian defeat that would have perfectly fulfilled the cliché of “a good game for the neutral.”

City bounced between the Second Division and the regionalised Third during the 1930s, and were back in the higher, national tier at the commencement of the 1934/5 campaign which involved a long old boneshaking slog to Plymouth. Jack Vidler scored for the home side on two minutes and Frank Sloan soon added a second, but City came back with Andy Duncan scoring from distance.

Vidler’s second made it 3-1, but City were level by the half hour mark through a brace from Les Dodds, both headers from corners. In the second half, Plymouth re-established the lead through Eugene Melaniphy, then Vidler completed his hat-trick. The game still wasn’t safe, however, as Dodds completed his own hat-trick, and City were pressing for the equaliser right to the last minute when Jimmy Cookson broke away to seal it.

“On the run of their play, Hull seem destined for a profitable season,” said the ‘special correspondent’ (ie, a Plymouth-based agency hack) in the Hull Daily Mail. “It was a really enjoyable tussle, and in many ways Hull City were more impressive than their opponents.” Except in the crucial fields of scoring goals and not leaking them. You can imagine maybe not Hill, but some of his successors as City manager, balking at the idea that their teams would be worthy of such praise after a 6-4 defeat. City’s predicted “profitable season” didn’t emerge; as was the case for their second tier existence during all eras up to 2008, they finished mid-table, with the first win not coming until the sixth game of the season.


4. Premier League, piece of cake

Promotion to the top flight in 2008 brought about the expected plethora of articles digging into City’s chances of staying up, with that globulous cretin David Mellor even suggesting that we should be disallowed from taking our place in the top division for reasons no more compelling than we hadn’t been there before. Phil Brown bought well over the summer (albeit with money we actually didn’t have) and a fresh, history-making City lined up at the KC with the world, this time literally, watching over them.

Fulham were the beatable visitors, yet this Premier League adventure started poorly and made every City fan wonder if we were going to be humiliated from August to May, just as Derby were the previous season. Seol Ki-Hyeon headed the visitors in front early in the game, and the short period that followed brought about yet another of those great comedowns from major hope to the despair of the reality awaiting us.

Then Geovanni, on debut, took the ball from a wide right position, flitted inside and swept a marvellous shot into the bottom corner of the Fulham net. The feeling was beautiful; the relief touchable. The goal itself was divine to observe as well as experience, and the Brazilian had a few even better moments to share with his new devotees before stereotype took over in the winter months and he hid for a bit. At 1-1, the sun came back out.

The second half was hard going and both sides could have won it, but two subs eventually sealed it for City with eight minutes left. Craig Fagan robbed a dithering Paul Konchesky on the edge of the box and, in a rare moment of clear-thinking and accurate delivery of a horizontal ball, he found Caleb Folan, who in turn belied his own reputation for straying offside by being in the right place to steer the ball in. He would never have glory in a City shirt again as better players than he were to make the next three months some of the most stirring we’d ever witness, but for now he had his place in club heritage, and City had won their first ever top tier game.


5: Back, and forth, and back, and forth, and…

Still City under the brash Terry Neill had hopes of getting to the First Division, but four seasons under the Ulsterman in his salad days had failed to deliver, even though some of the football had been tremendous to watch and the emphasis on a controlled attacking mindset had made for some memorable matches. Consistency was an issue more than anything, and as the 1974/5 season approached, Neill had a plan for the opening day trip to Southampton.

His hand was forced by injuries to senior players and the big-money sale of Stuart Pearson to Manchester United, but nobody let Neill believe the idea wasn’t anything but his. He shoved in stacks of youthful talent for the game at the Dell alongside the experience of Ken Wagstaff, with Brian Taylor in the Hull Daily Mail claiming that most of the side would still have “clear memories of their 21st birthday.”

Southampton had gifted players in their ranks – an international strikeforce of Mick Channon and Peter Osgood was ludicrously good for the Second Division – but they’d been relegated the year before and were seen as a scalp in the making. It started exceptionally, with Vince Grimes scoring on six minutes, but everything City did, the home side could match.

Paul Gilchrist equalised early in the second half, but Wagstaff restored the advantage three minutes later. City then went down to ten men when John Hawley, fabled to this day as football’s last amateur player, retaliated to a hefty Paul Bennett challenge and was giving his marching orders under what Taylor termed “soccer’s get tough policy”. Osgood levelled for Saints with 15 minutes left, but unbelievably, the ten men regained the lead straight from the kick-off through Wagstaff. City clung on into injury time but Gilchrist forced in a third for the Saints with the last touch of the game, leaving Neill proud but visibly frustrated.

Five games later, with the all-out attack and emphasis on youth yielding just one win and a three straight blanks, Neill had gone, having been offered a route back to north London and the Tottenham Hotspur job, one which football as a whole scarcely believed he had earned. John Kaye, who retired from playing when he was declared unfit for Southampton, took over straightaway and made the team more pragmatic in its approach, ending the season in eighth but, again, never truly looking like taking the last big step.


The Soul of Hull City #4: Mike Smith

Dramatis Personae


It was seen as something of a coup for City when Wales manager Mike Smith was appointed as the club’s new boss as the 1980s got underway, though it was tempered by the knowledge that he had never played with, nor managed daily, any professional footballers. An amateur player by choice and ex-teacher, he had overseen the Welsh into the quasi-quarter finals of the European Championships of 1976 and within a game and a dodgy penalty at Anfield of the World Cup two years later, but taking on City was new territory for everyone involved.

Smith was more teacher than coach, more athlete than footballer. Tales of his training programmes remain legendary, with the squad barely touching a football due to Smith’s insistence that they ran and ran and ran all the time – round the pitch, through Boothferry Estate, in the gym. His Friday night sessions became notorious as they rendered the players knackered before important games while also struggling to understand what he required of them when a ball was at their feet.

Nevertheless, the fitness of the players did improve and the remainder of 1979/80 saw a run of form that allowed City to avoid a first ever relegation to the Fourth Division, courtesy of a win over Southend on the same day that two other Hull teams were eggballing around Wembley. Smith’s long knives came out over the spring and close season, however, with a stack of seasoned and established professionals released or sold – his decisions to let Roger deVries and Stuart Croft leave especially saddened the fans – while those that survived were evidently hacked off and his signings distinctly out of sorts.

There was an exception, a glorious one, in the shape of goalkeeper Tony Norman, who pretty much single-handedly rescues Smith’s legacy by being unbeatable and unmatchable for eight terrific years with the club after joining from Burnley. He also took credit for getting youngsters from a gifted youth side into the first team picture, with Brian Marwood, Steve McClaren, Gary Swann and Garreth Roberts all becoming regulars, the latter even becoming skipper at the age of 21.

He also wasn’t afraid to give 16 year old striker Andy Flounders regular football. He needed to do something with the strikers, after all. Keith Edwards was scoring regularly but hated the new regime, chucking his shirt at Smith after being substituted during a goalless game against Brentford at a time when City were so woeful and so short of ideas that the demotion to the bottom division they had been so relieved to avoid the year before was now inevitable. Smith signed two non-league forwards in Billy Whitehurst and Les Mutrie, both of whom had to be an improvement on the plodding Welsh international Nick Deacy, brought in by Smith early on after a nonentity career in Holland.

City went down with games and weeks to spare, and Edwards was sold early the next season. Whitehurst became a regular up front but couldn’t score (or head, trap, run…), but Mutrie, at 29 one of the oldest Football League debutants of all time, settled in well and scored quite freely alongside him. Smith’s side were just a middling, inconsistent, uninteresting team when the club was thrown into the national spotlight suddenly in February 1982 thanks to Christopher Needler revealing he had been advised to stop putting funds in.

Receivership documents were drawn up and Smith, along with one of his assistants, was sacked to save cash. Most of his players remained – though Deacy was one quick to jump ship – and when Don Robinson and Colin Appleton came in, they made a team that could score, win, defend and get promoted from the squad Smith left behind. The youngsters from the ranks became legends, as did Whitehurst, Mutrie and the immense Norman.

Smith managed Egypt for a bit, winning the African Cup of Nations, and had a second spell with Wales in the 90s, but City is the only club he ever managed. It was a strange time, unique in terms of the way the team was plummeting and the financial struggles that would somehow salvage him from a worse ultimate fate, yet despite the bigger picture surrounding the club, and the handful of decent, if misused or mistreated, players he left behind, there isn’t a great deal of lingering affection for a manager whom, at the time, the fans didn’t get chance to really dislike.


NEWS: Chester and Brady departures confirmed


They’ve been in the offing for a few days, and today the sad confirmation has arrived that City have lost the services of both James Chester and Robbie Brady.

Sizeable fees have been obtained – some £7m from Norwich for Brady and £8m for Chester from West Brom, taking the Tigers’ summer sales over the £20m mark. However, the loss of Brady’s maturing talent and James Chester’s peerless composure in the defence is immense.

Chester joined City in 2011 from Manchester United for what now seems a preposterously modest £300,000 following a successful loan spell at Carlisle. Despite a much discussed lack of height, his superb reading of the game, unflappable nature and under-rated skill made him a fixture for Nigel Pearson, Nick Barmby and eventually Steve Bruce. Meanwhile, his Welsh mother enabled him to represent them at international level, and to date he’s turned out six times for his adopted country. He’ll always be remembered as an FA Cup Final goalscorer, as one of the finest players in the history of Hull City AFC and an all-round superb pro.

Another Man Utd youth product, Brady also made his City debut in 2011 on loan from Old Trafford. He was to have two loan spells at The Circle, during which he didn’t always convince. Remarkable as it may seem now, he was often seen as a lesser Cameron Stewart – abundently gifted but prone to poor decision making with a suspect workrate and a propensity towards greed. Nonetheless, City signed him permanently in 2013 and a refreshed attitude led to him finally harnessing those unquestioned abilities coupled with much greater maturity. International honours followed for the Republic of Ireland, with 13 caps and 3 goals to his name.

Both players represented the club well during their time here, and it’s hard to begrudge them the opportunity to remain in the Premier League following City’s relegation. We’ll miss them both, but it’s impossible not to wish them well.


The Soul of Hull City #3: Ian McKechnie feted with fruit

Fan Culture


Jovial Scottish custodian Ian McKechnie was a mainstay between the sticks for City over eight seasons in the 60s and 70s, but despite all his agility and bravery – team-mates said he was brave almost beyond the call of duty – it’s the pre-match routine between him and City fans which was dominant in securing his place in City folklore.

Numerous stories have been related, but McKechnie’s own version has to be taken as the definitive: one Thursday afternoon after he’d left Boothferry Park following treatment, he walked along North Road and then Anlaby Road and noticed a Jaffa orange in a shop – a wet fish shop, oddly – and decided to buy it to scoff during his walk.

Two young lads then shouted their good wishes for the coming away game to him, and McKechnie, still chomping on his snack, responded with thanks. Two weeks later, at the next home game, two oranges landed on the pitch near McKechnie’s goal, almost certainly from the same two lads.

McKechnie, who happily sucked on the oranges during the game, related afterwards to the Hull Daily Mail whom he believed had thrown them and why, and subsequently numerous oranges started appearing in his goalmouth as a ritual at each game. Some got squashed or bruised, but he’d end up taking half a dozen or so home each time.

One week, an orange had a phone number and ‘I LOVE YOU’ on it which McKechnie showed to the Mail reporter who then arranged a meet up. Although McKechnie was greeted by an attractive woman upon ringing the doorbell, it was her five year old daughter who had chucked the fruit.

Another time, a fan was arrested at Sheffield United for hurling an orange McKechnie-wards, and the keeper himself appeared in court on the supporter’s behalf later to explain away the reasoning.

Given that McKechnie, who played for City between 1966 and 1974, was also responsible for English competitive football’s first penalty save in a shootout (in the Watney Cup semi against Manchester United in 1970; he also missed a penalty, a further first), he could have got uppity about being more associated with fruit than football when his City career ended. But he was truly proud of his unique contribution to player-fan interaction at a time when fan-fan interactions were rather more feisty.

McKechnie died in 2015 and, at the funeral, his family threw oranges into his grave. It’s impossible to define how fitting as a final gesture this was.