The boy was a larker… Neil Mann

Each generation has their city era that’s purgatory. For my Dad’s age group it was the late seventies and early eighties as we fell ignominiously to the lowest league for the first time ever and the disinterested Christopher Needler starved the fans of any real hope. I guess for the younger ones now it’s the last three to four years of the Allams ownership with dwindling support, poor communication and a toxic atmosphere at games. Perhaps I’m biased (ok, take out the “perhaps”) but my generation of the latter Dolan years followed by Hateley and David Lloyd makes the two previous catastrophes look like a champion’s league run…

1995-96 was far and away the worst Hull City team I’ve ever seen, several of the players weren’t anywhere near professional levels and their names still strike fear into the hearts of fans of a certain age. Simon Trevitt in and of himself being a case in point, yet somehow the 1996-97 team was standing by saying hold my beer, as a newly relegated City team not only failed to compete in Division 4, but they were lucky to be around a couple of worse teams than us or we could have been headed to the non-leagues. The fan base were infuriated at the lack of any ambition from the then chairman Martin Fish and the appalling long ball style of Terry Dolan whose comfort in the abject failure we were witnessing just inflamed the situation all the more. 1997-98 would see new ownership with well-known tennis related twerp David Lloyd taking the reins and putting in place Mark Hateley and his receding mullet with aims of turning around our fortunes. It didn’t, but you knew that already.

Each stage from 1995 to 1998 just got worse, even when you thought it couldn’t, we were a horribly ran, car crash of a club and disaster after disaster unfurled before our eyes. For a period of time Dean Windass was the shining light that kept us above where we should have been and gave the fans a reason for hope, but when he was inevitably sold, the cupboards were barer than ever… apart from one or two shining lights… and Neil Mann was just that.

In 1993 Manny came to City to no great acclaim, after being released by Grimsby and playing in non-league football for Spalding and Grantham. However in two seasons where City flirted with the play-offs at the third level he was a major contributor. Operating from the left either on the wing or left back he was a bundle of energy, playing on the front foot, making marauding runs from front to back. The City fans loved the energy he brought and the positivity. Twisting and turning, wriggling past full backs and running at opponents. To be fair, he didn’t shirk the physical side either and more than held up his side of the bargain on defensive duties.

He had a sweet left foot, and when he arrived he had Linton Brown and Windass up front, so some decent targets to pick out. Richard Peacock was brought in during the same era and when on form the two made city a threat coming forward. When both strikers were sold Manny continued to be one of our brighter sparks but injuries robbed him time and again. Knee injuries seemed to haunt Neil and he had two long periods out, if memory serves me correctly one was vs. Scunthorpe in a local derby and the second time (and what would prove to be the end in real terms of his run) in 1999 vs Liverpool in the league cup.

I’m sure the ever brilliant Tigertube will have a Neil Mann section, getting after players relentlessly with some audacious moments too. His lob at home to Swansea in a 7-4 demolition was a piece of skill that the City fans rarely glimpsed. Dropping his shoulder after a zig zagging run Manny left the Swans keeper standing as he cheekily pulled out a sublime lob. City players in that era just didn’t do things like that. This was Manny’s party trick, the old grey matter is stretching to think of another carbon copy, I’m going to say it was at home to Orient but I could be wrong.

After he retired City kept him on as a coach in the youth team and I had a really interesting chat with him at a game in the new stadium, where he waxed lyrical about the young talent coming through the club. Later on he’d relocate to Australia where he still resides.

I’ve pontificated on this before, but it’s definitely a factor that when your team are starved of talent, the one or two decent players you do have occupy a special place in your heart. The City team of the mid to late nineties were workmanlike at first and by the end absolutely rotten. The players that managed to shine in those circumstances were few and far between. Neil Mann was one of those that offered hope when there was precious little to be had, entertained when frankly the pub before the game often trumped the talent on the pitch. He gave us everything he had and scraped us out of some holes we might have never got back out of if not for him and a handful of players. Neil Mann was definitely a larker.

Thanks for reading.

UTT.

Pictured Neil Mann with the next best left winger we had in 1997.

This blog isn’t about Patrick Bamford…

I was walking past Paragon station one day around 2010 or it could have been 2011. Just ambling around doing some shopping. As I headed into St Stephens, Jimmy Bullard and what was presumably his agent emerged from the train station and headed towards a taxi. Now, at the time he was in the midst of a dispute with the club who I believe were trying to cancel his contract because of his conduct on the previous pre-season tour.

We were not in a great place financially but presumably Jimmy wasn’t overly concerned about that… and much of the problem was on the club to be fair. They gave out the silly contract, they hadn’t done their homework about him and they also knew about the lack of insurance. However, that said, young Mr Bullard had not exactly conducted himself like a professional footballer, whether that’s in regards to his rehab or his likening for a “night out” which is in this case a very mild euphemism of what he got up to.

Either way, past me Jimmy swept in a cloud of expensive after shave and badly fitting designer clothing, and that was that. I probably messaged my cousin “Tigerbread” and my Dad with the information and may have even done a small tut.

What’s my point you may ask dear reader? Well my point is this… I don’t know the man, I never did and I never will. I’ve heard like lots of you about his pretty abysmal conduct, but none of that is fact, and even if it was, he’s a person who is going through a process to decipher whether he was off to Ipswich with two buckets of cash or one. Put frankly, it’s none of my business to an extent.

Which brings us back to modern day and article I read today about the regular tormentor of our club Mr P Bamford. In the BBC article here… https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/68229140 he describes his family being threatened, people waiting for him outside his house and having to delete social media after he missed a penalty.

It seems the modern world is full of such tales, often on social media but in this case actually bringing intimidation to a family home. I’d like to say I’m surprised but I’m not.

But this isn’t exclusive to Leeds United fans, nor is it an opportunity to write about a club that isn’t exactly loved by a sizeable portion of the City fanbase. (for reasons I’m not going to explore today). Look all about in the UK and beyond and lines seem to have blurred about the notion of players and sport and even wider than that into the realm of generally famous people. Maybe because social media makes them seem more accessible, maybe because the invasive nature of which warps the general public’s view, but either way it’s not for the better.

Patrick Bamford just like any other pro is doing a job. It’s what he’s good at. Just like we all do. I’m sure he likes playing and to some extent at the elite level it’s quite a privileged existence. However, it also comes with a ton on top, whether that’s training every Christmas day, spending infinite time away from your family, a short shelf life, strict diets or incredible personal pressure, I’m sure we can all agree that it’s not all sunshine and lollipops. I always think it’s an incredibly lazy summary when your classic Talksport caller says “Jonny Foreigner gets ___ grand a week, I’d do it for free…” etc etc. If 30,000 people turned up and starting questioning any our parentage at work, I can’t imagine it would be easy to crack on with your normal job.

Essentially they are doing what they are doing because of year and years of incredible commitment and discipline (ok not so much Jimmy….but you get my point) it’s not luck and it’s not for long.

When I think back to the horrendous end of the 2019-20 season I always think of Keane Lewis Potter sat on the pitch at Cardiff in tears, the season was catastrophic and we’d finished with the indignity of being bottom. The sky had fell in. This young man through no fault of his own was in the midst of this disaster and his hometown club had returned to the third level for the first time in 15 years. It hurt him like it hurt us. Nobody wants to fail, nobody takes the pitch to do that, but it certainly does happen.

City fans have at times pushed those personal boundaries too. We’ve had to endure some absolutely brain-dead leadership but no matter how bad ownership or management has been, it’s not ok to go to people’s houses or workplaces, it’s not ok to threaten people or their family and friends and it’s certainly not ok to skulk into online spaces and do the same.

We are, as I often remark in the blog, just fans, not super fans or better than each other. These players are somebodies’ sons and fathers to children of their own in many cases. They’re not our mates (unless they genuinely are) and we don’t really know them as people, even thought we may think we do. Go and watch them, cheer them, boo them and go through all the emotions with them, but at the end of that game, go home, have a beer, chat to your football mates and family and leave them to get on with their lives. Just as you’d expect in your jobs and your professions.

I might even clap Patrick Bamford next time I watch him play. Ok, I lied in that bit, but you get my point. There’s something bigger than football here. Treat people with some dignity, you might not like the shirt they wear, or love the shirt they wear and you don’t rate them, but really that’s all just confetti…. it’s not life and death even though it means a great deal… the players are a human being under that shirt, treat them as such….

Thanks for reading. UTT.

Anlaby Road Tribute Project

Most of Hull City’s hardened long service supporters would gladly admit to having attended the club’s old ground at Boothferry Park, a mile further out of the city centre from the MKM Stadium, and set back off the Boothferry Road.

Fer Ark as it was colloquially known, was the dream football stadium created by Harold Needler who was the chairman of Hovingham Gravels. The construction of a ground that would one day hold 55,019 spectators for a Quarter-Final F.A. Cup tie versus Manchester United was started prior to the outbreak of WW2 and was eventually opened in 1946 to host the visit of Lincoln City in the Football League’s 3rd Division North.

As today’s supporters, of a club that has experienced five seasons in the promised land of the Premier League and has aspirations to regain its status in the World’s most popular football competition, traipse along the walkway from Argyle Street to the Superstadium currently sponsored by MKM Building Supplies, the UK’s largest independent builders merchant, few will realise that their journey will take them past where the Hull City Association Football Club called it’s home for some 40 years.

On the 24th June 1904, the Hull Daily Mail carried a report of the previous evening’s AGM of the East Riding of Yorkshire Football Association. The event was held at the Manchester Hotel in George Street, Hull. The article was headed ASSOCIATION GAME

Annual meeting of E.R.Y.F.A.

The Hopes of a Second League Team.

As late as the 8th August the club was still uncertain where it would be playing its home games as the search for a suitable venue was proving difficult. A three year lease of the Boulevard was negotiated with the Hull Rugby Club on the basis that the football fixtures would be played when the rugby club was playing away from its home. The fact that Hull City’s home matches would clash with East Hull’s rugby club didn’t seem to enter into the discussion. The Hull Rugby Club had taken care that they were not the club to suffer from the counter attraction of ‘Class’ football, as it was known, however much Kingston Rovers might be affected.

City’s directors arranged friendly matches against many of the big clubs who would send their full first team. The popularity of Association Football concerned the Northern Union, the administrators of the Rugby Football League, which eventually instructed the Hull Rugby Club to deny access to the Boulevard for Hull City’s scheduled match versus Manchester City, the holders of the F.A. Cup by insisting that the ground be closed for the remainder of the season.

Not to be thwarted, City’s directors turned to the Anlaby Road Cricket Ground of the Hull Town Cricket Club to set up a pitch on the outfield of the cricket circle. The success of the venue lead to the club announcing it would be playing all its following season’s fixtures at the venue and intended paying off the final year of the Hull and East Riding Rugby Club’s rental agreement with the rugby club moving to a location at Dairycoates.

For the season 1906/7 a new ground was laid out on a plot of land next to the cricket circle formerly used as the North East Railway cricket ground. Thus was the new Anlaby Road Ground established in time for City’s first season in the Second League.

At the declaration of War in 1939 football was put on the back burner and little activity took place at Anlaby Road apart from Hitler’s intervention on the spectator’s stands!

What the Second World War failed to achieve, British Railways, the owner of the land, managed to complete. The nationalised railway company decided it wanted to reduce the number of level crossing in Hull by closing the Newington Line between Hessle Road and the Cottingham South Junction by creating an excursion service loop between the Doncaster/Selby and Scarborough lines, which effectively carved a swathe through the playing surface and put an end to the ground being used for football activity.

Since Hull City’s move to Boothferry Park, Anlaby Road had been utilised as a training facility and for hosting City’s A team and junior team fixtures.

The new railway route was created in 1965 and since then Mother Nature over the past 58 years has continued to hide what remains of Hull City’s original home. Chris Smith, an inaugural board member of the Hull City Supporters’ Trust, mooted the idea of unearthing and conserving the structure and the Anlaby Road Tribute project was up and running. It lay dormant for some nine years but following Chris’ co-option back on the board progress is beginning to be made.

The Supporters’ Trust is inviting supporters and guest to join them in the “Hall of Fame” as it launches the Heritage Project with Hull City’s LEGENDS!

Burnsy will host three of Hull City’s “Hall of Fame” Legends will be the Trust’s principal guests in the Kingston Suite at the MKM Stadium on the evening of Friday, February 9th when the Anlaby Road Tribute heritage project will be officially launched with more details being revealed. Tickets are available on the Eventbrite platform. Click Hull and then HCST. The ticket will include a choice of the MKM’s award winning Championship Street Food. The evening’s entertainment will conclude with an auction of Hull City memorabilia under the hammer of ex-Tiger John Hawley.

Chris Smith

Director Hull City Supporters’ Trust

Peter Taylor is the greatest modern Hull City manager…change my mind…

The other day the Hull City twitter wished Peter Taylor a happy birthday. The club are very respectful of former alumni and it’s always nice to see. However, me being me, had to post the above picture. Why? Well…a few days earlier when wishing Steve Bruce happy birthday several fans proclaimed big Steve as our greatest manager. Now, this isn’t a piece of writing aimed at putting Brucey in the mud, far from it, he took City beyond the heights we thought we’d peaked at under Phil Brown and he deserves an awful lot of credit for this, however I still think that without Peter Taylor, Steve Bruce is never at the club, Phil Brown may not be either and certainly neither manager would have had the base to build such impressive achievements . Put succinctly, I’m dying on the hill of saying Peter Taylor is our greatest modern manager and here’s why I think it…

Firstly, I honestly don’t know if either one of Bruce or Brown could have overseen a revolution of football like Taylor did in the fourth level, and a culture change that we are still reaping the rewards of now, twenty years later. In fact, if you’re a late twenties City fan, you’ve never really known much apart from success (barring some baron years under our former owners and even then, it really was bread and water for about a year in reality, results wise) however for City fans of a certain age, pre-Taylor years, we were either pathetic (see Dolan), heroic failures (see Little, B) or full on car crashes (see Hateley). Nobody post-Horton could really seem to change the direction of the ship for long. Now, that’s partly down to some turgid ownership and again credit where it’s due Taylor had Adam Pearson and those who invested in him, so he did have a really strong infrastructure around him.

Others however like Molby before and Phil Parkinson afterwards would fail spectacularly with the same regime at the helm, so what was the big difference? Taylor was pretty scarred after an ignominious exit at Leicester, their fans rushed to tell us in technicolour detail just how bad he’d be, but history would show that Hull City was the perfect vehicle for him. He brought in some experience around him in the marvellous Colin Murphy, and targeted his transfers for young and promising players who could be coached and wanted to develop. Thus, we saw the likes of Bo Myhill, Damien Delaney, Ben Burgess and Ryan France arrive. He also got the best out of what was already here with players like Ian Ashbee, Stuart Green and Stuart Elliott stepping into increasingly pivotal roles. Then, between Taylor and the owners, he got the mix right and by adding Premier League ability like Nicky Barmby.. a transfer we could never have dreamed to have secured. PT put together a heady mix of steel and flair and this City team would play in his vision with both.

What was it that Taylor had that others didn’t? There’d been investment in other eras and the same City sides had still came up short. That’s probably easier answered by some of the players at the time but as a fan City were suddenly a clinical and physical team who would put teams to the sword quickly and without mercy. I remember being at places like Kidderminster, Northampton and Cheltenham, often venues that we’d be embarrassed at and suddenly it was City as the tormentors. We were organised, everyone knew their role, and we counter attacked better than most City teams I’ve seen before or after. If you came at us, City would soak it up and players such as Allsopp, Green, Barmby, Fagan, Burgess or Price would rampage up the other end and put games away in short shrift.

Pragmatic managers aren’t always universally loved and I always thought we were slightly less appreciative of the success Taylor produced. Sometimes, his approach wasn’t always pretty and with the style we played it could sometimes backfire. I remember one Christmas getting an underserved 2-2 draw at Crewe and we played horribly. Billy Painter scored an absolute screamer and this less papered over the cracks and more threw two tons of cement at it. The fans weren’t happy and let the management know it. Again, Taylor wasn’t Bruce with his softly spoken Geordie humbleness, he spoke as he coached, to the point, very clinical, unemotional and every bit an Essex boy. This perhaps didn’t endear him to those who like to be wooed. But to me, Taylor was honest, and exactly who he said he was. We’d had decades or grifters, apologisers and those who pertained to know what was best for the club, they were all wrong, Taylor knew what was best for our club and he showed it on the only place that mattered, the pitch.

We still seem to irk the football community with our presence as a club (see the last 24 hours by signing a player on loan from Liverpool). The whole name of my blog is a reference to the times bang average, won nothing, two-bit club fans cry about losing to the “likes of Hull” and I really do believe that this Taylor team is a major reason why we still get it. Not many fans could remember the early seventies or mid-eighties when we were a decent side, so when we went from playing Carlisle to Norwich City in two seasons, we weren’t embraced with open arms, teams were incredulous that they were losing to us. This bizarre notion of having “no history” being wheeled out like it was either accurate or relevant by acne strewn message board virgins. The Taylor teams of 2003-6 were the catalysts for these wonderful implosions which we can still all enjoy up to the present day.

Two promotions and then a season of consolidation in the second level was far more than any of us would have hoped for when PT first arrived as the latest saviour of our beleaguered club. Sure, he had the new stadium buzz and some decent investment, but when you look back at the amounts, they really weren’t outrageous for the era. There was a plan where there hadn’t been one before and those plans were executed beautifully. Even Peter Taylor’s exit was typically understated, he left to join the club who he played for in his pomp in Crystal Palace and to return to his native Essex, he went in the summer, with plenty of time to rebuild and in terms of playing staff with a strong basis for success. No fanfare, no strops, just professionalism and grown up behaviour.

After Phil Parkinson tried his best to ruin us with ice baths and lack of personality Phil Brown would then have us in the Premier League within two seasons, something that never ever happens without one Peter John Taylor. City opinions are free of course and by all means plenty of you won’t agree, but for me Peter Taylor was the greatest modern era, post Premier League manager this club has known and this is why.

Thanks for reading. UTT.

Theo Whitmore…the boy was a larker…

A re-occurring theme of this blog almost since its inception seems to be more or less “was the past better/worse, or do we view it through rose tinted spectacles/with disdain”.

We seem to go back to it a lot and I can see both sides of the coin. On one hand footballers and indeed City now are infinitely fitter, tactically more aware, more athletic and largely more technically able than they were years ago, because of the coaching, the science, the nutrition, and many other factors. But on the other side of the coin, the players of yesterday did it, without those advantages, on pitches that were fit for cows to graze on, with balls that weighed a ton and rules that meant they could be chopped down repeatedly before even getting a free kick. To me it doesn’t really make sense to put one against the other, the context within just one generation is already so different. Jaden Philogene is a joy to watch and he’s headed for special things, but that doesn’t mean that Billy Askew is now rubbish, because he wasn’t and, in the world, he was part of, he too was a special player.

Which takes me to the darling of Tigertube © Mr Theodore Whitmore. So rather that ask whether Theo would be in the current team based on his talent (an ultimately flawed and impossible question) let’s just appreciate him for the infinite amounts of happiness he gave us.

Importantly here context is king. Theo joined City with fellow Jamaican Ian Goodison in 1999. A year after the “Great Escape” in what was an entirely inconsequential season. We were under the dodgy ownership of Hinchcliffe and Buchanan and we didn’t continue to kick on after the incredible turn around of the season before. We just sat in mid-table mainly, with manager Warren Joyce being shown the door a handful of games from the end of the season. Apart from perhaps the young talent of Adam Bolder (who would be gone too after just one year of meaningful first team involvement) there wasn’t a great deal of reason to watch City. We were just treading water, and some of Joyce’s attempts at continuing the upward trajectory really didn’t work out. Jason Harris and John Schofield won’t be inducted into our hall of fame any time soon.

I guess beggars can’t be choosers and even though Theo took a while to get used to the pitches, the weather and the physical aspect of the game in England, he began to give the fans reasons to be optimistic. He scored on his league debut at Rochdale, and although he wasn’t exactly prolific in the City shirt, he certainly was a goal threat as he showed against Macclesfield with an outrageous assist to lay the ball into the run of (I think) Jon Eyre. Much like Jay Jay Okocha would delight the City faithful nearly a decade later, it was the pure brilliance of Theo’s improvisation and outright refusal to play in the style of those around him that made him an utter breath of fresh air.

In a time when we had to eat stale bread the City fans were passed a fresh sizzling steak, it might not have been perfect, but it sure beat what had been served up for dinner for the best part of five turgid years.

I’ve gone back and found my favourite Theo goal and it probably won’t surprise you. Playing against Darlington in the autumn of 2000, City now under Brian Little were about to go into financial turmoil, but Theo played like he was taking part in Pele’s testimonial. A poorly hit corner is headed away and he nips in front of the hapless Darlington defender, and then advances, the speedy Clint Marcelle is on the same page and so he exchanges a languid one-two with him before slotting the ball under the keeper. It’s on you tube thanks to the official Hull City site at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32NN8diYYHA if you need a reminder.

It’s the outrageously ease of which he does such complex things, for want of a better or more eloquent term Theo “took the piss”. And that wasn’t city in this era and wouldn’t be for some time. Now as most of you good folk will know, Brian Little created a small miracle that year despite the finances and took us into the play-offs, with Theo a part of the success, but perhaps not a major part. City was now changing and as lots of bigger names came in for good money that summer he was perhaps even more lost in the shuffle. A real shame as the first two throws of the dice by new chairman Adam Pearson generally failed to improve the points on the board. I genuinely think Theo was better than a great deal of the players that came in during that era.

He still popped up on occasion, not least during the first game of the 2001-2 season when he scored a header (no really) to equalise at Exeter and then laid in a lovely assist for Mark Greaves to take the lead in a 3-1 opening day win. But he would return home that season and even though he returned to play for Little again in 2004, it would be with Tranmere Rovers.

I think we loved Theo so much because he was different and, in a time, when we really had nothing much to shout about he was something. His skills didn’t always work, but my word, when they did, he was worth the entrance fee alone.

Slight epilogue, I saw Theo and Goodison at Boothferry Park before a game in 2001. They rocked up in a Golf convertible with two ladies who looked like they were in a nineties hip hop video and it always stuck with me, that although they were both in the official tracksuit, Theo had one of the legs of his tracky bottoms pulled up, and one down. Twenty something me, tried in vain to replicate this coolness on multiple occasions and just looked like a general idiot. This summed him up better than I could. He was not like us mortals and if you tried to play like Theo, or be like him you’d fail miserably and look like a div in the process. I wasn’t a larker, but Theo definitely was.

Thanks for reading

UTT

Thank you, Brian.

When people talk about legendary figures in the history of Hull City, recency bias is inevitable. I guess the game has changed so much in the last decade plus and as every year goes by, there’s less fans who would have seen some of the stars of yesterday, whether it’s a Keith Edwards, Chris Chilton, Billy Bly or a Raich Carter. Don’t get me wrong there’s nothing wrong with giving some of the modern performers their due respect. We’ve been incredibly lucky to have seen the likes of Jelavic, Huddlestone, Bowen and Hernandez put on the shirt and it’s something we really can’t take for granted. However, I think sometimes when you look back the importance and the impact of players or managers that paved the way are underestimated.

Put simply your Grandad loved watching Chillo, so he took your Dad who loved watching Peter Skipper and he took you and you got to watch Huddz… then you might take your lad to watch Jaden Philogene… without Chillo, it’s arguable that the addiction is never passed on, so to speak.

Anyway, what I’m taking an age to say (in true “The likes of Hull” style) is that the impact and culture of Brian Horton stands toe to toe with almost anyone in the history of the club. Not only because he gave us a joyous and fantastically entertaining product to watch from 1984 to 1988 and took us back to the second level for the first time in nearly a decade, but because he changed a culture at the club, and then as if that wasn’t enough, he came back in 2007 to complete the work he started and was a massively important factor in the greatest achievement the club has ever completed.

Most City fans who experienced the pain of the end to the 1983-84 season are probably in their fifties by now. If not, they were still in short trousers that day. As if you don’t know already City needed to win by 3 clear goals at mid-table Burnley to get promoted from the old Division 3. In “typical City” style we won 2-0. Burnley (who had no real reason to, beyond… you know Burnley) played to restrict City and with no real ambition from the start and worse still the result sent up the much-hated Sheffield United and was essentially the exit door for the incredible talent that was Brian Marwood.  Now, I’m not alone in spitting on the name of both clubs for eternity afterwards and I’m still not sure if 11-year-old me was ever as truly heartbroken by City again, but there’s another story at play that even I don’t like to embrace. So here goes.

City were probably the most talented team in the league that year, and Colin Appleton was a logical choice for the colourful Chairman of Don Robinson as they’d spent time together previously at Scarborough, there was no doubting he was a canny manager and a good judge of a player. His Achilles heel though was that he could be a bit stoic and defensive at times, and City would sometimes struggle to break down teams at home who would get men behind the ball. As much as it pains me to say, draws at home in April and May to Gillingham and Bristol Rovers did as much to stop us going up as that wretched day at Turf Moor.

And that’s where the Brian Horton story begins, as City took stock from that night, Appleton left for Swansea City and we needed some fresh input plus somebody to galvanise a young, talented squad who had lost their most talented player and had been heartbreakingly close to achieving their aims the season before. Brian was still playing for Luton Town at the time and at 35 would be one of, if not the, youngest managers in the league.

He didn’t come in and spend a lot of money, his main off-season deals were to bring in Laurie Pearson a young left back from Gateshead and Neil Williams a utility player who had been released from Watford. Missing their talisman and outstanding player of the season before in Brian Marwood, we had a slow start to the season winning 4, drawing 4 and losing 3 of the first eleven league games, including losing to Preston on a game featured on Match of the Day. However, this bedding in process also saw the rise of the next City icon. Billy Whitehurst terrorised Division One Southampton in the league cup where City lost 5-4 on aggregate and a young England centre back in Mark Wright would have sleepless nights for weeks to come. City were now more front footed than before, in Pearson he had a left back who would push on, whilst in Billy Askew he had a wide player with vision and precision that could cut teams open.

Thus, from the 23rd October 1984, to February 2nd 1985 we would not lose a league game. We imposed our will on teams. The partnership of Skipper and McEwan at the back was immense, Tony Norman in goal was mercurial, Gareth Roberts outworked everyone in the middle of the park and with Big Billy petrifying the league, both Steve Massey and Andy Flounders chipped in with important goals and cameos to finish teams off. That season was not only a joy, but one in which we’d proved that we weren’t dependent on Marwood, there was another way and the middle of all this was the soft-spoken Horton, organising the team, the training and club in professional ways fans hadn’t seen since a young Terry Neill arrived many years before.

Importantly this City side also had bottle. They reeled off five consecutive wins in March and again in April/May which meant by the time the iconic Peter Skipper scored the winner at Walsall, promotion was secured.

I’m sure City have made me as happy in subsequent eras, but at this point in my fandom, I’d known nothing like the buzz and the excitement around the club. We were undeniable and “The tigers were back” as the song goes. Brian again showed himself to be shrewd judge of a player bringing in the hugely talented Richard Jobson that season, and although it took him a while to adjust he’d prove money well spent, the next year he’d bring in Garry Parker and Frankie Bunn from Luton and the experienced Pat Heard and even though the big boys came knocking for Billy as he joined Newcastle United we came a creditable 6th in the second level and again played some terrific and attacking football.

In the next seasons we’d sign the likes of Alex Dyer, Charlie Palmer, whilst young talent like Andy Payton and Andy Saville broke in from the junior section. The end for Brian (and he tells it much better than me) came after a late season loss at home to Swindon and the emotional and flamboyant Don Robinson overreacted and sacked him. The team had faded from an earlier flirtation with promotion but were still in clear safety from the drop. Robinson was taken apart by the players when he told them the news and he tried to take back his decision, but Brian was having none of it and exited the club.

Most fans of the era know we then seemed to staggered from one disaster to another until we were relegated again in 1991. It was a sad state of affairs that would take more than a decade of debacle and humiliation until under the new ownership of Adam Pearson and management of Peter Taylor we finally began to rise again.

Brian had a fantastic management career after us, at Oxford, Man City, Huddersfield and Brighton to name a few, but it was probably a surprise to most when he was tempted back as assistant to Phil Brown in 2007. I don’t need to tell you the details here but I do think Brian’s experience, reliability and professionalism helped keep Phil Brown’s feet on the ground, and that one two punch did things even the biggest City optimist didn’t think was possible.

The great man was on the “Undr the Cosh” recently and spoke really well about his double stint with the club. He was a disciplinarian, but also a thinking man’s gaffer, pragmatic but not without humour. He also opened up about his current challenges with his own health and is helping promote prostrate awareness in a typical Brian Horton selfless way.  The twelve-year-old me fell in love with City under Brian Horton, he gave us vision and identity, the fact he came back nearly twenty years later and helped take us even further means that I’m not sure there’s anyone who has served the club quite as well as Brian. We can talk about Peter Taylor in the same breath, but for me, personally, that’s about it. So, thank you Brian, you’re a gentleman and this club in indebted to you.

UTT.

Charlie Palmer, the boy was a larker…

The boy was a larker part 3. 

I’m asked to do a regular input to the supporter’s trust newsletter and as writing is my happy place, I don’t mind chucking the odd piece their way. Rather than randomly write about wherever the wind takes me, I tend to focus on players of yesteryear (possibly reflecting that the supporters trust members are often old, like me!). I did this one a while ago and seeing as the newsletter is old news now, I thought I’d tinker with it slightly and send it out to you my lovely Twitter (x) folk.

There’s a ton of positive things going on at City presently, not least the fantastic young manager we have, which links nicely to this man, Charlie Palmer. Through his nephew Graham, who has been a mate for 30 years I sent the original copy of this to him. Humble and down to earth as ever Charlie thanked me and I was relieved to see my recollections matched his. Anyway, he still lives in the Derby area and he believed (and still does) that Derby’s loss was our gain. Speaking incredibly highly of Liam Rosenior, Mr Palmer proving that much like a last ditch tackle in 1988, his judgement is as accurate as ever. Some guy is our Charlie. Anyway, enjoy the piece…

Ok, I’m biased towards Charlie Palmer. Why? Well, there’s a connection from him to me (I grew up good mates with his nephew) and met the great man a few times. Thus, when message boards came about in the late nineties I took his name as mine, which is still my other twitter handle, and it’s stuck. Sometimes now fans who I see sporadically at southern games might call me Charlie, much to the amusement of my mates. But it’s not just that. Charlie was a rolls royce, he was the best full back this young fan had seen in his early years of watching the tigers and although he didn’t stay a long time (pretty much exactly two years) his influence was more significant than his time at the wheel. 

My Dad worked shifts as a copper in the eighties and when I’d get home from school, he’d frequently ask me or my Mum to check the “text” to find out any City news. 

That would include putting on Ceefax and Teletext to see if we could find any news on the second level City team at the time (if the word Ceefax has you stumped, ask your Dad), so on February 13th of 1987 I was a busy lad. Checking the text during what I think (statos please confirm) was the transfer deadline of 1987. I was also surprised to be able to tell the old man we’d secured two signings. One was Charlie from Derby County for 36 grand, and one was Alex Dyer from Blackpool for 41 grand. Now both would turn out to be fairly astute moves by the ever-sharp Brian Horton. 

Both also had a link to him. Brian knew football in the area he was at before taking the City job, so we’d get Richard Jobson, Ray Daniel, Garry Parker, Frankie Bunn, Alex and Charlie because of his knowledge of the young players coming through Watford and Luton. Although they’d both moved on from Watford, that was without doubt the link. 

Charlie came straight in that season and made an impact. It was perhaps the one thing Horton hadn’t really found since coming to Hull, an elite wide defender. We’d got by with Laurie Pearson, Bobby McNeil, Gary Swan and others but it was undoubtedly a weak point. 

That wasn’t Charlie. He had pace, he was strong and importantly he read a game. He was good on the ball for the era, was strong in the air and was unflappable under pressure. Later on in his career he’d play centre back at Notts County under Neil Warnock, so he had the ability to deal with the more physical players of the time too. I remember watching him several times just completely shut down the opposition winger and he quickly became a fan favourite. I’m honestly not sure I ever saw him have a bad game.

In that era, I think your full back had to be bit of everything, part pit bull, part whippet, part sniper. Charlie was the first full back I’d seen who had all of the above, he didn’t get pushed around in what was an infinitely more physical game, he was tall and languid for a full back so he could motor, but most importantly, he knew when to shut the door, his timing in his tackles was so impeccable you began to take it for granted. For younger City fans, imagine a pacier, right footed Andy Dawson, but swap his free kick taking ability for aerial presence. Just like Andy Dawson, Chaz was the epitome of consistency.

By the time he was sold almost two years to the day to Notts County, I think it was more to do with the change in management. Eddie Gray wasn’t Brian Horton in any sense, he inherited some fantastic talent but barring a cup run really didn’t do much with it. He sold him where I don’t think Horton would have and we were poorer for it. 

Years later Charlie would tell me it was pretty hard for a black man in Hull in that era. He said he got no trouble from the City fans quite the opposite, but the rugby fans were very different, and you had to watch your step. Although he loved playing for the club and made some close friends (Richard Jobson and Alex Dyer namely) he was quite relieved to go by the end. His face didn’t fit any more and he like all pro players wanted to be wanted. It was a shame it ended that way. But City’s loss was Notts County’s gain, and he went on to play for them in the highest league during a six -season stint. Any City fan who went to watch during that era would have been unsurprised by this or the fact that we seemed to self harm in the process. This was later eighties and early nineties City, that’s what we did. 

We all have that player we loved, even if they aren’t the first on the team sheet of an all-time 11. Charlie is mine and anyone who saw him wear the shirt would agree that Charlie Palmer was a larker. 

Thanks for reading. UTT.

A quick story about Colin Murphy…

With the sad passing of Colin Murphy last week, it’s been really nice to see the ex-players take to Twitter to pay tribute to him, players like Ryan France and Ben Burgess that had worked with him closely during the incredible days of 2003-6 as we rose through the leagues. I tweeted out a little something and I think that the key words were that we’re all in debt to him. Alongside Peter Taylor and Adam Pearson, they completely changed a culture that had been wrong for 15 years, the young ones who go to watch us now, would be most likely going to Crewe and Harrogate if it wasn’t for those men and the fantastic players who developed under them.

Anyway, I realised over the weekend that by pure chance I had a funny story about Murph, that was so outrageous I had to check it via the google machine. I now know it is indeed true, and although I might not nail every fact I thought it’s a fitting and brilliant tribute to the man, and would make you lot smile, so here goes.

I used to know Stuart Naylor, ex West Brom and Lincoln City keeper, via an ex (Stuart was married to her sister). He was keeper’s coach at Bristol City and later Bristol Rovers, and after a couple of beers he can tell a fantastic story. Anyway, one time he told me this about Colin.

Lincoln were doing really well in the old Division 3 in 1982 after they’d been promoted the year before and they were top at the start of October, despite selling their striker Tony Cunningham to Barnsley for 80k, which wasn’t exactly cheap in that era. Stuart in this time is part of a really small squad and I’m not even sure if he’s full time. He plays for the reserves and at 19 he’s developing under first team keeper David Felgate who was (as I remember) very good.

Now, Colin is non too happy about the lack of investment by the then chairman Gilbert Blades, and wants something like 25 grand to buy a forward. The purse strings are however being tightened and he’s not getting the money he wants. Murph knows that if they are to stay in the promotion chase that the fifteen man squad he has needs upgrading though and he’s determined to make his point.

They are about to play a decent Newport County team away (they have John Aldridge and Tommy Tynan) and Stuart gets a ring on the Friday telling him to be at the ground for 1pm. He presumes that David Felgate must have a knock and this is going to be his chance to get the start. However, when he walks in the changing room, there’s the number one goalkeeper and he’s clearly fine. Felgate is non too pleased and thinks Murph might be about to drop him, however it’s not even close to the truth.

Sure enough at 1.30pm. Murph strides in, and names the team that includes the 19 year old, reserve goalkeeper Stuart Naylor as centre forward. Stuart is speechless and doesn’t have a clue at what to do. Glenn Cockerill who was a very technically able player and goes up to the top leagues to play tries to help him out and encourage him a bit, without much success. Stuart says he hasn’t played on pitch since he was maybe 11 or 12. So when the teams run out, the travelling fans are as bemused as he is.

He says the next thirty minutes lasted a lifetime, as he tried and mainly failed to make a nuisance of himself in the “Target man” position. Lungs burning and legs like lead, the game is simply passing him by and the Lincoln fans are not happy campers. He kept looking to the bench hoping this experiment would end as each miss controlled pass and mistake only seemed to make things worse. Stuart was certain Murph would end the madness at half time, but at 0-0 he came in, said his piece and left and so the charade continued.

Tynan scored in the 64th minute for Newport and at 1-0 down, Nayls was now certain he’d be dragged, as Lincoln chased the game. However Colin used his only sub (those were the days!) bringing on David Beavon for Stuart Hibberd and Nayls knew he would have to finish the game. Incredibly they only lost the game 1-0 and stayed top of the league despite the loss. The fans let the team know their displeasure at the end and Nayls said he could hardly walk for a week.

Murph then popped to see the media and said with a threadbare squad and such little investment, he played who he thought was the best man for the job. The chairman quite rightly got an absolute set of pelters from the media and fan base and resigned later that season with a new board coming in. Point made by Murph and he was absolutely right, as injuries really damaged the small squad they fell off to 6th, with a bit more investment and his incredible eye for players there’s every reason to think they could have challenged for back to back promotions.

It’s almost Clough-esque behaviour from a man that I don’t think we have the likes of around in football now, and it’s a poorer place without him. Stuart like most players loved him although he thought he was crackers, he’d go on to get a big move to West Brom just a few years later.

I’m sure I speak for all City fans when I say that the loss of Murph is a sad, sad day and we should all take stock to recognise how alongside Peter Taylor he transformed the club. Rest easy Murph. Cheers.

Who the f*** is Craig Fagan?

Sometimes for whatever reason you can’t be at a game and because of your circumstances the memory of that match really sticks with you. When the much underrated Brian Little had a patched up band of lunatics somehow on a run to the play-offs in the spring of 2001, I was stuck on a school trip as a young teacher in France. Technology being what it was at the start of the millennium, I was told there was a spot about 5 minutes’ walk from the centre of the camp where your phone could get a little bit of signal. After tea on the first Saturday I walked to said location and waited. A message popped up on the Nokia from the old man. “Beat Hartlepool 1-0, UTT” Cue stupid and utterly carefree pogo-ing in the middle of a field in southern France.


Another such occasion was during our first ever season in the Premier League. An incredible start to our season had first slowed, then creaked and by April and May we were in full free fall. We were a burning wreck of losing cargo and all the neigh say, smart arse premier league fans were bathing in our desperation. We were now everything they said we were at the start, leaking goals, naive and nervous up top. By the time we got to the second game from the end at Bolton, it was pretty much us or Newcastle for the drop. Me being me? I was at Butlins coaching junior football.

My main supply of information whilst trying to instil some creative ability in a bunch of sleep deprived 12 year olds was a fellow coach who was also an Arsenal fan that after our Geovanni inspired brilliance, was simply loving the experience of watching me suffer. City chipped in by going 1-0 down and it all looked like we were going to fall at the final hurdle and drop back to the second level. Then in the midst of some 7-a-side also ran game, my mate Jonesey’s face dropped.
“Oh… Pete…. you’ve equalised”
I jumped directly in the air yelling “Get in!!!” at volume, which definitely threw the team as we’d just conceded a throw in.
“Who scored?”
Jonesey squinted at his phone. “Craig Fagan” he replied.
“Who the f*** is Craig Fagan Pete?”


I think I was too happy to care at the time, but now 14 years later, I’ll answer his question. Craig Fagan was an absolute grafter, a relentless channel runner who could plug in across several attacking positions. He was typical of the team that survived in the Premier League that year in that he was a very good Championship player who hadn’t seen a fight he didn’t fancy getting into. Thus we caught lots of big time teams with their pants down. No better example being where he got his leg broken by Danny Guthrie whilst City beat Newcastle at St James Park earlier that same season. Guthrie’s challenge was cowardly and distasteful as Fages was running the ball into the corner towards the end of the match and he teed off on his standing leg. Most City fans made a vow to spit on the name of Guthrie quite rightly but it was the self-same determination, running and savvy play by Craig that brought about such a horrible challenge.


It was his second stint with the club by then, first brought in by Peter Taylor in 2005 after really impressing against us for Colchester United. He was an important part of City’s rise up the leagues, in a formation that Taylor loved to play featuring multiple attacking options coming from deeper positions (see Barmby, Elliott, Green, Price etc). He departed for Derby County during our promotion season, but came back first on loan and then permanently. He was a goal threat, an assist threat and technically had a great first touch, he’d run at the opposition on the ball and worked like an absolute madman off it. That all added up to being very popular with the fanbase.


Then there’s something else that made me respect the hell out of him. In the autumn of 2006 we were heading back to league one. The Parkinson train was off the rails and was heading towards the cliff edge, on fire. We went to his old club Colchester and despite taking the lead through Nicky Forster, what followed was horrific, 5 goals for them flattered us. It should have been 7 or 8. The players had downed tools, Parkinson had totally lost them and the whole night was a farce. Those that stayed let the remaining players and manager know this at full time and things got ugly quick. Most City players limply clapped from a distance and got themselves down the tunnel. It was then I realised there was an exception. Craig Fagan was walking towards the boos, the howls of derision and angry fans. I worried this wouldn’t end well, but he just kept walking. It must have been a tough day for him in particular as a former Colchester player which their fans had reminded him of throughout. By the time he was within five yards of tight Layer Road away end, even the steward’s looked worried. “Lads” he started “That was so bad, I just wanted to apologise to all of you that travelled tonight, I’m sorry, that was terrible.” I’d about two hundred fans who moments before had been booing at the top of their voice had completely stopped. Someone started clapping, another fan gave him their scarf (god knows why?!), but all of them respected such a gesture because Fages showed some serious courage.


Which takes me back to that goal vs. Bolton, watched by me on Match of the Day that night, with one of those rubbish wind related sun tans and full of cheap beer. It was a goal that summed him up as a player for Hull City, he chased and pressed so many times and when the Bolton defence coughed up the ball he ran on to finish with aplomb. The highlights that season were so abundant, from the genius of Geo, to the electric Mendy performances and defensive heroics of Turner, Dawson and Myhill. But we stayed up because Craig Fagan chased a lost cause, that’s just a fact.
He might not be on the lips of every fan when you talk about all-time greats, but his application, determination and poise laid down a marker for others around him and made sure that I’d never forget where I was that day, and neither will many City fans. UTT.

Jon Parkin “The Dancing Bear”

For long term readers of this blog you’ll know I’m a big NFL fan. The term dancing bear comes from the sport and it’s applied to an offensive tackle. For those who don’t know (or care) about American Football, the easiest way of describing an offensive tackle is it’s his job to protect the quarterback from getting hit by quick and aggressive defensive players on the outside of the line. If you’ve got really good offensive tackles and you’ve got a great quarterback, you’re halfway there. Anyway… I digress… these are big lads, and when you find an example of a great one, they are strong but they have incredibly good footwork enabling them to adjust quickly to pressure and keep the quarterback out of hospital. They are rare and get paid multi-millions because you shouldn’t have brilliant footwork and be their size and strength. Which leads me to this man, Jon Parkin because just like the dancing bears of the NFL he just shouldn’t have been as good as he was.


Apart from proper City fans of a certain age, Peter Taylor isn’t really given enough credit in my eyes. I don’t think we go to the Premier League without him, he built the foundations and turned us into a credible and very professional club from top to bottom. He also had an uncanny habit of finding a player that was a gem, or in some cases shining up a gem that was already here to be even better, see Bo Myhill for 50k, Damian Delaney for the same amount and Leon Cort on a free. Nationally I think he’s seen as more of a coach and for his unsuccessful stint at Leicester, which sells him significantly short. Right up there with anything he ever did though was bringing Jon Parkin from Macclesfield in January 2006. Struggling to adjust in the Championship after consecutive promotions you could see why his arrival wasn’t exactly met with gushing adoration by the fan base but that would almost instantly change as he scored on debut against Crystal Palace. In a season where we’d sometimes looked a little naive and got outmuscled City suddenly had an equaliser.


Parks was able to mix it with big centre backs in the Champ and hold up the ball for the likes of Nicky Barmby, Jason Price or Stuart Elliott but he also had some top end class. If you get a minute remind yourself of the 3-0 away win at Stoke on youtube, a game which was perhaps overshadowed by Bo Myhill saving two penalties, however the real highlight was Parks taking down a ball in the area, pinning his defender before chopping the living daylights out of the same player and calmly slotting it into the bottom corner for our second of the day.


It’s a little bit of a cliché, but it’s also true to say he became a talisman. We were punching above our weight and playing lots of clubs who were used to our name being synonymous with lower league football. Teams didn’t think they should be losing to the “likes of Hull”, thus the name of the blog and Jon was the epitome of Taylor’s team’s attitude in the second half of that season, we might not have been household names, but several of them were about to become them, and the attitude was definitely to “deal with us.”


Then there’s the reason he should never pay for a beer in Hull for the rest of his time, the winner vs Leeds United at home. Now, I’ve never been one to build up this game as a rivalry, unfortunately most Leeds fans are simply too arrogant or dim or both to understand why it matters to people in Hull. It matters because of the “Hull Whites” the gormless dimwits who not only betray their home city, but double down by smugly rubbing in their superiority at every chance. I don’t think we beaten them in a league game in nearly twenty years and that day was a long time coming. I’d somehow got hold of a ticket in the South Stand that day and can still see the moment the goal went in, Craig Fagan reworks the ball to the much underrated Stuart Green and as soon as he hangs up the cross to the back post you know how it ends, Parks towers over his marker to head into the bottom corner and mayhem ensues. He knee slides in front of the east stand to chaotic scenes and the monkey is well and truly lifted off our backs.


I think the big man scored one in 3 in that run in, despite playing a lone role quite a bit and we ended up staying up with room to spare. However that’s where the story takes an unexpected spiral for his time with us. Taylor leaves for Palace, the Phil Parkinson experiment is a disaster and it’s clear that he’s no fan of the Beast. He’s then replaced by Phil Brown, who you’d think would be more his sort of gaffer but they fall out and off he goes on loan to Stoke. I know Jon has a very strong opinion of his treatment by the perma-tanned, headset wearing crooner, and this doesn’t exactly correlate with our fan base as ultimately he delivered the impossible and took us to the Premier League the next year. In defence of Parks, I’d say two things, one Brown calling him out on the Radio in his absence was somewhat cowardly and allowed the player himself no right to reply, secondly and this is the bigger one for me, it only showed the canny management of Peter Taylor in a brighter light, Taylor knew who Parkin was and played to his strengths, with good wide play and an array of talented attacking midfielders like Barmby and Green who would thrive off his excellent hold up play. 1-0 to the management of Peter Taylor for me.


Parkin not only went on scoring goals throughout the divisions for another decade to underline this, but has since gone on to an incredibly successful podcasting career with “Undr the Cosh” alongside much less remembered City loan striker Chris Brown. I think it’s safe to say Jon Parkin was a character, and one we won’t see the likes of again, his ability belied his size and background but I’m not sure you could split the two, as Chris Brown said recently on the podcast if he was shredded and 13 stone I’m just not sure he’s the same player, I’d agree with that and I think a lot of City fans would agree that even if it was cut shorter than it could have been that the big man brought some belief to the team and some massive highlights to the fan base in his time with us. The beast was a breath of fresh air and definitely a dancing bear.