HCSS member Eamonn McCusker looks back on his last 60 years as a Hull City fan to select the best players he’s seen wear the black and amber. In this first instalment, Eamonn chooses from the period 1963-73.
In last summer’s Tigers Eye, Paul Gamble marked his 60 years on the planet by selecting the most special game from each of his six decades. Well, this year, I’m hitting 70 but, rather than copying Paul, I decided to choose the best 11 City players from each of my seven decades, and mentioned this to a few HCSSers. When I started looking at it, it dawned on me that, whereas Paul had to mention six matches, I would have to reference 77 players. Was this now such a good idea?
I decided to cheat a bit and make it a (little) bit easier by noting that I hadn’t seen many City games in my first ten years so, realistically, I wouldn’t be able to have a decent stab at a team from that decade. So I was left with only 66 players to choose. I have to stress that these are by no means the best 66 players that I have witnessed in a City shirt. There have been some high periods (when I have been spoilt for choice and have had to exclude players who would certainly have made it into my top 66), and a lot of lows (when I have struggled to find 11 decent players in the whole ten years).
I don’t expect that anyone will agree with all of my choices and, of course, many of you will be too young. Some choices are, doubtless, controversial but I have tried to include players solely on their footballing prowess, whatever my opinion has been of them, as people.
Anyway, here goes! We start with the years 1963-73.
Overall, this was a decade of progress. It started with City as a mid-table Division Three side and finished with them as an established Division Two outfit, having had at least one serious tilt at the top division. This was one of the easiest teams to select as squads were much smaller then, and players stayed with clubs for longer periods.
Jeff Wealands – Maybe a surprising choice, given that Ian McKechnie was between the sticks for most of this decade but I felt that, when Wealands took over, he was more consistent and read the play better. It was also a sign of his ability that he went on to play a few games for Manchester United in the top division.
Bill Baxter – Bill was signed on deadline day in 1971 by Terry Neill to add some steel to the City defence. He didn’t play many games for City, with possibly his standout performance being his debut. This, of course, gives me the opportunity to mention the Battle of Bramall Lane and another chance to infuriate those slightly younger than me who weren’t able to attend that game due to it being a school night. I fell in love with Bill that night.
Paddy Greenwood – He was the archetypical utility player, whom it was easy to overlook. In those days, shirt numbers meant something, and Paddy wore seven different numbers in his City career. He could always be relied upon to “put a shift in”. He only scored on three occasions but one of these was after a solo run from the halfway line, netting a late winner at Villa Park as City came back from a two goal deficit in the last 17 minutes.
Billy Wilkinson – Billy’s period as a first-teamer matches almost perfectly this decade. He became a regular in the forward line (as it was then) in the 1963 – 1964 season and netted 13 goals from 27 appearances that term. Unfortunately for Billy, the signing of Ken Wagstaff in 1964 meant that he lost his regular place in the side. But for the next five years he was the “go to” cover when any injuries occurred to the regular forwards, making 70 appearances and knocking in a very acceptable 16 goals. In 1969, due to an injury to Ray Pettit, he became a makeshift central defender and suddenly discovered his true vocation. For the next two and a bit seasons, he made the position his own playing alongside Terry Neill for most of this period. When City finished 5th in 1971, the defence conceded a miserly 41 goals.
Terry Neill – Terry’s appointment at the age of 28 to the position of player / team manager (Cliff Britton stayed and held the post of General Manager (whatever that meant!)) was a real coup. Here was a player from the top division at the height of his power. And he really showed those powers, particularly in his first season, alongside Billy Wilkinson, in a side that only just missed out on promotion.
Ken Knighton – Ken was signed on the same day as Bill Baxter and made his debut on the same evening at Bramall Lane. Oh dear, I seem to have mentioned it again. Like Bill in defence, Ken was signed to bring some steel to the midfield and was made captain the following season. He only lasted two years with City, going on to waste the rest of his career at Hillsborough.
Malcolm Lord – Mally made his debut as a replacement for Ken Wagstaff, who was dropped for the first time at City. Perhaps for this reason and also because, for most of his time at City, he wore number seven but didn’t play as an outside right, he was a longstanding target of the “boo boys”. But he was consistently first choice for Terry Neill and worked very hard without being a flair player. He made 271 league appearances for City and I was really pleased to see him score a well-deserved hat-trick in 1977 (admittedly, not in this decade).
Ken Houghton – I imagine that my final four selections would be identical to every other City fan that lived through this era. Ken was signed in January 1965 a few days after Ian Butler from Rotherham, where he played inside-left to Ian’s outside-left. He played a similar role at City, although more deep-lying. Despite all the goalscoring emphasis being on the exploits of Chillo and Waggy, he nevertheless notched up 22 league goals during the 1966 promotion season. A year after Paddy Greenwood’s goal at Villa Park, I saw him get a late winner at The Den as City also came back from two goals down. Unlike Paddy though, Ken scored all three. He also got three in an end of season game at Birmingham when they finally broke the Birmingham hoodoo of six consecutive defeats and a draw to win 4-2.
Chris Chilton – What can I say? What can anyone say? What was my favourite moment? Ironically, it wasn’t his final hat-trick, against Sunderland in January 1971, but a few months before that at Norwich, when he head-butted Duncan Forbes in the last minute. That was class!
Ken Wagstaff – Another City legend but who, unlike Chillo, never had the opportunity to display his talents in the top division. In those days, though, all clubs took the cups as seriously as (if not more seriously than) the league. And Waggy was able to embarrass several top defenders and goalkeepers, not least Gordon Banks, against whom Waggy scored twice as City raced to a 2-0 lead in a sixth round FA Cup tie. Unfortunately, we all know what happened next.
Ian Butler – Partly in the background compared to his more famous colleagues, Ian was nevertheless, in my opinion, one of the most skilful players to wear the shirt. He also popped up with a few goals, including 13 in the promotion season.
And my game of my decade? Well, it just had to be 9 March 1971 – Sheffield United 1 Hull City 2.
Check back soon to see who Eamonn selected in his team for 1973-83.