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 third instalment, Eamonn chooses from the period 1983-93.
The decade began really well. Promotion from Division Four in 1983 was followed by the nearest of near-misses the following season and then the real thing in 1985. Brian Horton had been appointed manager that season and the following year, his team even flirted for a while with a further promotion, finishing in a creditable sixth. The following season was disappointing but, for the first half of the season after that, City were at or near the top only to fall away badly. In a rash and (possibly) alcohol-fuelled decision, Don Robinson dismissed Horton and a downward spiral continued so that, by the end of the decade, City were firmly ensconced in the third division (or whatever it was called at that point).
Tony Norman – Although never appearing in the top flight with City, some would contend that Tony was City’s best ever ‘keeper. The unknown Welshman was signed from Burnley for an (at the time) large sum of £30,000 by Mike Smith. He was immediately made first choice and stayed that way for the best part of nine years in which he played an incredible 372 league appearances. He was sold to Sunderland with the fee reduced by City acquiring Iain Hesford in return. If Tony hadn’t been appreciated before Hesford’s arrival, he certainly was afterwards.
Charlie Palmer – Brian Horton’s knowledge of the game meant that he was aware of relative unknowns and invariably was able to pick up bargains. Charlie was an excellent defender but was also adept at thundering down the wing. He was still only in his mid-20s and had been an automatic choice under Horton, but an unfortunate combination of an injury at the same time as the manager’s dismissal resulted in him never really coming back into favour.
Wayne Jacobs – Wayne was appallingly treated by the club. He was signed from Sheffield Wednesday at the age of 19 in 1988 by Brian Horton, another of Brian’s many astute signings. He was immediately selected for the first team and made the left back berth his own, playing every game in season 1989/90. He had the ideal full back’s combination of tenacity, speed, and skill. I suspect that it was no coincidence that injury severely curtailed his appearances in the following relegation season. A serious injury in 1992 meant that he was out of action for over a year, but he was still only 23. The powers that be were not prepared to wait and he was not retained. The stupidity, callousness, and short-sightedness of this decision was plain for all to see when he went on to play for Bradford City as they were promoted to the Premier League. Good call, Martin Fish!
Richard Jobson – Brian Horton had a habit of picking up class players on the cheap and Richard was a prime example. He cost a measly £40,000 from Watford and put in over 200 appearances for The Tigers. At first, he struggled but, after a year, he became an automatic choice, initially at full-back, before settling in central defence alongside a variety of partners for four seasons. He joined Oldham in August 1990, a season that saw The Latics promoted as champions whilst City finished bottom. He was a brilliant reader of the game and always looked relaxed with the ball. And, despite always being in the back four he nevertheless chipped in with 17 goals in the league.
Stan McEwan – Stan was signed by Colin Appleton, towards the end of the not quite season of 1984/85, but came into his own in the early days of Brian Horton. He became a stalwart in central defence, but really made his name as possibly City’s best ever taker of penalties and free kicks. If City were awarded a penalty, it was always a goal, so much so that his return of ten goals in 1985/86 made him City’s joint second highest scorer. It seems, though, that Horton didn’t see him as part of the future and he lost his place, harshly in my opinion, to Richard Jobson.
Brian Horton – After Colin Appleton’s shock resignation it was quite a coup to obtain Brian as player / manager. He came from Luton with first division experience. Although by then 35, he was able to put all that experience to good use both on and off the pitch. A similar role to that of Billy Bremner eight years earlier, but surrounded by better players, he led by example and when in the side, was always there on merit.
Billy Askew – Signed by Colin Appleton in the summer of 1982, Billy stayed with The Tigers for eight years, rising from the fourth division to the second. Slight in stature, he combined skill and commitment and was a regular choice in each season, initially at full-back and then in midfield. He also supplied his share of goals.
Garry Parker – Garry was another cultured and stylish player uncovered by Brian Horton. He was only at the club for a couple of years before moving on to first division Nottingham Forest. He bossed the midfield whilst at City, and was another player who chipped in with more than a fair share of goals.
Alex Dyer – Another cheap signing identified by Brian Horton, who went on to be sold for a handsome profit. He initially played on the wing, but really thrived when he was moved to the central striker role. With City needing a win to guarantee staying up on the last day of the 1986/87 season, Alex knocked in a couple in a comfortable victory over Crystal Palace. In four games against Palace, Alex netted four times. Unfortunately, Palace then promptly signed him.
Andy Payton – Andy had a fairly brief period as a regular in the team, starting more than the half of the games in only two seasons. Despite this, he knocked in 55 goals. He was pacey and must have had one of the best goals to chances ratio of any City player. Unfortunately, his second season in the team coincided with relegation, despite Andy’s 25 league goals. Part way through the following season, having scored seven goals from ten starts, he was transferred to Middlesbrough.
Garreth Roberts – Hull-born Garreth was the ultimate one club man, making 409 league appearances as well as notching 47 goals. He was totally committed in both his approach to playing and his loyalty to the club. He would surely have had both more appearances and goals if his career had not been curtailed by injury a week after his 30th birthday. He experienced relegation, administration, and two promotions, and was an ideal captain. Other clubs must surely have come calling, but his one club loyalty was never in doubt.
And my game of the decade? 11 November, 1989 – Bradford City 2 Hull City 3. Possibly a surprising choice from the hundreds of games in the decade. The previous season under Eddy Gray had been a bit of a shambles, avoiding relegation by one place. There had been no wins in the final 11 games (and only one win in the preceding seven). Eddy Gray was replaced by returning hero Colin Appleton. However, the old adage that lightning doesn’t strike twice was never truer. Appleton’s 14 games in charge yielded not a single win. Tom Wilson took charge for two goalless draws before the club appointed Stan Ternent. So, when Stan took up the reins, City had not won in 27. Tom Wilson selected the side, but Stan didn’t like what he was seeing and brought on two substitutes after half an hour, both of whom scored (including one in the last minute) to turn the game around. I fell in love with Stan that day and knew that he would take us to the First Division. Fourteen months later a 5-1 defeat to Portsmouth left City at the foot of the table and Stan was on his way. But back to that victory at Valley Parade: This was the second (and, as it turned out) final game to which I went with my father-in-law. The other one had been a 4-0 defeat, so this victory was enjoyable in so many ways.
Check back soon to see who Eamonn selected in his team for 1993-2003.