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 final instalment, Eamonn chooses from the period 2013-2023.
If any decade epitomises my time watching City, it is this one. An absolute roller coaster. It started on a high with automatic promotion to the Premier League, under Steve Bruce. The first season was the only one where City survived in the Premier League with a bit to spare. And, of course, there was the FA Cup Final, losing to Arsenal after extra time. The side was strengthened in the summer and the following season should have been even more comfortable. But, somehow, the best squad in City’s history contrived to be relegated. Nevertheless, Steve Bruce brought them back up, despite finishing a distant fourth. He had the inevitable fall-out with Ehab, took his ball home, and Mike Phelan proved that he wasn’t a manager. Some strange transfer deals meant that, when he left half-way through, Marco Silva, despite some creative wheeling and dealing, just failed to keep them up. Three uninspiring seasons in the Championship finally saw them back into League One, under Grant McCann. Despite taking them back up, he never really inspired confidence. And then, after several false dawns, Acun took over. He dispensed with McCann and brought in his mate, Shota, who very soon proved to be out of his depth. Eventually, Acun accepted the inevitable, sacked Shota, and appointed Liam, in what was hopefully an inspired choice.
Eldin Jakupovic – I saw him make his debut at Derby, where he seemed to spend the whole game flapping, mainly unsuccessfully, at crosses. His first four seasons yielded just 11 appearances. On promotion to the Premier League, as a result of injuries, Eldin was suddenly first-choice, starting with the opening game against champions Leicester City. He was superb that day, and deservedly kept his place for most of the season. After relegation, he joined Leicester but only played twice in five seasons.
Liam Rosenior – Before Liam became everyone’s favourite manager, he played 144 league games for City over five seasons. He arrived on a free transfer, with almost 100 games of Premier League experience, and was part of the 2013 promotion team and the FA Cup final team in 2014. Relegation in 2015 saw him released.
Andy Robertson – One thing about Steve Bruce was his ability to pick excellent defenders, and Andy may have been the best. Initially signed as backup to Maynor Figueroa, he soon made the left-back berth his own. After relegation in his first season, he thrived in the Championship, no more so than when he ran the length of the pitch to score in the last minute of the play-off semi-final at Derby. After relegation the following season, he moved to Liverpool for a paltry £8m, made even worse by half of it being given back to Liverpool for Kevin Stewart. How much is he worth now?
James Chester – For a central defender, James was on the slight side but nevertheless he was excellent in the air, and not just in defence. In 156 league appearances, he notched up seven goals, including (who could forget?) the opening goal in the FA Cup final. He was signed by Nigel Pearson for a bargain £300,000 and was first choice throughout his time with City. On relegation in 2015, the Allams cashed in to the tune of around £8m as he departed for West Brom.
Curtis Davies – He was 28 when he was signed by Steve Bruce and his experience was an excellent asset in City’s first season back in the Premier League. He never looked hurried in possession and also managed to score in the FA Cup final. After relegation in 2017, at the age of 32, Curtis joined Derby. Five years later, Curtis was still playing for Derby and starred as they beat City 3-1 against a side looking clueless in one of Shota’s first games in charge.
David Meyler – David was never a “fans’ favourite” but, for me, his was a name that I liked to see on the teamsheet. He always put in a shift and was prepared to take on the likes of Alan Pardew, an altercation that inspired him to score in the FA Cup sixth round a week later prior to notching the goal that sealed City’s appearance in the 2014 Cup final. He was unfortunately injury-prone and was released by City whilst still in his 20s.
Jake Livermore – Jake joined City on loan from Tottenham alongside Tom Huddlestone at the start of City’s second spell in the Premier League and, to be honest, I had never heard of him. It was soon obvious that there was something about him. In three and a half years at City he was always first-choice, including filling in at central defence during the farcical start to the 2016-17 season in the Premier League. When Marco Silva was appointed, he had to do some swift wheeler dealing to have even a slight stab at staying up. Jake was “sacrificed” in a £10m sale to West Brom to provide some cash for other signings.
Tom Huddlestone – Signed at the same time as Jake Livermore, his transfer was a real indication to me that, perhaps this time, City could really compete in the Premier League. After all, during the previous season, he had played for England. He was possibly the best at reading the game as any City player that I have seen with both his passing decision-making and execution being excellent. He was not a prolific scorer at City but got the goal that finally put City on the way to the 2014 FA Cup final.
Nikica Jelavic – Nikica had a fairly decent strike record at City during his eighteen months at the club, but couldn’t prevent relegation in 2015. Not surprisingly, he returned to the Premier League with a move to West Ham.
Abel Hernandez – He was a perfect metaphor for City at the time. Too good for the Championship, not good enough for the Premier League, evidenced by eight goals in 50 Premier League appearances, yet 28 goals in 49 Championship games. He did manage what was almost a winning goal at Arsenal and I really enjoyed his hat-trick in the 6-0 victory against a Charlton side who seemed to spend the whole game playing for time.
Robert Snodgrass – He was a player whom I really disliked before he joined City, mainly because of his goading of City fans at Carrow Road after Norwich got a late winner. I wasn’t that keen on him at City either, but he was a very good player. He was injured on his debut, and was out for around 18 months. He helped City get back into the Premier League, but always seemed to think that he was worthy of somewhere better. I was not surprised when he left to join West Ham, having been paid to spend over half his time at City in the treatment room. Ungrateful sod.
And my game of the decade? 13 August 2016 – Hull City 2 Leicester City 1. This should have been a certain away win. Leicester were the Premier League champions. Premier League champions had never lost the opening game of the following season. City were newly-promoted, without a manager, and had made no signings in the summer. They were injury-hit to the extent that Jake Livermore had to fit in at centre-half and, to ram home the point, Mike Phelan did not make a single substitution. A wonderful day but, of course, it didn’t last.
So, there you have it. An astute assessment of the last 60 years of City’s history, or the ramblings of an old man. The choice is yours.