HCSS History

The Hull City Southern Supporters stumbled into existence in the early 1980s.

The man widely recognised as planting the seeds of the organisation that was to become the HCSS was Pete Saxton, who would approach Hull City fans at London games offering contact details to anyone willing to help in starting a group of southern-based Hull City fans to meet before or after games and travel together. And willing they were, particularly after leaflets advertising the forming of the group were handed out at an away game at Gillingham in late 1983. Enough people responded to Pete Saxton’s requests and the HCSS was formed at some point in early 1984.

The likes of Chris Douglas, Gary Clipson, Chris Kneeshaw, Andy Wilson, Mike Brogden and Rob Walster were soon on board. Pete Saxton acted as the first chairman, with Andy Wilson and Chris Kneeshaw taking the reins in coming seasons, followed by Mike Brogden from about 1986-88. Other early names that helped get things running include Andy Evans, Mike Suffield, Mike Pearlman (who acted as the group’s first treasurer), Richard Mernagh, Paul Ashbridge and Steve Weatherill.

The group was well enough organised to vote on a player of the year award for the end of the 1983/84 season, which was won by the Sheffield Wednesday-bound Brian Marwood, who was given his award at half-time during a midweek game at Boothferry Park by Chris Douglas, and hold its first AGM before the 1984/85 season.

Actor Tom Courteney accepted the role of HCSS president around this time too, although we never actually saw him. Subsequent presidents and vice-presidents included actress Maureen Lipman, MP James Johnson and Ken Wagstaff. But it wasn’t until playwright Alan Plater attended an AGM (and later wrote a couple of articles for Tigers Eye) and actor Roy North and film writer and director Mark Herman appeared on the scene that we actual brushed shoulders with celebrity.

The HCSS’s monthly newsletter – the forebearer of Tigers Eye – was soon launched, with the (huge) early editions being edited by Andy Wilson, with Steve Weatherill taking over a few years later, assisted by Gary Clipson. Under Mike Scott’s editorship, however, the newsletter did gain some degree of notoriety as then City manager Brian Horton telephoned Mike to complain about a comment he had misread about Frankie Bunn. Many of those involved in the HCSS newsletter went on to form influential fanzine On Cloud 7 in the late 1980s.

The 1980s

City’s general improvement under Don Robinson off the pitch and Colin Appleton and Brian Horton on it saw more fans join in. Classic London games – a 4-1 win at Wimbledon, the never-to-be-forgotten 5-4 against Orient (after being 4-1 down) – helped raise interest in both the club and the HCSS, with many exiles either discovering the team for the first time or coming back having lost interest a little in the dark days of the late 70s and early 80s. Newer members included Mike Scott, who was soon to help with editing the newsletter and manage the football team and to this day is integral to the HCSS’s running, given his running of the website and essential role in the ticketing operation. Others to join were pre-match pub regular Dave Shirley, committee member Pete Nutting, Dave Cunningham, keen footballers Paul Gamble and Andy Howden, quizzers Rob and Amanda Alexander, newsletter assister John Reed, Aiden Stradling, Richard ‘Sniffer’ Thorpe, Len Yee and Geoff Cross.

Pubs played a big part in the early days of the HCSS too. The Bridge Inn just south of Tower Bridge was an early favourite for committee meetings and Christmas bashes, with very early meetings taking place at the Cock Tavern near Euston (venue for the first AGM) and the Lamb on Conduit Street. The Polar Bear and the Imperial in London Town were favourite drinking holes for post-match gatherings. And, of course, before long Terry Neill’s ‘retirement’ pub in Holborn – which was to play host to City’s first ever HCSS televised league screening against Rochdale in 1999 – played a huge part in proceedings.

In the very early days, pre- and post-match pub selection was something of a last-minute affair, which led to the newsletter being used to advertise which drinking venues the group would use (although in what was to become a common feature over the years, and go some way to driving a ‘don’t mention it in public forums’ policy we still have today, the Honest Lawyer at Scunthorpe was closed on police advice, seemingly after the local plod had been tipped off through the newsletter). As always, the emphasis was on finding hostelries in which decent beer and a convivial atmosphere could be found, and where customers were treated with respect, and not as ‘away fans’ who should be shepherded into whichever hellhole the local police decided upon.

Before long various social teams were being formed out of the HCSS – darts (run by Chris and Jules Hampson, and also Mike Brogden for a while), pool (Tim Morgan and Graham Bleasby), snooker and quiz teams. And, of course, the HCSS Sunday League football team, which was formed for the 1984/85 season, started largely thanks to the labours of Andy Wilson and Richard Mernagh, who’d gone to an APFSCIL meeting in the hope of organising a few friendlies only to discover that the Everton team had collapsed and the HCSS team were to take their place. The first ever game was won 1-0 thanks to a goal from Richard’s brother, Mike, on the way to winning the second division title and reaching the cup semi-final. Other early managers of the team include Mike Suffield, Ake Johannson, Mike Brogden and Dave Baron. Indeed, the football team was so successful that a second team was formed in the late 1980s, run by Tim Oliver and also playing in the APFSCIL league. The two teams were merged in the early 1990s. In the mid-80s the HCSS team reached the APFSCIL Cup semi-finals after beating Celtic 4-1 in the quarters after extra time. Alas, the blue half of Glasgow were awaiting in the semis and a 2-1 defeat denied the HCSS team a final at Hendon Town’s ground. Meanwhile the quiz team, under Steve Weatherill’s leadership and help from Andy Evans, went from Division 3 to Division 1 in no time, with Chris Douglas taking over the manager’s role in 1989.

Group treks to away matches were also becoming more prominent. One of the earlier ventures, to Keswick for a match against Carlisle, saw an Friday night trip on a coach arrive at the B&B on the Saturday morning. The HCSSers got booked in, only to then discover the the match had been called off due to a frozen pitch – some intrepid HCSSers headed north for a Glasgow Celtic fixture while others stayed in the Lakes and quaffed extravangantly. It was mainly in the 1985/86 season that the HCSS’s organised travel took off when minibuses – usually driven by stalwart truck driver Dave Rogers – were being booked, the first very probably to a 2-0 defeat to Norwich at Carrow Road, followed by trips to Sunderland and Shrewsbury.

The 1990s

The 1990s were something of a horror show for Hull City, with two relegations, a succession of disastrous owners, and a near-constant flirtation with extinction. None of this, of course, altered the HCSS members’ enthusiasm but finding new members was a tricky task.

The Sunday League team continued to go strongly and for one season featured a famous Hull City name – possibly the most famous – in Raich Carter, as the legend’s son turned out in the amber and black alongside newcomers such as Ed Flanders and Simon Bottery. The team was run by Andy Coates for much of the decade before he handed the reins to John Fenna.

The Fish/Dolan era was a particularly miserable one for the club, and HCSS away outings often would become protests against the running of the club. At one infamous game in Torquay, it was a HCSS member who stuck a ‘Sack Dolan’ sticker on Terry Dolan’s head. Another managed to cover the kit bag with similar stickers. During protests after the game near the team coach, assistant manager Jeff Lee aggressively stared down the protesting fans, Martin Fish furtively clocked who was involved from the safety of the coach, while centre-back Rob Dewhurst gave the protestors the thumbs up. At another game, Gary Clipson help up a Fish Out banner next to the team bus only to receive a phone call from Martin Fish the following Monday…

The HCSS also made the local (to Hull) press after the late Danny Fulbrook – then the Hull Daily Mail’s Hull City reporter – requested an audience with the HCSS diehards, and met them before said Torquay match. A week later, a very sympathetic piece on the HCSS band of away supporters appeared in the Green Mail.

‘Meet the club’ nights became a common event too. One of the more memorable events was Jeff Lee looking through a Tigers Eye at the match reports, which in those days included player ratings. When the permanently angry Lee saw a rating of ‘4’ for his son, Chris, his response was less than charitable. At another – when Stephen Hinchliffe and Nick Buchanan were in place at City – director Philip Webster offered to buy everyone a drink, only to then balk at the £31 bill he was handed (which, to be fair, he also paid).

The travel guide as we now know it came into existence too, started in about 1995 by Gary Clipson after the pubs had generally appeared in the newsletter. In pre-internet days, the guide was put together through ‘reccies’ (a method still frequently used), Good Beer Guides and A-Zs found in libraries. There were often closures for refurbishment (or just closures), in which case an alternative was found and a trail of post it notes left from the doors of the closed pub and on lamp-posts and road signs to the new place, a system that worked surprisingly well. With regards to travel, the 1990s and City’s demise was something of a dream for ground tickers, as places such as Salisbury, Morecambe, Bath and Hayes were visited. This, combined with the dedicated group travel office at Euston and train tickets being available on a sale-or-return basis, meant that there was a strong HCSS presence at any given City away game.

Indeed, pubs continued to be a big HCSS thing through the decade, unsurprisingly. The club’s London home – Terry Neill’s pub in Holborn – closed down meaning that a new centre was needed. That became the Sekforde Arms in Farringdon and then the nearby Old Mitre, both of which would host our AGMs.

Committee positions were filled by newcomers and established members too. More established members such as Ian Thomson stood as chairman, as did relative newcomers Mike Dees and Chris Swales. Chris Douglas spent much of the decade as the travel organiser before moving back to being the Tigers Eye editor for the 1998-99 season. Graham Bleasby served as treasurer for much of the time. Harvey Fletcher and Neil Dresser also filled various roles and stalwart James Lockwood started to get involved, while Andy Clark finally got round to joining the group once he realised that pubs were involved.

The 21st Century

Hull City became a very different beast in the early years of the 21st century, and thus the HCSS had to alter to serve its members. As the club became more successful, simply turning up at away games, paying on the door and then sitting wherever you wanted (generally with other HCSSers) was no longer possible, as all-ticket games meant that these things needed organising. Thus, the HCSS ticketing operation was born. First in the hands of Gary Clipson in the late 1990s, then Mike Lawton for roughly between 2000 to 2005, who passed on to Adrian Hoggarth, then Richard Gardham, and now a combination of Mike Scott and Martin Batchelor, helped along the way by Oliver Gardham, Chris Swales and Katherine Richmond. As a result of this, countless HCSS fans have been able watch matches alongside their friends and attend games that they may otherwise have struggled to do so.

Indeed, in the space of a couple of years, out of necessity the HCSS ticket orders went from being a few names jotted down in Mike Lawton’s or Adrian Hoggarth’s notebook and money being handed over in the pre-match pub, to website orders and payments on PayPal. Relations with the club’s ticket office have been excellent, and in what were undoubtedly the club’s two biggest ever games – the 2008 play-off final and the 2014 FA Cup final – the efforts of the likes of Adrian Hoggarth, Martin Batchelor, Mike Scott (who for the play-off final queued overnight with fellow members Paul Atkin and Mark Gretton to get tickets to add to the HCSS pot) and various others meant we could, somehow, fulfil all of of members’ ticketing requirements.

Televised games became more of a ‘thing’ too. Before 2000 City had been on live televised games twice. The first time was on the barely watched BSB for a Zenith Data Systems Cup tie in 1989. The second was a 3-0 defeat at Rochdale in the Great Escape of 1999. However, as City rose through the leagues and Sky and its various competitors had more space to fill, City became a near fixture on TV screens from 2005 onwards. Due to the sway held by Paul Ashbridge in his ‘work local’, this led to the Spread Eagle near Bond Street tube station becoming our spiritual home, with the upstairs of the venue not only becoming a regular venue for AGMs but also the screening of games. Two of the early highlights here include a packed pub watching City’s first ever televised win in 2006 (2-1 against Sheffield Wednesday) and the sweat pit that the room turned into in May 2008 as City beat Watford 4-1 in the play-off semis at the KC to ensure our first ever game at Wembley and a shot at the top flight for the first time. We’ve tried elsewhere for TV games – the nearby Barley Mow and the Famous Three Kings in West Kensington for two – but we always seem to end up back at the Spread Eagle.

As ever, the HCSS was to remain indebted to its committee members over this time. Aside from the tickets, membership – which at times got as high as the 350 mark – was organised by Chris Swales and James Lockwood, the latter of whom has worked as the HCSS treasurer for the best part of a decade. Travel – largely done through train group discounts – has been organised by Paul Ashbridge and Dan Heap, who joined up around 2008 along with football team regular Jon Tennison. Tigers Eye became an annual affair and has been edited by Gary Clipson and Andy Clark.

Mark Herman has been a welcome presence as the HCSS president, and hosted a memorable members’ showing at the Spread Eagle of his first TV play – the Hull City-themed See You At Wembley Frankie Walsh and his documentary on Hull City’s tour of Florida in the mid-1980s. Mike Scott has run the website and filled myriad other roles, including the editing of the travel guide, which continues to be largely written by Steve Weatherill. The HCSS also introduced a constitution, written up by long-time member and lawyer Ian Thomson. The chairman’s role was held at the beginning of the 2000s by Chris Douglas, and has then been held by John Fenna, Adrian Hoggarth and Richard Gardham. Others to have helped out on the committee include Harvey Fletcher, Ed Alaszewski, Tony Page and Paul Barkworth. In about 2001 we also got our first website – created by Andy Coates, who also ran it for a number of years before handing over to Mike Scott.

The Sunday League team has also continued to play in the APFSCIL leagues, and has been managed at various times by John Fenna, Chris Swales, Stuart Norfolk, Iain Armitage and Rob Russell-Pavier. In 2014 a surprise came when one of the side’s former players – Aaron Payas – turned out for newly qualified Gibraltar to play in their European Championship qualification matches.

Meet-the-club nights have also continued, though as the managers and players became more high profile, it has been harder to get them to attend these things. One of the earliest of the decade saw the HCSS head to South Mimms service station where the team was staying. Brian Little, our then-manager – had a migraine so couldn’t come to meet the fans, leaving the players to mingle with our members and, bizarrely, comedian and Coronation Street star Craig Charles, who was also staying at the lodgings. Adam Pearson was always happy to spend an evening in our company, and was generally entertainingly candid. Sadly, Peter Taylor was never keen on attending. Paul Duffen and Phil Brown were both always very happy to come along and meet us, telling us off the first time they met us – in the upstairs of a Kensington pub – that everything was too low key. The next time around they were sat along with Brian Horton upon thrones in a pricey venue in Canary Wharf. Nigel Pearson’s general antipathy towards the media seemed to spread to meeting fan groups, but Nick Thompson was happy to meet us along with assistant manager Steve Agnew in late 2013 in what was his last act as Hull City’s CEO. We’re yet to meet Steve Bruce…

Recent seasons have been in some ways dominated by our owners – the Allams – and their attempts to change the name of the club to Hull Tigers. While the HCSS has strenuously attempted to support the club and back the owners as far as possible, it became apparent that there was a large groundswell of opposition to the name change among the membership. A vote was put to members that saw an overwhelming percentage oppose the name change (the first such result among Hull City fan groups), information that was sent to the FA to assist in its appraisal of the matter, which it was to eventually reject. We remain keen to support the club in as positive a way as possible while opposing the name change.

A real landmark day for both Hull City and the HCSS came with the FA Cup final in May of 2014. The pre-match pub near Marble Arch was jam-packed with possibly the largest ever gathering of HCSS members, all keenly anticipating a day most of us had never thought we’d see. After the match – which of course ended in a 3-2 defeat – many members made their way to the Spread Eagle to present Mike Scott and Martin Batchelor with a richly deserved (and mainly whisky-themed) set of gifts for their sterling work on the ticketing operations.

After the highs of the 2014 FA Cup final came a brief excursion into Europe. The away matches at Lokeren and Trencin saw a large number of HCSS members witnessing their club playing in the Europa League. Alas, City’s involvement in the competition was frustratingly brief, but it was still a bucket list moment for many ticked off.

City were then relegated and relations between the club and the fans deteriorated further, making attracting membership to the HCSS even tougher. Relegation followed in the 2014/15 season, and though City were promoted again the next season – again at Wembley via the play-offs, again a 1-0 win – the gaps in the Hull City following in north-west London reflected just how alienated a chunk of the fans felt. Whether it was linked or not, the HCSS Sunday League team folded around this time after decades of existence, due to the difficulties of finding players. The City Till We Die protest group had become the Hull City Supporters Trust by this point, and the HCSS has maintained excellent relations with the group, with many being members of both.

The HCSS launched a Hall of Fame in 2017, to great fanfare – with articles run in the Hull Daily Mail about it and it forming the basis of an hour’s long episode of Radio Humberside’s Sports Talk. The initial vote among members saw 20 inductions, as well as a special ‘Committee’s Choice’ award. This award went to Les Mutrie, who was terminally ill at the time. The HCSS made a book of photos of Les, with contributions from fans as well as Pete Skipper and Nick Barmby. Les’s reaction to receiving the book was highly touching, and when he sadly passed away a month or so after receiving the book and the accolade, his family requested that we print six more books to be on display at Les’s funeral and then kept by his family. It was an honour to be able to pay tribute in such a way to a true City great. Subsequent votes have boosted the numbers of the Hall of Fame. Following from Les Mutrie, Tom Wilson, John Cooper and Don Robinson have receiving Committee’s Choice inductions, and each has been very touched and hugely grateful to be remembered in such a way.

Early 2019 brought tragedy as popular HCSS member and stalwart of the football team Craig Sargent passed away at the much-too-young age of 42. The HCSS and wider Hull City family was highly active in raising money for Craig’s young family. Also in 2019, then HCSS chairman Richard Gardham released his oral history of the club, called The Decade. With all money raised going to Dove House Hospice, the book contained contributions from many Hull City legends, from Waggy and Chillo through to Ian Ashbee, Dean Windass and Nick Barmby. HCSS members Mike Scott, Martin Batchelor, Iain Thomson, Steve Lee, Roy North, Mark Herman and Mike Hall, as well as Craig Sargent, also contributed. After the launch of the book Mr Chu’s in the May, a mini-launch was held in June in the Spread Eagle off Oxford Street, where the HCSS finally got to meet Peter Taylor, whose warmth, wit and passion for Hull City provided us with an unforgettable night.

The 2020s

That summer, Richard Gardham stood down from the HCSS chairman role after seven years at the helm with James Lockwood replacing him. Rob Tuffnell was welcomed into the committee as treasurer. The year after, Andy Clark stood down as editor of Tigers Eye, with Andy Beill taking over. While it was great to see (relative) youth being injected into the HCSS committee, the average age of the group is still very high, and attracting younger members is key to our survival as we enter the 2020s. The Covid-19 pandemic has also obviously affected the routines of many members, with all fans being reduced to watching games on internet feeds and denied their pre- and post-match pints with long-standing friends. The AGM of 2020 was held over Zoom, and was a roaring success, with attendance higher than it had been in years.  With City tumbling into the third tier and returning to away grounds and a standard of football not experienced for nearly 20 years HCSS will be at the vanguard, encouraging matchday attendance and engaging with issues of concern to supporters, doing our small bit to help the club back to its feet.

We are grateful to everyone – members, committee members, football team players, pub attendees – who has done anything to keep the HCSS going over the years. Here’s to the next 35 years.

Richard Gardham, 2020