Hull City in the Noughties: The Best Trip I've Ever Been On
With the decade quickly drawing to a close, it is a good time to look back at what a glorious decade it has been for Hull City promotion through all the divisions. We have seen top flight football for the first time in the clubs history and a successful first ever visit to Wembley Stadium. However, as the end of the last millennium rolled around, it looked like the Tigers might well have been going out of business, not ending the decade fighting it out in the best league in the world. This decade in Hull City's history truly is a rags to riches story.
As the end of the 20th Century rolled around, the Tigers were in turmoil. After some memorable moments in the clubs history, such as the first penalty shoot out in history (that's another story) and 96-years of existence, the famous old Yorkshire club was struggling to survive in every way possible. The club were struggling to survive after the disastrous reign of a motley crew of bad chairman that were simply out to make a quick buck, and managers there were clearly out of their depth. This was how the Tigers found themselves in 1999. Warren Joyce, the club captain, had taken over as player manager after the dismal performance of Mark Hateley, the incumbent player manager. Hateley the ex-England International had been appointed by British tennis legend and gym guru David Lloyd the then club owner and Chairman, in his ill fated "Tiger-Shark" enterprise. Lloyd had tried to tie together both Hull City and Rugby League club Hull FC to maximize the profit to be made from sports fans in Kingston Upon Hull. The Hull City fans would show their displeasure with Lloyd and his antics at the club they loved, with a fantastically inventive display, as mass sections of fans threw tennis balls on the field during a game against Bolton Wanderers. The humiliated Lloyd would re-think his ownership of the club. It was soon after the "tennis ball" incident, and with the clubs position in the table looking decidedly precarious, that Lloyd sold the club in 1998 to Nick Buchanan (who would ultimately end up going to prison for his nefarious dealings) and Stephen Hinchliffe (later disqualified from being a company director by the DTI and convicted of fraud and jailed for two years) with Tim Belton as the chairman. Belton appointed Warren Joyce as the club's player manager with former European Cup winner John McGovern as his assistant. Joyce was tasked with saving the club, but things were tough with the Tigers glued to the foot of the old third division table and on the verge of relegation to the football league all together. After some lackluster displays, Joyce added some steal with the signing of Lincoln duo Jon Whitney and Jason Perry to Justin Whittle and Gary Brabin, and the Tigers were a different proposition. It wasn't long before the timid Tigers, became tenacious Tigers. Joyce managed the remarkable feat with a number of games to spare, and managed what has become affectionately known as "the Great Escape" by Tigers' fans ever since.
With the new Millennium came some major changes to Hull City. David Lloyd, who still owned the crumbling Boothferry Park Stadium, locked out the players and staff in February for unpaid rent of approximately £45,000. Bootferry Park affectionately known as "Fer Ark" or the "Ark" by fans because of the only letters lit up of the old ground's name outside were, "FER ARK". The ground would remain locked for some time as the clubs administrators and Lloyd tried to come to an agreeement. In April, the club replaced the talismanic Joyce, despite his exploits and brought in the more experienced Brian Little. Little was successful in his first season, taking the Tigers to the Division Three playoffs. But the Tigers failed to get past the semifinals, losing to Leyton Orient. By the end of the season, Adam Pearson the former financial director of Leeds United Football Club, had bought the club and relieved all chance of closure for the Tigers.
With the arrival of Adam Pearson at Boothferry Park, the Tigers got some much needed stability in the backroom. Since the stewardship of the Harold Needler when we moved to Boothferry Park in 1946, the Tigers had lurched from one disaster to another. The heady days of Whitehurst, Chilton, and Wagstaff were long gone, but Pearson was determined to not let the Tigers continue in the same vein. Pearson was a breath of fresh air at the club, plunging money into building a team. But he was not the most forgiving of his managers. With the start of the 2001/2002 season, the Tigers were under-performing yet again, despite Brian Little taking the club to the playoffs the season before. His new signings were struggling to gel. The club was sitting in 11th place with two months left in the season when Pearson wielded the axe on the manager. Pearson brought in Jan Molby, the ex-Liverpool and Denmark player who had brought Kidderminster Harriers into the football league on a a shoestring. Person thought that Molby would be the one to take the Tigers to the next level.
2002/2003-The Kingston Communications Stadium
Molby was unable to make the Tigers a force to be reckoned with, which saw the Tigers languishing five places off the bottom of the division. Pearson sacked him within three months of the start of the season, and appointed the experienced Peter Taylor. However, one of Molby's signings would become a legend in amber and black in the shape of club captain Ian Ashbee. Hull City's last game at Boothferry Park, after 56-inglorious years, saw the Tigers beaten by Darlington in a lackluster display that typified the majority of the club's time at the "Ark." In December of the 2002/2003 season, the Tigers relocated to the a 25,400 seater stadium and a revolution took place. While the club had an average attendance of 9,504 for the 2001/2002 season, the club's attendance increased to 12,843 for the 2002/2003 season with only half of the season at the KC Stadium. Unfortunately, the club ended a disappointing 13th despite making solid ground as a whole.
2003/2004-Peter Taylor and Promotion
In the 2003/2004 season, Peter Taylor's first full season in charge, the club would go from strength to strength.
The season was one of fantastic achievements, with the Tigers winning promotion to the Football League Division Two for the first time in nine years as runners up.
The team was starting to play some fine football and the 6-1 demolition of the Kidderminster Harriers was the first true signs that the club could be a force to be reckoned with.
The Tigers would suffer from a drop in form in November but would get back on track with some tenacious play that would leave the club sitting in forth place at Christmas after a 2-0 victory on Boxing Day against York City.
When the Tigers met the Minstermen again in early February, they would be sitting in first place in the division. Yet again a run of poor form meant that the Tigers would drop down the table, but the club had done enough to win an automatic promotion.
2004/2005-Stuart Elliott and Back to Back Promotion
When Ian Asbee, the club captain, scored a wonder goal in the 2-1 victory away at Yeovil Town in the 2003/2004 season, he set a train in motion. Little did any Hull City fan realize just what was happening.
The club, under the partnership of Pearson and Taylor, would gain promotion for the second season in a row. The Tigers would have some highs and lows but with the exception of the the opening week of the campaign, the Tigers would be in the playoff places or higher for the whole season.
It was only the fine start from Luton Town that gave them the winners trophy at the end of the season. So the Tigers returned to the second tier of English football for the first time since 1991.
It was wonderful to get the 19-year old monkey off our backs, but the best was yet to come. The idea that the Tigers were a sleeping giant was one that had been talked about for generations. Kingston upon Hull is the tenth largest City in England, and for a club from a city of Hull's size to be in the football dull drums for so long is an awful cross for their fans to bear.
The 2004/2005 season saw Hull native Nick Barmby return to his hometown club and sign with the Tigers. His performances in the promotion campaign were an inspiration and his partnership with Stuart Elliott were key to the Tigers rise.
Barmby would go on to break a Hull City record when he scored for the Tigers against Walsall in only seven seconds.
Stuart Elliott, the Northern Ireland International, scored 12 goals in the Tigers first promotion campaign of 2003/2004, but in 2004/2005 he was on fire, scoring a massive 27 goals in the league alone.
He won the Golden Boot that season, but what makes his feat even more remarkable is the fact that he was out with an injury for six weeks, and wasn't a striker, but a left winger.
The Tigers first season is the Championship was one of consolidation, according to Peter Taylor. Taylor felt that the Tigers had advanced too fast and needed to build a better team to compete effectively in the Championship.
When the the Club played the Queens Park Rangers in their first match, five of the first team and two of the substitutes had been with the Tigers in the last match in the Third Division against Bristol Rovers.
Much was hoped for Stuart Elliott, who had been so devastating in front of goal for the Tigers the previous season. Elliott's wonderful form was not to continue.
Despite him ending the season as the club's top scorer again, with seven goals, his career was to go through a huge change. He was diagnosed with activity related asthma, which meant he couldn't play a full 90-minutes of football.
Despite Elliott's problems, the club managed to perform well enough to survive the season, ending in a creditable 18th place.
After a relatively conservative but effective 2005/2006 season, the Tigers reverted to form and had a dreadful season in 2006/2007. In the summer build up to the season, Peter Taylor who had successfully lead the team to two promotions and retained the club's Championship place, left the club to join his old club, Crystal Palace.
Taylor had the option to talk to clubs in the London area and when Premiership club Charlton started sniffing around, Taylor was interested. Unfortunately for Taylor, this was seen as an open display of disloyalty by Adam Pearson, and a fractious dynamic was growing. So when Crystal Palace showed interest, Pearson was happy for him to leave.
This left the Tigers without a manager in mid-June 2006. Pearson turned his attention to Colchester United's Phil Parkinson.
Parkinson was seen as a rising star of the management game after leading the U's to the promotion to the Championship. The deal to get him out of his contract with Colchester was not an easy one and for some time he was not allowed to talk to anyone at the club.
When he did arrive, his style on the training field was allegedly not taken too well by some of the senior players. Whilst managing the U's, Parkinson had got the team playing good, solid attacking football and tried to get the Tigers to play the same way.
Parkinson's start with the club was less than auspicious, with the Tigers only gaining one point from a possible 18 points in the first month of the season. The Tigers sat soundly at the bottom of the division.
With results and performances becoming more negative, Pearson appointed Phil Brown as Parkinson's assistant to try and help the young manager. But with results not improving on the field Pearson decided to sever ties to Parkinson and he appointed Brown as Hull City's caretaker manager on December 4, 2006.
In the next six games, Brown managed to get the Tigers firing in all cylinders again and the team managed to earn ten points and take the club out of the relegation zone for the first time in the season. With the strong performance, Brown won the managers position on a permanent basis.
The rest of the season would see the club yo-yo in and out of the relegation zone but in a master stroke, Brown signed Hull City legend Dean Windass on loan from Bradford City.
Windass contributed with eight goals, becoming the club's top scorer and saving the club to fight again in the Championship in process.
Windass had the singular distinction of being the top goal scorer for Bradford City with 11 goals for the season and top goal scorer for Hull City in the same season with his all important eight goals, during his loan spell.
However, for many Hull City fans, his goal against Cardiff City in the penultimate Saturday of the season was the icing on the cake. Windass' goal gave the Tigers a three point lead in the table over Leeds United, which guaranteed the club's survival and ensured that longstanding rivals Leeds would be relegated.
2007/2008-Wembley and Promotion
In the second half of the the 2006/2007 season, Adam Pearson had come to terms with the fact that financially he couldn't take the club forward without major investment.
He had hoped to keep his hands on the Hull City helm but when Russell Bartlett and his consortium decided to buy the Tigers, he installed Paul Duffen as his Chairman.
So, despite all the hard work Pearson had done to help the Tigers get to the Championship, it would be Paul Duffen who would see the Tigers on the next leg of their journey.
The close season saw Duffen sign Henrik Pedersen, who played for Bolton with Brown and the Nigerian international maestro Jay Jay Okocha for the Tigers. Okocha said on signing for the Tigers that, "God had told him to do so."
His contribution was small due to injuries and fitness, but the lift it gave the team and the spark that he created were immense.
The season started slow whilst the new players gelled, but once the team got some momentum, the Tigers started to roar on. The team was sitting in 18th place when a young player was signed on loan from Manchester United. He was an instant sensation scoring two goals in the evening game against Barnsley at the KC Stadium. Frazier Campbell had arrived.
With Campbell's pace and energy, and Windass' guile and experience up front, the Tigers were a threat to anybody in the division. At the back, Michael Turner and Wayne Brown were nullifying all comers with their impenetrable defending. The Tigers were a tough team to score against.
By January 1st, Hull City was sitting in ninth place, only one point off the playoff places. From the end of January the Tigers only lost two games out of 16, taking them to second in the table.
However, with with only three regular season games left, the Tigers lost two to promotion rivals but with a playoff berth already secured, they would look forward to a double header against Watford.
In the first leg at Watford's Vicerage Road, Hull City took the lead from a Nick Barmby header and fellow Hull native Windass doubled the lead to make the second leg of the tie very tricky for the Hornets.
In the second leg, Watford took an early lead but when Barmby scored just before half time the tie looked dead for Watford.
However, as the match started to drift away from Watford and they pushed more men forward to get back in the tie, the Tigers pounced again with three goals that destroyed the Hornets and booked the Tigers their first ever visit to Wembley Stadium for the playoff final.
On May 24, 2008, Hull City walked out onto the Wembley turf to take on Bristol City to try and rid themselves of one of the oldest Pub quiz question answers.
"What is the the largest city, never to have played football in the top flight?"
For 104 years the Tigers have been shackled with that tag line but after 90 minutes it was all just history and the baton was passed to Plymouth Argyle.
At 38 minutes, Fraizer Campbell received a wonderfully threaded pass through the Bristol City midfield from Nick Barmby, and weaved his way through the Bristol defence, taking the ball to the edge of the six yard box.
But instead of taking a shot on goal, the on-loan Manchester United striker saw the old war horse Dean Windass running to the edge of the box, and cleverly chipped the ball to the free Windass—who hit the ball sweetly on the volley into the top corner of the net, despite the despairing dive of the the Bristol City goalkeeper.
The Tigers were in the Premiership.
Conventional wisdom has it that the team winning promotion from the playoffs is at a disadvantage by being three weeks behind everyone else in preparing for the new season.
Phil Brown and Paul Duffen the Hull City Chairman didn't agree with this. They held the belief that we were ahead of the rest of the Premiership teams as we were fitter than the rest because we hadn't had the lay off that other clubs had had.
The battle plans were drawn up and new recruits were brought in. Geovanni from Manchester City on a free transfer, Anthony Gardner from Tottenham Hotspur, Marlon King on loan from Wigan, Kamil Zayette from Young Boys of Berne on loan, Bernard Mendy from Paris St Germain, Peter Halmosi from Plymouth Argyle, and George Boateng from Middlesbrough.
After an indifferent preseason, the opener against Fulham would be at at the KC stadium in front of a sell out crowd or Tigers fans, and they wouldn't be disappointed.
As Ian Ashbee lead out the Tigers on that warm August day with fellow Hull City players Boaz Myhill and Andy Dawson, it is worth remembering that these three special players have been with the Tigers all the way from the Coca Cola League Two through to the Premiership.
Indeed Ian Ashbee has the distinction of being the only player to have captained his club through all four professional English divisions.
After going behind to an early goal from Fulham's Seol Ki-Hyeon in the eighth minute, a sublime strike from Geovanni at 22 minutes saw the Tigers go in at halftime all square.
In a game where the established Premiership side were supposed to be in control, it was hardly the case and at 81 minutes, Hull City sub Caleb Folan popped up and grabbed a late winner after some tenacious play from Craig Fagan, who stole the ball off of a Fulham defender on the edge of their box.
The season would carry on in this vein with Brown's Tigers gaining confidence with every match. Even after the 0-5 thrashing to Wigan, the Tigers resolutely stuck to their principles and played fast paced counter attacking football built on solid, hard working team performances.
The highlight of the season was a four game winning streak which included wins against Arsenal (this at the Emirates on the second time they had lost there since moving to the Emirates), Tottenham, and West Ham.
There were also some other notable games in this debut season. Against Everton, the East Yorkshire club out played them for 75 minutes only to let them back into it in the last 15 minutes. After losing easily to Chelsea the Tigers traveled to Manchester United at Old Trafford and gave them the scare of their life in a gritty 4-3 loss.
Liverpool were lucky to scrap a 2-2 draw with the help of some dubious refereeing. The 2-1 victory against Newcastle United when they were in financial turmoil helped to give the Tigers belief that they could compete in the Premiership.
The early part of the season had it's ups and downs, more ups to be sure, but the second half of the season ended on a low for the Tigers.
The first half against Manchester City was one of the best displays of attacking football that the Tigers had faced, and added to the fact that Hull City had one of their most lackluster performances for that first half display added to the team's misery.
Brown gave the Hull City players some home truths on the pitch at Eastlands at halftime in the match and the players showed that they still had some steel in them as they matched the Manchester City attacking machine.
Ultimately though the Premiership had found Hull City out. The adrenaline of promotion had worn off and with injuries and suspensions, the wheels started to come off.
From riding high third in the table, the Tigers slowly slid down the table to the point that with two week left in the season, the club sat in the bottom three, staring relegation in the face.
However, a battling draw against Bolton Wanderers was enough to take the club out of the drop zone. There was one last weekend to decide which two clubs out of Hull City, Newcastle United, and Middlesborough would go down with West Bromwich Albion.
With all three teams having tough a fixtures, it was a toss up as to who would be able to salvage a victory or a much needed draw to survive. As it happened, the Tigers lost against a Manchester United team that had already been crown Premier League Champions, but despite this they still managed to beat the Tigers one nil.
Fortunately for the Tigers, both Middlesborough and Newcastle United couldn't do any better, with both of them getting beaten. By the skin of a Tigers tooth, Hull City survived to fight another day in the Premiership.
During the January transfer window of the 2008/2009 season, Phil Brown was trying to give the Tiger's their spark back. Thy club had gone from heroes to zeros. Brown and Duffen had put a heavy amount of faith in thievery talented and slightly crazy Jimmy Bullard.
Bullard was a player that had been on the verge of playing for England but had suffered a cruciate ligament injury that had sidelined him for 18 months whilst with Fulham. When Fulham didn't offer him the contract he wanted Duffen did, breaking Hull City's transfer record in the process.
Unfortunately Bullard only survived 37 minutes on his debut and re-injured his ACL and needed it rebuilt. A return to fitness was expected to be in late October of 2009.
The Tigers started the 2009/2010 season poorly, which wasn't helped with the loss of stalwart defender Turner for a what was a bargain price to Sunderland, and his replacement was a poor loan signing of a Stoke City reserve. The Tigers season looked to be going to the dogs before it had really started.
However, the signings that Brown had made started to gel. Seyi Olofinjana from Stoke City grew in confidence with every game, as did the talented American international Jozy Altidore. The late signing of free agent Jan Vanegoor of Hesselink was a very good late signing as he held the forward line well for the Tigers.
Despite the signings, it was the return to Hull City of Adam Pearson as the Club Chairman that would be the catalyst for a revival in the teams fortunes.
With the team sitting in 18th place with a meager eight points from 11 games, he took over for Duffen, who resigned due to the poor financial state of the club. The return of Pearson coincided with the return to fitness of Jimmy Bullard and the Tigers climbed away from the relegation zone.
Bullard was showing the Premiership just how good he really was with a master class in how to play the midfield general. In his home debut against Stoke City, the Tigers ran out as a well deserved two to one winners as Bullard ran the show.
In the month of November, Hull City would get eight points from a possible 12 points and Bullard would win the Barclays Premiership Player of the Month award. Unfortunately, he would sustain an injury in the next game that will see him out until late January of 2010.
So where does this leave the Tigers for the 2009/2010 season? The team as a whole is much stronger than in the our debut season. Financially, funds are tight and there isn't expected to be any major signings unless the club can get any loanees in, but this is ultimately dependent on off loading players to free up wages.
Despite this, if the management team can get players fit, then Hull City can have enough to survive for another season in the top flight.
What a Decade
From bankruptcy to the Premiership in ten glorious years. If as I stood in the South Stand at Boothferry Park in the late Nineties, and was asked, "where I thought the Tigers would be in ten years time," I probably wouldn't have said in the Premier League, I would have hoped that we could have survived and maybe got to the Second Division as it was then known.
I know other clubs have won League titles and European Cups in the past decade and some clubs have become giants of English football because of huge amounts of Russian oil money.
Some have started legacies that will be the base for future success but I wouldn't trade what my team has done for any of the Arsenals, Liverpools, Manchester Uniteds, or Chelseas.
As the chant goes, "silverware we don't care, we'll follow City anywhere".