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.