Hull City Association Football Club, or ‘The Tigers’, are not best known for their tigerish qualities. Hull is the biggest city in England never to have had a team play in the top division, and the history of Hull City is full of struggles around the top of Division Three. However, in recent years the club has managed to consolidate its successes, helped on by the arrival of a number of international players in the North of England, and Hull continues to hold high hopes of one day playing in the Premiership.
Hull City played in white shirts, black shorts and black socks for their first ever match in 1904. They have also played in pale blue and in red. However, throughout most of Hull City’s history, the club’s players have worn the distinctive black and amber shirts that earned them the nickname, ‘the tigers’. The club’s badge, first introduced in 1947, depicts a tiger, although the details have varied over the years.
The Early Years
Around the turn of the 19th Century, a number of efforts were made to found an official football club for Kingston-Upon-Hull. However, as the town was famous as a rugby-playing place, with not one but two professional rugby teams, the desire for a football club was not felt as keenly as it was in other towns of similar size in the North of England. Consequently, no football club was founded until June 1904, when Hull City AFC was finally established. Their matches were to be played in The Boulevard, the stadium which had formerly housed Hull rugby club.
Because Hull City was founded during the summer break, the club were not eligible to participate as members of the Football League during the season 1904-05, so their first season consisted of playing only friendly matches. On the 1st of September 1904 the team played its first match against Notts County at the Boulevard, playing to a crowd of 6,000, and managing to fend off the defeat expected of an inexperienced team with a 2-2 draw. That season they played 44 friendlies under manager James Ramster.
The Tigers’ first proper matches were played in the FA Cup, but they were eliminated in the first round after a replay against Stockton, in which the latter won 7-4 on aggregate. Hull City then moved to Anlaby Cricket Ground after wrangling with the landlords at the Boulevard.
For the 1905-6 season, Hull City entered into the Football League Second Division, where they played against the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Leeds, who were to become Hull’s arch-rivals over the next few years. Ramster had now been replaced by Ambrose Langley as manager, who would continue to manage the club until 1913. Hull City beat near-neighbours, Yorkshire team Barnsley, 4-1 in their first match, and finished a respectable fifth in the league.
During that season, building began on a proper ground for Hull City, across the road from the Anlaby Cricket Ground where they were currently based. Hull City’s Anlaby Road stadium was opened in 1906. For the rest of the decade they continued to play consistently well, finishing in the top half of the league table. During the 1909-1910 season, they came close to promotion, and their position at the end of the season remains the highest they have ever attained. They finished level third with Oldham Athletic, disappointingly missing promotion by the narrow margin of 0.29 of a goal.
FA Cup Success
Hull continued to flourish, however, and even made the quarter-finals of the FA Cup in 1915, eventually going out after a 4-2 defeat from Bolton Wanderers. However, play was affected by the First World War, and it was not until 1930 when the changed team would be able to better this achievement, reaching the FA Cup Semi-finals in their highest ever major tournament ranking. After defeating Leeds United, Newcastle United, Manchester United and the champions of the Second and Third divisions, Hull City were finally knocked out by Arsenal with a 1-0 defeat on replay after a 2-2 draw in the initial match.
Changing Grounds, 1929-46
In 1929 Hull City purchased the ground on which to build a new stadium, as Anlaby road was only tenanted land, and their stadium was under threat by railway developers who wanted to reroute tracks through the area. However, the club could not afford to finance construction for some time: it finally began in 1932, and due to a number of political and financial issues, Hull City did not move in for over a decade.
During World War 2, the port of Hull was targeted in the Blitz, and the stadium sustained damages. City had to move back to the Boulevard temporarily from 1944 to 1945 while their new stadium was being constructed. Hull City finally opened its own independent ground, Boothferry Park, in 1946. The record attendance for a match was recorded in 1949, when a crowd over 55,000 strong attended to watch Hull play Manchester United.
Decades of Divisions Two & Three
During the two decades succeeding the Second World War, the club spent many seasons playing either around the top of the Third Division, or the bottom of the Second Division. In the 1948-49 season, they came top of the league in the Third Division. They were drawing huge crowds of around 50,000 at this stage. However, support declined as they failed to make substantial improvements on this situation, moving up from the Third to the Second Division again a decade later in 1959, and nearly two decades later in 1966. Indeed, the only remarkable achievement of Hull City during these middle years was that they became the first team to go out of a cup competition on penalties, losing to Manchester United in the Watney Mann Invitation Cup in 1970.
Receivership & Recovery
The club slid slowly downhill from here on, and by the early 1980s they were in the Fourth Division and lack of financial support led to the club going into receivership. 1983 revived the club’s hopes with the arrival of a new chairman and manager, Don Robinson and Colin Appleton respectively, from Yorkshire rivals Scarborough FC. Hull made it back up into Division Three with a young team under the tutelage of these two men, and some of the players went on to become household names nationally, including future England manager, Steve Mclaren, and future England international, Brian Marwood.
Hull City were quickly back at the top of Division Three and missed out on promotion to Sheffield United by only one goal the next season. In 1985 they finally made it back into Division Two and managed to hold on there until 1991, when they were relegated back into Division Three. The next season they finished a poor fourteenth in the league. In the 1992-3 season, the football leagues were renamed, meaning that Hull would now be in the league known as Division Two instead of Division Three. They hung in there for another few seasons but a bad 1995-6 season left hopes of glory in tatters, and they were relegated to Division Three.
The team’s performance under manager Terry Dolan, who took the job in 1991, had been consistently falling, so when David Lloyd bought the club in 1997 he got rid of Dolan at the end of the season and replaced him with new blood: Mark Hateley. However, Hateley jumped off the apparently sinking ship that Hull City had become in 1998, after the team’s performance in the league meant relegation to the Conference league was looking increasingly likely.
However, a change in fortunes was at hand. Former tennis player, Lloyd, sold the club to a syndicate of local buyers, and Hateley’s replacement, former player William Joyce, was to demonstrate the loyalty and the know-how that Hull needed to get back on its feet. City fans continue to refer to this season as ‘The Great Escape’, and in April 2000, veteran Brian Little took over from Joyce as manager.
Little, Molby, Taylor
Little inherited an ever-improving team but City was beset by financial difficulties, and was in danger of going into receivership again. Despite making it to the Division Three playoffs, at one point the team were locked out of Boothferry Park by the bailiffs. However, these immediate problems were seemingly solved when Leeds United commercial director, Adam Pearson, took charge of the situation so that closure of the club seemed less imminent. Indeed, he went even further, finding funds for Little to expand and improve his team, so that for much of the 2001-2 season Hull were at the top of the league, and seemed guaranteed promotion. But it was not to be.
In an astonishing turn of events, Little was sacked and under his replacement, Jan Molby, Hull City immediately plunged down the table. A similarly catastrophic start to the next season ensured Molby’s dismissal, and under his successor, Peter Taylor, they once more rose to the top of the league. A new 25,000-seater stadium, the Kingston Communications Stadium, which had been funded by the council after the sale of Hull’s independent telecommunications network appeared to consolidate the upturn in City’s fortunes. To this day, the city retains its distinctive white telephone boxes.
Hull City came runners-up in the 2003-4 League, and achieved promotion again in 2004-5. Finally they had made it into the Championship, and were once more back in the second-highest division in the English football league. The 2005-6 season saw them finish relatively low at 18th in the league, but comfortably clear of relegation, and their highest finish for many years. The club had overcome its financial and footballing shortfall to reclaim a respectable place in the English game.
The Club Today
Taylor left the club during the summer break in 2006, and Phil Parkinson took over. However, having spent millions on new players and with City languishing around the bottom of the Championship, Hull continued their tradition of a fast turnover in managers, and he was sacked before the end of the year. Phil Brown was the provisional replacement, later being made permanent in 2007, having overseen a speedy rise in the club’s fortunes. At the end of the season in 2007, former manager, Brian Horton, rejoined the club as Brown’s assistant. In June 2007 the club was sold yet again, to another syndicate headed by Paul Duffen. The sale has led fans to hope that new money will be invested in the club, and they will continue to rise.
As is traditional within the world of footballing rivalries, Hull City fans tend to project their greatest hatred onto their neighbours, so rivalries with clubs tend to be with those from Yorkshire and the North. Many City fans continue to consider Leeds United to be their main rivals, though this competition has never really been taken seriously by Leeds fans due to the fact that despite the two teams’ geographical closeness, Leeds has traditionally been a high-achieving team in a much higher league than Hull. However, in recent years, the toppling of Leeds from the Premiership and the rise of Hull City from the Third Division means that animosity between the two is on the rise again.
Hull City fans have also indulged in rivalries with other northern teams including York City and Scarborough United, before their relegations. The football teams from Hull’s nearer neighbours Scunthorpe and Grimsby are both playing in the Championship for the 2007-08 season, which has heightened local tension between the towns and their teams.
During the 1970s and 1980s Hull’s successes and failures were often mirrored by those of Sheffield United, who also spent many years during those decades being promoted and relegated between Divisions Three and Two. In 1984, Sheffield United won promotion by finishing the season one goal above City.
- 1929-30 FA Cup Semi-finalists
- 1932-33 Football League Third Division North Champions
- 1948-49 Football League Third Division North Champions
- 1958-59 Football League Third Division North Runners-Up
- 1965-66 Football League Division Three Champions
- 1982-83 Football League Division Four Runners-Up
- 1984-85 Football League Division Three Promoted
- 2003-04 Football League Division Three Runners-Up
- 2004-05 Football League One Runners-Up
- Record Attendance: 55, 019, against Manchester United, 26 February, 1949 at Boothferry Park
- Record Victory: 11-1 vs. Carlisle United, Division 3, January 14, 1939
- Record Defeat: 0-8 vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers, Division 2, November 4, 1911
- Most League Appearances for club: Andy Davidson (520)
- Most League Goals for club: Chris Chilton (193)
- Most League Goals in a season: John Eyre (5)
- Youngest Player: Matthew Edeson, (16 years and 63 days, Hull City vs. Fulham FC, October 10th, 1992)
- Transfer Record (Received): £1, 250, 000 for Leon Cort to Crystal Palace (2006).
- Transfer Record (Paid): £1,000,000 for Caleb Folan from Wigan (2007)