We’ve become used to the idea of City gaining promotions over the last few years, so lets have a look at the heroes of the other successful seasons.
1948-49 – Raich Carter
In Tigers history, many players stand out as legends, but to my mind there are none greater than Horatio Carter, Raich to his many many fans. His signing in March 1948 became one of the great turning points of the post war era. However, it also saw the departure of Carter’s predecessor, Major Frank Buckley, as the negotiations leading to Carter’s arrival at Boothferry Park were conducted behind the Major’s back by the board of directors. Sure enough, the Major decided enough was enough and promptly resigned two days after the deal was concluded, leaving just Carter as player/assistant manager. Wisely the board gave Raich the full job and he spent the rest of the 1947-48 season assessing his team, adding just left winger Eddie Burbanks from Sunderland (an old team mate) and the milti-talented Dane, Viggo Jensen.
Raich Carter firmly believed that ‘once a man has assumed a settled position, he should be allowed to make a speciality of it’. Of course this was in stark contrast to the Major’s ‘rotational’ philosophy, which saw first 43 players making an appearance in a City shirt in 46-47 and 38 the following year. Carter proved the philosphy sound within weeks of the start of the new season. Quiet off the field and a steadying influence on it, Carter believed that if the players played to their abilities, ‘high-class football’, then the result would take care of itself…
August and September saw City rocket to the top of the 3rd Division (North) as they won their first 9 games on the spin, scoring 28 goals conceding just 6, using only 12 players in those 9 games. Yes, Raich knew what he was doing, he knew his players and they trusted him.
October saw more of the same with City staying in charge of the division with just Rotherham being able to keep up with them. Surprisingly, City lost their first game against Darlington in front of 43,000 at BP, but this was just a very minor pothole on the road. Few teams could stop City and the imperious manner in which they played was a joy to see.
City carried on their merry way in November, crushing Southport 5-1 at home, and disposing of Accrington in the Cup by 3-1. No team really knew how to slow the Tigers down, most could hold them for a time, which wasn’t enough.
December brought the next round of the Cup, with Reading the visitors, who managed to keep it to 0-0 after extra time. For the replay, Carter dropped himself and the team showed that they weren’t a one man team by winning 2 goals to 1. The Christmas break saw a double header against their promotion rivals, Rotherham, and for the Christmas Day game at BP, 55,000 plus wanted tickets to see how the Tigers would do. Curiously the FA has the attendance listed as 54,000 (it being all-ticket), but only 49,000 actually went through the turnstiles, what happened to the others?? In the end City came out on top, beating the Millers 3-2. My father actually remembers being at this game as a boy of 7, and what a game to start a lifelong interest in the Tigers! The return match saw a hard fought 0-0 draw in the return at Millmoor two days later.
January, then as now, brings the big names into the FA Cup and City had drawn Blackburn Rovers from Division 2, at Ewood Park. However, this meant nothing to the Tigers rampant squad who turned them out with a 2-1 win, in extra time. They didn’t neglect the league either, registering another 5 points from 6!
City’s reward for their fine win in the previous round was a trip to Grimsby, and the Mariners were likely to prove no push overs. Raich decided that he needed to play in this one, and it turned out he was right. Two goals each in the last 17 minutes of the first half sent the teams in at half-time level, and the second half promised much as the teams went at each other with great intensity. There was just 3 minutes left, when City forward Norman Moore’s latched onto a mishit clearance to bang home the winner.
By now City had fallen off the top of the league table due to the Cup run, but they made sure of their second place by seeing off Halifax to the tune of 6-0 as February opened. Then the Cup came round again…
Carter’s team had drawn a plum tie in the 5th round, away at first division Stoke City. Before the game Raich repeated his mantra of playing high quality football and the result would take care of itself. And take care of itself it did! At times, it was hard to tell who was the higher placed team as City ran all over them. In what was acclaimed as their finest performance of the season, Raich rolled back to his pre-war glory days. His display was a masterclass of what would now be midfield play and Stoke were lucky to go down only 2-0 as the Tigers clearly stated their intent to play proper football.
By now, City were getting noticed, and the 6th round draw was eagerly awaited as the fans fancied their chances of repeating the feat of the 29-30 team in getting to the semi-finals. City’s number came out at home but who would be visiting the dynamic Tigers? Manchester United! The Reds were chasing Portsmouth for the title and there was no question that it would be an enormous challenge.
Before this, City had to face another league match but ‘after the Lord Mayor’s show comes the muckcart’ and City went down to a defeat against the division’s bottom team, Bradford City, 4-2.
The city was buzzing with unparalleled ecitement and the demand for tickets was colossal, and with the additon of a temporary stand, over 55,000 tickets were sold for a match that no-one wanted to miss.
Although it was a big game, it was never a classic like the others of the cup-run. United were as fast and accurate as the Tigers, but both defences held, despite Carter’s industry. United knew that they had to keep Raich quiet and they did, relatively. However, there was less than 20 minutes on the clock when City almost took the lead, but from the clearance off the line, United counter attacked. Jimmy Delaney pushed the ball past City half back Allan Mellor, who gave up the ball as dead. Delaney managed to just keep the ball in, crossed for Stan Pearson to prod the ball home despite the attentions of Billy Bly, who ended the game with a broken nose for his trouble. Some fans swore the ball HAD gone dead, but the referee awarded the goal, and City were out.
However, the league title was still available but City had a massive backlog of fixtures to complete, 17 games in 63 days and four games in hand over Rotherham, who had a four point lead. Undaunted, they were unbeaten in March, taking 10 points from 12, gaining revenge on Darlington for the earlier defeat by winning at Feethams.
The crunch came in April, 9 games in 30 days. City kept up their high standards by picking up 14 of those 18 points. One result that hurt was the visit of York City who, being no respecter of of position, decide to force City’s first league defeat for 8 games, 3-2. Is there no wonder sometimes we hated those Minstermen? Yet no matter, because when April ended, City had taken the division title, thrashing Stockport 6-1 on the 30th, Rotherham only being able to draw against Carlisle.
2 games were left in the season, almost meaningless really, but Doncaster came to town on May 4th, and left with both points, 0-1. Only two teams managed to avoid losing to City that City, Doncaster was one and Rochdale were the other. A point at Brunton Park on the final day of the season was enough to make sure City were champions by 3 points from Rotherham.
Raich had produced a team that played the game in the way it should be played, and letting the result take care of itself. Its a shame that more managers couldn’t take heed of Carter’s philosophy today!
City were actually better away from BP during the season, winning 10 and drawing 10, the defeat by Bradford City being the only time they were bested on their travels. Another record set this season was that 1.37 million watched City home and away, league and cup, with Boothferry Park averaging 36,000 per game. What times, what football, what players!
Division 3 (North)
1 Hull City P42; W27; D11; L4; F93; A28; Pts 65
2 Rotherham P42; W28; D 6; L8; F90; A46; Pts 62
3 Doncaster P42; W20; D10; L12; F53; A40; Pts 50
Moore 28 goals (37 games); Carter 17 (44); Jensen 15 (34); Harrison 12 (49); Burbanks 9 (30); Buchan 8 (28); Price 5 (8); Greenhalgh 4 (48 games); Conway 2 (3); Durham 1 (15); Mellor 1 (27); Bloxham 1 (4); Shepherd 1 (6); OG 1