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.
1965-66 – Cliff Britton
In the previous season, City had been in the hunt at the start of the Easter programme of matches but a disatrous return of one point from a possible 6 put paid to that idea. Despite that failure at the last hurdle, City had been changed into promotion candidates thanks to a gift of £200,000 worth of shares in chairman Harold Needler’s gravel company in 1963. These had doubled in value pretty quickly and given City manager Cliff Britton a transfer fund that was the envy of many top clubs at the time, estimated to be close to £500,000.
One of Briton’s successes didn’t cost the club a bean. A young lad from Sproatley was knocking the goals in, but he needed a partner to act as a foil to his strengths. In November 1964, Britton found just the player he needed. A 21 year old forward, scoring goals at Mansfield Town, having learned his trade under City legend Raich Carter. £40,000 was a lot of money for a player in City’s position then but in hindsight, it was the footballing equivalent of a smash and grab raid. Step forward, Chris Chilton and Ken Wagstaff.
However, Britton hadn’t stopped with the spending. In January 1965, he spent another £80,000 to bring in a tricky, pacy winger and a midfield general, Ian Butler and Ken Houghton, from Rotherham United. These four, allied to Ray Henderson, made up City’s forward line in the latter months of the 64-65 season.
Changes were also being made to the stadium, the open terrace at the south of Boothferry Park, commonly known as Bunkers Hill, was being transformed with a whole new construction. Everything was now taking shape, but would the team continue to make the same progress?
By the time September came around, City had taken their place at the top of the division after beating Scunthorpe and Brighton, and taking a point at Watford. It was too early to dream but perhaps City would have a good season, right? By the end of September, those hopes had taken a dent, after beating Swindon on the opening day of the month, City only registered one win in that time, away at Mansfield. Plus they’d been knocked out of the League Cup by the odd goal in 7 in a replay to Derby, which would have disappointed the team.
October brought better results. 9 goals in a week against Exeter and Oldham served notice on the rest of the league. Chilton, Houghton and Wagstaff were practically scoring goals for fun by this time and only the 2-4 defeat at Swansea didn’t have any of them on the scoresheet, Ian Butler and Ray Henderson registering that time. Plus rarely a game went by without City scoring, only Workington keeping City to nil, in a 3-0 defeat.
November saw them keep up their chase for the top spot, staying unbeaten throughout the month. The 1st round of the FA Cup was safely negotiated, City seeing off Bradford Park Avenue 3-2.
City started off December by going to Gateshead, and thumping four past them, only Chillo of the forwards not scoring. The visit of Bristol Rovers promised much and by the end, they must have wondered what on earth had hit them, as City made the keepers life a misery, beating him 6 times. Even Chris Simpkin got in on the act!
The Boxing Day visit of Millwall would decide who would take top spot and the biggest crowd for 15 years, 40,200, thronged to the Fer Ark to watch the battle. In the end, an own-goal by Millwall’s Gilchrist settled the issue in the Tigers favour. The return match was the following day, and the Lions made City pay with a 3-0 defeat. The lead in the division had changed hand twice in the space of a day.
The New Years Day game against Swansea saw City take it out on the Swans to the tune of 4-1 and Waggy stealing a brace, this team was now on the verge of something special. An unsuccessful trip to Swindon left City in second place but it was soon sorted against Workington. City hadn’t forgotten the result of the first game at Borough Park, and rammed 6 past them with the usual suspects scoring, and an unusual one in Alan Jarvis. This was the start of an amazing run for City. Southampton were seen off in the Cup, and February dawned bright for City.
The month saw them pick up 7 points from 8, scoring 11 goals and conceding just 3, the pick being a 4-0 vitory over Mansfield. Throw in a 2-0 defeat of Nottm Forest, two rare goals from Terry Heath settling the result, and no wonder people started to seriously mark City as a danger.
March was a month the likes of which we’ve rarely seen since. Southport were dispatched in the 5th round of the Cup, thanks to Chillo’s endeavours, making City the lowest ranked team in the 6th round, yet its debatable whether any of the remaining teams really wanted to face them. In the league, City’s unbeaten run extended, 3 further wins, making it 12 games unbeaten, 11 wins and 1 draw. But the game everyone wanted to see was the 6th round tie, away to Chelsea, on 26th March.
At the end of the first half, the 6,000 or so City fans in Stamford Bridge must have feared the worst as City were behind to goals from Bobby Tambling and George Graham. But a classic piece of opportunism from Waggy nicked a goal back, after Peter Bonetti had missed an Ian Butler cross with 10 minutes left. City threw everything forward as Chelsea held on desperately to a game they thought they had wrapped up. With seconds left on the referee’s watch, Waggy took the ball forward, broke a tackle, waltzed around Bonetti and buried it in the net for a replay. Oh to have been in the crowd as the whistle went…!
The replay, 5 days later, saw 45,000 squeeze into the Ark, hoping to see City ‘finish the job’. However, Chelsea were in no mood to be as generous this time round. Peter Osgood, who missed the first game, scored early to put City under the hammer. George Graham added a second to make it really hard for City, but a long range drive from Chris Simpkin brought City back into the frame. On the hour, Chelsea broke down the right and Osgood’s cross was bundled home by Tambling to knock City out of the Cup.
City’s unbeaten League run continued into April with another 5 wins, and another 16 goals to boot, Waggy and Chillo running riot. It took a 1-0 defeat by those rotten codheads of Grimsby to end it. The shock to the system must have got to City cos then the lost again, a trip to Peterborough saw City leave with a 4-1 humbling. A win by the same score over Brentford placed City in line for promotion with plenty to spare.
May opened and City knew that if they could beat Bristol Rovers at Eastville, then it was likely promotion would be theirs with games to spare. A goal each from the Dangerous Duo confirmed their promotion, but there was still a greater prize on offer, the championship title. A draw at Bournemouth set them up nicely with the last 2 games to be played at the Ark.
Peterborough were sent packing 2-1 and 3 days later, Southend came to visit, hoping for a point themselves and denying City the prize. Yet City were not to be denied, and a classic Ian Butler goal, stealing in from City’s left wing and burying a shot in the keeper’s bottom left corner, in front of a packed Bunkers Hill, was enough. As the final whistle went, the euphoria saw the pitch invaded and the players were called for from the dressing room time and again…
1965-66 3rd Division table
1 Hull City P46; W31; D7; L8; F109; A62; Pts 69
2 Millwall P46; W27; D11; L8; F76; A43; Pts 65
3 QPR P46; W24; D9; L13; F96; A65; Pts 57
Chilton 31 goals (55 games), Wagstaff 29 (54), Houghton 27 (54 games), I Butler 15 (54), Henderson 14 (47+1), OG 5, Jarvis 3 (40), Simpkin 3 (54), Heath 2 (11+3).
I would like to thank Wold Top Brewery, the Scissor Sisters and the Fratellis for their assistance in completing this one! I couldn’t have managed it without their help…