Founded in 1904 in a city predominantly consumed with rugby league, Hull City have taken their time in reaching the promised land that is top division football. Before the, let’s be honest, unexpected promotion of 2007/08, the closest The Tigers came to playing in the highest league was 1910, when goal average saw Oldham pip them to second place, and a coveted spot in the First Division. Unfortunately the club was never able to repeat the feat, and league form fluctuated to little or no avail.
Underlying financial problems and dark days to be a ‘Tiger’
For much of their history, Hull have had to endure some tough times financially. Beginning in the 1920s, the only way to survive was through selling better players – something which is always going to make success that much harder to achieve. However, the worst period for the black and amber outfit was much more recent, namely the late 1990s and early 21st century. The year 1997 saw tennis icon David Lloyd take over the club, and the appointment of Mark Hateley as manager brought a long overdue optimism to Boothferry Park. This was to be short-lived, as Hateley proved inept at management, leaving The Tigers in danger of losing their football league status with some woeful performances. Warren Joyce took over as player-manager, and miraculously kept Hull up – the 1998/99 season being referred to commonly as ‘The Great Escape’. If City fans thought that the worst was over, they were wrong. Mounting debts, coupled with very few people wanting to watch a team still struggling in the basement division week after week, saw Hull City locked out of their ground in February 2001 and facing the prospect of extinction. Cue saviour Adam Pearson and his consortium, and things once again looked rosier.
The only way is up
Fast forward two years – and two managers (Brian Little and Jan Molby) – and Hull City finally appointed the man who was to take them in the right direction – one Peter Taylor. Two successive promotions saw The Tigers, now playing at the award-winning KC Stadium, in the Championship, something which most fans could not have imagined only a few seasons earlier. The first campaign saw Hull consolidate under Taylor, before Phil Parkinson took over at the start of the 2006/07. Expectations were high, but a poor start saw the gaffer sacked, and number two Phil Brown was given the hot seat on a temporary basis. The signing of former player – and City legend – Dean Windass was a major factor in The Tigers avoiding the drop, and Brown was given the job full-time in time for the 2007/08 campaign. And what a campaign it was! Some of the best football the people of Hull have ever seen culminated in a trip to Wembley for the Play-off Final versus Bristol City. A sensational volley from that man Dean “Deano” Windass meant that Hull would finally take their place amongst the elite.
Premier League History
With a top flight team for the first time ever, the city of Hull was full of excitement and activity, and the first ever game saw a rejuvenated Fulham come to town. Despite being pre-season favourites for relegation – and a goal down inside the first ten minutes – a curling shot on the run from Geovanni set The Tigers on their way to recording their first Premier League points. Caleb Folan tapped in the late winner. A point at Blackburn a week later suggested that the many opinions of a tough season ahead may have been a little unfair, although a 5-0 home defeat to Wigan did provoke cause for concern. However this proved to be a minor blip, as Hull began the season in scintillating form – even sharing top spot after a 3-0 win at West Brom. The highlight of the first half of the season undoubtedly came at the Emirates Stadium, where Arsenal had, up until playing The Tigers, only been beaten once. Again Hull came from behind, and again it was the mercurial Brazilian Geovanni who inspired victory. Possibly one of the greatest goals ever to be scored in black and amber, he cut in from the left and unleashed an unstoppable shot past Almunia. Daniel Cousin headed in an Andy Dawson corner soon after, and then some inspired defending – and a little help from the crossbar – saw Hull City take three points back to East Yorkshire.
So they did it the hard way, and had a little bit of luck on their side, but ultimately Hull achieved what they set out to do – remain a Premier League club. The first season in the top division was full of ups and downs, incredible goals, and some memorable incidents – something we have come to expect from the world’s greatest league. The Tigers will be hoping for even more in their sophomore season, and really establish themselves in the Premier League. Whether or not they will, is a different matter.