Thursday, 6 December 2012

Ten Years At The KC Stadium - #3

In this series of blogs, I'll pick the Top 10 Players, Games and Goals from the 10 years at the KC Stadium and will throw in a variety of top 10 lists and boring facts! This is number eight in the series and number three in the countdown:

Top 10 Players - #3

Stuart Elliott

Pic: PAPhotos

Stuart Elliott arrived at the KC Stadium in the summer of 2002 as one of several players plucked from the Scottish Premier League by City manager Jan Molby. Elliott was a left-winger who’d hit 23 goals in the SPL for Motherwell in the previous couple of seasons and was capped by Northern Ireland. He was also a born-again Christian drawn to Hull by the presence of the Living Hope Church. Next time you’re passing, put a fiver in the collection box, we’ve plenty to thank them for. Elliott hit 68 goals in 211 games for City, a return of nearly 1 in 3 from the left wing. He was the top-scorer in three of his 4 seasons as a regular in the team. In 2004/05 he struck 27 league goals. The joint-second best tally by a City player in post-war football.

Molby paid £230,000 for Elliott making him the third most expensive signing in the club’s history at that point. It was a steal. Molby went up to Fir Park with a swag bag and a very large stripy jumper. Molby’s made numerous fine signings including Elliott, Ian Ashbee and Stuart Green but his man-management skills were non-existent and once he failed to successfully re-produce the 4-3-3 system he played at Kidderminster, he had no other ideas. He was swiftly kicked into touch by Adam Pearson (insert broken foot “gag”) and replaced with Peter Taylor. Elliott scored on his Tigers debut against Southend at Boothferry Park but would only score once more under Molby. He had a better time after Taylor’s arrival and finished the season as top goal-scorer with 12 goals. On January 11th 2003, he scored his first goals at the KC Stadium bagging a brace against Exeter City in a 2-2 draw.

In 2003/04 Peter Taylor put together a fabulous front four of Elliott, Jason Price, Ben Burgess and Danny Allsopp. Despite hitting 14 goals, Elliott was only third top scorer as Allsopp struck 15 times and Burgess scored 18 times. Price also chipped in with 9 goals. City strolled to promotion from Division 3 (League Two) and with Elliott well-established as a regular goal-scorer. His goals were generally split into two categories. Despite being well under six feet tall he was excellent in the air, having great spring, and scored plenty of headed goals while his willingness to let fly from anywhere with his left foot caught out many a goalkeeper. He scored vital goals in tight games and was the match winner against Cambridge, Darlington, Southend, and most famously Swansea City (Greatest KC Stadium Game #8). He was also a useful provider of goals, linking up well with the Burgess-Allsopp front pair and providing a constant threat in the air attacking Price’s right wing crosses. 14 goals is a fantastic return for a winger but it was dwarfed by the events of the following season.

2004/05 will always be known to City fans as “That Stuart Elliott season”. Elliott scored 30 times, 27 in the league, 1 in the FA Cup, 1 in the League Cup and 1 for Northern Ireland. On New Year’s Day 2005 he suffered a broken cheekbone at the hands (or elbow) of Huddersfield thug Efe Sodje. He missed 6 weeks of the season meaning his 27 league goals came in just 36 games. A phenomenal return which included six braces and a hat-trick (Greatest KC Stadium Game #10). If not for the injury, I’m certain he would have set a new club record for league goals in a season. Not only was the number of goals impressive but also the quality as Elliott demonstrated a left-foot strike as true as any in the game and that ability to out-jump defenders 3 and 4 inches taller than he was. Ben Burgess missed the entire season with a knee injury suffered against Huddersfield in the penultimate game of the previous season but Elliott ensured he wasn’t missed. Not in goal-scoring terms anyway. The Tigers clinched a second successive promotion. Although Nick Barmby had a fine debut season and Ian Ashbee and the Tigers defenders made the step-up seamlessly, without Burgess City could’ve lacked a cutting edge up front. Danny Allsopp didn’t perform as well without his partner and the strikers bought to replace Burgess weren’t fit to sign his plaster cast. Simply put, without Elliott, that second promotion wouldn’t have been possible. He was the difference maker in half of the games. He scored goals when we weren’t playing well and won games from nothing. We’ll tell our grandchildren about that season.

There was some debate in the summer of 2005 as to whether Elliott would produce the same form in the Championship. He wasn’t blessed with explosive pace or great dribbling ability, wasn’t technically a great footballer and was due to come up against better defences in well-drilled sides. In truth, he struggled. Never hitting the heights of before but playing a role as City avoided an immediate return to League One. It was Elliott’s magnificent goal at Plymouth that sealed the Tigers first victory in the second tier for 14 years. He also finished the season as the club’s top scorer with 7 goals. The following season, City fought off relegation by the skin of our teeth. A classic Elliott brace against QPR with both goals coming in the last 5 minutes to seal a come-from-behind victory was the highlight of his season. He played 38 games, few were memorable and he fell out of favour with Northern Ireland. His goal against Plymouth on the final day would be his last at the KC Stadium. He was used sparsely by Phil Brown after Henrik Pedersen’s arrival and eventually left for Doncaster, initially on loan. His last great moment in a Tigers shirt came at Wigan as he scored a tremendous improvised winner in a League Cup tie. That would be the last sighting of football’s greatest cartwheel in black and amber. Eat your heart out, Robbie Keane.

Stuart Elliott was a fantastic ambassador for the club, a real gentleman and a humble, gracious footballer. He was a key figure in the club’s rise from the bottom half of Division 3 to being, briefly, one of the top three teams in the country. Unfortunately, he couldn’t make the entire journey but his contribution was vast and will never be forgotten. He’s the leading Tigers goalscorer at the KC Stadium. His goal return for a wide player was outstanding. His record in 2004/05 is the stuff of legend. He’s on the list of the best City players at the KC. He’s on the list of the best goals at the KC. He contributed greatly to some of the best games at the KC. Jan Molby’s reign as City manager was short lived and unfulfilled but thanks to Stuart Elliott and Ian Ashbee, it will never, ever be one we regret.

So here’s to you Stuart Elliott. Jesus loves you more than you will know. But not as much as we do.

Top 10 Matches - #3

Hull City 3 Everton 2 - 06/02/2010

After a stuttering start to what would eventually be a disastrous season, City started to click once Jimmy Bullard returned from his long injury absence. A 2-1 victory over Stoke was followed by an entertaining 3-3 draw with West Ham before Everton came to town. Everton were depleted but despite their complaining about it, they had a side out that cost four times the £10m or so the Tigers starting eleven cost.

For City, Bullard was missing, 3 games in quick succession too much for his glass knees, and Phil Brown made the ludicrous decision to drop Bo Myhill. Despite that and City starting the game like strangers, we clicked into gear and produced the best half of Premier League football at the KC. Kamil Zayatte had his best game in black and amber, Stephen Hunt did likewise, George Boateng had his best game in ages and Dean Marney his best since the win at Arsenal a year or so earlier.

Hunt gave City the lead in the 9th minute, tucking in the rebound after Altidore's effort was saved. The defence stood firm against Everton's considerable attacking threat and encouraged, City pushed on to take the game by the scruff of the neck. On 20 minutes, Andy Dawson curled a magnificent free-kick beyond Tim Howard. Eight minutes later Dean Marney, of all people, scored with a deflected shot and City were in complete control.

Everton came into the game in the second half and were gifted a life-line when Zayatte  turned Heitinga's cross into his own net. A quarter of an hour later, Zayatte clumsily fouled Saha in the box and Saha knocked in the penalty. The situation became nervy but City defended stoutly. Zayatte reacted superbly to his own idiocy and kept Saha quiet. Nick Barmby came off the bench to calm everyone's nerves and Marney and Boateng closed their midfield down urgently.

Home wins were rare in the Premier League years and this was just about the finest. A tremendously spirited effort, quality in front of goal and, despite a couple of mishaps, a solid defensive performance. It will go down as one of Phil brown's finest nights. Ironically the return fixture would be his undoing.

Top 10 Goals - #3

John Bostock

The freshly-relegated Tigers took on Swansea on the opening day of 2009/10 and in truth, no-one at the KC Stadium was expecting big things. That was until Spurs loanee John Bostock turned in midfield and hit a rocket of a shot into the top corner. It turned out to be a massive false dawn, both the 2-0 victory and Bostock's performance but that's par for the course with Hull City!

Top 10 villains of the KC Stadium era

1=. Russell "Who needs an accountant?" Bartlett
1=. Paul "I'm not a criminal, honest" Duffen
3. James "Greedy b*****d" Bullard
4. Nigel "Judas" Pearson
5. Danny "Break yer legs" Guthrie
6. Cesc Fabre-goz
8. Steve "Have a penalty, no wait a second..." Bennett
9. Jon "I'll applaud the Stoke fans and ignore the traveling Tigers whilst being a lazy, fat gut and stealing a wage" Parkin
 10.Adel "Massive baby" Taarabt

And brand new in at 7. Dean "I'm a cock" Marney.

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