Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Hull City: The evolution of a transfer record

In 109 years Hull City’s record signing steadily rose from ten pounds to just short of ten million pounds. Here’s the story of how…

(C) Hull Daily Mail

Pre-war dealings

Joe “Stanley” Smith was The Tigers’ first signing for a fee costing £10 from West Stanley in September 1905. He was known as Stanley because there was already a John Smith and that was confusing so fans named after his hometown! In December 1909, Striker Alf Toward became the first City player to be sold for a fee when he joined Oldham for £350.

That windfall was invested in May 1910 in Celtic’s James McIntosh who cost £750. That was a lot of money at a time when the British transfer record was £1,000. A year later the club sold “Boy” Browell to Everton for £1,550. Both records stood for most of the decade, in the most part due to World War I.

When City signed outside-left Robert Hughes from Northampton in July 1919 it was reported as a club record but no fee is known. So if you thought those horrid “undisclosed fees” were a modern football phenomena, you couldn’t be more wrong. The fee was obviously somewhere between the previous record of £750 and the £2,500 that centre-half Michael Gilhooley would cost from Vale Of Leven in July 1920. Another undisclosed fee was paid to South Shields for George Guyan in December  1926 - again reported as a record and bettered in March 1927 by the £4,000 Jimmy Howieson cost from St. Mirren.

The Tigers have only twice been involved in British Record transfers (and by default World Records) and both came in the early twenties. David Mercer, who was signed from Skelmersdale for free and starred in the “War league”, joined Sheffield United in December 1920 for £4,500. He went on to win the FA Cup in 1925 and a couple of England caps. In March 1922, Michael Gilhooley joined Sunderland for £5,250 which only stood as the record for a few days before Sunderland themselves broke it. Gilhooley was City’s record sale for thirteen years until Andrew Duncan left for Spurs for £6,000.

Post-war years

Reflecting the ambitions of the early-Needler years, City’s transfer dealings were eye-catching in the late forties. Ex-Celtic forward Wille Buchan signed from Blackpool for £5,000 in January ’48 and was followed two months later by Raich Carter. The great inside-forward of Sunderland and England cost £6,000 and signed on as player-manager. In November 1949, Carter shattered the record himself when he attracted Leicester City’s Don Revie for £20,000 – the club’s first five figure fee. The ambition was shown again with the signing of Stoke’s England defender Neil Franklin, fresh from a spell as a “rebel” in Colombia with Independiente Santa Fe for £22,500.

The funds for the transfer of Franklin – for whom City had seen a bid of £30,000 rejected before his spell in South America – probably came from two sales in the second half of 1950. Northern Ireland International defender Gerrard Bowler joined Millwall for £11,000 in June and Jimmy Greenhalgh went to Bury for £13,000 in November. In October 1951 Don Revie, who hadn’t been the success Carter hoped when he managed to sign him ahead of Arsenal, moved to Manchester City in a £25,000 deal. It was made up of £13,000 cash and Ernie Phillips who the two clubs valued at £12,000. That would stand as the record sale for a couple of months short of twenty years.

Swinging sixties

In November 1964, City broke their thirteen year old transfer record to pair Mansfield’s Ken Wagstaff with home-grown striker Chris Chilton for £40,000. Later that season, in January 1965, the same fee was paid for each of Ken Houghton and Ian Butler to Rotherham United. That £120,000 outlay in just a few months put the finishing touches to the City side that would sweep Division Three aside in 1965/66 with its all-conquering forward line.

Steady seventies

Off the back of that success, City enjoyed twelve seasons in Division Two, going closest to an elusive promotion in 1971 – finishing fifth.  Ken Knighton was signed in March from Blackburn Rovers for £60,000 but couldn’t make the difference. In August a real golden era ended when Chris Chilton got his shot at first division football, joining Coventry City for £92,000.

In May 1974, striker Stuart Pearson joined Manchester United for £200,000 (Peter Fletcher being valued at £30,000 in part-ex). Some of that fee was invested in Millwall centre-half Alf Wood who cost £75,000. Like Franklin and Revie before him and many record-holders since, record-breaker Wood flopped and left for Middlesbrough on a free transfer.

In late 1979 with the club craving a return to the second division, midfielder Mick Tait was signed from Carlisle United for £150,000 – doubling the record. He would join Portsmouth just eight months later for £100,000. You could almost believe that being City’s record signing is a curse!

Up in the eighties – down in the nineties

The mid-eighties were a successful time for the club built on good, low-cost signings joining several very good home-grown players. Three of those players would smash the club’s sale record. Big Billy Whitehurst joined Newcastle for £232,000 in May 1985. Three years later, midfielder Garry Parker went to Nottingham Forest for £260,000 and then in September 1988, goalie Tony Norman left for Sunderland for £400,000 – part of the deal being the return of Whitehurst and the arrival of Iain Hesford (least said).

Those fees, along with some tidy profits made on Andy Saville and Alex Dyer, would be invested back into the playing side – some quite dubiously – and in March 1989 the club’s transfer record was broken twice in quick succession with the signings of strikers Ian McParland (Notts County £155,000) and then Peter Swan (Leeds United £200,000).

Martin Fish took over the club in the early nineties and led a slide into near-oblivion – helped by his sale of the club to tennis muppet David Lloyd. Not only was the transfer record not challenged but the prospect of paying any fee at all became unheard of. In 1990, Richard Jobson left for Oldham Athletic for £460,000 and in November of the following year, striker Andy Payton went to Middlesbrough for £750,000. This was an era of selling players to survive so the money disappeared into the crumbling stands of Boothferry Park along with those garnered for Dean Windass, Leigh Jenkinson, Alan Fettis, Roy Carroll and later Andy Oakes. Either that or someone pocketed it.

The explosion

When Adam Pearson saved the club in 2001 he set about spending a lot of money very quickly. Lawrie Dudfield’s arrival from Leicester for £250,000 broke Swanny’s twelve year old club record transfer but there were many arrivals for slightly smaller fees over the never three years. Many proving very sound investments.

Following promotion to League One under manager Peter Taylor the club announced a club record fee had been agreed with Beira-Mar in Portugal for Scot Steve McPhee. The rumoured fee of £220,000 up front rising to £400,000 with add-ons seems unlikely to have hit record levels given the epic failure of the striker in black and amber but it’s hard to disprove. Another promotion into the newly re-branded “Championship” followed and transfer fees paid and received continued to rise as Pearson attempted to maintain the ambition he’d shown as owner. In the summer of 2006, Taylor left for Crystal Palace and took defender Leon Cort with him for £1,250,000. The first seven figure transfer in club history.

As had happened many times previously, a record sale led to record spending and amongst the players signed by new manager Phil Parkinson was the signing of Dean Marney from Spurs for £500,000 – a new high. Marney would eventually cost £1,000,000 due to clauses in the deal being hit on promotion to the Premier League. Adam Pearson handing the club over to Russell Bartlett and Paul Duffen, feeling he could take it no further, led to the club’s first official £1,000,000 transfer when striker Caleb Folan joined from Wigan Athletic. Neither quite hit the heights expected of them but nor did they flop spectacularly.

Promotion to the top flight for the first time in the club’s history in 2008 brought another level of spending. Manager Phil Brown broke our spending record to sign Peter Halmosi from Plymouth for £2,000,000, bettered it days later when Antony Gardner joined permanently from Spurs for £2,500,000 and equalled that in buying Kamil Zayatte from Young Boys. In January 2009 that marker was smashed when the club paid £5,000,000 for Jimmy “Glass knees” Bullard. I’d be lying if I claimed I wasn’t excited by the signing of the flamboyant and talented cockney but his physical state was worse than anyone could predict and he spent most of his two years with the club injured before owner Assem Allam sacked him.

The implosion

Prior to Allam’s arrival as owner, the club was heading for disaster under Bartlett’s stewardship. In the summer of 2009, the reality that they had over-spent trying to compete in the Premier League hit and two players left creating new highs in terms of the sales record but both were greatly under-valued. Sam Ricketts left for Bolton for a fee that has always been undisclosed but is generally thought to be in excess of the previous record fee received of £1,250,000. In August that was broken by the transfer of Michael Turner to Sunderland in a pitiful £4,000,000 deal. Not only was the big centre-back worth more but with Paul McShane arriving in part-exchange for £500,000 and £1,500,000 going to Turner’s previous clubs Brentford and Charlton due to sell-on clauses – City only received something like two million pounds for the biggest asset they’d ever had.

The big bang

Once Assem Allam had appointed Steve Bruce as manager and the club made a return to the Premier League, the increase in television revenue brought yet another unheard of level of spending. On top of breaking the transfer record four times in the space of a year – Bruce also signed six players who feature in the top fifteen fees the club has ever paid (Snodgrass, Jelavic, Dawson, Diame, Robertson and N’Doye).

Tom Huddlestone erased Bullard’s awful name from the record books when he signed for around £5,250,000 in July 2013. The following January Shane Long’s signing from WBA raised the bar to £7,000,000 and then Jake Livermore turned his loan from Spurs into a permanent move for £8,000,000 in July 2014.

In August 2014 Shane Long, who’d only been at the club for seven months, was sold to Southampton for £12,000,000. Long and Peter Swan are the only record signings the club have turned a profit on since 1951. With the money brought in the club bought Abel Hernandez for twelve million euros or around £9,500,000. The massive spending did not ensure Premier League survival and the club dropped into the Championship. With that, you have to feel that Hernandez’s record could stand for a very long time.

In the just-over ten years between June 2004 and August 2014 – the club’s transfer records jumped from £250,000 (in) and £750,000 (out) to £9,500,000 (in) and £12,000,000 (out). Anyone who predicted such activity would surely have been sectioned under the mental health act. Or made to live with Jimmy Bullard.

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