579 Apps (520 League)
If anyone deserves to be recognised as a Hull City legend it is Andy Davidson.
He first arrived at Boothferry Park as a fresh faced 14-year-old in 1947. More than 30 years later he finally left the club, having amassed more than 500 appearances, leading the Tigers to promotion and having served as assistant manager.
Born in Scotland, he was a useful schoolboy player, and was expected to sign for a club north of the border. But his brother David was already at City, having asked for a trial with the Tigers when his work as a long distance lorry driver had brought him to Hull.
So Andy followed in his brother’s footsteps, joining City at a young age but quickly establishing himself. By the time he was 16, he was on the fringe of the first team, and he finally made his debut, at the age of 19, in 1952, in a 2-0 defeat to Blackburn.
He was best known for his role as a full back, but it was his versatility that made him so valuable to the club. Over the years he would play in numerous positions, on both the left and right, in attack, midfield and in defence. Eventually he settled as a right back, even though he preferred to play in the middle or on the left.
His courage, commitment and dedication made him a natural leader, and over the years he would help and inspire many other players. Three times in his career with City he suffered a broken leg, but each time battled back to full fitness to regain his place in the team.
One of his finest moments was steering City to the Third Division title in 1965/66, but his delight at the team’s success was tempered by the disappointment of losing an FA Cup sixth round replay at home to Chelsea, when he felt the referee had cost the Tigers the game. He missed just one game in that title winning campaign, and it was perhaps unsurprising that when he wasn’t on the field, City suffered a rare defeat, going down 3-1 at Swindon.
His will to win attitude was evident throughout his playing career, and he would go on to smash all the club’s appearance records. When he finally hung up his boots, retiring through injury in 1968, he had played 579 times for City, including 520 league games, to set a record which is unlikely to ever be broken.
He was perhaps overshadowed at times by some of the star names he lined up alongside. The likes of Ken Wagstaff and Chris Chilton would grab the headlines with their goals, but the fans knew just how important Davidson was to the club. Steady, consistent and ever dependable, Davidson was what every football league club wanted.
City didn’t want his links to the club to end when he finished playing, and happily he would stay with the Tigers for another 11 years, working as a scout, coach and assistant manager to both John Kaye and Ken Houghton. When he finally left in 1979 he continued to live locally, at South Cave, having grown to love the area.
When he died in a nursing home in Beverley last year, the tributes from City fans flooded in. It was a very fitting send off to a very special player. No one has played for Hull City more times than Andy Davidson. And the chances are, no one ever will!
487 Apps (409 League)
He is the classic example of a one-club man. Garreth Roberts was born in Hull and joined his hometown club in 1978 at the age of 17. He would spend the next 13 years with the Tigers, becoming one of the most consistent performers in the club’s history, and the first player to captain the side to two promotions.
Roberts made his debut in March 1979, when he came on as a substitute in a 4-1 win at home to Bury. Among the scorers that day were Keith Edwards and Pete Skipper. City had a decent season, finishing eighth in Division Three, and Roberts played in all the last 19 games, scoring three times.
His first goal came in a 2-2 draw away at Carlisle and he also found the net in a 4-2 defeat away at Lincoln, as well as netting in the final game of the season when City beat Sheffield Wednesday 3-2 away. It was a promising start from a midfielder whose dedication to the cause quickly won the fans over. He only missed two of the 46 league games the following campaign, but the Tigers struggled, finishing 20th.
The next season saw him absent for a raft of games through injury and his determination on the pitch was sorely missed, with the Tigers ending the season in bottom place, and being relegated to the fourth tier. The next season was again punctuated through injury but he still scored six times from 29 games as City finished eighth.
And despite only being in his early 20s, Roberts was captain as the Tigers put together a promotion-winning season in the following campaign. Roberts was playing alongside Steve McClaren in midfield, and up front big Billy Whitehurst was grabbing the goals, helped by the skills of Brian Marwood. City finished second behind Wimbledon, and Roberts missed just two games, finishing with six goals from his 44 appearances.
The following campaign saw the Tigers challenging for a second successive promotion, but the campaign would end in heartbreak in the final game of the season. Roberts was a rock throughout the campaign. He played in 38 league games and scored nine goals, and was in midfield on that cruel night away at Burnley, the last game of the season, which City needed to win by three goals in order to go up. The Tigers won 2-0 and missed out on promotion by one goal, having finished level on points and goal difference with Sheffield United, but having scored fewer.
1984/85 – with Brian Horton in charge of the side in a player/manager role – saw Roberts remain as captain, and this time he steered the Tigers to promotion. Although injuries restricted him to 29 league appearances, he and the rest of his team-mates were in fine form throughout the campaign and clinched their place in the Second Division with a third place finish. For the next few seasons, Roberts was ultra consistent as City at times threatened to challenge for promotion to the top tier. He continued to chip in with useful goals from his midfield berth, and also had spells in defence, proving versatile and equally consistent at the back.
He stayed with City until 1991, but missed a number of games through injury. His last action came in the 2-1 defeat away at Charlton, in December 1990, the season when City were relegated, and it may be relevant that City finished so poorly that season when Roberts was able to play just eight games.
In all he made 414 league appearances for the Tigers, scoring 47 times, and also played in 28 FA Cup ties, 24 League Cup games, and 21 in other competitions, including the first final of the Associate Members Cup, which City lost 2-1 to Bournemouth at Boothferry Park just days after the heartbreak of missing out on promotion. His final tally was a very impressive 487 games – in which he represented the club with such professionalism on each and every occasion – and 59 goals.
477 Apps (415 League)
Chris Chilton’s story is the ultimate tale of a local lad done good. A native of Sproatley, he joined his hometown team, Hull City, in 1960 at the age of 17. When he left 11 years later, he was the club’s greatest ever goalscorer, and had forged his place in the Tigers’ history books as part of a twin strike force feared throughout the land.
Chilton was a raw youngster when he first turned up at Boothferry Park, but it didn’t take him long to find his feet. At the end of his first season, while still only 17, he had played 49 league and cup games and was the Club’s top scorer with 20 goals. He continued in a similar vein for the next few seasons until, in the 1964/65 campaign, Ken Wagstaff arrived.
The partnership the pair forged is still talked about more than 50 years on. Chilton was already a defender’s nightmare. And suddenly, City’s potency was doubled. When City won the third division title in 1965/66, the pair scored more than 50 goals between them. And their exploits continued in the next level up, Division Two. Chilton scored 17 and Wagstaff 21 in the first campaign, and for the rest of the decade one or the other would be the top goalscorer each season. They were glory days for the fans, who knew the club had a chance in every single game, simply because the strikers were so lethal.
But by now, other clubs had become very aware of Chilton’s talents. The striker had already signalled his intent to stay with his hometown club and had rebuffed a number of offers, including from Tottenham and Leeds. But in 1971 he decided to move on, and joined Coventry where he played less than 30 times before having a stint in South Africa, and then ending his playing career.
His record with the Tigers is as impressive today as it was back then. He scored a total of 222 goals, including 193 in the league and 16 in the FA Cup. It is a remarkable tally, and one which is even more impressive if you also factor in how many assists he was responsible for – in the main to help strike partner Wagstaff.
A great reader of the game, as well as an extraordinary finisher, he was a great asset to his team-mates. And that carried through when he returned to City in the late 1970s, at the invitation of his former teammate and then manager Ken Houghton. Chilton joined the coaching squad, mainly working with the juniors, and was responsible for the development of future England manager Steve McClaren and England player Brian Marwood.
And one of his notable successes was in helping to shape the career of striker Billy Whitehurst, a recruit from the non-league who joined the Tigers looking very green but who went on to become one of the most fearsome forwards outside of the top-flight. Chilton, for a short time, stepped in as caretaker manager of the Tigers, and also served as an assistant to both Colin Appleton and Brian Horton.
He will forever have a special place at in the Tigers’ history. Those who were lucky enough to see him play remember a deadly finisher who could seemingly win a game single-handedly. And those who were not around when ‘Chillo’ was at his prime have heard the stories. They know just how good City’s greatest ever goalscorer was.
456 Apps (430 League)
George Maddison will always have the honour of becoming the first player to reach 400 games for Hull City.
He went on to play 430 league games for the Tigers. And he would have made far more appearances if he hadn’t been pushed so much for the number one jersey by the Tigers’ other shot stopper at the time Fred Gibson. The healthy competition between the two might have robbed Maddison of at least another 100 games, but it helped him to become one of the most revered keepers in the cub’s history.
Maddison was born in Little Hulton, near Salford, in 1902, and he began his football career with Birtley Colliery, in the north east. This earned him his nickname of Geordie, and he then headed south, joining Tottenham Hotspur. Between 1922 and 23 he would play 40 times for Spurs, before the Tigers came calling. Even though he was only in his early 20s, he had great maturity and his physical stature helped him command his penalty area.
He made his Tigers debut in a 3-0 win at home to Stockport County in November 1924, and he played 25 times that season as City finished 10th in Division Two. The following season he was an ever-present, playing in all 42 league games. City finished 13th but only five teams conceded less goals than the 61 he let in.
And he didn’t miss a game the following campaign, as the Tigers improved to finish 7th. Gibson’s challenge for the goalkeeping shirt began in earnest the following season, but he only played six times, with Maddison in the team for the other games, and it was a similar story the following campaign.
The next season, 1929/30, was disappointing, as the club were relegated, and Maddison only featured in 14 of the matches. It is impossible to know how the Tigers would have fared if he had played more regularly, but there is no denying Gibson was a decent keeper in his own right and by now the pair were pushing each other to ever higher standards.
For the next two campaigns the pair shared the goalkeeping duties, and Gibson started the 1932/33 season as number one. But after just seven games, Maddison replaced him and didn’t look back. He played in all of the next 36 games, only missing the final match of the season, and helped City win the Division Three (North) title.
The Tigers’ defence was masterful, only letting in 45 goals in their 42 league games, by far the lowest in the division With City back in Division Two he was an ever present, playing in all 42 league games, and was first choice again for the next campaign, the Tigers finishing both in mid-table.
The following season was a sad one, as City were relegated again, but Maddison featured that campaign and the one after as the Tigers tried but failed to win promotion back to the second tier at the first attempt. The 1937/38 campaign would prove to be his last. He played 16 times as the Tigers narrowly missed out on promotion, finishing third.
His last game for City came in a 1-1 draw at home to New Brighton in February 1938. His 430 league appearances set a club record that would stand for 30 years, and he also featured in 24 FA Cup ties. He served City in style for more than 12 years, and will go down in history as one of the club’s finest ever shot-stoppers.
456 Apps (403 League)
There can be very few players who have been with any football club through four decades. Billy Bly is one of that handful.
And the fact he made more than 400 league appearances in goal for the Tigers is even more remarkable considering he missed out on several years of football because of the Second World War. He was just 17 when he joined the Tigers as an apprentice in August 1937. But despite his young age he was rapidly pushing for a first team spot.
His debut came in April 1939, when he kept a clean sheet in a 2-0 Division Three North victory away at Rotherham. He played in the remaining seven games of that season, when City finished a respectable seventh. The outbreak of war saw the 1939/40 season abandoned after just two games, and it was another seven years before the Division Three North took shape again. When it did, Bly was back in goal, keeping another clean sheet as City drew 0-0 with Lincoln in the season’s opener, which saw the Tigers new home of Boothferry Park used for the first time.
Two years later, he was still in goal when, under Raich Carter’s management, the Tigers swept all before them to clinch the Division Three (North) title in record breaking fashion. That title-winning team is best remembered for Carter’s sublime skill, and the manner in which City demolished their opponents, scoring 93 goals in the process. But at the other end, Bly was in supreme form. City conceded just 28 goals in 42 league games, letting in just 14 in the 21 games both at home and away. The following season, in Division Two, City finished seventh, with Bly playing in 38 of the 42 games, and he was the club’s first choice goalkeeper throughout all of the 1950s.
In 1955/56 City were relegated back to Division Three (North), but three years later the club clinched promotion back to the second tier, and Bly played in 45 of the 46 league games, conceding just 54 goals in that campaign as City finished second behind Plymouth. His extraordinary career continued into 1960, and his last game for City came in April of that year when, just a month short of his 40th birthday, he was in goal in a 1-0 defeat at Bristol Rovers.
When he finally departed Boothferry Park, he had set an incredible tally of appearances. He featured for City in 403 league games, and also appeared in 35 FA Cup and 18 games in other competitions to take his overall tally to an impressive 456. But for the several years missed because of the war, he could have conceivably gone on to have played another 200 or more times, and in so doing set an appearance record for the Tigers which would probably have never been broken.
The fact he played for so long shows how seriously he took the game. A model of consistency, he also kept himself in top shape, and was a great role model for the younger professionals at the club. He also became a firm favourite with the fans, who knew they had a reliable, conscientious shot stopper between the sticks.
His courage was also the stuff of legend, and again endeared him to the supporters. The only sad note about Bly’s amazing career was the fact the war robbed him of so many more appearances, and of the chance of gaining the international recognition that his talents, and his consistency, deserved.