The Giant Killers

Subtitle

 

All time greatest F A cup giant killings

Number 38

 

Manchester United 0-2 Hull City

 Third Round

Saturday January 12th 1952

Attendance: 43,517

Old Trafford, Manchester

Scorers: Syd Gerrie 15, Ken Harrison 42

Post war clothes rationing finally ended, Laurence Olivier celebrated the first British film to win best picture at the Oscars with 'Hamlet', During a BBC programme on astronomy, Fred Hoyle coined the phrase 'Big Bang', Russ Morgan & The Skylarks were 'Crusing Down The River' and 'Russian Hero' won the Grand National at Aintree.

 At Kingston-Upon-Hull, the Football fans who braved the chill east winds of the Humber Estuary were enjoying exciting times for their club. The long awaited Boothferry Park had finally opened in 1946, albeit seventeen years later than planned and it may have been this new feel to the club that helped entice the pre-war Football and Cricket all-rounder, Raich Carter to take a chance on management at a club that hitherto had offered little by way of real ambition.

Carter set to work instantly by securing promotion in 1949 back to a Second Division the fans had not enjoyed since 1936 and the former Sunderland League title winner showed further ambition in coaxing his former pre-war Sunderland team mate, Eddie Burbanks to drop down a division and join him on the playing staff, of which Carter himself was still listed.

Another exceptionally gifted player brought to the new stadium was Don Revie. Just weeks after playing in the cup final for luckless Leicester, Revie walked out of Filbert Street, expressing dissatisfaction at the club’s lack of ambition. Carter beat a host of others, many from the First Division to convince Revie that the Tigers, or Third porters as some of the old guard still knew them, were an ambitious club with their sights on the top flight.

In Revie’s first season at the club it looked like he made the right choice. Under Carter, Hull put in their most promising bid for top flight Football for thirty years and looked set fair until a run of just one victory in their last fifteen games saw their dreams shattered. The 1950/51 season also witnessed a promising start dissolve into inconsistent form and a mid-table finish, although Revie and co showed they could mix it with the aristocrats by humbling Everton in the cup.

Carter scored in that tie, as he’d done in another cupset at Stoke two years earlier but it wasn’t enough for Revie who left for Manchester City in the summer. The news must have come as a disappointment for the manager who was quietly moulding a side he felt could win promotion. Revie was undoubtedly the jewel in his crown, despite Carter himself and old friend Burbanks being the only two men in the side who had been at the very top of the game. The side still contained a solid crop of players inherited by the current player-manager in Wilf Hassall, Dennis Durham, Ken Harrison and Tom Berry, all of whom had been signed up for the club’s first post war season. Berry had served with distinction in the RAF. Welshman, Bill Harris had been signed in 1950 for £2,000 from Llanelli while Scottish side Dundee were also raided for the services of Syd Gerrie. Even more exotic was the acquisition in 1948 of the Dane, Viggo Jenson after he helped his homeland to a bronze medal at the London Olympics. Joe Robinson came to Boothferry Park to keep goal after picking up a cup runners up medal with Blackpool in 1948 but found his chances limited by Billy Bly, the only survivor of the club’s pre-war Second Division days, rapidly establishing himself as a club legend.

Within a few weeks of the start of the 1951/52 season that feeling that Carter’s Hull may have missed their chance started to become apparent. Results went from inconsistent at the start of the season to dreadful as the dark days before Christmas drew in. City fans, perhaps for the first time, grew used to drifting out of Boothferry Park to the nearby chip shops and pubs lamenting another home defeat. The Tigers entered 1952 bottom of the division but showing a slight upturn in recent results that suggested survival was a realistic ambition. Carter dipped into the transfer market and secured the services of Paul Todd from Blackburn to try and add steel to the forward line and then planned a trip to Old Trafford to face the growing power of Manchester United in the third round of the cup.

Under Matt Busby, United had blossomed from pre-war Football also ran into one of the biggest clubs in the country. After holding his former club, Liverpool to a goalless draw in November, the Reds embarked on an unbeaten run of nine games to propel them to second in the division behind Portsmouth making Busby’s dream of ending the club’s forty year wait for a League title a realistic prospect. Busby, however, was privately concerned that this season might be his last chance. The side he assembled after the war was an excellent but aging one and it wasn’t immediately apparent to the Scotsman where their replacements were going to come from. Most of what was to become the Busby Babes were still teenage kids, right on the brink of their careers and only Johnny Berry, so impressive when playing for Birmingham at Old Trafford the previous season had been secured to wear the red, white and black.

Hull had form in Manchester of course. Perhaps their greatest result in the cup came in the city when they travelled to Manchester City and won in 1930 on the way to a desperately unlucky cup semi-final defeat that remained the stuff of legend to the Boothferry Park faithful. Hull had more recent dealings with United however, having hosted them in a cup quarter final during their ’49 promotion year. A packed Boothferry Park saw Hull give United an almighty battle, won by the then cup holders only thanks to a screaming Stan Pearson goal past a semi concussed Billy Bly. The unfortunate Hull keeper broke his nose and was knocked near senseless in an earlier collision that day in yet another milestone on his way to legendary status for the Tigers but the bad news on the eve of the tie was that Bly would not be between the sticks due to injury. Joe Robinson no doubt noted the irony of his Hull season debut coming against the side who netted four goals against him in that 1948 cup final.

3,000 excited Hull fans made the journey across the Peak district to join 40,000 expectant United fans no doubt already considering the possibility of completing the League and Cup double. Certainly the press thought so. United started the day as favourites to do a lap of honour of Wembley come April. 

From the first moment Hull produced a fast pressing game to try and harry the United men off the ball while at the same time being allowed time and space to create opportunities of their own. With fifteen minutes gone Hull had a reward that stunned Old Trafford. The superb Carter was allowed the freedom of the stadium to ghost past two static United players before holding the ball up brilliantly to release Ken Harrison at just the right time to provide Syd Gerrie with the opportunity to open the scoring.

When United were handed a way back into the game on twenty-eight minutes the home fans celebrated like a goal. All that was required was for Jack Rowley to tuck the ball past Robinson and with parity restored, United could then regroup and kick on to win. The groan when Rowley’s spot kick sailed wide of Robinson’s post gave a first indication among the Old Trafford regulars that this just might not be their day.

Hull were eager to punish United’s profligacy and did just that in the closing stages of the first half when Eddie Burbanks laid on Ken Harrison to turn from provider to scorer as he squeezed his angled shot past Allen.

United could only improve in the second half and it was now the turn of Hull’s back line to come into their own to preserve their lead. The Reds had laboured to string anything of note together in the first half. Now in the second, they began to own the ball but Berry, Pearson, Rowley, Downie and Bond were consistently kept at arm’s length by a confident back line. On the rare occasions United did get through, their efforts were met with Joe Robinson in top form. As the game began to close out he must have felt a certain sense of satisfaction for those four Wembley goals he couldn’t prevent. {Image below - Bill Harris {4}, Viggo Jensen {3} and Raich Carter {8} watch on as a late Stan Pearson chance is pushed away by Joe Robinson. Jack Rowley {9} watches on but with barely a minute to go, he and most of those behind the Stretford End's white pickett fence know that a goal now would be too little too late}

United’s pressing grew stronger in the dying minutes and Hull were forced back deep into the own area to preserve their lead but even as United threatened what could surely only be a consolation goal, a good many of their fans were making for an early exit, accepting their fate.

At the final whistle both sets of players made for the man of the moment, Carter. The Hull gaffer had commanded from the front and now took time to congratulate each of his players and shake the hands of every United man too. A resigned Matt Busby made his way from his place in the stands to congratulate his opponents. Carter paid his United opponents the highest compliment, stating “It was a pleasure.” Going on to state that United like to play Football, which in turn allows other teams to play as well, something that the rough and tumble of Second Division Football usually didn’t allow his side.

For Manchester United and Matt Busby came the strength to continue their top flight unbeaten run for another seven games and although two defeats then followed, they did enough to secure the title in the last game of the season.

Hull were drawn away at Blackburn in round four, having played their divisional rivals in the traditional Christmas double header the previous month. The Tigers defeated Rovers on Christmas day at Boothferry Park but were easily beaten the following day at Ewood Park. The result was repeated in the cup to leave Hull to fight their relegation battle, which they won with maximum points from their final three games.

Having kept the side in the Second Division, Raich Carter announced his retirement from Football at the end of the season, only to pop up weeks later as manager of Cork Athletic.  The resignation of Carter signalled the breakup of his side as they struggled at the wrong end of the Second Division before relegation in 1956. Eddie Burbanks stayed around for less than a year after his friend, Carter left, joining Leeds where he earned the merit of being the club’s oldest captain and scorer in 1954. Joey Robinson retired in 1953, having managed his small piece of revenge on Manchester United while Viggo Jenson left after relegation to return to his native Denmark where he worked at a power plant. The other players too gradually drifted into non-league Football and retirement with only Bill Harris ever enjoying, if that could be the correct word, the height of top flight Football when he joined a Middlesbrough side already all but doomed to relegation towards the end of the 1953/54 season.

 

One of the 3,000 keen Hull fans at Old Trafford that day was Tony who recalled...

My dad promised to take me to the next City v Man U match after I queued for over 5 hours to get tickets for the City v Man U 6th round FA Cup match in 1949. I wanted 2 tickets but at the turnstile was rationed to one adult which my dad used. If we had beaten Man U that day it would certainly have reached the top 100 giant-killers list!"


{At Old Trafford in ‘52} I was behind the goal, jammed on the picket fence {just beyond the match photo above} so had a great view of both the City goals and Man U trying in vain to score in the second half. Was not impressed with the
stadium nor pitch ( not a patch on Boothferry Park) and before the match quite disappointed that 2 of my favourites Billy Bly and Neil Franklin were not fit enough to play.
It would be almost 64 years before I next attended a City v Man U game.

The journey by car to Manchester was interesting as my parents had arranged to stay overnight Saturday in Colne ( near Burnley) at the home of my mum's sister. Mum came along with my sister and we went to Colne via Morley (near Leeds) where we called in on the couple who housed me for a few months when I was evacuated from Hull as a 4 year old in 1942. Then to Colne, dropping off my mum and sister, and on to Old Trafford.

United: 1:Reg Allen, 2:Tommy McNulty, 3:Roger Byrne, 4:Johnny Carey, 5:Allenby Chilton, 6:Henry Cockburn, 7:Johhny Berry, 8:Stan Pearson, 9:Jack Rowley, 10:Johnny Downie, 11:Ernie Bond        
 
City: 1:Joe Robinson, 2:Wilf Hassall, 3:Viggo Jensen, 4:Bill Harris, 5:Tom Berry, 6:Denis Durham, 7:Ken Harrison, 8:Riach Carter, 9:Syd Gerrie, 10:Paul Todd, 11:Eddie Burbanks
 
A great many thanks to Tony and everyone at the not606 Hull City forum who assisted in providing information to help create this page

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