The Giant Killers

Every F A cup giant killing since 1888

All time greatest F A cup giant killings

Number 58


 Halifax Town 1-0 Manchester City

Third Round: Saturday January 5th 1980

Attendance: 12,599

Scorer: Paul Hendrie {75}     

Ranked at the time:

American President, Jimmy Carter issued a European supported grain embargo against the Soviets, Workers at British Steel went on strike, Dustin Hoffmann put in an Academy Award winning performance opposite Meryl Streep as the custody battling couple in Kramer vs Kramer and Pink Floyd topped the charts with Another Brick In The Wall.


What state were Halifax in?

The Shaymen had only once previously pulled off an F A cup shock when sending Stoke packing during a memorable run twenty-seven years earlier when record crowds of over 30,000 had packed into the ground. Manager George Kirby was a young player with his boyhood club, Everton at that time, playing a bit part in helping them back into the First Division before embarking on a career in the lower Divisions with other clubs.


He first set foot in the Shay as Manager of Halifax back in 1970 and gave the club their best ever finish when just missing out on promotion to the Second Division but shortly after his departure in 1971 the club slumped. Years of struggle in Division Three ended with relegation in 1976. The first two seasons back in basement had been little better, finishing no higher than twentieth and it was into a similarly dreadful season that George Kirby returned from a spell in Icelandic Football to take over again.


In that first half season in charge he was unable to divert the club from re-election, although they survived the ordeal unscathed to allow him to plan a Fourth Division campaign for 1979-80. Unsurprisingly, given their lowly status, Halifax contained little in the way of top level experience with only the former Huddersfield man Geoff Hutt being a recognisable name. Paul Hendrie had tried to forge a career at Birmingham with less than two dozen appearances in five years before arriving at Halifax, via a spell in the ill-fated North American Soccer League. Chris Dunleavy had also found his way to Halifax via American Soccer while David Evans could boast having once been tasked with the role of marking the great Johann Cruyff in a UEFA cup tie for Aston Villa but after just one more game for the Villains, he too dropped down the leagues for action.


The rest of Kirby’s regulars were a combination of long standing Third & Fourth Division stalwarts like Bob Mountford or youngsters just starting out like Mick Kennedy. Franny Firth was the longest serving player at the club, despite only being in his fourth season and Dave Harris was a former Port Vale favourite who had fallen out of favour at Vale Park.


This was the backbone of a side that was enjoying a relatively decent season by recent standards and was steering clear of the election zone without troubling the promotion chasers either. Their cup run in November with a 2-0 victory over Alliance Premier League, Scarborough in the first round but in round two they entered into a ding dong tussle with their divisional rivals, Walsall. Nobody had visited Fellows Park and won this season so the 1-1 draw and replay back at the Shay was probably as good as Halifax could have hoped for, especially as they had inflicted one of the only two League defeats Walsall suffered all season. This time the sides remained tied through into extra time at 1-1 and would have to meet for a third time, back at The Shay on Christmas Eve with a home tie against Manchester City as the present. Yet again the sides couldn’t be separated and went into extra time where the result was finally settled with two Halifax goals.


What about City?


The 1968 League Champions had followed up by winning the F A Cup the following year and The European Cup Winner’s cup in 1970. Twice during that decade they missed being crowned Champions again by a solitary point but did win the League Cup in 1976 under loyal club servant, Tony Book. In 1979 City’s eccentric chairman, Peter Swailes asked former manager, Malcolm Allison to come back and take charge with Book stepping down to assistant. At first the appointment of Allison was a popular one but his transfer dealings in his first six months in charge began to baffle the City fans. Crowd favourites were allowed to leave while a British record fee was paid for Steve Daley, a decent player but hardly worth the astronomical fee.  


Allison had problems on the morning of the game with four experienced defenders all out injured leaving him to call upon two teenage full backs. Only keeper Joe Corrigan survived from the ’76 League Cup Winners and the England man’s only team mate with International caps was the South African born England player Colin Viljoen. It was still a young and talented City side with the exciting Michael Robinson, a friend and team mate of Halifax keeper, John Kilner when both had been at Preston.


The Game

In the week leading up to the tie George Kirby was placed in contact with an eccentric hypnotist by the stage name of Romark, who once tried to drive blindfolded from Ilford to London using his psychic ability alone. 200 yards later he hit a police car parked outside his psychic vision. Back in 1976  Malcolm Allison, always keen to find a new publicity stunt, had engaged the hypnotist to work on his players but then neglected to pay him for his efforts. A disgruntled Romark promptly contacted Laurie McMenemy, manager of Palace’s semi-final opponents, Southampton and offered them his services, placing a curse on Palace, which many say has never been lifted, and also Mr Allison. The unusual entertainer was only too happy to have another pop at Big Mal and duly arrived at the Shay where Dave Smith took up the story. "I'm sat there with this guy called Romark, and he was saying … 'you will go to sleep now, Dave Smith, and then you'll overcome the power of Manchester City. You will play the greatest game of your life, Dave Smith. When I count to three, you'll wake up again.' I was trying not to laugh and I'm thinking, what's all this about? What a load of nonsense." Unlike big Mal four years earlier, George Kirby paid up and waited for the results.

City arrived at The Shay on Third Round day to find the referee, Michael Lowe giving the pitch yet another once over. It was reduced to a virtual bog in the middle but the rain had stayed away during the morning and he was satisfied a ball would roll on it. Your commentator is Martyn Tyler.  [if link below does not load or is deleted please report the broken link here}

After the tie.


A typically bullish Malcolm Allison wished Halifax well while at the same time making much noise about the state of the pitch and that he was forced to field a teenage centre back partnership. Nobody took much notice and before the season was over, Allison was sacked. Under his successor, John Bond, City reached the cup final the following year with six of Allison’s team playing at Wembley.

{image right: Paul Power goes to retrieve the ball from the City net in front of their own stunned traveling support} 

Halifax’s were drawn away to another top flight side, Bolton in round four and really fancied their chances against a team that had gone twenty games without a win prior to their slightly unexpected 3rd round victory at Sunderland. The Trotters were rock bottom of the First Division and already in need of something of a miracle to survive relegation. With players like Peter Reid in their side they were still too good for George Kirby’s men and ran out 2-0 winners to end the Halifax adventure.


After the excitement of the cup run, Halifax began to struggle with their league form and slumped back down the table with just four victories in their last twenty games being enough to stave of re-election. Kirby was unable to turn it around the following season and as the Shaymen returned to ask the Football League to retain them as members, he returned to Icelandic Football, retiring from the game in 1990 and passing away, aged sixty-six at the turn of the Century.


Kirby’s team also broke up quite quickly after that cup year. Geoff Hutt retired at the end of the season while Chris Dunleavy and Bob Mountford both journeyed down under to try their hand in Australian Soccer. Mountford, who became a prison warder, was a highly respected coach for the better part of the next twenty years in Newcastle, Australia before he lost a long battle with cancer in 2008.


Dave Harris left the Shay to move into Non-league Football for a time before retiring for a job in retail. Goal hero Paul Hendrie took a move to Stockport in 1984 before he too wound down his playing career in the pyramid leagues and progressing to management, by which time his son, Lee was playing in the top flight and earning an England cap.


David Evans moved to Bradford where his career high of being part of a Third Division title winning side was horrifically overshadowed by the Bradford fire disaster on the day he and his team mates played the last game of the season in 1985.


Only Mick Kennedy would make the transition from Fourth Division to top flight. Even then it was a long one that encompassed many clubs on the way before he found himself at Luton in 1986 where he also earned a call up to the Republic of Ireland squad.


Halifax Town continued to struggle on in the Fourth Division into the era where automatic relegation was introduced with the dreaded and almost inevitable drop coming in 1993. The Shaymen were at least able to be more competitive in the fifth tier and won a division for the first time in the history when claiming the Conference crown and promotion back to the League in 1998. It was a swan song for the club though as they dropped back down four years later and this time fell into financial difficulties from which they were unable to recover, finally being wound up in 2008 and replaced by a successor club, which started its life in the eighth tier of the game. 

Town: 1:John Kilner, 2:Chris Dunleavy, 3:Geoff Hutt, 4:David Evans, 5:Dave Harris, 6:Paul Hendrie, 7:Franny Firth, 8:Mick Kennedy, 9:Bob Mountford, 10:Smith, 11:Stafford, Sub:Goodman, Manager: George Kirby

City: 1: Joe Corrigan, 2:Ray Ranson, 3:Paul Power, 4:Nicky Reid, 5:Tommy Caton, 6:Dave Bennett, 7:Tony Henry, 8:Steve Daley, 9:Mick Robinson. 10: Colin Viljoen, 11:Bobby Shinton, Sub:Lee, Manager:Malcolm Allison