Ronnie Starling was an inside forward who made his debut for Hull City five weeks before his 18th birthday. Ronnie was born and raised in Pelaw, a mining and railway community between Gateshead and Jarrow. He was employed in local colleries (Usworth and Washington) from the age of 14 and joined the Tigers at 16 years old in 1926, initially in the club offices and under an alias as he was too young to sign professional terms. Starling’s talent impressed City manager Bill McCracken, who introduced him more regularly into the first team towards the end of the 1927/28 season.
Over the next two seasons Starling was a teenage regular in the City XI, scoring a hattrick against Millwall in April 1929 in front of a paltry Monday night Anlaby Road crowd of 3,164 – who said Sky Sports invented odd kick off times? He also starred in the club’s famous run to the FA Cup Semi Final in the Winter and Spring of 1930, scoring a goal in the Fourth Round against Blackpool. However City finished that season on a terrible run of form that resulted in relegation to the Third Division North. Starling, who had become a target of the halfwitted Hull City boo boys, was sold that close season.
Ronnie joined Newcastle United for a handsome £4,000 fee in June 1930, the chance to return to his native Tyneside proving a strong pull. He made 50 starts and scored 8 goals in two seasons for the Magpies, but had drifted out of the first XI in his second season, missing out on being picked for Newcastle’s May 1932 FA Cup Final winning team, and was again looking to move. His availability attracted the attention of high flying Sheffield Wednesday – swapping the Tyne for the Don, Starling had four and a half impressive seasons playing in central midfield at Hillsborough, scoring over 30 goals and attracting the attention of the England scouts. In May 1935 Starling captained the Owls in the FA Cup Final, in which Wednesday clumped West Bromwich Albion 4 goals to 2.
In January 1937 Wednesday were struggling at the foot of the First Division table and Aston Villa paid £8,000 for a player now approaching his prime. Starling’s signing was an important contributor to Villa winning promotion to the First Division as Champions in May 1938, a season that also saw the Second Division side reach the FA Cup Semi Final. Starling started 31 First Division games for Villa in 1938/39 before World War Two halted the Football League. Starling remained registered as a Villa player during the War, but made guest appearances for Solihull Town, Northampton, Walsall, Nottingham Forest, Coventry City and former club Sheffield Wednesday. He made only fleeting appearances for Villa after the War and retired in 1948.
Starling career featured an interesting and perhaps unique achievement – he played in four FA Cup semi finals for four different clubs (City in 1930, Newcastle in 1932, Wednesday in 1935 and Villa in 1938). After taking a coaching job at Nottingham Forest for two years, Starling ended his involvement with football and became a newsagent close to Hillsborough in North Sheffield. He was a keen Methodist throughout his life and died in Sheffield in December 1991.
Starling won two England international caps, both times playing against Scotland at Hampden Park. He debuted in April 1933 while at Sheffield Wednesday, then was picked again in April 1937 shortly after signing for Aston Villa.
Date/Place of Birth: 11 October 1909, Pelaw
Hull City First Game: 5 September 1927, Preston North End H (Division Two), 17 years, 329 days old
Hull City Final Game: 3 May 1930, Wolverhampton Wanderers H (Division Two), 20 years, 204 days old
Hull City (1926-1930), Newcastle United (1930-1932), Sheffield Wednesday (1932-1937), Aston Villa (1937-1948)
Hull City Record
Career: 86 apps, 14 goalsRonnie Starling