Clifford “Cliff” Woodhead was a stalwart City full-back throughout the 1930s and then was a popular coach of the City Juniors team in the 1940s and 1950s. Born in Darfield near Barnsley, Cliff’s coal miner father had a spell working at New Sharlston near Wakefield before returning to Darfield. Cliff was a promising footballer, cricketer and golfer who joined local side Dearne Valley Old Boys as a teenager. After two seasons playing for Ardsley Athletic he joined Midland League side Denaby United in July 1929. Woodhead was already attracting the attention of many League clubs and during 1929 and 1930 he had trials with Southampton, Rotherham United, Barnsley and Chesterfield. However it was Hull City that signed the promising full back in May 1930, and while no official transfer fee was involved it is reported that Hull City’s directors provided Denaby United with a voluntary compensation payment.
The Tigers had just been relegated from the Second Division and the squad was being reconfigured to compete at a lower level. In Woodhead’s first season at Anlaby Road City’s first choice full backs remained George Goldsmith and veteran Matt Bell, meaning that Cliff managed only one start all season in a December 1930 5-1 win over Southport. In the 1931/32 season Goldsmith was absent for much of the season and Woodhead was able to establish himself in the right back role, paired with another Dearne Valley man Arthur Rodgers at left back. When Goldsmith returned later in the season Cliff switched to the left and remained a first team regular.
The 1932/33 season was amongst Hull City’s finest in its 28 year history, as the club claimed the Division Three North title thanks to the goals of Bill McNaughton and Russell Wainscoat. The Tigers were also solid at the back, conceding only 51 goals in 46 senior matches and Woodhead was a key part of that success. Now fully established at left back, Cliff started every game in that promotion season. In April 1933 he planned a secret wedding at Bond Street Register Office on the morning of a matchday, at a time when City’s directors favoured players getting married in the close season. The secret plans were scuppered when Cliff and his best man Tommy Gardner were recognised and a large crowd gathered to cheer him on – he started the match that afternoon against Crewe, which the Tigers won 3-0, with his new wife watching from the stands.
Elevated to the Second Division in 1933/34 season, Woodhead’s consistency continued and in the next three seasons he missed only two of 131 senior fixtures. When City were relegated to Division Three North in 1936 Woodhead was again attracting the attention of clubs from higher divisions including Bolton Wanderers, Newcastle United and Southampton, but he decided to stay at Hull City. Between February and May 1937 he suffered his first prolonged absence from the first team since he first became a regular six years earlier. However he returned for the 1937/38 season and played in both full back roles for the next two seasons. By April 1939 Cliff was living in De La Pole Avenue and was awarded a benefit by Hull City. The club played a benefit match against Queen of the South then arranged a benefit dance at Jackson’s Ballroom on Paragon Street – a fine building that survived in 2021 as a Heron Foods store.
Woodhead started the 1939/40 season in the right back role and when the Football League was suspended after two games and all fixtures were expunged he continued to play wartime games for several months while working as a joiner’s labourer. After 49 wartime starts between October 1939 and March 1941 Woodhead served the Royal Navy for five years, during which time he was an occasional guest player for York City. Following demobilisation from the Navy Cliff signed for Goole Town in August 1946 and was briefly player-manager, but had stopped playing by January 1947 after a disagreement with the club secretary about team selection. He briefly took a job with British Railways at Springhead Yard, but by 1948 Woodhead was coaching the Hull City Juniors while working on the Boothferry Park ground staff and doing bar work in the Priory pub owned by ex-Tiger George Murphy. In the 1951/52 season, following Raich Carter’s resignation as manager, Cliff was part of the committee that chose the City first team alongside other club stalwarts Jack Hill, Jimmy Lodge and Stan Alexander. In 1953 his Juniors’ side won the Northern Intermediate League and Cup double.
Cliff remained in Hull for the rest of his life, working for Hull Breweries as a publican from 1956 until the mid 1970s at the Mermaid, the Bonny Boat, the Priory and the St George. He died in his Bransholme home in June 1985.
Date/Place of Birth: 17 August 1908, Darfield
Hull City First Game: 20 December 1930, Southport H (Division Three North), 22 years, 125 days old
Hull City Final Game: 29 April 1939, Oldham Athletic A (Division Three North), 30 years, 255 days old
Dearne Valley Old Boys, Ardsley Athletic (1927-1929), Denaby United (1929-1930), Hull City (1930-1941), Goole Town (1946-1947)
Hull City Record
Career: 326 apps, 0 goalsCliff Woodhead