Arthur Cunliffe was an experienced and decorated forward when he joined the Tigers in the 1938 close season. His signing for the third tier City side was perhaps akin to when Nicky Barmby joined the Tigers in 2004, a former international player coming to City during a relatively fallow period for the club, bringing much experience and know-how with him.
Cunliffe scored on his debut at Chester and carried on in that vein, bagging twenty goals in a side that challenged at the upper reaches of Division Three North but ultimately fell short of the promotion places. His high point came in late January and early Fenruary when he scored twice in City’s record 11-1 victory against Carlisle United, then scored a hattrick three weeks later at home to Accrington Stanley.
The Second World War curtailed any further senior action for City, but Cunliffe played friendly matches for the Tigers during 1939/40, 1940/41 and 1944/45, while fulfilling his duties as an army officer.
Cunliffe was born in Blackrod, Lancashire, his father worked in a local coal mine as a haulage hand. He played for local sides Adlington FC and Chorley FC as a teenager, before signing professional terms wiith Blackburn Rovers in 1928. He quickly broke into the Ewood Park first team and within six months he won an FA Cup winners medal – Blackburn also won the Charity Shield the following August. In four seasons Cunliffe scored fifty goals for Blackburn from a wide forward position. This form not only attracted the England scouts, it also attracted the biggest clubs in the land and in May 1933 he moved to Aston Villa, along with team-mate Ronnie Dix, for a substantial fee. In a season and a half at Villa Park Cunliffe was a regular first teamer and scored 11 goals. In December 1935 a £3,000 fee enticed Villa into selling Cunliffe to Middlesbrough, but at Ayresome Park he was for the first time in his career not an automatic first team pick. After sixteen months on the fringes of the first eleven Arthur was transfer listed and switched to Burnley. Again however he was unable to make a lasting impression and in a season and a bit he managed only nine appearances for the Clarets. Cunliffe left Burnley in May 1938 to sign for Hull City.
Cunliffe left the Tigers in 1945 when it was apparent that City were unable to play senior football in the forthcoming season. He joined Rochdale where he continued to play for two further years.
In October 1932 Cunliffe, aged 23, was selected to play for England against Ireland in the British Championships, a match played at Blackpool. A month later he was again selected to play against Wales in Wrexham, which completed his international career.
Cunliffe finished playing in 1947 and became the trainer for Rochdale. Three years later he moved to Bournemouth and Boscombe Athletic to fulfil a similar role, which began an association with the Cherries that lasted until his retirement in 1974 – 21 years as trainer and then 3 years as physiotherapist. Arthur remained in Bournemouth after retirement and died in August 1986.
Date/Place of Birth: 5 February 1909, Blackrod
Hull City First Game: 27 August 1938, Chester A (Division Three North), 29 years, 203 days old
Hull City Final Game: 29 April 1939, Oldham Athletic A (Division Three North), 30 years, 83 days old
Chorley (1927-1928), Bolton Wanderers (1928-1933), Aston Villa (1933-1935), Middlesbrough (1935-1937), Burnley (1937-1938), Hull City (1938-1945), Rochdale (1945-1947)
Hull City Record
Career: 46 apps, 21 goalsArthur Cunliffe