Brian Bulless was the archetypal post-war one-club man, a player that gave great service and loyalty to his home town club. He was born and raised in Francis Street, just four streets north of Kingston Square, close to the city centre between Beverley Road and the River Hull. He cut his teeth playing inter-street football as a youngster and was signed by City on amateur terms in August 1949,becoming a professional after his 17th birthday in October 1950. He served the reserves team for several seasons without impacting the first team for two primary reasons – one was the superstar squad that manager Raich Carter assembled that left few opportunities for up-and-coming local products, the other was that Bulless was completing his National Service in the RAF based in Blackpool, which meant engagement with the first team was sporadic. It wasn’t until April 1953 that the versatile Bulless made his debut as a result of an injury crisis, and the game couldn’t have more important as relegation rivals Hull City and Southampton duked it out for two valuable points. Bulless scored the only goal of the game, City survived and the Saints tumbled into Division Three South.
Despite this high octane introduction, for two years Bulless was still used only occasionally by City and in a variety of left sided positions, but primarly at outside left filling in when Paddy Fagan was unavailable. In April 1955, two years after his debut, newly appointed manager Bob Brocklebank turned to Bulless to play inside left, filling in for the absence of City’s veteran former England international Wilf Mannion, and this kickstarted his first team career. Bulless had a knack of scoring in important games and with City struggling at the foot of the table it was his goal against Doncaster that earned a vital point that saw the Tigers survive. In 1955/56 Bulless was a first team regular from the start and managed four goals, but City were struggling for form and were relegated to Division Three North.
With Bill Bradbury and Stan Mortensen leading the line City thrived in the lower division, scoring over 80 goals and finishing 8th in the table. Bulless chipped in with 11 goals in all competitions, including a brace against York City in the FA Cup and a hattrick at home to Barrow in March 1957. Bulless was again a regular starter in 1957/58, scoring 9 goals as the Tigers finished fifth and narrowly missed out on promotion. This finish meant that in 1958 they were placed in the newly formed national Division Three and Bulless continued to start regularly, though he did miss a three month chunk of the season due to a knee injury. Despite that loss the Tigers finished second and won promotion back to Division Two. Bulless was ever-present for the promoted Tigers in 1959/60 but played mostly at left back and did not contribute goals to what was a dismal season that culminated in immediate relegation back to Division Three. City consolidated in 1960/61 with Bulless missing only three League games and playing in all five FA Cup Second Round cup ties against Darlington. In 1961/62 Cliff Britton took over the manager’s role from Brocklebank and began to slowly build a squad fit for promotion back to the second tier. Bulless featured for much of Britton’s first two seasons but by late 1963 chronic knee and stomach injuries were hampering his first team chances and he played less regularly. He eventually called time on his professional career in the 1964 close season, though he had played his last first team match eight months earlier.
Bulless had a brief spell in non-league football playing for Hull Brunswick but that lasted only a handful of games. He was awarded a benefit match in 1965 but was unable to play as a City XI saw off an All-Star XI 9-8. He subsequently was a leading light in Jeff Barmby’s Ex-Tigers Association, whose members rated the quiet and unassuming Bulless highly.
Bulless was allowed to purchase his club-owned house near Boothferry Park and remained there with his wife Jean for the rest of his life. After football the down-to-earth Brian blended into civvy street and he took a job at Reckitts, then worked for Wright Joinery off Wincolmlee before retiring in 1998. In his later years Brian suffered from dementia and died in December 2016 at the age of 83.
Date/Place of Birth: 4 September 1933, Hull
Hull City First Game: 18 April 1953, Southampton H (Division Two), 19 years, 226 days old
Hull City Final Game: 5 October 1963, Wrexham H (Division Three), 30 years, 31 days old
Hull City (1949-1964), Hull Brunswick (1964)
Hull City Record
Career: 357 apps, 35 goalsBrian Bulless