William “Billy” Wilkinson joined the Tigers’ professional ranks in May 1962 after signing amateur terms nine months earlier following his transfer from Stockton FC. Billy was a renowned schoolboy footballer on Teesside who won several medals had spent a short period of time on Middlesbrough’s books. He debuted for the City first team in April 1963 when manager Cliff Britton selected him in a forward role. Wilkinson repaid his selection by scoring on his debut in a 2-0 win over Halifax Town, however after two appearances a persistent knee problem kept him out of the team for several months. Britton turned to Wilkinson again in October 1963, pairing him with Ray Henderson to provide the support to impressive teenage centre forward Chris Chilton. Billy established himself as the first team regular and missed only seven of the remaining 40 fixtures in 1963/64 season. Beetwen mid October and early January Wilkinson netted 14 times in 13 starts, scoring braces against Shrewsbury (4-0 win), Port Vale (4-1 win) and Crewe in the FA Cup (3-0 win). He bettered that in late November with a hattrick in a 3-1 win over Walsall. This rich vein of form for both Wilkinson and Hull City faded in the New Year and the Tigers finished 8th in Division Three North.
Wilkinson retained his first team shirt at the beginning of 1964/65 season and by early November he had scored four goals. A mid November FA Cup tie at Kidderminster saw City win 4-1 and with Billy contributing two goals he may have thought that his starting place was cemented. However during the following week City signed Ken Wagstaff from Mansfield Town, and while Wilkinson was moved to the wing for three games to accommodate Waggy he was soon dropped from the first team for the rest of the season, save for one appearance at Bristol Rovers in March. A similar pattern persisted throughout the Tigers’ historic 1965/66 promotion season with Wilkinson a bystander, making only one start on the opening day of the season against Scunthorpe.
It wasn’t until December 1966, with City elevated to the Second Division, that Wilkinson made a return when Ken Houghton was unavailable. Billy celebrated his return with two goals at Derby and followed up a week later with the second of six City goals against Crystal Palace. For the rest of the season Wilkinson deputised in a number of forward positions and scored five more goals as the Tigers’ form drifted and a tilt at a second successive promotion passed. Wilkinson again showed his versatility and patience in 1967/68 season as he played a support role and in November 1967 he netted his second brace against Derby in two seasons in a 3-0 City victory. Wilkinson was selected by Cliff Britton for only three starts between February and December 1968, but in the second half of 1968/69 season Chilton was absent due to injury and Wilkinson played centre forward for fourteen games.
In September 1969, during the final weeks of Cliff Britton’s time as manager, Wilkinson started to be used in the centre of defence and when Britton moved upstairs in November 1969 Wilkinson began a second stanza to his City career in a more defensive role that lasted for two years, until an injury suffered during September 1971 saw Billy miss three months of football. He returned on New Years Day 1972 and was a regular for the rest of the season, but at the start of the 1972/73 season John Kaye was preferred in the defence and Wilkinson once again drifted out of the first team. His final City appearance saw him come on as substitute at Luton’s Kenilworth Road in October 1972.
Wilkinson joined Rotherham United in November 1972 for a £10,000 fee but in eighteen months at Millmoor he made only 26 first team appearances. In May 1974 he headed for South Africa to play for Durban City, returning seven months later for a six months spell at Bridlington Town. Wilkinson spent the summer of 1975 playing dee-fence for Boston Minutemen in the North American Soccer League. making 15 appearances and playing alongside Portuguese legend Eusebio (Wilkinson and Eusebio are numbers 2 and 13 respectively in the photo). He returned to the USA again in 1976 to play for Tacoma Tides, a side that briefly competed in NASL’s rival the American Soccer League, where he played in front of future US international manager Bruce Arena, who was then a 24 year old goalie.
In October 1976 Billy returned to England to play for Southport, whose manager was Ray Henderson, his former strike partner at Hull City from 13 years earlier. After just ten starts for the Sandgrounders Wilkinson was again on his travels in February 1977, joining Melbourne side George Cross who were managed by another former City teammate Ken Wagstaff. While Wagstaff returned to England at the end of 1977, Wilkinson stayed in Australia and played for George Cross until 1982, then served local league side Bell Park between 1983 and 1984. Wilkinson stayed in Melbourne for the rest of his life and died of a heart attack in July 1996 at the age of only 53 – his ashes were bought back to England and scattered on the Boothferry Park pitch.
Date/Place of Birth: 24 March 1943, Stockton on Tees
Hull City First Game: 12 April 1963, Halifax Town H (Division Three), 20 years, 19 days old
Hull City Final Game: 21 October 1972, Luton Town A (Division Two), 29 years, 211 days old
Stockton, Hull City (1961-1972), Rotherham United (1972-1974), Durban City (1974), Bridlington Town (1974-1975), Boston Minutemen (1975-1976), Tacoma Tides (1976), Southport (1976-1977), George Cross (1977-1982), Bell Park (1983-1984)
Hull City Record
Career: 252 apps, 41 goalsBilly Wilkinson
|1967/68||18 (2)||2||3 (0)||0||1 (0)||0||-||-||-||-|
|1968/69||19 (2)||5||0 (1)||0||1 (0)||1||-||-||-||-|
|1969/70||33 (1)||1||-||-||1 (0)||0||-||-||-||-|
|1970/71||39 (0)||0||3 (0)||0||1 (0)||0||-||-||2 (0)||0|
|1971/72||20 (2)||1||3 (0)||0||1 (0)||0||-||-||-||-|
|1972/73||7 (2)||0||-||-||2 (0)||0||-||-||-||-|