Predatory forward Ken Wagstaff joined Hull City in November 1964, a signing that formed crucial part in manager Cliff Britton’s quest to build a City squad capable of winning promotion to the Second Division and press on towards the top flight. Britton already had part of his forward line in place – he inherited the teenage Chris Chilton when he was appointed manager in 1961 and signed winger Ray Henderson during his first season in charge. Wagstaff was the third key acquisition, the purchase of Ken Houghton and Ian Butler in January 1965 were the final pieces in the jigsaw. These five forwards went on to dominate the Third Division and establish City in the second tier, but were not able to do enough to propel the Tigers to the First Division. But that shouldn’t detract from any consideration of Ken Wagstaff, because he was certainly a player of top flight quality and perhaps international class – the fact that he remained loyal to Hull City for 12 years speaks highly of the man.
Waggy was a complete football goalscorer. He did not possess a conspicuously powerful physique, but he was immensely strong and he had unrivalled pace over short distances. He had a calm footballing brain that was able to calculate where defenders and goalkeepers would move, enabling him to craft the best goalscoring opportunities rather than accepting half chances. He had an iron will that would drive him on to beat high profile opponents. And he had a telepathic relationship with Chris Chilton that meant they worked as a highly effective goalscoring pair. Waggy was the superior finisher of the two, although Chillo scored more goals for the Tigers – Waggy was Hull City’s finest ever goalscorer.
Kenneth Wagstaff was born in Langwith, a coal mining community on the border of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire located midway between Worksop and Mansfield. He played for his local Langwith-based junior side Woodland Imperial as a teenager and had an unsuccessful trial at Rotherham United before joining Division Four side Mansfield Town in May 1960, one of the first signings made by new Stags manager and former Hull City stalwart Raich Carter. Carter did much to develop the goalscoring skills of Wagstaff and after he left Mansfield Town in 1963 it was Carter that recommended Wagstaff to the Hull City management. Not that there was much need for a reference, Wagstaff’s exploits on the pitch spoke volumes.
Ken scored twice on his debut against Rochdale in August 1960 and while he was not a first team regular throughout the season, his nine goals were sufficient to convince Carter that he possessed a diamond in the rough. Waggy missed only four matches in the 1961/62 season and scored 16 goals in all senior competitions as the Stags finished midway up the Fourth Division table. In the 1962/63 season Mansfield challenged at the top end of the table and finished in the promotion places, a rise largely fuelled by Ken Wagstaff’s goals. Waggy missed only two League games all season and scored 34 times, adding a further 7 FA Cup goals to his tally. He scored a hattrick against Exeter City in the second game of the season and repeated that feat three more times – against Division Three side Crystal Palace in the FA Cup; against Oldham Athletic in March 1963, the Stags’ first senior fixture for two months and new manager Tommy Cummings’ first match in charge; and against Southport a month later when Waggy netted four goals. Waggy continued this form into the 1963/64 season when he was ever-present and scored 29 times as Mansfield narrowly missed out on a second successive promotion – one of those goals was a festive strike against Hull City in a 2-0 victory. Ken started the 1964/65 season with 11 goals in the first three months, taking his overall tally during four years at Mansfield Town to 197 senior appearances and 106 goals.
Wagstaff joined Hull City in November 1964, the £40,000 fee paid was a new club record that surpassed the £22,500 paid for England defender Neil Franklin 13 years previously. He scored on his debut against Exeter City and it quickly became apparent that he had a great partnership with larger and more powerful centre forward Chris Chilton, who had been asking for a move away from Boothferry Park weeks before Waggy’s arrival. A December 1964 hattrick against Port Vale, a year to the day after he scored against the Tigers, was the first of six triple goal hauls for Waggy while wearing black and amber and by the end of the season he had scored 23 times in just 27 starts. The Tigers had been in the promotion places for much of the second half of the season but a three game winless run in late April 1965 saw the Tigers replaced in the top two by Carlisle United and Bristol City.
Britton was able to reinvigorate his talented squad for the 1965/66 season and the Tigers swept to the Division Three title, scoring 109 goals with all five forwards reaching double figures – Waggy top scored with 27 that included all four in an April 1966 4-2 win over Brentford. Ken also performed impressively against top quality opposition, the Tigers reached the FA Cup Quarter Finals and Waggy scored two fine late goals against First Division Chelsea to earn a General Election Day replay. The talent in City’s forward line meant that promotion to the Second Division was unlikely to slow them down, Waggy and Chillo in particular. Over the next four seasons the Tigers established themselves as a mid-table Second Division side and Wagstaff scored 21, 20, 21 and 19 goals in those four seasons. He also missed barely any matches – from his debut in November 1964 until the end of the 1969/70 season, Waggy missed only 13 of 265 senior fixtures.
That consistency carried on during the 1970/71 season under new manager Terry Neill, who took the Tigers to the upper reaches of the Second Division table only to fall short in the closing weeks of the season, just as had happened six years earlier in the Third Division. Alas, this time the Tigers didn’t come roaring back the next season and win promotion, indeed Waggy’s return of 14 goals was his lowest to date for the Tigers. Ken still enjoyed performing on the big stage – in March 1971 he scored twice in a FA Cup tie against First Division side Stoke City, who had England international Gordon Banks in goal, then a year later netted the winner against Coventry City, another top flight FA Cup opponent. During 1972 Waggy had his first long lay-off through injury, a knee problem that took several months to heal and meant he missed much of the 1972/73 season. Back in the side for the 1973/74 season, he was a first team regular and scored ten goals but injuries were catching up with him and the pace he showed in his pomp was starting to fade. In January 1975 a further knee injury sustained in a FA Cup tie against eventual finalists Fulham kept Waggy out of the game for seven months and when he returned at the start of the 1975/76 he was struggling to re-establish himself ahead of the new younger striking talent that manager John Kaye had assembled.
Waggy retired from the professional game in December 1975 and joined the City backroom staff, a testimonial match in April 1976 against a Billy Bremner XI finished 6-4 and was attended by nearly 7,000 fans. In May 1976 Waggy ventured to Australia and became player-coach at Victorian State League side George Cross Courage, where he turned around the club’s winless start to the season and scored 10 goals in 16 starts. He returned to England later in 1976 and trained again with the Hull City squad, but it was decreed that he was unable to resume a career in the Football League as he had activated a pay-out from his player injury insurance. After a solitary appearance for Goole Town in 1977 he bought a final end to his playing days.
Waggy then commenced a second career as a publican, running two pubs in Hull before taking on the Marlborough Club in Hessle and renaming it Waggys. After a short spell running a pub in Roos Waggy retired in 2009 but remained active in charity work, notably in 2020 when money was being raised to assist his former strike partner Chris Chilton, who was by now suffering from dementia and struggling to fund respite care for his family. Waggy and his daughter Francesca put in considerable time and effort to lead a campaign that raised over £40,000 for Chilton ahead of his passing in May 2021, a fitting act of kindness by a man who will always be regarded as a Hull City club legend.
Date/Place of Birth: 24 November 1942, Langwith
Hull City First Game: 21 November 1964, Exeter City H (Division Three), 21 years, 363 days old
Hull City Final Game: 22 November 1975, Portsmouth H (Division Two), 32 years, 363 days old
Woodland Imperial, Mansfield Town (1960-1964), Hull City (1964-1975), George Cross Courage (1976), Goole Town (1977)
Hull City Record
Career: 434 apps, 197 goalsKen Wagstaff
|1965/66||46 (0)||27||7 (0)||3||2 (0)||1||-||-||-||-|
|1966/67||39 (0)||21||3 (0)||0||1 (0)||0||-||-||-||-|
|1967/68||40 (0)||17||3 (0)||2||1 (0)||1||-||-||-||-|
|1968/69||39 (0)||20||1 (0)||0||2 (0)||1||-||-||-||-|
|1969/70||38 (0)||18||1 (0)||0||2 (0)||1||-||-||-||-|
|1970/71||38 (0)||12||4 (0)||4||1 (0)||0||-||-||2 (0)||2|
|1971/72||32 (0)||11||3 (0)||3||1 (0)||0||-||-||-||-|
|1972/73||13 (3)||4||2 (0)||1||1 (0)||0||-||-||1 (0)||0|
|1973/74||32 (0)||8||2 (0)||0||5 (0)||2||-||-||3 (0)||0|
|1974/75||23 (0)||10||1 (0)||1||1 (0)||0||-||-||-||-|
|1975/76||9 (1)||2||-||-||2 (0)||0||-||-||1 (1)||2|