Goalkeeper Ian McKechnie joined Hull City in August 1966 as City manager Cliff Britton strengthened his squad to compete in the Second Division after winning the Third Division title the previous May. Scotsman McKechnie was signed to compete with Irishman Maurice Swan for the number one shirt, but in truth it was no contest because McKechnie’s shot-stopping ability coupled with his command of the penalty box and long distance distribution meant he instantly became the Tigers’ first choice goalkeeper. He missed only three games in his first season as City started well and headed the table in October 1966, only to fall away due to a winless run during March and April 1967. Swan started 13 of the first 17 fixtures in the 1967/68 season but when McKechnie was restored in mid-November 1967 it commenced a run of 167 consecutive first team appearances – indeed by August 1972 McKechnie had missed only five of the 217 senior fixtures played.
By the late 1960s and early 1970s McKechnie was renowned as a senior figure in the City squad and regarded as something of a character. He was spotted by fans eating an orange outside Boothferry Park one day after training, a seemingly humdrum event that led to a couple of oranges being thrown into his net at half time of the next home game. This kickstarted a craze that got significantly out of hand – at its peak the groundstaff had to clear 600 oranges from the pitch during half time, prompting McKechnie to claim that he didn’t like the fruit anymore.
In 1970 Hull City competed in the inaugural Watney Cup, a pre-season cup competition for which the two highest goalscoring teams from each of the four Football League divisions qualified. City beat Peterborough United to reach the semi-final against a Manchester United side sporting Nobby Stiles, Denis Law, Bobby Charlton and George Best. With the game ending 1-1 the Tigers and the Red Devils competed in the world’s first ever penalty shootout – McKechnie became the first goalkeeper to save a penalty in a shootout when he blocked Denis Law’s effort, then became the first goalkeeper to take – and miss – a shootout penalty as Manchester United prevailed by a 4-3 scoreline. It took 36 years and seven attempts for Hull City to finally win a penalty shootout in a 2006 League Cup tie against Hartlepool United.
In the early weeks of the 1972/73 season McKechnie was replaced by Jeff Wealands as City’s first choice goalkeeper but McKechnie was once again restored in the run-up to Christmas 1972. He missed only four more games during the rest of the season, however in the 1973/74 season Wealands was firmly established as the first choice netminder and McKechnie made only one further start in April 1974, his final game for the Tigers.
Ian Hector McKechnie was born in Bellshill in the Clyde Valley to the south east of Glasgow. He was raised further north in Lenzie and then Chryston to the north east of Glasgow and by the age of 17 was playing junior football for Letham Thistle, a Scottish feeder club for English First Division side Arsenal. He joined the Gunners in September 1958 and while initially signed as an outside left, he was converted to a goalkeeper by Arsenal manager George Swindin. He made his Gunners’ debut in October 1961 in a First Division match at Blackburn Rovers and kept a clean sheet. The wealth of goalkeeping riches available to Arsenal at the time meant that McKechnie’s exposure to first team action was limited. After three starts in the 1961/62 season he managed nine more the following term then had a run of 13 starts in September and October 1963 that featured two matches in European Fairs Cup against Danish side Staevnet – Arsenal’s first ever European fixtures. At the end of October 1963 McKechnie was replaced by future Scottish international and football pundit Bob Wilson – at the time a West London schoolmaster and amateur footballer – with Ian reported to be a stone overweight and unkindly named “Billy Bunter” by the Daily Herald. He didn’t return to the Arsenal first team again and left the club in the 1964 close season having made 25 senior appearances.
McKechnie joined Southend United in May 1964 and kept his weight sufficiently in check to start every League and Cup game during the 1964/65 season as the Shrimpers finished in mid-table of Division Three. He began the 1965/66 season as Southend’s first choice but was replaced for the second half of the season by Welshman Trevor Roberts, a new signing from Liverpool. Southend were relegated at the end of the 1965/66 season after losing to Hull City in their penultimate game of the season, a defeat that also secured the League title for the Tigers. McKechnie switched Southend for Hull during the 1966 close season having made 72 appearances for the Roots Hall side.
McKechnie left the Tigers in May 1974 and spent the summer at North American Soccer League side Boston Minutemen, for whom he made 15 appearances alongside Hull City colleague Paddy Greenwood – see right for the Boston Minutemen 1974 team photo featuring Greenwood (#4), McKechnie (#1) and some remarkable coaching trousers, meanwhile #6 is Yorkshireman Frank Barlow who captained the Minutemen and was briefly Hull City’s assistant manager in 2006.
When he returned to England he joined Goole Town and started working as a prison officer. In October 1978 Ian joined Northern Premier League side Scarborough and in July 1979 he was appointed player-manager at Irish League side Sligo Rovers – his tenure at Sligo lasted only two weeks as he was sacked for dsciplinary reasons before the season began. Returning to England McKechnie lived in the Hull area for the rest of his life, working in the Tigers’ hospitality suite on matchdays when the club moved to the KC Stadium. He died of a heart attack at his Brantingham home in June 2015.
Date/Place of Birth: 4 October 1941, Bellshill
Hull City First Game: 20 August 1966, Coventry City A (Division Two), 24 years, 320 days old
Hull City Final Game: 15 April 1974, Swindon Town H (Division Two), 32 years, 193 days old
Letham Thistle, Arsenal (1958-1964), Southend United (1964-1966), Hull City (1966-1974), Boston Minutemen (1974), Goole Town (1974-1978), Scarborough (1978-1979), Sligo Rovers (1979)
Hull City Record
Career: 284 apps, 0 goalsIan McKechnie
|1966/67||41 (0)||0||2 (0)||0||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|1967/68||29 (0)||0||3 (0)||0||1 (0)||0||-||-||-||-|
|1968/69||42 (0)||0||1 (0)||0||2 (0)||0||-||-||-||-|
|1969/70||42 (0)||0||1 (0)||0||2 (0)||0||-||-||-||-|
|1970/71||41 (0)||0||4 (0)||0||1 (0)||0||-||-||2 (0)||0|
|1971/72||38 (0)||0||3 (0)||0||1 (0)||0||-||-||-||-|
|1972/73||21 (0)||0||3 (0)||0||-||-||-||-||3 (0)||0|