Midfielder Ken Knighton joined Hull City in March 1971 for a £60,000 fee to boost the Tigers’ promotion challenge under player-manager Terry Neill. When City won at Sheffield United a few days later on Knighton’s debut – a night match termed the Battle of Bramall Lane – the Tigers went second in the Division Two table, the first time the club had achieved that feat in the closing months of a season since Harry Chapman’s tenure as City manager in 1914. Chapman’s Tigers faded away after that to finish 7th and missed out on promotion to the top flight, so did Neill’s squad as defeats against Oxford and Luton hobbled the challenge. Knighton remained in the City first XI for the rest of the season and impressed with his tough tackling and progressive passing.
Knighton started the 1971/72 season in the centre of City’s midfield and missed only two games up to the end of January when injury kept him out of the side for two months. Ken scored his first City goal against Norwich in November 1971 and scored a Boxing Day goal against Sunderland a month later. Ken was used sparingly when he returned from injury in April 1972 and that recovery time appeared to set him up well for the 1972/73 season. Missing only three games all season, Ken found his goalscoring touch in a side drifting around the middle reaches of the Second Division. He scored four goals before the New Year then added another five between the end of January and early April 1973 including three in four consecutive games in early April against Hellas Verona, Luton Town and Carlisle United. It was perhaps Knighton’s form in front of goal that alerted other sides to his capabilities as he neared his 30th birthday and he left the Tigers in the 1973 close season.
Kenneth Knighton was born in Darton, a small coal mining town north of Barnsley, and lived in the adjacent village Kexborough. By the age of 16 he was playing football for Wolverhampton Wanderers’ South Yorkshire affiliated side Wath Wanderers, and in 1960 he made his way to the Black Country to join Wolves’ juniors squad. Ken waited until February 1965 to make his senior debut in a First Division match against League champions Liverpool. He started three further games towards the end of the 1964/65 season as Wolves were relegated, then played a similar supporting role at Molineux for the next one and a half seasons. After six years at Wolves Ken left the club in November 1966 having made just 16 senior appearances for the club.
In November 1966, after initially turning down the move, Ken joined Third Division side Oldham Athletic for a £11,500 fee and at Boundary Park he was quickly introduced to the first team in both the wing half and full back roles. After playing twice against his former club Wolves in the FA Cup in January 1967, Knighton was appointed club captain for the 1967/68 season and continued to put in impressive performances. A week before Christmas 1967 Knighton was again on the move having made 52 appearances and scored 4 goals for the Latics. A £35,000 fee was required to tempt Oldham into selling Ken to Second Division side Preston North End, for whom he immediately slotted into the midfield engine room. After an impressive 1968/69 season Knighton was once again wanted property and in June 1969 he made the sideways move to local Second Division rivals Blackburn Rovers. Two seasons at Ewood Park ended in relegation and he left the club to join the Tigers a few weeks before Blackburn’s demise was confirmed. Knighton added 76 appearances and 14 goals at Blackburn to the 70 appearances and 4 goals he racked up at Preston.
Knighton joined Seffield Wednesday in August 1976 for a £50,000 fee and served the Owls first team for two seasons as they struggled at the lower end of the Second Division table. At the start of the 1975/76 season Knighton was used less frequently, mainly as a substitute. His last senior appearance came in December 1975 at Colchester, taking his Sheffield Wednesday tally to 84 appearances and his career tally to 388 appearances. His four goals for Wednesday took his career total to 36.
Knighton joined the Sheffield Wednesday coaching staff in 1976, in June 1979 he was appointed first team manager at Sunderland. In his first season at Roker Park Knighton’s Sunderland won promotion to the First Division but he was dismissed in April 1981 after three defeats left the Wearsiders in the bottom six of the First Division table. He was appointed manager at Leyton Orient in October 1981 but left the O’s eight months later. He managed Alliance Premier League side Dagenham during the 1984/85 season, by which time he was working in telecoms sales for Plessey. He moved to the Bristol area in the late 1980s to progress his telecoms career and also served as part-time manager for local non-league sides Trowbridge Town and Portishead. He remained living in Portishead near Bristol until his retirement in 2009.
Date/Place of Birth: 20 February 1944, Darton
Hull City First Game: 9 March 1971, Sheffield United A (Division Two), 27 years, 17 days old
Hull City Final Game: 9 May 1973, Cardiff City A (Division Two), 29 years, 78 days old
Wath Wanderers, Wolverhampton Wanderers (1960-1966), Oldham Athletic (1966-1968), Preston North End (1968-1969), Blackburn Rovers (1969-1971), Hull City (1971-1973), Sheffield Wednesday (1973-1976)
Hull City Record
Career: 92 apps, 12 goalsKen Knighton
|1971/72||29 (0)||3||1 (0)||0||1 (0)||0||-||-||-||-|
|1972/73||38 (1)||6||4 (0)||0||2 (0)||1||-||-||4 (0)||2|