John Kaye was a highly experienced defender and midfielder who joined City in November 1971 to add steel to the Tigers’ defensive resources. He scored his first two goals in a 4-3 win against Middlesbrough in December 1971 but for the remainder of the season he was used sparingly. However in 1972/73 he found his form and fitness and missed only three matches in all competitions under Terry Neill’s management. He played mostly in a defensive midfield role and scored six goals, including a Boxing Day strike against Middlesbrough (again) and a March 1973 equaliser at Portsmouth. Kaye was again one of Terry Neill’s first choices at the start of 1973/74 season but injury halted his run in October 1973 – the injury was sustained against Middlesbrough, harsh retribution for those earlier goals. Kaye returned to action later in 1973 and scored his final goal at Notts County in mid-December. However a Boxing Day draw at Sheffield Wednesday was Kaye’s final appearance for City as a knee injury ended his playing career.
Kaye remained on the City staff in a coaching role. Nine months later in September 1974 manager Terry Neill was lured to Tottenham Hotspur to replace Spurs’ stalwart Scarborough-born manager of 16 years Bill Nicholson. Within a fortnight the City board appointed Kaye to the manager’s role. Kaye was a defender by nature (despite starting his career as a striker) and his City sides were founded on defensive stability. After a 0-5 thumping at Notts County in Kaye’s sixth game in charge, the Tigers conceded only 29 goals in the remaining 27 games of 1974/75 and finished eighth in Division Two, losing only one home league match all season. Kaye was awarded the Manager of the Month gong in November 1974. However with Stuart Pearson sold the previous summer, Ken Wagstaff’s legendary goalscoring powers now starting to wane and a string of locally sourced and purchased replacements failing to match up to the rigours of Second Division football, Kaye’s teams were always short of the goals required to move on to the next level.
In 1975/76 the Tigers were in fitful form, twice losing four consecutive games and three times winning three in a row. The sum effect of these false dawns and recoveries was to finish in 14th place in the Second Division, a position some regard as the Tigers’ true spiritual home. In 1976/77 Kaye’s Hull City were more expansive and signed another experienced defensive midfielder in the shape of Billy Bremner, although the ex-Leeds Scotsman didn’t go on to manage the Tigers as Neill and Kaye had done before him. While City performed some truly memorable goalscoring feats that season – a 2-0 win over champions Wolves with both goals scored by John Hawley, a Jeff Hemmerman Goal of the Season contender in the reverse fixture at Molineux, a Malcolm Lord hattrick in a 4-1 win over Burnley – it was ultimately the lack of goals that again hobbled Kaye’s side and City again finished 14th.
This weakness up front caught up with Kaye’s Tigers at the start of 1977/78 season. The signings of ex-Bristol Rovers strike duo Bruce Bannister and Alan Warboys did not bear immediate fruit and after a fine 3-0 win over Sunderland on the first day of season in front of a febrile Boothferry Park crowd, a five match winless run in the league culiminated in a messy 0-2 defeat home to bottom side Mansfield Town. This was enough for City to dispense with Kaye’s services and turn to Bobby Collins, a former Leeds team-mate of Bremner, to turn things around (he didn’t). While Kaye’s Tigers could never be accused of being spectacular, history reflects well on his time at the City helm as he inherited a fading squad and created a solid and competitive side with relatively few resources. John Kaye, one of Hull City’s better managers.
Kaye was born and raised in post-war Goole and played up front for the local Midland League side. In September 1960 he joined Scunthorpe United for a £1,500 fee and played for the Iron during one of their more competitive periods as they inhabited the upper reaches of the Second Division. Kaye was Scunthorpe’s top goalscorer in 1962/63 with 13 league goals, helping himself to a hattrick in an August 1962 win over Chelsea as the Iron topped the table in the early weeks of the season before falling away and finishing in 9th place. It was this scoring form that led to West Bromwich Albion paying £44,750 – a club record fee received by Scunthorpe at the time – for Kaye in May 1963. John was signed as a forward and performed that role with aplomb, top scoring in 1965/66 with 18 goals as he built a partnership with future England international Jeff Astle. However in 1968 Kaye, nicknamed “Yorky”, transitioned into a more defensive role and ended up making 361 first team appearances for the Baggies in all competitions, 296 of which were in the First Division. He was twice named Midlands Footballer of the Year in 1966 and 1970.
This was a halcyon period for West Brom who won the League Cup in 1966 and the FA Cup in 1968, leading to European campaigns in the 1966/67 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup and the 1968/69 Cup Winners Cup – Kaye made ten appearances in these competitions and scored once. The Baggies also reaching the League Cup finals in 1967 and 1970, losing out respectively to Third Division QPR and First Division Manchester City. Kaye played in all four of these finals, including both legs of the 1966 League Cup Final in which he scored in the second leg as the Baggies turned around a 1-2 first leg deficit to defeat West Ham United 5-3 on aggregate. In 1968 John became the first player to be substituted in a FA Cup Final in a 3-2 win over Everton.
Kaye returned to his first league side Scunthorpe United in 1977 where he was assistant manager for six seasons. In the mid-1980s he managed Goole Town and was assistant manager at Brigg Town between 1990 and 1996, while working as a welder in the offshore industry. He was assistant manager at Brigg when they reached the FA Vase Final in 1996 (with ex-Tigers Andy Flounders and David Mail in the starting XI), returning once more to Wembley where he played three times for West Brom in the 1960s. He later retired to his Kirkella home.
Kaye was twice selected to represent the Football League but did not win a full England cap, unlike his West Brom strike partner Jeff Astle. Kaye was selected in the initial 40 players considered for England’s 1966 World Cup squad, but did not make the cut.
Date/Place of Birth: 3 March 1940, Goole
Hull City First Game: 27 November 1971, Millwall H (Division Two), 31 years, 269 days old
Hull City Final Game: 26 December 1973, Sheffield Wednesday A (Division Two), 33 years, 298 days old
Goole Town (1958-1960), Scunthorpe United (1960-1963), West Bromwich Albion (1963-1971), Hull City (1971-1974)
Hull City Record
Career: 87 apps, 9 goalsJohn Kaye
|1971/72||12 (1)||2||1 (0)||0||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|1972/73||41 (0)||6||4 (0)||0||1 (0)||0||-||-||3 (0)||0|
|1973/74||18 (0)||1||-||-||3 (0)||0||-||-||3 (0)||0|