Goalkeeper Jeffrey Andrew Wealands joined the Tigers in February 1972 at 20 years of age. Within a month he was deputising for Ian McKechnie for three matches, though this was made less daunting by the fact he had already made 28 first team starts for his previous club Darlington ahead of his transfer. Within two weeks of the 1972/73 season starting Wealands had again replaced McKechnie and was establishing himself as first choice between the posts. McKechnie was preferred for most of the second half of that season, but in 1973/74 Wealands started all but one matches in all competitions, cemented his place as City’s first choice goalkeeper and precipitated McKechnie’s move the USA soccer.
Indeed between August 1973 and December 1977 Wealands missed only four games, bad news for his new understudy Eddie Blackburn. Between August 1975 and December 1977 Jeff started 127 consecutive matches and established himself as one of the most talented young goalkeepers in the Second Division – it was during this time that City batted away a £150,000 offer for Wealands from Tommy Docherty’s Manchester United. Jeff had plenty of chances to show his talent, especially in 1977/78 when City shipped goals, changed manager three times and were relegated – Wealands missed the latter part of the season due to injury. Jeff was restored as first choice during 1978/79 as City found their feet and finished in the top half of Division Three. But a long lay-off between November and April gave Eddie Blackburn an extended chance to shine and City decided that Wealands was a valuable asset to be cashed in during the 1979 close season.
Wealands was born in Darlington, lived from the age of 13 on the street alongside Darlington’s Feethams ground and played local football for Darlington’s Cleveland Bridge steelworks, where he was an apprentice engineer. He signed profesional terms for Wolverhampton Wanderers in 1968 and learned his trade under the guidance of future England international Phil Parkes. But a collar bone fracture hampered his first team chances at Molineux and in 1970 Wealands returned north and signed for home town club Darlington. After a first season in the reserves Wealands was a first team regular for the Quakers during 1971/72, prior to his transfer to City.
In July 1979 Wealands signed for Birmingham City for a £30,000 fee and in his first season was named Player of the Season as the Blues won promotion to the First Division. He missed only three games in 1980/81 as Birmingham ended their first season back in the top flight in mid-table. In 1981/82 Wealands shared first team duties with up-and-coming goalkeeper Tony Coton, while in 1982/83 a combination of Coton and Jim Blyth kept Wealands out of the first team picture entirely. At this time Wealands had a spectacular falling out with Brum boss Ron Saunders and in February 1983 he joined Manchester United on loan to provide backup for England goalkeeper Gary Bailey, making five appearances. The transfer was made permanent in the 1983 close season and Wealands, now in his early thirties, had been rewarded for his skill and hard work with a place in the squad at one of England’s most prominent teams. He started two league games for the Red Devils in 1983/84 but spent much of his two full seasons at Old Trafford either in reserve or on loan.
In 1985 a back injury ended his professional playing career but he dropped down the leagues and joined ambitious non-league side Altrincham, where he spent two seasons as a first team regular and lifted the FA Trophy in 1986. Earlier in 1986 Altrincham, with Jeff in goal, had been FA Cup giant killers, knocking out his former club Birmingham City tat was still managed by nemesis Ron Saunders. After a season at Barrow he returned to Altrincham in 1988 and continued as first choice for another four years, finally hanging up his gloves in 1992 at the age of 41. By the end of his playing days Wealands had added over 250 non-league appearances to more than 400 senior appearances over a seventeen year professional career.
Wealands briefly joined the board at Altrincham after he stopped playing and was also goalkeeping coach at Bury for a while. But he drifted out of football in the 1990s and took jobs in insurance and property development, finding success by building a property portfolio and starting a company that dispensed energy provider advice to businesses. These successes enabled Wealands to retire at 55 to a swanky Cheshire home.
Date/Place of Birth: 26 August 1951, Darlington
Hull City First Game: 11 March 1972, Fulham H (Division Two), 20 years, 198 days old
Hull City Final Game: 19 May 1979, Sheffield Wednesday A (Division Three), 27 years, 266 days old
Wolverhampton Wanderers (1968-1970), Northampton Town (1970, loan), Darlington (1970-1972), Hull City (1972-1979), Birmingham City (1979-1983), Manchester United (1983, loan), Manchester United (1983-1985), Oldham Athletic (1984, loan), Preston North End (1984-1985, loan), Altrincham (1985-1987), Barrow (1987-1988), Altrincham (1988-1992)
Hull City Record
Career: 282 apps, 0 goalsJeff Wealands
|1972/73||21 (0)||0||1 (0)||0||2 (0)||0||-||-||1 (0)||0|
|1973/74||41 (0)||0||2 (0)||0||5 (0)||0||-||-||3 (0)||0|
|1974/75||40 (0)||0||3 (0)||0||1 (0)||0||-||-||-||-|
|1975/76||42 (0)||0||3 (0)||0||3 (0)||0||-||-||2 (0)||0|
|1976/77||42 (0)||0||2 (0)||0||1 (0)||0||-||-||3 (0)||0|
|1977/78||23 (0)||0||-||-||4 (0)||0||-||-||3 (0)||0|
|1978/79||28 (0)||0||-||-||3 (0)||0||-||-||-||-|