Goalkeeper Alan William Fettis was born in Newtonards, a town to the east of Belfast at the northern tip of Strangford Lough. He was a junior player at Belfast side Glentoran but at the age of 17 he returned to his home town and spent three years playing for Ards in the Northern Irish League. He made 65 senior appearances for Ards in three seasons and by the end of the 1990/91 season had established a good reputation between the posts. In the early 1990s Hull City had strong scouting links in Northern Ireland and Fettis’s transfer to City for £50,000 was one of the first products of those links.
Terry Dolan’s Tigers had been reliant on a fading Iain Hesford, who was suffering personal problems, and a youthful but error-prone Steve Wilson in goal during the 1990/91 season, supplemented by several loan signings. It was therefore little surprise that Fettis was slotted straight into a City first team that was looking to stablilise in the Third Division at the start of 1991/92 season after a bruising relegation. Fettis missed only four games all season as City had an unbeaten run in November and December (in eight starts Fettis conceded only five goals) before winning only three times between December and late February and ending up in mid-table. Alan was also first choice at the start of the 1992/93 season but after a run of heavy defeats in October 1992 Steve Wilson was bought into the first team and was custodian as City won six of 11 games in November, December and early January. Fettis returned for five starts in April 1993 but he now had genuine competition from Wilson for the City No. 1 shirt. Willo started the 1993/94 season as first choice but by early September Fettis was restored and missed only two games in the remainder of the season.
The 1994/95 season was the most remarkable of Terry Dolan’s six and a half year tenure a City boss. It started with a crushing 0-4 defeat at Oxford on the opening day but results picked up in September. Fettis started the season as first choice keeper but at the end of September Steve Wilson was again preferred, a switch that coincided with six wins in seven fixtures fuelled by the goals of Dean Windass, Linton Brown and set-piece threat Rob Dewhurst. A week before Christmas City played Oxford United at home and dominated proceedings, taking a 2-1 lead in the first half. Injuries meant Dolan had sparse resources on the bench and in the closing minutes Fettis was thrown on in an attacking role. With a few minutes to go Neil Mann rampaged down the left wing and crossed to Fettis who poked the ball into the roof of the net from four yards and precipitated a classic eleven man pile-on in front of the Boothferry Park South Stand. A goalkeeper scoring is a rarity – a goalkeeper coming on as a striker and scoring is rarer still.
In late January Alan was back between the posts for the Tigers as City hovered close the play-off places before finally falling away to eighth spot after only one win in seven during March and early April. On the final day of the season City had little to play for as they headed to Blackpool and with injuries again ravaging the squad, Dolan decided to deploy Fettis as a deep lying forward supporting striker Gary Lund. With the scores 1-1 in the final minutes a parried cross fell to Fettis who drove home from near the penalty spot and extended his goalscoring run.
The topsy turvy 1994/95 season was replaced by grim and relentless struggle in 1995/96. In the early weeks of the season Fettis was called upon four times as substitute and in late October had a run of five games starting in goal. But with the Tigers firmly rooted to the bottom of the table and the club’s finances in a woeful state, City looked to cash in on their saleable assets. Windass was sold to Aberdeen in December 1995, by which time Fettis had already been loaned to West Bromwich Albion. The Baggies declined to sign Alan and in January 1996 he instead joined Nottingham Forest for a £250,000 fee.
Fettis stayed only eight months at Nottingham Forest, making six first team appearances, before a £300,000 was paid by Premier League side Blackburn Rovers in September 1997. In two and a half years at Ewood Park Fettis made only 12 appearances as he deputised for Englishman Tim Flowers and Australian John Filan. In March 2000 Fettis moved to Third Division side York City where he was again able to win a regular starting place for two and a half years under his former Tigers’ boss Terry Dolan. When York City entered financial meltdown at the end of 2002 Fettis was able to walk away from his contract and recently installed Hull City manager Peter Taylor signed him for the Tigers a second time in January 2003 as competition for experienced ex-Scunthorpe number one Paul Musselwhite. Fettis started the last 17 fixtures of the 2002/03 season as Taylor assessed his inherited squad and plotted additions that would see the Tigers promoted for the first time in 19 years come May Day 2004. But Fettis was but an occasional starter during that season with Musselwhite preferred in goal and Alan spent the second half of the season on loan at Sheffield United and Grimsby Town before making the switch to Macclesfield Town in July 2004. Two seasons at Moss Rose were followed by a final season at Bury in 2006/07, and Fettis hung up his gloves in the 2007 close season having made 439 senior appearances in the English senior game, plus a further 65 appearances in Northern Ireland.
In July 2007 Fettis was appointed goalkeeping coach at Derby County, working with his former Hull City colleague Roy Carroll and launching a second career in football that took him to Cheltenham Town in the 2008/09 season and Sunderland between 2009 and 2011. In January 2011 Alan was appointed goalkeeping coach at Manchester United , working mostly with the reserves but occasionally with the first team – he was credited by Spanish international goalie Victor Valdes as having saved his career after a poor run of form in 2015. After more than a decade at Manchester United Fettis moved to Championship side Middlesbrough in June 2022, where he was appointed first team goalkeeper coach.
Fettis was recognised by the Northern Ireland international football setup from a young age and won caps at Under-16, Under-17 and Under-18 levels in the late 1980s. He made his senior debut for Northern Ireland in November 1991 against Denmark and by November 1995 had won 13 caps for Northern Ireland while a Hull City player. Over the next three years at Nottingham Forest and Blackburn Fettis was awarded a further 12 caps. He made his last international appearance in November 1998 against Moldova, taking his total to 25 caps, though he was still being chosen for Northern Ireland squads until 2003 supporting first choice keeper Maik Taylor. Fettis also added three Northern Ieland B team caps between 1994 and 1998
Nationality: Northern Ireland
Date/Place of Birth: 1 February 1971, Newtonards
Hull City First Game: 17 August 1991, Reading A (Division Three), 20 years, 197 days old
Hull City Final Game: 15 November 2003, Huddersfield Town A (League Division 3), 32 years, 287 days old
Glentoran, Ards (1988-1991), Hull City (1991-1996), West Bromwich Albion (1995, loan), Nottingham Forest (1996-1997), Blackburn Rovers (1997-2000), Leicester City (1999, loan), York City (2000-2003), Hull City (2003-2004), Sheffield United (2003-2004, loan), Grimsby Town (2004, loan), Macclesfield Town (2004-2006), Bury (2006-2007)
Hull City Record
Career: 178 apps, 2 goalsAlan Fettis
|1991/92||43 (0)||0||3 (0)||0||3 (0)||0||-||-||4 (0)||0|
|1992/93||20 (0)||0||-||-||2 (0)||0||-||-||-||-|
|1993/94||37 (0)||0||2 (0)||0||-||-||-||-||2 (0)||0|
|1994/95||27 (1)||2||-||-||2 (0)||0||-||-||-||-|
|1995/96||4 (3)||0||-||-||0 (1)||0||-||-||1 (0)||0|
|2003/04||3 (0)||0||-||-||1 (0)||0||-||-||2 (0)||0|