Central defender Antonio Doncel was one of Hull City’s more curious signings to emerge from uncommon circumstances. Doncel had enjoyed a decent career in the middle reaches of the Spanish national league but by 1996 he was without a club and wanted to study business management while learning a new language. The City of Kingston-upon-Hull would perhaps not be the first choice for many Galician ex-footballers but that was the path that Doncel chose. Within weeks of his arrival he had played in a pre-season trial match for Terry Dolan’s Tigers and signed a contract in August 1996.
Posterity doesn’t record how he did in his business and English language exams but his ability on the football pitch was clear as he strode straight into Dolan’s recently relegated League Division 3 first XI. Injury kept Doncel out of the first team in October and November 1996, by which time his novelty presence had attracted considerable attention from Hull City fans, whose song for the Spaniard suggested he enjoyed TV’s darts/quiz mash-up show Bullseye. He played semi-regularly for the rest of the season and scored goals in two 1-1 draws, the first in September 1996 at Rochdale and the second in November 1996 against Wigan.
The 1997/98 season saw Dolan replaced by ex-England international Mark Hateley and while Doncel was on the periphery of the first team during the first two months of the season, filling in a variety of defensive and midfield roles, he soon dropped out of Hateley’s first team plans. A brief return to first team action in April 1998 yielded five starts in central defence, but that became Doncel’s swansong when he returned to Spain in the 1998 close season – later interviews suggested that Doncel thought warmly of his time in Hull and especially enjoyed the musical stylings of The Housemartins.
Antonio Doncel-Varcacal was born in Pobra de San Xiao, a small settlement at the crossroads of road and railway located around 20 miles south of Lugo in Galicia, Northern Spain. He played his early football for CD Lugo before joining Deportivo la Coruna in 1987 – then a Spanish Second Division side, Depor won promotion to La Liga in 1991 and Doncel made 28 top flight appearances in two seasons. Between 1993 and 1996 Antonio played for three second tier Spanish sides ahead of joining the Tigers in 1996.
Doncel retired from playing professional football when he returned to Spain in 1998, although he did asisst Galician side Bergantinos FC during the 2001/02 as they sought promotion in the lower leagues.
Date/Place of Birth: 31 January 1967, Pobra de San Xiao (Spain)
Hull City First Game: 17 August 1996, Darlington H (League Division 3), 29 years, 199 days old
Hull City Final Game: 2 May 1998, Cambridge United H (League Division 3), 31 years, 91 days old
CD Lugo (1983-1997), Deportivo la Coruna (1997-1993), Burgos CF (1993-1994), Levante UD (1994-1995), Racing de Ferrol (1995-1996), Hull City (1996-1998), Bergantinos FC (2001-2002)
Hull City Record
Career: 46 apps, 2 goalsAntonio Doncel
|1996/97||22 (4)||2||1 (1)||0||2 (0)||0||-||-||1 (0)||0|
|1997/98||8 (4)||0||-||-||3 (0)||0||-||-||-||-|