Experienced defensive midfielder Mark Atkins joined Hull City on loan in March 2001 to bolster Brain Little’s squad as it launched an unlikely assault on the Division Three play-offs. Atkins’ calm assurance on the ball had the desired effect and City finished in the play-off berths. However an injury limited Atkins’ involvement in the play-off semi-finals, which was lost thanks to the efforts of Leyton Orient’s free scoring left back Matthew Lockwood.
Mark Nigel Atkins hailed from Doncaster but began his professional career along the M180 at Scunthorpe. In two seasons he made 64 appearances for The Iron, mostly at right back, and impressed enough for upwardly mobile Division Two side Blackburn Rovers to pay £45,000 for his signature in 1988. Atkins’ arrival at Ewood Park coincided with a remarkable revival at Rovers, historically a footballing giant of the 19th century but now a second tier also-ran. Owner Jack Walker invested his millions in new players and in May 1992 Blackburn beat Leicester City 1-0 in the play-off final to reach the newly formed Premier League. Atkins was a constant presence in the Blackburn midfield between his signing in 1988 and promotion in 1992, making 204 appearances in all competitions and scoring 27 goals. Blackburn were immediately challenging at the top end of the Premier League and in 1994/95, inspired by the goals of Shearer and Sutton but prompted by the engine room maneouvres of Mark Atkins’ 41 appearances and six goals, Rovers lifted the Premier League title. A remarkable achievement for player and club. In total Atkins added a further 107 appearances for Blackburn in his three Premier League seasons.
In the early weeks of 1995/96, with Blackburn investing in new midfield assets, Atkins moved to Wolverhampton Wanderers for a £1 million fee. The Division One (second tier) side were challenging for a promotion place and over four seasons Atkins made 151 appearances and contributed much to a cause that pinnacled with a play-off push in 1996/97 that ended with semi-final defeat against Crystal Palace, Atkins scoring in the second leg as the Old Gold fought to reverse a 1-3 first leg deficit.
Atkins had played less regularly for Wolves during 1998/99 and in the 1999 close season he joined League Division 3 side York City. He spent only three months at Bootham Crescent before training with, and then signing for, his hometown club Doncaster Rovers, who were languishing in the Conference National League. He was briefly assistant manager for Doncaster at the end of the 1999/00 season but had returned to the playing side in 2000/01 when Hull City’s Brian Little came knocking for his experience at the end of a long League Division 3 season.
Atkins joined Shrewsbury Town in June 2001 and had two seasons at Gay Meadow, though his second season ended in relegation to the Conference, with Mark again briefly becoming caretaker manager for the last game of the season when Shrews’ boss Kevin Ratcliffe resigned. In 2003 Atkins joined Harrogate Town as player-coach, ending his playing days in the 2004 close season – in a 20 year career he amassed 630 senior competitive appearances, a number that approaches 700 when including his non-league matches at Doncaster and Harrogate. Atkins became assistant manager at Harrogate Town in the summer of 2004, moving on to become Stalybridge Celtic assistant manager in January 2005. He fulfilled the assistant’s role at Bower Fold for over two years before leaving in April 2007. A year later Atkins was appointed manager of Matlock Town, a job he fulfilled for six seasons before resigning in October 2014.
Date/Place of Birth: 14 September 1968, Doncaster
Hull City First Game: 27 March 2001, Rochdale H (League Division 3), 32 years, 194 days old
Hull City Final Game: 16 May 2001, Leyton Orient A (League Division 3 Play Off Semi Final Second Leg), 32 years, 244 days old
Scunthorpe United (1986-1988), Blackburn Rovers (1988-1995), Wolverhampton Wanderers (1995-1999), York City (1999), Doncaster Rovers (1999-2001), Hull City (2001, loan), Shrewsbury Town (2001-2003), Harrogate Town (2003-2004)
Hull City Record
Career: 10 apps, 0 goalsMark Atkins
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