The Tigers signed former England star striker Raich Carter on the last day of March 1948, as well as a new member of the playing staff the City board handed him the assistant manager’s role that manager Frank Buckley’s trusty lieutenant Frank Taylor had to vacate. Within six days Buckley had resigned and Carter was lined up to take over the manager’s post at the end of a 1947/48 season that had started well for Buckley but had faded to a mid-table finish.
The signing of Horatio Stratton Carter, universally known as Raich, was a watershed moment for a football club, and a city, ravaged by the travails of World War Two. Raich Carter was a bona fide international class player, in the twilight of his career, signing for a beleaguered second tier side that the previous season, it’s first since hostilities had ended, used some 43 players in an attempt to establish itself and survive. Raich played just four games at the end of 1947/48 season, scoring no goals, but his arrival was enough to see a new and febrile atmosphere of positivity sweep through the city.
The impact of Carter’s arrival was palpable in the 1948/49 season, perhaps the club’s finest season in its 45 year history. City’s home gates, which had been averaging around 25,000 amid post-war toil and austerity, leapt immediately by 7-8,000 and by Christmas Day the Tigers beat promotion rivals Rotherham United 3-2 in front of 49,655, a club record gate. This was topped two months later in a Cup tie against Manchester United attended by 55,019. Carter’s influence wasn’t just about big attendances though. He found an immediate winning formula that meant by Christmas the Tigers had won 14 of their first 19 league fixtures, including all of the opening nine games, going on to win the Division Three North title in May 1949 by a three point margin. Raich, as player-manager, contributed 14 League goals (plus three more in the Cup) to secure a dominant promotion and a thrilling run to the FA Cup quarter finals. The City legend was born.
As a player, Raich was a dominant force. Those who saw him told of him conducting the play with aplomb, slowing it and speeding it up as he wished. Opposition defenders struggled to dispossess him and relied on ways to close him down rather than tackle him. His managerial style was best described as non-intensive, he was a manager of a group of men rather than a forensic footballing coach and he relied on trusted players week-in-week-out.
The momentum continued into the 1949/50 season as City, elevated to Division Two, lost only three of their first 14 matches. Four defeats in December hampered progress and the Tigers ended up seventh in the Division Two table – a February 1950 FA Cup exit against Stockport County precipitated a seventeen game slump during which Carter’s men won only once. In the 1950/51 season City again started well under Raich’s calm leadership, but poor away form meant a challenge on the two promotion spots was not repeated and the Tigers finished in mid-table. Nevertheless Carter scored nineteen League goals, plus two more in the Cup, his best haul in black and amber. His influence in the transfer market was also evident, exemplified when ex-England international team-mate Neil Franklin signed from Stoke City in January 1951.
The 1951/52 season started poorly for the Tigers with only one win in the first six fixtures and in early September Raich tendered his resignation from the manager’s post, citing unspecified disagreements about the way the club conducted its affairs. After brief talk of a transfer to Belfast-based side Distillery subsided his playing registration remained with the Tigers and after a three month period of grace, during which Raich trained with a local RAF side from Leconfield, he returned to first team action under the management of the Directors. His 8 goals, alongside those of Syd Gerrie, enabled the Tigers to avoid relegation. Carter left the Tigers in May 1952 – despite spending only four full seasons at the club Raich was perhaps the greatest hero over the first 100 years of Hull City’s history, a man who transformed the club’s fortunes on and off the pitch at a time when joy and celebration were in short supply. Top man.
Horatio Stratton “Raich” Carter was born in Hendon, an industrial dormitory of Sunderland, a north east coast mining and shipping town that grew rapidly on the banks of the River Wear during the nineteenth century. His father Bob “Toddler” Carter was a professional footballer, a winger who played for Burslem Port Vale, Stockport County and Fulham during the 1900s before dying in 1928 when his son was commencing his sporting journey. Later research showed that Raich was a distant relative of southern hemisphere explorer Captain James Cook.
Raich was a sporting polymath from a young age, excelling at football, cricket and running – indeed he had a brief first class cricket career for Derbyshire in 1946, while also playing for Derby County. Carter played football for England Schoolboys during the late 1920s while serving local league club Whitburn St Marys and spent summers playing cricket for Hendon, his hometown club. After joining Leicester City on amateur terms in January 1931 Raich returned to the North East and signed equivalent amateur terms for Sunderland in August 1931. After a short toughening-up exercise playing for non-League side Esh Winning, he made his Sunderland first team debut in October 1931 and signed his first professional contract a month later in November 1931, days before his 18th birthday. Raich’s influence on the club was remarkable for a player so young, by the age of 23 his goals had assisted Sunderland to a League title in the 1935/36 season and a FA Cup win in the 1936/37 season. He scored 131 league goals for Sunderland in 281 senior appearances before the outbreak of war intervened and halted a career that would otherwise have been approaching its prime.
He served in the Fire Service for the first two years of World War Two then in 1941 he became a physical training instructor for the RAF at Loughborough, helping injured aircrew back to health. He continued to play wartime fixtures for a number of teams, including Derby County. He signed professional terms for Derby County in December 1945 (after his request for a ten year contract was rejected by a puzzled Sunderland board) and his acquisition immediately lifted to Rams who won the 1945/46 FA Cup, beating Charlton Athletic 4-1 at Wembley after extra time. Carter’s stint at the Baseball Ground, which featured 50 goals in 83 starts, ended when the Hull City directors tempted him to Boothferry Park in late March 1948.
Raich was a international footballer throughout much of his career, winning 13 senior caps for England either side of the War and scoring seven goals. His England debut came against Scotland in April 1934 and his first international goal was scored at Stoke’s Victoria Ground in November 1936 against Ireland. Raich’s final England cap came in May 1947 against Switzerland, he was selected for the England squad to play Scotland in April 1948, days after signing for Hull City, but was a reserve and did not play. He also made 17 international representative appearances during the War and also represented the RAF and Combined Services.
Raich left Hull City in May 1952 and had a brief spell between January and May 1953 playing for and managing Cork Athletic, where he won the Irish Cup. Carter was appointed Leeds United’s manager in May 1953, piloting them to the First Division in 1956, promotion being sealed with a late April 4-1 win at Boothferry Park against his former side, who were already doomed to relegation. After a superb 1956/57 season in the top flight, finishing 8th, a less successful second season saw Carter’s side narrowly avoid relegation, finishing 17th. Raich was relieved of his duties at Elland Road in May 1958.
In February 1960 Raich was appointed manager at Division Three side Mansfield Town. His first season at Field Mill ended in relegation to Division Four but over the next two and a half seasons Raich built a side able to challenge for promotion – in May 1963, four months after he left, the Stags won promotion back to Division Three. Raich was instrumental in developing the young talent available at Mansfield, indeed it was reputed that he was pivotal in suggesting and facilitating Ken Wagstaff’s move from the Stags to Hull City in November 1964. By then Carter had left Mansfield, he took the manager’s hotseat at Division Two side Middlesbrough in January 1963 and lost only one of 11 league games to narrowly miss out on promotion to the top flight. After that initial sucess his final spell as a football manager saw him deliver two humdrum mid-table finishes and a relegation struggle in the 1965/66 season, though Raich had been dismissed in February 1966 ahead of Boro’s demise to the third tier.
Raich was married twice. His first wife Rose died in 1953 and he remarried in 1955 to Patricia, an employee at Hull City. In 1958 the Carters opened a newsagent and ice cream parlour on Anlaby Road, and once his managerial odyssey was over Raich and family returned to Hull and settled in Willerby where he sold sports goods, sat on the Pools Panel and ran a debt collection business. Raich died after a stroke in October 1994.
Carter’s legendary status with two football clubs, either side of World War Two, has been recognised. In Sunderland the Raich Carter Sports Centre was opened in 2001 close to his Hendon birthplace in Sunderland, where a gable end mural of Raich in his Sunderland pomp has pride of place. In Hull the road between Dunswell roundabout and Kingswood that crosses the River Hull is called Raich Carter Way. And when the KC Stadium was opened in December 2002, the opening friendly game was contested by Hull City and Sunderland for the Raich Carter Trophy.
Date/Place of Birth: 21 December 1913, Sunderland, England
Date/Place of Death: 9 October 1994, Willerby, England; 80 years, 292 days old
Appointed by Hull City: 2 May 1948; 34 years, 133 days old
Left Hull City: 5 September 1951; 37 years, 258 days old
Tenure: 1,221 days
Hull City (1948-1951), Cork Athletic (1953), Leeds United (1953-1958), Mansfield Town (1960-1963), Middlesbrough (1963-1966)
Hull City Record
Playing Record: Played 145, Won 69, Drawn 39, Lost 37, Goals For 259, Goals Against 188
Achievements: Champions of Division Three North, 1948/49 season; 7th in Division Two, 1949/50 season; FA Cup Sixth Round, 1948/49 season