Londoner and former Birmingham City boss Bob Brocklebank was appointed Hull City manager in March 1955, the same day that previous incumbent Bob Jackson was given leave of absence and relieved of his duties. The Tigers were languishing towards the lower end of the Division Two table and while Brocklebank’s side avoided relegation, the Tigers only managed three wins in the remaining 13 league fixtures. That form continued into the 1955/56 season as City managed only ten wins, hit bottom place in the table after five games and stayed there all season – a heavy defeat at the hands of Raich Carter’s Leeds United sealed the Tigers’ fate in the penultimate game of the season.
Despite this poor form and rapid setback, the Hull City board persisted with the tall and amiable Brocklebank and he rewarded that faith with three good seasons in Division Three North – in the 1956/57 season City finished 8th having spent most of the season in the top half, then in 1957/58 season City lost only three of the last 19 games to finish in fifth place, fired by the goals of Bill Bradbury, Doug Clarke and Colin Smith. It was therefore no surprise when after a slow start to the 1958/59 season Brocklebank’s Tigers hit a rich vein of form that by the end of November 1958 had propelled them to second place in the newly formed Division Three. City remained in the top two for the rest of the season and Brocklebank had repaid the loyalty that the City board showed him by winning promotion back to Division Two.
Alas, that’s when things started to go wrong. City invested heavily in an experienced new forward line with Jackie Sewell, Ralph Gubbins and Roy Shiner all joining the club in the early weeks of the season. But none of those signings delivered the goals needed for City to thrive in a higher division, the Tigers spending practically the whole season in the bottom third and suffering relegation straight back to the newly formed Division Three. Brocklebank piloted City to a mid-table finish in the 1960/61 season and oversaw a legendary FA Cup Second Round tie against Darlington that took five matches in 19 days to resolve in City’s favour. But that was insufficient success for a board that was showing renewed ambition as the 1960s dawned, and in May 1961 Brocklebank accepted a request from the board to resign his post.
Robert Edward “Bob” Brocklebank was born in East Finchley, North London to a father that worked for the Post Office and hailed from Liverpool. In the late 1920s Bob played inside right for his local London league side Finchley before joining Division One side Aston Villa in May 1929, days before his 21st birthday. He made his debut for Villa against Burnley in February 1930 but had to wait diligently for his second senior start in February 1934 against Huddersfield Town, serving the Villa reserve side throughout that four year gap. He remained a support player to the first team for the next two years and when he left Aston Villa in March 1936 he had scored two goals in 20 appearances,
Brocklebank joined Division Two side Burnley in March 1936 and quickly established himself as a first team regular for the Clarets. In January 1937 Burnley played Aston Villa in the FA Cup Third Round and Brocklebank inevitably netted the winner in a narrow 3-2 victory over his former club. Bob scored sixteen goals in the 1937/38 season as Burnley finished in sixth place and by the time the outbreak of World War Two halted league football in September 1939 Brocklebank had scored 38 goals in 130 appearances for the Turf Moor side.
Bob joined the Burnley Police War Reserve during the war and played in wartime fixtures throughout the conflict. In August 1945 Brocklebank, now Burnley’s captain, applied for the manager’s hotseat at Division Two side Chesterfield – Bob was selected ahead of Ernest Blackburn, the recently departed Hull City manager. Brocklebank led the Spireites to a fourth place finish in the 1946/47 season, finishing eight points behind promoted Burnley, his former club. He spent another season and a half at Chesterfield and led the club in 117 senior matches until January 1949 when he was appointed first team manager Division One side Birmingham City.
Brocklebank’s Blues side narrowly avoided relegation at the end of the 1948/49 season but weren’t so lucky next time out – just seven wins all season saw Birmingham finish bottom of the Division One table and crash down to Division Two. Brocklebank quickly assembled a capable squad and piloted the Blues to four consecutive top seven finishes but promotion proved elusive – the Blues reached the FA Cup semi final in the 1950/51 season, eliminating top flight sides Derby County and Manchester United before losing the semi-final to Division One side Blackpool after a replay. Finally in the 1954/55 season Birmingham won promotion back to the top flight – however they achieved this without Brocklebank who had resigned in October 1954 after 258 games in charge. After assisting West Bromwich Albion during November and December 1954 following Baggies’ boss Vic Buckingham’s injuries sustained in a car accident, Brocklebank was back in full time management when Hull City appointed him in March 1955.
Just ten days after leaving Hull City in May 1961 Brocklebank was back in work, appointed first team manager at Division Four side Bradford City. He led the Bantams for three seasons, a poor 1962/63 season that saw them finish only one place above bottom spot was followed by a fine 1963/64 season when the club finished fifth, just one place below the promotion spots, fired by the goals of Rod Green and ex-Tiger Dudley Price. However a poor start to the 1964/65 season saw Brocklebank resign in October 1964 and end his career in football management – he led Bradford City for 169 senior matches.
Early in 1965 Brocklebank moved to Paignton in Dorset to pursue business interests outside football. He remained on the Dorset coast for the rest of his life before dying in Brixham in September 1981.
Date/Place of Birth: 23 May 1908, Finchley, England
Date/Place of Death: 6 September 1981, Brixham, England; 73 years, 106 days old
Appointed by Hull City: 17 March 1955; 46 years, 298 days old
Left Hull City: 15 May 1961; 52 years, 357 days old
Tenure: 2,251 days
Chesterfield (1945-1949), Birmingham City (1949-1954), Hull City (1955-1961), Bradford City (1961-1964)
Hull City Record
Playing Record: Played 301, Won 112, Drawn 72, Lost 117, Goals For 469, Goals Against 494
Achievements: 2nd in Division Three, 1958/59 season