In September 1974 manager Terry Neill was allowed to leave Hull City to take up the same role at Division One side Tottenham Hotspur. Perhaps cowed by the eight months in took the board to employ Neill in 1970, City moved swiftly to elevate experienced defender John Kaye to first team manager – Kaye had retired from playing nine months earlier and joined the Tigers’ coaching staff. The appointment was reminiscent of Neill’s arrival four year earlier in that Kaye may have been an inexperienced manager but he was a player with plenty of top flight experience under his belt. He was also a local lad having been born and raised in nearby Goole.
Kaye was initially appointed for a ten day trial period, two days after Neill’s departure to London, but by the end of September he was handed a full time contract to helm a Tigers side that was drifting in the still waters of Division Two’s mid-table. John was a defender by nature (despite starting his career as a striker) and his City sides were founded on defensive stability. After a 0-5 thumping at Notts County in Kaye’s sixth game in charge, the Tigers conceded only 29 goals in the remaining 27 games of the 1974/75 season and finished eighth in Division Two, losing only one home league match all season – Kaye was awarded the Manager of the Month gong in November 1974. However with Stuart Pearson sold the previous summer, Ken Wagstaff’s legendary goalscoring powers now starting to wane and a string of locally sourced and purchased replacements failing to match up to the rigours of Second Division football, Kaye’s teams were always short of the goals required to move on to the next level. An attempt by Kaye to sign teenage Arsenal forward Frank Stapleton was rebuffed by the City board. a decision that proved to be frustrating as Stapleton went on to enjoy a stellar international and club career.
In the 1975/76 season the Tigers were in fitful form, twice losing four consecutive games and three times winning three in a row. The sum effect of these false dawns and occasional blips was to finish in 14th place in Division Two, a position in the Football League that many regard as the Tigers’ true spiritual home. In the 1976/77 season Kaye’s Hull City side was more expansive, especially after the Tigers signed experienced midfielder Billy Bremner – though the ex-Leeds United Scotsman didn’t go on to manage the Tigers as Neill and Kaye had done before him. While City performed some truly memorable goalscoring feats that season – a 2-0 win over champions Wolves with both goals scored by John Hawley, a Jeff Hemmerman Goal of the Season contender in the reverse fixture at Molineux, a Malcolm Lord hattrick in a 4-1 win over Burnley – it was ultimately the lack of goals that again hobbled Kaye’s side and City again finished 14th.
This weakness up front caught up with Kaye’s Tigers at the start of the 1977/78 season. He rebuffed a close season approach from his former club West Bromwich Albion to join them as manager and stayed at City, but the signings of ex-Bristol Rovers strike duo Bruce Bannister and Alan Warboys did not bear immediate fruit and after a fine 3-0 win over Sunderland on the first day of season, in front of a febrile Boothferry Park crowd, a five match winless run in the league culminated in a messy 0-2 defeat home to bottom side Mansfield Town on the first day of October 1977. This result was enough for City’s board to dispense with Kaye’s services immediately after the full time whistle. While Kaye’s Tigers could never be accused of being spectacular, history reflects well on his time at the City helm as he inherited a fading squad and created a solid and competitive side with relatively few resources. John Kaye, one of Hull City’s better managers.
John Kaye was born and raised in post-war Goole in the East Riding of Yorkshire, as a teenager he played up front for the local Midland League side while working in the Goole shipyards. In September 1960 he joined Scunthorpe United for a £1,500 fee and played for the Iron during one of their more competitive periods as they inhabited the upper reaches of the Second Division. Kaye was Scunthorpe’s top goalscorer in the 1962/63 season with 13 league goals, helping himself to a hattrick in an August 1962 win over Chelsea as the Iron topped the table in the early weeks of the season before falling away and finishing in 9th place. By May 1963 Kaye had scored 25 goals in 82 appearances for The Iron, scoring form that led to Division One side West Bromwich Albion paying £44,750 – a club record fee received by Scunthorpe at the time.
Kaye was signed by the Baggies as a forward and performed that role with aplomb, top scoring in the 1965/66 season with 18 goals as he built a partnership with future England international Jeff Astle. However in 1968 Kaye, nicknamed “Yorky”, transitioned into a more defensive role and ended up making 361 first team appearances for the Baggies in all competitions, 296 of which were in the First Division – he added 54 goals in those eight years at The Hawthorns and was twice named Midlands Footballer of the Year in 1966 and 1970.
This was a halcyon period for West Bromwich Albion who won the League Cup in 1966 and the FA Cup in 1968, leading to European campaigns in the 1966/67 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup and the 1968/69 Cup Winners Cup – Kaye made ten appearances in these competitions and scored once. The Baggies also reaching the League Cup finals in 1967 and 1970, losing out respectively to Third Division side Queens Park Rangers and First Division side Manchester City. Kaye played in all four of these finals, including both legs of the 1966 League Cup Final in which he scored in the second leg as the Baggies turned around a 1-2 first leg deficit to defeat West Ham United 5-3 on aggregate. In 1968 John became the first player to be substituted in a FA Cup Final in a 3-2 win over Everton. Kaye was twice selected to represent the Football League but did not win a full England cap, unlike his West Brom strike partner Jeff Astle. Kaye was selected in the initial 40 players considered for England’s 1966 World Cup squad, but did not make the cut.
Kaye joined Hull City in November 1971 to add steel to the Tigers’ defensive resources. He scored his first two goals in a 4-3 win against Middlesbrough in December 1971 but for the remainder of the season he was used sparingly. He found his form and fitness in the 1972/73 season and missed only three matches in all competitions. He played mostly in a defensive midfield role and scored six goals, including a Boxing Day strike against Middlesbrough (again) and a March 1973 equaliser at Portsmouth. Kaye was again first choice at the start of the 1973/74 season but injury halted his run in October 1973 – the injury was sustained against Middlesbrough, harsh retribution for those earlier goals. Kaye returned to action in December 1973 and scored his final City goal at Notts County. However a Boxing Day draw at Sheffield Wednesday was Kaye’s final appearance for the Tigers as a knee injury ended his playing career – oddly the injury was sustained in a tackle administered by the Owls’ Dave Sunley, a player who subsequently joined Kaye’s Tigers’ squad. After quickly realising his playing days were over he joined the Tigers coaching staff, getting his first taste of backroom experience.
Kaye left the Tigers in October 1977 and his first act was to sign for Bridlington Trinity as a player. But within a fortnight he returned to his first league side Scunthorpe United as assistant manager to Iron boss Ron Ashman. He remained at Scunthorpe for four seasons, regularly also playing for the Ex-Tigers XI, until May 1981 when he was dismissed as part of a cost-cutting measure. He played in defence for Hall Road Rangers during much of the 1982/83 season then dropped out of competitive football until July 1990 when he was appointed assistant manager at Brigg Town, by which time he was working as a welder in the offshore industry. He was assistant manager at Brigg when they won the FA Vase Final in May 1996 (with ex-Tigers Andy Flounders and David Mail in the starting XI), returning once more to Wembley where he played three times for West Brom in the 1960s. He left the Zebras in December 1997 and later retired to his Kirkella home.
Date/Place of Birth: 3 March 1940, Goole, England
Appointed by Hull City: 13 September 1974; 34 years, 194 days old
Left Hull City: 1 October 1977; 37 years, 212 days old
Tenure: 1,114 days
Hull City (1974-1977)
Hull City Record
Playing Record: Played 151, Won 45, Drawn 49, Lost 57, Goals For 155, Goals Against 179
Achievements: 8th in Division Two, 1974/75 season