Danish international midfielder turned English lower league manager Jan Molby was appointed Hull City boss in April 2002 to replace the hastily dismissed Brian Little. The intention may well have been to experience a new manager bounce and return the Tigers to the play-off places that the club had just dropped out of – the reality was a disillusioned squad that drifted in the month it took chairman Adam Pearson to recruit Molby, then a winless last four games that saw the Tigers end the season in mid-table. Not an ideal start.
Molby was entrusted with a decent transfer budget during the 2002 close season and generally spent it wisely – Ian Ashbee, Stuart Elliott and Stuart Green all became important players over subsequent seasons while centre back John Anderson and midfielder Dean Keates also proved to be astute signings. But when the season began it was clear that Molby’s abrasive management style did not suit the squad he assembled and results were poor. After opening the season with six winless matches Molby’s side provided temporary relief by claiming consecutive victories at Cambridge United and at home to Carlisle United, but that was the falsest of dawns. Following a hapless early October defeat at Jan’s former club Kidderminster Harriers the chairman acted decisively and showed Molby the door – two wins in six months being the ultimate story underlying that decision.
Jan Molby was born and raised in the Danish sea port of Kolding, located 50 kilometres north of the German border. Standing a six foot two inches with a fine range of passing, Molby was destined to be a footballer and joined his local club Kolding IF in 1981, rising to become club captain at the age of 18. In July 1982, after 40 senior appearances for Kolding, he joined Dutch giants Ajax Amsterdam and scored on his August 1982 debut against Go Ahead Eagles. Jan contributed six goals as Ajax won the double at the end of the 1982/83 season, lifting the Eredivisie and claiming the Dutch Cup with a 6-2 aggregate victory over NEC Nijmegen in the Final – he also made his European Cup debut against Glasgow Celtic. He remained at Ajax for the 1983/84 season as the Amsterdam side finished third in the Eredivisie, with Molby taking his tally to 11 goals in 73 appearances.
In August 1984 English Division One giants Liverpool paid a £600,000 fee for Molby and he slotted straight into the Anfield midfield for the first half of the 1984/85 season. He dropped out of the side after Christmas as Liverpool finished second in the league and reached the FA Cup semi-final – it was a season that ended in disaster when Liverpool played Juventus in the European Cup final, an event hosted at the Heysel Stadium in Brussels that ended in tragedy as crowd trouble and a stampede led to 39 deaths.
Molby was restored to the Liverpool first team by manager Kenny Dalglish during the 1985/86 season and shone, netting 21 goals as the Reds lifted the League and Cup double. Liverpool defeated local rivals Everton in the FA Cup final and Molby was man of the match. He remained a key part of the Liverpool first team during the 1986/87 season as the side finished second in the League and lost the League Cup final to Arsenal – Jan netted a November 1986 hattrick of penalties in the League Cup Fourth Round tie against Coventry City. During pre-season training for the 1987/88 season Molby suffered a foot injury that hampered him for several years to come. He remained at Liverpool for a further eight seasons, even returning to Anfield after serving a three month prison sentence starting in October 1988 for reckless driving, but was rarely a first team regular as the Reds claimed two more League titles and two more FA Cup wins – Jan played in the second of these finals, a May 1992 victory over Sunderland. As Molby’s time at Liverpool wound down in the 1995/96 season he had two loan spells at League Division 1 side Barnsley (5 appearances during September and October 1995) and their divisional rivals Norwich City (one goal in 5 appearances during January 1996). When he left Liverpool in February 1996 he had scored 61 goals (of which 42 were penalties) in 292 senior appearances.
Molby was appointed player-manager at League Division 2 side Swansea City in February 1996. He played in defence for the rest of the season as the Swans were unable to avoid relegation to the fourth tier. Molby’s side started the 1996/97 season with five defeats in the first seven League games, but this inauspicious start was soon turned on its head as just two defeats in sixteen league games saw Swansea rise to fifth place by Boxing Day 1996. Molby’s side maintained their position with bursts of wins and defeats and qualified for the end of season play-offs, dispatching Chester City in the semi-finals before losing the Wembley final to Northampton Town. A poor start to the 1997/98 season saw Swansea languish in the bottom six at the start of October 1997 and Molby was sacked – he led Swansea for 82 senior matches and scored 8 goals in 52 appearances during that period.
After a spell out of the game Molby returned to managerial duties in May 1999 at Conference National side Kidderminster Harriers. He took Harriers to the Conference title at the end of the 1999/00 season and piloted his side to two mid-table League Division 3 finishes ahead of his move to Hull City in April 2002.
Jan left Hull City in October 2002 and had a year away from football management before rejoining Kidderminster Harriers in October 2003. His tenure lasted only twelve months, he was dismissed in October 2004 after Harriers had slumped to the foot of the League Two table (they were relegated back to the Conference the following May). This ended Molby’s managerial career, he moved into the radio and TV media and was a pundit for many years in several languages.
Molby was a Danish international from a young age, winning six Under-17 caps (two goals), nine Under-19 caps and seven Under-21 caps between 1979 and 1983. He made his senior international debut in June 1982 against Norway and scored two goals in 33 caps between 1982 and his final cap against Wales in September 1990. After making the Danish squad for the Euro 1984 finals in France but making no appearances, Molby started four games in the 1986 World Cup finals played in Mexico.
Date/Place of Birth: 4 July 1963, Kolding, Denmark
Appointed by Hull City: 4 April 2002; 38 years, 274 days old
Left Hull City: 10 October 2002; 39 years, 98 days old
Tenure: 189 days
Swansea City (1996-1997), Kidderminster Harriers (1999-2002), Hull City (2002), Kidderminster Harriers (2003-2004)
Hull City Record
Playing Record: Played 17, Won 2, Drawn 8, Lost 7, Goals For 20, Goals Against 29