When Nigel Pearson left Hull City in November 2011 and returned to his previous club Leicester City the Tigers’ hierarchy, led by chairman Assem Allam, turned to senior player Nick Barmby to be caretaker manager. City won Barmby’s first game in charge, a fine 2-0 victory at Derby County, and within a month four consecutive wins had lifted the Tigers to fourth in the Championship table. The play-off push continued into mid-January 2012 when a poor performance against lowly Crawley Town saw the Tigers eliminated from the FA Cup. This, coupled with rumblings about boardroom disquiet regarding Nick’s transfer policy, seemed to halt progress on the field and just one win in 14 League games saw City drift to tenth in the table. Two wins in the last three matches lifted City to eighth by the end of the season.
By now it was evident that Barmby and Allam did not see eye to eye and shortly after the season ended Barmby was suspended on the rather dubious grounds that Nick had criticised the owner and not complied with his transfer plans (which was rumoured to involve signing Billy Sharp, a player that didn’t interest Barmby). After a peremptory disciplinary process Barmby was sacked at the end of May 2012, an act that drew Nick’s short and promising managerial career to an abrupt end.
Nick Barmby was a decorated England international who had played for several of the Premier League’s top sides when he joined Hull City, a newly promoted League 1 club, in June 2004, a truly remarkable move that drew to a close his fraught spell at Leeds United. For the next eight years Barmby gave exemplary service to his hometown club as a player, coach and manager as the Tigers were propelled into the Premier League by Phil Brown and Brian Horton.
In his first season at Hull City Barmby was central to City’s elevation from League One to the Championship, contributing goals and assists in a near-ever-present season. Nick’s importance to the Tigers continued in the Championship but niggling injuries meant that he was a less regular presence in the first team. As time progressed Barmby often featuring from the bench and helped turn around matches with his skill and aggression. But when the big matches arose Barmby was always available to City’s boss Phil Brown, an especially important feature during the 2007/08 season when the Tigers went on a springtime push towards the summit of the Championship table. In May 2008 Barmby, who had barely played in the regular season, was an important figure in City’s passage through the Championship play-off semi finals, scoring in both legs against Watford. He then played a vital role in City’s win at Wembley against Bristol City, which lifted City into the Premier League for the first time.
Nick continued his impact substitute role during City’s two years in the top flight, and stuck around when City returned to the Championship. When manager Nigel Pearson left City late in 2011 it was Nick Barmby, who had been involved in coaching the first team for several months, that owner Assem Allam turned to as player manager.
Nicholas John Barmby was born in Hull, his father Jeff Barmby was a noted local footballer and manager in the Hull non-league scene who had spent several years at Hull City in the 1960s without making a first team appearance. As a teenager Nicky was part of the FA Centre of Excellence at Lilleshall, joining Division One side Tottenham Hotspur in April 1991. His first experience of first team football at Tottenham was against the Tigers in a testimonial match honouring Garreth Roberts – the 16 year old tyro scored twice. Nicky continued to progress rapidly and made his full senior debut in a September 1992 Premier League match against Sheffield Wednesday. His first senior goal came against Middlesbrough three weeks later and by April 1993 Nicky was an important part of Spurs’ first team squad, playing in the FA Cup semi-final defeat to local rivals Arsenal. After missing the first two months of the 1993/94 season with injury Nicky became a first team regular starter for Tottenham and in April 1995 he played in a second FA Cup semi-final, this time losing out to Everton. By the end of the 1994/95 season Barmby, still just 21 years old, had scored 27 goals in 108 senior appearances.
In August 1995 Barmby was lured north to Middlesbrough as Tottenham trousered a £5.25m fee for a player that had just made his England senior debut. After an impressive 1995/96 season at the Riverside, Middlesbrough cashed in on Barmby in November 1996 and sold him to Everton for a small profit – he scored 10 goals in 49 appearances for Boro. Nicky spent four seasons at Everton, a period that saw him mature as a top flight player and an international. He scored 23 goals for the Toffees in 133 appearances until July 2000 when he made the switch across Stanley Park to join local rivals Liverpool, who parted with a £6m fee. In his first season at Anfield Nick contributed to a chaotic season that saw Liverpool finish in the top three of the Premier League and win three trophies – the League Cup (Nick was substitute in the February 2001 final win over Birmingham City), the FA Cup (Nick started the semi-final against Wycombe Wanderers but missed the final) and the UEFA Cup (Nick again missed the final but netted four goals in the qualifying rounds). In his second season at Anfield injuries restricted his appearances considerably and he was looking for a new club in the 2002 close season, having scored 8 goals in 58 appearances for Liverpool.
In August 2002 he moved to Leeds United for a £2.75m fee and after a good opening three months to his time at Elland Road injuries began to dog him and first team opportunities became sparse. In two seasons Nicky managed 5 goals in just 31 appearances ahead of his free transfer move to Hull City in July 2004, although Leeds continued to pay a share of Barmby’s wages for several seasons in order to honour the long term contract that the Whites had awarded him.
Barmby withdrew from frontline football in May 2012 and after seven years out of game Barmby joined Scunthorpe United in March 2019, assisting his former team-mate Andy Dawson with coaching duties. The Dawson/Barmby axis was not capable of ensuring Scunthorpe avoided relegation and Nicky left The Iron two months later. In December 2023 Barmby, an occasional sight at The Circle following the departure of the Allam family as club owners in January 2022, was elected to the Hull City Hall of Fame.
Nicky Barmby was an international footballer from a young age. He scored one goal in 12 England Under-16 appearances during the 1989/90 season and added four goals in five appearances for England Under-17s in the 1990/91 season. He made three appearances for England Under-18s in the Under-18 European Championships held in Germany in July 1992 and made his England Under-19 debut in February 1993 ahead of winning three Under-20 caps at the 1993 World Youth Championships held in Australia. In March 1994 Nicky made his England Under-21 debut against Denmark and added two further appearances in September 1994 against France and October 1994 against Austria.
In February 1995 Barmby received his first call-up for the England senior squad and he won his first senior cap a month later against Uruguay. Over the next six years Barmby won 23 England caps and scored four goals, being selected for the Euro 1996 and Euro 2000 Finals squads. Nicky started for England in the famous September 2001 5-1 drubbing of Germany, and made his last appearance a month later in the tumultuous 2-2 draw against Greece at Sunderland which led to England nervily qualifying for the 2002 World Cup Finals.
Date/Place of Birth: 11 February 1974, Hull, England
Appointed by Hull City: 15 November 2011; 37 years, 277 days old
Left Hull City: 8 May 2012; 38 years, 87 days old
Tenure: 175 days
Hull City (2011-2012)
Hull City Record
Playing Record: Played 33, Won 13, Drawn 8, Lost 12, Goals For 36, Goals Against 31
Achievements: 8th in Championship, 2011/12 season