City’s return to the second tier in the 1933/34 season proved to be a struggle for manager Haydn Green, who had masterminded promotion from Division Three North the previous season. When Green resigned in March 1934 it was expereinced half back Jack Hill that the City directors turned to to rescue the situation. Jack immediately gave up playing to focus on his managerial duties, his towering presence on the touchline was sufficient to garner four wins in his first seven games in charge and steer clear of danger. City then made their supporters sweat as they lost the last five games of the season, 13 goals against answered by only 1 goal for, but the job had already been done and Second Division status was secure.
Hill took charge again for the 1934/35 season, which was characterised by streaks of extreme form. Opening up with a 6-4 defeat at Plymouth, Hill’s side lost 10 of their first 14 fixtures and the trapdoor again swung open. However a 3-2 win at home to Manchester United in mid-November sparked Hill’s side into life and the next 13 league games yielded 7 wins and only 1 defeat. A steady last third of the season saw City finish 13th in the table.
In 1935/36 a similar poor run at the start of the season saw Hill’s side rooted to the foot of the League table, with 10 defeats in the first 16 games. Two draws and a win in early December gave temporary respite but a lasting reversal of form was not forthcoming and Hill resigned in January 1936. He never took up another manager’s post, though his involvement in football continued – he was chief scout for Hull City between 1948 and 1955.
John Henry “Jack” Hill was born in Hetton-le-Hole, a colliery town located between Sunderland and Durham that was also the birthplace of legendary former Liverpool manager Bob Paisley. Hill’s father was a mason and bricklayer but young Jack worked in the local mine from the age of 14 – a remarkable feat given his six foot three stature. He served in the East Yorkshire Regiment of the British Army during World War One, seeing action and receiving wounds at Gallipoli. On returning from the war Hill was appointed club professional at North Eastern League side Durham City, but within a year he had been snapped up by Third Divison Plymouth Argyle. The Pilgrims narrowly missed out on promotion twice during Hill’s time at Home Park, but he showed sufficient form to attract the attention of England’s selectors in Spring 1923, albeit as a reserve choice.
In May 1923 Hill joined First Division Burnley for a £5,450 fee, amidst interest from several other top flight clubs including Bolton, Aston Villa, Liverpool and Manchester City. During Hill’s first three seasons at Turf Moor the Clarets flirted with and avoided relegation, though they did reach the FA Cup Semi Final in 1924, defeated 0-3 by Aston Villa at Bramall Lane, Sheffield in front of 54,500 fans. With Hill now captaining the first eleven, Burnley finished 5th in the First Division in the 1926/27 season but again struggled the following 1927/28 season. In October 1928 Jack returned to his native North East and joined Newcastle United for a £8,100 fee – this was both Newcastle’s record fee paid and Burnley’s record fee received. Hill was quickly appointed club captain and in three seasons Newcastle hovered around the middle and lower reaches of the First Division table. Notably, Hill’s Newcastle side were dumped out the FA Cup in March 1930 at the Quarter Final stage after a replay against lowly Hull City. Having spent much of his time at St James’s Park on the transfer list, in June 1931 a more modest £600 fee secured Hill a move to Bradford City, a tenure that lasted only five months.
In November 1931 Hill came to Hull City as makeweight in a transfer that saw free-scoring striker Stan Alexander join Bradford City. Despite being in his mid-30s, Hill was still an agile and capable defender with a fine organisational mind and was quickly appointed the Tigers’ captain. He provided a defensive springboard, alongside youngster and future England international Tommy Gardner, that allowed manager Haydn Green’s Tigers to enjoy a top half finish in the 1931/32 season, then lift the Division Three North title in the 1932/33 season – Jack Hill missed only six league games all season. It was Hill’s only trophy in a high profile career.
On leaving the Tigers in January 1936 Hill remained in the Hull area, living off Beverley Road. In 1939 he had surgery to remove his appendix, then in both 1950 and 1951 he had stomach surgery. The latter two events came while he was employed as Hull City’s chief scout, a role he fulfilled between 1948 and 1955 when a cost-cutting drive saw his role deleted. By now Jack had moved to Scarborough where he administered the area’s Football Pools scheme until his retirement in 1963 – in April 1957 he was offered, but turned down, the manager’s role at Midland League side Scarborough. In 1968 he moved to Blackpool and by 1972 he had moved again to Helensburgh on the Firth of Clyde in Scotland, the area his wife hailed from. Jack died in April 1972.
Hill was an England international throughout much of the 1920s. Selected for the squad twice while at Plymouth but not used, at Burnley Hill made his England debut in February 1925 in a 2-1 win over Wales at Swansea. During 1926 he played two further times for England, against Scotland and Ireland, before being appointed England captain in April 1927. He played in a 1-2 defeat at Hampden Park against Scotland before embarking on a May 1927 tour of Northern Europe that yielded heavy victories over Belgium (9-1), Luxembourg (5-2) and France (6-0). He captained England twice more in Autumn 1927, then three more times in 1929 while at Newcastle United. In all he won 11 England caps, alongside three appearances for the Football League XI. He made his final appearance for England in May 1929, a 3-4 defeat to Spain in Madrid. In 2014, prior to a match at Turf Moor between Burnley and Hull City, Jack’s son Gavin and grandson Alex presented Burnley officials with one of Jack’s international caps and a pennant received prior to the 1927 clash against France.
Date/Place of Birth: 2 March 1897, Hetton-le-Hole, England
Date/Place of Death: 16 April 1972, Helensburgh, Scotland; 75 years, 45 days old
Appointed by Hull City: 13 April 1934; 37 years, 42 days old
Left Hull City: 16 January 1936; 38 years, 320 days old
Tenure: 643 days
Hull City (1934-1936)
Hull City Record
Playing Record: Played 71, Won 20, Drawn 13, Lost 38, Goals For 91, Goals Against 151
Achievements: 13th in Division Two, 1934/35 season