1939-1961: The Carter Era and Beyond
Feature by Historian
Updated Wednesday, 2nd January 2002
When the League was abandoned in September 1939, they faced an uncertain future since the financial troubles that had plagued them in the previous decade returned with a vengeance.
There were many who doubted whether the Club would be able to continue. But in one of the darkest periods of the clubs history a glimmer of light appeared in the shape of Harold Needler and by the end of the Second World War a new era in the history of Hull City had dawned. When league football recommenced in 1946, the Tigers faced it with a new Board of Directors led by Harold Needler, a new Manager, Major Frank Buckley, and equally as important a new ground, Boothferry Park, which had been built on the site of an old golf course.
On 31st August 1946, in their first match of the season, the Tigers drew 0-0 with Lincoln City at their new home in front of a crowd of 25,586, thus setting a record for the highest home attendance in their history up to that point. The season did not start well for them and it was not until the 12th October that the home supporters were able to cheer a victory on their new ground. The after-effects of the war continued to hit the club and this, combined with a substantial list of injuries which saw the Tigers use 43 players, meant they did well to finish in a respectable mid table position.
The following season started quietly but its importance lay not so much in the results, rather in the arrival of one of the greatest players ever to wear the Tigers colours, Horatio Stratton Carter. His debut, on 3rd April 1948, came too late to assist the club in their faltering promotion bid and they eventually finished in fifth place. It was in the following season when the full impact of Raich Carter's influence was to be felt. Although coming to the end of his playing career, Raich still possessed an abundance of talent and experience, which he used to influence events on the field to such an extent that the Tigers had the best season in their history, winning the Third Division (North) championship and setting new records along the way. They won their first nine matches (a league record) and the attendance of 49,655 for their top of the table clash at home to Rotherham on Christmas Day, was a League record that still stands. Coupled with this success in the league, the Tigers also enjoyed one of their best cup runs, culminating in 55,019 spectators packing into Boothferry Park to see Manchester United defeat the Tigers 1-0 in a closely fought battle. This attendance still remains the highest ever recorded at Boothferry Park and one that will never be beaten.
Expectation was high that the 'Holy Grail' of First Division football would be achieved under the guidance of Raich as the Tigers started life in Division Two. Alas it was not to be. Despite the acquisition of players with experience and the purchase of promising youngsters such as Don Revie, the club could only finish seventh. By September 1951, Raich Carter had resigned as Manager. The momentum was lost and despite retaining their Second Division status for a further six years, the Tigers found themselves back in Division Three (North) at the start of the 1956/57 season. They managed to gain promotion in 1958/59, but their return to Division Two was brief. They were immediately relegated the following season and it wasn't until the arrival of Cliff Britton as manager in July 1961, that the prospect of better times ahead seemed a possibility.