1948-49: A Magical Season

Last updated : 03 January 2002 By Historian
Carter's logic for accepting the City post was twofold: he believed he could learn from the vastly experienced Major Buckley - then manager of the Tigers - and that Buckley's advancing years offered him the best chance of moving up to manager within a reasonable time span.

His thinking was spot on in the second item, but the chance of benefiting from Buckley's experience never materialised for Buckley - angered by the way the Board had conducted themselves in the acquisition of Carter - was gone before Carter even had chance to hang his coat up! Within two weeks of Carter making his Tiger debut as a player, he was making his Tiger debut as manager.

Carter's experience as a player of immense quality and tactical acumen with Sunderland and Derby, coupled with his international pedigree gave him sufficient insight to approach the job in the cool methodical manner that had been his trademark as a player. He had been a magician on the field many times, could he perform the same act as manager?

He quickly identified the strengths and weaknesses of his playing staff and realised that he had some useful players who were currently playing in positions not best suited to their talents. Amongst his first tasks as manager was to convert Tom Berry from a half-back to left-back, Denis Durham from 'jack of all trades' to left-half and Ken Harrison from inside forward to outside-right. He supplemented this by bringing in the experienced former England international, Eddie Burbanks, from Sunderland.

These positional manoeuvrings had an immediate impact as City began the 1948/49 season. They were unbeaten in their first eleven League matches and broke records along the way as they took the Division 3 (N) championship in style as well as putting up a number of creditable performances in the F.A. Cup. Directing operations (often literally) on the field of play he developed a team that played with courage, heart and style.

Skilful football, stout defending and ferocious attacking were the trademarks of a Tigers season that many will contend was its most successful ever, whenever the history of Hull City is analysed. That unbeaten opening run was a record; 30 goals for and 6 against, it set the standard for the season.

After losing 1-0 at home to Darlington, it would be another 12 matches before they tasted defeat again. In the midst of that run came a double header, at Christmas, against Rotherham. The Tigers took the honours both on and off the field, winning 3-2 at home, and drawing 0-0 away.

The attendance - recorded as 49,655 - for the Boothferry Park encounter set records for the ground, and the Division. The ground record would be broken two months later when Manchester United were victorious visitors in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup. A crowd of 55,019 witnessed the event and in doing so set a record that has still to be bettered for a City home game - and it probably never will be.

Free of their Cup distractions, the Tigers were now able to concentrate on the League and make up the lost ground on Rotherham. They would need all of their football skills and more. The 'more' would prove to be spirit and it was, perhaps, that extra ingredient that was the greatest trick of Carter's early stewardship of the Tigers. During his short time in charge he had instilled in his team a spirit. It was this spirit that played a major part in the success of season 1948/49.

It was team spirit, as much as anything else, that carried them through a season heavily demanding in both League and Cup. It was team spirit that helped to overcome injuries to crucial members of the team at various times of the season, with no drop in standards, or performance. It was team spirit that saw off Rotherham United.

Rotherham had initially pursued the Tigers in the League, and when the 'Millers' were able to concentrate solely on the League, whilst the Tigers still had both League and Cup to concern them, it was that team spirit that ensured that City did not lose sight of the primary task in hand and overhaul Rotherham to regain top spot just when it mattered.

The bare facts show that City ensured promotion by beating Stockport County 6-1 with two games to spare. In reaching that point they had won 27 of their 40 games, losing four - only one away defeat all season: 2-4 at Bradford City - and drawing nine. Along the way they set records on and off the field in terms of victories, defeats and attendances.

It was a magical season, and Carter was the magician.