1961-1980: Rising under Britton then Decline
Feature by Historian
Updated Wednesday, 2nd January 2002
Although not having the same immediate impact as Raich Carter, Cliff Britton steadily built a team that was capable of resurrecting the Tigers' flagging fortunes.During the 1964/65 season, Harold Needler again provided money that allowed Britton to acquire a young forward who was to become a legend in the club's history to rival, if not surpass, Raich Carter.
Ken Wagstaff, or 'Waggy' as he came to be christened, arrived from Mansfield Town for the princely sum of £40,000. His goalscoring ability and the partnership he forged with the locally born Chris Chilton, struck fear into the hearts of defenders everywhere. They were commonly regarded as the most potent strikeforce outside of the First Division. In addition, Britton brought to the club two other attack minded players in the shape of Ken Houghton and Ian Butler. The club narrowly missed out on promotion but the following season saw them storm back into the Second Division as champions, scoring 109 goals. Waggy's contribution of 31 in all competitions for the season set a new post-war record previously held by Bill Bradbury. They also enjoyed another fine FA Cup run, holding Chelsea to a 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge in the quarter-final, losing the replay 3-1 at Boothferry Park before a gate of 45,328.
Season 1966/67 saw the Tigers anticipating another surge towards Division One, but whilst Britton had bought wisely in the past, he failed to strengthen the squad sufficiently for this new campaign, choosing to remain loyal to the players who had already achieved so much. Whilst the squad he had at his disposal was good enough to head the table by the end of September, it was not strong enough to maintain that position or withstand the serious injuries that affected key players. Eventually they finished in mid-table, a position that they were to make their own for the next twelve seasons.
Despite the arrival of Terry Neil as player manager in 1970, their role as promotion contenders was never one they could sustain and any flirtation with relegation was eventually overcome. The 1977/78 season saw their luck run out however and they once more returned to the Third Division. The Promised Land seemed further away than ever. The prospect of better times ahead seemed a possibility.