Liverpool Draw Record Crowd to Hull

The match between Hull City and Liverpool on 1st December 2013 is only the 20th time the two clubs have met in competitive games and friendlies.  Games in Hull have generally taken place at Boothferry Park and more recently the KC Stadium, but the very first meeting between the sides in 1905 attracted a record football crowd to The Boulevard.

Promotion chasing Liverpool’s 2-1 defeat to Everton in an FA Cup 1st round replay left them with a free Saturday on 18th February. They agreed to take part in a friendly fixture with Hull City, who had only been formed in June the previous year and were still not members of any league.

There was a lot of excitement amongst football fans in a city dominated by rugby league, with the Hull Daily Mail commenting on 9th February that ‘supporters at Hull cannot help but rejoice in their misfortune’  when it was confirmed Liverpool’s cup exit meant they were coming to The Boulevard. The paper also wrote that there would be five internationals in the Liverpool team, one of whom Alex Raisbeck was the brother of City’s half back Andrew. He had been at Liverpool with his brother between 1901 and 1904, but never featured for the 1st team.

On Thursday 16th February the Hull Daily Mail predicted that the game would be witnessed by a record crowd for association football, and praised the board of the club for their enterprise. The paper wrote that as the season had progressed followers of Hull FC had began to accept that there was room for two types of football in the city providing it was of sufficient quality, concluding that ‘the general public cares not one joy whether one club or another provides the good football.’

The Liverpool team were described as a ‘combination of star performers as has never been seen in Hull before.’ Many pass holders who could have got in for nothing also indicated they were willing to still pay the 6d admission in recognition of the efforts in bringing such a star studded line up to the city.

Hull Daily Mail 16th February 1905
From the Hull Daily Mail 16th February 1905

The gates opened early for the 3.15pm kick off and a crowd of 8,000 attended, he highest to watch Hull City at The Boulevard to date. Liverpool’s secretary-manager Tom Watson watched from the stands, sat amongst a number of directors and shareholders of the rugby league club who expressed their approval of the entertainment on offer. The paper described how Liverpool’s forwards ‘weaved their way through by masterly dribbling which was invigorating to watch.’ They also claimed the Reds would more than hold their own against half the teams from the 1st Division.

The match may have been a friendly but Reds half back and captain Alex Raisbeck was in fine form, breaking up nearly every opposition attack and distributing the ball forward. This led to Hull trying their luck down the flanks, where their pacey wingers caused the Liverpool full backs numerous problems Ned Doig in goal was tested on a number of occasions.

Liverpool’s superiority showed though and they ran out 6-2 winners. Jack Parkinson scored a hat trick and Raisbeck got a goal himself with a shot from near the halfway line. The home side certainly hadn’t disgraced themselves though and Watson told those around him that he thought they would be worthy applicants should they try to gain admission to the Football League.

That evening, both sets of players watched Beauty and the Beast at the Alexandra Theatre. The following day Liverpool’s players headed for Hornsea, where they stayed for six nights to prepare for the following Saturday’s crucial league game at Grimsby.

The Reds beat Grimsby 1-0 and in the summer Hull City’s application to join the Football League was accepted. They wouldn’t be facing Liverpool though, as they won promotion to the top flight and it would not be until 1954-55 that the two sides met in a league fixture.

In 2008, Hull finally lost its status as the biggest city in England that had never had a top flight club. However the dominance of the oval ball there can still be seen today with the name Hull FC referring to a rugby league club, with Hull City having had to distinguish itself by having ‘association football club’ in its name. In 2013 that has changed though with owner Assem Allam removing that phrase completely and re-registering the club as ‘Hull City Tigers.’

The Boulevard in 2009 (Paul Glazzard)