1998 1999 Hull City Away Football Shirt Large

Stock Status: In Stock

This is a Hull City Official Olympic Sport Away Shirt from the 1998/99 season

CONDITION - Shirt is in very good condition

CONDITION DETAILS - Colours are good with just slight fade to the sponsor. 

SIZE - Adults 42/44" - Large
Armpit to armpit 22 inches. Top of shoulder to bottom of the shirt 29 inches

MADE - by Olympic Sport

DETAIL - Away shirt as worn in the Great Escape season. 

See report from Hull Live in Dec 2020 below about the season

The final days of 1998 saw Hull City wallowing in the depths of despair. A 3-2 defeat away to Shrewsbury Town had left the Tigers six points adrift at the bottom of the Football League and rapidly losing all hope.

The trapdoor that led to the Conference creaked beneath Warren Joyce and his side. Oblivion beckoned.

Something special was needed to save City and what followed in the second half of the 1998-99 season was certainly that. A run of just three defeats came in 21 games staved off the threat of an unthinkable relegation, creating what has affectionately become known as The Great Escape.

The warning signs had been flashing for Hull City since an embarrassing relegation to the fourth tier was signed off in 1996. Financial woes had brought finishes of 17th and 22nd, the lowest in the club’s history, and the appointment of Mark Hateley had done nothing to halt the downward spiral.

The 1998-99 campaign began with just three wins and 12 points collected from 17 games. The 1-0 defeat at home to Leyton Orient in early November turned out to be Hateley’s last stand and led chairman Tom Belton to appoint midfielder Warren Joyce as player-manager.

“There was an atmosphere around the place that you could sense, it was a real disconnect between players and management,” said Brown, who had arrived from Manchester United at the start of the 1997-98 season.

“I personally didn’t feel that because I’d been signed by the manager but there was a large part of the squad that didn’t get on.

“Joycey just went back to basics. It’s a bit like Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Man United now following Jose Mourinho. He’s not changed the players or the formation but he’s found a way of getting the best from the players. When Joycey took over all of a sudden everyone was on board.”

But there was no quick fix. Six of the seven games that followed Hateley’s departure ended in defeat, with a 1-0 win at home to Carlisle the only respite.

That was the first of Whittle’s 219 appearances for City. “You could see people were a bit down. We had a few players out injured and needed a lift. I remember the Carlisle game and luckily enough we won 1-0. Craig Dudley scored late on from a corner. It didn’t get better overnight though.”

No Christmas cheer

December of 1998 was truly dismal for the Tigers. Although there was progress in the FA Cup when upsetting Luton Town to set up a third round trip to Aston Villa, City lost four straight league games against Torquay, Swansea, Chester and Shrewsbury.

“Just after Christmas, very late December, we lost at Shrewsbury having led and that was the day I gave it up,” said Dalton. “I fully expected City to become a non-league club.  I remember coming home from Shrewsbury and talking about all the places we’d have to go to, like Forest Green Rovers and other clubs we’d never heard of. I was terrified.”

Whittle also shudders at the mention of Shrewsbury. “I thought I was a bit of a player. I tried to chest down a ball that came to me. I ended up chesting it down to their centre forward and he stuck it in the top corner. From that moment on I just headed it away. I never chested it down again.”

Jon Whitney, signed from Lincoln to strengthen a porous defence, knew he had joined a club in deep trouble. “Losing can become a habit and I sensed people were down. There was some good individual players there but they’d not gelled as a team.

“They’d lost their way and were in a blame culture. There was a split and it just needed someone to bring the right characters together. I was good at finding positives. If we could pull it off, we’d be heroes.”

Joyce adopted a pragmatic approach as manager from the outset and that was reflected in his transfer policy. Andy Oakes, Jason Perry, Steve Swales and Gareth Williams had joined Whittle and Whitney in the closing weeks of 1998 before Gary Brabin and Colin Alcide accelerated the transformation of Joyce’s squad when arriving early in the New Year.

“They were like the Dirty Dozen,” said Joyce. “You were persuading people to come to a club that might drop out of the league. We went to other teams and signed all the problem players they didn’t want.

“Maybe it was because they were strong characters that they were perceived to be bad apples. They spoke their mind and were competitive and that doesn’t suit all people.”

Brabin’s debut came against Rotherham United on January 9, 1999 but it was Mark Bonner, signed on loan from Cardiff at the same time, who immediately earned a place in club folklore when scoring the winner in his one and only game for the Tigers.

“It breaks my heart even now when I think that it’s gone but Boothferry Park was in a state back then,” said Brabin. “It needed a lift but whole football clubs feel like they wake up when you start winning matches. And that’s what happened.

“I remember my first game against Rotherham. I set up Mark Bonner for the goal. That was his only game before he got injured. We went on a great run from there but from that day and you straight away I felt we were as one with the fans.”

An overhauled City side beat Hartlepool 4-0 in their next game before drawing 1-1 away to promotion-chasing Peterborough.

“I enjoyed that one,” said Whitney, who scored a magnificent goal at London Road. “I had the kids playing that one the other weekend online. It was a so-called 40-yarder but I think it was more like 25 watching it back. That was around the time we started to come together. We used to see if teams really fancied it when we were stood in the tunnel. Not many of them did.”

"We made it into a scrap," said Whittle. "We knew that other teams were better at playing football than us but we had the players who were willing to give 100 per cent.

"It didn’t matter if we only touched the ball twice so long as we got a goal. Then we’d shut up shop and no-one was getting past us. We had that togetherness to get through."

Climbing off rock-bottom

If eight points from four games in January had brought the first rays of hope, it was a trip to Brentford in early February that for many has come to stand as the Great Escape’s defining fixture.

Against a host that would go on to win the title under Ron Noades, City produced a superb 2-0 win thanks to the goals of Alcide on debut and Brown.

“The Brentford win was a big one,” said Brown. “We weren’t expected to win, the pitch was awful and we managed to get three points. Some of the wins were ugly but they were functional.

“We started winning games where before we’d have caved in. You start winning games and then start to believe you can get out of trouble. We were on the brink of collapse on and off the pitch so to turn it around was pretty amazing.”

Brabin epitomised the new-found steel within City, a menacing figure in midfield. "I looked at a football ground like it was a gladiator’s arena," he said. "I’d want to win more than anyone I came up against. I wanted to boss the game more than anyone on the opposition.

"That was just the way I’d always wanted to play. Sometimes it got me into trouble but sometimes it worked in my favour and my team’s favour to be like I was. I’d never have gone there if I thought I was going to get relegated but I knew there was players there who’d give as much fight as myself.

“Once you’re in that predicament, you needed players who would fight to stay up. Make no bones about it, there were some good young players there but that moment required players who would roll up their sleeves and fight for it.

“You wouldn’t call David Brown a fighter but he was a fighter in different ways. He wanted to win just as much as me or anyone else. Everyone was desperate to do well and we fed off each other.”

A following of 2,000 had travelled to Griffin Park to see that famous win in West London and were rewarded with a climb up off the foot of the table. Scarborough’s heavy defeat to Exeter ensured City were no longer bottom of the pile.

“All of a sudden we had a team that fought and scrapped and battled,” said Dalton. “They looked like they wanted it as much as us. They had limited ability but unlimited tenacity.”

Smells like team spirit

A run of five games unbeaten ended with a defeat away to Rochdale, a juddering night best remembered as City’s first televised fixture, but it had become clear that Joyce was building a band of brothers.

“We’d all go out and have a laugh,” said Brabin, ring-master of social gatherings. “It wasn’t one where we’d go out and lash as much ale as we could down our necks. People were going out and enjoying themselves.

“It was never anything ridiculous like dentists chairs, just a load of lads making each other laugh. It was a real togetherness. You'd look forward going into training every day and especially the games.”

Whitney is in full agreement. “If we did anything, we’d all do it together,” he said. “On and off the pitch. We didn’t have time to get to know each other so we spent a lot of time away from families to build up a bond.

“There was some wild nights but it was fun. It was all done with a good heart. You needed to escape the pressure at some point.”

Whittle laughs at the memories. “Gary Brabin and Jon Whitney, oh my God. If you went out with those two you knew you were in for a good time. I remember a food fight at Mr Chus one night. It was chaos.”

If nights out were wild, so were training sessions. “We had some real nutcases,” added Whittle. “A tough team that trained like we played. Everyone was 100 per cent. We’d train for hours on a Friday kicking lumps out of each other but that was the mentality. It was full-on.”

“The intensity was ferocious at times, blood and guts,” Whitney added. “A few people being spread apart. That’s what we needed to get out of trouble. Flair wasn't going to get us out of that hole.”

City duly kept on rolling through February and into March. Narrow wins over Darlington and Halifax built momentum before a run of three straight victories against Leyton Orient, Plymouth and Southend plumped up a once unthinkable cushion.

“Southend away was the big one for me,” said Joyce. “A professional performance. The trip back was ridiculous. Pure spirit and camaraderie on the bus home. Big wins came after that but that was the one for me. Dai D’Auria scored a great goal and it was then I thought that was us staying up.”

Scarborough and a packed Boothferry

The finishing line was in sight for a resurgent City side by the time drop rivals Scarborough arrived at Boothferry Park in early April. A win would all-but secure survival and supporters flocked back.

“I remember the club announcing an official attendance of 13,949,” said Dalton. “It’s a figure I’ll never forget. We met Tom Belton in Three Tuns after the match and said ‘Tom, what was the crowd today?’

“He said ‘We’re going to announce 13,949’ and then winked. It can’t have been anything under 18,000 or 19,000. It was ridiculous.”

"To see Boothferry Park packed out was great," said Whitney. "I’ve got really fond memories of that. That’s when it hit you how big a club it was."

Brabin’s opener was cancelled out by Scarborough’s second-half equaliser and though a 1-1 draw carried some frustration, it was an afternoon that demonstrated unity between players and supporters.

“Players were in touch with the fans and there was a bond,” said Brabin. “Football’s changed so much. You look at the players now and it’s all glorified. You can’t touch it, it’s not real.

“Playing for that Hull side there was a connection between players and fans. It was brilliant. We’d go out socially together and end up having fans join us for the whole night. It was more real then and people will look back on those days and probably miss them.”

Whitney added: “We gave the fans hope that year and they were in there fighting with us. We were together as one and that’s rare with football now.”

The final straight to salvation

City still had work to do in the season’s final month. Away points at Cardiff and Carlisle sandwiched a vital 2-1 win at home to Exeter before a 0-0 draw away to Brighton brought City within touching distance of safety.

“I remember going swimming in the sea the night before that game,” said Whitney. “You want your players tucked up in bed the night before a game and there was us in the sea. We tried to make the most of every experience. We’d never worry about the opposition. We’d turn up with that real belief in our ability. Joycey had real trust and belief in us.”

All that was needed was for the Tigers to avoid defeat at home to Torquay United on the penultimate weekend for safety to be mathematically assured. David Brown’s cool finish past Neville Southall in a 1-0 win, his 11th of the season, was decisive.

“You could see what it meant to people,” said the forward. “The fans appreciated what we’d done. The atmosphere Joycey created was about more than just 11 players on a Saturday. Everyone bought into it. You see other clubs where the fans turn and there’s no way back. But the fans here played a big part turning it around.”

City eventually finished the 1998-99 season in 21st place, five points ahead of a Scarborough side relegated on the final day of the campaign when Carlisle United goalkeeper Jimmy Glass bagged his iconic goal in stoppage time.

“Every so often, whether it’s by accident or design, a team comes together that you’re proud of,” said Dalton. “You want players to put the same effort in as you would do playing for City. And that team had that. Something clicked. We all fed off each other for that short but brilliant period.”

The magic conjured by Joyce was not enough to buy him time and within 12 months of securing safety City had turned to Brian Little as his successor. Off-field turmoil followed until Adam Pearson’s arrival sparked a climb up the Football League but a journey that concluded with promotion to the Premier League in 2008 owed plenty to the act of escapology led by Joyce.

“You look at the teams we played that season who aren’t in the Football League anymore and that could easily have been Hull City,” said Whittle. “Once a team goes down, no matter what level it’s at, it’s not easy to come back again.

“To drop out of the Football League it can be a long, long road back. That’s why the Great Escape season means so much to fans and why so many people remember it.”

“It was a bygone era,” added Whitney. “That season is a relic of the past now. I doubt anything like that will happen again. I think that’s why fans remember it so fondly, because those days are gone. That’s why they’re special.

“Even now, when I’m driving up the A1 or coming along the M62, I see the Hull sign and still get a nice little warm smile. They were great times.”

“It was a turning point in the club’s history,” said Brabin. “It was almost the end of an era at Boothferry Park and it could have been a disaster had the club got down but that season helped kick-start things.

"New owners came along and they’ve not really looked back. It wasn’t until it was actually over that you grasped what it meant. I look back on those days and I’m dead proud."

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