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Down Memory Lane With David Coates

Posted on: Wed 17 Nov 2004

In this week's edition, John Maffin walks down Memory Lane with ex-Tiger David Coates.

Last year, Newcastle born ex-Tiger David Coates celebrated 50 years in football.

He began his league career with Hull City and went on to play for Mansfield Town and Notts County before embarking on a long and successful career in coaching and scouting for top clubs.

On leaving school aged 15 years, David played for Fatfield Juniors under 18s side.  He also featured in the Durham County youth team where his talents drew the attention of ex-Hull City manager John [Jack] Hill.

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"Jack Hill had been Hull's manager between 1934-1936 and then went on to be the club's chief scout.

"He came to see me play for Fatfield and for the county side. I signed for Hull City on 18 October 1952 and arrived at Boothferry Park a couple of weeks later.

"I found myself playing in a very successful junior team that won the Northern Intermediate League 1952/53.  We also won the cup that year.

"I remember that we beat Leeds 4-0 in the final on the last day of the season at Boothferry Park.  Jack Charlton was in the Leeds side.

At the time, David was feeling homesick and had wanted to return home to the North-east after the game.

Unfortunately, first team manager Bob Jackson had told players to report to Boothferry Park the following Monday to be advised if they were to be retained by the club.

"I went to see the manager just before the final to ask if I could go straight home after the game.  He told me that I was to be retained and that if we won the final I could go home immediately after the match.

"I was so confident we'd win that I ordered a taxi for 4.50pm and in fact was on the train at quarter past five - heading home!"

"Bob was an ex-Portsmouth manager who'd come to Boothferry Park in the footsteps of the great Raich Carter.  Hull have always been a big club.  They had a sizeable squad - including four keepers and four outside lefts!

"That year they escaped relegation through a goal by Brian Bullass who had scored on his debut."

In fact, David spent only six months at Boothferry Park before having to report for two years National Service. 

When he returned to the ground in August 1955, Bob Brocklebank was the man in charge - the previous incumbent having been dismissed.

A back injury kept David out of matches until December 1955. Thereafter, he made appearances for the third team. The club was relegated that season to the third division.

In the following season, he played ten games in the reserves before making his league debut on 22 September against Wrexham.

"It was great to get a look in to the first team. In the pecking order, I was behind the likes of players like Bill Bradbury, Doug Clark, Brian Bulless and Brian Cripsey.

During the 1957/58 season, David played twice in the first team and got his first league goal against Bury. His patience and hard work were soon to be rewarded.

A natural athlete, his pace, enthusiasm and endurance earned him the complement of being a "box to box" player.

"I always trained hard and at the start of the 1958/59 season, I'd improved my weight and felt exceptionally fit. On arrival at the club I'd been a little on the slim side.  

"I was still learning my trade at that point. Jimmy Lodge advised me to use Dennis Durham as a role model. He was an exceptionally good professional and a man of very few words. He was a listener and a thinker.

"Just before the first game of the new season, Dennis asked me if I'd been picked. I told him I was not named in the first team. He told me that I deserved to be in the side."

In fact, the season started badly for the Tigers with two defeats and a draw in the first three games.

Those results opened the door - and aside from being left out of two games, he was en ever present in the team for the rest of the season.

"Bob Brocklebank dropped five first team players after that poor run of results.

"Up to that point, my confidence had been low. Playing in the shadow of the senior players, I just didn't feel good enough.

"Becoming a first team regular did wonders for my confidence. It helped being moved upwards with Michael Bowering who had also been in the reserves. Later in the season Brian Garvey joined us in the first team."

A further boost to David's confidence came when Raich Carter arrived at Boothferry Park on a scouting mission. 

By then a manager with Leeds United, the ex-Hull player-manager was asked by a local reporter if anyone had impressed him at the game.

"Raich told the reporter that he had been impressed with my enthusiasm and energy for the game. Within 2 years Raich signed me when he became manager at Mansfield."

Having made the first team, things on the field didn't improve immediately. A 6-1 defeat at Southampton put pressure on Brocklebank's judgement.

After seven games, the Tigers were 2nd from bottom of the third division.

Things looked desperate. Then, suddenly it all came right.

"The manager changed things round a bit. Doug Clark was moved out on to the wing and Colin Smith came in at centre forward. 

"He'd been in and out of the first team up until that point.

"There had been some complacency in the first team from the regulars who it seemed didn't feel their places were threatened.

"Suddenly, the enthusiasm of youth lit up the side and we went on to have a much-improved season with two spells of six victories on the trot."

That season the Tigers home record was astounding. With 23 games played, 19 were victories with only one defeat. Of the three draws, two had been very early in the season.

It was a remarkable transition. They were promoted in second place - a point behind Plymouth Argyle.

"Bob Brocklebank was a nice well-respected man. He was always well dressed with a suit and tie. His bold changes that season paid dividends."

David left the Tigers in March 1960.  The side had just been promoted and he was dropped after 11 matches to make way for new signings Roy Shiner, Jackie Sewell and Ralph Gubbins. 

"I really enjoyed my playing days at Hull City.  Perhaps my most memorable game was at Anfield against Liverpool in September 1959."

David scored twice for the Tigers either side of half-time. The goals spurred Liverpool into a fight-back and the dramatic tie finished 5-2 in favour of the home side.

From a catalogue of wonderful stories, David recalls an away match at Bristol City on 12 September 1959.

"It was Charlie Crickmore's debut.  I scored the only goal of the game and the next day the press waxed lyrical about what they described as a wonderful shot.

"I'd aimed to strike the ball high to the 'keeper's right, but miscued.  It ended up being a daisy cutter to his left!

"After the game, we had only minutes to catch the train to Sheffield and a rendezvous with the team bus. We boarded the train with seconds to spare - still in our kit!

"At the stop before Sheffield, Bill Bradbury, Brian Bulles and Doug Clarke jumped off the train to buy a few cans of beer on the platform.  Unfortunately, the train pulled out before they could get back on again!

"They caught the next train and arrived at Sheffield an hour after the rest of the team.  We thought it was hilarious - but the manager was furious!"

David played football at Hull City with many other famous names in the history of the club including Billy Bly, Andy Davidson and Viggo Jensen - to name but a few.

"Viggo was a good player - an all rounder. He was certainly a ball winner and a very accurate passer of the ball. He was always immaculately dressed.

After leaving the Tigers, David spent four years at Mansfield Town playing with Ken Wagstaff who earned his debut in David's first season at Field Mill.

"I was fortunate to be entertained by Waggy's great skills and character.  Raich Carter was an exceptional manager and also the greatest personality I have ever met in a lifetime in football.

"Hull was a big club - well organised and well run. I always say that Mansfield was a "whacky" club - more relaxed."

David ended his playing career with Notts County who eventually took him on the coaching staff.

David then went on to Aston Villa and then spent nine years at Leicester as reserve team coach under manager Jimmy Bloomfield.

In 1978, he went to Luton and under David Pleat held posts successively as reserve team and first team coach. 

In that period, the club developed around 20 players who went on to gain International recognition.

From 1985, David held posts as chief scout successively at Oxford, Stoke, Plymouth and Sunderland - before again taking up a coaching position at Stoke - this time under Lou Macari.

In a two-year period up until 1999, he was chief scout at Bolton and has since carried out scouting work for Preston and Leeds United.

For the last two seasons David has enjoyed scouting for Portsmouth under Harry Rednap. 

He currently watches about four matches a week and regularly files reports on opposition sides for forthcoming games.

David Coates played 62 league games for Hull City - plus 1 in the FA Cup. He scored a total of 13 league goals. 

Since those days, he has amassed a vast amount of football knowledge and experience.

He has wonderful memories of his time with the Tigers.  His wife Sheila is from Hull and both send their best regards to everyone in the City.

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