I don't need to have seen Chillo play to know he’s the greatest...
I was reflecting on the topics I’ve covered in the last year recently and I concluded that the most responded to blogs are often paying tribute to former players from days gone by. I guess that’s inevitable when we as a fan base and indeed as people like to look back and reminisce. It’s a comforting thing, all you have to do is observe the way culture loves to look back, whether in fashion, music, sport or television to see that it’s a modern phenomenon.
Now as I’m of a certain age so my generation of tributes are generally players in the eighties. Thus Peter Skipper, Stan McEwan and Tony Norman were all covered, I think I’ll try to get more of the class of 82-89 in a various points too. I’ve also done a modern one in Lewie Coyle and I guess as a City fan for forty years there’s plenty of scope to cover various eras. It’s all relative so I’ll always love those eighties players a little more whereas for younger fans it might be Ashbee, Delaney and Myhill and younger still Robbo, Abel and Harry.
But one thing I’ve never written on was the great team of the later sixties and seventies. Mainly as I was born at the end of it and didn’t see any of that era unless it’s in clips on Tiger tube or written about in books on the club. But for my Dad’s generation it’s not Skip, it’s not Ash and it’s not Geo that sets the hearts racing and gives them that glow. It’s Chillo and Waggy.
So I thought to myself that even though I wasn’t lucky enough to see him play, it was time to pay tribute to the greatest goal scorer in the history of our club, but through other people’s words rather than mine. Because what Chris Chilton did was incredibly special and if you don’t know where your club emerged from, you rarely understand the importance of where it should go next.
Chillo’s passing was a painful one for a generation of City fans, he represented everything they loved about the club, a local boy that rose up through the ranks and became something that nobody imagined he could have been, the very very best we ever had. The generation of sixty somethings plus just marvel at him and are misty eyed as they recall his pomp.
Chris and his family’s struggle with his dementia made national coverage as his wife Margaret bravely shared just what a hard ordeal it had become on BBC radio a couple of years back. The club (no matter what you think of the previous owners) rose to the occasion and did some fantastic work to help support the family alongside a fan’s fundraiser that went way beyond anyone’s expectations. This was a measure of what Chris meant to the people of Hull and beyond and also how fantastically warm our supporters can be in their best moments.
I watched the video back today and Robbie Savage and Chris Sutton were both brilliant in their response to Margaret and they showed humility and decency that you don’t often hear in football media in modern times. It’s still a hard listen. Chris deserved better than what the PFA gave him but it makes me prouder to be a City fan to know that their love of the big man helped the family in their dark hour. He’s at peace now although his memory is always going to remain strong and the new owners giving his name to our East stand is an apt tribute to the man that gave a generation so much to be proud of.
I grew up listening to stories of Waggy and Chillo from my Dad and my Uncles, they are superheroes to them. It was an era when players weren’t so different from the punters paying their money to watch and the warmth they described the two with was something I’d never really witnessed at this early point in my fandom.
My Dad Geoff says. “I first saw Chris Chilton play at BP in the very early sixties he was a Centre Forward who was tall, strong and quick. He was excellent in the air and scored many a goal with his head. Some would say a bustling old school centre forward. He came to the fore when he was joined at City by Ken Wagstaff in 1964 The pair worked well together with Chris often laying the ball off to Wagstaff the pair were probably the best two Hull City forwards of that era. Both showed tremendous goal scoring records. Season 65/66 stood out with Chris scoring 29 goals and Waggy 31”
Perhaps Chris was what we’d see now as a target man, yet if we watched the clips from this era you’d see what my Dad means about pace, he often went on the shoulder of the centre backs and simply ran away from them, he also had a fantastically good touch and quick feet, sometimes squeezing shots in from the most unlikely angles.
“I remember one game in 1965 when Chris scored a hat trick against Oldham in a 5-1 win he was a striker to be feared by defenders and I’m sure could have played at the highest level for club and country. On March 5th 1971 I saw Chris play in the Battle of Bramhall Lane he didn’t score but Wagstaff and Simpkin did in a bruising battle in front of 40,277 fans in the three sided Stadium (It was still used for Yorkshire Cricket) Chris’s workfare in that game was phenomenal! A game to remember.”
The game I think I ever heard the most about was the win at Sheffield United in 1971, the old man says he was utterly convinced we were heading to the top league that night, but it wasn’t quite to be. As he makes the point Chris was also incredibly unselfish, holding balls up, nodding them down and creating endless chances for Ken Wagstaff who was the proverbial fox in the box.
My Uncle Dave was at both the Chelsea FA Cup games in 1966 where we took an all-star team to the very limits in a replay he says..
“I travelled overnight on the mail train from Paragon arrived in London at 0530am 26th March 1965 for the FA CUP Quarter Final. The Chelsea pitch was atrocious in those days.
Despite the conditions Waggy and Chillo were awesome moving the ball with such ease.
A great team effort. We should have won it but for some poor refereeing decisions including a blatant penalty also Peter Bonnetti made a string of fine saves from Chillo so it ended 2-2. The replay at Boothferry Park saw 45,328, packed in and played on an award-winning pitch that played into the hands of Chelsea and we lost 3-1.
In the same season we played a mid-week game and ran riot with 4 goals in the first 5 mins. Can you imagine being disappointed at only winning 6-1? In later life I met a Purchasing Manager for a household name. He was a Bournemouth supporter but was able to 'run through' the names of the Hull City team and still raved about Chillo & Waggy. Happy days indeed.”
Injury robbed him of scoring even more than his insane tally of 222 and his transfer to Coventry really was a short-lived change as he had to retire professionally the next season. Both my Dad and Dave insist he was good enough to play internationally and it’s hard not to agree. A goal every two games when you shared them around with another lethal striker isn’t just rare, it’s pretty much unheard of.
I do remember seeing Chillo in the dugout in the eighties when he was assistant to Colin Appleton and he also oversaw a golden era of youth players during his spell in charge of the juniors. With the likes of Marwood and McLaren coming through under his watchful eye. I still find it amazing that Billy Whitehurst who is so revered as a target man credited Chillo above all others with helping him. Perhaps it was the sports mail or in a programme but I remember Big Bill warmly remembering the extra hours Chris put in to turn him into the striker that was feared around the league.
Striker, mentor, coach and local hero, it’s not hard to imagine why he was so loved and going back to do some research on this piece it’s clear that being beloved to Chris’s level wasn’t simply to do with his ability, it was as much about personality and the ability to connect to a fan base that saw him as one of them. Why did they? Because he was one of them, and you can’t beat that.
I’m proud they named the East Stand after you Chillo, without you, my old man doesn’t love the club as much and therefore neither would I. You led a generation into supporting the club, that then have led two or three more generations into the ground. In an era where the club are battling to get people back in the stands you’re the reason thousands of us are here, and the truth is if we get somebody half as good as you, more will return.…rest in peace.
I’ll give the old man the final word on him as he recalls meeting him one last time.
“I met Chris Chilton at his book signing at the KCOM stadium and had a lovely conversation with him about Football Coaching and Hull City! He kindly signed the books for myself and my son. A true gentleman and Hull City legend”
Thanks for reading. UTT.
*The Hull City supporters trust are selling off the match worn “Chillo 222” t-shirts that the club kindly donated to us last year click on the following link if you’d like to buy one, all proceeds will be donated to Dementia Friendly East Riding, there are limited numbers left so if you want one, don't hang about!*