5. Oct, 2022

The boy was a larker. Part One. Steve Massey

When some kids played football in my era they pretended to be Brian Robson, Gary Lineker or Glenn Hoddle. Ten-year-old me pretended to be one of two players. If I was defending I was Stan McEwan, the swashbuckling, distance shooting, penalty and free kick king that was the sizzle to Pete Skipper’s steak. But if I was attacking I was Steve Massey, the uber cool, pacey, dynamic attacker that looked more like a pop star than a footballer. In both cases it was pretty clear why. They were just so effortlessly ace, Stan with his mullet and 35-yard piledrivers, Mass with his bleach blonde hair and mazy runs at hapless defenders and habit of scoring the important goals. Shirts tucked out, Adidas World Cup’s on, alongside Gareth Roberts and Peter Skipper, these four were like a Humber version of the Beatles, little wonder kids wanted to emulate them. 

Steve Massey joined City in the summer of 1983 from Northampton Town, it really wasn’t very complex scouting, he’d been one of the outstanding players in the division where Northampton were mid-table, but City had been promoted the year before. When you bag twenty-five goals in just sixty appearances over two seasons you’re going to be noticed and so Don Robinson dusted off the cheque book to bring him to Boothferry Park.

City were well and truly on the up in this and perhaps only Peter Taylor in the the early two thousands could match it in terms of optimism and entertainment as we climbed divisions. But if Steve was unlucky with one thing though, it was that he was around a large talent pool that were growing alongside the club. Billy Whitehurst was well and truly on the journey that would make him a division one striker, Brian Marwood was arguably the most able player of this era full stop for us and in Andy Flounders you had a player who despite not having the physicality of Big Bill or sheer class of Marwood, had an uncanny habit of popping up and scoring goals. 

However, he started quick, as on the first day of the season Burnley were brushed aside in a commanding 4-1 win and the boy himself scored twice. Big Billy scored two as well as City announced themselves to the league, despite going up last year we weren’t there to make up the numbers and Burnley with large numbers in the away end and a big reputation were no match. I think this was a key game in younger me deciding to emulate Mass on school playgrounds over the next two seasons. He frightened the life out of Burnley, picking the ball up from midfield and running at the heart of them and terrifying their defence.

As Steve himself said on the excellent “This was Boothferry Park” podcast, he was often asked to play a role in his time at City that wasn’t entirely him, we’d move him wide, to accommodate more strikers and although it probably didn’t do his short-term goals much good, he’d plug in where he could. The rest of that season saw him used either off the bench or wide and occasionally down the middle, he still scored the winner in the derby game vs Scunthorpe on Boxing Day 1983 and a vital win at Southend in the run in that spring. The season was to end in heartbreak for the team and fans though as we missed out on promotion on goals scored on the final game of the season. Burnley seemingly happy as Larry to lose 2-0 and enable Sheffield United to take third spot. Something a generation of City fans have forgave neither for.

The next season was one to remember with Brian Horton coming in and this time City consistently being one of the best teams in the league. Marwood was gone, to the blue half of Sheffield but in his absence, we didn’t miss a beat. Mass again was often playing either in unorthodox positions or as a game changing sub, but he was an important dynamic in Horton’s plans. Again, he delivered when really needed. He got us back in the game at Orient when an incredible comeback saw City reverse a 4-1 deficit to win 5-4 and, in the moments where we had to hold strong during the run in, he bagged a crucial goal as we turned around an early goal to beat Wigan 3-1. In a promotion season you need a squad and for players to turn up when there’s injuries and tired legs, Mass was sometimes a super sub in this era and sometimes started in a team that had picked up a habit of winning games late and making comebacks. That was great spirit and fitness in many cases, both things he possessed as well. Brian Horton probably gave him more chances and he contributed significantly to our promotion push.

The class of 84/85, will always have a special place in the heart of City fans of a certain age and Steve Massey was an important part of that success. He connected with fans and treated the Kempton stand with tricks and flicks but also direct play, Mass ran at the opposition and led the counter attack, has was a bit of a maverick, and that's the sort of player they appreciated. He’d leave in the summer of 1985 to go to Cambridge United and later had significant success in Europe with Wrexham before going into a long career in management, mainly in the South West. He never really did get quite the chances he deserved at City but when he was given the ball to run with, he delivered with aplomb.

Steve Massey? The boy was a larker.

Thanks for reading

* Steve will be meeting Hull fans to sign copies of his biography "Where's my towel?" on December 17th when we play Sunderland, a venue to be announced, the book will later be released on Amazon*