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On This Day: Farewell Boothferry Park!

14 December 2020

It opened with a 0-0 draw and closed with a 1-0 defeat. Yet for nearly 60 years in between it provided the setting for drama, despair and delight - and a host of memories which will never fade - on this day in 2002, the Tigers played their final game at the place that they had called home for over half a century.

Boothferry Park - the home of football in Hull from 1946 to 2002. The Kempton stand, Boothferry Halt, six flodlights, and one of the best playing surfaces in the country. It had it all.

And it saw it all too! Promotions, relegations, more than 55,000 packed in to see Manchester United, the first competitive penalty shoot out, and even a rugby league international. For thousands of City fans it was their introduction to the Tigers, the place where they were taken by their dads, where they would gaze, wide eyed in awe, under the glare of the six floodlights - except for Wembley, the only ground in the country to have that many.

The first game took place in August 1946, when 20,000 watched City draw 0-0 with Lincoln. Just three years later, the record attendance was set when 55,019 turned out to watch Hull play Manchester United. And two years after that the ground had its very own train station, with the opening of Boothferry Halt. For thousands it would become a Saturday ritual of a bus into town followed by the short train trip from Paragon station to the ground.

Over the following years it would grace some great games, including in 1970 the Watney Cup semi-final against Manchester United, which finished in a draw and which then saw United run out winners in the first competitive penalty shoot-out in English football. The first footballer to score from the spot that time was as good as they got - George Best. The first to miss wasn’t far behind - Denis Law.

In 1982, more than 26,000 fans watched Australia crush Great Britain in a rugby league international.

And there were many other notable games, and many big names strutted their stuff on what was regarded as a superb playing surface. Ken Wagstaff, Chris Chilton and Stuart Pearson all played there. After that came the likes of Brian Horton, Billy Whitehurst, Garry Parker and Keith Edwards. More than 20,000 turned up to see City push Liverpool close in the cup in 1989, before going down 3-2, goals from Whitehurst and Edwards giving the Tigers real hope and a 2-1 half time lead. Duane Darby scored six times under the floodlights on a chilly November night in 1996 as City beat Whitby 8-4.

On those glory afternoons and evenings, the Kempton stand would rock, thousands crammed in, goading the opposition supporters just a few feet away. At times, though, dark clouds would hover over the old ground, none more so than when City were locked out in a dispute over unpaid rent. 

And there were times, towards the end, when the rust would fall onto the heads of the fans, whenever a ball landed on the roof of a stand, and gaping holes would let the wind whistle through. The last game at the old stadium was a disappointing 1-0 loss to Darlington. The next match was at the lavish surroundings of the new KC Stadium, which more than highlighted the fact that Boothferry Park had had its day.

But on the whole, when viewed with more than a little nostalgia, Boothferry Park is remembered with a great deal of affection by City fans. It was the place where they cut their footballing teeth. It was a ground which, in its glory days, was one of the best in the land. And it was the place where many golden memories were made.

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