Brian Hill: wonderful wing-raider

Cod Almighty | Article

by Gordon Wilson

29 October 2018

Brian Hill's animated appearance before Town's game with Exeter brought back many memories for Gordon Wilson.

He's racing toward the Osmond on the Main Stand side, suddenly halting, side-stepping, springing, leaving a bewildered defender behind and turning toward the box. In the second-half, in the Barrett Stand shadow, his shirt flaps as elbows pump, eyes on his marker and not the ball that seems to crave the attentions of stroking feet as he glides across the slippery turf. He jigs and turns, hips swivelling, reminiscent of Elvis. His number 11 is a blur as he crosses from somewhere near the corner post for George McLean to head narrowly over the bar. He stands for a while, the almost pinstripe shirt hanging now from his scarecrow frame.

It is a cold blustery Saturday, 11 January 1964, and 6,504 of us are watching famous Raich Carter’s talented Middlesbrough, with their full and under-23 internationals - Peacock, Nurse, Connachan and Gibson - being out-played in a rough and hard fought 3-1 Mariners' victory. And this is my first sight of Grimsby Town and the wonderful wing-raider, Brian Hill.

"Great cross Brian!"

"Well done, Fanny!"

"About time you earned your money, Hill!"

These assessments echo down the years for me from Barrett Stand forerunners of the Lower Findus critical forum. Brian Hill was variously adored and deplored by those whose stamping cold feet on wooden boards marked the pulse of the club back then. In addition to superb bursts of pace, Brian could demonstrate a deceptive, lazy stride. Town followers who valued effort above skill probably missed the point and that accounted for the detraction. But I loved the man from the start. Perhaps there’s been nothing more exciting for me in nearly 50 years than seeing him in full-flight, cutting inside, dizzy defenders left in his wake. I remember only the wonder and the magic of the man who, in the FA Cup that month in 1964, gave future England full-back Keith Newton such a torrid time at Ewood Park.

It was an inspired pass from Hill that set up Rod Green's miracle goal against European Cup Winners Cup holders West Ham United in the memorable fifth round League Cup tie in November 1965, before 16,000+ at Blundell Park. In a game in which Third Division Town methodically matched the sophisticated Hammers and their soon to be World-Cup-winning trio of Moore, Peters and Hurst, Hill's contribution was major and outspoken critics were further silenced by his defensive harassment of winger John Sissons.

In the replay, won by the Hammers with a disputed goal, an equally questionable disallowed Matt Tees effort was made by smooth running Hill.

Perhaps Brian Hill's acceleration, accuracy and control were most memorably demonstrated on a Wednesday evening in September 1966 when he orchestrated a 7-1 demolition of Scunthorpe United. He assisted three and scored three, confounding defenders with 60-yard runs, riding desperate tackles, accurate lobbing, high crosses and rocketing shots. One visiting reporter observed that he had about him the look of an international.

There were scouts in the stands already. Within three months he would be gone, to Huddersfield Town, bringing the Mariners a then record transfer fee of £22,000.

For me, he was priceless.

Brian Hill. Grimsby Town 1960-66. Appearances 205. Goals 28.

The front page image is a detail from a squad photograph available on the Grimsby Town website. This article was first published in The Mariner matchday magazine. Our thanks to Grimsby Town FC for permission to reproduce it.

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