21. Feb, 2022

You'll never beat Pete Skipper...

We beat Swansea City 3-2 on Sky before Christmas in 2018. Bowen scored a brace in what was an unusually uplifting evening that was in the midst of a rapid rise up the table. It was three days before Christmas and if you remember, a tea time kick off on a Saturday. So afterwards the pubs and bars around Princess Ave and town were lively as City fans were in a good mood. For myself as an exile, it was a great night as I usually have to get back on a train or drive home afterwards. Myself, my cousin and a few of his mates were in Pearson’s bar, when a group of ex-players came in. This definitely included Gareth Roberts who rightfully was added to the Hall of Fame last month and Deano, but most importantly to me and my cousin, was Peter Skipper.
Why? Because he simply evokes a really emotional response from City fans of a certain age. The word legend is hugely overused and therefore has lost a lot of its validity throughout the years, the word needs to be reserved for people like Skip. Thus, two blokes in their forties were both reduced to gibbering fan boys by the mere sight of their former hero walking into a bar. I remember discussing briefly with my cousin about asking for a picture but ultimately, we decided just to leave the ex-players to enjoy their night. They seemed in good form and to be having a great time, to be honest it was just nice having a beer in such esteemed company.
Why am I telling you this story? Well, essentially it was the last time I’d see the great man. In April of the next year he died suddenly of complications due to a stroke and we’d lost somebody that meant so much. Not only that but at an age that seemed far too early, especially for someone still so active and with so much to give. Maybe that’s why I’ve paid tribute to his centre back partner first in the piece on Stan McEwan (https://www.thelikesofhull.co.uk/451109954), because I like many of us found myself numbed by his passing. It wasn’t easy to express that and it still isn’t. The squad who took us from the lowest to the second highest level of professional football from 1982-1986 should be playing golf, enjoying life and relaxing, they shouldn’t be gone. Not in my mind.
The reason my cousin and I were reduced to hilariously gooey eyed idiots was simple. Peter Skipper was superhuman. He was a wall, you didn’t beat him, his reading of the game was simply impeccable and as young lads watching city in this era you had a job believing there was anybody better than him. If you get chance just watch the excellent Tigertube tribute (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGVzslT6MsU) which shows in abundance what he could do. If Stan was the sizzle with his passing and free kicks, then Skip was the steak. He brought tackles that shut the door on any striker who thought he was in, he was fantastic in the air despite for modern times not being all that tall and although he was calm he could certainly handle himself against the more physical players in the league. He had an underrated left foot and the cherry on the cake was that is was Skip himself that landed the final blow that would see us promoted back into the second level with the winner at Walsall. Cometh the hour and all that…
I said in my previous blog about active and constructive disagreement that he was better than Michael Dawson and someone laughed, not in a disrespectful way but in the knowledge that I was factually wrong, maybe I was but I’ve thought long and hard about that statement and I think I stand by it. My reply to the poster was that I never saw Skip have a bad game, and that Dawson had a bad season. Was Dawson more physically imposing and able to play the majority of his career in the top level? Sure, and he played for England too, it shouldn’t be close, but Skipper loved the club more, played like he loved the club more and oversaw a period of improvement that makes him more important to me. Am I biased? Without a shadow of doubt. Am I emotive in this opinion? Definitely. But Skip was the sort of player that showed such fierce loyalty to the cause, that my opinion of him reflects his opinion of playing for us. He’s peerless and I think I’d have put together and argument that he was better than any defender as a lad. Because 11-year-old me was convinced of it, and who am I to argue with myself?
When we sold him at 30 to Oldham Athletic in 1988 they were on the rise and we were beginning to lose our way, even in his early thirties he was still wanted by a side who would end up in the top league. We had Jobson by then and he was a glorious defender, but it would take many years for us to find a hometown boy that would go to battle at the back like Skip. You could argue that in terms of Hull born lads, that Jacob Greaves is the first to really threaten to match him, although in his Dad Mark you had someone who certainly came close. Sometimes the money you get for a player can’t replace what he brought, and so the likes of Terry and Shotton would fall short as we began our descent back to the lower leagues. They were no Peter Skipper.
The club at the time of his passing was very divided. They paid tribute to Skip in the last game of the season and in the programme. It was well done. But part of me wished we had 20,000 in the K-Com that day, to pay tribute to the great man. He’s one of the primary reasons why many of us started to love the club and continue to this day, that would have seemed more fitting. He was one of our own and he came back to the club to help us build something special. It’s took me a while to come to terms with his passing, so I could really express what Skip meant. I hope I’ve done him justice.
Thanks for reading. UTT.