Looking Back At: Eric Hulme

Date of birth: 14.1.49, Born: Houghton-le-Spring, County Durham, Height: 5ft 10in

Position: Goalkeeper, City appearances: League:23, FA Cup: 2, Total:25

Eric Martin Hulme was born in the north-eastern town of Houghton-le-Spring approximately half way between Durham and Sunderland. It was while playing for his school team that he was spotted by and joined local Northern League side Spennymoor United. At the age of 15 he had trials for Darlington but nothing came of it and he remained with Spennymoor until joining First Division club Nottingham Forest in March 1970.

Following an injury to regular goalkeeper Jim Barron, Hulme made his first team debut in October 1971 at the age of 22 in a Football League Cup Third Round replay against Chelsea. Although Forest were defeated 2-1 Hulme gave a good performance and in Barron’s absence continued in the side for the next five games. However, under manager Matt Gillies the Nottingham club were having a struggling time and Hulme’s only clean sheet came in a 1-0 score-line against Huddersfield while his other four games were all lost, including a 6-1 defeat by Tottenham at White Hart Lane. With Barron fit again Hulme then reverted to being Forest’s regular reserve team keeper.

The following summer he was close to joining Fourth Division side Reading, with a fee of £5,000 agreed between the two clubs but Hulme decided against the move.

After the disappointment of Lincoln City having missed promotion in fifth place hopes were high that the club could go one better in the 1972/73 season, but after a poor start they were in 15th place at the beginning of September. The long-serving John Kennedy had saved a penalty in a 1-1 draw at Crewe, but with the Irishman suffering from a groin injury reserve keeper John McInally had been called into the side for a midweek Lincolnshire Cup game. However, despite McInally keeping a clean sheet in a 3-0 win over Scunthorpe manager David Herd refrained from putting him in the first team and instead signed the 23-year-old Eric Hulme on a month’s loan from Nottingham Forest.

Hulme went straight into the side and gave a competent performance in a 4-1 win over Football League newcomers Hereford United at Sincil Bank. He kept a first clean sheet in the next game which was a 4-0 win at Bury as City hit a purple patch which saw them quickly rise into the top four promotion places. After an unbeaten run of seven games in which Hulme had conceded just eight goals City were now in third place, with the goalkeeper being seen as something of a lucky talisman. So, despite John Kennedy being fit again it was to popular acclaim that Hulme’s move from Forest was made permanent for a fee of around £4,000 with Herd saying he was “the last link…for we have already got the outfield playing staff right”.

However, results then began to go against City and although Hulme performed well in a 2-1 defeat at Stockport two further losses saw them slip down towards mid-table. Then after four more games without a win he had a rather shaky game in a 4-1 FA Cup defeat to Third Division Blackburn Rovers and John Kennedy was back in the side for the next game against Bradford City. A 3-1 defeat at Valley Parade resulted in the departure of David Herd and his replacement by player-coach Graham Taylor.

The new boss evidently didn’t favour Hulme, as in early January his first signing for City was giant 24-year-old goalkeeper Alan Aubrey from Gainsborough Trinity with Hulme moving to the Northolme on loan for the rest of the season. The nearest, however, that Aubrey came to a first team place was not long after his arrival when due to an injury crisis he was on the subs’ bench for a game at Northampton. At the end of the season the two goalkeepers switched back again, Hulme returning at the end of his loan and Aubrey going back to Gainsborough on a free transfer. During the season Hulme had made a total of 15 league and two FA Cup appearances for the Imps.

John Kennedy continued as first choice goalkeeper from the start of the 1973/74 season, Hulme standing in for him for in a solitary game at Bury in mid-November which brought a 2-1 defeat although he acquitted himself well. He got another first team chance two months later when Kennedy was left out of the side following a 4-1 defeat at Colchester and had an easy game at Sincil Bank as a poor Workington side were beaten 2-0.

Hulme kept his place for a further four games, but after a 3-2 home defeat by Gillingham and a 4-0 loss at Bradford City Kennedy returned to the side with City sliding out of the promotion places into mid-table. With them rooted there, Eric Hulme returned for the last two games of the season which brought defeats at Gillingham and by 2-1 at Crewe which was to be his last game for the club.

During the summer Graham Taylor decided it was time for a change in the goalkeeping department as both Kennedy and Hulme were released, with Hulme moving to Northern Premier League side Worksop Town along with Imps team mates George Peden and John Worsdale.

Eric Hulme later returned to his native north east and became a cook with the Durham and Darlington fire brigade.

Eric Hulme’s Football League appearances came to a total of 28.

Thanks to Gary Parle for information supplied to help with this article