Call me a curmudgeon if you will, but in the light of the plaudits pouring in for the late Jimmy Hill, former footballer, manager and broadcaster, there are a few aspects of Mr Hill’s career that come to mind that I personally find impossible to overlook.
Such as his performance as expert during the 1990 FA Cup Final Replay between Manchester United and Crystal Palace. The Final, on Saturday, had been drawn 3-3 and Palace had a good claim to have been the better side and the more deserving of victory on the day. But having tested United thoroughly on Saturday, Palace abdicated this approach in favour of an attempt to kick United – and loan goalkeeper Les Sealey – off the park.
United, to their credit, kept their heads except for a five minute spell around the half hour when it looked like they were going to start handing it back, but they got to half-time, still trying to play football.
And at half-time, Jimmy Hill absolved Palace of any blame, and dragged United into the mire, claiming that these were merely clashes in midfield due to congestion. All accidental, nothing malicious, nothing to look at here.
And another FA Cup, some years later, at Bramhall Lane, where United, having taken the lead, had fallen 2-1 behind by half-time. The second Sheffield United goal was a blatant handball, the ball rebounding off Schmeical and being knocked into the net by the scorer’s forearm. The behind the goal camera made it absolutely plain. Mr Hill? Conceding even as we look at the replay, that there might have been a suspicion of handball there.
Those two examples may be discounted for partisanship, though I’m being completely objective about the true circumstance, especially the Sheffield United game (we lost the tie 2-1, and never deserved to win).
But there’s a rather more serious incident which disinclines me to totally honour Jimmy Hill’s contribution to football, and that was the time when he ventured his opinions on racist chanting directed at black players. In Mr Hill’s opinion, it wasn’t worth talking about: it was no more than if someone referred to him as “Chinny”.
Sorry to bring it up, but that’s what first comes to mind when I think of Jimmy Hill.