“Nah, I’m not a legend. I don’t like that word. People fight for their country, there are soldiers in Iraq. I’m just a footballer who gets paid a lot of money to do what I enjoy” – Dean Windass
There are a few things that help a player to become a cult hero for their club. You can be a homegrown player, that certainly helps, you can be a hardworking type, a guy who looks like a regular guy who just happens to be really good at football, a guy the fans can relate to and then you can do something extraordinary for the team. Sure you could be a skilful magician, that helps too but find some combination of the first three elements and you’re well on your way to legend status. Step forward Dean Windass.
Windass began his career at Hull City but at first he didn’t make the grade. He left the club and started to work on a building site while playing as an amateur for his local side North Ferriby. As he developed and improved he started to get some attention from various league clubs and after a particularly impressive performance against Hull in a pre-season friendly he convinced the Tigers’ manager Terry Dolan that he was now ready to take the step up. He signed for Hull for the second time in 1991.
His hardworking, combative style quickly helped him to become a favourite with the Hull faithful and establish him as a regular in the starting lineup. At first he was playing in midfield but he soon moved up front where his battling performances proved too much for many defenders and he started to score goals.
At 22 he was a relative late starter in the professional ranks but his years at amateur level had provided him with a great platform and he was able to compliment his hard physical side with some brilliant footballing skill. A decent passer of the ball, his overall play was almost as important to Hull City as the 64 goals in 205 games he managed in his first four years at the club
As fan of Hull City himself, Windass would, in all likelihood, have been happy to stay there for the duration of his career but with the club in financial trouble they were forced to sell their most prized asset. He moved to Aberdeen in 1995 for £700,000.
He spent two years at the club scoring roughly a goal every three games and also set, what must be a particularly strange, record. In November 1997 in a game against Dundee, Windass managed to pick up three red cards, one for a foul, one for abusing the referee and another for kicking the corner flag as he left the field. He left the club soon afterwards but fans still loved him.
Windass became something of a journeyman after that, albeit a very valuable one. After a brief spell at Oxford he helped Bradford City to the Premier League and in his first season in the top flight he finished as the club’s top scorer with 10 goals including a hat-trick against Derby County. His goals helped to keep them in the top flight and when he moved to Middlesborough in 2000 he did the same for them. Various loan moves and short deals followed but Windass kept on scoring goals. He returned to Bradford where he managed 55 goals in two and a half seasons and it looked as though he might finish his career with the Bantams.
At 37 years old he managed to secure a return to his boyhood club. It was now Hull City’s turn to take advantage of another club’s financial strife and manager Phil Brown brought “Deano” back to the Tigers on a short term loan in January 2007. Some in the club’s hierarchy were unsure about the signing but Hull’s fans were delighted to have him back and he soon showed why, scoring 8 goals in 15 games to drag Hull to safety and avoid relegation to the third tier.
It was enough to convince the money men that he deserved a permanent deal and in the summer of 2007/8 they shelled out £150,000 to bring him back. Windass was 38 years old, a good age for any player but especially in the tough surrounds of the Championship but Deano proved more that capable, leading from the front and keeping record signing Caleb Folan out of the side. His 15 goals helped the Tigers go from being a relegation threatened side to promotion contenders and it was in the playoffs that he secured his status as a Hull City Legend.
Bristol City were their opponents in the final and with the game tied at 0-0 Frasier Campbell broke clear and managed to make his way in to the box. Bristols defenders managed to force him wide but he still found space to pick out Dean Windass, the veteran striker was all alone at the edge of the box as the ball arched towards him, he could have taken it down, he had the time to take a touch but he hit it first time. It was one of the sweetest volleys you will ever see, the ball rocketed past the ‘keeper and Windass was away, accepting the roar of the travelling fans. It was a goal made for Wembley Stadium, a goal fit for a final and it was decisive. The game ended 1-0 and Hull City were in the premier League for the first time in their 104 year history.
In truth, Windass should probably have ended his career then and there but he wanted to give things a go in the Premier League with is beloved Hull City. Despite very limited game time he did get a Premier League goal when he equalised against Portsmouth but, ever the competitor, he wanted more game time and eventually went out on loan again. He spent eleven games with Oldham, scoring once and saving a penalty, yes you read that right, before calling time on his incredible career.
He couldn’t stay away too long though and continued to play as a semi professional right up until 2011. Fittingly, he returned to Hull City in 2015 where he took up the role as a Club Ambassador, the club’s first in this role.
A hero wherever he played but especially with the Tigers where he both rescued them from relegation and delivered Premier League football, Dean Windass is a true Hull City Legend.
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