Chris Topping

The quiet centre half who was a key member of 2 of City's promotion campaigns and a lifelong City supporter

In the summer of 1967, Chris Topping became City’s first ever player apprentice professional and signed his first professional contract in March 1969 when he turned 18. As a 15 year old, he'd made his City reserve team debut in November 1966 in a 5-1 home defeat to Bradford City.

City launched a youth team that completed in the Northern Intermediate League which featured about 18 leading teams in the North East, Yorkshire and Humberside, including all the big clubs. For one season, City scraped their reserve side as the focus shifted towards youth, In the early days, Topping was joined by Brian Pollard, Mike de Placido and Chris Calvert, all of whom won Egland Youth caps and 2 of whom went onto play top flight football after leaving City. Unfortunately, after the first tranche of graduates, the flow of talented youngsters to the first team virtually dried up.

The young Topping was into botany and spent his apprenticeship afternoons working at the Wyevale Garden Centre in Poppleton.

He made his first team debut in December 1968, before he turned pro, in that era players turned pro at 18 and continued to do the cleaning duties (boot cleaning, terrace sweeping and painting included). By 1970 was established in the side alongside Barry Swallow, their partnership hastened the exit of Barry Jackson.

Between September 1970 and April 1978, he was to make 355 consecutive League appearances for City, a club record, that put him in sight of a Football League record for consecutive games. That summer, saw him leave City to be re-united with Tom Johnston at Huddersfield for a £20,000 fee. Some said the money saved City from bankruptcy, others felt it was far too small a fee. In total, he played 463 times (including 2 games as a sub) for City, bettered only by Barry Jackson and Andy McMillan and scored 13 goals. He was voted 1975/6 Player Of The Season.

On the pitch, he assumed the quiet man role of second centre half in the same way that Ricky Sbragia did alongside John MacPhail a decade later. He played in 2 promotion campaigns (1971 and 1974) for City and was a member of the 1973 defence which equalled a long standing Football League record of going 11 games without conceding a goal.

A commanding centre half, he was dominant in the air and personally, I was too young to recall his tackling, politely described as “keen” by some observers without being dirty or nasty. Although in his "The Tale Of Two Great Cities", Chris Jones believed he possessed “the most vicious slide / scissor tackle” in football.

Many remember his performance against Liverpool in a League Cup game in September 1975, the first time we were robbed by Liverpool. He held Kevin Keegan at bay all night, but in the 87th minute with the score at 0-0, Keegan attacked the Shippo down the left hand channel and was fouled by Topping, a couple of few yards wide of the "D" , controversally, the ref awarded a penalty. Many years later, recalling the tackle on Keegan, he didn’t say it wasn’t a foul but was adamant it wasn't in the box! On a very wet night, from behind the goal, the impression left by the tackle could be clearly seen a good 9 inches outside the box.

He went straight into the Terriers side but succumbed to injury when second only to Harold Bell for the all time record of 401 consecutive league games. 3 seasons at Huddersfield them short spells at Gateshead, Northallerton (where he was player / manager) and Rowntree Mackintosh before turning out for his local side Real Cliffe in The York Sunday Afternoon League for a number of years where his son was a teammate.

After his retirement, he worked in various jobs around his Selby home, one constant has been his support for City and he is often seen at home games.

Random thoughts:

  • "Tall, dark and handsome and I did some baby sitting for him", Dot
  • "Couldn’t pass the ball to save his life. Didn’t like him because he was ugly and had bandy legs", Pete
  • Chris' grandad, Jack Topping had been a Supporters Club stalwart in the early days of City