The Dentist’s Diary – 647th

No game this week and I guess we all set out into the closed season still disappointed and with a few unanswered questions, a few opinions and perhaps even a bit of hope for the future.  

I guess after the dust has settled on a pretty disastrous finale to the 2019 campaign and you looked back a few games to what happened in the Huddersfield match, it was always destined to be that way wasn’t it? We have been mentally frail throughout this season when the pressure wasn’t on, so when it was, it was perhaps just the inevitable outcome and we were, at the business end of the campaign, always going to implode somewhat.  

The last week has seen the Club, like the rest of us, licking their wounds, dusting themselves down and starting to try and pick up the pieces as we all set sail toward the 2020 campaign. What’s more, its been a process that has at least given us all a chance to reflect, to consider where we’re at and indeed where we are hoping to go! 

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The Dentist’s Diary – 646th

‘I’m Glad it’s all Over’

So sang Captain Sensible, but there has been little that was sensible about our last four performances of 2019 and although Friday was much better for effort, in hindsight you realise that we were never going to win it, because in attack we simply lacked any variation or ideas ….again. 

We were outplayed by a much better team on Friday.  The FC fought hard and never gave up and without the ball we showed some real guts and determination to stem a tide that flowed from a Saints team that were more direct, more lethal and who showed us just how to vary your attack to keep the opposition guessing. 

On the other hand, our offensive play was again predictable and even a bit pedestrian at times. We have to do something about our style of play, for we again lacked any sort of craft with the ball. We all applauded the effort in defence, but we were again lacklustre and uninspiring in possession, as too often we lost our way and looked devoid of ideas at the end of our sets. 

Changes have been promised by Adam and for me they have to come, because we need a completely new outlook as to how we play rugby next season, particularly when you see how far ahead of us Saints are. We need to be enthused as spectators again too, because even with the signings we have made, if a bad attitude creeps in again, we could be in trouble next year if we aren’t careful! Adam this week alluded to a change of playing style, but as the recruitment of big forwards and the ever increasing size across our back line continues into 2020, it’s hard to see a change of game plan coming any time soon but, all we can do is hope!  

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The Dentist’s Diary – 645th

Win and Were in!!!

Thus came the battle cry from Lee last week as we approached the biggest game of our league campaign in what was, he said, the biggest challenge of his coaching career!

A strange sort of start? Well, I left that headline in, for I picked it before the game when I was sure that this time the team would get the importance of the fixture and the real FC would emerge and do us proud.

We said all the right things beforehand and as fans we all knew that if we could just play as we did against Warrington in that semi, then we would have a good chance. Instead we witnessed a game where the West Riding team out-enthused us throughout; whilst our heroes simply collapsed to slip out of the five for the first time since April.

The effort might well be there, I won’t call that, but the attitude is all wrong and for me, it smacks of disinterest and a lack of caring. I now believe from being in the running for second place three games ago, the season is over. With results going against us and our fate now out of our hands anyway, it will take a miracle next week to get us anything but another scalping and despite everything that has been said, we seem to have learned nothing from the end of last season and it’s Groundhog Day for all us fans once again!

As the final hooter went I was heartbroken and bloody fuming in equal parts, for there was little to be positive about and for me the departing Mini and Manu, after all they had done for us, deserved better! That said the feeling of helplessness and the futility of it all doesn’t eat away at me for days anymore, as perhaps it should, for I’m becoming ambivalent to it all, but more of that later. 

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The Dentist’s Diary – 644th

Well that looks to be that doesn’t it? 

As we approached two eminently winnable home games against Salford and Huddersfield it was simple, the league was poor, the quality questionable and the chance for a bit of late season glory within our grasp. Two wins at home would probably see us in the top 3. As it happens, we now know thattwo wins would, on Friday night, have seen us sitting four points clear of third, with just two games to go. 

I have come to the conclusion that since we played in that semi-final, we have witnessed a season trailing off with a whimper rather than a roar and that’s happened on the back of a mental attitude that is just not right at all. For me that is down to just one thing …the players. The chance was there, they’ve been looked after, allowed to take a holiday and excuses have been made in abundance for them, but they haven’t been able to handle the pressure and take that chance, or what looks more likely to many of us, they just couldn’t be arsed to grab the opportunity!

Instead, of being excited and looking forward to the run in I guess that I went along on Friday night, quite reticent about it all and almost expecting what I saw. I was therefore able to take ‘a back seat’ and extract some of the emotion out of it and in so doing, what I saw was a group of players who let the owner, the coach and us lot out there on the terraces down …big style. Didn’t they ever realise that we would never get a better shot at Old Trafford than we have been presented with this year, or didn’t they care? 

Against Salford and Huddersfield the game plan they had worked on all week was fine, for it got us 12 and 8 points up,they should then have produced more of the same to take the game away from the opposition. In addition, our defence on which for years we built our success, has been uncharacteristically poor, particularly on our line and that combination of a lack of offensive focus and any sort of defensive grit and determination has led to two performances that are just not acceptable to those of us who attended. I know that players don’t go out to play badly, but they have to have their heads on when the season is on the line. 

On Friday the desperate demeanour of Huddersfield reflected their position in the League, but our slap dash, jumbled showing didn’t represent ours at all! It seems to me that the minute we get in front, all our shape and pattern goes out of the window, the plan is ‘up the Swanny’ and most of the players do just as they like. 

Mentally we seem shot, for once we go behind we are left running around with the ball in the oppositions 20 like a load of school kids playing tig and we certainly never look like scoring. In both our recent games the oppositions line defence was first class and ours was poor, but it is the way that the players have just tossed 2 games away that disappoints me so much. For me as I said in starting, I think that’s it for this year. 

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The Dentist’s Diary – 443rd

The Challenge Cup Final; the Biggest game in British Rugby League? Well it always used to be!

In ‘Wembley week’ it makes you realise, I think, just how things have changed in our sport. I watched the match on TV, but back in the 70’s and 80’s no doubt I’d have been sat in one of that plethora of empty seats, whoever was playing.

I guess some of you were in attendance, but gone are the days when every pub had a trip down to the final with hundreds having saved up every week in their locals, to finance their annual sojourn to the capital. Two or three special trains left Paragon Station on Thursday and Friday even if a Hull team wasn’t involved and East Yorkshire always ran coach trips on the day. All that because supporters of all persuasions wanted to be there at the greatest event in their sporting year. However, changing trends, other leisure pursuits and Sky TV and the Super League has buggered all that up.

But, it’s nice to watch the teams walk out and remember some great times (although I doubt I could drink that much anymore!!) However, I use this analogy because it does make you think how the Final and our sport have been devalued and whether it will ever get that kudos back. As we all know, people around the world, sometimes in the middle of the night, tune in to watch it as a great sporting occasion. It has always been the shop window of our great game and let’s hope a change of date next year can make it so again. It’s still brilliant if your teams playing in it and glorious if you win, but if you aren’t involved, these days it is for many now, just of passing interest!! And that’s really sad!   

For me it’s been a week off and time to reflect a bit? I’m quite relieved to be honest, because I don’t think I could face another showing like the Salford game just yet!!!!

Because of that this week’s Diary is pretty random (in fact even more random than usual) I’m still stinging a bit from that last home game, so its tainted somewhat, but with a week off this journal is just a collection of my thoughts about our Club and where we are at present. It uses stats, records and the views of the readers out there who have contacted me and it’s about what we hear and what I think is happening at present. By the end you’ll probably be saying thank goodness there’s a game next week, but here goes ….  

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The Dentist’s Diary – 642nd

Oh dear, what a shambles?

Well it’s hard to say much else really, for on Saturday we probably squandered the best chance we will have of getting a home draw in the play-offs, in a league that is probably as poor as it will ever get.

It was a massive game that we should have been so up for, but again we looked disinterested and this season is quickly descending into the one that got away! It will never be easier for a workmanlike team, that is just a bit consistent, to get to Old Trafford, but the last few weeks have proved that we are neither workmanlike nor consistent. Wigan on Friday night really, really wanted it, yet with us, to have so much to play for and yet to not turn up for long periods of the game, is simply criminal for me.

We were clueless at times and people won’t pay to see what we all sat through on Saturday much longer, for our 2019 home form is now verging on a disaster. This was our most inept performance since we played Huddersfield in the Magic Weekend jamboree, if not, perhaps, our poorest of the season. The tragedy is that Salford although adequate and disciplined in their execution of a simple game plan, were not that good either.

They were brilliantly led from scrum half by Hastings, but otherwise 5 of their scores came from us either making mistakes in our own 20-meter area or from us giving penalties away in the same zone. But, some of our lot appeared to be simply going through the motions, they’ll deny it and perhaps I’m being a bit harsh here, however, in the end that’s how it looked to the scores of people who were streaming out of the ground with 10 minutes to go.

Last week in the build-up to the game we knew it was a massive chance to go 2 points clear in second, surely you have to want that? Surely that must motivate you to at least give your all? Surely it’s your, defining moment of the season so far? Well we mere mortals might all have thought that, but from a shambolic looking warm up to the final hooter, some of our lot simply lacked any sort of wanting or passion at all.

I love my club and I can take defeat, I can take humiliation and even disastrous outcomes and do it with pride, but only if I’m convinced everyone is giving their all for me; on Saturday I’m convinced a lot didn’t!!! It’s simply in the end all about playing for the FC, for the shirt, the badge and the fans, yet I saw precious little of that on show at all. In fact, in the end, Salford came out worthy winners. I’d like to say it was heart-breaking, but for this season at least, I think I’m past that now!

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The Dentist’s Diary – 641st

It’s never an easy ride as an FC fan is it?

First thoughts from the game at Wakefield? Well I think I had just two at the end; firstly, we’ll never play a worse team than the Wildcats and playing like we are at present, we will never get to a Grand Final, never mind win one.

So come on FC; 4 games to go ……prove me wrong!

For me as a spectacle Sunday was instantly forgettable. It was always going to be a battle and Wakefield is hardly a happy hunting ground, but it was hardly convincing either, yet there everyone was as the hooter went, breathing a little easier after a real ‘mistakeathon’, yet two points clear of Wigan again and level with Warrington in second. Who wouldn’t have taken that back in February eh? We have seen some real dross at times in 2019 and it was the same again in West Yorkshire on Sunday. None the less, in the context of the season, it was a massive win, we are back on the horse points wise, but not exactly galloping towards the Grand Final either.

BUT!!!! If Wigan beat Warrington on Friday and we beat Salford on Saturday, we go clear in second!!!! Crazy times eh??? I never like doing the Dobbins a favour, but we’ve given them a leg up and if our noisy neighbours can’t beat that lot at home next Sunday, they don’t deserve to stay up!! Poor old Wakey were clueless at times, but although we had a lot more idea than them, we just made mistake after mistake. Yet it’s certainly all happening and it’s never dull at the FC is it? It’s been another interesting week signing wise, what’s more, injuries and our current form makes next Saturdays hit up with Salford at the KCom a critical yet difficult looking affair to say the least. They are for me, the form team of the competition at present. What’s more, I bet with our injury situation they’ll smell blood!!

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The Dentist’s Diary – 640

Well that was closer than most of us thought it would ever be, wasn’t it? 

Again, I can’t be downbeat this week, particularly after all that effort and fighting spirit coming as it did, just 5 days after pretty much the same group of players had their hearts broken and their bodies battered, in such tragic circumstances in the Semi-Final. However, looking at it all objectively, we must learn quickly to be smarter and turn pressure into points.  

I didn’t really know what to expect on Thursday although I did feel that we had little chance of really competing after a five-day turn-around following that battle royal in Bolton;particularly as we faced a team that had experienced two weeks with their feet up. 

However, in the end we did show incredible energy and resolve to hang in a game that we almost came out winning. Sadly, once again after all that resolute line defence and tons of heart and spirit against all the odds, our attack was clunky and disjointed and our frustration at this was summed up perfectly by what a lady said to me, (as she passed to grab an early cup of tea as half time approached) “I won’t be missing much, if we play till midnight we won’t score!”. And that was exactly how it looked to me.  

Our defence, like Wigan’s was magnificent, but theLancashire team were there for the taking. We simply lacked any sort of plan from Kelly and Connor and with Sneyd well watched and flattened a time or two, we didn’t have enoughguile or enterprise to score more than the one try we got from Taylor. So Wigan probably deserved the points, but it was a good effort from the boys, if not as I say, a bit of a dumb one at times.

After the weekend our destiny is still in our own hands, nothing has changed, we are still third, all be it with a shrinking gap between us and Wigan, but they have four home games in the five remaining, whilst we have three; BUT they are good at home and we are better away, so it’s going to be a real battle to hold onto our position here on in! 

Therefore, with a long turn around coming up, we simply have to get recharged, practise our moves all day long, switch our centres around and get our attack sorted out, for we really do have to win at Wakey next Sunday. 

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The Dentist’s Diary – 639th

“In the end it’s the hope that kills you ….the beautiful, horrible hope!”

Hope eh? On Saturday we turned up full of it. We battled to the last man, we gave everything and yet in the end just came up short to lose our first Challenge Cup semi-final in 19 years. In such circumstances the fans can ask for no more than 100% effort and wanting, but then, when all that has been put in by both sides, as I said last week, the outcome in such games will always be in the lap of the gods!

Man it was a tough defeat to take though!! But on this occasion as a Hull fan in the end the best team won, and it’s hard to argue otherwise really.

To score three tries from our mistakes, with our two coming from well-engineered pieces of play says a lot, but of course, the ‘experts’ would retort that we shouldn’t have made those blunders in the first place. We didn’t make many individual errors but the ones we did make led invariably to tries. Warrington made a few too, but the gods smiled on them and they got out of jail. When all came to all, two great kicks from Austin did for us, yet we still had our chances. But, as the rained poured down and the ball was difficult to handle, those simple twists of fate that sometimes you can’t control, saw the scales of destiny tip toward the Cheshire Club and at the final hooter they deserved their win and it was the FC that came out second best!

But, only just and in what was a titanic battle we never gave up and we never gave in.

We fought for each other and played as a team and when that final try went in, our players were, to a man, visibly distressed with some virtually inconsolable. At the end the players were just distraught and once their statutory TV commitments were met, no one from the 17 could speak to the local media afterwards. They were hurting as much as we were, so you won’t be seeing much complaint from this fan in here this week, for that effort and passion was all I could ever ask for!

I just hope that somehow from somewhere, we can find a deal of spirit again by next Thursday, but if the lads can’t, I won’t be too surprised, for it will be a while after Thursday, before I get over my afternoon in the rain at Bolton.

It’s always hard to lose in such circumstances, someone always has to, but none of us find it that easy to handle when its us!   

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The Dentist’s Diary – 638th

4,300 odd days of waiting!!!

How good was that victory at Headingley eh? Not just for us getting another two valuable league points but in the context of our build up to next weekend and the rest of the campaign?

Everyone played their part, but it was Marc Sneyd who for me took the accolades, as Ellis steadied the ship and Houghton tackled and ran brilliantly. Yeh, Leeds are bottom, yeh, they are poor, in fact from what I’ve seen in the games this weekend, it is only the poorness of the teams around them, that is given the ‘Lacklustre Loiners’ any sort of hope at all.

However, it was the dynamics of it all that was so pleasing, for to go so far in front of them, then lose the lead and the momentum, before we had to not only take on their players but the crowd as well, was one thing, but then we grabbed the initiative again and fought backs to the wall to hold that two-point advantage until the end; that was something else.

The in and out stuff was still there, but not as much as it has been, although we did still give away far too many stupid penalties which in turn gave the home side both heart and field position, but we battled our way back into it, we showed passion and fight and a steady hand in difficult times, plus we held our nerve and as the only Cup semi-finalists to win this weekend, we looked an accomplished team and that’s all that we can ask for really.

So for me, it was above all else a really heartening victory in the context of the season.     

Despite all that however, it’s back to reality and make no mistake about it we are going to be up against it again in Bolton, of that there is little doubt!

I think we showed at Headingley that we have the fight and the players to get us back to the capital, but we have to go into that game again scrapping for our lives. We might be slight under dogs and the Wire certainly have a few scores to settle from 2016, but it’s that sort of adversity that defines exactly what you are as a player and it’s the stuff that fashions the culture within a team. A deep instinctive desire to win, (like we saw on Sunday), that doesn’t fade in adversity, despite the odds or the situation, is what saw us prevail in 2016 and 2017 and that’s where we need to be again next Saturday.

On the terraces and out on the field we all have one ambition and that is to win, but in such games it is hard and sometimes the decisions of the few or even the individual, will dictate the outcome. We’ll certainly be up for it as fans and we just have to hope that once again the fighting spirit of the famous Hull FC prevails, it’s a real watershed game in our season and something, we’ve been told, that we have been building for all year; we’d better turn up for this one then!

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