The Dentist’s Diary – 546

PHEWWW!!!!!

……that was a close call wasn’t it? We just got home in a dour and at times frustrating game, but those two points were as precious as any we have grabbed this season.

On Friday night we just prevailed by the skin of our teeth, but boy we needed that victory didn’t we? It really didn’t matter how we got it, because we had to move forward to next week on a win and to, if we could, secure a top 4 spot and 4 home games in the play-offs, although in fairness the latter objective relied entirely on other teams slipping up. However, thanks to another desperately brilliant defensive showing in what was a scratchy performance against the Giants and a freak result at Leigh that saw Salford oblige us with a defeat, for now, on the journey that is 2017, its job done.

That of course hides the concerns we all still have about our current form and our perceived inability to score tries, but this game was always going to be a grind because we simply had to contain and frustrate a free scoring Giants outfit who were on a good run of results. So, on a sunny warm evening and to the calypso like accompaniment of a set of Huddersfield supporters who sounded as if they had pinched their mother’s pans and kitchen utensils and brought them along to the game, we just got home! It wasn’t pretty and at times in attack it wasn’t good either, but we still have that special togetherness that brings the will and tenacity that is needed to hang in such games. I would be a lot more worried where we throwing the ball about, losing concentration and collapsing when put under pressure.

As for the match officials, well listening to the observations’ of Chico Jackson on the way home, as he commented on how he didn’t think Mr Kendall got much wrong, then I’ll have to beg to differ on that one, because for me I’m afraid it was Leeds Rhino’s last week all over again! Mr K. had a shocker.

Still it was two points, the top four secured, no major injuries and now just the small matter of that game at Donny to concentrate on. Come on You Hull!!

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The Dentist’s Diary – 545th

Friday’s was a poor performance in a game that we should have won! Yet I guess we never deserved to get the points because we simply weren’t good enough, particularly when it came to retaining possession, being creative and keeping our discipline. AND, in all those failings it’s not only the youngsters that are the culprits either.

You know, I could have cut and paste that introduction from any of the last three Diary’s really couldn’t I? I don’t like to be negative in here but I fear that I’m about to be, because at present we have no right to be in the top four, simply because we don’t deserve to be there. Quite frankly it looks to me now that the Cup is our best, if not our only chance of silverware this term, but more of that gloomy hypothesis later.

At Headingley we were certainly dominant in the first forty minutes, in that we controlled Leeds and kept them contained despite losing possession at regular intervals, but we couldn’t get more than one score on the board and were then nilled in the second half, when just one try would have got us home. Defensively we were great near our line, but shoddy in mid-field as once again we struggled to find anything in attack. There is little doubt too, that for the second week running it was a match that was there for the taking, against a team that were no great shakes themselves.

We know what this team is capable of and yet at present we don’t look like we can deliver at all and a Leeds team disjointed and disrupted by injuries beat us on a night when we could so easily have reversed the ‘Headingley Hoodoo’ to gain a psychological advantage for that semi-final. What a disappointing trip it was for the hordes of FC fans that made the journey to the West Riding and who, on the way back, must have been wondering just what Doncaster holds for us in two weeks’ time!

I might have to eat my words after a few more rounds and I hope that I do, but playing as we have over the last few weeks, I’m finding it hard to contemplate us winning anything at all this year. We are totally devoid of any attacking ideas and as far as discipline is concerned, too many penalties conceded and too much dropped ball is, ever week, our undoing. I have to say as well that as for our prospects going forward in 2017, for now at least, I’m worrying a bit, I really am! But hope springs eternal and a big win over Huddersfield will sort a lot out, however unless we improve significantly it’s getting that win that might prove a little difficult.

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The Dentist’s Diary – 544th

I’m still pretty depressed after Friday!

That was so disappointing wasn’t it? It was all just such sub-standard fare really with several players giving uncharacteristic below par performances. In the rain at St Helens we were simply nowhere near where we should be at this time of the campaign and in hindsight last Friday, we didn’t deserve anything more than we got!

St Helens is never an easy place to go, but you can’t dress a pretty woeful performance up as anything other than baffling, at a time when we should be starting to build towards the end of the season and that big Cup match. We all know too that you have to be right on your game, wherever and whoever you play in Super League, otherwise the opposition will have you and on Friday night there could be no excuses, we were dissapointing. In fact, in a listless disjointed performance Hull FC were pretty unrecognisable as the team we have grown to almost count on in the last 18 months. Despite that defeat at Castleford, we had all taken some heart and had even felt positive because we just needed some of the same stuff we saw in the last quarter there, to get us home at a wet Langtree Park, against what was in anybody’s book, a pretty average St Helens team.

However, instead of building on that last quarter the previous week, we went the other way and it was a worrying development at a time when as a Club we should be looking to step up in preparation for the fights ahead. Instead with 9 games left to the top 4 play offs, we took a big step backwards. Thankfully we hold our 4th place spot because Wakey lost, but as the top eight starts to tighten up, that really is scant consolation.

Over the last few weeks we appear to have drifted from being the form team of the top half of the table, to looking worryingly flat and downright inept at times. The pundits in the printed media in general still rate us, but rugby is played on grass and not on paper and after a dire three-quarters of a game against Wakey, the same at Castleford and an awful 80-minute showing on Friday (throughout the whole match), my team are really struggling to impress me much at all at present.

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The Dentist’s Diary – 543rd

You can’t win ‘em all. You want to, but you can’t and on Friday night we didn’t, but in the end we went so close!! We handed Cas all their points, didn’t fire at all for 60 minutes and yet came within a whisker of winning the game. Disappointed? A bit! Downhearted, no way!

Saints will be a big ask on Friday but it’s doable and while I’m on about the weekend, perhaps you’ve already realised that there just might be a new book out this Saturday in the Club shops and here, EXCLUSIVELY for Dentists Diary readers, is a preview of the cover!

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The Dentist’s Diary – 542nd

Wow what a relief it was in the end, but I didn’t see that revival coming did you?

Five days on from a quite amazing performance in that Cup Quarter Final, for 50 odd minutes on Friday night we produced a real after the ‘Lord Mayors Show’ effort and trailing by 8 points in the second half, I was resigned to the fact that perhaps it had all been a bit much for those heroes of the previous weekend. Deep down I’d accepted that fact at half-time and although disappointed I consoled myself with the thought that I knew which of the two games I would have rather won if we couldn’t have them both showing a W in the games played column!

The thing is of course I don’t care who you are, as a team you can’t play like we did in that Cup game last week, every week!! It just doesn’t happen like that and whether it is down to complacency, injuries, fatigue or mental exhaustion, experience of years of watching rugby in general and Hull FC in particular, only goes to prove that every game is different. The thing is, in adversity, you have to try and find a way to win and to somehow get those two precious points particularly when you’re at home.

On Friday for long periods we were decidedly off it and it wasn’t just physical fatigue either because there were a few mental lapses in there too, particularly when we dropped the ball and forced passes near our line, so we were without doubt psychologically drained as well. From the kick off our overall demeanour was suspect and a couple of years ago that would have spelt disaster, but this team of 2017 is proving to be a bit better than that. At the end my pal Kathy jokingly exclaimed, “Never in doubt” although I freely admit as I said, that I had resigned myself to a defeat to a good and very sharp Wakefield outfit before that amazing last quarter. In many ways I guess we got out of jail. But in the end as I always say, who the hell cares!

Rugby League is a game of fine, fine margins and many in the aftermath of the victory attribute our come-back to Connors fortuitous intercept, which is a great example of those very same blurred boundaries that separate disaster and success. We get it and score and then roll on to win, but miss it and they go the length of the field and it’s ‘Goodnight Vienna’.

Yet On such twists of fate are matches and indeed seasons decided! It’s a funny old game isn’t it?

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The Dentist’s Diary – 541st

What a blooming great game that was!!!

This week’s offering is a bit hurried and a bit emotional but on a hot and sunny Sunday afternoon we certainly showed a national TV audience just what heart, tenacity and the will to win in a sports team is all about!

The best performance since Wembley? Well for me it was, without doubt! I absolutely loved it…. well I did when it was all over, but whilst it was going on it was a tortuous affair to watch from the terraces and when the final hooter went I was physically and emotionally wrung out. Knock out rugby eh? Don’t you just love it?

The Cup favourites were in town, backed by a huge travelling army, but that trophy was ours and we certainly weren’t going to let it go without a fight!

To boss a team that has averaged 35 points a game this season and keep them to 24 on a hot and humid day like that, took a gargantuan effort by every one of the lads. We were just too physically strong for them and in the end we ran out deserving winners.

Arthur Bunting will have been looking down on that game and be remembering other such great ‘wars’ that he oversaw in the late 70’s and early 80’s; he would have been so proud of that performance. What more can you say really, because the whole afternoon oozed emotion and passion from start to finish.

I kept it together quite well at the end, and loved the adulation of the crowd as they greeted their FC heroes, whilst the Castleford fans who had been just a tad cocky thirty minutes earlier, drained away to the exits like water down a drain. In fact, I kept my emotions pretty much in check until I met my lifelong mate Barry King on the concourse and then I have to admit a tear appeared in my eye, because we’d been through a lot over the years and it had been such a drama packed and emotional afternoon for us both; no one but no one, on the field or off it, wanted to let go of that Cup!

Driving home it crossed my mind as to how good it would have been to put the car away and go and get absolutely blathered, but I had this rubbish to write and so I came straight home. However, just after we arrived Mrs R shouted “How Ironic” from the kitchen, as she’d just switched on the radio and on Radio Two Paul O’Grady was playing “Sweet Caroline”. It was it seemed the end to a perfect day and I opened a bottle of Bud to celebrate!

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The Dentist’s Diary – 540th

Forever a Hero!

“We’re on the march with Arthur’s Army
We’re all off to Wembley
And we’ll really shake ‘em up when we win the Challenge Cup
‘Cos Hull are the greatest rugby team”

As Fans, a Club and a Family, this week we lost one of the finest people to ever be associated with Hull FC and our most successful Coach of all time. Arthur Bunting’s record as a hero for the masses speaks for itself. In 7 glorious years of unprecedented success, when we won everything, he gained the status of a Rugby League legend, as he masterminded a golden era in the history of our beloved Club. His star has shone brightly ever since! If you never saw a Bunting coached team, full of flamboyant rugby and classy players expressing themselves, you missed a treat, but no-one should ever be in any doubt as to just what a great coach he was, because those of us who did witness his years at the Club, will never forget. It is a measure of his significance to the Airlie Birds that since those halcyon days his has been the benchmark against which every FC coach and every period of success has been judged and indeed will be judged in the future.

Personally, with his death this week I lost a very special piece of my life and on Thursday lunchtime I went and sat on that stone bench at the Boulevard Memorial in Airlie Street, to reflect on a hero taken from us. Hull FC will certainly be a sadder place now he’s gone. However, we’ll always have our memories and at least before he passed away he realised ‘The Dream’ and witnessed Hull FC as they went ‘off to Wembley’, ‘really shook them up’ and ‘won the Challenge Cup’. Arthur will always be remembered by everyone who witnessed that glorious era between 1978 and 1985, an era that will always be referred to as The Bunting Years!

R.I.P. ARTHUR BUNTING

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The Dentist’s Diary – 539th

Wow didn’t that just make you proud to be black and white eh?

In addition to a great win and taking into consideration the draining schedule and totally unacceptable catalogue of games we have seen of late, what an effort that was from 34 players running on absolute empty. The game has a lot to answer for on the player welfare front, but that aside it was a wonderful performance and a massive effort from every one of our lads, as we fielded a team with some jabbed up, some carrying injuries, some out of position and some pretty inexperienced, but they all took the game to the Pies from minute one and produced a massive effort to secure the points.

By the end I felt like I’d played the game myself! The heat, the drama, the Wigan comeback and the absolute heroics from our lads left me completely wrung out. When you considered our depleted ranks, then I have to say that before the game I would probably have taken that result in reverse and then reflected in here on us making a good fist of it, as we faced the Champions with a squad that after the Leigh game in particular, I just couldn’t see getting anywhere near a win.

But how wrong was I proved to be, as every one of the team gave their absolute all and then some and in the end we got two precious points that got us back on track and put any chance of us finishing in the middle eight, almost beyond the pale.

That’s this season’s first target, but the heart and spirit we saw on show in that game has to stand us in good stead for the future. For me as well, it’s just so great to be able to live out the sentiments that so many readers shouted to me as I left the game and to ‘write an upbeat Diary for once!’

After the abject disappointment, concern and sulking of last week-end, I drove home to Beverley in the evening sunshine with a big smile on my face and ‘Born to Run’ at full blast in the car, as after a down beat week for this fan, the whole outlook suddenly looked a lot brighter. It’s a funny old game isn’t it and as reader Richard Hall said last night in an E Mail, “Who in their right mind would ever be a supporter?”
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The Dentist’s Diary – 538th

I’m always totally honest in here and believe me this Diary has taken a lot of writing.

I’ve tried to do my best, however as I always say, the love of a sports team will in the end invariably break your heart and to say I was pretty heartbroken last night is perhaps an understatement. It’s all going bloody wrong at present isn’t it? And, as a header to this week’s offering that’s all I can say really!

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The Dentist

From winning 62-0 to losing 45-0 in just 8 days! Who’d be an FC fan Eh?

That performance was quite embarrassing really and there can be no dressing that up! Just 8 days earlier Lee Radford said we had played our best stuff of the season against Catalan and then his wards follow up with a performance that is without doubt our worst. It’s not so bad if you ain’t up to it, any fan can understand that, but our lot are, they just didn’t bring anything to the game on the day.

I couldn’t even be bothered to get behind the settee!

OK, so I didn’t go, but oh how I felt for those FC souls who made the trip to Newcastle with so much hope, only to see us struggle as all those good intentions of the pre-match interviews and all the marketing hype, unwound before their very eyes. In such situations you really do have to feel for our publicity people don’t you? Whether you were there, in the pub or indeed watching from behind the settee, it was in the end, just embarrassing! We might have been dressed up in those quite amazing green Hulk shirts, but on Saturday there was little incredible about us and we never looked like morphing into a rugby team, never mind a set of super heroes! The fans turned up in commendable numbers, only to be disappointed by a team that didn’t turn up at all. How often has that happened in the past and yet for the long suffering supporter, how often will it happen again in the future? It’s all just part of the deal isn’t it?

One despairing contributor to RL fans summed up their frustration and anger perfectly when they said, “Woeful performance in all aspects, defence, attack, effort, tactics, lack of a plan B, it was like watching something from the Agar era again”. An over-reaction or just an echo from a distant tide? Well I don’t know, but I think, as we conceded our third big reversal of the season, we saw a performance worse than we did at Widnes last year. Yet here we are, still in the top four, still three points clear of fifth and still all to play for! At Hull FC as they say, hope still springs eternal!

Yep, I’m trying my best to be optimistic, but if I’m realistic I’m sure most at the club and indeed some fans won’t like what I have to say this week, so if you’re of a nervous disposition stop reading now! But I have to be honest and tell it as I see it, otherwise it’s not worth bothering at all and sat here in the early hours of Monday morning I’m still bitterly disappointed in what I saw in that game.

There have been plenty of up-beat offerings in here of late but, this isn’t going to be one of them and as I have said on many occasions over the last 12 years in this blog, at times it’s a blooming soul destroying past-time being a sports fan.

Is green on a Hull shirt the harbinger of disaster? Who knows, but on Saturday we never looked like scoring at all really and they simply wanted it more than we did. We knew before we started that they had a new coach to impress and that they were better than their recent results and indeed, it was something that Lee had been banging on to our players about all week, but did they listen; did they buggery. I feel for him as well, but as fans we have every right to be aggrieved, not because it’s a knee jerk reaction, but simply because we all know that we are better than that! If it’s not a crisis, then it’s certainly a bloody reality check!

Whilst our current position in the table is not a worry either and we’ve done well to get up there with only 4 losses thus far, the fact is that it’s the third time in 2017 that we have been heavily beaten and that means that although the alarm bells aren’t exactly ringing, they could well be tinkling a little after that showing. For now, as I say, it’s not a problem, but I know that 6 games ago the owner and Coach were asking questions after those two consecutive big defeats and there is little doubt for me that Adam and Lee will be eager for the side to respond in kind this Friday at home to Leigh Centurions. It was, as was the case at home to Leeds and Salford, not so much the defeat, but more the manner of it that was the worrying bit.

Before the game all we heard was that Saints had struggled mentally in recent weeks, but in their new coach’s first game in charge the Lancashire outfit turned up with the right attitude from the outset and despite all the hype, new shirts and hope, we didn’t!

But what pre-empts a good performance? Well from a fans point of view it’s hard to know really! Before the game we said all the right things, the lads were up for it, the FC crowd was vociferous and in the dressing room they looked really focussed and indeed we started pretty well. But it soon became apparent that Saints had set their minds on crossing that finishing line first, while we just weren’t at the races. It was as bad a performance as we have seen for some time and it’s hard to watch that sort of stuff in your front room never mind miles from home in Newcastle isn’t it?

When you’re a black and white there is one thing that is a given; Hull FC, will always break your heart, in fact they seem to do it at regular intervals and with monotonous regularity, because that was the sort of performance that we’ve certainly seen a time or two over the years. It was a game from which we have to learn, regroup and come back fighting. But, on Saturday it just went from bad to worse and no one could steady us down and get us anywhere near back on track in that second half. Too many players looked pretty disinterested.

Desperation reigned as we chased the game and as always seems to happen in such situations, we forced the ball and the play, against a team who wanted it more, waited their chance and then executed the killer plays simply but effectively. Seldom have we seen our forwards ‘done’ so badly through the middle and although Bowden tried hard and Mini, Manu and Houghton had a real go, their forwards did for us.

4000 fans forked out for a weekend in ‘Geordieland’ and that in itself was a drain on a lot of individual’s resources. One aggrieved family of 4 contacted me yesterday to tell me that the weekend had cost them 700 quid, whilst my pal Iain reckons the three of them spent around £500; that’s a drain alright. As I say, I feel for Lee Radford because our preparation was good, but like us lot, he knows that such unexplainable things happen and that it’s just the way it is with sport in general and Hull FC in particular. Never mind the Coach, few of the fans out there could have seen that performance coming. Saints with a new coach to impress were always going to want it, it was just a case of us being just as resolute as they were and matching their desire.

On that one we came up woefully short, it started early on and whatever was said at half time seemed to make little difference really. It’s not a crisis just yet and these things do happen especially in this competition, this year, but we have to respond because should we come out of next weekend’s difficult double header with no points, then the word crisis will start at to cross the minds of a few, as Castleford will look to pull away at the top and we’ll get sucked into the mid table drama.

As such performances go, I guess standing back from it all it was a characteristic first quarter, with good early pressure, nullified by us once again trying to be a bit too flamboyant with the ball and from the off it all looked a bit too ‘slap dash’ for me. Six drives and a kick to build pressure early in the game was what we needed, but our inability to do that meant that Saints grew in confidence and with their places in the team obviously on the line they gained heart as we simply invited them into the game and they took that gift with both hands. Some good goal line defence was apparent at first, but even that, the mainstay of Hull FC for so many games in the last 18 months, creaked, crashed and burned in the face of what was no more than some effective and workmanlike play from the Saints.

Our opponents full of passion and inspired by the presence of their new leader, got one try from a forward ‘Crash’ over the line and then a poor attempt of a catch that found Jansin Turgot out of position presented them with another, as then did Michaels, with a poorly judged jump and that was effectively that. From then on it was a procession and as I said earlier another big defeat, our third this season, came as a matter of course. There is no explanation and certainly there are no excuses, because quite frankly we were crap.

There is little more you can say really is there. We have to learn from it and we must do, because otherwise our confidence will go backwards. I can’t really explain what happened, but perhaps despite all those points against Catalan its been coming in some ways. Those defeats to Salford and Leeds and that first half against Widnes were maybe pointers towards things to come and yet last week we absolutely murdered the Catalans Dragons! Quite where we now find the mental tenacity and the energy to get us through next weekend’s two games I don’t really know. We need two points on Friday because with a long journey to the South of France and a game in sweltering conditions just three days later, it will be a bloody tough proposition to get any more.

As for playing performances, well Houghton tried really hard throughout and made an amazing 68 tackles, Shauly had a real go as did Manu and perhaps Bowden tried, but for me Minnichiello, who never gave up, was the pick of a generally bad bunch. But otherwise we were rubbish. So we move on, lick our wounds and as fans …wonder! I can’t defend them this week because as a supporter I have every right to be aggrieved although a good stuffing of Leigh will move me on and all will no doubt be forgotten. But, and it’s a big but, can we get our mojo back; get to the KCOM on Friday where no doubt all will be revealed!

As for the rest of Magic well I watched the Leeds v Cas game and bits of the others, but quite frankly it was at times boring to behold, but perhaps that’s just me. However as for it being a bigger occasion than Wembley, well you have to be joking, but I’ll have a look at that ridiculous statement that appeared last Wednesday a little later on in here.

Talking of stuff that came to pass in the last week, it would appear that the game could, if we are not careful, be heading for a bit of a crisis. This week it was revealed that several Clubs had approached us about loaning players in the short term because they are suffering from a real injury crisis. It would also appear that all clubs are really struggling, as they attempt to get players fit to play between games and all that because of the ridiculously tight fixture schedule. The World Cup is of course blamed for that, but with dropping gates and money tight the inability of the Clubs to play less games for economic reasons coupled with the need to finish the year early, means that we face an almost inhumane situation where players are being asked to play without the right conditioning and preparation. This is leading to more injuries than usual and at present that situation is self-perpetuating as that parlous state of affairs shows no signs of improving.

The modern game bears little resemblance to that which was played in the 70’s and 80’s when teams regularly had weather and cup induced fixture backlogs to play out at the end of the campaign. However, these days it’s got to the point where either the clubs are allowed to spend more money to employ bigger squads (if indeed the talent is out there in the first place) or sooner or later a fixture is going to have to be pulled because one club can’t raise a team. Catalans came perilously close to that before their cup game against us and then got three more injuries during it! What’s the answer? Well something has got to give somewhere and either the fixture list needs to be shortened and the Super Eights stuff truncated and revised into something that takes up 4 or 5 round rather than 7 or the domestic competition has to take sovereignty over the International one.

We can’t have it both ways and 30 Domestic games plus 4 rounds of the Challenge Cup and a semi-final and Grand final is just too many matches for the players own good. I know the RL are looking at a new structure to supersede the middle eights but while they debate that, the players are suffering and worrying times could be just around the corner!

Talking of the state of the game in general, it’s a good job that we got that massive ‘multi-generational’ Monkey off our backs last year when we won the Challenge Cup at Wembley because by all accounts the National Stadium could well no longer be the venue for the event in future years. Last week, as I alluded to earlier, the Super League chief executive, Roger Draper, admitted that the sport’s governing body is keen to protect the future of the event, which he said, could yet mean exploring alternative options away from the stadium. My first response to that was, “What!!! Wembley IS the Challenge Cup”

The RL and the Stadium entered a 20-year agreement in 2007, but will apparently now hold further talks later this year about whether our governing body will honour that, as Draper said last week, “We’re conscious that the Challenge Cup has lost its shine (not round here it ain’t Roger) and it’s probably become our third biggest property. Magic Weekend has overtaken it in terms of fans and we’re conscious of that. There’s a lot we’ve got to sit down and discuss. We’ll look at all the available options and safeguard the event. We’re in the thick of renegotiating with Wembley. We’ve reached an agreement for 2017 which is great, but we’ll sit down with them over the summer and chat about 2018 onwards. We associate the cup final with Wembley and it would take a brave man to move it away from there but, having said that, you’ve got to look at everything and make sure it all stacks up for us.”

They have already got an agreement to put the middle VIP section on general sale for 2017 and what they are now saying may just be the RL posturing, before they enter into those forthcoming future negotiations. I hope that’s all it is, because although I’m not a stick in the mud and accept completely that there will always be change (except at Mr Allam’s Turnstiles) I take exception to a possible move of venue on several fronts (I bet you knew I would though didn’t you?) Firstly, attendance wise the Magic Weekend is just that; a Weekend! It’s certainly not in front of the Wembley Final in status or attendance in any way, in fact some would argue that Wembley even ranks above the Grand Final, simply because of its long tradition that encapsulates for many fans a weekend away and a trip each year to the Capital, the event is still seen as a prestigious national sporting event and positions the game of Rugby League right at the very heart of the Capital of the country.

Tradition can be a real hindrance at times, but it can also be a massive selling point and moving the Cup final from Wembley would for me, in sporting parlance, be equivalent to moving the boat race to the Mersey! The Magic Weekend is calculated over two days added together and some people who attend the whole weekend are counted twice. At that event, which Mr Draper thinks has overtaken Wembley, the crowd come to watch 12 teams over those two days, while the attendance at Wembley is made up of a cross section of the game with the bulk consisting of the followers of the two competing clubs. The tradition behind the final is such that most people say “Do you think we’ll get to Wembley again” or sing “Wembley, Wembley” or “we’re the famous Hull FC and …” because quite simply that game is associated with the London venue and has been since the 1940’s.

In our great game there is little current stability in the first place. It seems that every year we are tinkering with the rules, the competition, the structure, the funding, the quotas, the officials etc etc and change although often good, can be over-done. In sport too much change can be both destabilising and off putting for both the hardened spectator and the potential convert. All over the world people tune in for the occasion of the most prestigious match in the British competition (in their eyes at least) and to witness two teams walking out on the hallowed turf of the National Stadium. They acknowledge the spectacle of the occasion and the venue as much as they do the game itself because, as I say, in an ever changing world it’s a little bit of tradition. Some of you reading this will not agree and no doubt think to move the game would be a good idea, but for me to move it would be a shame, pretty counter-productive and a real nail in the coffin of Rugby League, which is a pretty perforated sarcophagus in any case. For me Wembley is one of the only remaining pieces of the bedrock on which our game is built. In the end I can’t see it happening but then again nothing surprises me on the RL front these days, does it you?

Well the ‘Looney Tune of the Week’ Award, has without doubt this week to go to the ubiquitous Dean Windass, who, can I firstly say, is actually employed by Hull City. Deano is a hero for our time as far as most football fans in the City are concerned and his goal at Wembley will be remembered for them as will Danny Houghton’s tackle for us. but Deano certainly appeared to be living in an alternative universe last week. On Radio 5 Live last Monday afternoon just after 4-00pm he found himself being interviewed on national Radio about the demise of ‘The Tigers’. In closing the interviewer said, “There was a lot of bad blood and animosity between the fans and the owners a while ago has all that subsided now”, to which Windass replied, “Oh yes everyone has been concentrating on staying up and that’s all forgotten now”. Obviously Dean, doesn’t go on the internet, take the Hull Daily Mail or go in any of the pubs that I frequent then! Is he not living in the real world or simply protecting his job? Well I know which my money’s on!

Whilst we are on such none rugby related things I noticed as I’m sure that you did that my old pal Angus Young of the Hull Daily Mail, whose wry wit and ability to poke the hornet’s nest I have admired for years, stated last Monday that Hull City owner Assem Allam could be made an honorary freeman of Hull. The article indicated that he is amongst a number of figures from the worlds of business, sport and the arts whose names are being considered. I’ll just point out firstly that this move certainly isn’t the City Councils idea and furthermore there’s a few in the Guildhall very much questioning the leak of the information of who is shortlisted in the first place. In fact, immediately after the revelation Labour members were taking to social media to deny involvement in his nomination!

Apparently, any one person can propose anyone for that position, but it’s up to the Councils Civic and Parliamentary Committee to recommend the final nominees to the Full City Council. The authority has delayed any such deliberations for another month and until after the election, (you bet they have!) but it would certainly be ironic if he were to be awarded such an accolade, because he would then stand shoulder to shoulder with another Freeman of the City, Johnny Whiteley, someone who Mr Allam pointed out a few years ago, he had never even heard of!!

Well you certainly hear some interesting stuff when you write something like this weekly drivel and there is little doubt that last weeks resume of the goings on at the end of the 1999 season when as a Club we almost sank without trace brought E Mails and messages a plenty. One I choose to highlight here certainly made me sit up and take notice although the donor, being still a very well connected member of the RL, had better remain nameless. He wrote,

“You talked in last week’s Diary about how close ‘Hull FC came to oblivion’ that day in late 1999, well I remember well that eventually the fate of the Club came down to a meeting of the second tier clubs and it was common knowledge back then that HKR and others were intent on voting against Hull FC joining them, as the black and whites hadn’t been officially relegated. The original proposed merger was what upset many clubs as they saw it as being unfair that Hull should be allowed to clear their debts while the other Clubs had all to labour on with theirs. Of course Rovers then saw a chance to kill their neighbours off and as one of their officials was heard to say, to “Make Hull KR the only Club in the City” That looked like it was to be the end but then a senior member of the RL council concocted the deal which saved your club. That day Hull were third on the agenda at the RL Council meeting and it was no secret that although the Club had been assured a deal was in place, your clubs representatives were really ‘bricking it’.

During the first two items Gary Hetherington, who was without doubt an Ally of your Club that day, was called out to receive an urgent phone call and when he came back, he had a private word with Rodney Walker the RL chairman. Hull’s item was subsequently laid aside, an action that prompted the representatives from Hull KR to enquire why. They were then told by the Chairman it was OK, as the merger was going ahead, but with Hull carrying on in Super League and Gateshead moving to the Boulevard. At that point I remember the Hull KR contingent stormed out, but it’s interesting that the merger was only sorted out mid-morning of the actual day of the meeting and it can never be over emphasised how near your Club were to going out of business. Just thought I’d chip in my two penneth, keep up the good work with the Diary”.

I thought you’d all find that addendum to last week’s piece pretty interesting.

I bumped into a couple of guys I haven’t seen for years in Morrison’s the other day and as massive FC fans they were asking about the new book before the conversation got somehow onto great Coaches of the past and why no one had ever written up the life of Arthur Bunting or at least his glorious reign as Hull Coach. He was, we remembered, an amazing coach but as we said all good things came to an end and it was in 1985 a pretty ignominious departure that faced our once heralded boss. I said I’d do my best this week to trace his departure and what happened as I saw it. It’s great when you have written about it all in a book which is now out of print, because you can soon dig up a few facts to paint a picture of what things were like back then in mid-December 1985.

Having been knocked out of the Yorkshire Cup in the semi-final by Hull KR, our bad luck continued that December without a ball being kicked in anger. Despite some patchy form in the League campaign, having beaten Swinton and Salford at the Boulevard in the first two rounds, we had reached the last eight of the John Player Trophy, and so, we eagerly awaited the draw for the quarter finals.

On Monday 2nd December, the day that local poet Phillip Larkin died, I got up early to watch the draw being made in front of a massive TV audience on the new and ground breaking BBC Breakfast Show. In those days each Club in the competition was (before the first round draw), allocated a number in line with their position in the alphabet. They kept that number throughout and it was included in the bag for each draw, until they were knocked out.

We should all have realised that something was wrong when the first ball out of the bag that morning was number 1, which was Barrow, who had actually already been knocked out the day before. However, despite us all fearing another RL cock up, the draw continued and we were allocated a home match against York, whilst Hull KR were drawn away at Warrington. There was however one too many balls in the bag, which was certainly apparent when David Oxley the Chairman of the Rugby League, (a man knick-named by the Threepenny Stand ‘The Cheshire Cat’ because he could smile through anything) got to the end of the proceedings with a ball still remaining.

40 minutes later, amidst much confusion, the draw was retaken ‘off camera’ with, this time, the right eight balls in contention and Hull FC were drawn away at Saints, whilst Rovers ended up with another away tie, but this time at lowly York. There were complaints a plenty, but the second draw was endorsed by the Governing Council of the Rugby Football League, and so we made our plans to travel to Knowesley Road St. Helens the following weekend.

Then the frost descended in Lancashire and the game was postponed 18 hours before it was due to be played. It was rescheduled for the following Wednesday, when after I had taken a day off work to travel over to Lancashire, we were ‘demolished’ 57-14. It was our biggest defeat ever at that time and followed a shambolic performance which epitomised our plight that season. We struggled to contain a rampant Saints attack, dropped lots of ball in our own half and had nothing left energy wise with which to counter attack. I guess, once again at a time of utter disappointment, and a new, unwanted record, I could say “I was there”, but there was little doubt that the magic of the last 5 years was fading fast, and the reality was that after a good start to the season my team was falling apart.

There were plenty of protagonists and ‘doom and gloom merchants’ around back then and everywhere you went fans were full of their own theories about what was happening at the Club. The Board, the Players, referee’s and even the Rugby League were blamed for our demise but the majority of folks who had a theory placed the responsibility squarely, but perhaps unfairly, at Arthur Buntings door. That’s what usually happens with supporters when the chips are down and everything has been tried and you’re still struggling then whatever his past exploits, it has to be the Coach’s fault. On the Sunday before Christmas, 22nd December, I drove over to Manchester for the Swinton game in my Opal Ascona, with Harry, Garry and a friend of mine from Garden Village called Andy.

Station Road was a once great Stadium which had fallen from grace and several sections of terrace were closed altogether. The weather was dire too and as the rain poured down from a leaden sky, we stood for 80 minutes with water running out of our shoes and lost to a poor but physical Swinton side 16-8. At the end a disheartened chorus of “Bunting Out” rang out from some of the 600 or so diehard fans that had made the trip over the Pennines, but of course I didn’t join in, although as we all got back to the car and wrung out our Hull Shirts and ‘bobble hats’, we had some sympathy with their point of view.

It was already a well-known fact all around West Hull that the Board of Directors had scheduled a special meeting to discuss the Club’s plight with Arthur and his Assistant Kenny Foulkes for that Monday, and it was there, in the Boulevard Boardroom, that the end of a ‘Golden Era’ came, as Arthur Bunting resigned as Hull FC Coach. His Assistant Kenny Foulkes was asked to take over and although rumours were rife around the City about Arthur’s replacement, Club Chairman Roy Waudby made it clear that Kenny was there until the end of that current campaign. Fast diminishing financial resources, falling gates, ageing players and struggles in the Boardroom, meant that the coaching role was a ‘poison chalice’, although at least Foulkes still had a job and stated afterwards, “I arrived at the meeting expecting to be sacked and walked out as Head Coach”. Fred Ah Kuoi became his Assistant and although in hindsight perhaps Arthur Bunting’s tenure at the Club had run its course, it was sad when he left but he will always be hailed as a legend and an all-time greats of Hull FC. He is, in fact, a real hero to this day.

In the New Year things went from bad to worse and the anticipated ‘new coach effect’ that the Board had pinned their hopes on, was certainly not materialising. Injuries continued to plague the team as Kenny Foulkes soldiered on with diminishing resources, whilst there was now an obvious aversion by the Board to spend any money at all, which indicated things were getting tough off the field as well. We were knocked out of the Cup in the early rounds by Hull KR, this time by 22-6 and a three-week period of inactivity due to some heavy frosts and snow, did nothing to help the Club’s finances either.

As the end of the season approached we were beaten away from home 44-6 by Wigan and 43-16 by Warrington and despite Kenny Foulkes’ best efforts, things continued to decline. Home gates were still dropping and it was as if some fans had just had too much success. Although they still ‘supported’ the Club they certainly didn’t do it with their feet or their cash, as average attendances at the Boulevard went down to 6,200 and by April 1986 we were mid table, a situation that we weren’t used to at all. Things were not helped by the fact that Rovers had just beaten Leeds in an energy sapping semi- final which saw our mortal enemy progress to Wembley. Thankfully and to the relief of everyone in West Hull, they were beaten there by Castleford. But it was a hard time for all concerned as we entered a real period of decline under the soon to be appointed Len Casey but it was a real sad end to one of the greatest Coaches the Club has ever seen. Great memories of tough times!

While we are on the historical stuff this week’s ‘quote of the week’ actually comes from the local newspaper back on 23rd April 2011, but you’ll get the idea. Back then Hull KR chairman Neil Hudgell said in the wake of some allegations against full-back Ben Cockayne, “The club’s position is a very simple one. We are a family club; we would not tolerate any comment with racist connotations or anything with sexist or homophobic connotations. We take that sort of thing very seriously”. I guess I need say no more on that one except for, how times change eh?

Moving swiftly on and what a horror show that was on Saturday. There is no doubt at all that we really do have to get those two points this weekend, as the home games start to run out and we face a procession of difficult fixtures away from the KCOM. The vagaries of our shared stadium existence dictate that this is always the case and we just have to get on with it, but that fixture list really does look a tough one now with away games at Leeds, Salford, Saints and Cas on the horizon, plus that ludicrous trip to France, just four days after the Leigh game. Still we have to just get on with it and really need those next two points that should at least cement our place in the top 8, which has to be our first target.

Thanks to everyone who got in touch this week and for all the interesting and at times unprintable responses I got to the stuff I wrote the other week about 1999 and the near demise of our Club at the end of that season. Plus, whilst I’m on about readers it was great to hear from Talk Sports Adrian Durham the other day, as he E Mailed to enquired about the availability of the new book. He’s a great guy and of course a passionate FC fan who, he told me, shares with me and many of you reading this, the fact that 4-53pm on 27th August 2016 was the best sporting moment of his life. Top Bloke!

Last week I mentioned the unveiling and dedication of the Blue plaques that are to be positioned around the City and I can now tell you that this will now take place this week at the History Centre (and not the Guildhall as previously stated) at 12-00 on the 24th May.

So that’s it for another week. You know sometimes in the period leading up to a game, it’s hard to find stuff that’s interesting and different to write about around our Club, so at times like these I just cover whatever I find that is amusing me or that I find thought provoking across the game. I just hope you found something to entertain you in this week’s offering. What a tragedy that was at Newcastle eh? Still onwards and upwards I guess. Finally, a big well done to everyone who went to the Magic Weekend, you deserved so much better from our team you really do, but whatever happens I guess I’ll still see you all at the KCOM on Friday! As FC fans we are nothing if not a resilient bunch!

Try to Keep Believing!

Faithfully Yours

Wilf