The Dentist’s Diary – 681st

Well here we are again, as another week passes and the crowd at the RFL continues to drag their feet on sorting out what will be happening for the rest of what is to be severely truncated season. As well as the whole campaign being reduced by seven games, teams will lose home advantage for certain fixtures and new rules have now been introduced during the campaign, rather than at the start of the season as is usual. 

Several games have already been played under the old rules and Toronto will probably not now play a game at home at all, whilst the Catalan position is still unclear. Plus of course, if any player gets the virus, you can see all his team mates and indeed the players he has opposed on the pitch, isolated for 14 days and perhaps missing two or three games, and that through no rugby injury or fault of their own. A level playing field 2020 is not!! 

Add to that the fact that half the Championship clubs are for restarting the season and half are dead against it, primerilybecause of the escalating cost of Covid testing, whilst some clubs are still in dispute about wages and it’s a real catalogue of issues. So, at present for me, the whole thing is a mess and needs someone to grow some and make a few decisions somewhere and to do it quickly!! 

Relegation and promotion has to be scrapped simple as! In fact, it’s been indicated this week by one of the country’s top sporting lawyer’s, that so many things have changed mid-season that any club who were relegated would have a good case to take legal action against the RL, because of all those circumstances. But typical of the governing body, they are still trying to please all of the people, all of the time and as usual that’s solving nothing. We haven’t even got the fixtures agreed yet! So, it goes on.

On another tack I was wondering this week if, in my serialisation of the first two books, we’ll get right up to the glorious 2005 season finale where the second book finished, before the season restarts. I’m not sure we will, but I’ll press on, as this week the 80’s draw to a close, we lose big Len Casey as coach and start to experience the start of three great seasons of Brian Smith being at the helm at the Boulevard. 

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The Dentist’s Diary – 680th

Hello again and wasn’t it heartening this week to see Adam Pearson going into print, reaffirming his backing for the club and his commitment to it and looking forward to our games starting again. Then in chimed James Clark, with more interesting, heartening and reassuring stuff as the pair of them battle to keep the club we love afloat and look to restarting our season. 

I guess there are troubled waters ahead though and with so many Rugby League clubs run on a shoe string in the first place, I simply can’t see everyone coming through unscathed. Neil Hudgell over in the East painted a bleak picture in the Mail on Wednesday and I guess we just all have to await what happens next. 

One thing that is strangely in our favour at Hull FC is the fact that we don’t own our own ground or have any sort of long lease on it, because in effect we are just tenants of the SMC. Normally that’s a disadvantage and it’s fair to say that we have often envied Clubs who have the ‘security’ of owning their own stadiums, or leasing them long term. Indeed, having our own home has always been the dream of everyone from Adam to ‘Joe Public’ sat on the terraces, but now perhaps the lack of such a facility, is a bit of a god send. 

You see, for now, those owners and tenants have to continue with the upkeep of their grounds, whilst they also have balance sheets that depend on functions, bar takings, room hire and out of game-time activities to stay afloat. Their maintenance and upkeep costs will be escalating, with no income coming in and as is now happening at Rovers, the debts are totting up. 

Owning your own stadium, or having a long lease means that you can spread your wings a bit, but you then come to depend on that income and you can see how the loss of those lucrative rock concerts, that they were so proud of attracting, have hit Hull KR hard, as they revealed this week that they have caused a £500,000 hole in their 2020 balance sheet and that’s without the Corona Virus stuff. At Hull FC we have had to live without such income streams and hone our business around playing rugby on game day, selling shed loads of merchandise and attracting large amounts of sponsorship, memberships and external income. As a Club we have long lamented not owning our ground and not being able to do such things as others could do, but now conversely, I guess that it’s an advantage of sorts. 

Still as I have said for weeks now, we can only await developments and as fans, see what we can do to help when we are asked. This Covid thing is far from over and, with the irresponsible actions of the few, who knows what spikes and surges will be upon us in the coming months. In the mean-time things move on, slowly, and so for now we return to the mid 80’s when we had other troubles at Hull FC, as the great days of the Arthur Bunting reign were fast disappearing and the debts were again beginning to mount. 

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The Dentist’s Diary – 679th

Welcome to another addition of the Diary as we hear the announcement that providing the idiots behave themselves and the virus continues to subsided, we will be starting the season again in early August. 

There is still no news of relegation, but as I said this time last week with no home advantage for any teams and a curtailed season and perhaps some new temporary rules as well, it simply has to be scrapped this year. Now I guess we await news of when the players will be back in training and thus when the furloughing process will cease and the club will have to find the full wage bill again themselves. 

That for me with games behind closed doors generating no income, is the dangerous time. I expect several clubs to suffer a lot then and we can only hope that they all make it through. We have made it clear that we won’t be signing anyone until the new year, which points to a situation that is only going to get worse before it gets better. 

 As for the Championship and Division One sides, well they can’t make their minds up what they want to do with the poorer clubs wanting to cling to furloughing as long as possible and the more ambitious lot baying for a return of the fixtures and promotion to be retained.  It looks to me that its stalemate there and one wonders how exactly it will be resolved. 

So, we’ll just have to wait and see, but for now I would like to take you back to the serialisation of the books and to happier times back in 1983/84 when we were in the middle of a purple patch, although it has to be said looking back, a time too when the cracks were starting to show. I hope that you find something to enjoy.

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The Dentist’s Diary – 678th

Well here we are again as the weeks speed by and I guess it  look as though the season will resume behind closed doors in mid-August, so we still have a couple of months to wait for some action to take place and you have to wonder how long it will be left before training commences and indeed how the clubs will get on, once the furlough scheme starts to unravel. 

I’ve been hearing from quite a few of you and everyone seems to be coming to terms with the ‘new normal’ we are all facing up to and when there is anything concrete and worthwhile to discuss or report, I’ll try and discuss it here.  In the meantime,  for now let’s go back to the crazy life of a fanatical FC fan as this week the serialisation of the books see us revisit a fantastic John Player win against the Dobbins with the late, great, Ronnie Wileman taking centre stage, that amazing drawn Final of ’82  coming as it did amid the Falklands conflict and the unrivalled spectacle that unfolded 18 days later at Elland Road, and of course we win the Championship for the first time since the 1930’s but we start we me back at the Council were business at the City Hall continues to expand. 

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The Dentist’s Diary – 677th

Well another week goes by and in some ways it seems to all go on and on, whilst in others it seems to just fly by, but alas we still seem to be no clearer with regard to getting back to a time when Rugby League in this country will return. 

We already knew about Albert Kelly departing for his homeland and so, when that ‘broke’ this week, it was old news really, but I would repeat what I said two weeks ago, that with him and Ratu leaving, we have probably lost our two most exciting players. Both have that X factor, so sadly missing in the modern stereotypical game and they can turn a match around in an instant. They are crowd pleasers and the sort of players that people will pay to see. You need such individuals in your team and to lose two at one go is a real blow. On another front, after we had decided to reduce the length of the season, there is now talk of rule changes for the rest of this campaign which are all fine, as long as we dispose of relegation, but, for me, pretty unfair if we don’t. 

As Andy Last said this week the changes such as the ‘six again’ rule and even the possibility of getting rid of scrums to stop unnecessary contact, will open the game up and make for very exciting, fast, high scoring encounters. Actually, I was slightly disappointed with his attitude to open exciting rugby, but I agree that those changes will do nothing for clubs who have built their squads around a long arduous season, played under the old rules, which benefitted more the traditional game. 

If these changes are to be applied, as I say, we have to forget about relegation, for to impose such changes on clubs without disposing of it, will leave the game open to calls of fowl at the end of the season and perhaps even, challenges from Super League Clubs. It’s OK for soccer to continue with relegation and promotion, as their seasons are almost over, but we are only a quarter of  the way through ours and to radically change ‘the goal posts’ at this point in the process and yet keep relegation is, I believe, a completely different situation.

However, as I always seem to be saying these days only time will tell, so next up we move onto the lockdown induced serialisation of the books, as we move into the second volume ‘Going Down the Boulevard’ and the exciting times that were the 80’s. The defeat at Wembley to the old enemy is past and we move into the new decade full of hope, growing attendances and regular additions to the squad, although as you read on you’ll discover that all was not sweetness and light behind the scenes; in fact far from it. So, although it seems almost impossible that we have reached the 12th instalment, here we go again and I hope that you find something to enjoy, that will bring back the memories. 

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The Dentist’s Diary – 675th

Well another 7 days go by and it seems this difficult and at times baffling situation just goes on and on. 

I know we are lifting the restrictions but it’s hard to see when we will ever see rugby league back to normal again. I have watched a bit of the NRL and have to say that I like the new 6 tackles rule for infringements at the play the ball, but overall their administrators and indeed their government seem to be so much more organised than we are. However even they are doubtful about getting fans back into the grounds again, although with their saturation TV coverage and the money that  the Clubs get from that, attracting crowds back to the game seems to be a long way down even their agenda at present. 

It was sad this week to hear of the death of a real stalwart of the RL fans message Board and a reader of the Dentists Diary, Chris Jones, AKA Chris28. He was a guy that I was in contact with quite a bit over the years, a great person  and a real good ‘died in the wool’ FC fan. He had been ill for some time, but it was still a shock when I heard the news and my thoughts go out to his family and friends at such a difficult time. As another true fan passes on R.I.P. Chris28.

On another tack I bumped into Steve McNamara the other day in Beverley where he was out for a bike ride. He stopped for a chat and told me how tough things were during lock down in France and how he had to drive across the country to get home to England and have special papers, tests etc to get back. It was so good to talk rugby again, although he, like all of us, was unclear as to what would happen and when it will come to pass. As I have said in here many times I really do fear for the game, still, it was great to chat to Steve and I wished him well for the future. 

So back to the serialisation of my story of Hull FC, as it enters one of the most exciting times we have seen in the last 60 years. As I said before, these are not the final drafts which are with the publishers, but are some pre-proof copies of my own, so I apologise if they are a few mistakes here and there, but I hope that you finds something to enjoy. 

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The Dentist’s Day – 674th

So, hello to week ten of the serialisation of my first book and as we reach the late 70’s, things start to get exciting down at the Boulevard with the coming of Bunting and the amazing ‘Knocker’ Norton. 

This week has been a quiet one rugby wise as the pandemic rumbles on and there is really little sign of it ever ending. There has been a lot going on behind the scenes as the Clubs got together again this week, for a long meeting to decide just how to get things moving again. I know that games will start behind closed doors but, I also believe from what I’m hearing from readers and people who keep in touch, that it will take a lot of convincing to get some fans back in the grounds even when we are told that the game is opening up again. There’s still a lot of apprehensive folks out there. 

Still, the Aussie experiment seems to be going well and they have made a good job of re-launching the season for the TV cameras and all the sit at home fans. However, they do seem to have been a bit smarter than us with this and indeed with how as a country they have dealt with the virus in general. 

Still I’ll keep going and move, after next week, into the second book, as we continue the life spanning journal of an average fan with an undoubted obsession for his Rugby League team. 

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The Dentist’s Diary – 673rd

So, at last this week, we saw some news coming out of the club, but all of it not good really, as we heard that both Ratu Naulago and Albert Kelly won’t be with us in 2021. Ratu for me is a massive loss because, he has real potential to be another Vianicolo type player who could have been a real sensation in the game, but thankfully he had the decency to reject at least one approach from another British Club, in respect for what Hull FC has done for him. 

He had everything in his armoury that you can’t teach a naturally gifted player and that just needed working on, whilst his explosive speed is something that had at times to be seen to be believed for such a big bloke. I’m convinced we will see him starring at Bristol in RU but perhaps not as much as he would have done, (with two less defenders on the field) in League. So, for me as I say, he is a big loss. 

Albert has been threatening a move to Australia for two years now and after what has been going on across the world of late who wouldn’t want to be at home?  But as Kelly departs we lose a real old-fashioned maverick of a player who can make the big play and turn a game with one shuffle of his feet or flick of his wrist. He’s had his moments disciplinary wise, and also been rather prone to suspension and concussion of late so perhaps the time is right, but he’s an enigma that it will be virtually impossible to replace. In saying all this, as if they are gone already, I guess it looks like I am writing this season off and in effect if I’m honest I think I probably am. For normality seems as far away now as it did when the game was suspended all those weeks ago. Who’s next for leaving? Well we’ll just have to wait and see.  

Also this week, the Challenge Cup Final was ‘postponed’ and despite all the hoo haa that accompanied its announcement that was something that was always going to happen. Fact is, I think it is a competition that is unlikely to be enacted at all this season, particularly if we are intent on cramming in the rest of this league campaign as well. 

Personally, as things stand now, I’m for scrapping relegation as well, because even if we get started and try to cram games in, perhaps at 3 a week and through the winter weather, with postponements etc. the ‘playing field’ will not be even at all, so I think that to retain relegation in such a scenario will be a travesty.    

But now back to the story of my lifelong passion for Hull FC and you know, I have been amazed (when I have read back these chapters for the first time for 6 years), just how tough those years in the seventies were and just how much we celebrated anything even a gallant loss. They were such tough times, but this week’s episode ends with one such great day all be it a losing one. So here goes and I hope you find something to enjoy in it!! 

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The Dentist’s Diary – 672nd

Hello Everyone, I hope you’re all hanging in there. As the virus stuff continues and we all self-isolate, it’s all getting a bit tedious isn’t it and even with my most optimistic head on it’s hard to see when life will ever be the same again. There is little doubt that at such times, some things are much bigger than rugby but across the various sports in this country everyone is just trying to survive as best they can and as such rugby league certainly has its challenges. 

At such a time it truly was a masterstroke for the RL to secure that £16m loan for the Government. The money is clearly a crucial lifeline and will certainly help all clubs in the months ahead. What’s more Sky TV have now pledged to support the game for the last two years of their contract which is great too. 

Looking at cost cutting, it also appears that there seems to be a growing move from many in Super League to scrap the two-tier system of administration so that the two bodies unite again. I know it’s a case of needs must but for some of us, the shambles that ensued before Super League split away still hangs heavy in our memories. However, Ralph Rimmer who has done so well to secure the funding, but who didn’t exactly covered himself in glory on several occasions in the past, has other problems to sort now, including the one that could be the most problematic yet: promotion and relegation. 

Lots have been calling for there to be no relegation in 2020 due to the unusual circumstances under which the competition currently finds itself. There is little doubt that the fixture list could look very different to how it was originally planned, with so much uncertainty about whether Catalans and Toronto will even be able to travel. Although, as I always said in the diary, any format that involves loop fixtures and Magic Weekend is flawed and open to accusations of inequality anyway. So, those in favour of scrapping relegation have a powerful argument given the unprecedented chaos Covid-19 has brought. But that won’t bode well at all with those in the Championship and League 1 who are striving to earn promotion. They have set up working groups to sort it out, but most Super league clubs will be averse to relegation after a truncated and disparate season.  

However, the likes of Toulouse Olympique, London Broncos and Leigh Centurions to name three have invested heavily in their bid to reach or return to the elite. If it is decided there should be no promotion or relegation (and one is almost certainly not going to happen without the other) the owners also won’t have one up but no-one down, as no cash strapped Super League club will agree to the money pot being reduced to include 13 teams in Super league will they? 

Conversely, any suggestion on no movement at all will probably fall on deaf ears for those in the Championship and League 1 striving to earn promotion as without it, their season will effectively be a write off. Furthermore, if it all does eventually start up behind closed doors, as is expected, it is hard to envisage how many Championship clubs will be able to make any money at all. That £16m only spreads so far and a lot of clubs will simply be intent on surviving into 2021. Undoubtedly all of this will be a minefield which will involve some careful negotiating by Rimmer in the weeks ahead. In many ways it’s a tough one and some owners including Neil Hudgell, who are against relegation in a manufactured fixture list, want a definitive answer shelving relegation, before play resumes and they invest anymore. What’s more they are right, for you need to know exactly what you are playing for before you get underway. It’s a tough situation and someone is always going to be unhappy, so there are certainly interesting times ahead!

In the meantime, here we go again with the next part of the ongoing saga of the life of a fanatical FC fan as we look at the 1970’s, at the departure of Johnny Whiteley and the Coaching of Ivor Watts and Clive Sullivan, Saturday nights on the town, annual general meetings, ginger groups, tall tales on wet afternoons, Magic sponges and the lack of any sort of political correctness on the Threepennies! 

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The Dentist’s Diary – 671st

Welcome to another week of the Diary, as the lockdown continues and we all try to stay safe and await what happens next. It’s been a quiet old week again in the game, but as the Premier League consider a return to playing football behind closed doors in June and muting the possibility of perhaps even having to consider continuing with the same set up for the whole of next season. There is little doubt at present that the future of rugby league hangs in the balance.

It was a little sad for me to hear that the players union werethis week flexing their muscles and issuing ‘strongly worded letters’ about the players getting a cut of the £16m loan from the government, before it had even been received. I say that simply because at times like these we all have to pull togetherand work as one for the common good. Players must have enough money to survive, pay their commitments and look after their families, that point isn’t in doubt and the owners know that. It was intimated this week from our own players that Adam has even told them that once they are back playing, their wages will be restored.

Whatever they are, I can’t honestly see the owners stuffing their pockets with the money at the expense of keeping the game going or the players solvent, can you? There is no point in anyone getting heavy handed in all this and what is done with the loan has to be done equitably, taking the clubs, the fans and indeed the players along with the process.  

On the other side of the coin this week our Club sent out a letter of thanks to all their sponsors and commercial partnersfor the ‘phenomenal’ help and offers of assistance they have received from these organisations, all of whom are under pressure themselves. The response and offers from this sector of our club has been amazing and is just great to see. In the meantime, whilst us fans await to see how we can all help, theGovernment money has to be used to simply keep the clubs going, so that the game stays afloat. 

The players have effectively been furloughed and like millions of others in the country, everyone in organisations have sadly to take a cut in their standard of living. What’s more our lot have done that and taken their ‘medicine’ in a good spirit. Like all other workers too, all employers and theiremployees will only find out what happens next, once that furloughing has ceased to be in place and the workplaces are starting to open up again. 

Until then, Clubs have to effectively be mothballed and go into hibernation at the lowest possible level of existence, to hopefully re-emerge in some form, when things get better. So,let’s hope that we see some common sense in it all, everyone pulls together and we get back to playing, so that we have a sport left at the end of this tragic debacle. 

For now though, in here, it’s back to my journey through life as a fanatical FC supporter, finding his way in the world, as this week I recount the emergence of Sunday rugby, the great Mick Ronson, ‘We all Hate Leeds’, a victory at last in the Yorkshire Cup Final, tragedy at home, Terry Kirchin, the magical qualities of human urine and the rise and fall of the Clockwork Chicken.

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