The #iwanttobelieve Diary – 440th

Let’s get this over with eh? I promised the next Diary after the Saints game on Monday, but quite frankly, I’m so depressed and fed up I just thought I’d give you my two penneth now in the vain hope that it helps get Friday out of all our systems!!

You know, as the weeks go by it’s getting harder and harder to write this rubbish, last Friday, the day after that torrid night at the KC, we were all shell shocked weren’t we? We all just wanting it to go away and no one wanted to talk about it, however as usual I have little choice and so I’ll do my best to at least try and make some sense of it all!

I know people were really hurting, because I experienced it first hand the next morning! I’ve made loads of friends (and a few enemies too) over the years of writing this stuff every week, but when, after a fitful night’s sleep I awoke on Friday Morning, I was amazed to be greeted with my phone cataloguing texts and E mails from people who were so disappointed, downhearted or plain fuming; they simply couldn’t sleep!

Many people had already by then got round to asking as to whether, come the end of this season, we are likely to be the latest team to discover that no Club is too big to be relegated? It’s a pretty unlikely possibility just 8 matches in, but as game after game goes by and we look more and more clueless, the prospect of that shocking demise evolves gradually in our minds, shifting from a fantasy to a possibility. It’s all just hypothetical at present of course, but the Derby certainly left me numb! I was also left realising what could actually happen, as with feelings of despair and disappointment most of the fans who absolutely love the Club, had to admit afterwards that they were all embarrassed by the performance of their own team!!
What a state of affairs eh?

You know it’s not often in 58 years that I have ever felt that!! It took me back to the Peter Walsh days of abject disarray on the field, disloyalty off it and total dejection on the terraces. Back then even people who had passes stayed away and from what I’m hearing that’s about to be the case again right now! As a Club we survived that era as Richo, Bomber, Auntie Kath and Co. rode into town, … but I just wonder if we will survive this one, as at present there doesn’t appear to be many knights on white chargers out there, ready to ride in and rescue us.

One thing’s for sure as you look at the table before we even go to Saints, we are already 3 points adrift of safety. I Look at it like this; the bottom 4 is now the likely outcome for the FC, because everyone except us and Wakey are picking up points here and there and with some Championship teams waiting in the wings for their biggest games for years, it’s not probable, but it is at least at present possible, that relegation could happen! Despite the fact that other Clubs in Super League won’t want the travelling FC fans reduced to ‘roaming’ the Championship Clubs, we could well find ourselves destined to be the next Bradford Bulls!

After our trip to Castleford and Rovers heroics against Saints, in my heart of hearts, I expected nothing from the game at the KC. But you hope don’t you? You just hope! At Cas I observed that we appeared to have no plan B. this week Plan A seemed to have gone out the window too, as we fiddled and buggered around, with again no dummy runners and an abject ignorance of what was the best option from dummy half. For me in fact we looked clueless as to what we should be doing.

The whole aim of the game is to score more tries than the opposition, but on Thursday against a Rovers team that has leaked points all season and only got their successes by just managing to score more than the opposition, we seemed absolutely incapable of scoring at all. We had to rely on a mistake for our only points and as the game wore on and we ‘chased’ it, we looked less and less likely to get anywhere. We put the effort in but everything we did with the ball either floundered on the rocks of predictability, or was just plain dumb.

On Saturday I watched the game again ‘from behind the settee’ and their first two tries were scored because of rank bad tackling, but that happens and you should be able to get over that and come back, we should be able at least score three tries at home that are not the end product of the oppositions mistakes, yet with the exception of Catalan, we have scored one, two and one and that’s the best we have managed in the other three home matches. For me we are fast becoming the ‘No come back kids’ aren’t we?

It was apparent watching again, that we work hard to make good yards and even create field position for ourselves; alright, it’s boring one man stuff, but at least we can get up there and into the zone. That’s Ok, but then we are totally inept when it comes to craft and attacking ideas and we simply can’t get over the line; at times it’s literally a shambles. There’s Westy calling for one play and Pryce another, they argue amongst themselves, the players have no idea what they are doing and we just end up with a forward drive and a hand over; its chaos! The issue is also that the more we try, the worse it gets and if the structure is wrong to start with, whatever we are trying to do, just disintegrates under pressure and we see forwards running into ball handling positions, with blind alley after blind alley being the only apparent option, it’s a bloody disaster!

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Another good game and perhaps Joe Westerman needs to do as he’s told and accept Leon should be calling the shots and the plays!!

We shift play across field and as players come into the line in secondary positions it all looks impressive, but time after time there are no cut out balls and no dummy runners around the ball handler, so the opposition just slide and slide, wait and wait and then hammer us wide out! For me the structure is wrong because it’s so predictable and I think a lot of that is simply down to the fact that we are shot confidence wise and scared stiff to try anything different. How often, even if we have got set and our play option is decided upon, is our 5th tackle play in their twenty, a one man drive from a short inside ball? Most worrying of all for me is that a lack of any sort of confidence means that once a bit of adversity comes along we fold like a house of cards, if we concede a try or get a bad decision we either panic or go back into our shells and you can see that our ability to stay focussed is paper thin.

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We tackled well but simply can’t score tries!!!

Last Thursday we were, in that second half, quite frankly, lost and bereft of direction. I can’t remember the last time I was convinced at half time, (when we were only trailing by 12 points in a Derby), that it was already all over. Chris Chester was obviously convinced about it too, and no doubt his half time talk consisted of, “Kick a goal to stretch it to three scores if you can, keep tackling hard in your own third, look to Mondays game and leave Hull to do the rest!” Let’s be honest here, they should have had 40 points but they put the bloody ‘cue on the rack’ and we could do nothing at all about it!

Quite frankly it’s always hard to get beat, but against Rovers, in that fashion, it’s simply heartbreaking and at the Under 19’s on Friday no one really wanted to talk about it, everyone was still shell shocked!

Heart breaking? Is that too strong? Well for me personally there is no other word for it and its come to something when the favourite past–time of FC supporters at present, seems to be racing back to the car afterwards to see exactly what excuses we can dream up and trot out this time. Some of the more naive amongst us are starting to demand the head of Adam Pearson, to which I would simply say, he’s still having a go, he’s the sole owner and believe me potential buyers ain’t queuing up down Anlaby Road, so be very, very careful what you wish for!!!

As for the Dobbins, well we wondered if they really were as enterprising and exciting as their fans told us they would be, didn’t we? And, it didn’t take long to find out! They only played their expansive game in flashes but when they did we were tracking back in desperation and scrambling like hell to contain them. As for their play makers, well we hoped that the gamble they took on Campese wouldn’t come off, but it looks to me as if there is little wrong with his knees. Then again, how would we really know on that showing?

I say that because let’s face it he could have played in a dinner jacket, he ended up with no mud on him and few hands laid on him either, yet everything went through him and he looked a brilliant old fashioned pivot; a real general in the heart of everything. The thing is of course that a few years ago Karl Harrison, Craig Greenhill or Mark O’Meley would have ‘sorted him out’ early on and that would have been that! However now, it’s sad to report that it appeared to a lot of us as if the players joined the fans and stood back to admired him. We could have signed him, he wanted to come, but we turned him down, now he’ll be running things for them for the next three years.

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A very rare shot of Campese being tackled; they didn’t bother washing his kit this week!!

According to James Smailes in the Mail on Thursday, Lee Radford had made it quite clear what was needed as he was reported to have said, “If we beat our arch rivals all of a sudden we’ll be in a much better position and with people smiling again. What we have to do is knuckle down and make sure we leave nothing on the field on Thursday. That’s unbelievably important for us” Well Lee it might be for you, it might be for Adam, it might even be for us lot, but boy oh boy it was obvious that we had no chance because although they were trying hard, really hard, be it on the KC or the training pitch there seems to be simply no plan at all.

Or, if there is one, do the players have their minds wiped clean as soon as they cross the whitewash? The mental strength and inability to stick to a structure was something I highlighted long and hard in here, after the Salford game. Then after Wigan I went on about it again and on Thursday it was pretty obvious nothing has changed. In fact we’ve gone backwards. In fairness it looks like it mattered to many of the players and the effort was there, but the nous, brains and structure simply wasn’t and the harder we tried the worse it got. As always you can’t ‘tar them all’ and I felt sorry for Minichiello, Paea and Pryce, but otherwise it was just embarrassing with my hero thus far Talanoa having a shocking game by his standards and Cunningham, playing as replacement acting half, completely ineffective.

If there is a positive at all then I guess again it has to be us lot, the long suffering fans. The gate was a phenomenal effort with 20,507 in the ground which is a great example of two Clubs who hate each other working together…..to fill our Chairman’s pockets!! OK, Wigan v Saints got 3500 more but let’s face it, they only play each other twice in the regular season and we play the Dobbins 3 times, plus a pre-season friendly! The two local marketing teams had I know worked really hard on this one and deserve a pat on the back for their efforts!! As a Club we paid for it all, but it showed what you can do and there is little doubt that the estimated £200,000 that the game raised for us as a Club, over the usual season ticket attendees, will be a big fillip for our owner, who must realise, even after so many false dawns promises and appeals, just what could be done at Hull FC gate wise where we anything like a decent team!

However, those 14/15,000 FC fans, be they suckers like me, potential converts, new recruits or interested first timers all left the game disenchanted and downhearted, some ten minutes before the end and most bloody fuming; but who can blame them? As a hard-nosed ‘In any kind of weather’ fan, I had indicated already that I thought it was likely to be the inevitable outcome and before I got there I expected little different. Of course like all of you I hoped for a miracle, but was, in the end, just glad to get it over with and get out of the Stadium before the baying rabble of red and white partisans descended on us, and I did that, just so as I could try and start the process of putting it all behind me as soon as possible.

Now here’s a thing too!!! We can write it off as just another Derby reversal and say ‘Well get ‘em next time’ just like we always used to. However I think our despair and despondency goes a lot deeper than that and it’s not the result last Thursday but the ongoing evolution of the game in Hull that’s the issue at the back of the mind of many Hull fans. Let me explain. My old pal Harry came and found me at half time shook his head and just said, “Never mind what’s happening on the pitch mate, that’s bad enough, but for me in every department we are being eclipsed by Rovers”, I asked him what he meant and he said, “Just everything we now do is inferior to what they do…. Peacock signing, a real ‘captain fantastic’ type pivot in Campese, a new prop coming over from Australia, two good half backs every time they look for them, (when we can’t seem to find them for love nor money) an improving home stadium that they control and now to cap it all a team who look to entertain and look capable of scoring at any time. Bloody hell, I thought, that’s all I need. However I guess on reflection he has a point and it’s bothering me and is, I think, making us all feel even more down. Of the Derby Lee Radford said, “There’s not much love lost between the clubs and winning the bragging rights is a must for the supporters and everybody involved with the club. The hatred between the two clubs is genuine and runs right through from the youngest supporter to the chairmen”

That’s the way it is, nail on head and it’s a pity Lee can’t be so succinct in his analysis of our playing demise, but I believe that they are now more than ever before, the mortal enemy, and yet they are getting one over us all ends up at present. That’s what really getting to us all I think! Things are very fraught for us both on and off the field, probably because there is little chance of us ever returning to the days when as fans we used to shake hands at the end of the game and look forward to the next encounter. Now we hate the ‘bastards’ and dread the next time we meet!!!!

It was, back in the ‘handshaking’ 70’s, still a time when there was a fierce rivalry, but one that was tempered by the thought that ‘it’s only a game!’ it will never be that way again and as our Coach says it’s now a case of ‘hatred’. If I were to look for a cause of that change, then I guess their chairman hasn’t helped over the years, whilst then of course there’s social media, twitter and message-boards, but I’m an old Codger so I would say that wouldn’t I? However, it’s not just about the rivalry on the pitch either, because it’s the battle to be top dog in the City and gain the so called bragging rights, that is paramount now as far as both organisations and their fans are concerned. On closer scrutiny its fair I think to say that tragically after years of being ‘the tops’ in the City, we are not in that position anymore and whether we like it or not, the wheel is turning, things are changing, while ‘the song goes on forever’.

Last week I discussed how I thought a lot of our players and indeed some of our fans think we are ‘Big time Charlies’! Well guys, we might think it, but as I said last week everyone in the game except us lot certainly know that we ain’t that at all …well not anymore and indeed as Harry said we are without doubt being slowly but surely ‘eclipsed’ by the great unwashed from the East.

They even appear better than us at promoting assistant coaches who can win games! The only thing we at present do better than them, is turn up for matches as fans and how long that will last, is again pretty debatable. The RL and those who care about the game will be getting a bit twitchy as they see that gate and the hype surrounding the games only real Derby, because if we are on the way out of the top division then without us playing Rovers, the game will be a worse place. Still no one has a divine right to anything in sport and so that said, the portents are not good for us at all.

The next few months could not only be a big test on the field and for our long suffering owner, but a decidedly difficult time for us lot on the terraces too. It’s going to test our metal as fans and our ability to stick with the Club, the most worrying thing of all however is the fact that Adam will have those same challenges too and we can only hope he’s got the dosh, the tenacity and the strength of character to see us through this crisis, we need a plan and to build the Club again, I’m sure he’s on with it, he has to be, because if he hasn’t got that plan then we’re stuffed!

So after that game and indeed throughout the previous week the ‘will he won’t he’ debate about how our Chairman will deal with our Coaching situation continues unabated on the message-boards. With our owner still firmly sticking behind the Coach last week he said to the Yorkshire Post about the possibility of any regrets about quitting football for rugby, “Not at all, I love the sport (rugby league). It helps now knowing something about it and it helps enormously having a coach you can trust and who is working his hardest. He just needs a little bit of fortune to go his way and if he stays at the crease long enough – which he will do – he’ll start to score some runs, I’m sure.” Then in his programme notes he went on about it again saying “I certainly have a lot of belief in Lee as a Coach and I certainly know he is pushing hard to take us in the right direction”. Same old, same old? Well I just wonder if by being so loyal and forthright in his comments, he only puts more pressure on Lee who probably needs as little of the spotlight on him as possible at present, particularly if he is to see the current crisis resolved; whichever way it all eventually turns out.

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No reason for this picture except as a reminder of the great work of James Smailes week in week out, so he deserves this picture taken as it is from his best side!

I had a great time on Thursday in the afternoon before the game when I had a coffee and a long chat with our old Merchandising guru Lee Jenkinson. Lee ‘gets it’ and understands the fans and that means that now he is doing really well at the Rhino’s where their retail sales are soaring. For me he’s certainly destined for big things in the game. However seen as he is a lifelong fan who reads this rubbish, that’s quite enough bull-shit for now!! It was a good afternoon, though!

I never ever thought I would say this, but how good was it to see the Council and the 3 local MP’s supporting the Allam’s over the Premier Leagues insistence that the football Club get an indoor arena for their Academy as soon as possible. For me standing here on the sidelines the two main issues are firstly that it might just save the community groups in the Airco Arena but it’s also great to at least see the Council offering an olive branch to the Allams no doubt in a hope it will smooth the transition of the transfer of control at the SMC from the Football Club, back to the Council. Of course they press ahead with their quest to have the Clubs name changed, but if you’re an FC fan at this time that’s the least of our worries but for me the Community stuff is really important and let’s hope it’s sorted soon and indeed that we get a new owner of the SMC. It’s a strange one and no mistake, but it looks as if people are trying to work together for the common good of the community and my only concern at present is that the Allam’s see it that way as well! However, I won’t be holding my breath!!

Now did you see St Helens chairman Eamonn McManus has voiced his concerns over player welfare after Travis Burns sustained a broken cheekbone at Hull KR last Friday. McManus is angry that Rovers forward James Green received only a one-match ban for the tackle on Burns when he said last week, “This incident and injury at Hull KR has frustrated me greatly and raises critical issues for the game which cannot be ignored or suppressed any longer. In the immediate aftermath of the Grand Final, I did publicly state that the combined inconsistency of officiating on the pitch and the irreconcilability of disciplinary decisions off it had created an environment capable of exploitation, innocent or otherwise. Only a month ago Kyle Amor was banned for two games for an accidental dangerous tackle which neither hurt nor injured anyone. How can you reconcile this with no sending-off and a one match ban for a late shoulder to the head (which by definition must be deliberate) by a prop which breaks a half-back’s cheekbone?”

You have to agree that whatever you think of Mr McManus he has a point doesn’t he. Refereeing is ruining our game! We simply can’t ignore the facts and we have to do something about it quickly because falling gates and supporter resistance is fuelled by crap refereeing. We still see some atrocious inconsistencies both on the pitch and in the disciplinary hearings don’t we? Well said Mr M. I say! But I expect he’ll be in trouble too.

Here’s another massive 150th game to feature in Codgers Corner as the memories just keep flooding back of happier times and great FC teams. You often feel let down by your team and as far as the FC is concerned these days it happens more than we would at one time have ever believed would be possible. However this week I will let you into one of my all time great disappointments from way back in the 80’s. The most memorable “Nearly” game in my 150th archive has for me therefore to be a match played at the Boulevard in November 1982.

The Australians in 1982 were all conquering, steamrollering teams into submission and then just blowing them away and it was for this style of rugby they became known as the “Invincibles”. When they arrived at the Boulevard they had in fact already gone 11 games in the tour without defeat. We were top of the League at that time and had ourselves won 14 of our last 15 games, and although the Second Test was only 4 days away, the Aussies paid Hull the ultimate compliment of fielding their full Test team.

I remember on that night having the same feeling of foreboding that I felt before the Rovers game as I hurried down Airlie Street through the 16,000 other supporters trudging to the match. A tough game against Carlisle, (of all people), the weekend before, had robbed us of half our team. Missing were heroes such as Charlie Stone, Trevor Skerrett, Knocker Norton, Ronnie Wileman and Sammy Lloyd. That meant we had to bring in veterans like Mick Harrison, Mick Crane and Keith Bridges along with youngsters Lee Crooks and Wayne Proctor, in fact hooker Keith Bridges, I seem to remember, was the only forward, that memorable night that wasn’t born in Hull.

At the back of all our minds as well was the fact that this Australian team had just beaten Great Britain 40-4 in the first Test match, but more of that game later. I was also a bit perturbed that night as leaving work late and a capacity crowd, meant I had to give up my usual spot in the “Threepennies”. I ended up standing, at times on tiptoes, on the terrace at the Gordon Street end.

The game started ferociously with young ‘Crooksy’ seeking out the tourist’s notorious hard man Les Boyd, Lee just walked straight up to him, said something and followed it with a perfect left jab! Both teams joined in a spectacular scrap that was so heated that referee John Holdsworth had difficulty keeping order, in fact it took all of five minutes to restart the game. I vividly remember just how inspirational Dave Topliss was that night as he outplayed their star player Brett Kenny hands down. He scored a great first half try from a little kick through to the line and the dominance of these tourists is clearly illustrated when you consider that, that try made Topliss one of only seven British players to score against the tourists on that whole 15 match tour.

Man of the match Mick Crane was not far behind Topliss either with one of those heroic display’s that belied completely his reputation and lifestyle. We were really put to the sword late in the first half, but hung on and following some brilliant tackling and that single try, we went in 7-0 up!

Within five minutes of the restart the Aussies were back. The mercurial Peter Stirling sent Kerry Boustead in at the corner and then Mal Menninga put Grothe in at the other corner. As the crowd roared out “Old Faithful” there followed a hotly disputed “try “ by Dane O’Hara which many, including me, believe to this day could have won us the game. Then there was a broken jaw for James Leuleui, before Grothe scored his second touch-down to seal the game. We pressed and pressed but after one of the best 80 minutes of tenacious rugby I have ever seen it was all over! We lost 13-7! It was a massive effort but for nought and that was what was so heartbreaking.

We had not beaten the Aussies as a club side since 1908, but boy had we taken them close. Our make shift pack, as was the case at Saints, was awesome, meeting the touring six head on and never giving an inch throughout the 80 minutes. The tourist went on to win all their matches on the Tour and we at the Boulevard had given them their only real scare. As a footnote to the memory of that game I recently managed to acquire the shirt which Knocker Norton wore in the first test of the Invincibles tour at Boothferry Park when Great Britain were, as I said earlier, well and truly mullered. I’ve now donated it to the Drum and Monkey where it will shortly be displayed on the wall of the snug with a plate describing the great Knocker, that International and indeed how close we came to beating the greatest touring team ever with a rag bag team on a cold November night!! Great memories eh?

So we are all off to Saints today wondering what the outcome will be and hoping against hope for a miracle…..again! As I said earlier I was going to produce this Diary after that game but so traumatic and incredulous was last Thursday night for most of the fans I know, that I just had to write it and get it out of the way. I walked through Beverley on Friday to be stopped time and again by almost dumbfounded fans, then it was onto Bishop Burton where no one really wanted to talk about it either and then in the Drum and Monkey that night, it was pretty much the same; although in there ‘coach in the making’ Jim had some suggestions and tips for Mr Radford, of which some were good, some physically impossible and some down-right dangerous to ‘passers’ by! However in general everyone, everywhere, couldn’t really believe just what they had witnessed.

What a mess and indeed what a shocking night it was for my pal Brian Chapmen who reads this every week at home in Spain and travelled back to Hull for this match! He sat behind me at the KC and soon understood why these Diaries had been so down beat these last few weeks! So many made the pilgrimage, Richard and the whole family travelled up from Sussex, Edinboro Yorkie from north of the border and Harry Christianson from Guernsey, while Billy Franks came over from Belgium on North Sea Ferries for the game. And that’s only the ones I know! They all deserved so, so much more! I met Rob Turner (who very kindly bought a couple of books) and Rich Watson who both travelled over from the West Riding for the game and so it goes on, loads of folks putting their faith and investing their brass in the FC, only to be left utterly disappointed and disillusioned. Oh dear, Oh dear, Oh dear!!!

Well, thank goodness for that, it’s over and hopefully next week I’ll have better news although as I always say, don’t hold your breath. Thanks as always for sticking with the Diary leave it a couple of hours before you go near any sharp objects and my appreciation goes out to you all for sticking with it until the end once again.

Heaven knows what will happen next?

Faithfully Yours
Wilf!

And Finally

Was your Journey really necessary?

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The Sussex branch of the ‘FC family’ up for the Derby and another long journey that might well have been avoided!! #Iwanttobelieve