Well, we are in the next round and it was job done, but if I’m honest it was precious little more!!
This is a near as you’ll get to a real time Diary, as we’re on our way home, Mrs R. has successfully navigated us out of Sheffield and I have the laptop out on my knee. You know, I’d worried about this game all week, I shouldn’t have I know, but this is Hull FC, so right now my first thoughts are ones of relief. We had a purple patch in the first half when we built a lead that was to prove unassailable, but all the creativity all the guile and all the enterprise came from what was a pretty average Sheffield team. However we saw a group of players that were not hidebound by a game plan that was tailored for ‘the let’s try and not lose’ mentality we see manifest in several Super League Clubs these days, including us. It strikes me that our whole approach appears to be built around not losing at all cost and as we huffed and puffed, it was, for long periods, effective with regard to getting that result, but also bloody frustrating and a bit painful to watch at times!!
On occasions it certainly wasn’t pretty and the lull I had worried about all week came midway through the second half when just for ten minutes we all just wondered…fretted and pondered if the unthinkable could actually come to pass and we’d join Salford, dumped out of the Cup by Championship opposition.
Us fans squirming in our seats weren’t on our own either and as I looked across at Adam Pearson after their second try had gone in, he was suffering too as he sat there with his head in his hands. In fact at that point only a rather dubious call for a forward pass saved us as they threatened to score again and reduce the arrears to just 4 points. However two late tries got us home and that’s all that matters I guess, but believe me, if you didn’t go, then I’m sure everyone who did will tell you it was poor fare again at times.
With two winnable home games against Salford and Huddersfield approaching, we face two challenging games that we simply can’t afford to lose. However there was little on show at Sheffield to engender much real hope that we’ll blow either away. None the less by we walk off the field after the Giants match we will be over half way through the regular season and anything less than 10 points at that point will be pretty unacceptable and of real concern. I reckon that we’ll need around 22 points to survive the League of Death so we have to regroup and move on, because having seen what we all experienced on Saturday I don’t fancy facing Leigh later on in that middle eight do you? We simply must move up the ladder and quick, so let’s get on with it, try and fiddle a few more wins and then just hope!
But I digress and so back to last week and there I was, sat in bed on Thursday Morning watching BBC Breakfast time and listening to a radio recording from the previous day featuring cricket commentator Michael Vaughan who was ‘bigging up’ Jonathon Trott and how ‘good he was looking’ before next ball he was out, again, for a poor score! Thankful for the amount of Yorkshiremen that were in the England squad, I switched on the computer to read the Hull Daily Mail headline, “Adam Pearson: Hull FC CAN win Challenge Cup in our historic year!” Bloody hell I thought, that’s just as bad and again really tempting fate and so all of a sudden a game I was approaching as one that should be a bit of a formality, started to gain worrying proportions!
We drove to Sheffield and having heard about the difficulty folks have parking near the ground, we parked up in a City Centre multi-storey before walking down to the Stadium. Bramall Lane is certainly a cavernous place with a capacity of 32,000 plus and although well modernised, still a great old fashioned football ground where you are close to the action. Despite the game being played in cathedral like surroundings there was a really good turn-out, with I guess around 1,500 there from Hull. The fans are just amazing aren’t they, but boy it was hard to watch at times and there is little doubt when push comes to shove and it’s time for that middle 8 split, then some tired and stressed Super League Clubs are going to be bothered by the likes of Sheffield. I say that because as was the case on Sunday they will have nothing to lose and will throw it about a bit and cause some issues for sure.
We stuck to our structure well for most of the game but whether it was the right structure and game plan is certainly up for debate. Only one of our tries came from a team move and the rest were purely down to individual effort and shear strength. Of course we won, so some will say that’s all academic and those at the Club will believe it was the right approach, but half way through that second half us lot on the terraces were getting stressed and we should never have been put in that situation. In fact my first thoughts as I sit here in the car are that it strikes me we ain’t really that good at all, but we won and were in the hat on Monday night, so as I said earlier, we will be told that its job done.
I guess there were mitigating circumstances as we missed both Westerman and Sneyd and perhaps with them out there, we might have had a bit more idea, but Houghton tried hard to get things buzzing with mixed results, Pryce was great and Rankin tried really hard. Twice however in the first few sets we knocked on at acting half, which is pretty unforgiveable and that set the tempo for a real stop, start afternoon.
For me it was an interesting if not at times frustrating watch in really good company, particularly the two guys sat behind me who really ‘got it’ and shared my reservations with the way we played it all afternoon. The guy sat next to me was a different kettle of fish altogether and having placed a bet on an accumulator of that afternoon scores, he just needed to get Hull over the line by 20 clear points and he was in for £300. So, you can imagine the rhetoric and rather industrial language during that second half and indeed the celebrations when we got home by 22 points. However in the end most FC fans I spoke to were just relieved and agreed that Sheffield deserved some credit for a fine show. In the first half we were at least professional and went about our business in a boring but workmanlike way, but as we had a couple of knocks in the second we struggled at times to hold it all together. They looked really up for it after the break and by and large gave a good account of themselves. Perhaps it said it all for me when at the end we saw the Sheffield boys laid on the turf warming down in preparation for future battles, while our lot walked off laugh at each other’s jokes and scoffing some of the copious amounts of Haribo goodies that had been throw at Liam Pryce on the field.
Performance wise Mickey Paea was massive and head and shoulders the best player on the field and his driving style had them in trouble all the time, while Rankin did well and after a poor first conversion attempt, kicked well. Thompson wasn’t far behind Mickey as he really worked hard and Tom Lineham fielded some big kicks really well and took his try, an individual scoot down the blind side from acting half, like a man with bags of confidence at present. Liam Pryce really played well while he was on the field, but bagged a bit of an injury, while Minnichiello was again a tower of strength and as we conceded a scrum on our line when just trailing by 10, he really gave the team a bollocking which worked, because we held them out!! That was great to see! However other than that, Shaul looked a bit out of touch, Watts got two long stints in to test his match fitness and Yeamo got a few good hits in and scored a good try but, post injury, his timing was a bit out too.
As I said earlier I wasn’t that relaxed about this one at all it was, let’s face it, ‘only’ Sheffield Eagles in a Cup game, a Championship team that ain’t even full time and yet, if not exactly afraid, last week I could be said to certainly be concerned. So what the hell is all that about then? You see, try as I did to be logical about it all, but that’s how Hull FC gets me of late. I seem to have developed a sort of negative approach mechanism for every game we play these days, it starts after the previous weeks encounter and from then on I anticipate the worse in the hope that the ‘best’ will make me feel better, if or when it comes.
And, if it doesn’t come, then at least I have the crumbs of comfort borne out of the knowledge that I was right all along anyway, but if we do manage a win then give it around 24/48 hours and it all starts over again. It’s a state of mind that I don’t like and that has me wistfully looking back to happier times when things were different. Do you, like me, remember with great affection those days when as fans we tipped up each week at the KC, smiling and even excited at the prospect of a game of rugby involving our Club and when we did it confident that we would ‘do’ the opposition, whoever they were?
Remember those days when clubs visited the KC with feelings of trepidation and said, “It’s always a tough place to go to”, because we had an uncompromising team that could also cut loose at any time and who were usually good entertainment value as well? Perhaps, like me, the answer to that one is, “Only just” because since those halcyon days under McCrae and Johnny Kear (with Richie Barnett, Craig Greenhill, McMenemy, Chester, Richard Swain, Gareth Raynor, Cooky and Horney et al), things have not just gone downhill on the pitch, the demeanour and ‘heart’ of the fans has dipped on the terraces too. In fact the miracle is how many still go to games, particularly after successive managers and their master plans (and failures) came and went before the torrid years of attrition under Agar and the way they took their toll on us all. I honestly thought Adam and Gentle could regain some of that prestige and status on the field and I still believe that despite some set-backs, we were ‘slowly’ getting there. All that however was not to be and now we find ourselves building again but perhaps at a worryingly low point fans wise, it’s a good job we love ‘em isn’t it?
Off the field in the ranks of the supporters, our aspirations and expectations from game to game have gone backwards. In fact at times my expectations pre-game these days are nil, which engenders a worrying and yet somehow calming state of resignation, as now I tip up at the KC amongst a legion of fans who feel the same and are in fact just ‘tired of it all’.
I guess the anthem for us all these days has to be ‘The only way is up!’ As I speak to the fans there is little doubt that many face every game at present as a potential loss and hope against hope we can pull what they see as an unlikely win out of the bag…. again! Even when we play a Club that isn’t full time and one that plays all its games away from ‘home’, we worry don’t we? I don’t care if there are mitigating circumstances and Sheffield are going well in their division, it’s a pretty parlous state of affairs that we find ourselves in as fans. What’s even more concerning is that, in that second half, our worries were starting to be confirmed. What a bloody state we have sunk to as a group of fans when we feel like that before such a game and how far have we declined on the pitch since 2003/2007 to bring that state of affairs about?
Still we continue to search for the solution and currently, Super League win wise at least, we are on a bit of a roll (well a mini roll anyway) and there is certainly no doubting the amount of effort Lee Radford and the owner are putting in to try and turn things round. That upturn in form win wise, with a depleted and ailing squad, is at least a tribute to our Coaches meticulous approach to every game and that’s something I have seen for myself at training too. In all sports preparation is critical and never more so than in Cup games against teams you don’t play that often. However whatever you say about Lee Radford and let’s face it some of us say quite a lot, he is always painstakingly thorough in his planning and if the players don’t perform it is certainly not from them being badly briefed. His staff, the owner, Johnny Whiteley and every player you speak to will tell you that.
So it was natural last week, I guess, for him to go down and watch Sheffield in the ‘flesh’ as it were, last Sunday and then go to Bramall Lane on Monday to see the place, pace the pitch out and have a good look at the playing surface. In addition he told me that he had also pawed over hour after hour of videos of the South Yorkshires Clubs performances so far. He said as well of the tactics needed, that, “If we play to the best of our ability and they play to the best of theirs then we win, however it is all about our attitude and we have got to make sure that we turn up with a focussed environment, It’s about playing at a speed and momentum that they aren’t used to” The outcome on Sunday therefore was a tribute to our coaches preparation, but boy it was harrowing to watch at times.
So to the 7 days gone by and the ‘rumour of the week’ has to be one sweeping the world of social media last Friday when it was claimed that Danny Houghton was off to Leeds in exchange, some wags claimed, for Rob Burrows and £200,000. It was always a bit far-fetched and it’s hard to know where it came from but I asked the Club and if not exactly ‘laughed out of court’ they made it very clear that Danny has 3 years of his current deal to do and that was that! So I don’t think there is anything in that one at all.
Well one thing’s for sure; Assam Allam and Mr Allam Jnr. never cease to amaze us do they? Just when even I was starting to believe we were getting somewhere in the mess involving the community groups who used the Airco Arena and there were even signs of some sort of dialogue beginning between the Council and the Allam’s about ‘bubble’ facilities etc. the owners of Hull City have steamrolled through all that….again! It appears that after some real progress by the Council and the local MP’s led by Alan Johnson with regard to getting the (perhaps it now appears fictitious) deadline of the application for the Premier League inspection extended, everything was overturned and work in the arena to convert it to a 3G pitch began. I guess that the 12th hour request from the SMC for an illegal reduction in business rates for the Stadium Complex along with an impossible guarantee on planning permission being granted and half the cost of the bubble facility coming from the Council, was the sort of last minute ‘nose thumbing’ action we should have expected.
Over the years as the focus in the local media has been all about Hull City’s name change, disputes with the Council, a new ground at Welton, Johnny Whiteley’s pictures, Beer prices and cashless ticketing, several of you have said in the past to me, “Why do you get so wound up by all this Wilf, it’s nothing to do directly with Hull FC or Rugby League?” This week I looked back to see exactly what I said in the Diary back then, as I conceded that indeed at that time it wasn’t our business, but added, “The question about all these incremental moves to flex the Allam’s muscle against the Council, Hull FC and anyone else who gets in the way of their plans is that they have made it obvious by their actions over the years, that they have no affinity or liking for anyone who gets in their way. Slowly but surely as they work their way through all the other obstacles and protagonists on their ‘to do list’, will it be us lot next up in the firing line and Hull FC that has to be ‘sorted’ next; that’s why I worry!”
It was good, if not a surprise, to see that all the letters between the Allam’s and the Council over the three days before work at the Airco began (that were sent to all councillors) were leaked by a source within the authority, because at least we all saw exactly what had happened and the efforts of the local authority to sort things out within the law of the land and within planning regulations. In fact one councillor (who is actually a Rovers fan) even came onto RL fans to reassure us that the Council would not just lie down and let it happen.
The thing is of course that if the owners of the football Club have just rode rough shod over the Premier League, the requests of local MP’s, the Council and the residents and sporting groups of the City. Phil Ascough, as guest on Sports Talk last Tuesday, was brilliant and said it just as it was. And as the BBC and the local Mail get their heads well and truly down behind the parapets, Angus Young is fast becoming the media hero in all this mess, as he continues to campaign on behalf of the ‘little people’ in the community who are the real victims of this latest move.
Still, at least the Council grew some on Thursday and gave the Allams an ultimatum of 14 days to rip up the 3G pitch or face legal action and believe me the Council wouldn’t have threaten that course of redress without having taken a lot of advice and feel they have a case. For me, it’s quite simple really because the SMC have a contract with the Council that states that the community have to have access to the facility, while the Premier League state that the Academy lads have to have sole us; that’s a pretty simple and straight forward conflict to me but what do I know eh? Interesting times indeed?
So to all of you who are by now saying, “Not again Wilf, were fed up of it all” I’ll just ask again as I did all those weeks ago, “Whose next?” It’s not our fight at present but we all have to be vigilant and should be careful with ignoring this development, because if it only shows one thing, then it is that the owners of Hull City are no respecters of status, history, MP’s, tradition or the local authority. History, you know, is littered with groups (including whole nations) who buried their heads in the sand and said, “Nahhhh! It won’t happen to us”; before it did! At present as FC fans it’s not our fight, but all the same I think that we should all be concerned, be watchful and perhaps be a little afraid too!! Let’s see what happens next.
Talk about a touch of Class, I went to a real black and white wedding on Friday when Jeff and Lorraine tied the knot and everything but everything was themed black and white! Here’s the table setting list for the afternoon reception and as you can see every table is themed with a player from the past! It was a great day and good luck to you both!
You know some fans really do amaze me. We all get disappointed but a few get all bitter and thrash out at everyone and anyone, when we are having it tough as a Club. Earlier this week I was surprised to say the least, when despite two consecutive wins I still saw a couple of folks saying that it would be a good idea for our Chairman to ‘Walk’, their words not mine of course! Boy, believe me we’d be in ‘stuck’ if he did as they asked, we really would! All I’ll comment to these misguided folks on that one, is what I always say, “Be Careful what you wish for” because when it comes to owners believe me we could without doubt do a lot worse.
I was reminded of how worse it could be when I noticed the plight of the valiant York RL fans who are now just a week away from their first home game and who are still, because of a dispute between their Owner and the Council, homeless!! However the latest twist in the tale sees the loyal Knights supporters left shocked and angered at comments made by the said John Guilford who is certainly a lot different to Adam Pearson!
Last week the Knights Independent Supporters Society (KISS) handed in a 1000 signature petition (which I and a lot of other FC fans signed) to Red Hall asking for assistance in the removal of Guildford from the troubled club. This followed a catalogue of disasters but sparked a shocking social media outburst from the Knights supremo in response to the fans actions.
In a post aimed at Gary and Andy Hall, (two hard working Knights fans and club sponsors who are really concerned about the Clubs demise and raised the petition), Guildford wrote: “Please help stop these 2 big girls blouses bullying me, they also have a serious crush on me now. Ha. The fat one even loves handing photos of me out all day, the other knob sits all day on social media posting under different names and pretends he’s me, and the third one is in the background as the mouth but won’t meet anyone without a minder or his Mam with him to hold his hand. Man up and get out more you both need some time out of your bedrooms looking at the colour of your legs (referring to a picture taken of the two fans as they were doing a charity walk for Prostate Cancer research); window lickers Lol. Have a nice weekend.”
Pretty unbelievable eh? Well that’s what was actually posted on social media and sorry if it offended anyone, but it’s not from some adolescent or ignorant troll on RLfans, that’s from the owner of a professional Club!!!!
As you can imagine shocked and angry Knights fans soon took to the internet to voice their displeasure. Ron Wathey said: “2 weeks away from our first home game and we’re still homeless, we have a chairman/owner/whatever other title he’s given himself who’s thinks it is acceptable to mock disabilities and says we should sue the council to claim back our season ticket money” While another supporter David Mason said, “As a Knights fan who has a mobility problem and uses a wheelchair for match days I’m absolutely disgusted and furious that JG would take a shot at people that have disabilities #GuildfordOut”
Later this last week Guildford made a full apology, particularly about his derogatory comment aimed at people with learning difficulties. Following this latest action Mencap criticising him and their spokesperson said, “Hate crime and bullying are a daily reality for many disabled people and the use of language like this only makes it worse. It is good that he apologised. I hope he never says something like this again” In his defence (if there is one), Mr Guildford said in a statement that he had been subject to severe provocation and in a “moment of madness” decided to respond. He has apologised and said he regrets any distress caused but it has now been revealed that his comments are being investigated by the RFL so, watch this space!
Therefore I guess if one or two fans think drastic action is needed at the very top at Hull FC, they should be grateful that they don’t have an owner who with just days left to his team’s first home game, has through his own actions ensured they have no-where to play, who has completely ostracised himself from the fans and the local Council and painted himself into a real corner. What a guy eh and when compared with Adam Pearson… no contest. Our Owner may have his faults we all do, but as I said earlier, a few fans should be careful what they wish for. Things could, I believe, be a whole lot worse!!! As another Director from the club is reported to have now walked all I can say is, ‘Good luck York’, I think you’re going to need it!
Boy I got some post last week about my trip down memory lane to those great grounds of years gone by and Club Statistician Bill Dalton got in touch to add some more interesting stuff and as always keep me straight when my reminiscences go into ‘memory dump’ mode. Bill said, “It might surprise you to learn that, since 1895, Hull have played on 116 grounds in Cup & League Competition, including neutral venues. I have counted both versions of Wembley in that and also both Bramley Grounds even though they only moved it over by the width of the pitch. I think I am right in claiming to have seen Hull win on every ground I have seen them play with the exception of Wembley. Only Batley, Leeds, Wakefield, Featherstone and Keighley still play on the Grounds on which they started and only the first three were Founder members of the Northern Union. Bradford City and Hillsborough certainly moved things on as regards new Grounds in Rugby League!!”
In addition to Bills input which is always brilliant, there was particularly a lot of interest from Harry, Stan Reynolds, Fred Simons and several others about the great old ground at Oldham, The Watersheddings. Games were never entertaining or open affairs over there as they always seemed to match the gloom and despondency that was all around. I remember well a game in late 1980 when we travelled there to get beaten 2-1. They were usually dire affairs, in thick mud and real wars of attrition. Believe me the one I’ll feature this week at those readers request, which we played on 7th November 1982 was no different. We all travelled over the Pennines as part of our usual away day outing, with the Half Way Houses bus trip. As the usual suspects peered through the steamy windows of the coach at the pouring rain outside, as they sipped their tins of Mansfield Bitter, we passed under the famous Railway Bridge that announced, “Welcome to Oldham Home of the Tubular Bandage” and on into darkest Lancashire. You could certainly see what Blake meant about ‘dark satanic mills’ when you arrived in Oldham.
If the place itself was dour, then the ground was even starker and totally devoid of any creature comforts and precious little running water, it had a grimness of aspect that made Fartown at Huddersfield look like ‘The Bernbeu‘. The last improvement that had been made to the stadium was twenty years earlier when a score board was added, but otherwise it was a throwback to pre war days and it was always freezing cold too. As you left the motorway you could sometimes see pedestrians in their shirt sleeves, but when you got to the ‘Sheddings’ the ground was invariably sodden and/or shrouded in mist.
It had though tons of character too, one stand although long since renamed, still kept its ‘local knick name’ of ‘The Penny Rush‘, and on the day in question we all had a few beers in the Institute Arms pub down the road, before taking our places in the old wooden Herbert Street stand which usually faced the rain and sleet. In fact the rain had abated by kick off, but a dank ‘Baskervillian’ type mist had descended over the ground and although you could see all four corners of the playing surface, the tops of the goal posts had disappeared altogether. We were having a great season and by that point in the campaign we had won fourteen games and lost just three. We were top of the league whilst Oldham were in fourth spot and as with most clubs back then, they saw the visit of the Airlie Birds as a chance to shine against the ‘Big Boys‘.
Their coach Frank Myler had been saying in the national media that for them this was the big one and the Oldham lads were primed to give it their all. They had planned a specific strategy especially for us and were totally committed to winning. They boasted some good players too and it was with some trepidation that we huddled together, sang ‘Old Faithful’ and waited for the kick off.
With Alan McCurrie and Ray Ashton pulling the strings Oldham started in a lively fashion and it was obvious that they intended to frustrate us and try and make it a forward battle. They moved up quickly to shouts of ‘Gerrum on side‘ from the Faithful, and their blanket defence totally stifled us in the first quarter. Our own defence had to be on its metal too as Props Andy Goodway and Hogan and second rower Mick Worrall ploughed into our line. Garry Kemble at full back I remember was outstanding that day stopping everything that came at him.
Mick Parrish put the home side in the lead with a penalty for off side after 6 minutes. Then at the 11th minute mark Mick Crane, who was having one of his great and totally unpredictable days, almost wriggled over the line, but after 20 minutes Paul Rose finally got free and waltzed down the wing only for O’Hara to drop his pass with the line open. Following this disappointment Topliss broke free from another brilliant Crane pass and looked certain to score only for the referee McDonald to pull him back for a forward pass, before the official did the same to O’Hara for the same offence as he swept through to touch down. It looked like it was not going to be our day. Towards the interval Oldham got the bit between their teeth and all McCurrie had to do was fall over the line to score under the sticks but he juggled and then dropped the ball. As the rain started to fall again the teams ‘steaming’ after their efforts tramped off for half time with the ‘Roughyeds’ in the lead 2-0.
The second half started with a forward blitz by the FC as Sutton, Crooks and Bridges all piled into the home defence, and at the end of one particularly brutal set Skerrett charged over only for Green Vigo and full back Taylor to somehow hold him up and dump him on his back. Topliss then broke free on a great arcing run but ignored Prendeville who would have scored, as he turned back inside and into the tackle of Caffrey. It was all getting a bit frustrating and as time went on Oldham’s confidence grew. They started to get on a roll and camped in our half. Their forwards battered our pack and in an attempt to suddenly open things up Platt threw out a wide pass in the direction of Vigo. Had it landed in his arms the flyer would have gone the distance and scored, but from nowhere up popped Topliss, hands at full stretch over his head, to intercept.
So intent on pressing home an advantage were the whole of the Oldham team that full back Taylor was up in the line and so when Toppo hit open field, there was no one in front of him. It was then down to one of those spectacular ‘Leg races’ where everything for the watching fan goes into slow motion. With our off half haring down field and wingers Vigo and McEwen flying across the ground to try and cut him off we all held our breathe. Toppo just got there in time though, and planted the ball between the posts before both the runners hit him and forced him to the ground over the dead ball line. It was one of those memorable tries that I will remember forever. Crooks made no mistake with the extras and we led 5-2. Then it was backs to the wall as wave upon wave of Oldham attacks flounders on the rocks of a brilliant and tenacious defence. Late in the game we broke out though Crane who kicked ahead for Dean to collect and we would have scored a winning try but for the fact that Crane could not take the return pass inside cleanly. We hung on and the game descended into a muddy slog as we wound the clock down.
Eventually as the whistle went the rain drove into the front of our stand and into our eyes, but we were over the fences, onto the field and slipping and sliding in the now swamp of a pitch, congratulating the lads before the stewards could do anything about it, if in fact they couldn’t really be bothered. That season was another massive one for the FC but its strange sometimes the games that stick in your mind. I remember that I ended up with a cold the following week, which all the regulars in the Half Way said was “Oldham Flu”, but who cares it was a great win.
So there we are, it’s Huddersfield up next and another must win game and with the Cup draw tonight another worrying week for Wilf! Thanks for all your support of the Diary and for sticking with it to the end again, I hope you have found something of interest in this week’s edition. It was great to meet so many readers at Sheffield, Good luck to York City Knights and their fans and lets all get to the KC on Friday and cheer the lads home to another win. We’ll as I said earlier we can only hope can’t we?’
AND finally as for that wedding I mentioned earlier I didn’t take any shots of the happy couple but here’s the cake!!!!