#NoToHullMerger

Hello and welcome to the 450th edition of this Diary! I have to say however that instead of a celebration, it’s pretty sad to report that it is an anniversary marked by a really torrid week that featured actions that could change the face of the Club we all love forever. Still we got a win against Wakey at the second time of asking and despite it being far from convincing, we are once again back in the eight….for now!

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20 years on and little changes does it?

Regular readers will know that, in here at least, I try not to knock the owner and always attempt to do my very best not do the same to the Coach and the players, I always try and understand the difficulties they all operate under, the issues, the pressure, the financial woe etc. etc. and because I love my Club it is almost with blind faith that I support them in what they do.

This week though has been tough and although not wishing to over dramatise things, I have to say that this merger idea is at present the last straw for a lot of us old timers. I know things move on and you can’t live in the past, but let’s get one thing clear from the fans side of things and that is the fact that at least as far as we are concerned, we don’t merge ANYTHING with Rovers.

As you get older you realise that, not just in sport, but across all aspects of life, there are those younger than you who just pay lip service to heritage. They don’t understand the past although sometimes they pretend they do. I think at Hull FC we are lucky because fans young and old really do appreciate our history and what it was built on, whilst I hope we also have the foresight to celebrate and embrace our future as it is manifest in the youngsters we bring through the Club we love, right to the margins of the first team. Across all sports Owners, Directors and benefactors get all that too, in varying degrees, but invariably in the end, in modern times, it all comes down to money!

For many, many years I have attended the Academy, A team and even, way back when, the Colts games, because I love to watch honest genuine lads, often from FC families I have grown to know over the years, wearing their Club strip with pride and doing their best for my Club, particularly in those great junior Derby games that the players themselves simply live to play in. That’s when they get the chance to live out their dream and do battle with the enemy, because that’s what the way that they and thousands of us fans see Rovers!! They are the mortal enemy!

I won’t be going to see the blue and gold’s next season, in fact I’ll have nothing to do with them, funnily enough, Hull FC teams merged with Rovers and playing in Leeds colours don’t do much for me!!! Believe me, after years of antagonism, mocking, goading and downright bloody mindedness from everyone from their fans right up to their chairman, I just can’t suddenly embrace them or go along with any sort of MERGER! I won’t even stand in a Supermarket queue with someone with a Rovers shirt on, so this is far beyond the pale for me and I’d find it absolutely impossible to stand there with a load of Rovers fans all cheering on the same team! Forget that!!

Dozens and dozens of upset supporters have contacted me since Thursday morning, but why shouldn’t they be upset, because as Sports fans we define ourselves and our lives through the teams we support or indeed through the one’s we don’t! That is in our very DNA and you can’t meddle around with it in the name of cost cutting and not expect a backlash.

As always these are just my views straight from the heart and no one has to agree with them, that’s the whole idea of this diary, I ain’t trying to whip up antagonism or protest because I love Hull FC, in essence I’m just an old sentimentalist who is perhaps ready to be put out to grass, but personally I’m totally deflated about it all and as it took the crowd at the KC yesterday 66 minutes to even muster a chorus of ‘Come on You Hull’ they too certainly looked like a group of people with their minds on much bigger things. But more of that later!

Well, it’s been one of those rarest of occurrences, a two game week. On a hot and sticky Wakey night last Wednesday, it was once again eminently apparent that without us lot, the place would have been half empty. I spotted John Flatman who used to be a director at the KC and who has now taken over the very ‘squeaky’ and yet ‘comfortable’ shoes of Auntie Kath, in the position of Chief Executive at the Wildcats. He must be doing OK balancing the books at Belle Vue though, charging as he does £1 for a small bag of Smiths crisps!! I couldn’t believe that one and questioned the price twice! As another aside daft old Wilf left his car lights on and had to leave the ground to go and switch them off before kick-off, but the stewards were brilliant on that one at least!! I’ve turned 65 now so I’m allowed to!! However with once again a great turn out of the best and biggest army of travelling fans in the game, we all settled down for a match that we simply had to win.

Whatever else you can say about what followed, by the end the whole experience was a nightmare for every black and white who attended. In fact it was for some of the fans that I spoke to leaving the game, the last straw, as they had quite simply ‘had enough’! Of course they didn’t know the bombshell that was to fall next morning either!

We started well, with a great try by Yeamo which wound back the years and one for Watts off a good Westerman pass. But even at 16-0 up, the FC crowd was still subdued, because we all knew that it was too much too soon. We all knew that we needed another couple of tries before half time if we were to survive our inevitable malaise and get two precious points. We have all seen it so many times before though haven’t we? Suddenly mistakes, forced balls and bad decisions spread through the team like an infectious disease. Once Paea and Watts went off to be spelled by Bowden and Green all the grunt disappeared…again and Wakey started to believe.

When that starts with Hull FC, there is no going back and the fact we were told that it was an ‘easy half time talk’ to give, is really hard to comprehend, but then again just one such happening in a season that has seen several incomprehensible occurrences. He can’t have been seeing what we were, because ten minutes after our third try we all knew that another was highly unlikely as the writing was already on the wall against a very poor Wakefield team. No-one on or off the field seems capable of any sort of action, (during a game or at half time) that can reverse that trend to help us attempt to wrestle back the momentum and so the initiative, in these games. When Wakefield went two points up, it was all over! Mistake followed mistake in a procession that just brought the home Club more and more into the game.

In the final 10 minutes the only conversation from long suffering fans around me, who just like me go and hope these days, (and who don’t usually say ‘that sort of stuff’), was all about a season having gone down the pan in fact one of the clubs greatest fans, stood near me couldn’t watch anymore and chose to go outside the ground and sit at a bus stop until it was all over! Little did they all know that next morning they would be told that next season the majority of our teams would be merging with Rovers!!!

I wondered out loud near the end as to whether perhaps some of the hierarchy at our Club would benefit from having to stand there with us lot in the stands reflecting on another load of money poured down the drain, on a dream that’s quickly turned into another blooming nightmare and to suffer the taunting chants of, “16-0 and you f*cked it up” and “Going Down, Going Down, Going Down” from a group of fans who hadn’t seen victory since the second game of the season!! That night the opposition was as poor a team as we have met all season and yet for me at least, the performance was probably as heartbreaking as any I have experienced since Adam arrived and I include Huddersfield in the play-off in that number too. When you study them the stats don’t lie.

It was the 7th time this season we have not managed to score in a half (and that twice in a week). We played against the worst defence in SL (more than 250 points or 50% more conceded than the nearest competitor). In fact as someone said in a great post on social media “The actual maths of it are that Wakey average more than 20 points conceded per 40 minutes, and we managed 0 in 60. Now there can be all sorts of mitigating factors, but I’m finding it hard not to accept that that is simply a damning but fair statistic that merely brings home the cold, hard truth of just how abysmal our attack is”. Adam reckons it’s down to the players, but is it? That was what we were told before the big clear out last time around at the end of last season and yet it’s happening all over again. Quite where the blame lies, is a hard to pin on any one person or any circumstance, we all have our theories which are clouded further by the fact that this sort of malaise has been going on at the Club since before even Adam or Lee arrived.

My despair however hinges on the inevitability of it all being so bloody predictable. It’s almost as if there is a pre-written script and in each game the script is followed, with no ad libbing or deviation, in fact it appears that we don’t have the ability to change what for FC fans is mapped out to happen. Once Miller scored just before half time, the script unfolded again and I and most of you who were there knew what would happen next. We were simply never going to score thereafter and although we started the game well got three great tries, controlled the play and camped in the Wakey half, it was never going to last!

Our pressure and power forced error after error in that first quarter and we just had to keep it simple to win. But it was all too much too soon. You just knew it would happen, even when Wakefield was on the rack as for the ‘enth’ time this season we couldn’t put them away. We started to unravel, we bombed chances, mistakes spread through the team like wildfire and soon we were a shambles, but as I say for the fans it was all pretty predictable. We simply can’t wrestle those games back once they start to slip away can we?

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Hundreds of FC fans witness a debacle….again!

We conceded 24 unanswered points against a team who hadn’t won for 16 games and hadn’t been in front in a game for 10. Rovers under the same sort of duress and suffering from the same turn round got the two points they wanted the night before, all be it rather fortuitously in the end. The difference between us and Rovers however is I guess that unlike the FC they can’t defend, but that doesn’t really matter in these frantic end of season encounters, does it?

I say that because as well as seeming to be eclipsing us across the board in most things these days, they can score tries, apparently at will and can therefore find a way to win tight games even when they are behind and look to have lost them. Once you’re behind, the strongest defence in the world won’t get you a win. Perhaps it’s down to recruitment. We sign big burley ‘mature’ players or crafted play makers who are a bit in and out, while they loaded their ranks pre season with several off the cuff maverick types who couldn’t tackle, were misfits at their current clubs but who are flamboyant, exciting to watch and virtually unreadable to play against at times.

If you look like you can always score, you always have a chance and you might just get that late, late win in a tight game, plus for the fans you’re always exciting to watch. When you’re like us you hang in there tackling and tackling with tons and tons of effort, but once your behind you have no way of coming back.

On the way home I listened to Lee’s post match interview, shook my head and asked myself “where do we go from here” to which my the only reply seemed to be “Probably Odsal, Post Office Road and Leigh!” someone summed it all up on social media this week when they said, “It must be common knowledge that if you stick in there for a while against Hull you’ll likely come out as winners” On Wednesday night, I couldn’t really have put it any better. It was a shocking game and one where I was embarrassed to be an FC fan; for the rest of a silent drive home I wondered just what would happen five days later at the KC!

Sunday again was a nice day and there was an excellent kid’s fun day in West Park beforehand which was really well attended and James Clark and his staff should be congratulated for that. Inside it was anything but a Fun Day for long periods of a game, once again, littered with mistakes. But, hey we won, got two points and we are back in the eight, however that said I would have thought we’d have been a bit surprised if say 8 or 9 weeks ago we were told that with 11 minutes to go at home against Wakefield we were dropping a goal to stretch the lead to 7. The atmosphere in the ground was terrible too, but I guess the fact that it took until the 66th minute to get that first chant spoke volumes. That said we saw some good tries, but the whole game was played at a much lower intensity than say the Warrington v Wigan TV game last Thursday. Perhaps both teams were tired, perhaps the heat sapped their energy, who knows, but it was a good job that Wakey started to flag a bit in the last quarter as for once, we were able to hang on for a win of massive importance.

SPORT with Paul story 5-7- 15 Hull FC''s Joe Westerman celebrates his try during their match against the Wakefield Wildcats at the KC Stadium. Picture: Simon Renilson

SPORT with Paul story 5-7- 15 Hull FC”s Joe Westerman celebrates his try during their match against the Wakefield Wildcats at the KC Stadium. Picture: Simon Renilson


Westy exonerated himself after Leeds, with a great try!

There were some plusses too, with Ellis who was on Friday destined to be out for 6 weeks, getting jabbed up and having a stormer against his old Club, while on the left the new partnership of Michaels and Logan looked really handy as they both scored a brace of tries. Let’s hope we persist with that one. The front row did really well too and Paea and Watts again made yards and yards the hard way down the middle, while Westerman had a great game and took his try really well. However it wasn’t champagne rugby by any means and we squandered as much ball as we hung on to, plus we were really sloppy at times as was shown once in the first half when, with the ball out wide on the right, Houghton scooted into acting half to look up to see the line strung out across the field but the nearest player some 25 yards away, the gap was enormous! The whole game I believe swung on a great show of footwork by Mickey Paea who produced a piece of unexpected brilliance to extend Hull’s lead just when we needed it in the middle of the second half. Dancing his way out of tackles he swerved left and then provided a peach of a pass for Jordan Rankin to touch down. Sneyd also had a really good game too!

Young Logan really did look the part at centre though and with numerous assists and eleven tries in his last five games at all levels he is certainly in a rich vein of form. As a class act he’s not on his own either, because at Leeds on Saturday there were several fine performances in the Under 19’s 72-20 drubbing of the Loiners. Not bad for a Club that can’t produce any young players eh?

However, I wanted a win and we got one and despite dozens of ‘merger’ conversations with disgruntled fans across the afternoon we could ask for no more, although believe me Wakey although well organised and with bags of enthusiasm were nothing better than the bottom place they occupy, so let’s not be getting too carried away with it all. It’s Castleford up next with a couple of our players sweating on a visit to the disciplinary committee after last Wednesday, so that game will be a big ask, but our top eight destiny is in our own hands for now and if we could win our two home games, we should be there.

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We certainly tackled well when under the cosh but mistakes were again splattered across our performance.

There is little doubt however that Brian Smith has done a great job on what was a hapless Wakefield team that was going nowhere as they now look well drilled and full of heart and thus wouldn’t give up and chased our lead right down to the last few minutes. We found it hard at times to match their enthusiasm, but we stuck at it and got a win. Smith made 9 changes but so well organised were the Wildcats that ‘you couldn’t see the join’ and we all sat on the edge of our seats right up to the end. You all know that I have a lot of time for Brian anyway and I’m sure that the West Yorkshire Club will take great heart into the middle eight play-off league. They’ll be tough to beat in there!

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Top bloke!

So to the ‘merger’ and let me say first of all that I have to be careful here! In the early days of this rubbish I did get a bit personal in the old Diary and Joe and I have got into hot water on several occasions over the years and even at times been warned off, but as long as this is taken as just the thoughts of one average, aging yet obsessive fan, I’ll press on. The fact is I’m just so upset about this one and can’t let it pass without airing my views, if for no other reason than because it’s totally and utterly depresses me and is making me re-evaluate my commitment to the cause in years to come.

I simply love Hull FC, the fans, the strip, the passion and our heritage, and I particularly love the folks who play for us at every level, for they are my heroes. This news came out of the blue even for me and I’m told it was the same for most of our young players who heard about it on social media. I guess that financially, it makes sense, Adam must be finding it tough and our form on the field isn’t exactly helping our income streams is it? However what irks me is that when you look beyond an obvious saving on expenditure for Hull FC, there is precious little in it for us, particularly when you weigh our benefits against those that will be gained by Hull KR. In fact if I’m honest, it looks to many of those readers and fans who contacted me this week, as if we’ve been ‘rolled’ again by Mr Hudgell.

I often go to fans houses and on many occasions they proudly show me the framed picture of their sons or grandson, stood at the Boulevard in his Colts or Junior’s strip, proudly displaying that famous shirt, even though usually I had never heard of them! BUT, they had played for the family Club and wore the hallowed shirt and that’s all that matters to those proud folks.

However what worries me the most is that our 150th year is in danger of only being remembered as the year we merged with Rovers.

Putting financial issues aside for a moment, this merger is an action that for me cuts straight across the age old conventions that dictate that our separate and oppositional identities, cultures and communities are the things that define what is the biggest and most envied rivalry in world Rugby League. There is no enmity bigger, but this week for me personally a lot of that went down the pan because this sort of action at any level erodes the great antagonism and dare I say hatred that exists between two Clubs who are, (although geographically close), culturally and indeed socially, polls apart.

That’s the buzz, that’s the jealousy and that’s the enmity and you mess with it at your peril. Judging by the comments of many fans, this move from grass roots upwards could prove to be mutually assured self destruction. Most of you won’t agree with me, but I would rather our boss had come out and said that in an effort to ensure that we keep the juniors intact and because we are hard up, we would operate under the cap by disposing of one or two fringe players. But of course that’s only me.

I was particularly concerned about comments that the two Clubs made the decision without informing the fans because ‘the owners make these decisions’. That worried me a bit because as supporters we are only financial or emotional stakeholders I know, but stakeholders just the same. People were certainly voting with their feet before this happened, so what now, come the launch of season ticket sales? Adam has without doubt experienced the longest ever honeymoon period with the fans I have ever experienced from anyone at the top of our club, since Roy Waudby, I still believe he wants the best for the Club, but sadly by what I’m reading around social media and hearing from numerous fans, that honeymoon now appears to be over; well it does judging by the firestorm the announcement caused last week.

Does anyone else think that, (knowing Mr Hudgell of old and the strokes he has pulled and the insults he has dished out in our direction over the years), the Rovers boss will be having a good titter as to how he has upset us lot, set the support against our owner, muscled in on Bishop Burton, got an angle on our superior young players and saved a shed load of money? I guess it’s no coincidence either that after pledging their support to the ‘no to marquee players’ lobby at the RL, Rovers suddenly changed their mind and voted for it. Have they come into money all of a sudden…you bet they have, well they’ve saved a lot at least. All there appears to be in it at first instance for us, is as I say much needed savings and a loss of face!!

For me we have seen a move this week that is in essence beginning to erode and dilute two of the strongest brands within Rugby League and sport in general. With Hull and Rovers it’s always been all out war, from the Captains of the first team right down to the office cleaners and programme sellers. That’s how it has always been and paradoxically that’s what makes the two Clubs so strong, it’s all about the rivalry!

As an ordinary guy who is pretty uneducated when it comes to the world of high finance, but one none the less who has a life-long obsession with a rugby club, I will just ask this question, “What the hell has a club that has an academy set up that is ranked as ‘outstanding’ (and who can produce a team that can put 72 points on the absolute best set up in the competition on their own midden), to gain from merging with a Club ranked as ‘good’? For me the issue isn’t a lack of funds or producing that top quality under 19 talent, because Saturday’s result at Leeds probably indicates that we already have the talent, but it’s the process of getting them from being the stars of the under 19 competition into the first team that seems to be the problem. When we do occasionally solve it as in the cases of real emergent stars like Crooks, Lineham, Hodgson and Briscoe we then can’t seem to hang onto them! That how I see it anyway and for me the problem isn’t the Under 19’s talent but the coaching process to then get them into the first team.

It’s just sad that the current set up, costly though it is, does take young kids off the street and giving them the chance to shine as a young RL players or at least if they don’t get there, the chance of developing a bit of self esteem in their lives as well as offering a pathway to life beyond the game. Across the City both Clubs are doing that for at least 50 players this year at under 19’s, never mind at lower levels. Next year that will be halved so where do the rest go? I know, I know, it’s costing too much money but that doesn’t make it right.

Well that’s how I see it at least, the powers that be will tell me I have it all wrong, but I’m just a fan who absolutely and unrequitedly loves his Club! It is just my opinion and I defend my right to it, because for me it’s a bloody disaster. I have taken great pride in Hull FC and the way that it has over many, many years given so many kids a chance to wear the most famous shirt in world rugby. But of course, if we do see a big resistance to buying season tickets because of the Merger then the club will be deemed to be in financial trouble and it will be all our fault! It’s a bugger isn’t it as fans we simply can’t win? But I’ll tell you what, I wager that Mr Hudgell is laughing his hat off at all us lot!!

So to sum up I’ll just repeat what someone said on RL fans on Friday night, “Call me old fashioned but after all the taunts and goading from Hudge and Co over the last few years, I find it absolutely impossible to understand why I am expected to now shell out my cash to assist the development of players that might eventually be playing against my Club at Caravan Park”.

On an even more personal note, as a season ticket holder for 47 years, this is fast developing into a deal breaker that has certainly made me, for the first time I can ever remember, consider my investment next season. I’ll probably renege on that course of action, I love the Club too much and I’m too old to change, but I’ll be weighing up my options and I’ll never have anything to do with the primrose and blues! I suspect I might not be on my own there either!

So on to other things and boy the next few weeks will be tough won’t they? We are going to be told by the RL that the new format was the best thing ‘since sliced bread’ and you can’t argue with their logic can you? Well, you can’t when you look at it as far as the casual observer who is not emotionally attached to his Club is concerned. In the first place there is little doubt it does seem that all games are meaningful and important and now at this stage “season defining”. Under the old system we would now have been stuck in mid table looking to next season and coasting home. We’d be safe and these current games wouldn’t matter, but now winning is everything and the only thing.

But, why is it so imperative that we get in that top 8 by the start of August and the split comes; wont a few jaunts to grounds we haven’t been to for ages make a change? I’ll tell you why it’s imperative shall I? It’s paramount because it will be purgatory in the bottom bit; that competition will be frantic and is even likely to take the spotlight from the top 8. If you’re taking part in it you have to finish in the top three and with Leigh, Bradford, London and Halifax likely to be the Championship teams in there, and with Salford, Wakey and whoever else starting with a clean slate points wise, it is going to be tough.

One Super League club is going to be in jeopardy whatever, because finish 4th and then worry of worries, it’s the game of death against the fifth team (what a nightmare that would be!) and of course, anything further down and you’re out. Then if you are, the trouble starts. Your Salary cap is more than halved (even with a parachute payment), your best laid plans of signings are out of the window and are filched by other Clubs, your squad is halved, your youngsters are nicked, half the KC is closed to FC fans by our landlords and all that is only dependent on our owner wanting to continue at the helm in the first place. It’s not all plain sailing for the game either particularly if Hull FC did, heaven forbid, finish up being one of those Clubs to go down! Then a game that is haemorrhaging fans already, would lose the fourth highest supported Club, the biggest regular travelling away support in the game and the biggest attendee’s in Catalan and at the Magic Weekend, so everyone loses I guess, it won’t happen (I hope) but that’s the reality if it does!

Here’s some good news for a change and an important date for your diary. FC Voices wanted to ensure that there is something left as a legacy from our 150th year that future generations could value and use to understand the great heritage our Club and all the individuals who have played for it across all its teams over the years. As you will remember if you’ve read this regularly they put out an appeal to raise funds for a memorial to the Boulevard, one of the games most famous Stadiums worldwide. Well, the cash came in from organisations and groups across the whole spectrum of the Club and without having to take up the kind offer from Adam Pearson of helping us out if we needed it, enough was raised to buy an engraved standing stone to be positioned with a stone seat in the grounds of The Boulevard Academy on Airlie Street. Provided by the fans and positioned roughly on the site of the old supporters Club it will indicate the significance of the area for future generations. In addition FC Voices are to present the school with a Lego model of the old Stadium to be displayed in the school entrance Hall. The unveiling of the memorial will be taking place at 10-30am on Saturday 19th September, being the nearest weekend to the first ever game to be played there against Liversage. Bill Dalton will give a brief history of the Stadium, there will be a band and the unveiling will be performed by the Lord Mayor of Kingston upon Hull in the presence of literally dozens of ex players and officials. Put it in your Diary and try to get there if you can, it should be good fun.

So there we are sadly with so much controversy there is no room for the Codgers spot this week, but it’ll be back next time.

I guess you have realised by now that as far as the new fangled merger blueprint for our Club going forward is concerned, I don’t like it one bit. What I do understand is that the old days of club economics based on exciting players winning matches, which brings in big gates and thus loads of dosh, seems to have been given up on. I support the owner, of course I do, he’s all we’ve got, but I’m afraid I’m just an old fart these days and I can’t be any part of anything that has to do with initiatives, associations or amalgamations with Hull Kingston Rovers. My Dad and Mum and countless other past supporters of the Club, will be turning in their grave at such a suggestion.

You may think merging every team in our organisation below the first team with Rovers is progress; sadly I’m afraid I don’t. For this fan it’s been a torrid week, but one that doesn’t affect the love I have for Hull FC, because it’s quite simply unrequited. Having said all that it’s bloody hard sometimes and at present it’s as hard as it’s ever been.

Win or lose I’ll try to be there cheering on the team I love, but I won’t be at Bishop Burton or (heaven forbid) Craven Park, cheering on the primrose and blues, I just can’t do that! I guess it was all summed up for me by one guy I met on Walliker Street as I made my way back to the car after the game. I’m afraid I can’t name check him because I had never seen him before, but he came over and just said, “You know Wilf, I won’t be getting a pass next year, because I can’t face the thought of our owner taking my money and maybe using some of it for youth development, because I don’t want to be paying to develop a player that may one day play for Rovers!”

I’ve never had so much correspondence as I’ve received this week and thanks for all of that, I guess all we can now do is just wait and see what happens next, I still worry a bit about what our landlords have up their sleeves too don’t you!!!

Keep smiling, you can bet your bottom dollar Mr Hudgell is!!!!

Faithfully Yours

Wilf

P.S. Don’t forget there is a ‘No to the merger’ petition link on this site, if you feel you want to sign it….I have, it’ll do no good of course, but by heck it’ll make you feel better!!

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