The Dentist’s Diary – 459th

Why do we bother?

It’s hard to report it but if you weren’t there, I’m afraid yesterday’s game can only be described as a pretty aimless shambles. Decimated by injury all we could probably hope for was some spirit and effort but on both counts we were sadly lacking. The Under 19’s had shown those qualities in abundance in an epic victory 24 hours earlier, but as for their senior counterparts, well they couldn’t be arsed and quite frankly yesterday was nothing short of embarrassing!! I hate being negative in here but there’s little else I can say really!

That said it’s also pretty obvious that the new ’split’ system isn’t working for everyone either, because ‘every minute’ really doesn’t count; well it doesn’t when you’re in our position and indeed that of Warrington, when with 4 games to go neither team had anything much to play for! OK the Wire needed to restore some pride after some poor performances, but the game was more like a pre-season friendly than a Super 8’s encounter and it was obvious to me that both sets of fans were bored with it all long before the end. Hull FC simply didn’t turn up, while in all honesty Warrington weren’t that much better either!

Our performance was poor, but if it did one thing for me then it re-affirmed how we must have the best and longest suffering fans in the game, for despite what was served up on the field, off it the fans were great. The atmosphere on the away terrace was first class and the Hull contingent of around 700 out-sang the home support throughout and that despite having to watch what was little short of a turgid display.

It was certainly real end of season stuff and for us fans travelling over there on a two hour journey, through miles of 50 mile an hour restrictions, pretty soul destroying too, because any sort of reward for our efforts was none existent. What worries me as well is that despite new faces coming in next season, it’s hard to see that much will improve, as accepting mediocrity seems to be a culture at the Club and a culture that’s wearing very thin with a lot of us fans. Still its ONLY Wigan on Friday and another long haul when it’s hard to see anything but another defeat!

I don’t know about you but I can’t wait for the season to be over now and what’s more it looks to me as if the players feel that way too!!

However that said, it’s still been a week when the FC fans have still had a smile on their faces and why not? Those Rovers supporters can’t have thought that we would have already forgotten about such an historic and humiliating defeat as last weekend’s can they? In fact, it seems that now we even have a ‘seven dwarfs’ style ‘5-0’ repost to their age old ‘Wembley’ taunts! And, despite another poor display on the field, it has been a pretty significant 7 days for our Club off it, with the new memberships going on sale, Feke re-signing, the Under 23 announcement and our brilliant Under 19’s getting into the play-offs and finishing above the likes of Warrington, Leeds, Huddersfield and Castleford in third position. Now in fact it’s official, we have the third best academy in the British game and one that is ranked as ‘outstanding’l!! Oh and one that is about to merge with another that is, following the same RL assessment no better than ‘good’.

What can you say about Warrington? Well, the sun was shining as we left Hull to set off on one of the longest hauls there is for the travelling fan. By we got to Lancashire it was cold and cloudy, but I do like the Halliwell Jones and the way you are so close to the action. Little has changed over there either and once I’d got over the usual questions about my flask and rucksack (I think some stewards think this 65 year old is smuggling nitro-glycerine in there) we had a great time before the game with the chants of “5-0, 5-0 to Wembley we go” However despite what we had to endure on the field, all afternoon there was a distinct end of term atmosphere around a game that was short on intensity and as far as Hull FC was concerned short of anything much else as well.

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5-oooooh!!! Wembley might be over but the FC fans yesterday ensured that the memory lingers on!!!

I know I’m being down beat, but if you were there you’d have felt the same because our defence was poor and although we threw caution to the wind again, this time we did it in such a lackadaisical manner that at times we resembled ‘headless chickens’. Minnichiello and Fash worked hard and looked good, while Hadley was probably our most consistent performer throughout. Otherwise it was pretty dire fare. Watts didn’t rise to the occasion at all and threw out some poor and often intercepted off-loads, while Naughton worries me as to whether he is up to it at times, particularly with those brain farts in defence. Danny Houghton too had a shocking game with ball in hand and looked jaded, while Michaels had an uncharacteristic off day before he went off injured. In fact although we have signed some good forwards for next season, our backs in general worry me!

Yeh, we had a lot of personnel missing, but if I’m blatantly honest our coach has to ask himself why, after two weeks off, some of our players lacked energy and were at times so inept and so blasé about the fact that we have nothing to play for, that it appeared to us lot there, that they couldn’t be arsed!

But the big question is still, why the hell can’t Lee get them up every week so that at the very least they give us fans something to be proud of? Yesterday despite having nothing to play for we were pretty shocking all round! As long suffering fans we all made the best of it, but that said it was certainly a poor showing and after a long drive the loyal fans deserved a lot better. Even taking into consideration the obvious excuses about injuries etc, at the end of the day we have to have some sort of structure, some pride in the shirt and some respect for the supporters, whoever we play, but it was apparent against the Wire that with a few marked exceptions we had none of these qualities. Sadly, in fact we rarely do and until those coaching deficiencies are addressed we’ll never change, whoever we sign and whoever plays for us. On two occasions in the game we let Warrington get back to back tries from back to back sets and although the referee was awful we were still our own worst enemy, as we gave numerous penalties away, usual with just a shrug of the shoulders and generally in our own half!

With our 2, 3. 4. 5. 6. And 11 all out it was going to be a struggle in any case and for me our 3/4 line was so disjointed and small in stature that the Warrington three quarters just outmuscled us. Our team building and general direction seems to me to be Bradford in the early 21st Century all over again. Relying or trying to rely on massive forwards with pretty ineffective distribution and poor linking might have worked then, but as at a lot of times this year, yesterday we got found out!

By half time it was obvious to all of us there that we wouldn’t be coming back from a 22-6 deficit; we looked as if we could certainly score tries, but we couldn’t control the game sufficiently to stop them scoring more than us. Sneyds kicking was poor again and so as the afternoon wore on our field position got steadily worse and worse, although we did see a purple patch where we scores a couple of neat tries, including a great touchline hugging run from Minniciello, but boy we were poor at times. Another showing like that on Friday and Wigan will murder us and all I can really say about yesterday is that for me it was a very disappointing afternoon all round!

So to the week past and in complete contrast to the First team, Saturday saw a quite stunning performance by another under strength side this time at Bishop Burton, when our Under 19’s played a Warrington outfit that was way bigger and in general older than the 17 we put out. The team sheet was a mirror image of the senior game in many ways, but that’s where the similarity ended. The match was in essence a shoot out for 3rd and 4th where once again we conceded stones in the pack but beat the opposition for sheer guts and spirit. We trailed 16-6 at half time but came out fired up, grabbed the lead and hung on to record a great 26-24 win that saw us finish third in the table behind Saints and Wigan. It was of course the last ever Under 19’s home game and what a great tribute for the team and indeed for ‘Rookie’ Coach Richard Horne it was. Horney has been amazing! He’s managed a team that all season have consistently punched way above their weight and on Saturday with Logan, Fash, Downs, Abdull, Lancaster, Bower, Tyson-Wilson, and Liggins all missing it was a heroic tussle which despite a few mistakes, was gripping stuff to watch on a cold, cold afternoon. Jordan Lane returning from injury was brilliant and the moving of Jansin Turgot from centre back into the pack at half time was a master stroke. It was also great to see so many Diary readers and old friends there too.

I’ll miss watching the Under 19’s because I’m afraid that’s it for me, I won’t be watching no merged academy!!! Well done lads, it’s been great, thanks for some great performances and for week in week out giving me the opportunity to witness the passion, the wanting and your obvious pride in the shirt! Sad times!

So to the rest of the news and you know, I do like Feke Paleassena! Off the field he is a great bloke to chat to and rather like Mickey Paea always hunts you out at the gym for a chat. But more than that, he‘s still doing well on the field and despite his age and the fact that he finds it hard to do long minutes, when he is on the pitch he certainly brings something different in aggression and impact, well he does until Frank arrives next season anyway.

Feke raises the team and always gives his all and so when it was announced on Thursday that he had got another year I was pleased about it. Financially I wasn’t sure that we had anything left under the cap, but a bit of wheeling and dealing created enough to keep him and of course in addition he’s becoming a real mainstay of our Foundation operation. A couple of my mates who live in Hedon tell me that he’s their kids favourite by a mile, mainly because back in June he went into their school and spent all day coaching the kids, had lunch with them and certainly created a strong impression.

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Great Bloke!

During his time in Hull, ‘Feka’ has made 36 appearances for us and never ever let us down, so for me, if he could be secured on a modest contract for another year it was a no brainer and don’t be surprised if once he’s finished playing he is kept on as a Community ambassador, a role he has taken to like a duck to water. He’s already impressed everyone at the Club with his kindness and community spirit and on signing his new deal, Feka said, “I’m over the moon. I’ve always wanted to stay at this great club that has done so much for me. I’ve had a great time here so far and I’m just happy the deal is done” and if you don’t always believe some of the ‘bull’ that is written on these occasions, believe me that’s exactly what he will have said! Good news I think!

The fallout from the Wembley edition of ‘Record Breakers’ continued well into the week, with Craig Murdoch starting the ball rolling on Tuesday in the Mail by saying that despite it being a humiliating defeat there were still positives to be taken from it; before writing a long article that failed to find any! Still, the Civic reception at the City Hall seemed to go ‘Well’, with the Council telling everyone there were 2000 there while the essential services told the media it was nearer 700 so, in the end, it was decided that ‘hundreds’ was an acceptable estimate for the media to use. Still apparently, by all accounts, the Lord Mayor really enjoyed herself!

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I had to laugh when on social media last Saturday just 30 minutes into the Cup Final someone posted this!

Then there was the continuing saga of Kieran Dixon. It has now emerged that the poor guy didn’t get any relief after the final hooter either ….literally. Just when he must have thought things couldn’t get any worse, Dixon had to spend an hour after the game locked in the drug-testers room as he tried to provide a sample. That didn’t surprise me at all though, well not when you consider the fact that the poor lad had to endure having the p*ss taken out of him all afternoon!

As a foot note to that Wembley debacle I was asked this week to help with the counting of votes for the FC fans player of the year award. Of course I won’t be commenting on how it’s going, but I can reveal that Tom Briscoe got four votes and Kieron Dixon one.

Now can I just reiterate that if Jordan Rankin has, as looks possible at the time of writing, signed for Wakefield for next season, then I’m disappointed but I’m not too surprised. However if the ‘deal’ is, Washy to us, Rankin to them, then I think we would have been better trying to hang onto Jordan. OK he doesn’t possess the best defence and his positional play at full back is at times found wanting, but those are both things he can learn, however he does have the natural ability to spice a game up when he comes onto the field and with a strike rate of 17 tries in 43 Super League games, he hasn’t done that bad has he? I like him, he can change a game, he’s got the passion that I love and so I’ll be sorry to see him go, more so, as I say, if he is a straight ‘swop’ for Washy. But that’s just my personal views of course, and nothing appears certain on his move at present either. However if he does go to Belle Vue he’ll join up with his old roommate and best pal ‘Milky’ and they’ll come back to haunt us; you can write the script on that one can’t you?

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Jordan Rankin says, “Up yours Rovers” and I like his style myself!

In the last Diary I indicated that the season pass stuff would be launched this week and that was the case with the Club web-site going live with three stories about the new Membership scheme on Thursday last week and my membership pack dropping on the mat on Friday. There was the ‘mandatory’ interview and appeal from the owner (who sounded to me a lot more morose than he usually is) and some great footage of our new signings (I watched that big hit by Frank Pritchard a time or two!). As I said last week it’s certainly a really good offer. The fact that you can become a General Member without having to get a season ticket and yet still be eligible for reductions on individual ticket sales throughout the season is a great idea and the reductions that offers on merchandise etc makes it a nice scheme for exiled fans, who want to be part of things, but can only occasionally get to games. That subscription also reduces the cost of ‘FC live’ by half as well which makes it, at just £45, good value indeed. So I think myself that the overall deal for those who can’t make every game or live a long way away, is a really good one.

It saddened me a bit that the fans forums will only be open to season ticket holders when in the past the rank and file have had the chance to quiz the hierarchy at the Club, but all in all you get a lot of ‘buzz for your buck’ with this year’s offer! Little touches like members being able to access the owners programme notes before games are nice and it was good to see that new scheme was launched with a 50 pass give away that was run to capitalise on the popularity of the number 50 in the West of the City last week! It was good as well to hear that it was Feke that rang the winners to inform them that they had secured a pass. I know a couple of long term fans who are well chuffed!

I also worked out last week that as a senior citizen my East Stand pass will cost me around £15 a game, which really ain’t too bad, but of course you have to go to every home match. Other new benefits this year include regular prize draws and a members-only Twitter account (which I am hardly likely to be using) and of course the old chestnut of the discount retail scheme sees 50 companies involved, with some really good deals available.

More interesting still is the fact that it seems that efforts are also being made to improve the interface between fans and the Club, as Members will also be selected at random to attend bi-monthly management meetings. They also offer access to members parking, which baffled me a bit until I asked the Club on Friday about it. Apparently the gate and car park area nearest the Stadium will in future be reserved for the use of Club members. You still have to pay to park but you are guaranteed the area closest to the ground. Plus there’s a match day members bar and £5 off home and away shirts as well!

None season ticket membership also still allows for the usual 50% off Magic Weekend and priority purchase on cup and play-off matches, but I was particularly drawn to the 5% off all full-priced retail purchases throughout the season, which is added to discounts for the England v New Zealand Test Match and Super League Grand Final. So all in all both Memberships are stuffed with added benefits and bonus’s which it seems are so numerous it’s hard for the Club to get them all across in one go!! So much so that a lot of people are a bit confused as to what you actually do get for your money!!!

Whether you decide to go round again is of course entirely up to the individual, but if you are becoming a General Member, renewing your seat or even getting a pass for the first time then it’s a good deal. But, what do you do? Well I said last week that although I’m certainly not happy with some of the things that have gone on at my Club of late, I’ll probably subscribe again, not because I feel everything is OK now by any means or even because of the offer or to support the owner, but more because I simply can’t stay away from games when the FC are playing. How the fans, who have been for long chunks of this season pretty disenfranchised, will take it, remains to be seen and that, despite all the incentives and offers, is for the Club the real test in the coming weeks.

My mate Tom who reads the Diary told me this week that Chairman of the Ex Players Chico Jackson is ‘at it again’ and doing his bit for charity. Chico said this week, “I’m taking part in the Spectrum Kilimanjaro Challenge 2015 and we will also be attempting to set a new world record for the highest game of Rugby ever played (at 5,780m) to raise money for Steve Prescott Foundation and I’d really appreciate your support”. Chico added that you can donate to his Just Giving page so watch out for details of that in the coming days! He’s a good bloke is Chico and worthy of our support!!

Well you to prepare yourself for a bit of good news on the merger front last week, but at the time of writing it was only what a contact at Warrington had told me and our lot were keeping their cards well and truly close to their chests. However now it’s out of the bag is it good news or just another ‘sop’ to try and persuade us to buy season tickets? I allude here to the announcement that we are to run an under 23’s team next season, an initiative that it’s fair to say was welcomed in all quarters and with up to 5 open age players allowed to play as well, it is probably as near as we will get to welcoming back the old A team set up. Of course it’s not the announcing of these things that’s the hard bit, it’s actually delivering them and I just hope the whole scenario has been properly thought through!

Let’s face it as far as the game is concerned it’s not an official move, but 9 clubs have already showed an interest and although Leeds don’t seem keen at all and Uncle Garry is trying his best to stick the boot in, there are still some big hitters in there trying to get it off the ground. However it remains to be seen if it comes off, with the Clubs involved either playing in a proper league with the RL’s blessing or partake in unofficial ‘friendly’s’ against each other instead.

For me it’s always been exactly what was needed and well done to the clubs who are banding together to make this happen. I think we are doing it for the right reasons, but I also think that the Club were rocked by the opposition there was to the merger and are looking to plicate some fans too. Is it just a sop or a real mould breaking initiative? It certainly leaves me unsure whether this move goes to prove that Adam is a shrewd operator who manipulates the situation as is needed, or indeed that he really does get it!

Some are still saying it’s just a guise to get us buying season tickets again, but for me, well I’ll give the Club the benefit of the doubt here because I think they are serious about it. I know the Coaching team are really excited about the new team and the benefit it can bring to fringe players who are too ‘old’ for the new academy. I also know Lee Radford believes the ability to give these players regular game time against meaningful opposition is a massive plus that will give us a real edge over Clubs not operating the system.

Players like Yeamo, Michaels, Feke, Fash, Naughton, Green and Hadley, if not in the first team, will all get a regular run out against class opposition, while we can call on all our Under 19 players still in the academy to make the team numbers up if we need them. Years ago players returning from long lay off’s to start their playing again, did so with a run out in the A team, which helped them get ‘up to speed’ These days those same players are just thrust into the match environment without such preparation and we wonder why they look rusty! This I hope will solve that issue too. What’s more, it could also stop some young players who are struggling once they are over 19 becoming disillusioned and drifting into amateur rugby. Over the years it has become apparent to me that players and forwards in particular, often start to develop at 21 or 22 and with the current set up they are lost altogether, because although they might get a short term first team contract, they’ll hardly get the game time needed to prove what they can do.

So a great idea but that said, on the other developing youth front I’m still not happy about merging academies with the Dobbins and still think the ‘nillers’ are on the make on this one. We were told this week of the work going on behind the scenes at the new set up as Danny Wilson the new head of operations conducts the interviews for Coaches.

While we are on the subject of the Academy it was interesting to read that twelve clubs have been awarded Category 1 Academy status following a detailed assessment by the RL, of their performance and structure. It’s the first time clubs have been assessed in such detail and builds on the successful Academy accreditation system that has taken place in each of the last four years. The report said, “Six clubs – Hull FC, Leeds Rhinos, St Helens, Warrington Wolves, Widnes Vikings and Wigan Warriors – have been rated as ‘outstanding’ in recognition of the excellence of their junior development programmes from age 12 upwards. Five other clubs – Bradford Bulls, Huddersfield Giants, Hull Kingston Rovers, Wakefield Trinity Wildcats and Catalans Dragons – have been rated as ‘good’ after making significant improvements over the last 12 months. Castleford Tigers were rated as ‘requires improvement’ but the assessment recognised the strides the club has made since last year and London Broncos and Salford Red Devils did not reach the required standards for Category 1 standard”.

So I guess in the end as a fledgling outfit only based at Bishop Burton for two years, we have done really, really well! It’s only in fact 24 months ago that Adam Pearson said we were investing in youth and pouring a six figure investment into the rural centre of excellence to ensure in his words, “We invest in our future”. On Saturday for instance that brilliant battling performance saw us finish third in the table and that with what has been this year a real threadbare squad at times, but the quality and will to win for the FC at any cost has been predominant throughout! Those kids love the shirt!!

In the after math of the assessment of academy’s it was interesting to also note that the Rovers web site immediately reported the findings of the RL assessment, but nothing at all appeared on the FC Club site. That for me smacks of a small club saying how they have got one up on their local rivals by merging with an ‘outstanding’ academy while we kept stum as if to say, ‘better not mention anything, as we appear to be allowing a lesser academy to piggy back onto our ‘outstanding’ one!!’ As you can see it still bugs me does this…..big time!

Now with a memorable Wembley Final still very much the forefront of our minds here’s a question for you about the 1980 final that our friends across the river are already referring to again and it’s this; Who was it that wrote “Will the last one out please turn out the lights” on a placard placed on a roundabout at the top of Boothferry Road. I ask that because if you are aware who it was, I know a bloke who is desperate to find out! My old pal Vince Groak is in the throes of writing a book that catalogues as completely as possible the goings on that May in 1980 from both sides of the river. As well as all the insider information from the Clubs, the players, the Coaches etc he has already also included more obscure participants like ‘The Cheshire Cat’, David Oxley whose job it was that day to look after the Queen Mother!

Vince is really keen to get as much information and memories from the fans who went and who are still about! He is really keen to tell the story from the perspective of the supporters who travelled to the game in their tens of thousands by coach, train, car, limo etc…. and he has asked me to put out an appeal for anyone who has any memories to contact him so that their recollections can be included. He appreciates I think that everyone’s Wembley weekend story will resonate with lots of other people so he really just want to hear how people got there, where they went in London before and after, what they remember about the game, how they commiserated (or celebrated, if any Rovers fans read it!) and so on. So if you can help please contact Vince direct on vgroak@vgroak.karoo.co.uk. I’ll keep you all posted in here how the book is progressing and how his appeal for information is coming along! Please try to help Vince if you can. There will be more book news next week too, with the launch of the ‘20 FC Heroes’ publication, I told you about in the last Diary.

In the Codgers spot this week, I want to look at a game towards the end of Brian Smiths first season at the Club, which animates perfectly what a change he had engineered, with little money, in a very short period of time. You’ll remember, in that first 88/89 season we started with four defeats and ended with an appearance at Old Trafford and it was the start of a new, if not a short, ‘Era’ for the Black and Whites. On Wednesday 5th April when we faced Widnes at the Boulevard we were sat fourth in the table behind Leeds, Widnes and Wigan having won 16 of our 25 matches played, which after that start, was nothing short of amazing! However few of the 7,900 who attended that night could have imagined what a treat was in store, as, to quote the pundit on Radio 5, as I was driving to work next day, “This was the night that Brain Smith let his hair down” This remark was focussed on the fact that we as fans, the players and particularly our Coach went wild at the end of a brilliant performance against the title favourites. It was however destined to be a game too far and one that no one expected us to win. Dick Tingle in the Mail summed up the performance the following night with the words, “The team that is supposed to have everything- class, pace and power- were found wanting for heart and character by a team that had it in spades”

It all started badly though! Soon after the match had kicked off we were found wanting by some brilliant Widnes play and I remember commenting from my position on the Threepenny Stand that “It looks like Smiths magic might just have run out tonight”. Within 5 minutes we were 8-0 down. After an early Jonathon Davies penalty, we marched down field and on the sixth tackle Gary Pearce tried a deft grubber kick towards the corner. In a flash Davies snatched it up and went on a blazing 75 yard run with Nolan, Eastwood and Blacker chasing him but, as they were about to catch him ten yards out, a late swerve saw him evade the would be tacklers and dive in for a try that he converted himself.

In a surprise decision before the game kicked off Brian Smith announced that Steve Crooks was to be the Captain for the night and he proved an ideal choice, as he led the forwards from the front. After 15 minutes he clashed with Derek Pyke and a ‘bout’ of fisticuffs saw the Widnes prop sent to the sin bin for ten minutes.

However, on 20 minutes and whilst he was off the field, it was scrum half Windley who transformed the game. On the fourth tackle after good work by Dannett, Wilby and Sharp, Phil deftly slotted a teasing kick right between Full Back Tait’s legs and Lee Jackson nipped in to touch the ball down for what was amazingly his first try in three years. Pearce converted and despite the opposition having a good pull in the scrums, we were back in the game. I often say that it’s funny what you remember, but I recall that then it looked like a chimney in Carrington Street had caught fire as a plume of acrid smoke descended across the pitch, however it didn’t dampen Hull enthusiasm, as we tackled everything that came at us and were starting to play a bit of neat football ourselves. Three minutes later out of ‘the smog’ Dannett and then Sharp charge forward and a quick play the ball saw Windley create some space for Pearce, who scythed through to score near the posts and we were in the lead.

Hull were now really running hot, and Widnes, who had started so well were struggling to keep up. As Pyke returned to the fray it made little difference as Windley and Pearce struck again. This time Windley zipped round the back of a scrum sold a superb dummy, ran on and released Pearce again, who bludgeoned his way through two defenders to fall over the line for his second try in 7 minutes. We were going wild in the crowd, as ‘Smithy’ paced the touchline barking out orders and soon Pearce was at it again, this time with a beautifully times drop goal that stretched our lead to 21-8. Everything looked set fair however just on the stroke of half time a piece of sloppy defence out on the right, saw Price and Eastwood miss Tate and his blistering pace saw him score from half way. With Davies’s conversion from the touchline going over, we went in at half time leading by a very unlikely 21-14, which in fairness flattered the opposition.

We all thought that the fancied ‘Chemics’ would come back at us in the second half to snatch a victory and we were even more worried when after just 4 minutes Davies stroked over a penalty, as, accompanied by the ironic cheers of the fans around me, that chimney started belching out smoke again. The fear that Widnes would at any time find a gap in our defensive line certainly haunted our thoughts as we watched the likes of Offiah, Hulme, Koloto, Eyres and Currier trying to find a way through. But what a defensive display we produced. It was rugged, tenacious and consistent, as we drove the Widnes ‘stars’ back time and again. Sharp, Divorty, Dannett and Lee Jackson all pulled off try saving tackles which eventually turned the Widnes ‘winning’ machine, into a shambles.

Widnes hardly got out of their half despite a 5-2 advantage with the second half penalties and as we grew into the task again we started to attack ourselves. In the last twelve minutes only spectacular try saving tackles from Kurt Sorenson on Divorty and Dannett saved tries, before Divorty was awarded one, only for referee Geoff Tickle to change his mind and rule it out on the intervention of the touch judge. Finally however we executed the killer blow, just two minutes from the end, as a frustrated Jonathan Davies slapped Blacker across the face as he ran by him and Pearce stroked over the penalty.

At 23-16 the game was over and as the hooter went the whole place went mad! Smithy arms aloft ran onto the field to ‘let his hair down’ and salute the cheering fans as the players applauded and danced with delight. It had been no fluke; master tactician Smith had the right game plan, and most importantly the players executed it perfectly, as a dazzling advert for Rugby league was capped with some brilliant individual performances. That year definitely saw the start of a new era; we had some wonderful times to saver under a previously untried Aussie Coach, who completely changed our game plan in both defence and attack, and all that after a couple of years when under different management we had gone backwards.

Now, I heard this week from my old pal Tony Roberts who we have discussed in here on many occasions operating as he does the longest running FC coach to away games. Tony has been taking coaches to matches for over 30 years and tells me that he will definitely be running a trip to the last away game of the season this Friday at Wigan, but with us being mid table and with little to play for, he is a bit short on numbers. The bus leaves Hull City centre at 4-00pm and if you want a great trip to the game with good company guaranteed then contact Tony on 07917033949 to secure a seat! Top bloke Tony!!

So after a soul destroying trip over the Pennines on Sunday were back there on Friday as it’s Wigan away and a really daunting task against a team that are hitting their straps in perfect time for the Grand Final. I just hope that we have a real go, throw the ball about a bit and give the travelling FC fans something to cheer. But we’ll need to control things a lot better than we did at Warrington!! It’s a long, long way to go on a Friday night to lose!! For many of us now the end of the season can’t come quickly enough can it (3 games and counting) and if ever there was an example as to how every minute really ‘doesn’t count’ then you only have to look at our Club, Warrington and Catalan, all of whom are aimlessly meandering towards the end of the season.

Thanks to everyone who has been in touch this week with some great ‘Wembley’ stories, I can’t always find stuff that is sensational or ‘new’ to dig up every week or make games like yesterdays that lack any sort of hope at all, sound attractive! Writing about the game as I did on the way home in the car does make, I guess, for an honest if not a bit knee jerk reaction to the disappointment of a poor display. However all I try to do in here is reflect what an average fan is thinking and I was very despondent on the way back from Warrington. At least I had a few beers and a good laugh with my pals in the Fox and Coney on the way home. Enjoy the game on Friday and thanks too for sticking with another Diary to the bitter end!

Try to Keep Believing!!
Faithfully Yours

Wilf!