Well we didn’t win, but in the end how can you possibly ask for any more than that??
I was expecting at least a 50-0 thumping, but apparently we don’t do those do we?
That said, in all seriousness I was expecting a real drubbing at Wigan on Friday and you really do have to give those kids and the handful of senior professionals that were fit, a real pat on the back. Losing both Lineham and Shaul were two massive blows, but the youngsters regrouped brilliantly and came through and please forgive me for once again saying it, but why the hell are we merging all that brilliant talent and future prospect with Rovers? What exactly is wrong with the Hull FC academy which at last seems to be producing a production line of talent?
Friday’s was a performance that was the stuff memories are made of, as our youngest team for years almost pulled off a fairytale ending in a game in which we all thought we’d get stuffed!! Yet the young lads stepped up and the senior players came good. It was the sort of performance that makes up for some of the bad times we have endured this term and by the end I was so, so proud of the guys that Richard Horne (in exactly one year since he last pulled on the FC jersey) has brought to the verge of the first team. They were all terrific, indeed the senior players were simply amazing as well, during what was a great and proud night to be an FC fan. I am one who rarely celebrates failure, but who also believes that when you are passionately committed to a cause, you should at times at least give a nod in the direction of hope.
You always want to win, of course you do, but that’s sort of passion and wanting is what I want to see when I watch a Hull team and in fact that’s the sort of energy and effort we have seen for much of the season in the Under 19’s, where often an under strength 17 have battled and battled to the very end and usually come through. Cometh the hour cometh the heroes and for me everyone who pulled on a shirt last Friday was just that, we lost, but by just 6 points, however it could so easily have been the real pasting that the media, many at the Club, most of the fans and this very ordinary blogger had predicted and indeed feared.
OK, first of all let me say I didn’t go and I now know that I should have!! However like all fans I’m really good at being wise after the event! The thought of again battling through the traffic on a Friday night back down to the western end of Super league with injuries a plenty, some senior players who looked as if they were already on the beach and nothing to play for after Warrington, was I guess for once too much. So, wimp that I am, I had a few beers, watched at home and I guess, chickened out!
Had it not been televised I would have gone, but as it was on TV I didn’t and I guess now as I say, I wish that I had. But, well done to everyone who did traverse the Pennines to be rewarded by witnessing such a singularly remarkable evening; you must have felt very honoured to be there. However I was so pleased with how well we played, particularly in front of an intimidating crowd, in daunting surroundings against a typically arrogant Wigan team that obviously smelt blood and 70 or 80 points. However ‘commeth the hour’ they didn’t quite factor in the energy and verve that a few sets of young legs and a bit of raw passion brings. Oh that it was like that every week!!
I really did fear the worst and who else reading this didn’t? Last week after Warrington we seemed to have run out of players, pride, season and hope! However sports such a funny thing isn’t it and you can really never tell what will come next. What a superb effort it all was and what a great night to be an FC fan, even though we lost. There was, let’s face it, nothing whatsoever to play for but pride, but boy oh boy did we have tons of that! In fact I challenge any FC fan not to have been moved by the end of it all.
Let me say, whatever you think of him, that performance proved that the players want to play for Lee Radford, he can engender spirit and passion and he had certainly got them all well and truly up for a scrap. Time after time three and four men were in the tackle and yet we didn’t tire and were strong until the very last minute. I do grumble a lot about mental focus and our apparent lack of it, but this time around credit to the Coaching team for getting a mismatched and itinerant ‘mob’ from all the different echelons of the playing staff to such a level of commitment. When you consider the fact that we fielded 6 teenagers in the starting 17 (and Jack Logan just 20) then the future’s looking very bright indeed. I would also say that despite mismatches in experience and ability right across the park. it was still perhaps one of our best performances of the year.
I was well pleased that we had lasted for 60 minutes, but expected us to fold in that last quarter, however we somehow responded to them going 14 points up with two brilliant quick-fire scores. A full strength FC team would probably have passed and passed, huffed and puffed and got nowhere playing to a structure, but this was ‘play don’t worry’ stuff again. First Liam Watts’ great break down the middle set the platform before Sneyd’s pinpoint cross-field kick found Rankin for the simplest of touch downs. Moments later it was Logan who collected another perfect kick, this time from Danny Houghton (who had a great game), to go haring down the touch line to really ‘worry’ a by now subdued home crowd. It’s fast becoming apparent that Logan isn’t one for the future because he is, for me, one for ‘the right now’!!! In the end we fell just short of what could have been a miraculous victory, but we certainly took them close.
There were heroes right across the field, Shaul, until he was injured, was back to his best and his one handed pick-up and 90 meter run for the first try set the scene for our battling performance, Rankin showed again what we will be missing when he goes, and for me, as I said, Logan had his best game in the black and white and looks the part whenever he touches the ball. 12 month ago in the last game of last season he was scoring in some style against Leeds and a year on he looks to be playing on confidence and to have really matured, probably because ironically injuries have offered him so much game time this term. Curtis Naughton is a funny one because he does do some daft things, but boy he gave it his all at Wigan and despite being a tad hesitant at times, he also showed a lot of maturity, while Sneyd bossed stuff in the middle and looked like he thrived all night on the motion and enthusiasm he found around him, as he constantly tried to promote the ball. It was also great to see him screaming for it before he put in that brilliant kick for the Rankin try. On that occasion it was great too how Rankin brilliantly stayed out wide over the try line on the right and wasn’t drawn at all, as Sneyd’s wonderfully weighted kick flew over the defence’s heads and into his hands. That was for me a brilliantly executed move. Abdull created a lot of space for the players outside him as well and in a great display of long field kicking he produced a couple of massive booming ‘siege gun’ kicks to drive Wigan back in those last energy sapping minutes. In fact I guess looking at it all again it’s fair to say that Houghton, Abdull and Sneyd produced a much better kicking game than Wigan. You don’t say that too often do you?
There is little doubt that the senior players like Watts, Houghton, Mini and Paea (who was doubtful right up to kick off) all led by example and Watt’s is such a changed character these days it’s hard to even remember the listless and inconsistent player of last season. Mini is a great acquisition and I can’t wait to see him in that exciting and brutal looking pack next season, while I think that Danny Houghton deserves a special mention.
I thought he had a great game, ran well and showed his class with that kick for the last try, which was a very special piece of play that I’ll remember for a long time. I have criticised him for a while but his team mates say that the guy is desperate to play every week, particularly because he’s vice captain and so wants to be out there when Ellis isn’t. As top tackler in the whole competition he’s carrying three injuries at present, he hardly trains between games and just watch as he leave the field early before the end of the warm up every week. He does that I’m told to receive a big needle in his sternum where he has been carrying a very painful injury for weeks.
Feke brought some ‘uuumph’ from the bench, all be it in a short spell, but I was particularly pleased to see a player I have been banging on about all season Masimbaashe Matongo, doing well when he got his big chance. He’s raw and inexperienced and a bit naive at times but he’s also a really honest player who brings nothing flashy, but he carries the ball well, is always in at the tackle, rarly drops the ball and always has a real go!
After the game he told ‘Up the Cream, “It was honestly the best feeling of my life, just to get out there with the first team and play at such a stadium was a big honour for me. I couldn’t believe how loud the Hull fans were and even though there weren’t that many they really impacted the game. I couldn’t control my happiness when they started chanting my name; it was like a dream come true. I never give up, I run as hard as I can and I’m not afraid to tackle anyone, but I need to work on my physicality. The pace of the game was a lot faster than what I’m used to and the contacts were more solid but I really did enjoy it”. I like his style and as a point of technique and despite his years watch how, so that he can get to his feet and play the ball more quickly, on most occasions he invariably ends up on his front in the tackle.
Hadley too has shown up well in the last three games, having I think been stung into action when our new second rowers from Australia were announced. He continued with that improved play at Wigan and did long minutes of high energy rugby, while I can’t say much more about Downs and Fash because for three weeks now they have raised their game in magnificent style and still showed no signs of flagging on Friday either. Downs made his first start and was great despite being moved around the pitch as the injuries came, while Fash didn’t get long on the pitch, but still showed up well.
Just as an aside on the referee I really do think that whether it was accidental or not the Wigan player should have been binned for the eye contact with Lineham, let’s face it if you connect with a players chin with your elbow, accident or not, usually you’re off for at least 10 minutes. But come on ref, at the very least contact with the head has to be a penalty!!
With the advent of the Super 8’s our coach promised that in the last 7 games we would be a bit looser, a bit more adventurous and try to entertain and with the exception of last week’s debacle at Warrington we have done just that! I’ve quite enjoyed it, but I was a bit emotional at the end on Friday and not because we had lost but rather because I was so proud, it was certainly a great night and definitely something to build on for the future.
So, all in all it was a fabulous showing and one that will live long in my memory, and a performance too, that in the cold light of day really does offer much food for thought. Handley, Shaul, Naughton, Green and Bowden are, with vary levels of success, making their way in the first team squad, while the ‘second phase’ of Fash, Downs, Motongo, Turgut, Lancaster and Abdull have all shown just what we have in quality youngsters on the verge of regular first team appearances. Then there are the likes of Litten, Tyson Wilson, Dean, Lane and Silk who find themselves now all ‘juniors in waiting’. All that shows me just what two years at Bishop Burton and lots of hard work by Richard Horne and his team has brought to the Club.
What a crop of youngsters we have and I ain’t just saying that to prove a point because our senior coaches all realise it too and indeed in their less guarded moments they will tell you that! Yet, when I speak to some at the Club away from the playing side of things all they keep saying is that the youngsters aren’t really good enough. I wonder why they are saying something that is contrary to what all the rest of us can see? For me, however hard up we are we should have hung on another year and seen just how many real young stars we can produce before getting into bed with anyone.
Now, don’t forget next Saturday at the Boulevard Academy in Airlie Street when the Lord Mayor and Johnny Whiteley will unveil the Boulevard memorial. This simple tribute has been paid for and provided by the current fans as a gift for the supporters of the future and to commemorate a great Stadium and the dozens of people whose ashes were spread there. It is the culmination of 3 years work and has been funded and facilitated completely independently of the Club. There will be many ex players there and indeed it’s hoped some current players too.
Plus there is an exhibition in the school, a display of all our FC shirts from the past 30 years, a brass band, children’s entertainment a free cup of tea plus… a chance to be part of history. Parking at the school is pretty none existent so although there are a limited amount of disabled spaces, anyone attending who is able bodied is asked to park away from the Academy and walk to it if possible. Lastly FC Voices hope everyone will attend wearing the oldest FC shirt they have, so that it is a colourful and historically significant event! It should be good fun to all meet up and celebrate the old place and I hope I’ll see you there! Lastly just to say that this is a real fans initiative, independent of the Club and the RL and a credit once again to the greatest supporters in the game!
Looking back on the last 7 days, the dearth of players due to injury last week was pretty unprecedented, coming as it did when we faced one of the hardest matches in any season away at Wigan. In fact it spelt disaster for most observers as soon as it became apparent. In fact it’s the first time that I can remember since the ‘naming your 19 players two days before a game’ stuff started, that we could only name 18 players!! However it’s strange what can sometimes come out of such adversity and it certainly brought the best out of one youngsters. Brad Fash has, thus far, done well for me as he has been thrust into the limelight of the first team over the past few weeks, but as well as playing a good game, last week it became apparent he talked one too.
He said on Tuesday to the Mail, “There is no reason why the young blokes coming in such as myself can’t step up and play well. If we play with the enthusiasm and the energy that Lee (Radford) is asking for I don’t see why we can’t go out there and put up a good performance. Every game is a test and Wigan want to come out and win the match to get themselves further up the table. But we want to do the exact same. We are not here to make up the numbers. We play to win every game, it doesn’t matter where we are in the league. We are not heading to Wigan for a joke or a mess-around, we are going to win.” You can see where that fighting spirit came from can’t you?
Fine words indeed and prophetic ones it turned out too, but words that show a depth of character in such a young player and in another instance we heard similar stuff from Jordan Abdull when, while not exactly admitting it was he who ate all the pies, he conceded that if he is to become the player we all believe his talent portrays, then he needs to lose some weight. It’s a poorly kept secret that he has battled with this issue over the past two years and that he has been told that he has the talent and flair to become a top class loose forward, IF he can get his weight down a bit. However at least he recognises it and it’s a mark of the progress that our academy has made since it moved to Bishop Burton that these young men know how to conduct themselves and operate honestly both on and off the field.
The man I had hoped would be coming in as our Assistant Coach is indeed to be involved with Hull FC, but sadly only as Head Coach of the merged City Academy. Brought in I guess because firstly he is a great coach and secondly because people feel that he will unite the fans behind the hair brain scheme, I’m pleased for James Webster as an individual, because despite being an ex Dobbin when he worked as a Coach with us he proved himself to be a really talented and decent guy. However for me it doesn’t make it right, but then again as you all know nothing ever really will, for this fan. Of course the next question is what about Richard Horne. I’m told he never even applied for the job at the ‘Shamcademy’ so what’s going on there? And indeed what is the future of our current Academy Coach?
I’ll tell you what’s happening, because I expect Horney to be promoted to Assistant Coach alongside Andy Last with the ‘excuse’ that it’s because he’ll have special responsibility for the Under 23 side which moved a step closer last week! The senior coaching staff will then be Radford, Horne and Last. Despite Webster being trailed a while ago in the Daily Mail as our next assistant coach, he’ll have little to do with our FC set up now and we’ll be facing the 2016 season with a home grown coaching set up, which won’t suit everyone!!!!
Now, with the injury crisis at the Club biting hard, it was an unprecedented situation that was evident last Tuesday with 16 players from the first team squad sitting out training with injuries. Joe Westerman, Steve Michaels and Josh Bowden sustained season-ending injuries in last Sunday’s 46-16 defeat at Warrington and Richard Whiting broke down in the warm up to join Gareth Ellis, Leon Pryce, Fetuli Talanoa, Setaimata Sa, Kirk Yeaman, Chris Green, Jordan Thompson and Callum Lancaster on the casualty list. Let’s face it injuries are an accepted part of rugby, everyone gets them and usually at one time or another in a season you see one of these periods, but I was pondering last week why it is that this happens at Hull FC at the end of just about every season.
Last year surprisingly enough wasn’t that bad with only a couple of players having minor operations in the closed season but the two seasons before that we had a plethora of late season injuries and juniors playing long minutes in the closing games of the season. I have no theories why these end of season injury crises occur unless it’s down to us persisting in playing players that are injured, or whose bodies can’t hack the wear and tear they get from a full season. However it seems a regular symptom of recent seasons that while we tail off, are riddled with injuries and generally look flat and in disarray, the Wigan’s, Saints, and Leeds of this world get stronger and build towards the final important games. I wouldn’t mind if it’s an occasional occurrence, but can you remember the last time we approached the last few games looking bright eyed and bushy tailed and relatively injury free, because I can’t! If we are ever to get into that top 4 and contest a Grand Final then we have to sort that out!
I spoke to the Club this week and the talk was all of next season and the quality of our signings coming in. Of course, we’ve heard it all before haven’t we? Yet this year instead of it all being about the style and spectacle of those signings and the quality we have brought in, our new acquisitions have been carefully selected for their attitude as much as their ability. So what’s all that about you say? Well apparently I’m being told that recruitment over the past two years has been about trying to bring in mentally tough players with a good attitude to gradually redress the balance there obviously is in the team and they feel that this year they have reached the tipping point where they will now have more leaders and less who are ‘easily led’.
Sika Manu will lead from the front
Bringing in players like Ellis Mini and Pryce illustrate what is happening and they tell me that they are really pleased as well with the massive change of attitude and application shown by Liam Watts this season. You can read into the departure of Lineham what you will, but I think myself he’s a daft lad too and that is part of the plan. I also think that the Club would listen to offers for one or two others in the current squad. However they expect Taylor, Fonua, Pritchard and Manu to lead from the front next term and there is little doubt that whatever else you think about him Washbrooke is a sensible and focussed kid too. Of course as always the proof of next year’s pudding will be when we start eating ‘it’ in February but it’s interesting to hear how they are thinking more about attitude and application isn’t it?
The future of Jordan Rankin next season, is still shrouded in mystery and try as I may at our Club and Wakefield, I can’t seem to find out what is happening. I do know that Jordan was expecting to be returning home and that he had been courted by West Tigers, so much so that he actually turned down a good offer from St Helens which would have seen him with a two year contract at the Lancashire Club. His agent felt that Australia was on and so Saints moved on, made a couple of other signings, while then the interest from West Tigers cooled considerably. In fact it was described to me by a senior member of our Club as a case of “If Wakefield are interested it might be the only option he currently has” Radio Humberside have gone off on one of their ‘hold the front page’ stories on it, probably borne out of a preoccupation with reading fans message boards, but the Wakefield Chairman retorted that their report of the Wildcats being interested in Rankin was “100% wrong” It’s all a real shame really because as you know I like Jordan and would have kept him, but we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.
Ever wondered just how much of an FC fan Lee Radford is? Well consider this for a moment because I’m told that on Wembley weekend he actually bought a Leeds shirt and wore it when he was out and about too!!!
Well my review copy of David Bonds new book, ‘Hull FC 20 Legends’ arrived this week and it’s an excellent read. Sending me, a ‘pretend’ author, a book to review which is written by an experienced wordsmith like David, is on one hand very flattering and on the other really scary. I have to say however that any trepidation soon disappeared when I started to read what is a great tribute to 20 all time greats of Hull FC. In fact I sat up into the early hours last Monday ‘riveted’ to the revelations it contained, and driven on by the incentive of ‘I’ll just read one more chapter’. The book isn’t written as a catalogue of facts and figures and it’s as much about the real lives surrounding the ‘stars’ as about their exploits in the famous irregular hoops. Where it hasn’t been possible to interview the player himself, then the players family has been researched and contacted and much of the detail centres around facts that we would never learn from the history books, but ones that give a great insight into the lives of obvious heroes like Arthur Keegan, Clive Sullivan and Steve Norton. It’s also good to see that the book also includes players that were more fans favourites than anything else, like Mick Crane, Lee Jackson and Richard Swain.
Of course you can almost hear the grumblers now, can’t you, because 20 Legends to one fan is certainly a different kettle of fish to the 20 another would chose and although several are ‘gimme’s’, it’s bound to spark controversy when people discover who David’s other choices are. However all that said I can thoroughly recommend this book because it’s really well presented (how nice it is to have a hardback on the ‘FC’ shelf) and despite all the months of research I did for my own books, I still read loads of stuff that I didn’t know and hadn’t read before. At £14.99 its good value and with 220 pages it’s easy to see the depth of detail there is on each of the 20 heroes. In terms of availability, it went on sale last Saturday, 12th September and retailers who I know will have the book are the Hull FC store, WH Smith in the Prospect Centre, Barkers Newsagents in Cottingham and, of course, Amazon.co.uk
Talking of that new book and by way of a change this week at a time that we all seem to be meandering towards an 8th place finish in the ‘Not so’ Super 8’s and purely for a bit of fun, here are 20 questions thrown up from what I read in the book (some I knew beforehand, some I Didn’t) that you might or might not know the answers to:-
1) Which Hull FC legend loaned a pair of his boots to an opposition player at halftime during a heated derby against Hull KR?
2) Which Hull FC legend had been working in a chemical factory when the club signed him for a substantial fee?
3) Which Hull FC legend missed the train home after helping the side to a memorable cup win at Leeds?
4) Which Hull FC legend stopped an open-top bus tour of Hull so that he could go and buy some cigarettes?
5) Which Hull FC legend won the Military Cross and was then awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously?
6) Which Hull FC legend ran a corner shop that his family described as “Open All Hours without the stutter?”
7) Which Hull FC legend had to pay to go in to watch himself play on his debut for the club?
8) Which Hull FC legend and international captain claimed that his son had more rugby-league talent in his little finger than he had had in his whole body?
9) Which Hull FC legend was a farmer, a turf accountant and a fish-and-chip shop proprietor at different times?
10) Which Hull FC legend could not face going through the bar of his pub on returning home from a game with a black eye and asked the staff to open the back door for him instead?
11) Which Hull FC legend was closely associated with a country-and-western song about a horse?
12) Which Hull FC legend took his training gear with him on honeymoon because he had got married a week before the new season started?
13) Which Hull FC found extra room to learn rugby league as a youngster after his family agreed with the neighbours to remove their joint garden fence?
14) Which Hull FC legend took the players to see Mutiny on the Bounty on an away trip because he was a big Marlon Brando fan?
15) Which Hull FC legend was regarded as royalty because he drove a black MG sports car soon after joining the club in the early 1950s?
16) Which Hull FC legend was able to mend his own telephone when he did some media work at a game at Hull KR’s Craven Park, because he was then working as a BT engineer?
17) Which Hull FC legend was born in Australia and yet played for New Zealand?
18) Which Hull FC legend and proven international agreed to join the club in preference to Manchester United?
19) Which Hull FC legend advocated 50 per cent off the rates, 10p off a pint of beer and an end to betting tax when he took the microphone to speak to fans from the balcony of Hull City Hall during a team reception?
20) Which Hull FC legend was the subject of the television programme This Is Your Life and then afterwards stayed overnight in a London hotel that bore his name?
The answers to all these posers are to be found in David Bond’s new book 20 Legends: Hull FC (Vertical Editions: £14.99). You’ll enjoy it so get a copy if you can.
Talking of people who can write a bit don’t you just love that Stuart Maconie bloke who, when he isn’t a Presenter on Radio 2, writes such good stuff about northern life and his upbringing in Wigan. With the onset of the YAWNION World Cup and in an attempt to no doubt sell more copies of their newspaper in the North, the Guardian asked Stuart to write an article about why he thinks Rugby League is better than Rugby Union. What a great piece it was he wrote too! Born and raised a Pies fan he really laid into the 15 a side game and said of those who advocate Union as the best game….
“My dad is probably a good example of a league man. Ex-factory worker from Gullick Dobson (maker of hydraulic pit props), Labour party member, stood on the terraces at Central Park watching Wigan from the 50s onwards, days of full employment in the industrial north when 50,000 or so men in overcoats, mufflers and flat caps would cheer on the likes of Billy Boston, Eric Ashton and Vince Karalius. (Incidentally, we should say that this is nothing compared to the 102,575 who watched Warrington play Halifax in 1954. Some say the figure was more like 120,000. It remains the biggest attendance at a rugby match of any kind or code in the Northern Hemisphere. Take that, Wasps, Saracens and ‘Quins.)
We in the North think we have the measure of the Union Man. Range rover, driving gloves, Top Gear fan, thinks Clarkson talks “bloody good sense”, tempted by UKIP, tankard behind the bar and a pint before lunch on a Sunday. This is a veritable tsunami of sweeping generalisation of course, smacking of trollish and smouldering resentment. But more expert minds than I have unearthed smoking guns and paper trails revealing Blatter-ish skulduggery down the years from the Union camp. George Clarke claimed recently in the New Statesman that the Nazis persuaded the Vichy government to outlaw rugby league; since then, union dignitaries have deliberately stifled league’s growth in Japan, Serbia, South Africa and Italy. And there’s the case of Cambridge student Ady Spencer, who was banned by the RFU from playing in the 1994 Varsity Rugby Union match because he’d played league as youngster in his native Warrington (the incident travelled all the way to Parliament, where it was condemned as “injustice and interference with human rights”). I might not go that far, but I do concur with my North Eastern friend Neil who once said to me that he did have a sneaking liking for rugby union in that “it was always nice to see coppers and barristers getting knocked about a bit on their day off”.
Brilliant eh…well it made me smile!
Still my quote of the week doesn’t come from Stewart despite full article I précis above being full of them, but rather from ‘Premier Sports Rugby League Backchat’ when Marwen Koukash said of Gary Hetherington, “I would never ask him for advice because it is like asking a prostitute for a hug. It will cost you and it would not be truthful” Gary won’t like that and there’s a real feud brewing between ‘Marvellous Marwan’ and the self made ‘Power behind the throne’.
So, here we are, just two games off the end of the season and still living in the afterglow of a magnificent display on Friday. You get nothing for losing, but occasionally, just occasionally, you see something that makes you really proud even when you do and that’s how I felt come 10-00 on Friday. Huddersfield will be another tough game as the Giants hone their skills in preparation for the play-offs and they are a team that we should look at and use as a gauge of what we should aim to do as a Club. They sat in there in the first phase, got the results to finish in the middle of the top 8 and then pushed on pretty spectacularly to guaranteed a top four spot with two games to go. They’ll be hard to beat but I just hope once again we see some enterprise and some heart and with three or four players due back it could well be a good game.
Thanks as always for reading the Diary and for all your support and a real big well done to everyone who travelled over to Wigan on Friday where you all were so richly rewarded. Let’s get the last two games out of the way so we can get back to all the promises, predictions, big talk, begging and ‘Blue Sky’ vision that always comes from our lot in the closed season! I can hardly wait can you???????
See you on Friday