THOSE WERE THE DAYS MY FRIEND!
(….and I doubt we’ll ever see the like again)
What a great picture and as we hail what we hope will be our next crop of heroes arriving on these shores from Down Under, I make no excuse for including that amazing image here at the top of this week’s Diary. You see for me, when you sit down and look back at Ah Kuoi, Muggleton, Kemble, O’Hara, Sterling and Leuluai and add to these legends the likes of Ronnie Wileman, Knocker Norton, Steve Evans, Charlie Stone, Paul Prendiville, Trevor Skerrett, Sammy Lloyd, Tony Dean, Kevin Harkin, Dave Topliss, et al, you realise just how lucky those of us who lived through the ‘Glory Days’ from ‘78 to ‘85 were! It was a golden era and although I’m a big believer that you can’t live in the past, it’s a period that will live in the memories of all us Codgers, forever!
It was certainly a joy last night on twitter, to read all the messages of ‘Bon Voyage’ from Australia and of welcome from the Black and White Army. What he’ll make of the weather I don’t know, but he’ll be waking up in Hull on Tuesday and, oh dear, apparently it’s ‘The Hills’ on Wednesday!!!
Well quite amazingly and while we are talking of heroes, how good it was to hear that Gaz Ellis is on schedule for a return to fitness for the start of the season. Originally expected back around March time, he even missed his holidays to make sure he has done everything he can to get one last go at the game he loves. Let’s face it, at his age an injury like that would have been for many people a career ending disaster, but not with Gaz who made his mind up immediately, that he was going to do everything he could to get back playing.
He has been in every day, worked closely with his consultants and specialists but of course it ain’t over yet and a lot can still go wrong, but with a fair wind he appears to be on course. He is, once again, living up to the title of ‘Captain Fantastic’ which I gave to him a couple of times last season, as he sets an example, leads from the front and takes part in everything he can to ensure he continues to be a real father figure at the Club.
The fact is, back in the days when ‘Money was no object’, Pearson pushed the boat out to grab a player who had already just about done it all and we did all wonder a bit about his commitment to the FC, coming back as he did, having been bestowed hero status in the toughest league in the world. To get him we had to beat off interest from Leeds and a couple of other clubs, but it soon appeared to be an astute move and one that despite our leader being injured so seriously in that great win at Rovers last season, has still been a good one. Lee Radford said on Friday, “He is in every day and hasn’t had a day off. He was in during the off-season working on his rehab. To actually have him out on the field doing some sessions is good for the group and great for his sanity as well”.
Expected to be fit for the start of the 2016 campaign, the FC coach would like to offer the former West’s Tigers star a run-out in Hull’s derby friendly against Rovers on Sunday, January 24 but we aren’t rushing him back and when he is back on the field then it will be the culmination of a massive effort by the sort of player you don’t see in your colours more than a handful of times in a lifetime. Why do I say that? Well if you talk to the players they will tell you that when its Gaz leading them out to play, then they all feel that bit more confident, in fact as one member of the first team squad said to me last season, they feel “A bit bigger” as the enter the field. Ellis is being lined up for a new role as prop/loose forward cover, with more responsibility for working the ball up field down the middle, which should be interesting to see! Let’s hope he’s back soon!
………. just as I predicted in the Whiffs department that the new away shirt would be launched early, it was revealed to the masses yesterday evening. It’s certainly a nice strip if not a bit ‘Leeds’ whilst looking to be in the same colours as Rovers away shirt and with what look like some rather unusual socks!! But that said I quite like it. The Strip has as its main sponsor the local charity L6ve Life Foundation. The Foundation was setup by well-known local amateur rugby league player Lee Newton, who was pictured at the launch, after being diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2013 at the age of 42. It’s another great touch from the Club who can do little wrong community wise of late. Well done to them, there is little doubt with such a great sponsor it deserves to sell well! However after a season in which we had more blooming shirts than you could shake a stick at, it must be hard to find something different. At the end of the day it’s a commercial decision so let’s see what the fans think!
I see that we have centre Lee Smith on trial at the Club at present as the out of contract player who turned down a new deal at Wakefield looks for a new Club. I never rated him much really once he left Leeds, he scored some good tries at Wakey and can cover full back and wing while mostly playing in the centre, but I doubt that he is any better than what we’ve already got, however whether we sign him remains to be seen. From those in the know in the West Riding, the Brett Ferris stuff won’t go away either as we apparently join Salford ‘sat on the touchline’ watching what’s happening at Huddersfield. A big pal of Lee Radford’s and yet another second row forward, Ferris is another interesting situation.
The decision on Friday not to take up the option of the proposed training camp in Cyprus, in co-operation with Rovers, (apparently because of the increasing tensions in the Middle East) was no real surprise. I guess that it’s eminently sensible and as it is now said we never planned to go anywhere else until this opportunity came up, then it hard to understand why Adam ever even raised it in the first place in a recent Radio Humberside interview. The fact is that it was always going to be inadvisable after Paris, the blowing up of that Russia air-liner and the shooting down of one of their jet fighters and quite frankly when you look at the map its surprising just how close to it all you are in Cyprus.
Adam Pearson told the Mail, “I think in this climate at the minute, flight wise and everything else associated with the trip, it just wasn’t right for us to travel to Cyprus, It didn’t feel right to make that trip. Keeping the lads in Hull, keeping it low key, but at our fantastic facilities, is probably what we need right now.”
So, that’s the official line and it makes a lot of sense, although in the Drum and Monkey this weekend it was more about whether the decision to stick with County Road and muddy sticky pitches was more about another cost cutting measure! I know the Club don’t like me saying things like that and I’ll be in trouble again, but in the end I only reflect what the supporters are saying and that was certainly the angle from those I spoke to this weekend. Of course, it’s certainly not a cheap exercise anyway but it has always been justified in the past by a succession of Coaches claiming that the ground conditions and the weather in this country are invariably too bad underfoot in December and January and a trip to the sun allows them an opportunity to actually get more done outside.
However good as our new facilities are, the demise of some warm weather training does of course leaves us hunting around for the availability of hard standing and weatherproof playing surfaces at schools and colleges like Bishop Burton. Having to fit those sessions in is far from ideal in a scheduled and structured build up to the season. Still that’s what’s happening and after several years of going abroad it will be interesting to see how this decision impacts (if at all) with what follows once the season is under way. It will certainly now be fascinating to see what Rovers decide to do and whether they return to exploring Mr Peacocks preferred option, which was to spend a week in Florida.
Now we all remember that forward pass at such a critical time in the game against Huddersfield last September and how the try that followed turned the game at what was the tipping point of a close encounter. If you read this regularly you might even remember how I accused the touch judge of perhaps being ‘either short sighted or just dumb’, but apparently he was also a cheat!!! Well he was as far as our Coach is concerned as Lee Radford accused the same touch judge of “blatant cheating” after missing what he and everyone in the East Stand looking across the field from where we were sat, believed was a strikingly obvious forward pass in the build-up to the try; a score that led to the West Riding team eventually running out winners 34-20 winners.
Radford said in his interview during the post-match press conference that he was seething and understood what he was about to say would probably end up with him receiving a fine and last Tuesday it did. Lee was fined £500 and quite frankly it appears that he got the fine for just saying what everyone leaving the ground after the game was commenting about anyway. In fact of late the officials are very often the main topic of conversation for the fans leaving a game!
They can’t all be rubbish but the thing is this would never happen if the supporters, the Coaches and the players had confidence in the competence of the officials, because if they then made the odd ‘howler’ of a decision, it would pass with a shrug of the shoulders. However too many officials are rubbish week in week out and so no such trust or respect exists and everyone, including Lee, seems ready to criticise straight away, simply because crass decisions and ineffective refereeing come along thick and fast these days! I completely agree with the RL’s respect policy but when it is breached like this and we look for causes, then it apparent to me that they do bring it on themselves, they really do.
What we do best! The FC players led by Gareth Ellis, Danny Houghton and Lee Radford attend the funeral of Brad Parker last Friday.
Well it was three weeks ago now that I revealed the new Under 23’s League would go ahead this season with the first fixtures taking place on the first Super League weekend. I quoted Halifax as saying they were taking part with 5 Super League and 4 other Championship teams in there. Last Thursday Lee Radford confirmed all that, when he said that he was confident the proposed under-23s reserve grade league will see Hull FC progress in the coming years.
There have been several meetings which Lee has attended and so far I would expect there to be 14 fixtures a year when Clubs play every team once and some twice. I would expect Wigan, Saints us and Warrington plus one other, possibly Salford, from the Super league with Halifax, Featherstone, Leigh and two others from the Championship to be announced as also taking part. The club have ensured that they have put several of their players who are taking part in the new merged Academy on full FC contracts and they are all available and indeed likely to play in this league which will give Downs, Tyson Wilson, Turgot etc almost weekly opportunities to play against Super League and Championship first team players. If a lot of injuries come along then we might be stretched because of our commitment to the new academy too but most Clubs will be in the same boat as we are anyway.
Clubs like Leeds who are not taking part will have a big first team squad with several over aged players sitting out weekly competitive games, or going out to play duel registration and for me there’s the rub. You’ll no doubt remember that there was a lot of talk about our duel registration partners Doncaster sharing our play book etc at the outset of the original scheme, but that soon disappeared and anyone the Championship outfit could get from us just became additional resources. With this new league the Under 23’s will play to exactly the same ‘game plan’ as the first team and that has to pay dividends in the long term when the players these games initially include step up into the first team. With our parlous financial state continuing, the only question really is will we be able to continue with our involvement in the competition in future years? I’ll certainly be attending home games and I hope it works, It’s a big commitment for the Clubs taking part and there will no doubt be teething problems, but it will be worth watching because open age, old style ’A’ team rugby, will be worth a look I think!!
How good it was to see a Rovers shirt come out with the word ‘BriAN ALfred’ across the middle, as I said a couple of weeks ago in the whiffs department (but at the time no one seemed to pick it up), when I predicted the new Rovers shirt would have two arm holes one neck hole and room for an Ar*e hole! Well it made me smile anyway.
Being a fanatical follower of a sports team is like being an avid watcher of a Soap opera, there is always something happening often ‘off stage’, as slowly but surely you become hopelessly engrossed and in the end totally addicted to nonsense. That has never been more apparent as we all stood on the touchline watching, as not one, but two sex scandals unfolded in front of our eyes at Castleford and Huddersfield. Both cases, even by Rugby League proportions, where usually the NRL boys lead the way, were pretty unbelievable. Brett Ferris star of Huddersfield Giants, England RL and his wife’s camcorder, now finds himself high and dry, just as Justin Carney did after another ‘brain-dead’ episode a few weeks ago. That indiscretion led to Carney being forced to move on to the last resting place of so much Super League flotsam and jetsam, the Saragossa Sea of rugby league that is Salford.
Now it’s Ferris who is looking for another Club as his team-mates, like those at Castleford, are reported to be refusing to play with him. What a bloody mess eh? However, while we roll our eyes and shrug our shoulders in reticence the rest of the sporting world has been having a good titter and the game is once again belittled and indeed ridiculed. This has to mean that there is little doubt that Ferres’ future at the Giants is over, despite him being contracted there until 2019 and amazingly too he has already on several occasions knocked back offers from the NRL. The media indicate that there are a few clubs interested in a loan move, although as usual that other soap opera Salford are obviously in the frame. Like us lot, they always are!! In October Ferres said publicly that family was the reason behind his decision to ignore the NRL and stay in Super League. I just wonder whose family he was alluding to and whether that has all changed now? I suspect it might just have, don’t you?
Look, I’m no kill joy and I’ve never claimed to be some sort of Saint myself, but for me these guys have to set some sort of example and though none of us are perfect, far from it, they should be setting a standard and being conscious of the game and Club that pay their wages, because a lot of young people look up to them and watch them for a lead. They are in a blooming privileged position and get well paid for doing something that many of their age group would love to do. There cannot be any shortage of potential suitors and so to be in these sorts of circumstances is without doubt a sad state of ‘affairs’ (Literally) which casts a long shadow on the game too; what a bloody mess it all is!
Now, following the revelations, the media has on a couple of occasions this week as I said earlier linked us to a move for Brett Ferris but then again they link us with anyone who is even suspected of being available and anyway why would we want another second row forward? However with Super League fast moving up the Soap opera rankings it does pose the question, who’ll be ‘forcibly’ available next? You just couldn’t make it up could you and perhaps the players agents should circulate Clubs with a list of their clients who are having affairs, so that they are ready with a bid when the news breaks!!!!
Now in a quiet week a question; who gets the new Club fanzines ‘Up the Cream’ on a regular basis? I’ve managed to get hold of all 11 copies thus far this season with the Christmas Edition for December about to come out today. Back at the start of last season, Dan Tomlinson grabbed Adam Pearson outside the ground at Doncaster where we were playing a pre season friendly and presented him with one of the first magazines to come off the presses. Back in the early days they asked me to contribute but I guess I said something like , “Don’t you think I’ve got enough to do” referring of course to the Diary, but perhaps my decision was a good thing because since then the fledgling replacement for the almost legendary ‘In Any Kinda Weather’ has gone from strength to strength.
At £2 its great value with some great articles every month including telling pieces from regular contributors, an opinionated old grump called Chomley Club Ernie, who makes me laugh a bit at times, plus the Academy Analysis, the Rumour Mill and lots of light hearted stuff, as well as some great editorial, analysis and interviews every month about and with our young players. I have posted this today simply because several readers have contacted me saying they bought it in the pubs around the ground on game days, but lately they have found it hard to get hold of the fanzine.
I asked Dan about this and he said that it was on sale at Garbutts on Princes Avenue, at Advantage Sports and The Royal Standard near the Bar in Beverley, at Atkinson’s in Hessle and by post. Details of the latter you can get from the Fanzines website on upthecream.co.uk/shop. I have already said on many occasions that no club worth its salt should be without a fanzine and I really enjoy ‘Up The Cream’, support it if you can!!
Boy, I have a lot of time for Tony Smith as a Coach but he does do some random stuff at times and that trait came to the fore again last Wednesday when the Wire sign of all people Ryan Bailey who is quite frankly proving to be a disaster looking for somewhere to happen and who looked to either be heading for the Championship or that other ‘Elephants Graveyard’ the ubiquitous Salford. Before that is, he suddenly appeared at Warrington full of apologies and platitudes about how he was a reformed character.
The move also spurned one of the most unlikely headlines you’ll see when one Australian Club site stated, “Is Ryan Bailey the Man to Lead Warrington Wolves to Grand Final Glory In 2016?” If he had been any good attitude wise at Leeds, then they would have retained him, he was a disaster at Rovers which I admit isn’t too difficult to do, but then probably the best coach in the current game over in Castleford couldn’t do anything with him either. As for that headline above, well realistically, the Wire probably need another two or three signings to reach the Grand Final this coming season. They have had a bit of an upheaval signing wise, but just don’t have enough strength in depth and while their youth squad have shown plenty of promise, many aren’t good enough yet to cut it at the top level. It would be foolish to write them off, but they will need plenty of luck to challenge for honours in 2016. However, with Bailey in the side, anything can happen for all the wrong reasons, but based on his past disciplinary record, one thing is for sure: things are about to get rather heated at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.
Last Wednesday was the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and marked the start of 16 days of action from the White Ribbon campaign. Dozens of events and activities are planned for the next two weeks to raise awareness and urge people to wear their own white ribbon, as well as encourage at least 24,690 people to sign a pledge to support the eradication of violence against women – the same number of women estimated to be living with domestic violence in Hull alone.
BACKING CAMPAIGN: Well done to Hull FC’s Kirk Yeaman who is a White Ribbon Ambassador
By mid week last week there were already 34 ambassadors including Kirk Yeaman and my old mate and one time Diary contributor Mark Charlton, the City Council’s Assistant City Manager for Community Safety and Partnerships, who said the importance of the campaign rested on men urging other men to stop acts of violence against women. “I think this is about men talking to men and making them aware this kind of behaviour is intolerable,” he said. What a brilliant cause and well done to everyone who is involved.
You might well have noticed that the NRL has just signed off on a new TV deal which is worth around £1 billion in ‘proper money’ which is almost unthinkable for anyone in this country who follows the British game. However with money comes problems and now fans down under face the threat of angry players revolting and potentially boycotting games at the start of next season.
The boss of the Rugby League Players Association Clint Newton (now there’s an old adversary) has a meeting with ARL Commission chairman John Grant and NRL head of football Todd Greenberg today because the RLPA is demanding answers in relation to the ongoing Collective Bargaining Agreement review that has dragged on since March. The main gripe in that appears to circulate around fatigue and burnout in the wake of the 2016 season draw. Manly coach Trent Barrett has already labelled the amount of five-day turnarounds his players now face (4) as “unfair and dangerous”, while both the Roosters and Wests Tigers also have four five-day turnarounds. Well my heart bleeds!!! They want to try playing a few Challenge Cup games thrown in there and the stress of relegation and promotion and the league of death. I know some will argue that the intensity is higher, but for me with the average wage for their marquee players around £600,000 a year they don’t really know they’re born!
I was reading a really interesting article the other day, which extolled the ability of New Zealand Coach and ex FC hero, Steven Kearney who despite the fact the Kiwi’s lost the last series in this country is pretty bomb proof as their Coach simply because he’s so good and they trust him to get the best out of the national team. That got me thinking and this week in Codgers Corner I thought I would get the old Diaries out and look up the first international club game I saw at the Boulevard which was against the then touring Kiwis. It was season 1965/66, and we were having an indifferent time really. We had lost 6 of our first 11 games when the Kiwis came to town on Hull Fair Saturday 9th October. It was a misty dank day best described back then by most folks who lived around the Boulevard as ‘Hull Fair Weather’ and the fact that Hull City were starting to put a good team together down Anlaby Road, did nothing to help our gates that season either.
Of course as usual with visiting touring teams we were the decided underdogs, and the fact that NZ put out 10 of their side that had just won the Test at Station Road Swinton did nothing to raise our hopes of an upset. I was still at school then and I watched the game from the Well of the best stand with a couple of good mates Steve and Kenny.
The game kicked off with a good gate for those hard times who were all cheering on the black and whites, and the opening exchanges saw some dour stuff with a lot of ‘Incident’ in the tackle. Both teams dropped the ball at regular intervals as a slippery pitch did nothing to encourage open rugby. However then, straight from the scrum, the visitors flashed the ball along the line and winger Reidy took a smart pass from loose forward Hammond to scorch down the wing with Clive Sullivan in his wake. Just as Clive caught him about ten yards out he swung a great inside ball to Bailey to score a smart try, that the partisan but knowledgeable home crowd warmly applauded.
Then we went onto the offensive! Firstly Sykes made an opening for Foulkes who subsequently knocked on and then Alan McGlone made a great gap for Sykes to exploit but again the ball was dropped. Finally McGlone, who was having what was to turn out to be a career defining game, put Club Captain Arthur Keegan clear only for our full back to be held inches short of the line.
If we were not that good at most things back then we were certainly good at goal kicking and the great John Maloney, making just his second appearance for the club having just signed from Shaw Cross Amateurs, made sure with two penalties from easy positions to give us a 4-3 lead. Just on half time in fact Maloney was at it again converting a great 50 yard effort from half way to send us into the changing rooms with an unlikely 6-3 lead. The second half opened with the FC playing their best rugby for two years and only a great last ditch tackle by the Tourist’s full back Tait denied Foulkes and avoided another score for us that could have seen us take control of the game. Then the mercurial Terry Devonshire, who was playing in the off half berth, shot through a couple of poor tackles and drawing two defenders he passed to Arthur Keegan who drew the last man to put Sullivan clear only for the great man to juggle the ball and drop it as he crossed the line.
If the rugby was getting hot, the exchanges in the scrums were getting to boiling point and half way through the half a massive punch up erupted. Let’s face it if you went down the Boulevard back in the 60’s you wanted your money back if you did not see what was usually a weekly occurrence!! Eric Broom and as usual Jim Neale, were pulled out and lectured by the referee who awarded the opposition a penalty in our 25. They pressed and pressed but we somehow held out mainly due to a great ball and all tackle by David Doyle Davidson which effectively stopped a two man over-lap on the left. Tait was then awarded a penalty for some sloppy high tackling from Neale and the NZ full back converted his own penalty to put the Tourists just one point behind!
Then from the kick off (That old trick we have seen time and again) Kenny Foulkes kicked straight into touch and Tait opted to kick at goal from the centre spot. As the heavy ball literally crept over the posts we were a point behind. On we battled with Pearson our prop going close and Terry Stocks (who always ran with his legs in the air like a chicken) almost getting in at the corner flag at the Gordon street end of the Threepennies.
However that was it and despite some sterling work by Alan McGlone to give us a big pull against the head in the scrums in the last ten minutes, the fitter and more polished NZ defence kept us in our own half and a late penalty to the visitors left the score at 8-11. As has so often been the case we created some great opportunities to score, but could not convert them and after playing our best rugby for a couple of years we came up short on the scoreboard. No doubt that night having read the Sports Mail’s report of the game I had seen that afternoon, I would be off to the Fair to work, collecting the money and chatting up the ladies on Doubtfires Jets, as I did most years between 1962 and 1968, but that’s another story. However it was great to muse on my first club encounter with the Kiwi’s, and I hope you found something in it to interest you too!
You know in a Country where we are all agonising as to whether we should go and bomb Isis, where some folks, after Paris, are visibly scared of what might be around the corner and where there is rarely anything but bad news on the TV, it was great this weekend to see Tyson Fury crowned World Heavyweight champion (a real Rocky style boxing fairytale) and Andy Murray (another Captain Fantastic) and the lads making Great Britain the Tennis World Champions, it was so heartening to see two such acts of daring do make everyone so proud again. I think we all need a few sporting heroes in these troubled times don’t you?
On the local front, the rest of our imports (and potential heroes themselves) should be into training this week and for all you poor souls who read this every week I just hope there is a little more news for the Diary to digest in the next 7 days. At least at tonight’s fans forum we might just get something to interest us. Taking place at the Walton Club and broadcast at 7-00pm on Radio Humberside, it’s hosted by my old arch nemesis Gwilym Lloyd and features, Adam Pearson, Lee Radford, Carlos Tuimavave and Mahe Fonua. It should be an ‘interesting’ one indeed.
The away shirt is out too and ‘Frank the Tank’ should be introduced to us all as well this week. So, after 7 days when we looked to be nearing a shortfall of just 1000 on last year’s season ticket totals, the fans are once again coming good and on a personal note can I just thank everyone who sent me stuff, whiffs and information this week. I really do appreciate you sticking with the Diary in these times when it’s so hard to find much to write about. Try to keep believing!