SEASONS GREETINGS TO YOU ALL!!
This will be the last edition of this rubbish before the festivities and I guess that some of you will be heaving a big sigh of relief at that news! It hardly seems that 12 months have passed since the last Christmas Diary and as we steam on towards the 500th edition later next season, I have managed to cobble together 50 of these diatribes this last year, often at times when the news has been either depressing or very thin on the ground indeed.
You know, for this fan, looking back it’s been a season that failed to really get going, with few real high spots, a lot of heartache and a deal of frustration. In fact for me if I’m honest, our 150th year didn’t hit the heights that I had so fervently hoped it would, as the big celebrations approached. So as we look forward to 2016 there’s little doubt that it’s a case of going back to that age old FC mantra of ‘Things can only get better’ and hoping.
However as for now, well news wise the closed season and particularly the last three weeks has been abysmal, particularly if you’re looking for some tit bits of information, because by and large there isn’t any about. It’s hard for the Club to fire our enthusiasm and for the media to spark our interest, simply because the same old stories are regurgitated as everyone, including myself, scratches around for something new to report on. At least in here I can bore you all with my opinions, ramblings and theories, conspiracy or otherwise.
But as the season creeps ever closer, we can all eat a few mince pies and pull a few crackers (thankfully the paper and cardboard type for me these days) and look forward to the Salford game which is now just about 48 days away.
Looking at all things Hull FC, if the question was posed what have we gleaned this week, then the answer has to be once again, ‘precious little’. However here’s an interesting one, because I don’t know about you, but whenever I look at Josh Bowden and Chris Green I always still see a couple of young men who are still about to make the leap into being first team regulars, but that just shows how many years both players have been hanging around the fringes of the first 17, without actually establishing themselves in our minds as first team players.
I say that because although they have both had their injury woes, when I read last week that Bowden is 24 in January and Green is 26, I realise that they are far from young upstarts anymore, although they seem to me, in my mind, to be very much still on the fringes. There is no doubt whatsoever that this is the time that they have to both come good or risk the consequences. They are also both out of contract at the end of the 2016 season and so it really is ‘do or die’ for the two of them this year. The coach indicated last week that they had to prove their worth this time around and I think there’s little doubt that they do.
Despite losing Micky Paea at the end of the last campaign it will certainly be tough to get into what is looking the most formidable FC pack I can remember for years and with Ellis moving up into the front row and Scott Taylor coming in from Wigan, the challenge to establish themselves in the starting 17 is going to be the biggest both players have experienced in their FC careers! I’d like to think they both will, but with new squad addition Masimbaashe Matongo starting to breath down their necks. For me one out of two won’t be bad and is perhaps a more realistic prediction!
It appears that next season we are also expecting some big things from Jack Logan the 20-year-old centre who a lot in the game are talking about as being the next big thing after he caught the eye towards the end of last season. Lee Radford said of him last week, “In the competition last year he averaged more than Kallum Watkins for metres,” although in fairness, he did play a lot less games, but he is none the less still the only player in the competition to do that. Our coach added, “The assists and tries he got when he came in were a real credit to him, and with a little bit more development and improvement in terms of decision-making he’ll only get better. Centres are somewhere where England aren’t stacked out in terms of numbers, so hopefully he can continue with the progression he’s made and despite some big additions this term at Hull FC his skill set is as good as anyone here.” I think it will be interesting to see, with Tuimavave and Fornua coming in, just how well Jack goes next year.
Did you read this week as well about how we have decided to take it more slowly with Reece Dean and Harry Tyson-Wilson when we were told that under Peter Gentle they were rushed into the limelight before their time. It was an interesting piece but for me at least, not exactly accurate, because I do tend to think that where the KC Stadium to disappear into a massive sink hole next June it wouldn’t be long before it was the fault of our ex coach who seems, over the years, to have taken on the mantle of a professional scapegoat.
What did make me laugh however was the way that we were all expected to think that we had missed out when we let Tommy Lee leave, because once again we had rushed him into the lime-light. We are expected to believe that now the 27 year old is tearing it up as the very unlikely new Captain of Salford. For me, Tommy was an honest kid who worked hard, but his failure to secure a spot at Hull and his subsequent departure for Crusaders has never had me regretting anything. Personally, I saw nothing in the way he played for us or at Wakefield, Huddersfield, London or Salford that indicated that we had made anything but the right decision. I’d rather soldier on with Reece and Harry and see how it goes myself. As with the two props I mentioned earlier I think at least one of these two talented youngsters will make it! But, what do I know?
There was a nice piece in the Mail last Tuesday which looked at the return to the Club of Danny Washbrook. He’s a really decent bloke who I have spoken to on numerous occasions over the years, but if I’m honest another too who I have never really missed!! I was therefore disappointed that the article made it no clearer to me as to why exactly we have re-signed a player who was told before he returned that if he put his name on the dotted line, he might still not get into the first 17 and perhaps at times not even on the bench.
Danny said all the stuff about it being great to be back, but I’m still scratching my head about why he’s back at all to be honest! Watching him do some extremely impressive freestanding hand stand push ups at the gym the other day, he is certainly fit and he does love the Club. I guess with Houghton lacking an understudy (we lost Haworth, Cunningham and even Rankin last year) that’s a possible role for Danny, who I really do wish all the best, but he still isn’t an out and out 9 is he? I really hope he does well, I want him to succeed, however I guess as I seem to say so much these days, we’ll see!
I see that this Sundays BBC Sports Personality of the Year is proving to be the most controversial for years. Sidestepping swiftly any discussion about the views, attitudes, prejudices, conduct, or tax affairs of any of the individuals named, it is at least pleasing to see a rugby league name up there on the shortlist even if it is a player that over the years we have come to hate! In those last weeks of the season I admitted in here to having a strange admiration for what Leeds did (I can’t usually watch them but as they systematically ticked off the trophy’s I somehow couldn’t avert my eyes) and much of that success was down to their ubiquitous captain Kevin Sinfield. When ‘Sir Kev’ was knackered and left on the bench, they were dysfunctional and disjointed until he came on and like it or not he was a great RL icon and even I’d suggest a bit of a loss to the game.
So, I was certainly pleased when Sinfield, who is at least one of our own, was elected onto the shortlist for the title. Looking at the latest Bookmakers odds as this Diary went to press, the former Leeds Rhinos skipper is now third favourite at 12/1, behind Andy Murray and Jessica Ennis.
That’s good in itself, because the traditional pre Christmas awards have rarely graced the great game of rugby league with little more than lip service and every year, (bar seasons like 2006 when Saints managed to be voted Team of the Year over the Ryder Cup Golf team) all our code has enjoyed, has been a a smidgeon of footage of Wembley to leave fans pacing the room and shouting at the telly. At least this year, Sinfield apart, it would have taken more than 30 seconds to feature all the tries in the Cup Final and while we are on that subject I was quite surprised myself when Leeds, having swept the board of every trophy in the domestic game, were not nominate for team of the year.
The fact is for me, that at times the awards ceremony has been turned into a sports programme for people who don’t actually get out and watch sport – and some of the results in the past reflect that. I remember my frustration when I was younger as for two years running the team of the year award went to bloody Jane Torvill and Christopher Dean, as a prelude to them eventually winning the main Trophy. Great skaters yes but TEAM of the year? In 1984 when Liverpool won the League Cup, Championship and the European Cup you would have thought they would have been a shoe-in for the team honour, but that was handed to our Olympic show jumpers instead!!! And so it goes on.
Don’t get me wrong these are difficult, technical sports but they are not the type of events most regular spectators and viewers are interested in on a day-to-day basis and it smacks, I think, of sports snobbery! The proper sports fan came out in force back in 2006 and voted for the Saints Grand Slam team that had lost only four regular games during a gruelling 35 match season, to ensure the Lancashire Club were included in the final shortlist. However, when they eventually won, I laughed at the outcry from the media correspondents from middle England, as they complained in ‘The Times’ letters page about this ‘miscarriage of justice’, actions which I think told you everything you need to know about how rugby league is perceived in some quarters.
The BBC’s response to that was to change the short listing from a public vote that emerges by consensus to a pre decided list emanating from a panel (just in fact like the Conservative Party used to elect its leaders), which was seen as a caving in to that toffee nosed outcry. So I hope on this one the RL fans can put aside their partisan loyalties and expunge from memory all those days when their team has been on the other end of his ability and kicking game and vote to give recognition to Kevin Sinfield. I know that I will be voting (although it’s a pity all the same that, as he was a Leeds player, you can’t reverse the charges anymore!!).
It will be a bloody miracle if Mr S. get past hot favourite Andy Murray, but one thing’s for sure, his switching allegiance to ‘Kick and Clap’ was probably the reason behind him making the short list in the first place! If he does win, then you can easily see how some papers, pundits and southerners will hail the now Yorkshire Carnegie Player as the first union player since Jonny Wilkinson to win the award!! Don’t laugh it could well happen!! Go on cast your vote!!
I was talking to a FC supporting funeral celebrant the other day who when I asked him what was his highlight of 2015 said he’d had a few including the unveiling of the Boulevard Memorial back in September. However away from rugby the one that stuck in his mind the most was the man (who was obviously a practical joker even after he had passed away) whose family indicated that at his funeral at the Crematorium, he had requested ‘Don’t you wish your Girlfriend was hot like me’
As for my favourite moment of the year off the field? Well, that was the culmination of three years work, fund raising and cajoling which concluded with the unveiling of the Boulevard memorial last September. I just hope that it reminds future generations just what Hull FC was all about!
You know the other day I was talking to a real hero of the Club and an unsung one at that! You have often heard me talk in here of Tony Roberts but when you actually find out about his famous coach trips to games, he does enjoy a pretty phenomenal record. Tony’s a really interesting guy to talk to, especially when you hear of his exploits over 41 years of organising trips to away games. His first was to Huyton in October 1975 and they are still going strong into the 2016 season. In that time they have attended around 800 away matches with a group of fans that currently range from 5 year old Jess to the ubiquitous John Eagle who, Tony reckons, must be at the very least, ‘getting on a bit’ now!!! They are even taking around 24 to Catalan, and in a Diary that later celebrates the great family that is Hull FC that record above, spanning all those seasons, certainly deserves a mention! As usual Tony is running a coach to the York and Donny Friendlies departing town at 11-00am, so ring Tony on 07917033949 or 01652 636109 if you want a seat! But this is to mainly say well done Tony and keep up the good work.
Now for my ‘global’ wish for 2016 which would be that our great game starts to get the recognition it deserves from the national media and the uninitiated sports fans across the country and to do that I think that it’s about time our sport ‘stood up to be counted’ and ‘grew some’. We have a terrific product which is badly sold and I often note how the game in this country positions itself to appear to anyone looking in from the outside as being inferior in every way to the Aussie NRL competition. They do admittedly have more money and more salary cap, bigger media exposure and in fact enjoy the status of being their continents national game, but that’s not the whole story.
This generally accepted inferior panacea seems to openly play down the significance of the game in this country and thus allows its significance and appeal to be consistently sidelined by Rugby Union, which by and large is an inferior product anyway. My conclusion is that Super League has defeated itself with its own attitude because we are just too humble and too subservient to other sports. We don’t fight our corner at all! Super League is not inferior to the NRL. It’s just different.
So this coming year I hope that the game starts to believe in itself more. It needs to stand up for itself and the RL needs to trumpet the fact that we have a great product that performs well and that it’s something that has a lot to offer. Up until now, a lack of self belief and a parochial approach to the domestic competition by our administration has for me held back the code. The greatest game of all has actually appeared to all but those who are already hooked on it to be almost too fearful of its own shadow to position itself as the greatest game of all!!
The recent decision by the Government to support England’s bid for the 2021 World Cup, which I reported in here, should be a wake-up call for the governing body and indication to them, if they need it, that they do have something to offer and that they have every right to believe in their sport and the value of it as both a great live spectacle and a superior TV attraction.
Power, endurance, skill, tactics, off-the-cuff play, teamwork and individual brilliance and a sport that works well live and on television; rugby league has it all. There is nothing that rugby league cannot offer in the current world of entertainment. As a sport, the 13 a side code should be second to none. More importantly, Super League itself ought to act as if it is second to none. If we don’t believe we deserve it, then it’s unlikely anyone else will!! So, let’s get out there and sell the game, because in the end it’s the very least that the long suffering fans, the struggling owners and the honest to goodness players who put their bodies on the line every week deserve.
Now here’s a very good piece of advice I noted after I found it in a Christmas Cracker last year, it simply read, “Message to all married men; for a peaceful Christmas do you want to be right this Yule-tide or do you just want to be happy!”
So now to the last Codgers spot in 2015 and a game we were only chatting about last Wednesday in the Dog and Duck in Beverley. Back in a Diary in June this year regular readers will remember that I covered a famous victory we had as a second division team against Leeds in the Floodlit Trophy in 1978/79. I said then that, despite being our famous undefeated season in Division 2, it was also in that season that we actually beat high flying Leeds twice when they were in the top League. In that edition I covered a famous Cup victory at Headingley but later that year in February we were draw against the Loiners again, this time in the first round of the Challenge Cup and with Leeds the Cup winners from the previous two seasons, and us up there at the top of the Second Division still undefeated, the BBC recognised the importance of the game and no doubt sensing an upset, decided to broadcast the match from the Boulevard. They used to usually shy away from televising games at the Boulevard because their presenters did not like it at all!
The proceeding started in the usual fashion with the BBC commentary team parading round the touch line and up the ladder to the gantry built over the Threepenny stand. This was always greeted with hoots of derision and much doubting of parenthood from the assembled faithful in the tin roofed edifice. Their behaviour at this particular game was certainly no exception. The place was packed and I watched from the South end of the Threepennies, as this time honoured ritual was acted out!
The game started with Hull making all the running, in fact as far as I can remember George Clarke, and Brian Hancock were both held up inches short of the line in the first seven or eight minutes. Sammy Lloyd finally opened the scoring after ex FC favourite Mick Harrison was penalised for a high tackle on Keith Tindall, who had hit Mick twice under the ribs, in previous tackles. The game then settled into a typical end to end blood and thunder Cup tie. We went close when Charlie Stone lost the ball after juggling with it as he headed for the line and then Leeds finally took a great chance when another FC exile Mick Crane scored after Kevin Dick and Adams had carved out an opening on the left. Following the conversion being missed, we turned round at half time trailing 3-2.
It was a bitterly cold afternoon but the TV crew stayed up on the gantry preferring I guess freezing to death, to the rigours of running the gauntlet of the crowd below!! Even back then Leeds were seen as the big spenders, or “Toffs” of the competition and predictably, as many of the Loiners fans changed ends at the half and walked behind the Threepennies, they were met with the usual chants of “Spent a fortune Won F*** All, Leeeeeds Leeeeeeds”
As the BBC Grandstand programme joined the game for the whole of the second half, you could distinctly hear these calls in the background as the presenters that day tried to cover with a bit of punditry! As the game restarted though we soon reclaimed the lead. Knocker very uncharacteristically put a kick straight into touch, however Clive Pickerill who had moved to a makeshift hookers role, won the scrum against the head, (Remember those days?) and a flowing move saw Taffy Prendeville tackled into touch inches from the corner flag. This time Tony Duke who had recovered from a knock and returned to hooker won the scrum against the head, and the back t back sets were just too much for the Loiners. Firstly Pickerill himself almost got over, as he wriggled like an eel in a three man tackle to be held inches short. However from a play the ball two tackles later, he produced a great “show and go” and followed it with a lighting quick one/two with Knocker who ran in between the posts without a hand being laid on him! Lloyd made no mistake, Mick Crane trudged back stirring up at the sky as usual and it was 7-3 to the FC. From the restart we surged up field again with a great Tindall drive and on the 5th tackle Knocker dropped a goal to extend the lead.
Back then, old timers will recall, Leeds were fine whilst they were bossing things, but once they got ruffled they started to drop the ball and this game was no exception. We could not capitalise on this panic however, but a high tackle on Tony Duke led to a penalty and once again Sammy slotted it over and suddenly we had some breathing space at 10-3 up. As usual, once we had attained a bit of a lead we became sloppy, and back came Leeds, (as we all sensed they would), with an unconverted Les Dyl try following a flowing move between Joyce and Ward, that made it 10-6.
It was then our turn to panic and Pickerill, Hancock and Norton all tried drop goals, which all flopped and fell well short of the mark. This frustrated the crowd as each time it was in a position that hanging onto possession would have been a better option. As Arthur Bunting stood hands on head besides the dug out, it appeared that he was feeling what we were all feeling too, but then victory to the black and whites was confirmed by the referee granting us an obstruction try. Sammy Lloyd took the ball through a gap and kicked through only to find his way to the line blocked by an elbow in the face from Keith Hague. The referee that day Mr. Naughton immediately awarded an obstruction try, (and he would have been lynched by the crowd if he had not done so). The victory was complete when Knocker tricked Bryan Adams at the play the ball, the Leeds player was adjudged to have moved off side but Knocker actually dragged him offside and Lloyd kicked another penalty, which saw him win £500 from State Express for kicking 5 out of 5 in one game. We had won a memorable cup tie in what was to turn out to be a memorable season! Great memories of some great times!
You know as its Christmas, it seems an appropriate time to just share with you the most asked question I get as the weekly writer of this drivel. It seems that at least once a week someone will stop me have a go, agree with me or just have a laugh about the whole thing before then asking, “How do you do it? Why the hell have you bothered to write all that guff for 10 years now, don’t you ever think it’s simply not worth it all?” and occasionally add, “Isn’t it time you got a life?”
The answer is simple really, because it’s just me trying to do my bit for a family nay dynasty, that is a major part of my life and that has been that way since I was about 6. Throughout my life lots of things have changed but one thing has been consistent; the unending, fascinating and very occasionally brilliant backdrop to it all, Hull FC. It simply won’t go away and what’s more at 65 I never even bother to wonder whether it will anymore!!
I’m not on my own there, because I know there are literally hundreds of us who are battling on as fans, often ‘existing’ on the one commodity we have left; tons and tons of ‘hope’.
Year in year out it’s a continuous roller coaster. We grumble, we moan, we get disenchanted and some even try to walk away at times. However few who are part of the ‘love affair’ can actually do it, so one can only presume that by and large Hull FC fans are without doubt a pretty special bunch. In fact I guess that one of my Christmas wishes is that, despite our woes of late, the owner of the Club really does realise just how lucky he is and just what he has inherited. Perhaps he does, but 4 years ago he didn’t just buy a club he bought into a lineage, a phenomenon and something that I believe even when judged against other sports Clubs, is pretty, bloody special.
For my part, I also think that there is no better a community to be part of when the chips are down on the field and even when the going is tough in your own personal life. In times of trouble I have always thought how great it is to have so many kindred spirits around me. When you’ve broken up with a partner, lost someone close to you, fallen out with a lifelong pal, or been fired from your job (and suffered the subsequent loss of friends those happenings often entail), you can certainly find yourself pretty bereft and lonely. Most ‘normal souls’ have been there sometime in their lives, but many others who don’t have what we do, have had to scratch around and rebuild a circle of acquaintances with similar interests and sometimes never succeeded.
However if you’re a long standing fan of a Sports Club, particularly one like Hull FC, then that task is always a lot easier, because there are always folks, wherever you go, who share that same undying passion. You have something in common and something that you all care passionately about. It’s always been the same down the years. You could always walk into a pub on your own and someone would shout out, “Wasn’t that tackle of Kingy’s great”, “Hey Wilf, Knocker was ace on Sunday” or “What a bloody Referee Eh mate?” and immediately you’re ‘home’ in that fantastic fraternity where your just a fan and nothing else really matters.
Despite the many emotional hurdles encapsulated in all this ‘FC till I die” stuff, one of the benefits of having such an all consuming ‘hobby’ is that you’re never on your own for long. It must be so different for those with other pastimes, like stamp collectors or train spotters. This, of course just goes to prove that when you’re hopelessly entangled with YOUR club, however much that Club frustrates you at times, you always have the security of knowing that you’re not suffering alone and in the midst of a vast fraternity of like minded souls. After defeats and disappointments they are probably just as ‘suicidal’ and disheartened as you are, but are also, just like you, desperately looking for some positives, whilst always having that ‘crumb of comfort’ that in the end, they’re not on their own either.
As I have said before in here, if you really love your Club and I mean really love them, then I honestly believe that it’s little different to having wayward kids. They are volatile, unpredictable and often frustrate you, they let you down, upset you, abuse your faith in them and yet just occasionally they make you so, so proud. However, like dysfunctional children most of the time they make you reflect on one simple sentiment and that is that it’s usually best to prepare yourself for the worst, because that’s what you invariably get. In fact as is the case with problem kids, “It’s a Good job you love ‘em!” When those ‘Kids’ are playing up however, the whole family gathers round and tries to support each other and so it is at Hull FC.
Writing this Diary and the books has been a personal ‘Epiphany’ for me, because if nothing else it makes me realise that we are not alone and I’m not on my own, that we are a family and that I’m so pleased to be part of it. Four years ago I was petrified about actually having something I had written, paid for by folks and read as a book! However the greatest thing about ‘Roamin’ is that so many folks have associated with the sentiments it includes, and for me, even setting aside the sales it has achieved over the years, the way that people come up to me and say “I remember that” or better still “You missed that out” or “you got that wrong” is so rewarding. In this great fraternity to which we belong everyone has a view, everyone an opinion and everyone a memory and at the end of the day, that was what trying to write it all down was about in the first place, “Keeping the Dream Alive!”
You know, I am now convinced that as long term Hull FC fans we forget hundreds of games but mark out our very lives in those we remember. Yes the books and this diary were about putting down in writing what it was like experiencing it all, but it’s always also been about encouraging people to remember some great times and some wonderful milestones in all our own lives. Whatever I write in here week in week out it’s only in the end an ordinary ‘Raggy arsed’ gardeners attempt at saying how he feels in an effort to be part of something that you, I and hundreds of others and their families have cherished for generations.
In fact while I’m being a tad philosophical, here is my favourite piece of prose from the past year, which I feel seems to sum my feelings up perfectly!
It’s Just a made up game with made up rules
So why does it make us cry? Inspire us?
Help us make friends with people we’ve never met?
Maybe that’s because it’s something we can be part of together.
A way to find others to share in our madness?
They’re the one’s who don’t judge when numbers on a scoreboard make us cry with joy or pain,
Because the same tears will be in their eyes as well!
They make sure we don’t have to suffer alone or even worse celebrate alone,
So we hang around, in pubs and living rooms and on news feeds,
Telling stories of games we saw to people who saw the exact same game.
And happily listen as they do the same to us!
Because they are the ones who help us realise its more than just a game
It’s a ritual, it’s an identity
But most of all it’s a way for us to be together.
So, I think this Christmas, before we are once again thrust into a new season with all its doubt, disappointment, injuries, defeats and occasional moments of absolute euphoria, we should all sit back with a nice long beer and a ‘box of dates’ (does anyone eat them these days?) or a mince pie, resting easy in the fact that we are privileged to be FC fans and as such surrounded by a group of amazing people that make up the family of ‘The Old Faithful’. For that, whatever happens out there on the field, I really do feel that we are all very privileged and so, so lucky!
And finally I have, at this time of peace and goodwill, to extend a massive thank you to Joe Bennett at ‘blackandwhites’ who week in week out posts this blog, runs the site, sorts the mistakes out without grumbling, puts up with me and who has over the years, become a really good pal, he’s certainly a top bloke.
Thanks too, to the dozens and dozens who have called with information and stories and to all the regular contributor’s and supporters like Ian and Sarah, Karl ‘Hutchie’ Hutchinson, Mark Charlton, Lisa Y, Tony Roberts, James Smailes, Dan Tomlinson, Chomley Club Eric, the ‘moles’ at the Club, the Council, Hull KR and the RL (who’d better remain nameless), Brian Chapman, ‘Spanish’ Stuart Harman, Brian ‘the Drummer’, Caroline Green, Brian, Paul and Cyril at the gym, Barry King, Bill Dalton, Tommy Ball, Kathy and Richard Kirk, Iain Findlay, Jed Rust, Jim Waring, Alan Smalley, Stephen Kirkwood, Ken Gentle, Mike Jacklin and all the rest of you too numerous to mention (apologies for any missed out) who have taken time to send me stuff, feed me ‘whiffs’ and give me regular feedback and the occasional bollocking. Keep ‘em coming guys!
But most important of all to you, the 2000 plus long suffering readers of this diatribe, thank you so much for all your kindness, understanding and support over the past twelve months. Thanks for putting up with me, for being interested, for staying loyal and for being friends. The Diary will be back in the first week of next year, (no doubt in a lot less philosophical mood after we’ve all been to York), but in the mean time, it just remains for me to wish you all a wonderful, peaceful and Happy Christmas!!!