The Dentist’s Diary – 476th

Well that was a great afternoon out, with some rugby to watch again, a competitive match, many old friends to meet and a good laugh with those around me!

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For a first run out from a line up that was little more than our Under 23’s, it was a good showing and although we were never troubled by a South Yorkshire outfit behind us in their preparation, they gave us a hard game, stuck at it and tackled tenaciously. It was a game that also did nothing at all to temper the fervour with which I look forward to the new season and in fact, I had a great time.

It’s not been all good news this week however and in this Diary I look in some depth at the implications of ‘The Case of the Missing Season Ticket Holders’ but that is in no way an indication of me not being either positive or excited about the new season, because I certainly am. Yesterday just cranked that up a notch for me but our ticket sales deficit was a strange thing to announce just at a time when we are all gearing up for the big kick off. We all need to be positive now and not have worrying issues like dwindling interest from previously regular attendees throwing spanners in the works!

After York we desperately needed a game and as I alluded to last week, the change in the weather was always going to be an issue and it meant that at 10-30am there were serious doubts about the condition of a modern stadium which surprisingly hasn’t got under soil heating. However by 11-30am and after parts of the pitch had been covered over night the game was on. So at last, after 105 days had passed since I last watched the black and whites pull on the famous shirt it was live rugby time again.

Sunday had started well with a trip to the gym followed by ‘a full English’ at the local hostelry before we got over the alarms of the pitch inspection and it was ‘let’s kick the tyres and light the fires’ as we were off in the car and heading for South Yorkshire.

Doncaster’s a good venue and the sort of ground we could do with as a Club. It’s a place too that always holds fond memories for this fan, which usually surround that great semi final victory over Wakey, when on July 27th 2008, in what was then a brand new venue, we booked our place at Wembley. It was however bloody freezing yesterday and doing a good impersonation of Captain Tim Peek, I performed my own ‘space walk’ across the car park as I donned a somewhat interesting hat, four layers ‘on top’ and two pairs of trousers and socks!!! Going to the loo was a nightmare!

The thing is of course that pre-season friendly’s are notoriously misleading, but they still provide the occasional tenuous pointer towards some of the things to come; be they good or bad!! Remember the debacle of Richard Whiting’s Testimonial match at Featherstone and Chris Thorman’s one good game at Headingley? Harbingers of doom indeed, but yesterday was certainly better. However at Donny all I was looking for was a few indicators as to how fit we were, of how our new conditioning regime was doing and how our second string players were shaping up.

As games go we never looked troubled, we appeared pretty well organised (especially when a commanding Pryce was on the field) and certainly looked fitter than we have at this stage in the proceedings on some occasions in the past. It was always interesting and some good company around me kept us laughing, as everyone seemed to enjoy a positive ‘hit up’ in good surroundings. Of course as with next week’s phoney derby it means nothing at all, but you can only try and get an indication of how the season will go and after yesterday it’s a case of so far so good.

I have to say that everyone seemed in good condition and many had bulked up well. However it was also great to see all the team streaming up in support whenever anyone made a break and that was certainly a vast improvement on some of the stuff we saw last season. I was in the end quite taken with trialist Lee Smith who although perhaps trying a bit too hard at first, grew into the game and was in the second half very promising indeed, as he showed a lot of vision coming into the line. He kicked a couple of goals as well and showed with a wonderful spiralling kick off what could be gained in future weeks by varying your restarts a bit. The most impressive bit about his performance for me was the way that as the game wore on he seemed to consistently pop up in or around the action, as he was always looking to support the man with the ball. But, worthy of a contract? Well let’s see how he does next week, however it was a good start!! Naughton also played the same sort of role and made a lot of good ground going forward and at times he too looked a right handful.

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Smith; the jury is still out!!

Upfront there were some good performances and both starting props showed up really well, with Green making some great yards while Bowden was good on his feet (something that we observed he will have to be in the next 20 months) and he certainly looked hungry.

My pick of the forwards however was probably Feke who looked in peak condition and who was incidentally, out on the pitch talking to the fans long after the rest of the team had disappeared down the tunnel. One brilliant run out of defence in the second half was nothing short of stunning as Feke had the crowd on their feet. Turgot, after he was put in the centre to replace Michaels, looked really sharp and ran about 50 yards for his try with the Donny backs trailing in his wake.

However in the engine room there was another (if not unexpected) candidate for ‘Forward of the game’ in Kirk Yeaman! He had a great match, ran strongly wide out and tackled really well under what were for him no doubt difficult personal circumstances. Litten did well and despite giving away an interception try, distributed some good ball in the first half from acting half. Another player to impress with his appetite for work and general attacking prowess was Captain for the day, Richard Whiting, who had a fine match and was into much of what we did well.

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Whiting scores a great try after a burst for the line where he beat 4 or 5 tacklers.

I was also impressed by Brad Clavering who sailed through a gap with his first touch of the ball. The under 19 player selected a perfect line as he met a peach of a pass from Lee Smith’s to score under the posts. Matongo also had a good game and drove in hard every time he got possession.

With so many good performances it’s hard to include everyone but in the backs, hat trick star Lancaster looked really dangerous and in one particular cameo move, he caught the ball in the corner near our line with his back to the defence. With two brilliant steps he then completely wrong footed 3 defenders to take them on the outside and steam down the wing. Special mention finally for Reece Dean who had a brilliant game at scrum half and played the full 80 minutes. He got the official man of the match and has so much vision and poise for his age. In fact I would say that it’s hard to see him not pushing for a first team place before this season is out!

Lancaster; nice haircut AND great feet and speed!

This was our third pre-season game at Doncaster in as many years and from a draw in 2014 to a one point win last year, this time the same sort of team blew Donny away, which I think indicates a deal of progress. So, all in all a great first half and a bit more of a scratchy second, but a good run out for everyone who took part, with some intelligent play, few mistakes and with a bit of luck, no injuries. Curtis Naughton copped a stiff arm in back play as Clavering scored (an action which saw the Doncaster player Carr sin binned) and was concussed and bloodied, but otherwise, so far so good. It was as I said, an afternoon full of good humour on the terraces too, never more so than when the electronic score boards froze after a Hull try in the second half and one wag shouted, “Have you tried switching it off and switching it on again?”

So, we now move onto another nothing game, (if ever a local derby can be classed as that) and it will be interesting to see how our senior players come through that test next week. As for the second string we watched yesterday, well we need not fear should any of them be called on to step up and I would think some of the first team regulars might just be looking over their shoulders a bit after that performance. It was only Donny I know, but we went about everything in a first class manner with a first class attitude, in fact on reflection we looked very professional.

There are bigger challenges ahead of course and it’s easy to show poise and professionalism when there’s no pressure on, but, it was a start and for me not a bad one either!

According to a few of the players I’ve bumped into, the practise game against Bradford went really well despite appalling conditions and a swirling wind and I’m told Sneyd had a really impressive game, while Frank looked a handful and Manu playing on the left edge got his nose through the line just about every time he got the ball. The defence took a battering from a strong Bradford line up too, but held up well and in the end our class shone through. It was certainly a good idea to hold a behind closed doors work out which offered the likely starting line up for the ‘Phoney Derby’ an opportunity to blow a few cobwebs away, but boy it was messy under foot! 35 minute halves with no goals kicked and no scores kept….but we won easily!

So I guess that one leads to the next question this week; should we have had a warm weather camp and will the fact we haven’t had one effect our start to the season? It might have cost a bit financially, but how much will not having one actually cost us and our aim to make a good start? It’s been an atrociously wet winter that’s left the club’s County Road training pitch in poor condition. We have therefore had to find some all weather alternatives over the last couple of weeks. Radford said on Saturday, “With how heavy the fields have been around County Road since Christmas, we have been sourcing 3G pitches whenever we can” I feel that despite the outlay in hard times, there is little doubt that after a winter like this the Club could have been caught out and perhaps the teams that have had a warm weather training camp might just start with a bit of an advantage!! Am I right? Well, they looked Ok yesterday, so on this one I just might not be, but I guess time will tell.

So onto other matters and it was hard to ignore the news of Josh Bowden’s Christmas Day transgressions which hit the media last Thursday. Drink driving, with no valid tax certificate and no third party insurance, is ridiculous, but he showed a deal of remorse when he said, “I understand I have responsibilities as a professional sportsman and apologise for my behaviour, but accept this does not excuse my actions”

I guess though it’s always easy to be wise after the event isn’t it and perhaps having the presence of mind to not do it at all in the first place is a better idea! As I have repeated in here many times over the years, these people have to realise that they are role models, looked up to and held in high esteem by a lot of young people and they should think about that status before they act like silly buggers. Drink Driving kills innocent people!! But, nuff said and let’s just move on and hope he learns from the experience!

Now, after all the hype and almost week by week updates, it looks like Gareth Ellis may well not be fit to turn out for the first team until Round Three of Super League. The 34-year-old had been expected to make a comeback in either the Rovers friendly, or the league opener against Salford, however the club now appear to want to be careful and ease Gareth back to ensure no issues occur that could delay a return, or worse. We have plenty of other options available and I think this approach is very wise myself, although I’m a tad disappointed too, because I love to see the way the whole team lift themselves the moment Ellis takes to the field. However its right to err on the side of caution because it’s a really serious injury that a lot of players over 30 never overcome and any break-down for Gareth now could well be career ending, so it’s a wise move!

It was good to hear this week that we have finally got round to appointing veteran forward Feka Palea’aesina as our new Player Welfare Officer, because quite frankly the guy has been brilliant off the field helping new players to settle in and doing a raft of unsung work in Schools and across the community. With cases of pressure induced mental illness and related maladies on the increase amongst professional sportsmen, the roll of a full time PWO is now looked upon as essential by most governing bodies and I don’t think we could get a better bloke to do it!

Feke will now work closely with his fellow teammates and our youngsters on non-playing matters, such as well-being, career progression and life after and away from rugby league. He follows the Rev Tony Cotson who has over the years done a sterling job and will still be there to support Feke and add a wealth of experience. I’m sure that between the two of them the players and employees at Hull FC will be well looked after. For me it’s a great move involving two very capable blokes!

How great it was to see the Hull FC boys agreeing to wear warm up tops in aid of ‘Take Action’ the domestic violence campaign! Such a great cause!

copyright picture;Dave Lofthouse

Now to the most important thing for me this week and the article in the Mail on Wednesday concerning season ticket sales for 2016. This indicated that we have so far sold around 5,700, a figure which the paper stated shows a shortfall of close to a 1,000 on last year’s total. I have to say here that had I been involved at the Club I would personally have thought twice about going public in so much detail, particularly at a time when passes are still on sale and everyone is doing their best to be upbeat about the new season.

The whole article did, for me, make something of a depressing read just at a time when it shouldn’t have. Of course the number of people we have lost could be more than that 1000 quoted, because new buyers have increased, but does it include ‘corporates’ too? I’m not sure on that one. On the other hand there is always of course the issue of ‘natural wastage’ which is ever ongoing through deaths, people’s circumstances changing and folks moving away from the area.

However whatever the issues surrounding it all, the quoted figure is still pretty worrying isn’t it? When Adam arrived in 2012 for his first full season in charge we arrested a gradual slump (from in excess of 9,000 subscribers in 2008) with a very creditable total of 8,400 but in the subsequent 4 years we have seen what is around a 32% ‘drop off’, that indicates that one in three fans have left us.

Obviously for some once ardent followers 8-00pm on a Friday night at the KC is no longer the place to be! Of course the hard fact is that losing fans isn’t difficult, but arresting those losses and more importantly re-engaging with any disenfranchised supporters, is a different issue altogether. The club are trying really hard, but once they’ve gone it’s blooming hard to get them back.

People want success, that’s sport, and if a team can only win 5 of 15 Super League matches at home in a season, then I guess the stark reality is that people will consider their investment and what’s more perhaps the Club shouldn’t be surprised when they do! However it’s a tough one for the owner who is in an unenviable position where he knows he has to listen to the fans (and indeed he does it much more than Kath and Co ever did) yet he still has to make the big calls himself as with many big issues someone in charge has to grasp the nettle.

This of course doesn’t suit the ‘wobblers’ because there are invariably certain ‘tipping points’ for those waning supporters. There’s the players we have signed, the badly handled academy merger, the tactics we adopt and indeed the current Coach, which in the end have all to be the administrations calls, but they have now become, with some of the lapsed fans I speak to, real ‘deal breakers’.

Pearson should, in some ways, be congratulated in backing his man (Lee) because his support flies in the face of much griping and perhaps to the detriment of his own financial position and is done in the hope that sticking with Lee will eventually reap the benefits. But we should always remember too, that it’s still our owner who stands to be a lot worse off than anyone else if we fail!

In the end however, the main issue with a lot that I’ve spoken to in the last few days that have not renewed, is simply that they are tired of broken promises and unfulfilled hype. They say that the same old failings, mistakes and disappointments have been repeated year on year and although they appreciate we are always looking to sort them out, so far that action has brought little or no change. It’s not hard to see therefore why the patience of a lot of fans has just run out.

It’s been going on for around 8 years now and so sooner or later the club would have to face the very real prospect of fans deciding enough is enough. If I were to now list some of the pre season statements, ‘Believe’ campaigns, and hype that have been used as a precursor to these past campaigns, we would all perhaps see where some of these less dedicated deserters are coming from. That of course then leads us lot that are left to the big concern; what will a continuation of this decline mean for the future of the Club we all love and what can WE do to reverse it?

Firstly for me we have to be positive, the season is upon us and we as fans have a responsibility to at least try to talk things up and get those people back to the Club or at least somehow replace them, because we can’t go on like this. Like me and a lot more reading this our owner will be scratching his heads and lamenting the declining numbers around him and wondering how so many can indeed stay away! Let’s face it in 2016 we have the best squad we’ve seen for ages!!!

We have, I think, to all look at ourselves as fans and wrack our brains to see what we can do to reverse this trend, to talk things up a bit and to at least satisfy ourselves that we have done what we can; but it won’t be easy. I’m not flush, in fact far from it, but I took the plunge and bought an extra season ticket last year when one became available in the row behind me, it was my bit I guess towards crowd development. However you wouldn’t believe how hard it was to get people who hadn’t been before or lapsed supporters along to a game, even when it was free and that scenario, multiplied by at least 2000 every match, is the challenge that the Club faces this season, (Incidentally I’ve given up on that pass this year but before I did, I made sure I’d found someone new to take it)

The SMC ain’t helping either, because as well as making it difficult for us to stage promotions and ticket give-aways and reducing the atmosphere by forcing us to close bits of the ground and some of the bars, now they are making it harder and harder for folks who don’t have seasons to attend as well. Listen to the City fans who ain’t happy at all about a £2-60p handling charges being placed on telephone and on line ticket sales and about using those cash less ticket machines (I featured last week) on match days, and City are looking nailed on for promotion to the Premiership. What chance then have we got?

Surely the basic laws of economics dictate that if you control all the catering within a venue then the more people you can get into it and the easier you make that process then the more you benefit from it? But it appears times are hard at the SMC!

The 2017 campaign is a massive one for Hull FC. Whatever our long suffering owner says, he must be struggling to continue to pour money in without any sort of return and as fans we have to not just try to reverse that trend, but to also ‘look after’ Mr Pearson too! At present he’s all we’ve got! If we are struggling and the wrath of some fans turns on our owner as it did last year, then those protagonists should be very careful what they wish for, because there isn’t a queue of multi millionaires out there waiting to buy the Club, in fact despite what the conspiracy theorists will tell you, at present there’s no one!

When you love the Club, you must be positive, but you have to also be realistic and admit that despite having all the marketing tricks, the upbeat rhetoric and the positive outlooks you can shake a stick at, the only answer in the end is one of sustained success on the field. That’s easy to say but harder to deliver these days, even if we had Leeds’ squad and Castleford’s Coach!! I say that because the whole game has changed, as the salary cap, the reduction of teams in Super League and the lack of gate income have all acted to level out the quality of the squads and coaches across the competition. Add to that the increased jeopardy created by a crazy system where 4 from a league of 12 can go down and you have a situation of heightened competitiveness and indeed at times desperation, around the whole competition.

Now there are no guarantees anymore, even if you are Leeds or Wigan and the much vaunted situation where ‘anyone can beat anyone on any given Sunday’ which the RL hype up constantly, whilst no doubt making for good TV, also means that sustained year in year out success is hard for anyone to achieve. Some it would seem (as reported this week) have even allegedly tried to circumnavigate the salary cap, so desperate is their need to gain an advantage over their peers. If then success is hard to sustain if you’re a top Club, how difficult is it to SIGNIFICANTLY improve a team to a level that will motivate lapsed supporters to return, particularly when it’s a struggle for them to even buy a bloody ticket! That is a massive ask, but one that we as a Club and a group of supporters have to somehow face up to and answer.

I said last week that I was going to be positive in both my outlook and anticipation of the 2016 season and nothing will shake that, but I was taken aback somewhat with this news on season ticket sales and the timing of the announcement. I hope that over the years in here I’ve not been one for passing judgement on fellow fans or for forcing my views on anyone and after 475 editions I ain’t about to start now.

However, what I will say is that if you are reading this then you must be interested in Hull FC and if you haven’t got a season ticket you must still appreciate that this drop in sales is a serious issue. I would therefore appeal to you in this instance to do everything you can to just get to the Salford game and get involved with the anticipation and hope we all have for the coming campaign. I hope that the Club will be doing their bit to get people in and as season ticket holders we shouldn’t moan if they try to mimic Rovers and offer cheap tickets to get a big first ‘gate’ against Salford. Everyone who can get there should try to attend simply because if, heaven forbid, falling gates and income do eventually see the Club die, then you probably won’t want to be left wondering if you should have given it one last go!

It’s the one night to be there because one way or the other I think that by around 10-00pm on Friday 5th February we’ll all at least have some sort of indication as to whether the current crop of players ‘get it’ and hopefully if we all rally round we will have given the players a crowd which leaves them with no excuses.

So what I’m saying I guess is that for our part as fans, let’s have a go and try and get a big gate there to show the owner, the players and the SMC that we the fans of Hull FC are the best there is in the League. If you weren’t considering going, please try and reconsider your stance so, if it’s only to be for one night, we will at least show everyone that the fans are still there and want the Club to succeed. If we can do that, then after that it’s up to that lot on the field to deliver the goods. Let’s try and do our bit now because experience in sport proves that should the wheels come off big time somewhere down the line, it will then be too late to do anything about it. There will be no sugar daddy or merging Club waiting in the wings to come riding in on a white charger to save us this time, so for me the time for action is now. Try and get to the Salford game whatever way you can and then bring it on, because with some of our signings this season there are, I think, exciting times ahead and it will be great to see the place full and as for me well, I simply can’t wait!!

I’ll be accused of doom mongering again, but I love Hull FC and feel that we all have a part to play in making sure that we pack the place out for that first game…then, if nothing else, at least it won’t be our fault!

I was in the Club shop at the Stadium on Thursday getting my tickets and I had a great chat to a couple of Diary readers and it was great to discuss this rubbish and hear their views. I had to laugh when one rather ‘mature’ fan who had obviously been in the old ticket office where the new ticket machines are now installed burst through the door and shouted, “Is this where you get your Rovers tickets from”, “Yes”, came the reply, to which he retorted, “Thank God for that, it’s like bloody Star Wars in there!”

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R2D2 and BB8; Fear not Luke, the ticket machines now come with instructions!

Well, they are pretty serious accusations, but should the allegations concerning Salford Red Devils and their handling of the salary cap last season be right, then they constitute a seriously worrying indictment of how the game is shaping up and how some individuals within it operate. The issue concerns a letter that Marc Green the Chief Executive of the Bradford Bulls sent to the Rugby League on 11th December, two days after a RL Council meeting where he had tried to raise several issues concerning Salford’s dealings last season. He followed that letter with another that was circulated to all clubs and leaked to The League Express newspaper by a ‘well wisher’.

The original letter cited the signing of Tony Pulatua and the fact that while he was at Salford, he had two pay masters, receiving £80k from the Club and another £48k from a company called Euromatic which, surprise, surprise is associated with Marwan Koukash. That meant that Pulatoa left Langtree Park for in effect 37% less than he was getting when he played for them, but when you added the two amounts together they equate to exactly what Pulatua was getting at Saints!!!!! Oh what a surprise I hear you say. Green also stated that Salford signed several other players on greatly reduced salary’s last season too.

In the first letter the head of the Bulls claimed that he had tried to raise the matter at the Council meeting, but it was refused an airing with the whole thing conveniently, he implied, swept under the carpet. He then wrote again and asked Brian Barwick the RL Chairman if the Bradford Club could be given assurances that there would be a ‘Timely, Full and proper’ investigation into what exactly happened. Of course the whole Pulatua situation was discussed last October when Pulatua took the Club to an industrial tribunal when although the Club were exonerated, Euromatic were proved to be owing Pulatua money. That to me is pretty damning in itself, but apparently it’s alleged that following that the RL have done nothing, hiding behind the excuse that they investigate 150 such cases a year and no specific one is given priority. For this fan there is stuff here that needs sorting and if someone has been cheating (and I don’t say they have) then they need punishing.

I believe that as fans and stakeholders in the game we have to be assured by the RL that there will be a full investigation and maximum transparency and an explanation as to what exactly happened. If Salford are found to be taking the p*ss then they should have points deducted as other transgressors including ourselves have had. If not then their name needs to be cleared. The whole game watches and waits, but the RL had better come up with a conclusion and some explanation as to why Bradford haven’t had an answer and what happened last season at Salford. Anything short of that and any credibility the Rugby League still have left, will be shot!! For me, the whole integrity of the game is now at stake!

Well last week’s visit to a some old grounds went down quite well so here are a few more miscellaneous memories from the halcyon times of away days! Hilton Park Leigh holds great memories and was a ground built just after the war following a lot of hard work to rescue the Club by charismatic Chairman Jack Hilton. What I remember most of those trips to darkest Lancashire was just how dour a place Leigh was. We would frequent the ‘Our House Inn’ before games where Bill Bentham the Landlord would always put on some food (usually savalloys and chips) and the old place was yet another shrine of sticky carpets, heavy beer and nicotine stained old people.

However looking out of the grimy window and through the usually driving rain, you could see the stark outline of a pit head looming out of a misty grey sky and just across the road the Stadium itself, which looked a cold and inhospitable place.
We always stood on the open terrace behind the posts where we were separated from the pitch by a low concrete wall, whilst the brash and loud home support in the Tommy Sale Stand to our right usually gave us plenty of stick.

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Hilton Park Leigh on a rare sunny day, with the ‘dark satanic Mills’ in the background!

The other Stand (off the above picture) was a rather battle worn structure but that was understandable as it had been there since the ground opened and had been moved brick by brick from their old ground in Mather Lane. Hilton Park was certainly an atmospheric place with at one end the edifice of the ‘Parsonage Pit’ and ‘The Victoria Mill’ looming through the mist like leviathans from a bygone age and that’s probably why the North terracing was referred to by Eddie Waring as the “Dark Satanic Mills end of the ground” Like Oldham, which I mentioned last week, it was a dour old place to go!

Halifax was another great trip in the old days where their Thrum Hall Stadium was another really traditional Rugby League Ground. Built of local stone, like all the surrounding houses, the stands and the perimeter walls resembled grimy rock faces, while the pitch had a massive slope that usually worked to Halifax’s advantage. It was on an incline tapered towards one corner and it was said the home Club trained at least one night a week on it, practicing their kicking both up and down that ‘hill’. We always used to stand at the Hanson Road end of the ground just next to the score board. The craggy old stone surroundings in fact often mirrored the tactics of a Halifax pack that was always tough and uncompromising at what was a hard place to visit.

However the Taverners Bar in the ground made us really welcome and we would sink a few pints of Webster’s Pennine bitter before most games. That said the most famous stand was the old ‘Scrattin Shed’ which was renowned throughout the game.

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Thrum Hall another great old ground.

Borough Park Blackpool was a funny old place to go and the last time I went was back in our undefeated 78/79 season. On that day we arrived in Blackpool at around 11am and as the pubs and clubs were still shut, we got ‘Fishy’ our regular bus driver to drive up and down the promenade as we took in the sites. Around 12 noon as the Sunday licensing laws kicked in, we rolled up at the rugby ground which was decidedly run down. It had in fact doubled as a greyhound stadium for the past few years. However if Borough Park was a sad looking place, the Social club under the stand was well furnished and decorated to resemble a tropical beach and it sported giant plastic palm trees, table umbrellas covered in synthetic grass etc. Whilst in the middle was a small dance floor that was surrounded by tables and chairs.

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There are few pictures of rugby at Borough Park and this was the best I could find!

That day in Blackpool a 27-7 win saw us promoted and Champions, but the old place was a dump with broken perimeter fences and the ‘popular side’ crammed with around 3000 FC fans whilst across the other side the muddy, terracing less hills, long since condemned by the local licensing authority as dangerous, were just populated by Seagulls.

Finally to a stadium that I visited just about every year from 1976 to its closing in 1989. Clarence Street sometimes more latterly known as Wiggington Road was a great little ground which York made a fortress for many years. It had a great bar behind the sticks at one end but it was also the best ground I knew for pubs in the surrounding neighbourhood all of which were within easy staggering distance. In the 70’s there were about 10 and we usually had a few beers outside the ground before going in just before kick-off. The floodlights were memorable there as well, because they were notoriously poor and often at night games it was hard to discern what was going on at all.

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Clarence Street under the floodlights and it’s almost dark under the sticks, I remember those farm style fences in front of the Best Stand like it was yesterday.

With terraces made from railway sleepers it was a square arena with a great atmosphere even with just 2000 in there. Situated in the City Centre Wiggington Road was a fine traditional venue and one that when it closed almost sounded the death knell of a great team that had played there for over 100 year! I loved going there and still remember it with great affection.

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The popular Stand at York before the floodlights arrived!

So there we are a few more grounds and I hope you enjoyed my memories of some great places where I watched Rugby League ain some even greater days gone by!

Well it’s the Phoney Derby at the weekend and I won’t be dwelling on a game that I feel is pretty pointless and that just dilutes the great tradition and rivalry that we have between the two teams. In it’s later years I used to feel the same about the old Hardaker Cup so at last I’m consistent! As the season creeps ever nearer, I simply can’t wait to get going and I’m really looking forward to that week in week out tradition that starts so excitingly with new hope and great optimism. Thanks to everyone who got in touch this week from Ian in Madrid, to Brian in Spain and Harry ‘O’ in Budapest and also great appreciation to Bill for the ‘information. I must also here extend commiserations and warmest regards to my old pal Kirk on some sad and tragic news this week. Thanks to you all though for another bumper bundle of correspondence and lets see what this week brings!

Try and enjoy the game on Sunday and Keep Believing!

Faithfully Yours

Wilf