The Dentist’s Diary – 483rd

As fans there is a defining line between being just disappointed and being bloody heartbroken and Friday’s game pushed me over that particular rubicon for the first time this season.

By the final hooter I was totally gutted. Not so much because we had lost, that’s disappointing, but it was the way by which we snatched defeat from the jaws of victory…again, that really got to me!

After the Salford game I strode out of the KC with a spring in my step, after Castleford I left feeling that things were still positive and hope was still everywhere, but last Friday I was back to trudging out of the game, ‘kicking cans’, with my spirits crushed. It was another one where we suffered last minute defeat in a game in which we stuttered and spluttered, were over confident with the ball and at times absolutely shocking in defence and yet where we came within a whisker of winning. We actually fought tooth and nail to get back into things and to a position from which we should have at least got a point.

I guess had we been blown away by a dour yet efficient Wigan outfit that looked at times in total command, then that would have been that, it would be back to square one and strangely I guess pretty acceptable, but it’s almost a case these days that  Hull FC just want to compound our distress. We fought back in quite amazing fashion to take the lead, found ourselves level, then went behind by a drop goal, before we levelled again with a great one pointer ourselves, to finally and absolutely gift the opposition the game in the last minute. If bloody Carlsberg did soul destroying then Hull FC would, at present, be right up there up with the best of em!!

In the cold light of day the fact is that what, in the end, turned out to be yet another exciting and entertaining game, saw us once again eventually wrecked on the rocks of some shocking goal line defence, an abysmal referee and another last minute brain fart! After just four games and two close defeats, it’s all still way better than last year and I had I suppose, no right to feel so depressed so early in the campaign, but whatever I was SUPPOSED to feel on Friday, walking back to the car I was gutted!

Before the season started I predicted 4 points from the first 4 games, so we are on track, but I had us then down for 4 in the next two games, which is looking to be an increasingly big ask; well it is this Thursday at least! What really disappoints me though is the fact that we could so easily have been sitting up at the top with 8 points. Well we would have been, had we sorted our inability to close out tight games which let’s face it is a reoccurring theme in here over the last two or three seasons.

SPORT with Paul story 4-3-16 Hull FC's Jamie Shaul after their match against Wigan at the KC Stadium. Picture: Simon Renilson

Jamie Shaul….. he needs more quality ball in running situations.

However our coaching team, (despite us bringing in much publicised ‘leaders’ to solve this), seem to be unable to sort out the same issues we were faced with last season, in that when the score is close, their wards invariably struggle to get over the line and are seemingly intent on handing the game back to the opposition at the death. However we showed great fighting spirit in the second 40 minutes after an ineffective first half littered with mistakes and poor goal line defence. But, in the last two hit up’s we’ve been left desperately chasing the game!

An ‘electric’ opening play from the kick off which saw the spread play to end all spread plays, had the fans on their feet as we flung the ball wide under our own sticks and swept downfield to catch Wigan cold, only to be brought back for a marginal forward pass. It was exciting stuff indeed, but then from the scrum, just two plays later, as if on the back of that disappointment, the goal line defence caved in as Wigan scored and from being on the front foot in quite spectacular fashion we were back on our heels. Then for their second try the line opened up like the red sea so that although only 8 points up at half time, Wigan looked well in command. The game was for me lost in that first half because our inability to defend and some sloppy attack ensured that even if we hit back, it was always going to be tight at the end.

Didn’t deserve to be on the losing side, Danny Houghton was again impressive.

Wigan with several players out through injury were there for the taking but give them some credit because they are so well coached, they know what to do and when to do it, when to force it and when to roll their sleeves up and cling to their game plan, which, incidentally, they follow to the letter!! They are game management personified really. We played a lot of the match down at their end, but the old failings of not being able to get over the line crept back into our play. It’s too early to be looking at coaching I know, but you have to agree that Shaun Wane has the Wigan players heads just right and uses a game plan from which he get victories from scrapping, patchy performances, with depleted rosters. So it was that a reasonably ‘fit’ Hull, with just two players missing through injury had, for long periods, no answer to Wigan’s almost inbred tenacity and despite our magnificent fight back, they still kept their shape and never gave in.

Steve Michaels… certainly got his try scoring mojo back!!

I don’t comment much in here refereeing wise, but I have to this week because as fans we should have known what was to happen when we knew we were playing Wigan and the official was the last remaining member of the ‘Look at me Club’; Cummings and Ganson having moved on to find other ways of getting up our noses. Phaler was simply appalling in that first half, while Wigan as usual knew just what to do in the wrestle on the ground and in the off side line at the play the ball. If you need a mark of his incompetence then consider this; when did you last see Gareth Ellis, the consummate professional who has by and large seen it all, stood absolutely screaming at a referee because although he had got back to his feet after a tackle, he still couldn’t play the ball because he had two Wigan tacklers draped around his shoulders.

It was all heading for a disappointing display by the FC, until from nowhere we dug deep and staged a magnificent fight back, before we threw it away again at the death. I won’t be saying same sh*t different year just yet, because I believe that all our matches thus far, for varying reasons, have been really exciting affairs. However enthralling affairs are OK for the neutral and the casual observer, but for us FC fans there is only so much heartbreak you can take. We want wins, but even more, after years of disappointment, we also want to feel that at least, now and again, we have the ability to edge these close games. Although we are almost there this season, it’s still bloody frustrating isn’t it?

Had we drawn, in those circumstances we would have all gone home happy, because that’s what a good team that was out of sorts would have done. We looked ineffective and down and out, before suddenly this new teams obvious spirit kicked in and with great character we fought back to take the lead only (just like last week), to lose it, get it back again, before eventually going down by one point. That final drama saw us all in the end go home drained and distraught! Well I did anyway!

For me as an average fan who can do nothing but sit there and watch, I felt that poor game-management and a lack of mental toughness had cost us dearly again. The fact that we dragged ourselves back quite spectacularly into what turned out to be another pulsating fight back will satisfy no one on the terraces, simply because it is all forgotten after what came next. In two out of our four games we have gone into the last ten minutes close to the opposition but in both cases we came up empty handed and that’s same old same old, isn’t it? We just don’t have the mental tenacity to make the right decisions under pressure. Wigan and Castleford, like so many other teams over the last few years gave Hull a lesson in how to close a game out, but still we never learn do we? In that last few minutes Sneyd tried hard to grubber the ball into touch to waste some time, but instead hit his own man and then there was the Watts brain explosion. In both cases the easy options, a massive kick down field and Wattsy hanging onto the ball were ignored as we selected the most risky option. The safe option is, at that point in the game, the best!

The Club will come up with all sorts of excuses but for me and no doubt a lot of you reading this it does feel a bit like ‘normal service’ doesn’t it? But what has happened since Catalan, some would blame it on that enforced two week break we had after our first two outings, I know that after the win in France all the talk by the players was of, “We’re just riding the wave” and since then they have been ‘drowned’ twice in pretty similar circumstances. In many people’s opinions the ability to win the close games and the issue of players improving their concentration and not having ‘brain farts’ in mentally difficult situations, is quite simply down to preparation and coaching! Yet players and coaches come and go and still over many seasons the one thing that is consistent is our inconsistency in these situations.

I ain’t going to single Wattsy out for that last forced pass that cost us field position, but he did give away two stupid penalties in that last period as well, so for me he has some soul searching to do. Some will decry him and that’s to be expected because although we all make mistakes, it’s not usually in front of over 10,000 people! However for me the game was lost in that inept first half with that shocking goal line defence. When you watch it back its interesting to note that Sneyd’s field and goal kicking was pretty good all night but he struggled in the line, while Taylor gave his absolute all, Houghton worked hard on the front foot as did Washy, and Michaels made amends with two well taken tries. In addition Mini, Manu and Ellis again didn’t deserve to be on the losing side.

However Pryce looked decidedly disinterested and ordinary again at times, although once we had a ‘sniff’ in the second half he perked up a bit, but when he went off injured I thought that Carlos well in there. If there is one glaring omission from our team at present it’s a quality, organising No 6! But, our defence wide out was suspect again throughout and although we witnessed a great second half fight back when everyone grafted hard and gave their all, it was all to no avail. So two more points lost for me and defeat to a team that was, once again, mentally tougher and better prepared than we were. But we are a good team, I’m convinced of that!

The psychological stuff was going on again during the week and Shaun Wane was certainly taking a leaf out of Daryl Powell’s book as he tried to play down his team’s chances on Friday when he said, “This is different. They’re a different team, they’ve bought big names there are a lot of expectations there. I know it never gets mentioned but we’re down six starters. We’ve got a lot of kids in against a team of superstars. The ex-NRL players they have are unbelievable – big stars, big names, so this is a different challenge, we’re up against it” Teams obviously think they can beat us by getting into our heads before we even run out on the pitch, we must have shown it bothers us and the Cas and Wigan administrations certainly made it work! So it’s a 6 day turn round with league leaders Widnes coming up and we’ll have to show we are made of sterner stuff and not give them a start, because a controlled and measured display is the only thing that at will get us anything from that trip!!

Well despite the bitter disappointment I felt after Friday, for me cometh the hour cometh the leader and there is little doubt that in Scott Taylor we have just such a person. Having seen how it’s done at Wigan and had the strength of character to play for another Club for a year just so he could return to play for his childhood heroes, Scott could well become a very special player and a cornerstone of Hull FC for years to come. Last Friday before the game he said, “There are no teams out there that we are afraid of, definitely not,” and he shows by what he says as well as by his actions out on the field that he wants to lead from the front and by example, which for me makes him perhaps a captain in waiting. I think he is a top signing and someone who is destined to have a great season!

Sport for Paul Clarke - 13-11-15 Hull FC in pre season training, at County Road, west Hull. Pictured is Scott Taylor. Picture: Peter Harbour

Great prospect and future captain?

So who has been sneaking into the KC with the wrong tickets then? The announcement on Tuesday by the Club and the SMC that people were entering the stadium with inappropriate tickets strikes me as being down to two possibilities really. There are those who have borrowed a pass from someone who is perhaps a senior citizen or a child and simply forgot to upgrade it when they are not in that same category, or those who are setting out to knowingly defraud the Club.

I always remember when I turned 60 and got my pass re-graded as a concession, I proudly photocopied my birth certificate because I was sure that someone would challenge me and I certainly didn’t want to be accused of fiddling my Club! However in the last 6 years (and around 200 games) not a single person has challenged me, (something that is less likely to be down to a lack of diligence within the management at the Clubs and stadiums I visited, but more down to me, for looking such an old and decrepit bugger!!!)

When we were at the Boulevard I also remember sneaking in at three quarter time and once climbing through a fence at the end of a terrace in Carrington Street, but, in my defence, I was about seven at the time and it was to play cowboys and Indians on the back of bunkers hill and certainly not to watch the rugby that everyone else had paid to see. At 12 I got my first pass for (5 half crowns) 12/6 and have paid the correct fee to watch the FC ever since. I’m no bloody saint, nor am I preaching to anyone and perhaps being honest isn’t considered trendy these days, but having seen over the years the financial sacrifices some people make to watch the Club they love, I am, I have to say, a little appalled by this latest revelation.

As I say, if someone who is a concession lends you a pass, forgetting to upgrade it it’s an easy mistake to make and can be even borne out of ignorance as to the need to do it. However if ‘standard rate’ individuals are, as I’m told, actually buying concession passes in advance, getting genuine folks who don’t attend games, to buy them concessionary memberships at reduced rates before the season starts, or just buying individual concession tickets on the night of the game when they are actually really only eligible for a full price ticket, it’s just not on. Some condone it as being ‘what happens these days’ and a few have even said to me ‘ Get real, its life Wilf’ and ‘Good luck to them’ but for me it’s no different to changing price tags on clothes in shops before you buy them, in fact it’s worse because it’s not cheating some faceless conglomerate, it’s swindling something that we are supposed to hold dear to our hearts; in the cold light of day, however you look at it, there is little doubt that it’s pretty pathetic really.

Personally I feel a bit cheated by it all really, because if someone can’t afford a ticket we would all do whatever we can to help them get in. I have done so myself by taking advantage of discount offers, lending my pass out when I’m on holiday, always using the free game offer that comes with the membership etc and that’s something I’m sure that many of you have done too. Hundreds bought those £2-50 tickets for the Salford game to do just that, even when in many cases, like me, they bought them without actually knowing who they would give them to. The majority of FC fans wouldn’t see anyone stuck and are conscious as season ticket holders, of what they can do to help, just as the vast majority of honest people who fall on hard times wouldn’t go if they couldn’t afford a legally valid ticket!

I think on this occasion Adam Pearson was right to issue a strong statement to supporters who are so doing too. It bugged me a bit when I read it but I’m not generally in the business of criticising other fans of any club, so before I catch my death of cold sat up here on the moral high ground I’ll move on, but because it upset me a little when I read about it, as always in these cases, I mention it here! Come on guys can’t you see it’s your Club you’re ripping off?

Now, although he was a great guy and a firm favourite on the terraces at the KC, Jordan Rankin was always an honest bloke when he played for us, but none of us really realised the demons that he harboured when he joined us and how his two years with us helped sort him out. Haunted by self doubt and fear that he could not live up to the expectations surrounding him in NRL, it now transpires that Rankin sought refuge at Hull FC, as he tried to get his career back on track.

Leading into his return with the Wests Tigers, which I watched on Saturday, in true honest fashion, Rankin revealed the mental anguish that weighed him down when he last played in the competition. He said it was brought on by the over-bearing and unreasonable hype of his developing career after, at 16, he became the third-youngest player to make their NRL debut. Jordan stated, “It played on my mind all the time, I was thinking about the game too much and about how ‘I don’t want to do this wrong, I don’t want to do that wrong”. It made me anxious. I had all the confidence that I could do what I’d done in previous years in lower grades but when I got into the NRL l, I froze up. I didn’t want to make mistakes because I didn’t want to be dropped”.

Admitting he was suffering from stress he continued, “Anxiety comes in all shapes and forms but I did have it. The expectations that I had on myself and people had on me was something that I found it hard to live up to. Knowing what I was capable of but not producing it was an issue. You get a lot of media and that’s something I found hard to deal with. I never spoke to anyone. My family knew the ins and outs of what I was going through, but I thought I could handle it myself. I have however been able to sort myself out simply because I was able to talk to people about it and getting the right information from the right people helps you get through those things.”

Jordan thinks he’s over all that now and some good has certainly come of his plight because it is part of the reason why the NRL has now banned players from making their debut until the year of their 19th birthday. After his 2008 debut, Rankin would play just 16 more NRL games in six years before joining us for two seasons, which appears to have sorted him out. Let’s hope he makes a big success of it eh? Top bloke Jordan!

It was brilliant to read this week about the brand new, six-figure sponsorship partnership with local business group, Halltech. We were told that the stature of this deal is comparable to the partnership with P&O Ferries such is the size of investment and commitment Halltech have made to the club. It’s just the sort of help we need at present and long may it continue!!

Well I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again Mr Hudgell is taking us for a ride with this Academy merger stuff! No sooner have we got a coach in there that will suit the kids and who is a good guy and pretty neutral, but Hudge is appointing him as interim coach at Hull KR. It’s almost as if he put him in there to be coach in waiting should Chester blow it. What worries me though is the rumoured promotion of Jason Netherton, who has done nothing in the last few years than use abuse, lewd comments and crudity on Twitter to decry Hull FC and it’s fans at every opportunity. He’s no honest broker at all and after Lee Radford said on Radio Humberside that we would have a say in who is appointed, it will be interested to see who officially gets the job. Watch this space….. but Netherton???? I think that will see the last crumbs of any sort of credibility for the academy at this side of the river, disappear completely!

It was interesting on Friday when Blake Solly of the RL confirmed that following a board meeting with all 12 clubs last week, the competition’s salary cap will not be raised next season. He said, “It was a short discussion, the clubs were unanimous that there is no reason to change the salary cap. The marquee player ruling, which was introduced last year, was a good move and a step forward and something for Super League clubs to utilise rather than increase the cap. Everyone has worked hard to create sustainable clubs and increasing the cap goes against that. Super League over 30 weeks is our bread and butter, so we’ve got to make sure that after having done so much hard work, we don’t alter it for the benefit of three games.”

So first it’s unanimous and then three Clubs wanted it? Still I guess with the current financial state of the game, it’s a good thing to leave stuff as it is I suppose, but Wigan, Salford and Warrington won’t be happy!

Talking of Salford the news coming out if the RL on Friday was hardly a big surprise was it? Having really enjoyed the game the night before and marvelled at that Sandow drop goal which was as big a piece of drama as you will ever see, we woke next morning to find that the Manchester Club were in trouble again, this time over alleged salary cap violations in 2014 and 2015.

You’ll remember that when I discussed this at length a while back citing the fact that when Tony Pulatua took the club to a tribunal it was deemed that Salford didn’t owe him any money but a company with which Marwan Koukash has connections did, we all sort of smelt a rat! In fact across the game I think just about everyone knew it was happening, the big surprise for many is that it’s taken so long to come about. That’s either because the RL have been very diligent and careful in their investigations or that it’s very hard to prove. In reality the announcement comes six weeks after Bradford chairman Marc Green raised questions over Salford’s use of the cap over the last two years and in particular their signing of Puletua from St Helens in 2014. We’ll just have to see what happens but it will certainly now be a real sideshow to the 2016 season and you can always rely on Marwan for a bit of ‘slapstick’ to keep us all smiling.

The list of possible suitors for the coaching job at Caravan Park continues to grow and ranges from Wayne Bennett to Ronnie Pickering although Steve McNamara seems to be favourite!! As you know I have a good contact at the heart of the East Hull Club and I’m told that they’ll be getting rid of their two biggest wage earners at the end of the season, so that the phenomenal chunk of their salary cap they are taking up can be recycled towards 4 or five good quality, but less expensive signings.

Now how often, as the weeks go by, does the theme of ‘how things have changed’ resonate through this tome? However it is a fact that as you get older you do look back on the game we all love and you can’t help comparing what happens now with what happened in the past. This week I was drawn into that mode again this time when I considered the early rounds of the Challenge Cup. When you look back on the fifties, sixties, seventies and eighties you’d be hard pressed to find one amateur team that got near a professional outfit score wise, never mind beat them in the cup. In fact you’d usually need a calculator (had they been invented) to keep up with the professional teams score.

How things have changed now though because the gap has decreased incredibly as last weekend in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup Rd 3 four Kingstone Press League 1 clubs were knocked out by amateur opposition.

Newcastle Thunder were thrashed 30-4 at Halifax club Siddal, Hemel Stags went down 12-6 in the mud at Cumbrian outfit Kells, London Skolars were beaten 13-0 at Pilkington Recs, of St Helens, and South Wales Scorpions lost 37-20 at the Jamie Rooney coached Featherstone Lions. In fact the latter club are through to the fourth round for the second successive year. Quite amazing really!

Last week Bill Penwright contacted me to say how good it was two Diaries ago to read about David Doyle Davidson’s tenure as Coach and so I promised that I would this week feature a game from the previous season. So this week in Codgers Corner I want to go back to the 1976/77 season when after several years in the doldrums we final got elevated back into the First Division, for one year at least. That promotion campaign under DDD in our last 17 games we won 14 lost 2 and drew 1.

With 6 games to go, on Tuesday 6th April we all set off for a game at that famous Bastian of rugby league the Crown Flatt ground at Dewsbury, to face a home team who were just five points behind us in second place but who had two games in hand. More significantly too it was a time when we were suffering somewhat in the points against column because our right flank was vulnerable and leaking points. Notice anything there? It was always a great trip to Dewsbury and we took the afternoon off work and travelled by car. We got there at 5-00pm and sent our driver Phil to the fish shop while we had a few pints in the Royal Ensign, before making our way to the stadium, which was at the top of the hill in the little West Yorkshire town.

The pundits in the media gave us little chance of winning because Dewsbury were unbeaten at home that year and had put together a really handy team. In fact they had amazingly only conceded 6 tries on their own ground all season.

In addition our cause was not helped by having five players out injured but as was often the case with sides coached by ‘The Doyle’ we rose to the occasion in what was a nerve tingling battle. We kicked off in front of almost 3000 people as young stand in A team half-back Peter Hall lofted the ball towards the Dewsbury line as we played ‘up’ a pitch that had a distinct slope. The first couple of sets saw the big Dewsbury forward including Harry Beverley, Jeff Grayshon, Hankin and Whittingham tearing into our six.

We stood strong though and Tindall, Salmon and Crampton all pulled off big hits to blunt the home clubs initial exuberance. Hull suffered an early shock when fast hands across the home team’s line exposed our right flank where for the first time on several occasions our cover didn’t get across quickly enough and Clarke and Bray were left exposed. Despite a valiant last effort from Graham Bray, Simpson got the scoreboard moving with Dewsbury’s first try. Nigel Stephenson missed the conversion from the touch line though, but we were 3-0 behind after just seven minutes.

Still we fought back and a good run through the middle by debutant Hall set up a great position from which we pressured the Dewsbury line. Boxall and Davidson were held short before Mick Crane ran at the home defence dummied once and then twice, before releasing Clarke on a free run to the line. Marshall missed the goal but we were back on level terms and soon actually took the lead when the seemingly invincible Dewsbury defence cracked again. Bray gathered a high cross field kick brilliantly and linked well with Clarke who went to the defensive line before kicking ahead, chasing and gathering to score a brilliant try. Marshall missed again but ten minutes later Davidson increased our lead with a well taken drop goal and it was 7-3.

We were going well but constantly exposed at the right hand side where with just 4 minutes to go to half time we were caught again. Heggarty shot down that side and with two men outside him unmarked, he dummied, cut back inside and scored although on a bad night for goal kickers, Stephenson missed again and we went in at the break ahead by 7-6.

The second half started with the floodlights briefly failing to great cheers from both sets of supporters but thankfully they flickered back into life and we were off again as the frenetic, end to end battle was re engaged. Despite an obvious weakness on our right, individually Hull could not be faulted as every member of the team did his part.

In the first ten minutes of the second half Nigel Stephenson edged the West Yorkshire outfit ahead with two drop goals and at 8-7 they scented victory. We battled hard though and beat back three or four concerted attacks with both Alf Macklin and Jimmy Crampton pulling off big hits on Langley and Agar wide out. Then with just 15 minutes to go Mick Crane struck! Getting the ball on the bump from young Hall he drew three players before producing a massive ‘dummy one way side step the other’ which threw the whole defence into disarray. Still twenty yards out he headed for the line. Fed up, it would seem, of looking for supporting colleagues he drew full back Langley and winger Mitchell, who eventually caught him five yards out. Like ‘a slippery eel’ Mick seemed impossible to tie down as legs pumping, he somehow squirmed and wriggled his way over the line. Marshall at last got a goal from under the posts and two minutes later Davidson carved out a massive gap for himself with an arching run, taking the ball right to the thirty yard line, before being tackled. Hall shipped the ball to ‘Craney’ again who this time coolly dropped a 35 yard drop goal and at 13-8 with ten minutes to go, we were 5 points in the lead.

Of course it was not over yet and as the home team went back to our right side again, the cover defence was found wanting and with both Clarke and Bray clutching shadows, with just 5 minutes to go Thornton sent Whittington over and he touched down, close enough, this time, for Stephenson to goal and the scores were tied. In some frenetic closing minutes Stephenson again missed with a penalty and Davidson and Crane shaved the posts with drop goals. As the whistle went there was I think a sense of anti climax from both sets of supporters but in the end it was a great point and kept us an equal distance away from Dewsbury and still very much on track for promotion.

For me two players stood head and shoulders above everyone else on the field. Chris Davidson worked like a Trojan as he tackled everything and everybody and strained every sinew chasing back to tackle and then prompting, probing and driving the ball in and through the Dewsbury defence. If Davidson was ‘Man of the Match’ then Mick Crane was close behind him. He grafted supremely hard in defence whilst causing a lot of problems with his trade mark darts and bursts, and twisted and jinked his way clear on several occasions when better backing up would have maybe led to a try. It was a great night in what was a great season after so many disappointments and problems over the previous decade and despite some poor resources and at times a real rag bag of a team, we should never forget just what a great coach David Doyle Davidson was. One week we’ll have a look at the innovation that he brought to the Club and ‘The Buzzer’ a move he invented for the tap penalty which foxed defences for months.

Whatever else anyone says looking back DDD was a visionary and pretty resourceful Coach!

It was interesting this week to note that Rovers had called in a sports psychologist to help them prepare for two difficult away games. He apparently spent some time with Albert Kelly with the therapist telling him that the way to achieve true inner peace is to always finish what you start. Judging by his portly appearance on the bench in the second half against Saints it looked as if he’s taken the advice and had already finished two bags of M&Ms and a chocolate cake!!

FC fan Stu exiled in Spain seen here on a very exclusive golf course that has a very strict dress code, but while no one was watching…….!

The gesture of the Rugby League and the Club to provide 6 free coaches for FC Season ticket holders for this Thursday’s game at Widnes is I have to say a very welcome one. That all but guarantees at least 300 travelling on the longest journey there is in the game, (short of going to France) on a typically stupid RL arranged, Thursday night!

There will no doubt be plenty like me driving over too so we should have a good turn-out for what will be a very difficult game indeed. The fact that the RL have made the gesture is probably because they recognise the problems fans have with such ill thought out fixtures, which for me is very commendable but it would be even better if they arranged the fixtures so Yorkshire plays Yorkshire while Lancs plays Lancs. Still we’ll be there, but it will be a really tough game and one that we now really need to win. Whether we will of course is something else! I wouldn’t change too much but although this will court some controversy if Pryce is injured (which they expect a scan will confirm) we could do worse than to look at Carlos at 6 and bring back Yeamo at centre, because at least our defence at centre and wide out will be better!! I wonder if we have seen the future and it’s Tuimavave at 6?

But that’s up to the coach and from me this week that’s it, after a game that left me so, so deflated despite the fact I should have learned by now. I was absolutely gutted as I walked back to the car and no talk of a great game and superb entertainment could console me. This has been a really hard Diary to write, because on Saturday I was still bitterly disappointed, but that’s what I set myself up for these days, I can’t crawl away and grieve because I need to try and reflect my views in here.

BUT we are a good team, we are a good team (keep repeating it and soon you’ll believe it) and we should have some faith because on Sunday Danny Houghton, not one known for speaking up in these situations said, “That’s our team, our character and our effort for each other, it’s second to none, but we just can’t afford to keep making errors, but everyone has got each other’s backs in this team” I think that all the concerns apart, that’s pretty good evidence that we are a tighter group that we’ve seen for ages don’t you? Let’s hope they can sort it!!

It was great to see so many fans and readers at the game last Friday, including Harry T, plus my old pal ‘with the orange hat from the south bank’, Sammo, Dave and Hutchie, whilst it was also good to walk out at the end with my old mate of around 55 years Barry King, who was just as deflated as I was. We never learn do we mate!! Thanks so much for sticking with another Diary and as for Hull FC well who the hell knows what will happen next!!

Get to Widnes if you can and try to keep believing!

Faithfully Yours