The Dentist’s Diary – 486th

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So………..What the hell do you make of all that then???

As long suffering FC fans, so often reduced to having to ‘make do’, we have just witnessed a weekend when we beat rovers with an unprecedented late comeback in their own back yard  before going on to ‘sack’ the undefeated league leaders three days later at the KC, with a team that included 11 local born players. Is that the stuff that dreams are made of? Well, I think quite possibly it is!!!

First there was the Derby!

“With 20 minutes to go I still believed we could get the victory.” said ‘Cryogenically enhanced’ weekend hero Kirk Yeaman, in the wake of a quite amazing afternoon, although I have to say that, with 20 minutes to go, you were probably on your own there Kirk!! In the end however, for every person out there who has any feeling at all for the enigma that is Hull FC and who was, on Friday night, just basking in the afterglow of that famous win, this Easter weekend was only really ever going to be about that amazing 20 minutes….wasn’t it??

But, then came Monday!

And perhaps the most exciting game so far at the KC his season. It was the game when Lee Radford’s claims that our squad really does have strength in depth came to fruition in quite spectacular fashion! It was also an afternoon when everyone who attended was just so, so proud and indeed when all those who had knocked Radford, Yeamo, Houghton, Sneyd and Washy in the past, had to eat just a little humble pie.

After three straight wins in the league we have now picked up ten points from our opening eight games. That’s a six-point increase on where we were 8 games in last year and has to be an improvement! Now we need to show that our elevated position in the league is not just a flash in the pan and that starts on Friday, but for now at least……..

What a bloody marvellous Easter that was!!!!!

It is rare that we enter a period of the season where no one and I mean no one has predicted the eventual outcome accurately. However that was the circumstances that prevailed this weekend, as many of us were just happy to be taking our seats at the KC, basking in the glow of that Derby fight-back. Sat at home 4 hours later, starting to think about what to put in here, it already resembled something of a dream; so unlikely and unpredictable had been our last 160 minutes of rugby. I’m so proud of the attitude and endeavour I saw in both games and despite the first 60 minutes at Rovers being worryingly dire, as I have said all year, it’s no longer about how you play but rather about getting the points at the end of the game.

Is anyone else out there in a sort of bubble of disbelief? Because I’m finding it hard to actually comprehend what I witnessed in these last two games!

It’s always easier to write about victories in here and at times reporting on some of our defeats (Widnes for example) is a soul destroying nightmare. However this weekend is little easier, because for once I am completely lost for expletives to describe what we witnessed; but for completely different reasons.

In the second book, I finish with trying to dissect why it is that at the end of momentous, life changing matches like the win at Cardiff in 2005, the whole significance and, if you like, uniqueness of it all just washes over you and although people say that they want that moment to last forever, it never does and in fact it goes quicker than most others do. Well in a much reduced but yet similar scenario to Cardiff, this fan just wants to preserve how I felt as the hooter went yesterday for as long as possible, before no doubt, as is the nature of sport, it all unravels again. Myself, Mrs R and a few of my good pals were just about the last to leave the East Stand yesterday, because we simply didn’t want it to end!

Saints is a massive ask on Friday, but, I won’t be worrying about that in here because I just want to enjoy the next few days and try at least to come to terms with the fact that as FC fans we witnessed something very rare; an Easter that we’ll all look back on in future years as something that was very, very special!!

That Derby win was simply extraordinary and I watched the last twenty minutes again for the umpteenth time this morning. ‘One of the greatest comebacks in Super League History’, said the BBC TV sports reporter on Breakfast Time on Saturday morning and although a little over stated, who, of a black and white persuasion, at 3-00 pm on Friday afternoon, would have argued with them!

Personally, I watched in relative safety, firstly from the Shed and then from behind the settee, both of which probably have a better view than you get from the P&O end of Caravan Park!!! I didn’t go, you knew that I wouldn’t, but it was still great to hear how the Hull players were given their usual warm welcome, as the Rovers supporters re-enacted that age old heart warming ritual of East Hull hospitality; throwing a bottle at the team Coach!

But, if there was stress on the car park, there was pressure in the board room too. For the home side, buoyed by a win against Salford last week, and with Wigan and Leeds up next, saw this as their most significant game thus far and, in fairness, for 60 minutes they showed it as they dominated a stuttering and tentative FC. Although that said, you certainly couldn’t ever fault our effort.

But we were pretty ineffective on attack, as we found it difficult to break down a resolute yet ordinary home side ‘running’ on their Clubs need to get some credibility back with their fans. In that period there is little doubt that we were out played and out thought by a Rovers team for whom this was very obviously, even so early in the season, their ‘Cup Final’. Insiders at the East Hull Club told me that Webster, Peacock and Hudgell had all pinned the turning round of a pretty woeful season thus far, on the euphoric effect that beating us would have on their fans. So to get anything was always going to be a ‘big ask’ last Friday! If I’m honest at 20-0 I’d given up and if any of you say that you concurred with Yeamo’s beliefs that I highlighted above, at that point, I have to say I think you’re kidding me!!

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However all the dour, ineffective stuff and clueless attacking was forgotten with the emergence, in the end, of some of the best off the cuff, broken play rugby we have seen for years and it was that, plus a bit of quite uncharacteristic coolness in defence, that saw us conjure up that most unlikely of victories. It was game management by our senior players in the final few minutes that made the difference, no daft released balls and lapses in concentration, but rather little kicks into touch to turn them around, which showed a real steady approach as the minutes ticked down. After the brain farts of Wigan and Castleford, being just two points up at Caravan Park with 6 minutes to go is not where any of us would have wanted to find ourselves on Friday!!

But, Sneyd stepped up and played a blinder while Houghton and Ellis took the team by the scruff of the neck and we survived to succeed in a game that perhaps we never deserved to win; but who cares because it was a game we’ll never forget in a weekend we’ll all remember for years and years to come. Wasn’t it brilliant when you watched on TV and those happy laughing faces on the East Stand suddenly went to glum, to distraught and then to manically depressed??

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Study each face carefully. Oh dear, Oh dear, what has happened!!

As we approached the first derby of the season, most of us in the west of the City were hoping and praying that our players would be primed and up for it (let’s face it sometimes we are and sometimes we ain’t). We also all knew that experience proved in the past that the Rovers fans didn’t have such worries, because their players will always be sweating blood to beat us! We signed big name high profile leaders to our senior players group and it was made very clear way back last September that their role was always to be them being the guys who in raising their own game, would inspire everyone else to do the same, particularly in these critical matches.

Four years ago this Diary was quoted by David Burns on BBC Radio Humberside Sports Talk, when after a particularly disappointing showing at Caravan Park I quite controversially commented that Rovers players always ‘want’ Derby’s more than we do. I was in trouble with the Club and the Coach, but there was a stony silence from readers and fans who heard Burns on the radio; they all knew, I think, that I was onto something! You see that’s how, for years, it’s looked to me.

However whatever else is laid at his door, the appointment of Lee Radford certainly improved things massively in that department, because he certainly gets the passion and the significance of these fixtures; he’s played in enough Derby’s and understands the dynamic, as do the local players too. However in these games success and failure is invariably down to the guys who are new to the Club and how they respond to the pressure cooker atmosphere of a Derby.

Derby’s are serious stuff and to some fans where we finish in the league is secondary to whether we finish above Rovers. For those supporters these games are a real mathematical conundrum really because they make so much different to our relevant positions in the league. Although they had only won one game thus far, if we lost then Rovers would have been just one point behind us, but we won and so we were then 5 points in front of them (with a game in hand). It’s certainly a big game in anyone’s book, but this time it was quite a bit more too!!

In that first 60 minutes there was tons of effort, but we lacked any sort of guile or penetration and it was the Wakefield performance all over again, as we majored on defence and were too cautious with the ball. We lost Carlos and then Mini, both of which could have been ‘end game’ departures, but we overcame that as a brilliant inside ball from Yeamo to Shaul saw the full back swerve left and blaze away down the field; the comeback was on! But was it? Still I thought that it was just a blip in the Dobbins relentless quest to grind out any sort of victory to rescue their credibility. But, the tables were turned and then the pressure was really on the Dobbins, it was their game to lose and they simply couldn’t hack it!

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At that point in the FC Live commentary ‘box’ summariser Leon Pryce said to James Clark, ‘That’s it watch us go now, we’ll win this one!’ Clarky told me afterwards, (when he made a surprise appearance in the Drum and Monkey), that he was just as sceptical as any of us would be at that comment, at that time, but in the end the final try saw Clarky break down on air with the emotion of it all! He wasn’t the only one in tears at that point either but his was recorded for posterity!! It’s a piece of radio deserving of a place on any ‘bloopers’ show on national TV!! However Clarky, it’s nothing more than Gwylum would have done had he been commentating on Humberside; but he’d have done it for completely different reasons.

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Happy Times before the tears started!!

It appears as far as the Club was concerned, in the bigger scheme of things, there was perhaps more than 2 points riding on that outcome!!! The sight of Pearson shouting his congratulations at the top of his voice to the players from the stands at the end certainly bore that theory out!

I thought Ellis was magnificent, Pritchard worked his socks off and stayed on throughout, Washbrook stood into several different roles really well and Houghton just proved what a massive asset he is, as he bossed the last 20 minutes brilliantly. Yeamo, the player’s Man of the Match, did the business with and without the ball, Michaels silenced his doubters with that amazing step to bring us level and in Fornua we have perhaps discovered a centre replacement that might just solve our problem out there.

Watts and Taylor found some more real energy and another gear as the game wore on and Shaul was devastating in the finishing department, with his run out of defence after that long raking downfield kick a real game changing moment. It was in the end a real win for ‘momentum’ as we simply rolled over the Rovers. But everyone did well and can take credit.

Jordan Rankin was one of the first on twitter to congratulate the lads but not everyone was happy! Some pointed to that first ineffective 60 minutes but, as for me, well I’ll ‘dine out’ for a few weeks with the Rovers fans on that last 20 minutes, thank you!! A great spectacle, some real drama and enough to make this old man (and Clarky) cry!!!!

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If it was in the end a brilliant afternoon for the FC, it certainly turned out to be a costly, demoralising and humiliating defeat for the Dobbins!! And don’t we just love it!! After having 60 points put on them in pre season by the FC and then having the biggest turn around in recent derby history inflicted in front of their own fans (and that in a game that was another ‘record breaker’ for being our third Derby victory on the trot), it all made for something very special indeed and I bloody loved it!!

So it was back to County Road and into the cryo-chamber Adam Pearson’s had hired to help their recovery. They did it to match the one Warrington already had installed in their new training facility. We then moved onto a game that few thought we could win and indeed one that few FC fans were TOO bothered about, basking as we all did in the afterglow of that Derby victory! The gate at the KC also indicated I think that having seen the likely line up, many thought we had little chance anyway. But what did we all know……

I went along to the match pretty relaxed really. I had heard and read so much about how the Warrington outfit played expansive, attractive rugby and how fatigued we were after the heroics of Caravan Park, that quite frankly I thought it was just a formality. In fact when I got the team that morning with all 4 of our imports and ‘Leaders’ missing, that was it really and for me at least a keeping the score down exercise was in prospect. ‘Who cares’, I thought, we’d humiliated the Dobbins in their own back yard. However from the off, we showed energy and determination and although they were obviously very skilful, our passion and muscle saw everyone having a real dig from the start. There were no slackers and no bruised bodies hiding away behind the square markers and acting half, but just honest hard work and endeavour around a game plan that despite all the changes we made, everyone knew. If in the first half we were efficient, then in the second we excelled. Throughout the team spirit was exemplary and as we grew into the battle we opened the scoring. However an iffy 6 or 7 minutes before half time saw Sandow take a hand and we went in trailing by 10 points and if I’m honest fearing the worst.

The large Warrington contingent must have thought it was just a matter of time before the flood gates opened! Instead we restricted the unbeaten league leaders to just one second half try, scored three ourselves and then once again, with 4 minutes to go, we managed the game perfectly to see it out and snaffle the points.

Sport for Paul Clarke - 28-3-16 First Utility super league game between Hull FC and Warrington Wolves at the KC Stadium, Hull. Pictured is Gareth Ellis. Picture: Peter Harbour

The absolute leader!!

Make no mistake about it, Gareth Ellis is proving to be the best Captain we have had for years. He leads from the front and when he comes back on, the whole FC game visibly lifts. He led from the front again and when an example had to be set to see the game out, with three minutes to go he grabbed the ball and ploughed up-field with four players struggling to get him down. That’s the bloke he is and he led us brilliantly in what was a severely depleted FC side stuffed with 11 local born players.

I certainly thought Sneyd had one of his best games for the Club as he seems to thrive when things are less structured and more ad lib. His kicking was great while his choice of pass and ability to pick out the best player to receive it was at times a joy to watch. He also balanced perfectly the need to pass with the ability to run the ball. One occasion in the second half when under pressure, a perfectly executed pass put Danny Washbrook through a massive hole probably turned a game in which he was deemed man of the match and quite rightly so.

Such was the nature of the performance that several other players were not too far behind him and Danny Houghton was again at the heart of the battle. He was a bit reserved in the first half but cut loose in the second and on numerous occasions he ran brilliantly from acting half straight at the heart of the Warrington defence. He’s been a great vice captain this weekend too. Yeamo again deserves a big mention because he had another great game and the way we have stemmed the tide of ‘easy’ tries since his debut in the Wakefield game is down a lot I think to him. However he’s attacking well too and he scored a great try as well as becoming provider with two assists for Naughton with ‘uncharacteristically’ good passes.

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He deserves to be smiling again!!!

Mark Sneyd provided a great quote about Yeamo after the game, when basking in his man of the match award. He said, “How could we drop Kirk, he is playing great and looks in the sort of form he showed in 2006”. Good half’s need a strong platform to play on though and up front Watts and Taylor were massive, while Green did well and Bowden is becoming a real asset particularly when he throws his weight about a bit to unsettle his opposite number.

In the backs I thought Naughton looks to be gaining in confidence weekly and he certainly knows his way to the line. He is a feisty bugger as well and after Lineham hit him with a cynical late shot, I watched as he stood and mocked ‘The Flying Pig’ when his try was disallowed; I liked that!

Sport for Paul Clarke - 28-3-16 First Utility super league game between Hull FC and Warrington Wolves at the KC Stadium, Hull. Pictured is Curtis Naughton. Picture: Peter Harbour

Come and get me Tommy!

While Michaels worked hard in the centre, out on the wing, although a bit over awed at times, Lancaster did his best and gave his all too. Abdull tried hard and certainly improved on his ‘mare’ at Widnes, but he still has work to do, while Hadley just stepped in, ran some great lines and was, after an early knock on, pretty faultless. He’s a good player! Feke played short minutes again but did his bit and Turgot got through tons of work, although I just wish he wouldn’t lay on so much.

Washbrook just ran everything Sneyd didn’t, as he worked himself to a standstill again. I’m beginning to think that unlike what I believed at the start of the campaign, Washy and Taylor are quickly turning out to be our best two signings this year!! Unlike the ‘big time Charlies’, these two go about their business at a consistently high level and do it week in week out. I’m so pleased for the Coach the players and indeed the owner but most of all I’m so pleased for the fans as when the final hooter went the scenes of elation right across the terraces were a joy to behold.

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A happy journey home in the Pearson Family car!!!

Finally, after the game Tony Smith was very complimentary about our performance too and made it his business to shake every FC players hand in the dressing rooms, whilst he also complimenting Lee at the press conference. He’s a good bloke but he may need some career advice in future if recent rumours are to be believed!!

So a hectic weekend for the sport, another series of Derby games, a lot of tired bodies and across the game on Monday a lot of players playing ‘with the needle’ and in a condition that they really shouldn’t be playing in. The Hull/Rovers Derby game, played as it was almost twenty years to the day that we saw the start of the first season of ‘Summer Rugby’, was as good emotion wise as it gets, but much has changed in that time and not all of it for the good.

Who in fact would have thought back in 1996 that we would see so much change fixtures wise, in the coming years? Who’d have thought that after just playing everyone twice back then, by 2016 we would, should we both end up in the top 8 or middle 8, end up playing the old enemy at least 4 times a season. We also now have the ‘Cashing in Cup’ pre season friendly, which ensures that we could end up with 6 meetings, should we be drawn together in the Cup as well. For me and a lot of fans I know, we have gone full circle from absolutely loving this age old centre piece of local rugby league to now, quite frankly, being fed up to the back teeth with bloody local Derby’s.

The old games years ago were real occasions anticipated and looked forward to for months and the highlight of the year of every fan in the City. Now they come along like buses and are treated at both sides of the City as a necessary evil in our games Sky TV driven quest for novelty value and armchair ‘gratification’.

In the end Fridays game saw nothing short of an incredible outcome, which, as I say left me ‘wrung out’ and in tears, but if I’m honest on a personal note, over the past week instead of having feelings of anticipation and excitement I had felt pretty underwhelmed really. If I’m honest these days my demeanour is such that I fear losing to the Dobbins more than I anticipate beating them!!

There doesn’t seem to be that much real pre match excitement anymore and despite the best efforts of the Hull Mail and the media to crank things up, I’m now starting to abhor the ‘sausage machine’ of modern rugby league, as it churns out these manufactured derby fixtures every 7 games or so.

Of course the arguments surrounding Easter weekend don’t end there either because with two games religiously scheduled over 4 days it’s been a long time since any of us, whose lives are intertwined with the fortunes of Hull FC, can genuinely have enjoyed the experience as much as we did this weekend. Just as famous victories like Friday’s leave everyone elated, Derby defeats, especially given the rivalry, history and in recent year’s hatred that exists between the two clubs, hurt. In fact they can leave fans and I guess players totally shattered, because they twist the knife a lot more than a run of the mill defeat seems to do. So, although as long as I can remember Easter has always been a double header, if you were to question the majority of fans either side of the River Hull, they would tell you that it’s probably the only one of the two holiday games that ‘deep down’ really matter.

It’s fantastic when you beat the league leaders as we did yesterday but in reality few FC fans really gives much of a toss about losing on the Monday, if we have ensured that the Dobbins and their fans have eaten big slices of humble Pie on Good Friday, particularly when it’s in such spectacular circumstances as those we witnessed this year! The idea, promulgated by some Aussie coaches at Hull FC over the years, that the two points on Friday are worth the same as those on Monday, has never really resonated with me much at all.

I guess, in many ways, I’m a bit of a traditionalist and have therefore always been an advocate of this age old form of fixture programming that ensures that everyone gets the chance of a home game over the holiday period. In fact having grown up with Boxing Day and New Year’s Day matches and Easter’s double-headers, the latter was always, when I was a kid, a massive weekend in the finale to the old winter season and the big games at the Boulevard and Craven Park have been interwoven into local legend and folklore. And yes, back in the 60s, 70s and 80s the part-time players could do it during a season of 30 league games, which also featured the Yorkshire Cup, BBC2 Floodlit Trophy, the John Player Trophy, the Challenge Cup and several Premiership play-off ties.

In addition to playing all those games, they also stood gutting fish, humping sacks or working down a mine for five days as well. Surely, a few would say, today’s full timers should have no problems backing up on Easter Monday.

But things are different now because the game has changed beyond recognition, as has the pressure it puts on the players bodies and minds. Rugby League at the highest level is getting faster, the players are getting stronger, fitter and speedier but we expect them to bash into each other at high velocities and then recover in 3 days (and then again in 4 days). You don’t have to listen to what today’s modern players and coaches say about the impact and recovery, you don’t even need to look at the stats that say players are more likely to pick up injuries when suffering from the effects of fatigue, because we can simple judge for ourselves when we compare the intensity on Friday and then again on Monday. Not always are teams able to call on young fresh legs and bodies as we were this week either.

Australian coaches have never liked two games over the holidays particularly when the practise has only survived this long in the name of what we affectionately refer to as tradition. I mean to say, do you remember the trouble that Ian Millward got into when he sent a ‘reserves’ Saints side to Bradford on Easter Monday 2004, other coaches have followed suit since then but after that furore, done their game selection a little more subtly.

However there is little doubt that modern Super League rugby and the intensity and pressure it creates for the players, deems it time that we scrapped that tradition and spread the Derby games over the five days. I’m not on my own in those thoughts either because now even English coaches, who played in that halcyon part-time era themselves, are coming round to that way of thinking too.

Tony Smith certainly concurs with the argument likening the way the players are treated as ‘cruelty’ and Widnes coach Denis Betts made a good point this week when discussing his side’s double-headers against Warrington and Saints. He said: “This isn’t football. It is a high collision sport – it is like a car crash, and having to play two games in four days could be considered as a little bit cruel. If this was the Cheltenham Festival there would be people running on the field with placards trying to prevent us playing” This has been a monumental weekend for us, but surely, when you stand back for all that emotion it is common sense now that Easter becomes a one game period, and television, if they so desire, can take their pick of a daily diet of Derby’s, spread over 5 days, that situation would provide. Just my thoughts of course and after this great weekend you might well not agree!

Now, the news that Curtis Naughton has signed a new deal for the next two seasons, was I think borne out by two things. Firstly with so many players out of contract next season we have to get moving on getting some contracts sorted out and secondly by the fact that three teams, including our neighbours, were hunting his signature. We obviously feel there is a lot of improvement there and that we have to hang onto such assets, however we must also see something there that engenders our faith in his improving ability. He is an exciting player and one, like Jordan Rankin last season, who knows his way to the line, who has a bit of a spring in his step and who adds some verve and enthusiasm every time he takes to the field. Incidentally Rankin is doing really well on his return to the NRL and featuring regularly out on the wing for Wests Tigers, where he is grabbing a try or two as well.

PICTURE BY CHRIS MANGNALL /SWPIX.COM... Rugby League - Super 8's - St Helens Saints v Hull FC - Langtree Park St Helens, England - 14/08/15 Hulls Try scorer Curtis Naughton celebrate His Late try

Two Year Deal!!

Curtis I think has massive potential, he is a great finisher when ‘put into a hole’ as he showed yesterday and he can do some great things with his brilliant footwork. He also makes unforced mistakes and takes daft options but he can also catch those big bombs that come down with ‘snow on them’ and that he has no right to catch at all. With more time and experience he will only get better and now he has the chance to do that! Good luck to him let’s hope he fulfils his potential!

Well until I know what’s actually happened I won’t be commenting, but it appears that things certainly kicked off yesterday at Huddersfield didn’t they?

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I’m not commenting till I know the facts but we don’t want to see this sort of stuff anywhere near Rugby League whatever the circumstances do we. Come on RL get it sorted and quick!!!

For this week’s Codgers Corner and in a departure from the usual format I want to remember a great, great season which followed some terrible ones. In the mid 70’s it seemed as if we would never ever recover from the doldrums, but of course we did and we went on to experience probabaly the greatest period of our recent history. With the likes of Knocker Norton, Skerrett, Crooks, Lloyd, Stone and Stirling gracing those famous irregular hooped shirts those were truly great days indeed. For me though one of our greatest years ever was the 1978/79 season.

In that amazing year we created a record which no one thought possible as we went through the whole season undefeated with our record at the end of the year showing, played 26 won 26. That year I saw every game home and away and still have some great and cherished memories. We appeared invincible and the fans had a ball. My pals and I had a great time, we got left by the coach at Oldham, congered out of the supporters club at Blackpool, got drenched to the skin at Whitehaven, I got pushed full length onto a muddy pitch at the Watersheddings and didn’t get back from Leigh until Wednesday afternoon!! But the less said about the latter the better.

You wouldn’t have guessed what was to come when the season started with a tight 17-9 win at Bramley but that was then followed by a comprehensive 61-10 defeat of Oldham at the Boulevard. In that game Sammy Lloyd actually equalled the clubs all time goal kicking record for goals in a game. The record had stood since 1921 when Jim Kennedy set it against Rochdale. Lloyd in fact went on to attain the club’s record for total goals kicked that year, with a massive total of 170, which is now unlikely ever to be equalled.

We were off and running, and despite Bradford being our bogey team and booting us out of all the cup competitions, we were to go on and never see a “L” in the League fixture list for the rest of the year.

Some games were tight, as hosting the FC, or a visit to the Boulevard, was seen by most of the rest of the clubs in the Division as their “Wembley”. A couple of outfits (Huyton and Batley) even transferred their home game to the Boulevard to make more money out of them. And I well remember that the switched Batley game in February was almost called off ten minutes before the game took place because of ice on the pitch. However the referee took one look at the size of the crowd and listened to their baiting cries in his direction and decided to go ahead. The game was played in conditions more akin to Ice-skating! But we won 20-0. There were some close calls too. We scraped past Blackpool at the Boulevard in November 14-13, just beat Bramley 8-5 at home in January and squeezed past Oldham at a rain sodden Watersheddings in our penultimate game of the season in May. Boy the weather was bad that day!

Then, the scene was set for the big game of the season against second placed Hunslet at the Boulevard on 18th May 1979. This was it, our chance to have a place in the Guinness Book of records, and to go through a whole season undefeated.

Although we were already promoted, I remember the Daily Mail revealing that Arthur Bunting, our coach, had decreed that the team would not be parading the Second Division salver around the ground before the kick off. He wanted nothing to take the teams minds off this last, important and possibly historic game. If I remember rightly, Mr Bunting had in fact seen a similar situation, when he was coach at The Dobbins end with the hosts losing the game and he was risking nothing this time.

12,424 crammed into the Boulevard and I watched the game from the Gordon Street end of a packed Threepenny Stand. Hunslet really did not offer much at all on attack, but their tenacious tackling soon subdued even the fans around me, as they did everything they could to keep us out. Lloyd, the record breaker, missed 4 goals in the first half and at half time the scores stood at 1-0 after Knocker Norton had dropped a solitary goal from wide out. The thorn in our side that night was the diminutive Tony Dean, a little general and a player who was to sign and star for us two years later. He was known as the drop goal king of British Rugby League and although he missed with two attempts he slid one over in the second half to level the scores.

It looked likely that the game was going to end in a draw although Hunslet plugged away and another drop goal was always on the cards. Could we lose out at such a late stage? Then, following a foul on John Newlove Sammy at last found his kicking boots and slotted over a penalty. We were in the lead at last, but it was still touch and go! It was then left for the most unlikliest of hero’s to score the only try of the game and seal the record for Hull FC. Charlie Stone who only scored about 8 tries in 200 appearances for the club, side stepped his way over the line and although Lloyd missed again with the conversion we were home, we were the champions, and most important of all real record breakers!!! It was not a classic game, but with so much at stake, for me for sheer tension and ultimate ecstasy, it still ranks up there with that win at Cardiff in the final.

That season we scored more tries than any other team in the whole competition and although only playing second division teams in the League, we still managed to beat Leeds in the Cup and draw with Bradford away in the same competition. We of course went up and thus started that Golden Age in the history of Hull FC, the early 80’s!

Well what an amazing few days that was and how proud we should all be, to be FC fans. It was as good as it gets really and I really can’t believe it’s happened! Quote of the week goes to the wag who text James Clark and said, “Not many things much better than seeing Clarky in full flow to the fans from the pitch. Apart, that is, from him crying when we win!” because it was a weekend that was also full of some ‘strange and wondrous’ happenings!

So that’s it, I could go on about this weekend forever, but all good things have to come to an end. We have in 4 short days experienced pain, happiness and ultimate ecstasy. The awful night at Widnes and the grim grind against Wakey seen light years away now, but we all as FC fans know only too well they may well be back. However for now enjoy the ride, hunt out those Dobbins at work and enjoy the moment, it could just be the beginning of big things at Hull FC but then again, who knows what’s round the corner, its a blooming roller coaster isn’t it?

See you at Saints and Keep believing!!!

And Comeonyouhulllaaarrr!!!!!

Faithfully Yours

Wilf