The Dentist’s Diary – 504th

At this point of the season it’s a whole new experience for all of us at Hull FC, as the players, the Club and the fans move into what is in our Super league history, uncharted territory!
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Everyone loses games, but if your genuine contenders after you’ve lost one, it’s just about getting back on the horse again! On Thursday the lads did that in fine style and we not only got back on it, but we rode it to an emphatic win. In fact we dominated the game so much, that in the end it brought us as easy a victory as you’ll get in Super League.

Don’t get me wrong, a lot of mental strength and tenacity went into that game, but our defence was imperious and many of the Widnes mistakes that littered their performance simply came from fatigue, brought on by our constant pressure. Attack wise we scored 7 tries and all that without our charismatic play maker Mark Sneyd, but on this occasion we didn’t miss him at all, because Houghton’s field kicking was superb and Jordan Abdull defied all the concerns I aired last week and had a great game at half back.

I commented at the end that at times we looked like the Wigan, Saints and Leeds teams of yore, in that we went there, put a defeat behind us, did the job and without being overtly flashy or having to chance our arm too much, we got the win. In fact, as those teams have so often done in the past, we had the game put to bed by the 60 minute mark and so took the points and move on to the next big challenge on Thursday!

Nilling anyone in Super League away from home, let alone in the Super Eights is a great feet, however when you watched Sky TV back afterwards and listen to those commentators you’d think we’d lost and Widnes were top of the league! Do the Sky guys ever say anything positive about Hull FC? We bounced back to winning ways in pretty fine style, whilst in the process registering our twelfth win from 15 away outings this season and still Phil Clarke thinks we are fading and a spent force! What do they want? Yeh it was scratchy at times, but we nilled the team who had previously served up our biggest defeat thus far this season and psychologically that is massive!

You see Mr Clarke, for me watching it back again on Friday it was one of our most professional performances of the season and if a key issue needed highlighting by the pundits then it was the fact that once again, like after that first Widnes game and the Huddersfield and Leeds defeats away, we showed real resilience and bounced back in great style to keep our hopes of getting something out of the season very much alive. What Stevo and his gang have to remember is that we still haven’t put together the big performance (when everything clicks) and as the season goes on, with only 5 regular Super Eights and one Cup final left to go, the odds on that happening are certainly shortening; and when we do click someone’s really going to get it!!

As an aside for every FC fan, how good would that be if it were to happen a week on Saturday? Well, I guess we can dream can’t we?

It’s a bloody long way to Widnes and an even longer journey back on a Thursday night, when unlike Fridays, the road repair gangs are out in force. Yet, with Wembley just around the corner and everyone’s finances stretched to the limit, it was amazing that several hundred made the trip and sang and chanted the team home, in a game that kept us top and stretched our point’s difference over Wigan. The fans sang their hearts out and drove the players on to a great victory. However all that said, I have to firstly admit that I really don’t like that plastic pitch at all. I never have and there is little doubt that the last time we went there they used that advantage well and played the synthetic ‘card’ brilliantly.

This time it was still apparent that it’s a difficult proposition for visiting teams. On several occasions the bounce of the ball beat us and at the end of some sets it was hard to gauge whether the ball was going to run dead or not, while Talanoa, Michaels and Shaul all slipped when fielding bombs and several players skidded and fell over when they wouldn’t have done so on grass. However everyone has now got a bit of its measure and the potential disadvantage that the surface brings and we’re all slowly adapting to playing there. I guess, as we won easily and no claims of sour grapes can be made, it’s perhaps a good time to pose the question “What other team in the premier league of any sport would be allowed to play all their home games on a different pitch to everyone else?” It’s a bloody farce really isn’t it?

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The plastic pitch doesn’t bother you if you fly over it!!

However we beat the opposition, the commentators and the pitch and showed that we are not faltering in our efforts to make this a pretty significant season. With a 22 point lead at half time I was still thinking that we would falter in the second half and Widnes would come storming back; but as you all know that’s just me!! As it happened we still needed to rely on two pieces of exemplary defence to keep them scoreless at the start of the second 40 minutes, but we steadied the ship again and went on to register a good win to put the pressure back on Warrington and Wigan. Good old Cas did the business on Wigan too and it’s a pity that Wakey couldn’t do the same, but we are still clear at the top of the table, with what is now a top 4 defining game against the French coming on Thursday at the Kcom!

Despite lacking Mark Sneyd, we were patient and clinical in attack, as we awaited the opportunities to come along, before we took our chances without forcing things too much at all. After my comments about him last week, I found myself eating a deal of humble pie because Jordan Abdull really did step up to the plate. He started slowly and dropped a ball near our line early on, but once he got that try he was the most dominant half of the 4 on show and although the opposition gave him a bit of room and our pack laid a great platform, the player to whom the fans sang ‘the kebab song’, had a good game both in attack and defence. He certainly slotted into the creative role very well. He has issues, but he also has talent and there’s no replacement for that, so I guess for Jordan, that performance just shows what a difference a week makes, doesn’t it?

Yes, he needs to lose weight but not that much, because his game is, rather like the great Andy Gregory, built on a balance between a deal of deftness and dexterity with the ball and great strength in contact. He’s certainly better when he starts to move his feet a bit! The thing is with young half backs they never come into the first team and shine every week, it always takes time and it’s more often as not a case of good one week scratchy the next! But I have to say that on Thursday, I was really pleased for him.

But the whole team, resplendent in that great white star strip that I still think, (as second choice to the traditional irregular hoops), should have been considered as the Wembley shirt, certainly took the sting out of the Widnes attack early on in both half’s, before with clinical precision we took them apart. We knew beforehand that Widnes were struggling for outside backs, but that wasn’t really the issue, for it was more about exactly what mental state we would turn up in and on Thursday thankfully we got that bit just right. With this 2016 team it’s not about ability in attack or technique in defence, we have that in spades, but the mental stuff is still something that has to be constantly worked on. Thankfully as we enter the last 8 or so games of the season and every match is a ‘pressure cooker’, that should become less and less of an issue.

We should be energised and up for every one of them. In the past we have faded, mainly through a lack of character, but this team is different and with players like Ellis, Mini, Frank, and Yeamo coming to the end of their careers and all desperate to go out with a bang, several imports desperate for success and local lads like Houghton and Taylor determined to get some home grown glory, it really does appear that this squad has the ‘right stuff’ to keep their eyes on the main prize!!

I can’t concur with the Sky lot because I thought in the circumstances Thursday’s showing was just what we needed and it gave me great hope for the battles ahead. Performance wise for me Talanoa was man of the match, not so much for the three excellent tries he scored, but more for the ‘Flying Dustman’s’ tireless work down the middle and the yards he gained. He carried the ball for 164 meters in a brilliant display and I thought as I watched him how his rangy running style will be well suited to the wide open spaces of Wembley.

Shaul is getting some form back too, he looked safe at the back and ran forward more with the ball than of late, while Michaels again had a good game and took his try really well. Making almost 100 meters Fornua was back to his old self and proved a real handful for the opposition, he must be a bugger to mark and his try was a victory for strength and technique as he slipped three tacklers to crash over from close range. Yeamo had another great game at centre too and it was nice to see Gareth Ellis singling out our veteran centre for special mention afterwards, as he talked to John Wells of Kirks tireless work this season to improve his passing skills. He passed for two tries and both looked pretty simple efforts, but it’s the ability to know just when to release your winger that is the art and that worked for Talanoa to perfection at Widnes ….twice!

I’ve already hailed Abdull’s showing and Tumavive did OK too, although I’m still not convinced he is the answer to being Sneyd’s partner in the creative department as he still passes too early before the line for me! Solid without being spectacular was how someone described him this week and that about sums it up for me!

Scott Taylor has to be the best prop in the League at present and what a game he had. With 18 carries and 151 meters gained he was simply massive again and with boundless energy that seems to just go on and on, he should be a shoe in for England!! Watts returned and was bang back to form and I was so pleased to see that he has re-introduced the off-load into his game; that will be so important to our go forward at Wembley. If we worried where the field kicking would come from with Sneyd missing we had no need for concern because in that roll Danny Houghton was pretty amazing. He had a ‘quiet’ game in defence (ONLY 39 tackles) but led the team brilliantly from acting half and gave his usual frenetic performance stuffed with scoots, effort and some pretty precise kicks.

Minniciello continues to defy the odds and keeps finding the energy for a 100% all action game that combines crunching tackles with a massive show of power going forward. Gareth Ellis got some time off the field and he will benefit from that, but while he was on the field he was his usual inspirational self and always leading from the front. Manu continued his great recent form running wide out and Frank who is still being played through the loose forward channel as an extra prop down the middle, made a ton of yards but is still more effective running wide out for me.

Off the bench too Hadley was a revelation and I thought he ran the best lines of anyone on the night, I like the quiet but efficient way he goes about his game and how he just injects himself into the line with so much potency, a skill he animated brilliantly when scoring his first try of the season. Of the two rotating props Josh Bowden and Chris Green, Chris again continued to impress while Josh was 100% better than last week and had a good game too.

On Thursday it was for me just a case of job done and most of all another two points accrued towards the top four play-offs. So, well done to the Club and the players and most of all well done to everyone who made the long journey to be, on this occasion, so richly rewarded. As for the Sky TV crowd….get a life eh?

The interview with ‘Twitchy’ Steve Michaels after the game certainly showed a player who was sad about his current position. He’s desperate to stay at the FC but cap issues meant that’s looking increasingly unlikely. I feel sorry for him and I’m also a bit surprised that no one has come in to grab his signature, although I’m positive once things at the bottom become clearer then one of the bottom four clubs will take him on for the 2017 campaign. Indeed Rovers are said to be really interested, but for me it would be a real bummer where he to go there! As I said before I’d love to keep him, but it’s looking pretty unlikely I think.

I should know better by now, but I was caught out again last week when I just wrote what I was thinking, instead of looking up the records to ensure my mind wasn’t playing tricks on me! I certainly got it wrong when I said we didn’t lose many semi finals and as soon as I’d posted the Diary I remembered that fateful day in 2000 at Huddersfield when Leeds beat us and there was a riot!!! I guess I had a mental block on that one and shut it out, but then a couple of readers including my mate Bill Dalton, the Club statistician, pointed out that we had also been there 80 minutes away from Wembley back in 1992 when we lost to Castleford at Headingley. I was there, but forgot that one altogether; thanks Bill it must be an age thing!!

STANDALONE 12-8-16 Former Rugby league Legend Johnny Whiteley and his wife Joan celebrate their diamond wedding, the couple from North Ferriby have Three children, two Grandchildren and one Great grandchild, mr Whiteley worked as a club owner and mrs Whiteley was an office worker, they were married at Holy Trinity Church. Picture: Simon Renilson

Well done Johnny and Joan as they celebrate their Diamond Wedding!

You know after watching the game for nearly 60 years I’ve seen a lot of changes and the whole business that is rugby league has altered completely. I remember well that players were knocked out cold on a very regular basis and to a certain extent they still are, however thankfully the way that we treat those players who are rendered unconscious during a game, has changed a lot! Those of you with memories as long as mine will no doubt remember the guy running onto the pitch in the 50’s with a wet sponge to massage the players face, before the late great Ivor Watts could be seen in the sixties running on to treat a comatose player, with an alloy bucket of water, which had that same sponge in it! In the 70’s I saw smelling salts used on several occasions when a motionless player would have the tube rammed up his nose for him to immediately jumped back to consciousness and usually staggered about for the rest of the game!

Thankfully much has changed with a massive drive across all contact sports (led by the NRL) constantly reviewing and updating the way by which unconscious players and those suffering from concussion are treated on and off the pitch. All the time required during the game is allowed and much time is taken when looking to get the injured player safely onto a stretcher. You only have to look at the case of Mahe Fornua at Doncaster to see how meticulous everyone is in these situations. Gone are the days when a simple ‘I’m OK’, or a thumbs up is sufficient to keep a player out on the field.

Fornua was in a bad way but gave an interesting interview this week about his rehab and the processes that a player goes through before they can play again. He said, “I remember the whole game leading up to the incident and everything after it. It’s just that block of time when it actually happened and getting stretchered off, I don’t even remember the tackle itself. I’m just grateful because it looked pretty bad. I came away without anything big happening. I’ve just had to follow procedure and get some tests done to my head. I’ve done some computer tests just to see if I was alright. It was a big accident. Some of it is more of a wellbeing thing. Talking to the physio and seeing how you feel after each exercise is important and noting whether you have headaches or dizziness after training is key. Then there is also the ‘cog’ sports test that everyone sits at the start of the year when you set your baseline. If you’re lower than that following your concussion then you can’t play”

So although it’s a worry for the fans when a top player is missing after being knocked out its imperative that the game continues to treat concussion very seriously and it’s great to see all the technology that has been introduced to at least ensure that players are safe when they run on the field.

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The crowd gathered at the Minerva yesterday to help the great Sammy Lloyd record his Hull FC Wembley single!

Now, if there is one thing that we pride ourselves with at Hull FC it’s the way that we value and remember our heroes. It was sad this week to hear that the great George Robinson, full back of the late 70’s and early 80’s was unwell and I send him my best regards. I had also become a bit worried about another more recent icon as I hadn’t heard anything much about Richard Whiting for ages. ‘Stilts’ has been missing from the Leigh team sheet for weeks now so I had a quick chat with him last Thursday just to make sure he was OK. He said that he had broken his finger a few weeks back and kept playing with it. He then fractured it again in another place and had to have some surgery and some screws put in it to hold it in place. However he expects to be back playing in a week or two and he sends his best regards to all the FC fans. I didn’t mention Canada and neither did he!!! Top bloke is Richard, from a great West Riding rugby family and it was certainly good to hear from him again.

So what do you buy your husband when he’s the Club Chaplain and he’s just taken delivery of a new car? Well, certainly not a ‘sat nav’ because I’ll wager his guidance comes from a far better place than Halfords!! However, when one of the good guys, Rev. Tony Cotson, (who I always associate with that great Bob Dylan classic ‘With God on our side’) got his new car, his wife treated him to a new number plate and what impeccable tastes she has too!

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Top stuff Tony!!

I get all sorts of correspondence to the Diary every week, some is unprintable whilst some is as unexpected as it is unusual. This week I got an interesting E mail from Diary reader Stuart who offers all FC fans a very special Challenge Cup deal. He wrote, “As a life-long Hull FC fan, who now lives in Southern Spain, we are offering, as a means of celebration of our Clubs success in getting to Wembley again, all readers of the Dentists Diary a superb ‘Challenge Cup Discount Deal!’ Fly high with Hull FC and book a stay at Casa Montana during September and October, quoting DDCC deal and you get a fabulous 15% discount on the rental price and a complimentary bottle of cava on arrival and all that to celebrate the success of Hull FC reaching the Challenge Cup Final.

It is a two bedroom 2 bathroom fully equipped self catering apartment that sleeps 4 with a private pool and large terrace with its own poolside honesty bar and gas BBQ. It is only 20min away from the popular lively town of Mojacar which has an abundance of bars and restaurants. The nearest airport is Almeria which is 45min away, Murcia airport is 1-30hr and Alicante 2-15hr.

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Of course as always with these things I just pass on the information, but I enclose a couple of pictures and for availability and info visit www.casa-montana.co.uk or email harmansb@hotmail.co.uk

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Those bloody Kirks never miss a trick!! Top stuff whist on holiday in Cornwall!!

The other day I was talking to a guy in the Club shop who was 89 (sorry mate didn’t get your name) he’d been to the semi with his son and grandson and was really looking forward to Wembley. For some reason we got to talking about matches over the years against ‘The Pies’. We both remembered the 85 Final and of course the ‘nilling’ one in 2013, however then we both recalled a league game back in October 1968 that had surprisingly stuck in both our minds. The 68/69 season was certainly we agreed, not noted for much, however always keen to move with the times it was then that our Board introduced a new culinary experience to us gullible followers of Hull FC when they accepted a hot dog franchise for the first time, which the accounts for that year show raised £250 in concession payments to the club.

If the culinary offerings were changing the team was, some of us thought, just starting to emerge a little from the doldrums of the previous years and although we lost a lot of games we seemed to be starting to play a bit of decent rugby. The most memorable game of the season for both of us saw Wigan, the then elite of the league, visiting the Boulevard on Saturday 5th October 1968 for a game that came just one week after we had secured a tremendous 25-6 win away at Widnes. That campaign, as I said previously, was in fact destined to tail off badly towards the end, but in those early weeks that rare victory at ‘The Chemics’ certainly raised our hopes for the visit of Wigan, a fixture that always got everyone talking.

That day it was proper ‘Hull Fair weather‘ but in front of a crowd of around 9000 we gave Wigan, who were accepted in those days as one of the greatest exponents of flowing open rugby, a real lesson in how the game should be played. Our coach Johnny Whiteley’s attempts to beef the team up a couple of seasons earlier was starting to pay off and the new forwards we had gained like Jim Neale and Eric Broom coupled with some great local youngsters, like Jim Macklin and John Edson, were starting to lead the team around the field whilst the backs certainly had the speed to capitalize on some better organization.

That misty Saturday Captain Brian Hancock kicked off into a slight breeze and just two plays later Chris Davidson felled Johnny Jackson with a real ‘haymaker’ of a high tackle that got our scrum half penalized, however that set the tone for the early exchanges. Jackson in fact spent the next ten minutes staggering around in a daze before being helped off the field to be replaced by Keith Mills coming off the bench.

Our backs were certainly faster than the Wigan outfit and with Howard Firth on one wing and Clive Sullivan on the other, our centre’s got the ball out wide at every opportunity with Dick Gemmell having a superb game and scoring our first touchdown. As he exchanged passes with stand in Hooker Jim Macklin, he used Firth as a foil before dummying to outpacing the Wigan cover for a superb score out wide in front of the Best Stand at the Airlie Street end. The ‘Pies’ didn’t like that at all and tried their best to use some muscle to get back into the game but as Terry Foggerty dropped the ball on our 25 yard line, Arthur Keegan was on it is an instant. He accelerated away from the Wigan defenders and drew the full back Tyrer, before a looping wide pass released ‘The Mercurial’ Firth who ran hugging the touch line, to score in the same corner. Once again the meticulous Maloney converted and we were 10-0 up.

There then followed Wigan’s only real period of pressure and they scored a try themselves when Maloney missed a tackle on the great Eric Ashton and he released Foggerty to score a touch-down that was converted by Colin Tyrer and so despite more pressure from our forwards and John Edson dropping the ball over the line as he stretched to score, we went in just ahead at 10-5.

The second half was all Hull. Hancock and Davidson taunted the Wigan forwards and opened the game up at every opportunity whilst prop Jim Macklin, playing as that make shift hooker, thrilled us all with some barnstorming runs down the middle. It was one such excursion into the heart of the Wigan defense that set up the next try. Macklin drew several tacklers before releasing the ball to Jim Neale who ran straight back into the heart of the Wigan resistance before passing onto Maloney. He turned inside to find the now released Macklin again and the big fella rolled over the line next to the posts. Macklin’s tenacity and persistence won him a standing ovation from the Best Stand seats as he walked back from scoring the try, just as the Threepenny Stand broke into a resounding chorus of ‘Old Faithful’. We were not finished yet either and Joe Brown made a break from the kick off which left Wigan’s centre Ashurst grasping thin air. Joe was finally tackled by full back Tyrer but got up, played the ball forward to himself, and ran in to score another try which he also converted by Maloney.

Wigan ‘huffed and puffed’ but just got more and more frustrated with our tremendous never say die defence and in the end resorted to kicking the ball for position which ended up with it going straight to our full back Keegan, who returned it ‘with interest‘. There then followed some rough treatment by the Wigan front row forwards on Howard Firth, when the winger moved inside and then right in front of us, Ashurst stood on his arm after a tackle which prompted Man of the Match Dick Gemmell to race in and drag the Wigan player away.

However for this fan, enjoying the game from the Airlie Street terracing the most memorable part of the match came ten minutes from the end when the ‘Big time Charlies’ of the league decided that they had experienced enough of trying to beat us by playing rugby, and Ashurst once again took out his frustration on young Howard Firth. This time he dragged him back by his long blonde hair and ‘all hell’ broke loose. Edson, who had looked like ‘losing it’ on a couple of occasions already, ran straight to the melee and tried to punch Keith Mills, he missed completely but connected with Chris Davidson’s elbow and fell pole axed onto the grass.

Rather than calming things down this just made the whole situation worse, and to the cheers and goading of the ‘Threepennies’, Macklin crowned a brilliant game with a superb left hook that laid Fogerty out cold. As both he and Edson laid side by side on the pitch unconscious, several scuffles broke out and at one point referee Naughton waded in himself to try and separate both sides.

As it eventually calmed down, the two comatose players received the ‘magic sponge’ from both trainers and the referee lined both sides up facing each other and went down both lines of players shouting in their faces and wagging his finger at them. It was all very school boy like and comical, and the fans loved it. Sending offs for fighting were still very rare occurrences back then and all that eventually happened that afternoon was that both captains got a warning and we got on with the last few minutes of the game.

In the end the final score was 20-9 and we all went home happy. The tries scored and general play from the black and whites was great, but it was always something special when you beat Wigan and there was no doubt what was the topic of conversation in the pubs and clubs of Hull, that night because Jim Macklin, (who left a few years later for Bradford), would long remembered for that left hook!

Next some sad news to report, as a place that most of you have never visited, but many of you feel you know so well, is about to close down for good. The Royal Oak pub in Beverley better known as the ubiquitous ‘Drum and Monkey’ will finally close its doors on Saturday 3rd September. The old place where I have so many friends and indeed where I’ve made so many too, is not up for a further tenancy and has been sold by the owners for residential development. I’ll be taking Knocker Norton’s Boothferry Park Great Britain shirt off the wall, ‘mine hosts’ Natalie and Dan, who are good pals and have done a great job, will move out and the old pub will be no more, however on that last weekend rest assured we’ll all ‘sup some stuff’ and give the old place a good send off! Times change and traditional pubs everywhere are closing but here in Beverley, it’s a really sad time for us all and personally, I’ll be losing what is nothing less than my spiritual home! So tough times all round!

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R.I.P. The famous Drum and Monkey!

Next up on a happier note here’s an interesting gaff by the Mail as I think that the Mail got the caption mixed up a bit on this entry on their web site, or did they?

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Well, after a fantastic week of heroics at the Olympics, when we won our first ever trampolining medal (to coincide nicely with the year that Mr Allam threw the only real trampolining Club in the City, the Hull High Flyers, out of the council built arena), we still sit up there at the top of the league!! Who would, just a year ago, have ever believed that possible eh? While the rest of the league cast a green eye over how we built this great team and more to the point what our conditioning team is getting so right, who would ever have believed that we would be up there at the top of the ladder and back at Wembley in less than two weeks time.

However now it’s back down to earth and onto Thursdays game against Catalan and a match that coming as it does, just 9 days before Wembley, takes on added significance, as should a victory be forthcoming then it could mean that we are all but in the end of season play-offs. Should we rest players? Well who knows and we have to put our trust in the hands of Lee and the lads. It’s not often we thank Sky TV for anything but the choice of us lot as the Thursday game this week is a godsend really. With Warrington playing Cas next Saturday, (with a 7 day turn round), the advantage of a 9 day hiatus before the final sees those extra two days preparation as a massive plus. It’s an invaluable advantage recovery wise and one we will have to think carefully about to make sure we get the most out of it. Firstly though we have to somehow put Catalan to bed and that’s still a big ask!

Thanks for all the pictures, comments and continued friendship this week. All your input is greatly appreciated as always and how good it is to report that next week’s Diary is another Wembley Special, when as before I’ll try and capture the significance emotion and anticipation of what is a massive, massive day for the Club, for the fans and for yours truly too!! Silly old bugger that I am, I’m starting to get a bit excited already, but first let’s get through Thursday eh? I’ll be seeing you all again when the Diary is back next week, but in the meantime…….

KEEP BELIEVING!!!!!

Faithfully Yours

Wilf

And finally here is some practice for the community Hymn singing at Wembley…………………………..

(To the tune of Que sera, sera)

Will it be chips or jacket spuds?
Will it be salad, or frozen peas?
Will it be mushrooms?
Fried onion rings?
What’s Jordan got for tea?

Its kebabs, kebabs
It’s always kebabs, kebabs
Jordan loves kebabs, kebabs
He really loves kebabs!