The Dentist’s Diary – 536th

“We were pretty close to being at our best tonight….. if not at our best”.

That statement has to be good news, because it’s the first time since probably well before Wembley that Lee Radford has been able to say that. Our clinical approach and attitude throughout the whole 80 minutes was certainly commendable!

It was without doubt a very professional performance and a good solid start to our defence of the Challenge Cup. Lee described our execution as ruthless and quite frankly it’s hard to argue with that either. At times as a fan it was like watching a procession, as the ease by which we put on the pressure and then executed the final play was almost mesmerising in its nature. Tries came and tries went and with the exception of a short period after we had gone 8-0 up, when the crowd was hushed, as everyone fretted that we had started to think it was easy, it was plain sailing.

Out of sight by half time the injuries came at regular intervals, but although at one time we had three forwards in the backs it mattered little as we obviously wanted that Cup win so badly and we ended up with a display of attacking rugby built on the back of fast hands and some speedy play the balls.

Wracked with injuries, Catalan in the end were as poor a Super League team as I have seen at the KCOM for ages and only a drubbing would have been sufficient for the loyal supporters who turned up and, in the end, that’s exactly what they got. The point is that the Dragons had to be beaten and in the past we might just have forced the play, over-elaborated and thought we could score with every set; this time it was different, as we built pressure and despite a time or two when our rather flamboyant approach resembled that of the Harlem Globetrotters, in general that pressure led to points.

Good old Salford didn’t let us down either did they, as Rovers chased a chance of retribution but fell well and truly on their arses. I know a lot of you like your Derby’s, but you know that I’d reached saturation point with so many being played each year and for me they had lost their magic and I needed a break. So, had I known we would go through a whole 2017 campaign without having to play that lot at all, I think I would have paid double for my season pass!!!

The pressure of knock out rugby was always a worry in the build up to the game. With us being the current Cup holders there was just so much at stake and I didn’t relish the thought at all of the next three months going by with us still custodians of the Trophy, whilst all the while knowing that we couldn’t retain it. You know, I’ve always found myself pretty concerned when a team declares that they are missing loads of first team regulars, because past experience proves that we were never that good at ‘getting up’ for such encounters. Over the years we have often approach games like this one, thinking we’d won before we even started and preparation for such games in the face of all the media stories about the oppositions injury woes, must, for a coach, be a nightmare.

Attitude and application was paramount and always going to be a big issue for Hull FC as the game approached and I just hoped that the taste of Wembley was still ‘on the lips’ of some of our players and that they were wanting more of the same. We saw on Friday I think, that it certainly was and with a poor attendance on the night doing their best to raise the team, the motivation of being back on the Cup trail was in the end, all our guys needed.

It had been an interesting week and Adam said on Tuesday, “We’ll need the fans right behind us and I’m hoping they turn up in big numbers and make themselves heard on Friday night, because the atmosphere in recent weeks has been great and makes such a difference”. That indicated, I think, how much weight the Club put on the vociferous support they received in that Castleford game and the following Warrington victory. It’s always hard to build a cup gate from scratch without the value of season ticket holders attending with their passes and so these days it’s a bit of a scramble to get any sort of gate at all.

So, for me, the operators of the SMC have a lot to answer for and I ain’t just talking about the sacking of the volunteer Groundsmen that we learned about last week either! Last Tuesday, I went to buy my tickets for Fridays game and was met on entering the FC shop by a long queue of pass holders and fans patiently waiting to buy their entry to the game. It had, I was told, been much worse on Monday when the queue was out the door and I know people who just turned on their heels and went off again, because they couldn’t wait half an hour or so, to get served. The staff in the shops cannot be faulted at all because they work really hard to make it happen, but sheer weight of number dictates that it’s a difficult task to deliver without long delays.

You would think that everyone involved with the Stadium would want as many people in there for every game wouldn’t you? Looking across the food counter in the East Stand at the end of half time on Friday, to observe around two dozen unbought trays of chips under the heater panels, it made me wonder if it ever crosses their minds that it might be a good earner to get as many people in the place as possible. I certainly crossed my mind that perhaps on the contrary the owners of the SMC and Hull City spend most of their time trying to piss people off? That possibility certainly occupied my thoughts a time or too stood in that queue in the shop on Tuesday I can tell you. I had a great chat with a pal I hadn’t seen for ages, but nevertheless it was a tedious operation just to get a ticket and I’m one of the lucky ones, because I’ve a bit of time to spare these days. With just two ticket terminals in there its very unlikely that anyone bought much merchandise that day and the queue would have certainly put any impulse’ buyer off!

What a crazy move it was to get rid of the Stadium ticket office and instead install ticket machines in the two (Hull FC and Hull City) Club shops, particularly when we face an all ticket game like last Friday’s Cup match. For me, a Stadium of that size without a ticket office is a ludicrous proposition and then to not have cash sales on the turnstiles for such Cup games is stupid. Remember the days at the Boulevard with those signs that read ‘All Must Pay’ displayed at Cup matches, these days it would be nice if you were allowed to pay at the turnstiles at all!

Someone in the queue told me the Club had requested some unreserved tickets to sell in the Saville Street shop, but had been turned down but whether that’s true I don’t know. However, one thing is for sure it was certainly chaos all week in the FC Shop at the KCOM. Who knows if some folks might in future think, “With those Queues I can’t be arsed to bother” These days It’s tough being a supporter of either team that plays in the City’s Community Stadium, (that was built for the people, with the people’s money) isn’t it? Perhaps now that they are out of the Premier League, they will be more interested in the one team in the City playing in the top division of their sport, but then again I won’t be holding my breath.

But, enough of that and back to the game and lacking in atmosphere with a shockingly low gate mainly instigated by that difficulty engendered by the ticketing situation, the match and how we approached it was always going to be interesting. Those that were there did get behind the team though, although the chants of ‘Salford, Salford’ at the end were some of the loudest of the night, as were the protestations as Airlie Bird fell ‘fow’l of the Stewards in the South Stand, as a chorus of “We’ll report you to the RSPCA” broke out around us. But when your winning by 60 points we can all afford a good old laugh can’t we?

Despite a heavy downpour before kick-off making the ball and the pitch greasy our handling was generally pretty exceptional. We were a bit ‘loose’ at time but everyone played well and stuck at it even when forced passes and over-elaborate play meant we handed the opposition possession a time or two. In effect with a bit more poise and more luck with goal kicks we could have posted another 20 points on them, but that would just have been greedy!

Unlike most games there were few phases when the opposition looked to be getting on top. There was a quarter of an hour after the first two tries when we seemed to push it too much and gave away silly penalties. When after 90 seconds Michaels scored and then Griffin crashed over on the seven-minute mark after Sneyd’s short pass brilliantly put Shaul into space, it seemed the writing was already on the wall for the depleted Dragons. However, we then became a little too cocksure.

After Danny Houghton’s break, Shaul gave Albert Kelly a chance but he fumbled the ball with the line open, then Mark Minichiello forced an offload that squandered possession before Griffin became the next to spill the ball in a good position. We then lost Griffin to a head knock and when Chris Green failed to play the ball correctly, Catalans were further encouraged that after all, they may not have been chasing a lost cause. Sam Moa and both their half backs created good positions and we had to defend with our backs firmly to our line as a string of pedantic penalties from Mr Phaler put even more pressure on us.

However, it became apparent that we were just being a bit over confident and the steadying hand of Taylor, Mini and Houghton got us back on track with a few more structured plays and for the rest of the game we were thoroughly professional. There were some really class moments which it was easy to overlook as the tries just kept on coming. In particular for me, there was a peach of a pass from Kelly to Shaul for the full backs second try and one from Houghton to Turgot for his touch-down a little earlier in the game both of which were amazing bits of rugby. They are certainly both well worth watching a time or two on the replay tape.

As I said, once we had settled down to the task in hand any doubts were soon dispelled and we turned in a thoroughly professional performance throughout particularly on the mental side of things, where our focus and fortitude saw us never ever take the foot off the gas, even against such a demoralised side.

That’s a mark of a well-focussed team that, unlike in our first half display at Widnes, not only knew exactly how to approach the game, but were mentally strong throughout even when we were 50 points up.

Houghton got few mentions afterwards but I thought Danny and Albo were, in their differing ways, superb. Danny led from the front with a captains knock. Running from acting half as the Catalans’ tired he was back to his best and throughout the game he directed everything that was happening around him. He was blowing a bit and he’d told me after the Widnes game that his, ‘Lungs were burning’, but Friday showed that he’s certainly getting back to his best and oh how we have missed him. I thought Kelly was into everything and with Sneyd becoming frustrated when things didn’t go right for him, Albo stood firm and some of his linking and passing plays were simply superb.

I love the way that he injects himself into the line as he did before that second Shaul try and then just goes into overdrive to cruise through a hole, but he does so much more that goes un-noticed and ‘she a great asset who has that much sought after X factor and he is proving a massive acquisition. Those two managed most of the best stuff, but there were great and at times heroic performances, right across the team. Washbrook played a myriad of positions as he covered for injured players all over the place and if ever anyone deserves a new deal its him, he is a superb player and as I said a couple of weeks ago he has perfectly taken over the ‘Jack of all trades’ title from the great Richard Whiting. Another great show from Danny for me.

Jordan Thompson too shone wide out in the centre, playing in a position in which we haven’t seen him since his Castleford days and Jansin Turgot had a spell at centre too as a player who is more suited to the pack again had a top game throughout. Both props did well and ground out some really good yards and Watts in particular shone against a Catalan pack that with the exception of Sam Moa showed little appetite to mix it with our lot. Mini stayed on for the whole game and I have seldom seen a player more buggered at the end, as he got through tons of work and steadied things down when a few of the younger players got a bit carried away. Despite one unforced and poor off load in general he showed a wonderful ability to know when to pass and when to hold on and gain position.

From the bench Bowden and Green punished the lacklustre Catalans Forwards and in Fash we have a real ‘bull at a gate’ forward who’s quickly come of age and has strength a plenty, which is without doubt his greatest asset. Connor showed too that at last he is realising his immense potential and just why Huddersfield were so keen to hang onto him. He’s got a real footballing brain, isn’t afraid to take it up the middle if needs be and can tackle a bit too. His goal kicking’s pretty good as well and the nonchalant way he took that last conversion shows that he is a real confidence player. As for Marc Sneyd well he did a lot right and in that first half his pass movement to the left in particular was very effective. His missed goal kicks certainly hit his confidence and his game went backwards as the match wore on. He blamed that toe injury he sustained at Widnes and was reported jokingly by our coach, to be sulking afterwards in the dressing rooms. He’s a ‘temperament’ player for me and it’s good that he beats himself up a bit when it doesn’t go his way, for he’ll be better for it in the weeks to come and anyway if your kicker is to have an off day, then when better to do it than in a game in which you score 12 tries.

As for the rest well Fonua struggled from early on, but scored a good try, Michaels had a wow of a game on the wing and Shaul is really now coming into his own. Playing (along with Bowden) in his 100th game for the Club he has found that extra yard of pace and acceleration and whenever he gets the ball he’s a real threat again. He took both his tries really well.

So as the old adage goes, “You can only beat what is in front of you”, and we did that emphatically with no mercy shown and a consistent 80-minute display, despite a host of injuries disrupting our pattern. When we had to defend (and for those who didn’t go we needed to be very strong indeed on our goal line on several occasions) we did it really well and the way we held our line in the middle of the field, as Catalan spread the ball, was great to watch. It was in hindsight possibly our best performance of the year thus far, let’s just hope that we can take it into the Magic Weekend and indeed that our injuries do not disrupt us too much. I’m already hearing that Ellis is a doubt for next weekend, but we could well have both Griffin and Carlos back, while Manu’s suspension is over, but there must still be some question marks over that ankle injury he sustained against Warrington. It will be another interesting week on the treatment table I think!

The Cup draw held few surprises as we knew Leeds would get the easiest tie and you could almost predict a Wigan v Warrington match up too, so it was just down to who of the other three we would get and would we be at home? I thought as usual we would get a tough one, because we always do. However, we should never really fear anyone at home and having seen how the lads used the ‘whiff of Wembley’ and the lingering taste of last year’s success to motivate themselves as they produced that fine performance against Catalans, I can honestly see us doing the Tigers, particularly if we get amongst them in the middle of the field, which for our lot is never a difficult proposition. It’s still a way off and of course injuries will come into the equation, but I just wanted to be at home in the quarter finals and I got my wish!

Just a quick aside before I go on, concerning that game between Castleford and Saints at the Jungle on Saturday. I know in the end Cas blew the Lancastrians away but I switched off well before it finished because once again I was cheesed off by the officials. The fact is that the turning point in the game came with the home team winning 10-4 and Saints scoring what appeared to all of us a perfectly good try. The video referee was called to adjudge it and declared, “I can clearly see the ball on the line in slow motion, let me see it in real time… no its not conclusive, so No Try”. But we could all see that it was a blooming try! It may not have made any difference in a woeful Saints performance, but the visitors were robbed and for me it just animates everything that is wrong with the officiating in our game.

So to the week past and first of all, well done to Albert Kelly for being awarded the try of the month for April for that effort against Warrington at the KCOM. However, I have to say for me, it was a strange choice. For a start off, it was great that Albo won it, but the plaudits really do have to go to his team-mate Mahe Fonua who did most of the work. I know that these awards are never made for just great individual effort but rather for the complexity of the move leading up to the try.

You’ll remember on this occasion that Fonua initially intercepted Declan Patton’s pass and raced 90 metres before finding Kelly back on the inside as the half-back added the finishing touch. So a fine score and a smart piece of work and let’s face it we all love a run-away effort like that don’t we, but try of the month? Well if it was the game is in a sad state indeed. Fonua was out of position and stranded when he made a fortuitous interception, athletic though it was, Kelly came from nowhere and ran really well to catch up with the play. It’s just my view of course, but some of the tries that I saw Castleford score earlier in April probably offered a bit more both in their construction and individual skill. However, perhaps it’s just me and anyway I ain’t complaining, because it’s always nice to win things. One thing’s for sure though, I don’t think it will be the last accolade Albo will be getting this year, do you?

On Wednesday the Danny Houghton Testimonial Committee announced the first five events of his year which is bound to be an exciting time with something for everyone.

The event details are as follows;
Sunday 9th July 2017 at the KCOM Stadium
Grand Opening Event – Danny Houghton’s Man of Steel Dinner.

This is an almost unique chance to see a host of ‘Man of Steel’ winners in one room at one time, as the game’s elite come together to celebrate Danny’s Special Year. Those already confirmed include, Dave Ward, Mick Morgan, George Fairburn, Gary Schofield, Zak Hardarker, Daryl Clark, Danny Brough, Brett Hodgson, James Lowes, Paul Sculthorpe and Jamie Peacock. Almost half of the tickets have already been sold so you will have to move fast if you want to attend with VIP tables of 12 available at £60 per seat and standard tables at £45 per seat. To book contact Jed Rust on 07780 117302

Saturday 8th July 2017
Release of ‘2016 The Year of the Airlie Bird’ by Pete Allen

This new book chronicles all the anguish, heartbreak, joy, happiness and final disbelief that epitomised that wonderful 2017 Season at Hull FC, follows an ordinary fan through the emotional roller coaster ride that culminated at Wembley Stadium, in what was the greatest moment of his life. All profits from the book which will retail at £15 and be sold through the Club shops, will go to the Danny Houghton Testimonial Fund.

Tuesday 12th September
Danny Houghton Golf day – Cottingham Parks (sponsored by Riverside Volvo)

This event which will feature a shotgun start at 1-30pm is priced at £40 per player and that includes coffee, a bacon sandwich on arrival, a 2 course meal, presentations in the Clubhouse and a raffle. There is also a Special Prize of a stunning Volvo v40 valued at £23k for a hole in 1 at the par 3, 14th hole. For tickets and further information contact Karl Brooks on 07849 023215

Tuesday 26th September 2017
Grand Danny Houghton Testimonial Race Night – at The Lambwath Sutton Road from 7-30pm.

This event has proved to be a great evening when hosted for other Testimonial campaigns and should again be a highlight of the year. Race Sponsorships are still available at £30 and Horse Sponsors are still sought. For details contact Dick Ollett (Tel 07944 540634 or e mail Richard.ollett@uk.bp.com). All support is of course welcome on the night so come along meet Danny and have a flutter!

Saturday 25th November 2017
(By Popular Demand) The Danny Houghton Ladies Night – at the KCOM Stadium

Ticket Prices for this event are priced at £35 for what is always a popular night for the ladies with the guys from the team. A three course meal is included and there will be a raffle as well as lots of fun and games. PLUS…. you’ll have the chance to see the FC players like you’ve never seen them before and do it for a whole year, as the Committee also launch the Danny Houghton 2018 Team Calendar that night as well! This event is selling out quickly so contact Lisa Jewitt on 07717 307017 for your tickets and that’s just the start, as several other really high profile events are planned for the year and I’ll make sure that you hear about them first in here.

Now you might be aware that there are going to be a number of Plaques positioned around the City, by the Council, as part of the Lord Mayors Centenary (Not that he is 100 himself but rather it being 100 years since they appointed the first Lord Mayor of Hull). Bill Dalton the Club historian has been heavily involved with the scheme because the council has decided that Sport in the City should have a place amongst it all and Hull and Rovers were therefore invited to nominate 3 players each, preferably local, who had made significant or noteworthy contributions to Sport in the City.

The Council themselves expected Millward and Sullivan to feature because they are recognised as being adopted by everyone in the City. The Rovers nominations were compiled by their historian Roger Pugh, (wasn’t he in the Trumpton Fire Brigade) and they have come up with Flash Flanagan and Colin Hutton to complement the great Millward. As for Hull FC, well it was a really difficult task so, as Jack Harrison already has a Memorial at the KC, a paving stone at the War Memorial in Sutton and a row of houses off Beverley Road named after him he was passed over and in addition to Sully, it was decided that Billy Batten was a must, but the third one was so hard to decide upon.

In the end as a Club we settled for Harry Taylor our Full Back between 1898-1911. Bill informed me that he captained the very first Northern Union (Great Britain) team in the first Test series ever against the New Zealand tourists back in 1907-08. Hull-Born, he played for Falcons Junior Club before joining Hull and played for Yorkshire more times than any other Hull player in the history of the game, in addition to his 365 games for Hull (one more than that other illustrious full back Arthur Keegan). The essential criteria were that the recipients had to already be deceased and so it’s a good job that we have a person like Bill to consult about some of the amazing players we had back in the old days. The ceremony is going to be on May 24th at The Guildhall and apparently Johnny Whiteley is lined up to speak and its certainly great that the City Council is about to remember its heroes both on and off the field in such a way.

Well, the new book is finished and all being well it will be on general sale as indicated above in aid of Danny’s Testimonial, on 8th July in both the Club shops. However, as I research it and spoke to fans about the impact of 2016, I have grown to realise just how significant it all was to me personally as a fan. It also got me around to thinking this week just how differently it might all have turned out had it not been for the actions of a group of fans and the City Council just 16 years previously, when back in the dark days of David Lloyd we were within minutes of disappearing altogether from the world of British Rugby League. I had a thumb through the pages of ‘Roamin’ Book Two and looking at 1999, I came across my account of what happened in those days following us selling out to Gateshead and applying somewhat in desperation, to join the lower division of the competition. So this week just for a change in Codgers Corner we’ll have a ‘count you blessings’ session and I’ll repeat my take on the inside track of what was happening back then with the Club we love, just in case we ever forget how close to oblivion we came!

“………On 5th November the City Council staged a massive Hull 700 Firework display on the Marina and despite the fact that I was, I guess, responsible for the safety of over 30,000 people that night, all I could think about was Hull FC, it had totally taken over my life. I couldn’t eat properly, I felt sick and no doubt like hundreds of other ‘faithful’ Hull fans, every night I would lay awake tossing and turning and going over all the various scenarios in my head.

That day too, instigated by the much publicised demise of Hull FC, questions were asked in Parliament about the “shambles” that was the British game of Rugby League in general. The MP’s present came to the conclusion that there was a need for “a sweeping review of the Rugby League’s governing body”. I think we could have told them that. I knew that the Leader of the Authority, Pat Doyle (who, for a politician, was a thoroughly good bloke) was a big Hull FC fan and more importantly a great advocate of the City of Hull and all its sports teams, and that he wouldn’t just let us go down without a fight, but try as I may to get a word with him, I couldn’t, because he was always in meetings, in fact, I got the distinct impression that in the Guildhall he was avoiding me!

At the Club no one had been paid for over 5 weeks, sponsors JWE had withdrawn their last two monthly payments of £10,000 and wanted out and as pre-season training commenced, only 7 players, Murdoch, King, Poucher, Ireland, Holgate, Schultz and Fletcher, turned up. The Hull Daily Mail headlines announced, “Monday is D Day for the Sharks” and intimated that on the same day the now aligned Northern Ford Premiership Clubs (without doubt encouraged by our neighbours across the river) were prepared to vote ‘en bloc’ against Hull’s entry into their competition. We were on the very brink of extinction, as every Hull FC fan waited for that next critical announcement and held their breath.

After another sleepless night on Sunday, Monday really dragged. I couldn’t work and just fretted away the morning waiting to hear from the meeting of Championship Clubs in the West Riding. As was my habit, around lunchtime I once again wandered into the Council Press Office and riffled through the outward Releases to keep up to date with what was happening around the authority. To my amazement I found one which had ‘Embargoed until 12-00 midnight on Monday 15th November 1999’ emblazoned in red ink across the top. The title of the release was ‘Hull City Council welcomes the management of Gateshead Thunder to the City’. I had to read it three times before I realised what all the meetings that had been going on in Pat Doyle’s office, had been about.

Vince, Steve and the Boys from ‘In Any Kinda Weather’ who had met at the Boulevard two weeks earlier with Shane Richardson the Chief Executive of the Thunder, The Hull Daily Mail, Hull City Council, the Council Leader (and FC fan extraordinaire) Pat Doyle and the rank and file of fans of Hull FC had between them somehow, combined to change the Gateshead Club’s mind and delivered a miracle.

When the Americans talk about the big day in their primary elections as being ‘Super Tuesday’, they don’t know the meaning of the word. When the news broke from that Press Release that famous morning, the whole City and indeed the whole of the sporting world was talking about it. Hull fans danced in the street whilst Rovers fans choked on their gruel. The official statement from the Rugby League read:

“Super League clubs yesterday gave their unanimous backing for a merger between Gateshead and Hull Sharks. The move brings to an end Super League rugby in Gateshead as the newly-formed club will play in Hull. The mergers acceptance means the new club will receive £1.25m over two years. These payments will satisfy the creditors of Hull and Gateshead. As a result of the merger, David Lloyd no longer has any involvement with or ownership of the company. The merged team will play Super League matches in Hull, initially at ‘The Boulevard’ and then at the planned new stadium in the West of the City. The existing playing squad and administrative staff from Gateshead will transfer operations to Hull and join forces with the remaining players and staff there”.

The first comments from our new owners made it perfectly clear that the ‘Sharks’ were no more, the ‘fancy dress’ and green shirts were gone forever and Hull FC were back, playing in Black and White hoops. All I did at work that day was field an endless stream of telephone calls from pals and visit other fans in the Guildhall who were just as relieved as me. There was little productivity of note that day in many places of work across the City, but that’s acceptable when you’re faced with such a life changing event. At 49 years of age I was as elated as a kid on Christmas Day and after weeks of despair and worry, nothing could have prepared me for the wave of unmitigated joy that overtook me.

However old you are, when you’re a fanatic you never learn do you, and so I went to seek out one or two Hull KR followers who had spent the past 6 weeks taunting and ‘ragging me’ about how they as a Club would soon be the only team in the City. That day, the look of disappointment on their faces was pretty sweet believe me. My case was assisted by the front page of the Hull Daily Mail that showed an old photograph of Stanley Gene, sitting on a bench on Hessle Foreshore eating fish and chips. The hero of New Craven Park who had left just two months earlier for the Thunder, was making a quick return to the City where he was idolised, but ‘sadly’ (for the Hull KR fans at least) for the wrong team! (n.b. Albert Kelly?) I remember pointing out to those same Hull KR fans that what had happened was little short of a miracle and how ironic it was that the Northern Ford Premiership Clubs who included Hull KR had, by threatening to refuse our admission, actually enabled and facilitated the whole process.

We might have seen The Queen, Desmond Tutu, the Duke of York, Civil War re-enactments, firework displays and rock concerts in a very special 1999 in the City of Kingston upon Hull, but for this particular rugby fan there is little doubt what was the best thing to come out of the Hull 700 Celebrations.

Of course there were casualties in all this change and the fans of the Gateshead Club were certainly unhappy about the outcome, threats of legal action were made and even, allegedly, a brick thrown through Shane Richardson’s back window in Blaydon. They may have been few in number but a thousand or so Gateshead followers signed a petition to stop the merger going through but it was too late, the deal was done. The City Council and its Leader had played a big part in the ‘revolution’ and the payment they would make to the new owners of the Club for the Boulevard Stadium, ensured that once they had received the £1.25m that the merger provided from the Rugby League, both Hull FC and Gateshead Thunder would be debt free.

Two nights later, on the Thursday, we all went back to the Charleston Club, this time not for a crisis meeting but rather to celebrate and meet two Directors of the Gateshead Club, who were now on the Board of Hull FC. The place was buzzing that night as we discussed the 15 strong Australian contingent of players that had suddenly become our new ‘heroes’. It was then that Vince Groak and Steve Roberts reiterated the idea of forming an Independent Supporters’ Group and so HISA (Hull Independent Supporters Association) was born. We all signed up on what was a great evening particularly as Olga Waudby, Roy’s widow, took pride of place at the front of the crowd. How proud and relieved Roy would have been that night and how sad it was that he couldn’t be there to see it. Hull FC were back in business and the Sky was the limit!!” …..”

That’s how close we came to extinction and perhaps a blue plaque to Pat Doyle wouldn’t go amiss one day, because it’s a time that I think we should all never forget!

Talking of times past, I was hearing this week from that same Vince Groak who has been a pal for years and was of course the editor and co-writer of the famous ‘In Any Kinda Weather’ fanzine in those dark, dark times. Vince has been working for two years on his latest literary offering which is to be released at the end of May. It’s a book relating the story behind the 1980 Cup Final and is entitled ‘Last One Out; when Hull Invaded Wembley’ and I know that he has been sourcing stories, memories and tales from dozens of fans from both sides of the City that attended the fateful day at Wembley when the City of Hull emptied and every coach in the North of England headed down the motorway to the Capital. It will be a fantastic read, as was Vince’s last book ‘To Hull and Back’ about the life of Lee Crooks and I’ll give you more details as I get them.

So, after that amazing win on Friday we move onto the Magic Weekend which I will be viewing as usual from afar, in fact no doubt from ‘behind the settee’. A Saints team with a new coach to impress will be out to make a real fist of it and we’ll have to be ready for them, if we are to get anything at all from the game. Injuries will play a big part and a lot will depend on who we can get back out on the field. Good luck to all of you who are going, I’m sure you’ll have a really great weekend.

Thanks to everyone who got in touch during the week and also to everyone who came for a chat at the Catalans game including Karl Brooks, my old childhood buddy Barry King, reader Alan, Mike from Cheshire, Tony P and Sid Geldish. It’s great to be in the final 8 for the Cup and I’m sure given a fair wind we can see off Castleford, despite them being the darling of the pundits at present.

There will be a lot of disenchanted and despondent City fans this morning and my heartfelt thoughts go out to them, for we have all been there. But as for their owners? Well they get no sympathy at all from this sports fan because let’s face it, it just goes to prove that you can’t buy everything!!!

So, after 5 wins on the trot, a thoroughly satisfactory night at the KCOM and an even more satisfactory weekend all round, I end another upbeat Diary. Thanks for sticking with me again and let’s see how we go at Newcastle!

Keep Believing!

Faithfully Yours

Wilf