Forever a Hero!
“We’re on the march with Arthur’s Army
We’re all off to Wembley
And we’ll really shake ‘em up when we win the Challenge Cup
‘Cos Hull are the greatest rugby team”
As Fans, a Club and a Family, this week we lost one of the finest people to ever be associated with Hull FC and our most successful Coach of all time. Arthur Bunting’s record as a hero for the masses speaks for itself. In 7 glorious years of unprecedented success, when we won everything, he gained the status of a Rugby League legend, as he masterminded a golden era in the history of our beloved Club. His star has shone brightly ever since! If you never saw a Bunting coached team, full of flamboyant rugby and classy players expressing themselves, you missed a treat, but no-one should ever be in any doubt as to just what a great coach he was, because those of us who did witness his years at the Club, will never forget. It is a measure of his significance to the Airlie Birds that since those halcyon days his has been the benchmark against which every FC coach and every period of success has been judged and indeed will be judged in the future.
Personally, with his death this week I lost a very special piece of my life and on Thursday lunchtime I went and sat on that stone bench at the Boulevard Memorial in Airlie Street, to reflect on a hero taken from us. Hull FC will certainly be a sadder place now he’s gone. However, we’ll always have our memories and at least before he passed away he realised ‘The Dream’ and witnessed Hull FC as they went ‘off to Wembley’, ‘really shook them up’ and ‘won the Challenge Cup’. Arthur will always be remembered by everyone who witnessed that glorious era between 1978 and 1985, an era that will always be referred to as The Bunting Years!
R.I.P. ARTHUR BUNTING
With the loss of Arthur and the redoubtable Shaun O’Brian, it’s been a tough week for the Codgers brigade as we said goodbye to two of our own and they joined the celestial branch of the FC Army in the Sky. There will be more about the legacy of Arthur later, but somehow I guess life goes on and as we all struggled a bit to get back to the ‘here and now’, last Friday’s trip to Salford was certainly a daunting proposition to face. However, in the end, the lads were mindful of the Clubs great loss and played with ‘Buntinesque’ pride and passion in a display that the great man would have been proud of. With so many out injured and missing from the squad for the game in West Manchester there was a distinct resemblance last Friday to the performances we witnessed back in the 80’s from what we then referred to as ‘Buntings Babes’, as our youngsters, Proctor, Crooks, Divorty, Scofield, Puckering, Jimmy Portz, Shaun Patrick and several others, stepped in and pulled off some similar feats of heroism through the ubiquitous ‘Injury woes’ that came along during those fixture packed seasons.
Whenever I bumped into fans and Diary readers last week we all talked at length about the fact that the current congested schedule and injury concerns could possibly see us ‘picking our games’ a bit this year. Pointing, as we did, to how successful that tactic had been for Wigan on the road to winning the Grand Final last year, many thought that it was the best policy. There is little doubt that with the exception of Castleford most teams have been through some ups and downs form wise, as they juggle injuries, fatigue and the schedule and no doubt for the Tigers ‘Their time will come’!
Then of course there was the upcoming Cup game to think about and it is pretty well known around the Club that had that game been this week, at least a couple of the those ‘missing presumed injured’ would have played. So, it would appear that we were planning ahead a bit too. That fact in itself proves to me how far we have come as a Club, as Lee put his trust in a clutch of youngsters and battlers like Washy and Co to get us a result. Last season, such was the pressure on the coach and the team, that we played our best players whether they were fully fit or not but now, after winning ‘That Cup at That Stadium’, it seems the pressure is off, we have a level of self-belief, our youngsters are a year on and we are certainly benefiting from having a trophy in the cupboard. That and of course the fact that some of our younger stars profited from being thrust into the first team straight after that Wembley win, sees us reaping the benefits of that exposure to the realities of Super League, as now they don’t look at all out of place in the starting 17.
Everyone likes an under-dog coming good and Salford, playing their hearts out this season, were and maybe still are, with Castleford and Wakey, the pundits ‘chosen ones’ with regard to where they could finish come Round 23. So a trip to ‘Tumbleweed Towers’ in West Manchester was always going to be a massive test. We have however, due to a bit of an in and out season, emerged as the nearly boys and that has seen us flying nicely under the radar, a situation that is I think benefiting us a lot.
When the team was announced and Danny Houghton (after an early hours visit to A & E with a bout of illness) was missing, it was hard to see anything but a defeat to a Salford outfit, still smarting from a home reversal to Wakefield last week. Yet despite a bit of a cobbled together line up, the players we had available certain took the game to the opposition from the off. Albert Kelly is a maverick and although missing the odd tackle and throwing the occasional wayward pass he was simply inspirational in that first half when the forwards, working so hard down the middle to upset a big Salford pack, were magnificent. Albo thrived on the platform that Manu, Bowden and Thompson offered as Watts, playing out of his skin showed much more control with the ball as well. That dominance allowed Connor to chime in with some real live wire action, as he probed the home defence to engineer some great positions. The fact that we could rest both our half backs in the second half certainly displayed just how on top of the game those fabulous forwards and bulldozing outside backs, had put us.
The Salford fans on the away terracing were certainly aggrieved by the amount of ‘alleged’ forward passes they apparently saw from behind the posts, but despite being blessed with ‘bionic vision’ they failed to spot the fact that playing flat balls in short positions against a home team gaining a growing reputation for the strength of its ‘middle’, was opening their lumbering and obviously fatigued forwards up like a tin of sardines! I was always expecting Salford to get back at us in the second 40 minutes, but we controlled the game brilliantly and despite a 12-10 second half score line, we never really gave them a sniff.
I always fear what might happen in the second half because for us in those circumstances and with a big lead it has so often unraveled in quite spectacular fashion. But I should have more faith because as the game rolled on it was a brilliant performance of controlled rugby and with ten minutes to go Salford simply had nothing left in the tank. We’d continued to batter them down the middle and then when the ball went across the line, Talanoa and Fornua ran over them wide out. Fash with 32 tackles to his name did really well and that’s quite a haul for a bench player. It was a massive effort for a lad who is only small and doesn’t play the full 80 minutes. He actually passed a couple of times too this week, but it is his no nonsense attitude and the fact he rarely makes a mistake that is his real forte.
The youngsters last season showed the promise that we had been told about, however they invariably played well for one game but started to fade by the next. This year they appear to be getting better and better the more game time they get. As well as Fash, Mase Matongo is just starting to look like a player that eventually could be a real ‘world beater’ in the front row, because his positioning and stance on impact is exactly right, he finds the floor in the right position and on the charge he is really hard to get down. Turgot is going to be hard to shift from the team as well, as he has a real eye for the break and Downs is starting to show signs of his undoubted talent too.
With the make-shift side we had out, it was full marks for the effort and the application and by the end it was a real lesson in game management for any team in the competition. If it wasn’t spectacular, at times it was certainly a very poised and workmanlike display that reminded me of our victory at Huddersfield earlier in the season. That night we got ahead and then never took our foot off the ‘throat’ of the opposition. This fine display was redominently down to the organizational skills and the vision of Captain for the night Danny Washbrook, who was absolutely imperious at hooker and was my man of the match, he was into absolutely everything and scored a great try too. He organised the line brilliantly to continue the form he has shown of late and as I have said for the past two weeks, as back row one week and hooker the next, he has certainly taken over the ‘Mr. Fix it’ mantle vacated by Richard Whiting.
But there were heroes right across the field and Connor as well as instigating the attacks is kicking well, both at the end of sets and when on conversion duty and so far; he has covered almost seamlessly for the absence of Marc Sneyd. He’s not got Marcs organisational ability, but he’s certainly blossoming into a really competent creative half, who perfectly complements the unpredictable brilliance of Kelly. He’s growing into a great player. Often in the shadow of the big forwards that are now out injured, it has also been a fortnight for both Thompson and Bowden to come to the fore and with Green missing this time the latter was drafted in late on and had a great game at Salford when carting the ball forward, just as Thompson had done against Wigan.
Shaul, after a quiet start to the campaign that epitomizes the way we are trying to build towards the end of the season, is getting back to his brilliant best and his try was a really gritty and tenacious effort, as in a 90-yard race he was run down by the Salford cover, but still just got over the line to administer what was undoubtedly the knock-out blow to the Red Devils. Had they caught him it could have fired a Salford revival, but when they didn’t, it finished them off and on such moments of brilliance games are settled. The big guys wide out were superb as well, as Talanoa and the returning Fonua smashed the home defence time and again and Michaels grabbed the usual yards and often got well over the advantage line to help out his forwards. Carlos too continued his good form and he is such an elegant player as the execution of his try showed.
We looked great on attack but our goal line defence was stunning at times too and Radford had certainly done his home-work on their heavyweight strike players who had throughout the season been lethal in the oppositions twenty. That has been the bedrock of Salford’s success thus far, but in general we did a real job on Hauraki, Murdoch-Massala (who has had an exception season thus far) and Griffin who were their main ‘close up’ strike players and all three looked pretty fed up by the end. Lee Radford has to take great credit for another two points gained because although his preparations are always meticulous, this week, the players listened to him and carried out his plans in great style. Whether it was the Bunting effect I don’t know but in these difficult and unpredictable times in Super League, Coaches have to look to every tool they have in their armory and what better to inspire the team than the memory of Arthur Bunting. It was a great night, a great performance and two very precious points gained. Well done to everyone involved!
The travelling supporters sang long and loud and mirrored the goings on out on the field as they completely out performed the home fans in a stadium that is pretty devoid of home fans and atmosphere; then again, the FC players ensured they had little to cheer anyway. To say they had done so well thus far, that gate of 2,678 was appalling and watching it back afterward Mr Koukash was certainly very forthright with regard to a need to reposition the team and even maybe re-locate it to realign with the ‘Manchester’ brand, but their player’s efforts on the field this season have certainly deserved better gates than that one.
As games go when you stand back from it all, looking at the fatigue and injuries involved and the number of players absent then perhaps it was our best performance of the year, but I said that last week and therefore a trend is developing that could auger well for the future. To beat a team still smarting from their first defeat in seven games last week, was quite a feat, but now its 9 days off, before we face knock out rugby again, against possibly the best team in the competition. That, after the bread and butter, week in week out fare of Super League is a different kettle of fish altogether. It’s a big ask but providing we can get some players back, the last two games couldn’t have given us more confidence or prepared us better. The road to Wembley beckons, so bring on the Tigers!
So to the week past and away from all the sadness I know some will think here we go again on player welfare but, I keep mentioning it because it continues to be the most pertinent concern about our game at present. Did you see just how knackered Sika Manu looked last week at half time? This week once again, there has been a great deal of criticism of the second double header of the season from that player welfare perspective. Our Coach has been one of the most vocal of late, with Lee last Monday even taking aim at Wayne Bennett, the England’s coach and the man now being identified as being responsible for the congested fixture list in Super League this year.
From, over the last couple of seasons, towing the line and keeping their heads down in an effort to show a united front in the game, both our owner and Coach have suddenly emerged in the vanguard of senior ‘movers’ in the game who are criticising the strain being put on British Super League Players. It’s a real turn around and when taken with the comments of the coaches of clubs with such contrasting fortunes as Castleford and Warrington it shows that people are genuinely worried about the stress being put on player’s bodies in the 2017 campaign. It’s not sour grapes or looking for excuses for under-performing, because from the successful and not so this season the underlying message seems to be, that someone is going to get really hurt or worse if we ain’t careful!
Radford said last Monday, “I sat in a room with Wayne Bennett and all he did was tell us that Super League isn’t as good as the NRL,” and did it a Radio Five Live interview that certainly ruffled a few feathers. He then went on to say that you didn’t need to be Albert Einstein to understand why that was the case as he added, “So, look at that Monday game and to the following week’s match and there’s your reason why it’s not as intense as the NRL. Half my team’s sat in the stands!!”. Then in a direct criticism of Bennett he offered the advice, “Don’t criticise our competition when it’s you that has had a massive impact in changing the comp and ultimately harming it. Nobody wants England to win the World Cup more than I do. But you’re going to send our troops over there bent, knackered and fatigued.”
Since then Leeds Rhinos coach Brian McDermott has also added his two-penneth, stating that his players were spent after the second double header, as he said, “You can’t keep getting them to go out and run a small marathon with some collision in there. There’s a limit to what the human body can take. We’re halfway through a 30-round season and this is our second catch-up weekend and my blokes have gone. They’re wasted at the moment.” So that’s McDermott, Radford, Smith and Powell and these ain’t lightweights, they are four of the top Coaches in the game! As someone in a senior position in our Club said last week, this has to be sorted before someone is seriously physically, or perhaps more likely mentally, injured. We will now no doubt watch, while the RL conduct an efficient sweeping under the carpet campaign!
Whilst we all wonder a bit about what is happening in Super League and the game in general I thought that last week, as the rain poured down and the garden was out of the question, I would have a look at that Summer Bash event that I had recorded. I only initially saw one game (being a big Bradford Bulls fan for the day) but I wanted to see just what the second tier of the competition had to offer. What initiated this action was in fact a chat I had with my old pal Barry King in Dunelm who had watched them all and enjoyed the quality of the rugby and I have to say when I did the same I found the experience quite entertaining.
The weekend extravaganza in Blackpool this year attracted a record total attendance of 16,444 over two days of action. That was a very commendable outcome I guess and the Saturday gate of 11,557 was excellent and the best figure for a single day at the event ever. That was of course because thousands of Bradford Bulls and in particular Hull KR fans flocked to the event, swelling the gate and creating a superb atmosphere for the television audience.
However, when you deduct that 11,557 from 16,444, you get 4,448, which was the crowd for the second day. On Saturday the Super League Magic Weekend’s loss was the Summer Bash’s gain as Hull KR packed them in and another well-supported team, Featherstone Rovers, were also in action on Saturday, when they faced London Broncos. But, for me looking closely at the nitty gritty of it all, Sunday was the problem, when Sheffield Eagles played Swinton Lions, Halifax took on Toulouse and the event concluded with a West Yorkshire Derby between Batley Bulldogs and Dewsbury Rams. These featured six clubs with limited crowd-pulling power.
You know my thoughts on the Magic Weekend and equally the Summer Bash is again a manufactured event, with manufactured fixtures and something that potentially distorts the final table. For example, The Dobbins were paired with the bottom team who would still only be mid table had they not been deducted 12 points, while the rest of the top-five met each other. That’s what you get when you allow administrators pick who plays who and their decision certainly on paper at least benefitted Rovers. In the end it actually transpired that they were almost beaten by a fiesty Bradford outfit.
So, that was certainly a well-attended first day, yet the second day’s audience hardly justified the event taking place at all and when you look at the current tables there is a distinct possibility that those big crowd pullers, Hull KR and Bradford, won’t be there next year, while Toronto Wolfpack, with no travelling supporters at all, will be. However, some eminent pundits who feel that the Super League equivalent is getting stale last week said that there was probably more of a case for continuing with the Summer Bash than there is for the Super League version. Championship clubs thrive on that one opportunity to play on a big stage in front of television cameras and the Summer Bash provides that as well as a great mid-season day or weekend out for supporters at a traditional British resort.
Having watched those games, one thing I would say is that it’s about time the RL pushed to get regular Championship RL on our screens, Sky have the rights, but chooses not to use them. It would be a boost to the sport if the RFL could encourage them to either have a rethink or pass them on to another broadcaster, because quite frankly the lower Leagues could do with the exposure and its good honest entertainment that I would certainly watch.
As I alluded to earlier, an ‘FC legend’ died this week. Arthur Bunting was a man of great integrity and up to his death a guy who always exuded great humanity and indeed great humour. Anyone who knew Arthur in his heyday would tell you that back in the early 80’s he was the consummate tactician and someone who on the training field, loved to originate some of the great moves we put on back then, whilst all the while balancing the whole thing by letting some extremely talented players play it as they saw it.
A cheeky scrum half when he played across the City, as a coach Arthur was renowned for letting the players express themselves and play flamboyant rugby, making Bunting teams always exciting to watch. The great Johnny Whiteley compared him to the current Cas Coach in his approach to the game and Arthurs teams certainly played the same ‘Play Don’t Worry’ style of rugby as the Tigers lads do today! He was a record-breaker too when Arthur’s early years saw his team actually set a record, that has never been equaled, as Hull went the entire 1978-79 season winning every league game on their way to winning promotion.
A few years ago I came by some of the original ‘Minute Books’ of the Club from that period and what comes across from those leather bound tomes is that he was always in the Board Room sticking up for the players and fighting for the best deals for the lads.
He was a popular coach both on the terraces and in the Changing room and a master in the skill of man management. He could harness the wayward elements of mavericks like Mick Crane and capricious souls like Knocker Norton, exploit the raw ‘Grunt’ of the Charlie Stone’s and the Trevor Skerrett’s of this world, capitalise on the kamikaze elements like Paul Woods and develop and enhance the silky skills of such classic performers as Peter Sterling, Steve Evans and Dave Topliss. However, for me watching the team throughout his reign as Head Coach there was no better seasons to be one of ‘Arthur Buntings Black and White Army’ than the 1981/82 and 82/83 campaigns.
We might have won the League the next year, but with two of the three major trophies in the cabinet 81/82 was the season for me! So, this week in the Codgers spot I’ll include an extract from my second book which I hope captures the atmosphere at and around that famous Cup Replay at Elland Road, which tactically was one of Arthurs finest hours.
“…….after drawing at Wembley in such dramatic fashion and then getting drubbed by Widnes the previous weekend in the Premiership Final we were quite understandably a bit apprehensive as to the outcome of the replay at Elland Road on Wednesday 19th May 1982. That was stress enough without being stuck in traffic for hours before we even got there! Arthur Bunting was the master tactician back then and he pulled a few surprise selections out of the hat that night too. Ronnie Wileman, the hero of our last Cup success in January, was replaced at hooker by veteran Tony Duke. However, the biggest surprise was on the wing where Clive Sullivan, now ‘A’ team Player/Coach and another at the veteran stage of his career, replaced the injured Dane O’Hara. In addition to these enforced changes Coach Arthur had made a couple of tactical moves too. Terry Day was dropped to the bench and in came Tony Dean, for Kevin Harkin at scrum half, whilst Lee Crooks and another veteran Keith Tindall, started in place of Sammy Lloyd and Mick Crane.
The match kicked off with hundreds of people still arriving and numerous announcements being made for people to move to the front of the ‘Kop’ end. This action caused the crowd to spill onto the pitch on several occasions during the first half. Widnes kept faith with their full Wembley line up and were visibly surprised by the tenacity and spirit the patched up FC side displayed in the first few minutes of the game. Then disaster struck as on 20 minutes Widnes took the lead. Mick Burke kicked an audacious penalty goal from well inside his own half and as the ball flew through the posts the crowd, craning their necks to see the outcome, again tumbled onto the field behind the dead ball line.
As the half wore on and the crowd settled down, we started to exert some pressure which culminated in Hull producing two tries that will be seared forever into the memory of everyone who was there. They were both masterminded on the training field by Bunting and were that good, that they will stay forever in this fans top ‘Desert Island’ tries of all time. Seven minutes from the break we were awarded a scrum inside the Widnes 25. This broke up as our adversaries were penalised. Dean, ever alert to the situation took a quick tap behind the collapsed scrum and passed the ball to Norton. ‘Knocker’ quickly linked with Dave Topliss who found Gary Kemble running a superb inside line and he touched down before some of the Widnes’ forwards could free themselves from the remnants of the scrum.
The next try came just on half time and featured that famous, ‘Wrap-around’ that became a trademark move of Dave Topliss. Tony Dean who was already winding up the Widnes forwards snatched the ball from a scrum and fed Leuluai, he passed to Topliss and then ran around him and gathered a return pass. This ‘switch’ move completely ‘wrong footed’ the Widnes defence and finished with Leuluai touching down without a hand being placed on him. I can still see it now and will no doubt be able to until the day I die. Young Lee Crooks converted the first try but hit the post with his second attempt before, to the surprise of every one, we went in 8-2 up at half time.
The second half started with the expected Widnes pressure which led to a successful penalty by Burke and when Wright overlapped on the wing they scored a try wide out although this time it was Burke’s turn to hit the post and forfeit the two points. We looked down and out and as fans we feared the worst, however a pulsating chorus of “Come on You Hulllaaarrr” circled the ground and the team responded brilliantly as great hands and a dummy from Norton sent ‘Toppo’ in from 15 yards out for another try. The capacity 41,711 crowd were then treated to some thrilling rugby as both sides tried to settle the game in their favour. Dean antagonised the Widnes forwards while Topliss tried everything he knew to get the line moving but in the end it was down to 18-year-old Lee Crooks, who afterwards commented that our coach had spent hours with him before the game, to fain a drop goal attempt and then dart over under the posts. The crowd behind him in the Kop went ‘bonkers’ and once again spilled over the fences and onto the pitch. Hull had won the Challenge Cup in one of the most exciting games I have ever seen.
For me the original game at Wembley was an anti-climax, that I rarely re watch, but over the years I have viewed that game at Elland Road over and over again and I still do, particularly when I feel a bit down in the dumps. Despite a 20 mile tail back on the M62, a weakened team and chaos on the terraces Arthur Bunting and his staff had led us to one of Hull FC’s finest hours!
My favourite picture from that night Crooks, Norton, Evans, Topliss, Tindall.
As Dave Topliss raised the Trophy aloft, the first Hull Captain to do it since the 1913/14 season, I was in pieces. It was then that I experienced that strange sensation of laughing whilst crying that only the sports fan (who thinks he has seen everything there is to see in his sport and who has so often been abused, goaded, broken hearted and disillusioned) really understands. It was a magical moment in a lifetime of following my Club, when just for a few hours I felt as though I was actually ‘touching the dream’. In the dressing room afterwards a BBC TV audience of around 5 million saw Tony Duke respond to the question, “How did it feel as the final whistle went”, by replying in his distinct Hull accent, “I bust out Roooring”. Didn’t we all Tony!
That 1981/82 campaign had been one of the most successful that our illustrious Club had ever experienced and I was honoured and a little humbled to be there at Elland Road that night to experience its amazing climax. The players were on a bonus of £1,200 a man to win the final, whilst a draw would bring them £500. In the end because of the replay, they got both payments; they all had a few beers and the Club made a fortune.
The moment we won it at Elland Road. Roy Waudby (obscured) Arthur, Kenny Foulkes, ‘Knocker’, Ronnie Wileman and Kevin Harkin celebrate a tremendous win!
With all those spectators packed into Elland Road it was amazing when after the match West Yorkshire Police stated that despite all the traffic problems and congestion in the ground there was just one arrest that night and that for drunkenness well away from the ground. Broadcaster Simon Kelner probably witnessed this arrest as in his great book about Rugby League, ‘To Jerusalem and back’ he states that the only incident he saw, was a minor fracas in the Town Centre before the game when, “A Hull supporter dressed in a homemade black and white cape and a striped top hat tried to push into a taxi queue, claiming he was the Minister for Sport”
The boys admire the trophy as Topliss, Stone and Tindall parade the Cup.
We all went to the Guildhall a couple of days later and watched as our heroes, many of whom had obviously ‘had a few’, raised the Cup in turn under the watchful eye of Lord Mayor Councillor Phyllis Clarke. I then went round to the ‘Watchman’s Entrance’, bluffed my way into the Reception and ducking a few flying bread cakes coming from the direction of Sammy Lloyd and Steve Norton, managed to get a souvenir menu card signed by all the players. Then it was time to reflect on an excellent season.
What a campaign that was! Steve Norton was voted ‘Truemann’s First Division Player of the Season’ and reached his 100th career try, while the great Arthur Bunting won ‘Coach of the Season’. The average home gate was 13,190 and a new aggregate attendance record for the Boulevard of 197,844 was attained. We played 45 matches and lost just 7 and the Colts won all three of their trophies at junior level. What a year to be an FC fan, particularly if you had endured those barren and bleak 60’s and 70’s. Of course in the end it was those bad times that made that magnificent campaign under Arthur Bunting, so, so sweet.
As a foot note, winning those trophies did cause a few problems for the Club because when Hull FC had those Cups in Hull, the security at the Boulevard was so bad that the Police advised them to make ‘alternative overnight arrangements’ for their storage. Ivy and Ernie Mason those great stalwarts of the Club who lived just across Airlie Street in Graham Terrace, came to the rescue and ended up sleeping on numerous occasions with the Trophies ‘under the bed…..”.
That was one of the greatest seasons in the history of Hull FC and the whole thing was masterminded by a guy who was always a work-a-holic, always a professional and to the day he died, a thoroughly good bloke. RIP (the Great) Arthur Bunting!
It is also sad to report that in the last few days we lost Shaun O’Brian who was one of the stalwarts of our pack in the difficult days of the 1960’s. He played 75 games and scored 8 tries but was a really uncompromising player who always gave as good as he got. In the early 80’s along with Jackie Turner the boxer, John Edson and a couple of other FC players Shaun would work for me as a bouncer when I was City Hall Manger and could always be found in the pit at the front of various rock concerts. He was one of those bread and butter players without whom our club would have never survived in those tough 1960’s. Always a real gentleman, as is the case with Arthur he will be sadly missed by everyone who knew him. R.I.P. Shaun O’Brian.
So there we are, another Diary almost over as now we face our destiny in the Challenge Cup and battle Castleford on Sunday to try and retain the Trophy we won in such dramatic and life changing circumstances on that sunny afternoon last August. A massive task awaits us and it couldn’t be a harder proposition than to be meeting a red hot Castleford side, who sit top if the pile in the Super League. But, we are a fighting team with tons of spirit and a real will to retain that trophy. I expect to see a few back and the introduction of a fresh Mark Minichiello, Danny Houghton and perhaps Scott Taylor could make all the difference, who knows, we might even see Ellis returning too.
We’ll maybe watch the game for a change with some friends in the West Stand, but whatever happens do your very best to get there, because we desperately need to get behind the team as we did in the Wigan game and if we do create a tremendous atmosphere throughout ….who knows!
Thanks for all the contact, calls, and chats of late and for all the Arthur Bunting memories in what has undoubtedly been a sad old week for the FC Faithful. I also want to wish my pal and good mate Sarah a speedy recovery, she’s one of the good guys but has certainly been through it a bit of late and so my warmest wishes go out to her! It was also great to hear this week from Luke, working out in Somalia, from Brian and my old pal Stu in Spain and thanks to them and everyone else who got in touch.
So that’s it and Castleford await us. Let’s hope we can get sufficiently wound up this week with the emotion that goes with the need to contest the Trophy that we at present hold and lets just pray that on the day we give it our all. We can, as fans, do our bit too and if the lads perform to the top of their ability and we reciprocate from the terraces, we can ask no more really and then as I said earlier, who knows??
Lee Radford said as we set out on the most important week of the season, “I can’t wait for this fixture and we are huge underdogs. It’s a big game. We didn’t fight as hard as we did last season to give it away easily this year. When the draw came out I got goose-bumps. It’s that feeling we had from last season, so I’m looking forward to it”.
For me, in the end that’s our bloody Cup and we ain’t giving it up lightly. Let’s all go for it on Sunday and get into the semi’s again eh?
KEEP BELIEVING AND FOLLOW THAT DREAM!!!!!