The Dentist’s Diary – 558th

Season tickets are on sale, Old Trafford has come and gone and the lads are off on their holiday and despite the up-coming World Cup, it has all now got a real end of season feel about it, hasn’t it! However, this year, with that Tournament, it’s going to be a truncated closed seasons spanning either side of the four-yearly bun fight that is our premier international extravaganza, which kicks off at the end of the month.

But closed seasons always bring out all sorts of traits in the fans and this week there have been a lot of folks out there, probably fuelled by disappointment, who have been expending time and energy comparing us with the eventual Grand Finalists. Several I have spoken to have been despondent because we weren’t at Old Trafford and lamented the fact that we haven’t won everything on offer. In fcat I guess as the teams lined up to be introduced on Saturday night, none of us could really fail to have not thought, “That could have been us!” However, as Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy” and although I was a bit fed up myself after the Headingley finale, I’ve avoided much of that and I still feel 9 days on, that 2017 has been a pretty good season.

I guess the fact that we aimed from day one to peak at the end of the campaign and then didn’t quite make it, is a bummer, particularly because I think that those grumbling fans have a point when they say that we were the best team in the competition ‘on our day’. Nonetheless, as often happens when you put your eggs in one basket we came a cropper and fell at the last hurdle, simply because on that Friday night in Leeds it wasn’t ‘our day’!

But, of course we didn’t quite put all those ‘eggs’ in that ‘basket’ as we won the Challenge Cup again and that has to count for something. The British game boast just two real trophies, we win one of them and get within a goal kick of competing for the other and people are saying that it was a disappointing year. Well if nothing else, I guess that just shows how far we have come and how high we’ve all set our sights this past season. Yet we have won a trophy for the second straight year whilst leading clubs like St Helens, Warrington and Wigan all went home entirely empty handed from the 2017 campaign.

I had a great time at Wembley and experienced some gripping encounters on the way there and indeed at the end of the season, which for me make for some fine memories from 2017; not fine enough this time around to write a book about, I’ll grant you that, but good memories just the same. One things definite though and that’s the fact that I’m ready for a bit of a rest now and quite looking forward to all the rhetoric, intrigue and anticipation that the closed season brings.

However, as I’ve been accused of being a bit of a ‘Happy Clapper’ of late, this week, as the dust settles on that 2017 season, I’ll have a look at the miscellany of problems, plusses, issues and pitfalls that I think face Hull FC as they tackle the next campaign which could well be fraught with difficulties.

It’s an outlook going forward that certainly has its concerns, none lesser than the fact that a team that was capable of winning the Grand Final this year and that put in so much effort and work to make that the target from the off, in the end fell heartbreakingly short and may never have such a good chance of winning it again. Leeds were, we now discover, on a mission that night, yet we got a lot nearer to ‘doing them’ than the darlings of the media, Castleford, could last Saturday. That in essence is actually how close we came! The players were visibly shell shocked that they hadn’t made Old Trafford and so subsequently one has to wonder just how much appetite and focus some of those heroes will have, when it comes to going through all that again next year?

I’d like to think tons and I’m sure so professional is our set up that next season things will be freshened up, changes will be made and it won’t be an issue, but there are a few matters just around the corner that could, just the same, transpire to make things all that much harder and throw the proverbial spanner in the works for next term. But more of that later.

Firstly, on a lighter note, let’s have a quick look at the week past which brought some heartening moments for us all. We didn’t have the success we enjoyed last year at the end of season awards, but it was still great to see Danny Houghton retain the Man of Steel Hitman title this week, (the fifth time he’s won the accolade) and quite amazingly he’s now reclaimed it three years in succession. Houghton is an enigma and indeed a ‘freak’ when it comes to tackling, particularly for a guy who is so mild mannered and genial off the field, and yet who tackles with such ferocity (again and again), on it. At 27 and enjoying a Testimonial Year, he easily topped the tackling charts for Super League with 1,123, which is pretty damn good, particularly when you consider that he missed the whole of April through an injury that he sustained in the first minute away at Wigan.

Danny wasn’t on his own either as Marc Sneyd the man who made history at the Cup Final by becoming the first player to win the Lance Todd Trophy as Man of the Match outright, back-to-back, also hung onto the honour as Super League’s ‘Top Gun. An award that is given to the goal kicker with the highest ratio of successes against kicks taken. The 26-year-old booted 103 goals in Super League this year, with easily the highest percentage of conversions and for a team that has relied heavily on tries scored wide out on the flanks, it was again a quite amazing feat.

The Boys at the Man of Steel Awards (very smart Albo!!)

Those two were then joined by Captain Gareth Ellis, who has now officially retired following what can only be described as a glittering 19-year playing career. He was awarded an Outstanding Achievement prize having clocked up over 450 career appearances. Gareth is, I’m told, still struggling with retiring from playing and goes away on holiday this week to come to terms with that and his new role at the Club. Last week he said with a great deal of honesty, “I’ll have a lot of new challenges to face. I’ve been told what to do and where to be for the last 20 years, so I’ll have to learn to manage myself more now and work with other people who come at things from a slightly different point of view”. It will be a big learning curve for Gareth but one that I’m sure he’ll approach with all his usual enthusiasm and vigour. It will be interesting to see how he goes in a position that is time limited and up for review in 18 months.

Just a mention, while we are on the Man of Steel Awards for another really nice guy in Feke Paleaaesina, who was mostly overlooked by the media, but who also received an award in recognition of his long and illustrious career in the game. Whilst Albert Kelly was there as a shortlisted member for the Man of Steel Award. He might not have won anything except high acclaim from his peers, but if there were to be an award for the player that has come the farthest since this time last year, he would have won it hands down.

Then on Friday we had the news that I gave you two weeks ago in here, as it was confirmed that Jordan Thompson was on the move out of the KCOM. Jordan has been a good servant and done a sound job without ever cementing his place as a regular starter on the team sheet. He has, as I have related in here before, also twice been very disappointed indeed at not being selected in the 17 for both Wembley finals and in 2016 he was reported to be nothing short of distraught when the team was announced. I was surprised when I first heard that he was on his way out, particularly because he was given a new contract this year, but in the end he wanted away and the Club granted him his wish.

Moving from Hull to Leigh hardly relates to a career travelling on an upward curve, but at least he will have the chance to get regular starting rugby which at his age is a must. So, good luck to him, I know he leaves with the clubs best wishes and as fans I’m sure we all want to thank him for the service and dedication he has given to the cause. Always reputed to be a guy who was renowned in camp for being someone who brought great energy to training and indeed everything he did, he is, in the end, just part of the collateral damage that comes about as the Club look to clear a career path through the ranks for the younger players. As for a message for the Leigh fans, well as the great Ian ‘Basil’ Millward always said, “Every good team needs a Ginner”. Good Luck Jordan and thanks!

Now for a look at the potential problems and issues for the future that I mentioned earlier. Last week as I looked back on a very satisfactory 2017 campaign, I was proud of what we had achieved and I still am, for if not ‘job done’ for many of us old timers it was certainly still a big improvement on where we were in 2014 when we finished 11th. Let’s face it, if nothing else, we all love the fact that we are Challenge Cup holders for another year at least, don’t we?

However, after I had put away my rose tinted spectacles I guess this last week, in the cold light of realisation and as Castleford and Leeds prepared to do battle for the prize we had coveted since the beginning of 2017, it’s all been about reflecting on two good seasons and looking at what we have to do to move on to an even more successful third. That’s something I think, that when you look at it, could be pretty difficult to deliver indeed. So here are a few points to consider and a rag bag of my thoughts and theories, to get you pondering the season past and what is to come in 2018.

I bumped into Steve McNamara in Beverley on Saturday and he was certainly looking fit and admitted to being a tad relieved that last weekend was over with and that Catalans Dragons lived to fight another day. They won’t be as bad again, but then again neither will Wigan, Saints or Warrington and Rovers will be in there scrapping too. It is indeed going to be a real battle royal next term. It’s hard to see Rovers, Salford, Widnes or Huddersfield picking up enough to threaten the top four, whoever they are, but who knows and after 23 rounds there could well be a deal of wiggle room down at the bottom. That scenario is a situation that has seen a fall from grace into the middle eights over the past two years for Leeds and Warrington. If ever there was a cautionary note of what can happen if you’re not careful, the demise of those two great clubs in 2016 and 2017 animates it perfectly.

You see, for me, on the positive side of things, we are now in the best position we have probably experienced since the 80’s. We have a well-structured Club on and off the field, players coming through the ranks and a great coaching set up and we’ve certainly seen some wonderful games, great comebacks and fantastic efforts in the last 24 months. So with two trophy victories at Wembley it has doubtless been a great time for all Hull FC fans and long may that continue.

Last weekend as it all ended for this year, Leeds perhaps beat us because they had some players out there that had been through what we are currently experiencing, but who had been there a few more times than us and who have now come out the other end. They knew what to do and did it just a tad better than us. One such warrior, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, said last week, “We had to expend some energy early on if we were going to give ourselves a chance. We knew that from past experience. Hull hit us like that in the Cup semi-final and shocked us so we had to do the same. Hull didn’t fall away after winning the Cup this time in my eyes. They were good after that start and kept at us and we walked away winners, but battered and bruised”. So I think after all the plotting and forward thinking that Lee put into last season we are, as JJB obviously hinted, getting there, but the result proved as well; we ain’t quite there yet!

The question now is how do we ensure other Clubs don’t catch up with us or indeed ‘suss’ us out, while we endeavour to move onwards to being the best team in the League. That has to be the aim, it sounds a big ask but let’s face it, it’s a lot less of a leap than it was just 24 months ago, for we have come a long, long way in two seasons. However, the next bit might be the hardest to attain, simply because of the variables that come into the equation for 2018. Talking to people this last week, it is certainly a mark of just how far we have come under Adam Pearson and Lee Radford when you hear some fans almost aggrieved that we haven’t won the Grand Final. “It was the best chance we’ll have”, was the consensus of many I’ve spoken to and they are probably right, but its gone now and we just have to knuckle down and create an even better ‘chance’ next time!

We have looked good at times this year, in fact in that semi-final at Doncaster we were nothing short of amazing. However, at others we have struggled to get on top of teams and relied I think too much on our passion and tenacity to get us through. We put a lot of our belief and planning into growing into the season to peak at the right time, because it’s certainly a fact that you can’t win ‘em all. That said, a couple more successes mid-season, when we wobbled at times, would have changed the picture a lot. We have also come through really well injury wise again this term and much of that is down to what we have put in place off the field. However, several Clubs who have for successive seasons not fared as well with injuries, will have noted what we have done and what structure we have adopted behind the scenes and will now be attempting to replicate them. But the weight of probability also dictates that one day soon the big injuries will come along and what we do if a couple of our most influential players ‘cop one’ long term next season, is a major ponderable for us all as well.

The staggered return of players after the World Cup is a worry too, and with the season starting in early February we are likely to have a lot of players returning to pre-season training very late in the day indeed. Last season it was just Scott Taylor who returned after everyone else, after being on England duty, but he certainly suffered from starting behind the rest, however, this time, with so many international teams involved, we have several players selected and it is likely that they will have scant opportunity to get up to speed and then of course there is the variable surrounding the possibility of them getting injured in the process. New recruit and French squad member Mildoudi said this week, “I am looking forward to Australia and to kicking off the tournament when we play Lebanon. When the World Cup is finished I’ll be back with FC, maybe on Monday, December 18.”

December 18th!!!!!!

With Miloudi, Manu, Minichiello Faraimo and Taylor as ‘definites’ and Sneyd and now Shaul, ‘possibles’ for international duty (although ‘unlikely’s’), it’s going to be a right shambles at the start of the season if we ain’t careful. Of course other clubs have the same issues but it is certainly something else that needs managing especially when we then have two weeks away in Australia to cope with, while everyone else is bedded their squads down in the cold and more sedate atmosphere of late Winter in Great Britain.

Proud to be Captain of Italy good luck Mini see you after Christmas.

You know, if there was ever a time to introduce a restructuring featuring a season with slightly less games, next year would have been it, because the whole competition could do to have started later.

Another challenge for 2018 for Hull FC must be how best we prepare for that Road trip to Australia in the second round next year and how exactly do we get over what will be a draining experience both physically and mentally for the players. For us lot it’s a great idea and a massive chance for the fans to follow the team Down Under and see a bit of history made. But, it’s also in the end, when you stand back, another ‘Gimmick’, in a game that has for years been beset by them.

However, whilst the rest of the RL world look on with a mixture of interest and envy, it is still one that could prove costly, should we not get the preparation and the energy management right. I just can’t see the flights, the games and all the social interaction that will go on in between them, not effecting the players, some of whom in essence won’t have been back in training for more than 4 weeks, but I guess that will have all been thought through and as always what do I know?

So, for me, there are some big issues coming up over which we have little control really.

On the field too there are a few ideas on Hull FC that I’ve sort of mused on of late that I would put forward to improve things a bit and most of those surround our ability to vary our attacking options. We have a fabulous goal line defence, but that should augment the main thrust of our ambition and not as has been the case at times, the saving grace of it.

You see for me looking back at this season in the cold light of it’s sad conclusion, we have relied too much on Sneyd’s kicks to the corner to break us back into games. This year and last, Marc’s pin-point accuracy and the amazing athleticism of Fonua and Talanoa has seen us score some wonderful tries out there, particularly when we have been under the cosh. But, even with a ploy that has served us so well, teams were starting to find ways of defending against it. Now Fonua is gone and it would seem a good time to look at how we attempt to vary things a bit from that one dimensional approach, particularly when the heat is on and we are behind on the scoreboard.

Mahe will really be missed, but don’t you just love this picture?

Our defence is fine but it has to be sustaining at its current levels. It’s a really good side of our play and has kept us hanging in games such as the one at Headingley, where, 12 points down after a quarter of an hour, most teams would have simply folded under the pressure. However, we do at times look a bit devoid of ideas on attack don’t we? Some fans have talked of appointing an attacking coach and I told you way back in early July of being privy to a conversation, (at the Man of Steel Testimonial Dinner) between a real icon of the game and Brett Hodgson, where the departing Widnes number two said quite openly that he had agreed to join Hull FC as an Assistant Coach before he reneged on his promise to take up a position back in Australia.

That’s a fact and if nothing else it showed that we had identified a shortcoming and intended to make an addition to the back room staff to address it, but since then things have I think changed a bit. Adam said recently that as far as the coaching staff was concerned, Lee had wanted to make an addition (of which there is a deal of mystery surrounding exactly who was to replace Hodgson) but that he had, “Reigned back on that a bit”. So on that one we’ll just have to wait and see.

However, when you look at our attacking options I think that we have to use the obvious skills of Jake Connor more and try and vary the go forward a bit so that we are not seen increasingly as a one trick pony when it comes to breaking back into games. The inclusion of Jordan Abdull next season will be a plus too and it will be interesting to see how he goes and where we play him when he comes back into the offing, after that year at Rovers and a full pre-season at the FC.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that too often this year and last we have relied on that wonderful goal line defence and our backs to the wall effort rather than trying to find ways to counter attack and take the heat off our tacklers. That keeps everyone fresh and although that last line of resistance has done brilliantly again this season, that won’t always be the case, nor will the chance to ‘Get it to Kelly’ and hope! We need to find another couple of outlets and indeed to sometimes at least start fast, get a good lead, hold teams off and then kill them off, so such heroic defensive requirements are limited to the really close games.

Easy to write but quite obviously not so easy to do I know! In the end however we need to score more tries; why? Well ask yourself this, how many games would we have lost in the last two years if we hadn’t had a goal kicker who is the best in the game and nothing short of a freak as far as converting two points is concerned particularly when we need to get over the line?

In addition and on the other side of that one, we have also to do something about slow starts and the catch up rugby that follows them, because too often last year we got out of the blocks lethargically and let the opposition take an early lead. One of the areas I think really needs work on when I watched a couple of earlier season games back this week, is the fact that we often start our attack standing really deep in the line from the play the ball and I’ve noticed how teams like Castleford and Saints in particular run a much flatter line and get into the impact earlier.

We seem to give the opposing team time to sort out their defence a bit too much in those situations, where we see at times mesmerising inter play between the half backs and the outside backs as the opposition have the time to just watch it unfolding in front of them, rather than around them.

We have some great forwards so one up rugby still works, but other teams with lesser packs seem to succeed by going forward en masse, with two or three running at the line at the same time. I never noticed it much in the heat of the battle but I always leave a few games on Sky and watch them back in the closed season and when I did this week and I watched the Huddersfield game it became apparent that this wasn’t the case with us, because we seem to play a lot of one up rugby with few dummy runners particularly at the start of sets. But when it comes to tactics what the hell do I know really?

However, one thing is for sure and we do we need to be in it to win it next year and we have somehow to ensure that we get into the mix for the big trophies by putting ourselves in a position from which we can win them. We improved a lot this time around after Wembley and perhaps should have won more games, but we were certainly better at it and a lot more competitive.

Another issue surrounds the question of who do we make Captain now that Gareth is gone? Danny is the obvious choice but whoever gets the gig, there are some big boots to fill. No one will adequately take over from Gareth Ellis straight away, and no transition will be seamless. It’s going to be tough for whoever takes over but for me Danny is the prime candidate, because what he might lack a little with vociferous actions on the field, he makes up with in spades, through his honestly, loyalty, love for the Club and the fans and his undoubted dedication. If ever a player led by example it is Danny Houghton. The players certainly already look up to him and he has had experience in the role when Gareth has been out injured. So then, if that’s the case and I really can’t see any further than him, who gets the vice-captain role?

Well that’s an interesting one isn’t it, because the transition from being one of the lads to being second in charge is a big one at times? Mini, Taylor, Sneyd and Manu are all in the senior players group and Micky Paea is another name in the frame, because his input in the dressing room was applauded long and loud when he decided to leave us last time. In fact, our owner is well reported as saying to him that he would be welcome back any time. Mini is the ‘daddy’ of the team now, but I never thought he was that taken with captaincy roles, however as he is in that position for Italy, he might just get a taste for it! Who gets that jobs is something to watch in the weeks to come, I think.

Food for thought? Well you certainly won’t agree with a lot of that but I hope it gives you a starting point when like me you while away the closed season, pondering the future prospects for the Club we all love.

Now, I got several E Mails and comments from readers last week about the launch of the new Hull shirts, the design of which is still under wraps (although the pundits on the terraces I spoke to seemed to feel that it should be back to the hoops in some form). However, if there is little doubt that the fans in their loyalty will flock to buy the new shirts, it’s the nature of the launch that was bothering some Diary readers. The new home shirt will be launched at a ‘Invincibles’ Dinner in October, that apparently celebrates the 40th Anniversary of the all-conquering 1978/79 team that went through the season undefeated.

Promoted by the excellent Vice Presidents Association (to celebrate their 40th Anniversary) and the Club, it will be a great event and worth a ticket, (although personally I didn’t think that the 40th Anniversary of those FC ‘Invincibles’ was actually until 18th May 2019). However, for Jim, Helen B, Frank ‘Chat’ and Vernon, who all contacted me this week or spoke at the race night a week last Tuesday, it is the inaccessibility of the launch to the ordinary fan who used to like to tip up to St Stephens or Princes Quay with the kids to see the shirt unveiled, that is the issue. So, let’s hope that the away shirt has a big public launch for the rank and file of the fan base to enjoy. The dinner will however be a great event I’m sure!

Once again last week when the season was over and everyone was a bit downhearted, I was absolutely amazed and proud of the Hull FC fans as they responded to the Danny Houghton Xmas Factor event, that takes place at the City Hall on 18th December, going on sale. It will be a great night, but I did wonder how the fans would respond to it after that defeat at Leeds and our season tickets going on sale. I needn’t have worried for on the first day almost 400 were sold and it was hard at times to get through to the booking office on the telephones, so heavy was the demand. By the end of the week over 650 had been snapped up and we were well on the way to a sell-out. I caught up with Danny Houghton this week and he told me, “I can’t believe how the great fans of Hull FC have responded and snapped up the tickets for what will be a great night. The City Hall was well over half full after just three days of sales, in fact if fans want to come along and they haven’t yet got tickets, they’ll have to book them pretty soon; so big thanks to everyone!”

There are still tickets available but if you fancy a great night out with the family and the lads just before Christmas, get down to the City Council Booking Office in Carr Lane or ring 01482 300306. Tickets priced at just £12 for Adults and £5 for Children under 16, are expected to sell out fast now.

So to Codgers Corner this week and after a disappointing ‘semi-final loss at Leeds last week Billy Malcolmson stopped me in Hull on Tuesday and asked me to feature his favourite Quarter Final which took place back in 1985, to cheer him up a bit. So this week I look back to those amazing early 80’s when Widnes were a good team and generally a real thorn in our side, however in 1985 we really fancied our chances of a return to Wembley particularly as that was the year that one of the greatest scrum halves of all time Peter Sterling was our number 7.

All was going well too, until the quarter finals when we came out of the hat at home, but to bloody Widnes. Almost 12,000 crammed into the Boulevard on Sunday 9th March 1985, for a game we simply had to win. However, it was a tight encounter were it was obvious that one slip could lead to disaster. With Sterlo out injured and sat with Arthur Bunting on the bench, the game was so close and both teams seemed to be worried about being too expansive and giving the ball away, and so it was no surprise that at half time it was 0-0.

Then on the 57th minute Norton finally broke away and passed on to Topliss who, using, Muggleton as a foil on one side sent Divorty crashing in to score on the other, Crooks added the goal and we were at last 6-0 up. However, only three more minutes had passed before Lydon broke our line wide out. He fed Currier and then watched as the pacy winger flew in for Burke to goal and we were back level. Then it was as you where and despite Crooks shaving the post with a penalty attempt in the 72nd minutes the game ended tied at 6-6 and we faced a very daunting trip to Naughton Park in Cheshire where the home side had not lost a cup game for three years.

I drove to the game that Wednesday night having queued on the Tuesday to get one of a limited number of seat tickets that were sold at the Boulevard, but at Naughton Park the gap between the seats was so small you spent the whole game with your knees under your neck. Once you were in, there was simply no chance of you ever getting out again. About 5000 of the 10,000 gate travelled from Hull but the feeling of the locals was that we’d had our chance the previous weekend and that the ‘Cup Kings’ would do us! It was a damp misty night which was not improved by the home team’s sparse floodlights.

Things started badly for us though with a couple of players suffering from knocks and we had to draft James Leuluai into the team despite him being side-lined with a broken hand. Back then they just bandaged it up and sent him out there. Widnes kicked off and tackled and harried us into staying in our own 25. Then Kurt Sorenson returned a long Schofield kick and broke the line to pass to Kevin Tamati who brilliantly cut inside to pass back outside again to the ‘open’ Joe Lydon who shot in to score a great try which Mick Burke converted. Whilst behind the sticks Knocker Norton gave all our lads a finger wagging but things looked bleak as we returned to the centre spot to kick off again.

We battled on as Steve Evans narrowly missed keeping hold of an interception from a long Lydon pass and Kevin James was stopped in full flight by John Basnett. Then after half an hour some superb Hull handling by Muggleton, Leuluai and Norton created a half chance for Evans who shot between O’Loughlin and Currier to spin out of another tackle and fall over the line. Schofield converted and we were level. Back came Widnes though and John Myler suddenly found a massive gap inside our 25 and laid on a simple try for Kieron O’Loughlin with Burke kicking the goal.

Down 12-6 at half time the scramble to get out of the seats and to the toilets was manic but, no sooner had we got back in again than Hull got a penalty and we started a set deep in the Widnes twenty-five. Instead of going for the kill, Hull meticulously went about slowly turning the screw and after 9 minutes of pressure Norton dummied left and then passed right to the on rushing Kemble who was just held inches short by Burke. Then came a decisive moment in our season, as Norton again broke the line, linked with Evans, who fed half time substitute Andy Dannett. Big Andy strode forward before passing to O’Hara and the winger with three players on his back squeezed in at the corner. He had no room to work in at all, but somehow he got over the whitewash and we were just two points behind.

Then the ‘Magician’ Peter Sterling, who looked to be ‘playing on one leg’ took a hand in the proceedings, and receiving the ball just ten yards from his own line planted a massive kick down field that we would call a 40/20 these days and amazingly the ball found touch just ten yards from the oppositions corner flag. Widnes won the ensuing scrum but Burke failed to play the ball properly and Schofield kicked the penalty to level the scores. For the first time in the game as we roared on the black and whites Widnes started to look vulnerable. Frustrated by the superb tackling of Muggleton, Patrick, Skerrett and Dannett that pinned them near their own line, they started to kick desperately down field. From one such panic move the ball was fielded by Kevin James, who superbly kept the ball in play and then cut inside to beat the covering Basnett. He then drew the rest of the cover as he flew towards the line before releasing Schofield who stepped out of two last ditch desperation tackles to crash over the line. Taking massive gulps of air to get his breathe back Schofield then brilliantly converted his own try from the touch line.

We were all biting our nails as the clock ticked down as another try by the hosts would have seen them pull level but in the end a superb drop goal by Knocker Norton from 30 yards out sealed a 19-12 win. The chance was brilliantly set up by Sterling and the FC fans went wild! Referee Holdsworth had a quiet night really but had to split up Fieldhouse and Crooks on the hooter as a scrap broke out fuelled by Widnes’s frustrations. Then the FC fans went beserk and we sang and danced on the terraces long after the home crowd had trudged off home.

Hull had done it, we had beaten the odds and the bookies and got ourselves a semi-final tie at Headingley against Castleford. After the game it came out that the real hero was Hull Physio Ray Norrie who had worked miracles on that hamstring injury that had threatened to put Peter Sterling out of the game. Sterlo, finishing the game limping heavily with a bandage round his head, and, with his long hair caked with blood, he resembled a modern day Long John Silver. There was also an insight into how together the team were back then when it was revealed that deposed winger Paul Prendeville had, after the first game, tipped Kevin James off about John Basnett’s tackling style, and this James admitted later helped him break the line to set up the winning try. It was a great night and led directly to us appearing in probably the best Cup final ever… until 2016 of course!! Great memories.

This week I had a smile when I considered how ironic it was that, ‘The Kings of Hull’ a production that is playing at the New Theatre, features a bloke who is a Hull KR support!! I think Mr Godber might be done under the Trades Description Act for that one!

So in a week when the Allam’s had that gate locked, unlocked, locked and unlocked in a vain attempt to stop those pesky terrorists getting their toffee apples and brandy snap, that’s it for another Diary. I hope you have at least found something to ponder as I indulged a miscellany of my thoughts on the way forward and the plusses and minuses I see for the up-coming season. There will be another Diary next week, after which I’ll take a few weeks off and be back in November with all the pre-Christmas stuff!! Thanks as always for all your support over the past season and for buying the new book in such great numbers, and as for the ‘Gategate’ fiasco, isn’t it about time the Council grew some??

See you next week!

Keep Believing!

Faithfully Yours