The Dentist’s Diary – 598th

Well last Friday it was all a bit more acceptable and indeed a lot better wasn’t it?

Apologise again for the late posting of this week’s Diary, but at least a couple of day’s delay does give me time for my thoughts to gel after a game which we lost …again, but in which I think we got a bit of our self-respect back.

Three more players missing with injuries, a team under the microscope and a squad down to its bare bones didn’t exactly inspire much confidence before Fridays game did it? In fact, I’m told if anyone got injured in the warm up we would have just played a bench of 3!! Afterwards the headlines on the Love Rugby League web site that read ‘Castleford ease past lousy Hull FC’ ensured that, to the casual observer, it looked like business as usual for us lot, in what is a horrible run of results for the famous Hull FC’s.

Of course if you were there and saw not only what everyone saw on the TV, but what we saw as far as the spirit and togetherness of our players was off the camera, you’ll know that a headline such as that is so far wide of the mark it stinks. We were far from lousy, yes we lost and at times we lacked ideas and were profligate with the ball, but the spirit was back and we played as a team that despite being severely weakened by injury still had a lot of pride in the shirt. That I think was the difference and what a refreshing change it made. Quite frankly as far as Friday goes most of us couldn’t have wanted for much more really, because we were on a hiding to nothing from the off.

What’s more there is little doubt that this is as tough a time for some fans as they have known, whilst for others like us old timers, well, we have seen much, much worse over the years and so we simply try to just get on with it and hope for sunnier days. However, whether you are a new supporter or a weathered and battered campaigner like me, the rules are still the same. You simply have to stick by your Club!! You have every right to grumble, every right to protest, but you have to stay with them. As long as the players are not taking the what not (as they appeared to be at Warrington and Wakey) then performances like that one this week at least remind you of why you suffer it all and where your true loyalties lie; even when you are in the sort of rut we, as a team and a club, are in at present.

When I arrived in my seat to observe the wide open spaces around me on the terraces, long faces abounded and rumours were everywhere. Griffin was off to Rovers, (despite his ‘Don’t believe everything you read’ message on twitter on Wednesday) Mini was retiring and departing for Australia with his heavily pregnant wife and 3 children, Sneyd had either been fined for an indiscretion at training or was leaving for Rugby Union depending on who you listened to, Albert Kelly wouldn’t play again for us and was off to Salford and Adam Pearson was selling up. All I hasten to add just rumours and with the last one well, I just rubbished that straight away; it was piffle and Adam won’t be off any time soon. But when times are hard and news is in short supply we make it up don’t we? So I settled down to bite the bullet and no doubt watch the game through my fingers.

However, no doubt with Adams words after the Warrington game ringing in the player’s ears, it was a case of surprise, surprise, for as the game commenced there was immediately bags of resolve to cheer us all up a bit. Plus, following all the rhetoric and shroud waiving there had been from some quarters prior to the game, we looked to be set on getting a little of our pride back.

I ain’t gilding the lily here at all and of course we are still in a big hole and questions still have to be asked and duly answered. We look clueless at times in the oppositions 20 and can’t seem to build pressure and get over the line. Despite the injuries we have still been let down badly at times by some of our senior players and let’s face it that eighth defeat in a row was without doubt a game that again we never really looked like winning. However, that said and got out of the way, we were a lot better to watch this week. What’s more, it was almost entertaining at times and we saw bags of effort on show and a few glimpses of what could have been and indeed what might come about in the future.

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In the end we were well beaten, but that said, we were certainly unlucky to be 18-0 down at the break. However, as often happens when you’re up against it and in what can only be described as a wretched state, you have no luck at all. Two of Castleford’s first half tries were fortunate to say the least. We had held them well until the 18th minute, before Trueman’s grubber caught out Jordan Lane, hit his leg and ricocheting straight into the path of a welcoming Mike McMeeken. Their third, just before half time, came from a really promising FC attacking play when Liam Harris’s long and wayward pass amazingly bounced off the head of Castleford captain Michael Shenton before looping into the hands of Greg Eden, who raced 90m to score.

Admittedly, it was a poor play from Harris, but the outcome of that ‘header’, could not have been predicted by even the most ardent Castleford fan. Harris in fact really struggled at times and is just not ready for Super League football at all. He made several errors that wasted decent attacking position and he shouldn’t be playing. He’s simply not ready, but it is hard to criticise such an inexperienced player who wouldn’t get anywhere near the first team if our current circumstances were anything but the parlous state we find ourselves in at present. He started OK, but after a couple of gaffs he soon lost his way and became completely bereft of confidence; the more he forced it the worse he got!

We made far too many mistakes in possession and in that first half when we were still in the game Shaul spilling a simple pass when Castleford looked all over the place and then two mistakes by Faraimo epitomised our season to a tee. The latter two clangers came in an embarrassing couple of minutes when Bureta cost us dear. Firstly, he fumbled the ball right under the sticks in our twenty when trying to play the ball, but his team mates got him off the hook when our new found tenacity saw Cameron Scott and Fetuli Talanoa combined to produce a brilliant tackle to deny Benny Roberts in the corner. However, before we had time to settle after applauding that effort and straight from the resulting 20m restart, Faraimo infuriatingly coughed the ball up again and Junior Moors shot over. That’s the story of our recent run of games really and its so bloody frustrating when we had done so much to hang in there.

But the team spirit was great and everyone seemed to have bought into a needed sense of urgency and a resurgence of the unity we saw so evident in 2016 and 2017. We battled and battled despite at times looked clueless in attack, however led by a much more animated Houghton at least we showed pride and tenacity in abundance and in our current circumstances that was perhaps all we could have wished for. I though we worked really hard but there was never ever really more than one winner in this one. Castleford were confident and slick and asked loads of questions of us but at 28-0 down we battled on, intent on ensuring there was to be no blow out of the score like the one that happened last week.
For me on his current form Hakim Maloudi is a must to play every week because he has so much enthusiasm, although he does tend to swing from reliable and solid to showing a deal of off the cuff magic and at times unpredictability, but that’s already making him a real crowd pleaser. In short he’s exciting to watch and at times a real loose cannon, who certainly likes to shake things up a bit too. Jezz Litten also came on just at the right time and injected some pace and enthusiasm around acting half as Houghton moved further out and added a good link in the middle of the field. Washy took over in the halves and looked pretty good as we swopped and changed our formation as the game required. It was unorthodox stuff but all the same in the last 25 minutes it worked well. By then the game was over and Castleford had the points in the bag, but at least it was entertaining and not excruciating to witness as it had been at Warrington.

Performance wise everyone had a go and showed an enthusiasm that belied this recent run of defeats. Taylor who must be a shoe in to sweep the Board at the Player of the Year presentations had another great game. We missed Paea by his side, but Matongo had probably his best game of the season and Bienek is certainly growing into the speed and intensity of Super League. Hadley started well before fading a bit but the four best players were undoubtedly Houghton (60 tackles), Taylor, Shaul and Maloudi and I thought that Jordan Lane went well too. So all in all better than I expected, but the outcome was as everyone thought it would be, roll on the end of the season eh?

At such unfortunate times as we find ourselves in there is always a deal of whinging, wringing of hands and grumbling going on. However, I have to say that I am quite amazed and pretty pleased as well with the amount of tolerance and understanding there is about amongst the supporters who seem to get the issues behind our current demise.

Of course on social media where nothing is not controversial the knives have been out for Lee Radford again, but as the great NFL Coach Don Shula once said, “Players are not like tomatoes they don’t go bad overnight” and neither do coaches. So, as I said last week, I stand by Lee Radford and it will be a long time before I change that stance. I did all that ‘Doubting Thomas’ stuff three years ago and as I said last week I ended up with a deal of egg on my face!! He has since proved his worth with some memorable and life changing moments and so for now, although as a paying fan I stand by my right to criticise what’s happening on and off the field and indeed individual players when they deserve it, I won’t be calling for Lee’s head right now or indeed doing it any time soon either.

With the Mails Sports Editor James Smailes writing the FC stuff at the end of last week, there was some interesting articles to ponder. He is certainly always the man to wring that extra bit of interest out of a situation such as we find ourselves in and his angle on both our Coaches and our Captains demeanour going into the Castleford game, was brilliant as usual.

Always a great ‘quoter’ in such situations, Lee said to Smailsey of his wards, “I know they’re suffering when they come in and they look like they’ve been sleeping rough for three nights. I’ve got to keep things in perspective as a coach. No-one has lost their life and worse things happen at sea. I understand they’re under the blow torch. I think I’m the same Lee Radford when I’m winning and losing. I try not to be up and down but every time you go on social media you’ve got people saying you’re this and you’re that. Every time you go to the shop around the corner I’m sure they can hear the same whispers I can hear”, More worryingly he then said, “But it has an impact on my family, That’s what gets me. I know these boys are the same, I know they’re putting out the same flames I am. Hopefully people can understand where we’re at”.

On social media, often the domain of all those brave, brave people sat in their bedrooms with the curtains drawn tapping away on their computers and dealing out abuse because they can, some have been having a field day targeting the players. However, Lee’s point about some idiots targeting the staff’s families with their comments shows behaviour that is totally out of order and those who do it should hang their heads in shame.

The dynamics surrounding our captain were interesting after that thrashing at Warrington too, particularly concerning those scathing comments of Adam Pearson after the game had finished. Citing the fact that he found the last two months as unacceptable and threatening changes to the squad, the club chairman told the players in no uncertain terms that they were fighting for their futures at our Club. Houghton however quickly said, “It was not something I wish to comment on”, but added, he said, that Pearson’s comments have not been discussed at all among the playing group.

In fact, Danny seemed keen to avoid any sort of comment about our owner, which perhaps was a veiled indication that in fact his words hadn’t gone down too well at all, but to comment could land Danny in hot water. Let’s face it, Captains aren’t expected to criticise the owners but he did add, “Adam owns the club and puts the money in and what he needs to do is on his terms. We have jobs to play for, but that’s the case every time we take the field and what he said is down to him, I have no comment on that. There’s not been a conversation about it. We need to address what we do on the playing field, not what is talked about in the media”. Mmmmm, interesting that!

Last Monday, I received a call from Seke Manu who was enquiring on behalf of the Club as to whether I would be renewing my season ticket and I had a long chat with him about the Warrington game. He came across as a really nice bloke and although I guess being asked to try and sell season tickets to the fans just 4 days after that awful defeat in Cheshire was a big ask, he certainly seemed genuine and did his best. I toyed with the idea of saying, “We’ve been on the phone for ten minutes now Seke and you haven’t dropped it yet!” but I’m too much of a gentleman for that and discretion being the better part of valour I shut up!

On a serious note however the club must be worried about renewals and who can blame them, for our current situation, although we all try to be understanding, will mean that there are certainly still a lot of disgruntled season ticket holders out there.

That raft of fans doesn’t particularly include us old timers, but more the new recruits who came on board in 2016 and 2017 following our successes in the Challenge Cup. The withdrawal of their patronage is the biggest threat and there’s a lot of hard work to do before they are kept on-side for 2019. The gate that was announced for the Castleford game was certainly an inflated one and you could see by the gaps particularly in the South Stand that many had just given up on this season altogether. Apathy is without doubt at an all-time high in some of the strata’s of the fan base at Hull FC.

Getting fans back, once they have found other things to do, will be hard and is a massive challenge for James Clark and Co. Clarky does a great job and does it with scant resources and he is certainly under the pump at present, something that was borne out this week when Radford said that Adam had been giving our Chief Executive a hard time as he joked that our coach had been counselling him! Of course that was a light hearted comment, but there is little doubt that with season ticket time just around the corner some of the back stage folks will be under the pump to try and engage with the fans.

The big meeting of all Clubs this Friday will finally see the shape of the competition for next season revealed, but don’t be surprised if the lower division Clubs and Hetherington get their way and we are stuck with this cockamamie set up for at least another year. This system is for me a disaster and had proved it time and again. From what I hear from some fans it’s enough to put a number of folks off watching much rugby next year, if it continues, but our game is nothing if not beset with owners with too much vested interest and not enough vision. We need to get some semblance of order back to the divisions and every year give a Championship Club a guaranteed Super League place. However, recent, and ill-informed additions to the ranks of the owners (like the guy from Bradford Bulls) are making a lot of noise and indeed no doubt a lot of phone calls to their peers to ensure that the status quo continues.

For me when it is the lower division Clubs that are proving the spectacle that will attract Sky to televise their games then they should get a say on a par with the Super League Clubs, who
carry the name of the game, foot the bill and take the risks to be featured on the TV. The fact is many of those clubs don’t want to be in Super League or go full time, they just like to rub along in the lower regions of the competition, yet they don’t want the Super League Clubs to have their way either and yet they soon take the TV money every year!

You only have to look at the attendance at the Wigan v Wakey game on Thursday and the empty terraces at the KCom on Friday as well as the crowds attracted to the games at Widnes and Salford on Saturday and Sunday, to know that things have really sunk to an all-time low attendance wise. No one seems to have any interest in this set up at all. The things is that we have to fire the enthusiasm of the stay away fans, before it is too late and they stay away for good. Let’s hope that good sense prevails on Friday and we end up with a set up that shows some positive improvements and a more equitable system that we can persist with for say 10 years and get some stability back to things. Well at least we can hope but as I say don’t hold your breath.

Well I watched all the TV games this weekend and it was again a case of too many missed forward passes by the officials. Some even led to tries, when the on screen replays showned there were clear forward passes in the build-up. At present in the British game a forward pass is one of the few things a referee can’t refer to the video ref, it’s easy to understand why as a camera not directly in line can sometimes give the impression a flat pass has gone forward. That said for me there are obvious cases when we can clearly see a pass has strayed forward and been missed by the ref or the line judges.,

There was one case at the weekend of a try being scored where the pass was so far forward the receiver was offside when the ball was thrown, because he was in front of the player passing him the ball. Surely its time to change things up a bit and in obvious cases like this, the video ref should be called upon and the right decision given?

The video referee being deployed in such cases works in Rugby Union and quite frankly I think that it can work in our game too! If the VR can judge on a knock-on and whether it has gone backwards or forwards in the process, then surely this is not much different is it?

I’m not suggesting we get a Wimbledon style hawk-eye to look at a pass and say it was 2 millimetres forward, because if the referee on field makes a decision the TV evidence would have to prove conclusively the pass was forward to disallow it. However, on several occasions this weekend past, a simple line across the screen would have seen scores disallowed. A change in the rules should only correct clear errors and not 50-50 calls, as is the case now on all decisions excepting forward passes, but I think it’s something worth looking at when a close game can be decided by a missed pass that is obviously forward.

So to Codgers Corner and another trip back to 1982 when we were sweeping all before us in the quest for trophies, and titles. The 1982/83 season had started well and by the middle of November we had a record of won twelve lost two, which put us second in the League behind Leeds. The game in question is memorable on two counts, firstly it was the first match that the club banned the bringing of alcohol into games and secondly it was one of those games that you expect to win easily, and yet there were a few twists and turns to be revealed before the eventual outcome came about.

As for the alcohol ban, well there had been some well publicised happenings at our games, which led to the RL deciding that banning cans being brought into games was a good idea, although it was not met with so much enthusiasm by the regulars on the Threepennies, who enjoyed the odd ‘tinny’ during a game. Of course, the gang at the Half Way on Hessle Road, where I was a regular, had other ideas and decided that they were going to take some cans anyway. As it happened fans were searched on their arrival at the Division Road gates, and everyone had their beverages confiscated.

Of course Garry, John, Ian and I had other ideas and decided to solve the problem scientifically. Garry, who was always the most ’worst for ware’ after our pre game sessions, and who had gone straight to the pub from work for the Wednesday night game, was sent down the little avenue of houses in Division Road that backed onto the pathway behind the Threepennies. There he stood, in the dark, with a carrier bag full of beer whilst the other three of us went around, paid our admission and then, when level with the Avenue, shouted to Garry to throw the cans over the wall.

This worked really well although, the Mansfield Bitter had made Garry’s throwing arm a bit erratic and although we caught most of the cans of Beer, we also dropped three of them. Those we decided should be Garry’s cans. Once he had paid and joined us on the stand, (which was absolutely packed), we presented him with his three tin of beer. You can imagine the consternation that ensued when Garry tore the ring pull off his first can, only to soak everyone with his ’effervescent’ beer. Punches were thrown and curses exchanged, and we all had to move, only for Garry to repeat the episode with his second can, another ten yards down the stand!

The match itself was against Featherstone who had won just three of their 12 games and were near the bottom of the league when they came to the Boulevard on that cold and windy November night. We were unbeaten at home in over a year and so the game was seen by many as just a formality. Featherstone’s fixture the previous weekend had been postponed because of a waterlogged pitch at Post Office Road, and so they started the sharper and brighter. We began slowly with some indifferent defence letting the Colliers into our line, which saw the visitors grow in confidence. Smith their second rower was constantly breaking our defence, and when Rose and Crane flapped at him in a tackle near our try line, it was no surprise that he opened the scoring in the 8th Minute.

Crane was obviously upset with his tackling and in the very next passage of play, he handed off Quinn and slipped a perfect and typically ‘lazy’ pass to Leuluai who shot over to touch down and level the scores. Despite this, our tackling failed to improve, and by we had all witnessed Garry’s third and final ‘Public Anointing’ in the Stand, the visitors had scored again. This time they broke on the left leaving Bridges and Skerett floundering and slick handling by Johnson and Paul Coventry sent full back Barker ploughing in, despite the attentions of three defenders. A Quinn conversion from wide out, saw the score after just 20 minutes at 10-3 to the Colliers.

The previous Sundays tough match at Oldham, which I featured a few months back, had certainly taken its toll on our forwards, but I remember they kept plugging away and when Crane tried a speculative kick it spun away from Quinn and quick as a flash Leuluai was there to scoop the ball up and touch down, although Lee Crooks who was having a bad day all round, failed to convert again and at half time we trailed 10-6. As for the Half Way contingent on the Threepennies, well, we were concerned with a lacklustre performance, freezing cold and of course, thanks to Garry, soaked to the skin in beer.

It was no doubt a stiff talking to by Arthur Bunting at half time that led to a much more spirited performance in the second half, of which former Featherstone star Keith Bridges was the star. This was one of his best 40 minutes in the black and white shirt, and he showed why, when we signed him, he was considered to be one of the best strikers of the ball, in the scrum, in the game. He took the first five scrums in a row, which gave us vital possession and unlike the first half we didn’t waste it. Firstly Crane and Tony Dean were able to get us into the right area of the field with their probing runs and crisp passing, in fact much to the delight of the crowd, Dean was giving Pickerill the Featherstone number 7, a real lesson in scrum half play.

We pressed down the middle and then on the sixth tackle with three defenders on top of him, Crane slipped a hand out of the ruck and passed on to Dave Topliss who shot under the posts for Crooks to convert. Kemble was having a wow of a game at full back and his linking and strong running got him the man of the match award. Three times he took Featherstone kicks at full pace, in that inimitable manner, that was his trade mark. He never slowed or seemed to have to wait for the ball to come down he just took it and made ten yards before an opposition player could get anywhere near him. Quicker service in the centre’s would have seen both O’Hara and Prendeville score in the corners, but at last Kemble got his reward with a great try. Crane took the ball at a trot looked up kicked it over the defence and shot through the line to gather it. He passed onto Leuluai who drew their full back to feed Garry who raced in at the corner. Again Crooks missed the conversion.

Then with the visitors on the ropes Steve Evans struck twice. His first effort was a trade mark move too. Following a poor pass from Proctor, he took a ball that had gone behind the attacking line and ran towards the Featherstone defence before arcing towards the touchline to beat the centre Johnson with sheer pace. His second was a simpler effort after a break that featured Sutton and Crooks, Leulaui supported well again to send Steve in at the same corner. That was two tries Evans in just 4 minutes which broke the hearts of his ex-West Riding team mates. At 24-10 it was game over, but both Leulaui and Evans were denied their hat trick following tries being ruled out, and the visitors did get a late consolation with a Hobbs try that saw the final score 24-14.

So it was another exciting performance by Arthur Buntings side, and another great night in that special atmosphere that there was under the old floodlights at the Boulevard, with almost 10,000 there to witness another big win for the black and whites. Sporting the remains of our beer shampoo’s we went back to the pub for a ’Night cap’ where Garry said that in future, he was certainly not going to be the one who carried the bag of beer. Great memories eh?

Well at least that was a better display on Friday but that said, I guess looking back our attack was quite disjointed at times and we still continue to shoot themselves in the foot with too many stupid errors. However, I guess we have to be satisfied as we certainly witnessed a performance with far more pride, endeavour and intensity. That said, I find it hard not to believe that with the volume of injuries and with nothing left to play for, Radford and Co will surely be joining all of us and counting the days until this pretty disastrous 2018 campaign runs its course and the closed season is here. God, it’s been horrible of late hasn’t it, but as I said earlier, it’s our Club and its our team and unlike the players, we can’t get a transfer away or have a spell on the side-lines because we are ‘out of form’. We have to be there suffering every week!

Thanks to everyone who has been in touch and there were literally dozens this month. I tried to get back to everyone, but particular mention goes to Clive from Ferriby who came around and picked up a couple of ‘Roamin the Range’ books on Friday, to Richard Kirk who lent me some excellent holiday reading and his Mum Kathy who last Sunday celebrated 60 years of watching Hull FC, to the day, (Wakefield Trinity in the Yorkshire Cup at the Boulevard 09-09-58). To Club historian Bill Dalton for his usual insightful angle on things, Lorraine and Jeff, Tony Cotson, Iain Findlay, regular reader Harry Whelton in Woolagong, Ian Middleton marooned in the English Channel and my old pal Brian in Spain. Plus, of course everyone else who took the time to get in touch. Thanks to you all, its only your continued support as we approach edition 600, that keeps this rubbish going really.

This Friday its just three games to go and counting, as we travel to play the league leaders and face a massive ask at St Helens, but although we have to continue with that same spirit, avoiding a record breaking 9th Super League loss on the bounce is highly unlikely. As fans following our team into the future we have no choice other than to stick or twist and I guess, stay or walk! As I said earlier after 60 odd years of good and bad times, I’ve seen a lot worse and I probably will again, if I’m spared!!So get behind the boys, stick with YOUR club and we’ll all battle on together, but the end of the season can’t come soon enough for this fan I’m afraid!

Try to Keep believing!

Faithfully Yours

Wilf