The Dentist’s Diary – 600th

After 600 editions of this drivel all I needed was a good win to report on and one that brought some hope for the future and perhaps a good night out at the KCOM to relish. However, as so often has happened of late, in the end I was to be disappointed on all counts. This time though the game was there for the taking, but in the end it all came down to some shoddy defending.

What can you really say about that performance? It was yet another evening of heartbreak for the Hull FC Faithful as we managed to claw our way into a winning position, before we capitulated again and suffered a record-extending tenth successive Super League loss. When Jamie Shaul sprinted over following Bureta Faraimo brilliant run to put us ahead for the first time in the 71st minute, it seemed we would finally have something to celebrate. We showed some real grit and determination during the middle period of the second half as maverick play from Connor created two great tries and a superb flowing move then ended in that Shaul touch down, but again we couldn’t seem to sustain it. However, that bright spell aside it was business as usual and our defence was woeful. At 20-16 up with 8 minutes to go the opposition just breezed through our ranks in their next set, as once again we switched off at the death to allow Catalans the chance to score not once but twice to seal the win.

Our defence, for so long our strong point in previous seasons was just not good enough and the fans deserve more. You have to wonder if it can be anything else but a complacent acceptance of our demise this year, that sees the players so lacking in steel and grit. If Adam was looking for a win to boost the season ticket campaign, as the brochures drop through our letter boxes this coming week, then he will have been sorely disappointed.

So a disappointing display again and it’s sad to report that as far as I’m concerned I’m glad that it’s almost over for this year. However, at least this week it’s a significant milestone for this weekly rubbish and as it’s the 600th Edition of this drivel I’ve included some personal insight into what’s gone on as it has over the last 13 years covered over 400 games in the rollercoaster life of an average fan. There’s also some memories, some regrets, some great moments and some disasters, all encapsulated in some of my favourite photographs from previous editions.

As I walked to the Stadium on Saturday evening there was a sort of end of season feel about it all and I can’t remember the last time it was so easy to park in Selby Street and how few were walking to the match through the surrounding Streets. It was an important game, because with Wigan away up next it was perhaps our only chance of a win and indeed of us avoiding an 11 game losing run.

The excellent Junior Takeover initiative was in full swing with announcers, kit man and coaches all being shadowed by young FC fans. It was a great afternoon for them all and reader Richard Kirk wrote to the diary to say of his two lad’s involvement, “Wow what a day. Clarkey was brilliant and gets it in a big way, kids are the future. Harrison was on the mic as he shadowed the on field announcer Ash, and Cam loved his time as kit man and became the first non Hull FC member of staff to take the kicking T out, (something that kids do regularly in the NRL) He printed his own shirt and had it presented by Tuli in the dressing room and we all loved it. It cost us nothing and just cost the club their time. But it was a totally priceless experience. What a day. What a club”. So well done to everyone concerned with a really worthwhile initiative.

However, back to the game and as the teams emerged from the tunnel the feeling of apathy and resignation was everywhere and the massive gaps in the terraces told their own story, for many had given up on season 2018 already. Miloudi and Connor took the half back berths and looked an exciting combination from the off, but I remember thinking that their expansive play and trickery certainly wouldn’t have suited our Coach, who prefers a steadier and more measured approach to play making. Without a win since beating Widnes Vikings in June, for us lot at least at times it was entertaining and although we moved the ball across the line too quickly on occasions and didn’t always draw the marker, it was at least an interesting watch.

However, we simply could not finish our sets and in the first quarter we gave the ball up, knocked on, or passed to one of their players with monotonous regularity on the fifth or sixth tackle play. In fact, both Danny Houghton, who switched to loose forward after an early head injury to Dean Hadley and Jordan Lane were caught in possession on the last tackle as well.

As time passed, you could sense the frustration growing both on and off the field as passes were forced and the ball was often squandered unnecessarily. Almost inevitably, Catalans scored with their first real attack, which came via former Hull prop Sam Moa in the 14th minute, as he timed his run perfectly and bounced through a half-hearted tackle to land over the line.

There was plenty of decent build-up play in the first half and twice we easily broke the Catalans defence down the middle, but we couldn’t finish the moves off. Shaul spilled the ball with the line begging and Fetuli Talanoa produced a scintillating run through the middle but didn’t even realise Scott Taylor was on his shoulder.

However, in that first half our goal line defence could best be described as pedestrian. Players strode about in the line and it looked like a below par Catalan outfit could score when they wanted too, but they too looked to have lost their appetite for the season and couldn’t be arsed most of the time, a situation that created a strange affair indeed. It seemed as the second half got under way that most fans around me were more interested in what was happening in Toulouse and even the goings on at Strictly Come Dancing than they were with the game unfolding in front of them. That, for long periods, is just how lacking in any sense of urgency and importance it all appeared to be.

As I say we raised the intensity in the middle section of the second half and a great inside pass for Brad Fash’s try from Connor was magical in its quality, before Jake then shot out a great cut out ball for Talanoa to go in wide out on the wing as the impossible looked to be on.

Even at 20-20 when a draw would have at least ended the rot for us, they came straight back again and Kenny Edwards jubilantly raced in on the 78th minute untouched between the posts and that was that, as Catalans who had not won for 6 games themselves ran out winners.

At least there was a bit of controversy when Jason Baitieri was put on report in the third minute for “grabbing someone’s manhood”. But they now replace us in seventh as we dropped to eighth, before we finish the season off on Friday at second-placed Wigan. The conclusion of which cannot come quickly enough for me.

One things for sure we didn’t have a bad team out on the field but we were way wide of the mark defensively and I struggle to see how we can expect anything more than a season of struggling next time around. We need some fresh faces and some new ideas because it was again just not good enough on Saturday. Hadley got injured early on again and several players showed in defence that they thought the season was over already. I guess, it was all very disappointing simply because we could easily have won but we couldn’t amass enough spirit and tenacity in defence and that really does worry me.

The hard fact is however that by re-signing so many of our ‘star’ players to contracts, (some of whom simply ain’t performing), we have now tied ourselves into 2019 for better or worse. That’s been the big mistake for me but there are not that many decent players out there to go for anyway. The real difference in terms of recruitment has to be made ahead of 2020, with 15 players off contract at the end of that campaign.

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2016; the Miracle of Good Friday.
The greatest comeback in the history of the Dentist Diary.

So, to some other happenings this week and I told you six editions ago that I had heard through his family that Jack Downs was on his way out of the Club and so it was confirmed last Friday that he has left and joined Batley. I liked him and at one time thought he had a bright future but somehow his face didn’t seem to fit and he didn’t get game time even in the most desperate of times, so he is on his way. I wish him the best of luck with his new career and again we see how harsh the game can be on players that for one reason or another are on the fringes and/or out of favour and so just fail to get chances in the first team.

What’s more, as we look to the future, that’s Downs, Abdul and Turgot out and all since Adams outburst about changing the staffing around a bit after the Warrington debacle. However, financial none of those players is anything like a big hitter and it really doesn’t give us much scope to bring in anyone better than what we already have. The Club have a couple already signed up, but they are described by insiders as ‘Ones for the future’ rather than immediate first team prospects. The dynamics between the owner, the Coach, the players and us lot the fans with regards to in’s and out’s is therefore interestingly poised and let’s just see what happens next.

Well, the structure for the game going forward was settled last week and as you all know, I went on and on and on about it! However, no sooner had that and the distribution of cash been sorted (for now at least) and Super League’s future and fate placed in new hands, before everyone was having ‘their two penneth’ on what has to happen next. In fact, suggestions were coming from everywhere with bold hints from some in the media that they had a good idea what Elstone and Co. already had in mind for spicing up the game. First suggestions pointed to bringing in the golden point in the case of a game being drawn after 80 minutes and introducing a 30 second shot clock for scrums and drop outs.

Well, you know my view on gimmicks and I guess both those ideas do fall into that category, but at least these are tried and tested in the NRL. Out of interest I timed the first two scrums on Saturday and one took 45 seconds and the other 41 seconds to get going after the referee’s whistle had gone and they were both in the first six minutes. I honestly think that if we have just two seasons to turn things around before the TV contract is up for renegotiating, then we could do worse than look at the Southern Hemisphere for a bit of inspiration.

They are far from perfect, but its certainly exciting and action packed and a darn sight better than what we have on offer in this country at present. OK, with such changes we’ll grumble about more gimmicks, but old farts like me will do that anyway and still go whatever, more importantly though we have to look at the younger fans and those who might come along if we can fire their interest. They are the big target audience we have to inspire.

Personally, I just hope that we iron out some of the anomalies there are in our game, like at present one team (this season at least) being allowed to play on a synthetic pitch whilst everyone else plays on grass and Catalan always having a video referee while everyone else doesn’t. Indeed, what about them playing all their home games on a set day (a Saturday) when the rest of us chop and change our home matches around to suit Sky. Our game is peppered with such anomalies throughout and perhaps these need to be rationalise to make the game appear fairer.

Thursday game attendances are another issue and numbers are really dropping across the game for these events, but Sky won’t scrap them will they? I hope that to ensure the best possible away support the new regime encourage the broadcasters to ensure the games they picks for that night are between Clubs that are not too far apart geographically, I honestly think that could well put a couple of hundred more attendees from away fans on some matches, which is a start.

Craig Murdoch then made a good point in the Mail about the number of substitutions you are allowed in a game (I say it was a good point but it was actually an idea I’m told that was put to him by a Diary reader!) However, he thought that we should reduce the interchanges to 8 and then to 6 from the current 10. I guess the point he was making is that by reducing them it means players get tired more quickly and when the big blokes are tired, we see the creative players come to the fore more often.

The reasoning behind Craig’s point is that the game has become pretty predictable and after years of concentrating on strength and size we seem to have moved away from entertaining people. For me, the game has abandoned an emphasis on excitement and entertainment, as we now seem to produce robots, albeit great athletic robots, and Craig argues that reducing the number of substitutions would allow the creative players the time, space and freedom to shine again. In the old days of true semi-professional rugby when weight work and body building was restricted because of the part time nature of the sport there was certainly a lot more expansive and exciting rugby on show.

He said this week in his Hull Daily Mail column that Supporters like seeing big hits and great tackling and that wouldn’t go out of the game. But what we’d see more of as the big guys tire, is the back division running the ball to create more great offensive plays, memorable tries and bits of skill. For me at least that was a good suggestion although we always have to consider player welfare and who knows what a strain it will put on them. 8 interchanges would be a good idea at first I think.

You know, when your Club is playing it’s hard to notice it, but when you watch other games on TV at times it’s getting bloody boring. Last Thursday’s Huddersfield v Wigan match was a real ‘boreathon’, played out in front of a few hundred fans on a wet Thursday night in West Yorkshire. It was a flat and lifeless game and the atmosphere was little better on the terraces.

Then, there is the fact that in modern day sport, image is everything. We need to head our broadcasts up with fast exciting action shots from our great players to show the amazing feats of athleticism we all see every week, but instead, what do Sky have to head up their Super League broadcasts? Bloody cartoons!!! Have a look how BT sport head up their Rugby Union Club games coverage, it makes even kick and clap look attractive to watch. I could go on and on but boy,
it would appear that Mr Elstone and his buddies have a bit of work to do at present and no mistake, but as always in rugby league, no one is short of advice!!

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Bloody Allams! The Johnny Whitley pics come down and the fans come out to support him!

Back to Hull FC though and the Clubs Player of the Year awards last week held few surprises really although it was great to see Scott Taylor awarded the top Gong and Jake Connor grabbing both the player’s player and the fans player of the year awards. If there was an award for ‘Player most difficult to hang onto until the end of his contract’, then that would have gone to Jake as well, because his style and off the cuff magic is already drawing attention from Australia and he is certainly the player around who we can rebuild our reputation and indeed our self-respect. Whilst I’m on the Player of the Year Award’s well done to the Club for staging them at the new Arena in another bold move following last year’s event at the City Hall. Before I finish on that subject just a word for Hakim Miloudi who was awarded the try of the season for that length of the field effort against Castleford in the last home game.

Over the years we have seen some amazing tries win the award, which usually featured mesmerising passing movements, individual handling skill and great backing up. However, I guess it’s a sad reflection on this season that following a vote from those in attendance on the night, the award was won this time around, by a real ‘Run Forrest Run’ effort from a young man, who is so markedly unconventional and at times down right bizarre, that he is winning the hearts of all the fans.

Well done Hakim let’s hope you use 2019, the last year of you contract, to cement a place in the team. He obviously needs steadying down a bit, but so did Jake Connor when he arrived and yet at a time when the game is looking at itself and aiming to make things more exciting for the fans, it’s his unpredictability and strength that is his attraction; so please Mr Radford let’s not coach all that out of him eh?

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Probably the second best FC tackle ever!

Following the brilliant stuff we saw on the regional news that featured Liam Pryce and the struggles he had encountered with mental illness as he came to the end of his career, it was good to see that Tony Adams had been down to Hull FC to talk about the work of his Sporting Chance Clinic. This institution which predominantly assists players of all sports who are going through mental issues, is a massive plus for sportsmen and as someone who has been there myself, I have to say that you can’t put too much emphasis on the dangers of mental illness in all its manifestations. The depth of the problem in our game was starkly outlines when Adams announced that Sporting Chance had in fact assisted 400 RL players in the last seven years. That figure, and to hear what Liam had to say of his own experiences, has to be a cause for concern for the game as a whole.

The Clubs have a duty of care towards the players and so do we as fans and so I hope that a few of those brave souls, ‘sat in their bedrooms with the curtains drawn’, who use social media to publicly pillory players and their families after poor performances and losses, take note the damage that their actions can cause to the mental fibre of some of these guys. That and the fear of what they will do when they finish playing are the two main reasons cited for the onset of mental illness in players of all sports and so it’s important that employees such as Feke who is our own Welfare Officer and Tony Cotson our Club Chaplain, are kept on at Clubs however difficult the financial circumstances become.

No one deserves to go through the rigours of work related mental illness and that appertains to professional sportsmen as much as anyone else. My old Dad once said to me when I was under the weather, “The problem is people can sympathise with a broken leg, but with mental illness if they have never had it then it’s hard to understand” and he never uttered a more salient fact. So, well done to Tony Adams and every sports Club in the country that give this worrying condition the attention it deserves. Keep it up! As for Liam Pryce, well he certainly went up in my estimation with how well he spoke and well done to him; I wonder if he’d like a job as our attacking Coach?

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‘Coverupgate’ it’s not all been plain sailing has it?

Well here I am at the 600th edition of this weekly twaddle and it seems an age since that day at Cardiff in 2005, a few weeks after which this all started. It was at that time, after such a life defining milestone (little did I know however what was to come 11 years later at Wembley) that I felt a need to do a bit more as a fan and so I started to put together these weekly pieces. Granted, I had written a bit (officially) for the club programme, but otherwise I had no experience with this kind of thing at all! I sort of wanted to write about my life as an FC fan and get it into book form before it was too late and I ‘pegged it’ and the facts behind what we had all been through became nothing more than folklore.

I wanted to do it before the truth behind the happenings I had experienced at our great club and the heroes and villains it has produced are no more. As I’ve often said in here, wouldn’t it be nice to know who that guy was who stood on the Threepenny Stand and for the first time ever sung that cowboy lullaby, originally directed at a horse, that has become the most famous rugby anthem in the world. Did he hear it in the pub, see it sung at the pictures or just notice the sheet music on the piano in the parlour before he left home. We’ll never ever know will we, because no one wrote it down to record the moment for posterity.

The thing was however, as far as writing went, I didn’t know where to start, so if I needed to learn how to converse with my fellow fanatics in print, a blog seemed a good idea. It was that sort of short term project, to lead into the first tome being written that prompted me to start, but it soon grew legs and with the support of so many amazing fans it was hard to stop, even when I was completely engrossed in trying to bring the ‘Roamin’ the Range’ duet of books to eventual publications.

Since then it has at least provided an outlet for my life long obsession and my regular rants, opinions and observations as well as introducing me to dozens and dozens of readers, young and old new and traditional (like me) many of whom don’t always agree with me, but who have just the same stuck with me throughout to become great mates. The thing is such are the vagaries of the technology that has allowed me to do this that I wouldn’t know most of them if I bumped into them in the street!! I guess I feel that if, by reading this drivel, just one fan gets some extension to their enjoyment of supporting their club, then the 12 or so hours a week it still takes to produce is time well spent.

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Here it is for me the best Diary moment before 2016, we win the semi-final at Huddersfield in 2013 and Yeamo celebrates.

Being an FC supporter is always hard, and perhaps that’s not just because we are often disappointing by what happens out there on the field, but also because try as we may, both on and off the field, little appears to change for long. It might for a couple of years of real joy, as we have so gloriously seen of late, after which we hope it will continue, but time indicates that it invariably doesn’t happen that way! So much so that I guess if next season it all comes back bright and hopeful again, we will all be pleasantly surprised. Here is an extract from the 100th edition of the Diary well over 11 years ago, only two years after Cardiff which I think proves my point:

“…..we are down more than up, sad more than happy and frustrated more than elated! We win well, then lose woefully, we always start behind everyone else, are under cooked and over done, and all it seems, just a bit more frequently than all the other clubs in Super League! We are good starters, but poor finishers, and although Saints, Wakey, Bradford and a few others try to wrestle the title from us, we are still the perennial “Injury kings” of the game.

We get constant earache from the dimwits over in Banjo picking land across the River, get more injuries in training than in games and have a Mascot that is supposed to be a Bird but which looks a lot like a Duck!!!! We are bitterly disappointed when we lose, get injuries or miss out on a signing, but perk up again when the Club give us a flag and a scarf! …..”

Eleven years and although we don’t even get many flags and free scarves these days, little else seems to have changed at all really for it is the lot of the long suffering FC fan to always be expecting the worst.

However, despite being over loaded with the pressure of years of under achieving, all of us long suffering FC supporters soldiered on before suddenly, almost as if my magic, in 2016 that all changed forever!!!

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Remember this one? Peter Gentle and his Dad two days after he got the bullet, joining us for a farewell drink in the now defunct Drum and Monkey. Great bloke, great mates, great pub!

When it’s in your genes, your team and their adventures ‘milestone’ your life. You remember where you were when Knocker Norton signed, or where you sat when we beat Saints in that semi at Huddersfield in 2005, or even when great heroes from the past like Clive Sullivan, Steve Prescott or even Roy Waudby died. And, oh boy do you remember ten to five on Saturday 27th August 2016!!!!!

My life is no different; as I have said before, my Dads last words before he passed away were, “Hull and Rovers at Wembley I don’t believe it”. For its certainly a life defining thing even at such times as that! Charlie, a big pal and work colleague, passed away sat in the best stand next to me in the first half of a game at the Boulevard. By the time we had beaten Wigan, his daughter and son in law who sat with us, were leaving Hull Royal with his clothes in a plastic bag. Sad for us all, but Charlie wouldn’t have had it any other way, because he died at the Boulevard and we were beating Wigan!

The first I knew of the seminal and life changing floods in Hull, was when I tried to get Humberside’s commentary on the internet whilst on holiday in America, and found out that the Salford game had been postponed because of them. I remember one holiday in Cyprus, simply because I got sunstroke when my legs got severely burned whilst listening to a game on Humberside from one of those skimpy continental phone boxes and as DDD said, ’It’s coming down in Stair-rods here at the Boulevard” my legs gently fried in the hot sunshine. and so it goes on, we all have our memories and high points, those milestones are from my life and in here over the years I guess I’ve just tried to write them down.

So a bit like the music in your life, for all of us those moments are a way of cataloguing things, but ’loving your club’ is always guaranteed to be pretty tough at times too. Hull FC is incredibly inventive in the multitude of ways that it can screw you up, like for instance right now, with the longest run of defeats in our history and that in the wake of the worst injury crisis any living fan can remember. We cling on to what happened last year and the year before, but still wonder what will happen next!

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“And you with the hat bigger than mine, think you can do my job? Well you can’t!” Agar and Webster the Chuckle Brothers of the first decade of the new century.

All us obsessive supporters have our own such experiences to call on don’t we? It’s matter less whether you have been going 6 weeks or 60 years, we all have our stories to tell, our memories, our tragedies our hopes and our dreams. For they make us what we are, and win or lose, even in the darkest days, they keep us believing in Hull FC. Most of us old timers know it always “Could be worst”, because our experience proves that it has been, and no doubt one day in the future it will be again!! It’s hard now, of course it is, but not as hard as the early 70’s when we seemed to be going out of business every few weeks or indeed the late 90’s when we were exposed to the whims and agendas of David Lloyd and we sat at a meeting waiting for the other clubs to vote us out of the Rugby League. That’s hardship alright!!! That said the last two seasons and particularly 2016 have been magical and I for one can now die a happy man whatever the future brings; I was there, I saw it and I was in that very moment! What’s more after it my life will never really be the same again.

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That Moment!

However, I cannot stress enough that I am really grateful for all those who read this stuff and for all the feedback I get, be it good and bad. I have gained friend through it, received my fair share of hate mail from the dick heads, and some that should know better, and I am now in contact with the far-flung outposts of the FC Faithful world-wide. People in South America, New Zealand, Canada and Iceland, stuck up mountains, far out to sea on ships and oil rigs, and bobbing around on pedalows, they have all been in touch and many of them still are.

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My proudest moment and one of my greatest achievements to date, the unveiling of the Boulevard Memorial in 2015!

But its personal as well, because this weekly rubbish gives me a chance to pander to my obsession between games, and I suppose I see it as giving me an opportunity to put some sort of prospective on my life-long passion. Or, perhaps at the very least it gives this budding adolescent, who has been getting his pension for 3 years now, an excuse for it!

Well done to Mrs R too as I and this bloody Diary must at times be a bugger to live with. I obsess about the game and my team but that’s just because I know no other and by now it’s much too late to change. I’m so lucky to have the support of her as she has, over the years, seen it all and sat up front on the roller coaster, but she genuinely gets it and if proof is needed then it was her that turned to me at the end of the 2016 final and as the hooter went, gave me a hug and said, “I know this is the best moment of your life” and of course it was! I couldn’t ever ask for any more could I?

Back in December 2005 when I started I thought I would soon just run out of things to say. Of course I’ve considered giving up on this lot and I probably do every week and one day I certainly will chuck it. However, let me just say that 600 editions, over 400 games, 5 managers,13 seasons, and enough words to fill almost 4 bibles all about the game I love and my team the famous Hull FC has been a joy to be part of, as have the books and the amazing comments, feedback and even complaints I get almost every day about them. The Roamin saga’s are there as a historical reminder of 55 years of FC history, seen through the eyes of a very ordinary bloke, but if I have one real hope then it is that one day, years from now, ‘2016 The Year of the Aiirlie Bird’ will be taken down from dusty book shelves and people will realise what a magical season that was for everyone associated with Hull FC and how lucky the fans of that time were to experience it.

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Remember this? Losing at Odsal, free Mac’s and its raining again!!!

I am just thankful that you, by reading the Dentists Diary, give me the opportunity to continue; if you stop reading, then I stop writing because what then would be the point? You are kind to stick with all the aged stories and biased drivel I come out with, most of it is unstructured and just written as it tumbles out and as an average supporter sees it at the time! But I care about my team and the game, I really do and so I’ll press on for a little while yet, as long as you want to read it and I can get someone to publish it!

Talking of that bit, I am eternally grateful to Joe Bennett who has been a great mentor and who has become a great friend. Every week he posts the Diary pictures and all wherever he is and whatever he is doing and does it with a good heart and usually bang on time.

Diary Publisher and controller of Joe Bennett, always the showman; big thanks to him for he has a lot to put up with!

When I was asked 600 editions ago if I would like to write something for a new website I don’t know if he knew what he was letting himself in for! But in the end I guess as I always say The Dentist Diary is just the ramblings of a fanatical fan, just how fanatical you probably now know!

So, there we are, a few home truths? Well I’m allowed a bit of navel gazing after 600 additions aren’t I? I guess when I step back from it all, the Diary is just another way of this old obsessive, the original Codger, being involved and doing his bit. The number of exiled fans that read it around this country and indeed across the world still amazes me. I get dozens of E Mails, texts and even letters every week and yet understand that many, many readers don’t actually know how to contact me anyway.

Saddo and proud of it? I guess so! But Hull FC are my team and have been part of my life for as long as I can remember and they forever will be!! For me they are the greatest Rugby League team in the world and as always for me, the next win comes next week and our total domination of the sport is just around the next corner!

Thanks for indulging me through this special 600th Edition of the Dentists Diary and most of all thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support interest and loyalty over the last 13 years, as readers you are just an amazing bunch of people!!

See you next week!

Keep Believing

Faithfully Yours