The Dentist’s Diary – 610th

A Merry Christmas to You All!!!

Out for another year Lucky Joe the Diary mascot!

This is the last Dentists Diary of 2018 and as Hull FC fans I guess that we are all glad to see the back of this year, for however philosophical you are, it all came as a massive anti-climax after the two previous seasons, when we spent most of our time on Cloud 9! On the other hand, the response of all us sometimes downhearted fans to this year’s season ticket campaign has, if nothing else, at least confirmed that the Clubs greatest asset is its supporters. Although for some of us that was a fact that was never in doubt.

Of late the weather has certainly been seasonal hasn’t it? Boy it’s been bloody cold! On Saturday in Beverley it was ‘coming down in stair rods’ and certainly ‘as cold as Christmas’. That got me thinking, how the heck did we ever stand all those years on Bunkers Hill, surrounded by 70 and 80-year old blokes shivering in their shoes, as we all watched our heroes, usually losing, in weather like that! It buggers belief really when you look back!

That’s FC fans for you though isn’t it? Granted, we haven’t had to do that or even get the banners and placards out for a long time, but we all know we still will do, if we needed to. That unfailing, lifelong loyalty is a rationale that avid fans of ‘their club’ understand completely, whilst few on the ‘outside’, struggle to understand it at all. And you know what, that love affair is something that has been on my mind a bit of late, but more of that later!

So, first to things of today and the rise and rise of Cameron Scott was highlighted over the past two weeks when he featured as captain of the England Academy and indeed led them to a series win over an Australian Schoolboys side, as history was made when they won and beat the Aussie lads in a series for only the second time in 40 years.

The promising outside back started at right centre and produced solid performances in both matches. Gareth Ellis whose role is to develop and nurture the young talent said that it was something that he never attained at 19, with the experience something Gareth says the young back will never forget. I hope that Cameron savoured every moment but, if ever there was a damning indictment of the need for a proper Reserve League then this is it, for where will most of those lads play next year? Even at Hull FC when you look at Carlos Tuimavave, Josh Griffin and current international centre Jake Connor, its obvious that chances in the centre for an aspiring 19-year-old, are not good.

Cam’ needs to be playing regularly with full time professional players and not against, with the greatest of respect, the second strings of Halifax and Keighley if indeed, come the day, they can even raise a team. As Eddie Hearne hinted last week the RL and the Super League need to talk to each other and get a grip and force Clubs to run second string teams, if our game is going to survive and prosper and not just become a testing ground for NRL hopefuls and the last playing place of retiring Aussies. Until there is a progression for those kids who performed so heroically last week, then the game will at best just mark time.

In the Mail last week, the debate about Marc Sneyd and his future at the club was aired again, as it was announced that initial talks had opened about his future. For a guy who it could be argued actually was key to us winning that glorious victory in 2016 and the one the following year, its quite amazing how many FC fans doubt Marc’s ability and he is fast becoming Marmite Man. As far as a lot of fans go, you either love him or you don’t. We all know Garry Schofield’s views on the matter but who cares what he thinks, however one thing that no one can take from Sneyd is the fact that he is a great organiser.

Lee Radford likes that quality, but as far as half backs go we might have three of the best in the League, however they are all really different players. Marc is that organiser who sorts the line out before each play and has a great short kicking game, Albo is the master of sniffing out the opening and taking the direct approach to exploiting it, whilst Jake Connor is…. Well Jakes just the Maverick.

Each brings something to the role and does it with a high level of skill, but unfortunately such is the game of Rugby League that there are only two half back positions in any team and someone is going to be disappointed. How Lee handles that will be interesting to see, although there is a school of thought in the game that with just 8 substitutions next season you could actually use more mobile forwards to start with and carry fresh ‘creative legs’ on the bench to be introduced as the forwards tire at the end of each half. What a role that would be for Connor and his ‘box of tricks’, but to keep such an ambitious and talented player happy, he will want a lot more than a place on the bench won’t he?

For me Sneyd is a very clever player who has time and again proved his critics wrong and with Albert likely to be looking to return to the NRL in 2020 and Jake obviously at some time invariably going to consider offers from over there too, perhaps keeping Marc with us, when he seems really happy at the club, is an imperative. If they are all fit, (and two of them ain’t at present) who starts next year at half back will be interesting, but I feel to exploit what he showed in flashes for us last year we have to have Connor in there somewhere, but who with, heaven knows!!

The questions are endless really, but we know that Connor and Kelly at half back hasn’t really worked thus far, predominantly perhaps because they are both a bit ‘off the cuff’ in their styles, so it could be Connor and Sneyd, but then what do you do with Kelly? Can you really afford to keep a player of such class and on such a salary on the bench? Well perhaps a substitute role where he could spell the half backs or indeed come in for a flagging Houghton, to inject some verve to the play as the forwards tire (a role I think perhaps his direct style might suit), could be the way to go. In reality, at Hull FC let’s face it, injuries will probably solve that debate before it even starts anyway!

One things for sure I wouldn’t want to be Lee Radford making that call if they are all fit to start the season, because whatever he does he’ll be wrong in some folk’s eyes, but I guess it’s a nice problem to have just the same and wouldn’t it be great to have such an embarrassment of riches as we have in the halves,our the front row?

I see that Garry Schofield used up almost a whole page of a Rugby League newspaper last weekend to have a go back at Adam Pearson. Even going as far as to say that with the exception of Leeds, Hull were his favourite Club!!! The Hull Daily Mail gave him the response he obviously craves with a long winded ten-point rebuttal of his comments, but I won’t be saying anything because I think for me that lot warrants just one word …Bollocks! Let’s move on!

Now, according to Eddie Hearn, who likes to stick his oar in from time to time, it’s the salary cap that is holding rugby league back from being a global success, because there are too few players that are recognisable as superstars anymore. This week he said, “I follow sport, but I couldn’t tell you one rugby league player. I said to the rugby league guys that Martin Offiah, Andy Farrell, Jamie Peacock and Ellery Hanley are the ones I remember… So, if there are no role models and no ambassadors, how will grassroots participation grow? How will people tune in? You have to tune in to watch a star. Even with the Ryder Cup, you really want to see [Tiger] Woods. In the snooker, you want to see Ronnie [O’Sullivan]. In boxing, you want to watch [Anthony] Joshua. You need standout players but also with the wage cap you are not giving the clubs a chance to sign them”.

He added: “Remember back in the day, St Helens and Wigan were the standouts and now it is much more of an even playing field. Fans might say ‘we like that’ but it’s like Formula 1, some teams are stronger than others but it’s still exciting particularly when the ‘stars’ get beaten by the weaker teams. For me a lot of things have got to change”.

So what do you think? Well its easy to say keep the salary cap and a level playing field and let clubs field the same strength teams whether they command a gate of 15,000 or one of 3000. But, is that fair on those paying, loyal fans and aren’t we putting the cart before the horse? Equality is great, but should we keep the current set up, or should the quality of a team and the number of stars they have, be equal to the amount of fans, sponsors and partners they can attract and if it was the case, would that encourage clubs to work harder at building attendances.

Is it too easy at present for some clubs? In the old days when Wigan was the richest team they were loathed across the rest of the game, they were the pantomime baddies and when a smaller club turned them over, it was national headline news. It captured the national attention and profiled the game. These days everything is so samey and levelled out and that ability to attract big stars and indeed create a presence based on the rich and the poor and their constant battle, has diminished. I have always been an advocate of scrapping the salary cap but with the caveat that there are checks and balances in there to prevent the boom and bust we have sometimes seen in the past.

For instance, I’d say that no one can make a marquee signing until they have an established reserve team. In addition, I would say that a Club could spend only up to 50% of its total income on player’s wages, the more the income (through bigger gates and commercial initiatives) the more a club could spend. OK some will say that’s not fair on the smaller clubs, but it’s an incentive driven scheme based on them trying to become bigger clubs; surely that’s good for the game. I think that’s a much better idea than a salary cap myself! However, getting that through a vote of clubs would be darn near impossible because too many clubs can’t be arsed to work to attract a crowd anymore, and how sad is that?

This week Robert Elstone spoke to the national media about progress on several fronts in the shake down between the RL and the Super League Clubs as the latter seek more autonomy in what is, although he doesn’t say it, a sort of breakaway/partnership deal between the two parties. The negotiations have been quite intense, but it’s becoming apparent that the games administration is starting to realise that the Super League Clubs have a lot of strength and sway, and thus appear to be giving ground and becoming more and more amenable to sorting things so that Redhall keep some credibility. They need Super League to stay in the fold and even if they do eventually break away, then in Brexit parlance it will be a ‘soft’ breakaway.

For instance, Elstone has effectively been working on his own for the first six months of his tenure, but now he has a 11-strong team around him, that has experience in marketing, sponsorship and publicity. This is after the agreed switch of RFL employees to the Super league administration. That’s giving ground and no mistake. It seems to me that Super League have the whip hand on most fronts here and the RL are clinging on to ensure some credibility.

What Elstone says has occupied much of his time over the first six months, (after the fixtures and the rules have been changed), is the defining of the division of duties and responsibilities with the RFL. Essentially that means how Super League’s gains autonomy to rule itself but stays somehow under the wing of the RL. They have been discussing how they share resources and money so that in the end Super League secures control over its own destiny.

The Super League Chief Executive said in attempting to explain this, “The whole initiative has been about how Super League can take control its own commercial future, how it markets and promotes itself, and how it can take control of its own finances and resources. It’s taken a long time to reverse that out of the RFL and has probably been more complicated than I thought it would have been, but we’ve worked well with the RFL over recent weeks to ensure we’ve got a settlement that works for both sides. The debate got washed through in public around the time of the EGM, but since then it’s been discussions on the practicalities of staff, responsibilities and money, and we’re getting pretty close to a solution that we can shake hands on and move forward on. We should then be able to start the New Year with a clear position with the RFL on who does what”.

Another thorny issue surrounds the number of games we play in a year and quite frankly when you look at next season when we will start in late January and the last internationals won’t be over until the end of November, then as far as the health of our players is concerned, it’s ridiculous. Elstone and Co want to shorten the season, quite rightly I think, but the Clubs are split on whether they want that. Some think a lot about player welfare whilst others are just greedy and want as much income as possible. They won’t tell you this but the Super League Clubs voted on that and were split down the middle, with those voting against citing the fact that financially they couldn’t survive without the current level of income from games. So at the moment it’s not about the welfare of the players but more about economics.

If the new set up in Super League can prove that less is more by bringing in increased commercial and sponsorship revenue, or by increasing gates or TV revenue, then there may be an opportunity to shorten the season. Conversely however, I think even if we did that, there may well still be a lobby for the same high number of games simply because people are always wanting more money coming in. It needs to change though for the players benefit so let’s hope that SL inc. can deliver the goods.

Well I had a real go in here last week at what I knew about the ridiculous Challenge Cup situation that leaked out just before the last Diary was posted, but when the actual facts came out as Brian Noble spilled the beans in last week’s RL press, it became, ‘curiouser and couriouser’. Last week as the 52 clubs who will be taking part in the 2019 Challenge Cup were confirmed, everyone wondered why Toronto Wolfpack and Toulouse were not on the list and we were told very quickly that they had decided not to take part.

That must be the cost and stress of all the travelling on top of the league fixtures, we all thought, but then we found out that although Toulouse had continued their stance of 2018 and not entered, the other two was reportedly not in the competition, because it’s going to cost them an arm and a leg to enter. It’s all down to the RFL trying to cover themselves after missing out financially last season when Catalans Dragons won the cup in front of around 50,000 at Wembley.

Last Monday it was revealed that Toronto would have had to pay £750,000 for a bond, with part of it being repaid to the club, should they not make the cup final. Catalans have paid the bond but theirs is reported to be just £500,000 and as Cup holders they will enter the competition again. As I said last week The RL are I guess just protecting their interest and that of their member clubs so a bond seems a good idea, but is it really?

You know what my initial views on Toronto joining were, but they are in now and so we have to make the best of it and indeed as Adam says the money and profile they bring to the game must be harnessed and used to our advantage, but now after this, who would blame them for chucking the towel in. They can afford the £750,000, of course they can, but it’s the principle that I think is preventing them for paying it.

For me the whole thing is shambolic and points to a lack of ambition on the governing body’s behalf. What they are saying is that they cannot fill Wembley for one of the biggest games in the sport’s annual calendar. To suggest the inclusion of a non-UK club is the reason for that is bollocks. When Catalans, a French club, faced St Helens in the 2007 final it attracted a crowd of 84,241, which remains the second highest attended Cup final since 1988.

The point is that the RFL has to aim to fill Wembley every year rather than finding ways to protect themselves because they believe that they won’t. It’s so self-defeating when the national media perceive that our administration has such a backward thinking attitude and show a deal of under ambition and a glass-half-empty approach. So, once again the morning papers are talking about the politics of the game rather than the greatness of the sport itself as a spectacle!

The RFL should be working its butt off to find new ideas and marketing ploys to fill the place next year, but instead it is looking for safety nets to ensure it doesn’t lose too much money because it hasn’t got confidence in its own ability!! I said in here at the time that having Catalans at Wembley was a huge opportunity for the sport. But did the RFL really make the most of it? Did they buggery! Quite frankly the whole admission of defeat with regard to the Wembley attendance next year, before the Cup has even been drawn stinks and this current debacle again creates massively negative publicity for the game as a whole.

A massive thank you to everyone who has sent me their Christmas Cards this year and especial thanks to Sue Jacklin who has again excelled herself and sent this unique great needle point card that she has made! Well done Sue and season’s greetings to you all!

I see that hot on the heels of James Rules departure at Widnes their head of Commercial and community Development Richard Munson is moving on too. Richard used to be at the FC and was a different kettle of fish altogether and a really great bloke who moved mountains to continue the good work in the Community started by John Flatman, who he replaced and who is now Chief Executive at York. I was sorry to see Richard leave Widnes, were it seems to be all change at present at the relegated Club, but as one of the good guys, I hope that he finds success wherever he goes.

Christmas for the aging FC fan is always a bit of an anti-climax because in the days of yore in the era of Winter Rugby it was a busy old time for fan and player alike. Look for instance at Christmas 1967 as I saw it aged 17, in my first book, for it was certainly no exception. Whilst the Beatles were in the middle of a seven week run at number one in the charts with ‘Hello Goodbye’ and ‘Spirograph’ and ‘Action Man’ were the top toys in most kid’s stockings, it must have been a great time to be living close to the Stadium. However, now I was based in Sutton there was a lot of travelling backwards and forwards involved in any busy yuletide fixture list. Looking back though there is little doubt that particular festive period certainly emphasised how much different the game was in the late sixties.

Players worked full time and only trained when they could and because many of them needed the money they played whatever the circumstances, often despite suffering bad injuries and sometimes playing several games in a week. That festive season was a prime example, with the FC playing a staggering three games in four days and all of them at the Boulevard. Can you imagine that happening now? OK some folks will say that its more physical and intense these day, but it’s all relative because modern professional players are fine-tuned sporting machines, whilst back then I would describe them as ‘hard as nails’ part time heroes, who gave their all every time they pulled on the black and white shirt even though at times they were ‘dropping to bits’
Thankfully at least the festive period was milder than the previous three had been but the Boulevard pitch was a real mess before we even started and of course that frequency of games did little to improve it but it was just the way the fixtures fell, because that year Christmas Day was on a Monday. The previous Saturday the 23rd, we played an ‘awkward’ looking game against Castleford and a good gate of 6,500 gave the Christmas shopping a miss and despite an East Yorkshire Bus strike, there was a great festive atmosphere in the Boulevard that afternoon.

The game started at 3-00pm and the new floodlights were on, but if I remember rightly they were on all the time back then, whatever time the kick off something that was probably down to the novelty value of our new equipment. Still this was to be our best performance over the holidays, hard man Jim Neale won the man of the match accolade after a masterful display in the second row and Keegan put in a great stint at full back joining the line in fine style whilst at scrum half Chris Davidson scored a great try. He was put through the Castleford defence by Nobby Oliver who cut in from the wing to feed a perfect ball inside to our scrum half. The vagaries of the semi-pro game were well illustrated when John Maloney could not get the day off work and so Davidson took on the goal kicking as well and landed four beauties all from wide out. Willett the Castleford stand-off half kicked three goals in the first half, but tries from Terry Devonshire, Nick Trotter and Arthur Keegan saw us home, as we came out winners 22-6.

Then on Christmas Day, despite a skeleton bus service and no trains at all, 11,800 attended the local Derby against the old enemy which kicked off at 11-00am and turned out to be a ferocious game in which there were no fewer than 7 fights as a few players ‘exchanged fists instead of Christmas cards’ and a few old scores were settled. A brilliant first seventeen minutes by the Rovers in which Flash Flanagan scored and Holliday kicked 4 goals saw the Robins put themselves in an unassailable position on what was a really heavy ground. Dick Gemmell our centre was mysteriously unavailable and we really missed him and as the cigars were smoked and the brandy swigged on the ‘Threepennies’ we finished on the wrong end of a 15-9 scorelines. Davidson had three skirmishes with Bill Holliday the last of which saw him land a ‘pearler’ of a right hook on the Rover’s second rowers jaw for which he was immediately ordered off the pitch. Alan McGlone ‘planted’ a brilliant right hook on Barry Cooper who was carried from the field in the last minute and in spirit of Peace and Goodwill the final whistle saw skirmishes break out right across the field. Joe Oliver pulled back a try for us and Maloney who replaced Gemmell kicked three goals, but in the end we lost. The game had promised so much but as one ‘hack’ said after the game, ‘it had promised fireworks but ended up a damp squib’

Next day, Boxing Day, there was no let up as we played our third game but the time of year, the 2/9d admission fee or maybe even Cool Hand Luke and Dr Doolittle premiering at the Cecil and ABC Regal meant that just 3000 turned up to see what should have been an easy game against lowly Doncaster, but in the end it was anything but easy. Two really hard games had taken their toll and as we made just two changes, it was certainly hard going. The men from Tattersfield ‘stuck it to’ us in the first half and it was 30 minutes before John Maloney got a penalty to open the scoring. Gemmell, no doubt full of Turkey after his absence the previous day was back in the team and broke several times but tired legs meant that there was no backing up and several chances were lost.

Otherwise the only other player to do his reputation any good at all was Arthur Keegan who had another fine game at full back but then again he always did. Devonshire and Davidson got tries for us and we were cruising toward victory, when in the last quarter of an hour the unfancied visitors roared back inspired by the try of the game, a brilliant 75 yarder by winger James which led to a ‘jittery’ last few minutes, but in the end we came out winners by 10-3. So it was 4 points out of 6 but the one we lost was as always the only one we the fans were really interested in winning. We played at Bramley four days later and lost again but that was what the game was like back then and you have to wonder just how the players managed to keep going. Great memories though; who else reading this is old enough to remembers those games?

You know, Christmas is a time for thank-you’s and for reflection and now I want to do a bit of both! I particularly want to take this opportunity to show my appreciation to all those reading this who have over the years stuck with me and indeed bought any of my books. To date the first two ‘Roamin the Range’ Books have sold well over 1800 copies each and the latest offering ‘2018 The Year of the Airlie Bird’ has already sold over 850 as well. The first two are now down to their last few copies, whilst I hope in years to come fans will take the 2016 book down from some dusty book shelf, read it and relive what will I’m sure in decades to come, be looked back on as a year which changed our club and indeed the lives of thousands of its fans. I’ve paid to have them all placed in the British Library for just that reason as well.

At this time of year, it would be totally wrong of me not to mention all the fantastic support I have received from the loyal readers for both the Diary and those books over the past years, because it has again been simply phenomenal. The Diary has just passed 600 editions and it’s 13-year mark and still the support is constant week in week out whatever drivel I produce. I have made so many friends (and a few enemies) from this weekly rubbish, but what was the most rewarding of all, was finally self-publishing my books and your subsequent kind response to them.

As I always say self-publishing is a labour of love and if you go into it to make money then you will be sadly disappointed, (unless your ‘Agatha Christie’), however with your support, the club forgoing any commission on sales and following a bit of arm twisting at the publishers, I have been able over the years to give a donation £2000 to the Clubs foundation from the first one, £2500 to the Kirk Yeaman Benefit from the second and over £3200 to the Danny Houghton Testimonial from the third and in the end just about got my money back as well. All that of course comes from all of you, so thanks for all your support with that one, well done, it’s greatly appreciated by the club, those players and indeed myself.

The ‘Roamin’ saga has certainly jogged a few memories and all three books have brought folks together and made me realise just how special the great family of Hull FC really is. In such things you get your reward when raising a bit of cash for worthy causes and indeed (perhaps the greatest ‘Buzz’ there is) making so many new friends, with all the camaraderie I have seen that engenders amongst the supporters. Many have without doubt enjoyed re-examining the past, bringing back the memories, ‘questioning the facts’ and just remembering our fabulous heritage!

For me personally the last 13 years of the Diary have just been unforgettable and have certainly made me realise that in Hull FC we have a fabulous Club that means so much to so many people and that is so worth supporting, defending and even, if needs be, fighting for.

You see, for me, there is a distinct difference between a team and a Club. You would never ever say that we have the best team in the Country because that would be foolish, simply because a team is, in the end, judged solely on its performances and we are far from the best there! We have had some great seasons and some pretty naff ones over the years haven’t we? However, I believe that the importance and status of a Sports Club, in the hierarchy of its peers, is not judged by its performances or its players. Instead I believe it is gauged by its heritage, its history and more importantly still, the number and passion of its supporters, the sacrifices they make and the adversity that the Club and those fans have been through together over the years. Some supporters of other clubs never really get the big reward, the retribution and the final prize that we got in 2016, for it was a season that was for fans like me simply the defining moment in a lifetime. How lucky we all are for that!

Although I would shy away from saying that we are the best Rugby League Club in the World, writing this Diary, producing the books and hearing the feedback from you the reader’s week in week out about them both, has at least convinced me of one thing; there is without doubt no greater a Club than ‘The Famous Hull FC’.

Take our heritage; all clubs in our game and the communities they serve have been through hard times, the Great Depression, the loss of life in two World Wars, the collapse of local industries etc. etc. etc. But here at Hull FC our Community and fan base has been through all that and so much more. Just consider the numerous Trawling disasters and the loss of life over the years, the decimation of large swathes of the Hessle Road ‘family’, in the name of ‘Slum clearance’ and the subsequent scattering of the fan base to the four corners of the City. Plus, there is the demise of not just the Fishing Industry but also the many auxiliary trades and the thousands of jobs that supported it. Then there’s the merger and David Lloyd, the closing of the Boulevard, The Etherington years and of course the numerous times that we have had just hours away from bankruptcy, or from finding a payment to stop us going out of business, and so it goes on.

Many Clubs can no doubt list their own tragedies, but few can boast so many and indeed such a lot of loyal folks sticking with them through so many lean times. It’s the weight of support that we sustain no matter what is happening that is so significant! If proof is needed look at season ticket sales this year; 11 defeats on the trot and we are still heading for record sales.

So fickle is the rationale of the average sports fan that many Clubs would have seen their gates halved by that and yet despite it all, season ticket sales have been as good if not better than the best in the Competition. We have lost a few I grant you, mainly because after Wembley they had seen it all and their lives had changed forever, but newcomers have taken up the challenge and we continue to move forward. We are without doubt, a very special bunch!

I believe the last Chairperson, Auntie Kath, recognised everything I outline above when she and Shane Richardson took over, but instead of appreciating and nurturing it, I think personally she and some of her lot milked it! Adam is different I’m sure of that!

For my part, I also think that there is no better a community to be part of when the chips are down in your own personal life too. In times of trouble I have always thought how great it is to have so many kindred spirits around me. When you’ve broken up with a partner, lost someone close to you, fallen out with a lifelong pal, or lost your job and the subsequent workmates you have befriended, you can certainly find yourself pretty bereft and lonely. There are few of us who haven’t been there sometime in our lives, but ‘normal souls’ have then usually to start from scratch and rebuild a circle of acquaintances again. However, if you’re a long standing fan of a Sports Club, particularly one like Hull FC, then that task is always a lot easier, because there are always folks, wherever you go, who share that same undying fascination with 13 blokes in black and white throwing a ball about.

We all have something in common and something that we all care passionately about. It’s always been the same down the years. You could always walk into a pub on your own and someone would shout out, “Wasn’t Knocker great last week?”, “Smithy got em pumped up on Sunday didn’t he?” or “What a bloody Referee eh?” and immediately you’re ‘home’ in that fantastic fraternity where you’ve always got friends.

So, despite the many emotional hurdles entailed in all that ‘Supporter till I die” stuff, one of the benefits of having such an all-consuming ‘hobby’ is that you’re never on your own for long. You always have the security of knowing that you’re amongst a vast brotherhood (or sisterhood) of like-minded souls. After defeats and disappointments, they are probably just as ‘suicidal’ and disheartened as you are, but are also, just like you, desperately looking for some positives whilst always having that ‘crumb of comfort’ that in the end, they’re not on their own.

If you really love your Club and I mean really love them, I honestly believe, as I have said before, that it is little different to having wayward kids. They are volatile, unpredictable and often frustrate you, they let you down, keep secrets from you, upset you, abuse your faith in them and yet just occasionally they make you so, so proud. However, like with problem kids, they also make you reflect on one simple sentiment and that is that it’s best to prepare yourself for the worst, because that’s what you invariably get and so “It’s a Good job you love ‘em!” When those ‘Kids’ are playing up however, the whole family gathers around and try to support each other, no one deserts their family and so it is at Hull FC.

Writing this Diary and the books has been a personal ‘Epiphany’ for me, it’s made me realise what a fabulous group of supporters we have and how lucky I am to be part of it. In the early days I was petrified about actually having something I had written, paid for by folks and read as a book! On the first night after the first one went on sale I knew that 21 had been sold that day and I sat in bed scared stiff that someone was actually maybe opening my book and starting to read it. I later realised that most looked at the pictures and then used it to wedge the door open, but at least they had bought one. I still look at the book shelves in charity shops just hoping against hope that I won’t find one!!

However, the greatest thing about the trilogy of books is that so many folks have associated with the sentiments they include and for me, even setting aside the sales, the biggest buzz is when people still come up to me and say “I remember that” or better still “You missed that out”. Boy that’s rewarding. As is the knock on the door at 10-00pm at night and the question, “Are you the bloke who writes the books? Can I buy one?” In the beginning that was what it was all about, “Keeping the memories and in the case of 2016 the dream, alive”.

If nothing else, at least now an ordinary ‘Raggy arsed’ gardeners attempt at writing three books about a life-long obsession, will remain on the dusty shelves of the British Library so that there will always be a record of what it was like for us all, ‘Being there’.

All of what I have outlined above is down to all of you, the life blood of an extraordinary rugby league club! So, I think this Christmas before we are once again thrust into a new season with all its doubt, disappointment, injuries, defeats and occasional moments of euphoria, we should all sit back with a nice long drink and a mince pie, resting easy in the fact that we are privileged to be FC fans and as such surrounded by a group of amazing people that make up the family of ‘The Old Faithful’. We have at least done it, we have stood on bunkers hill in sub-zero temperatures, cried, fretted, fumed and kicked the cat, we’ve cursed, complained and hoped, but we have also won at Wembley, (twice) and so we can sit back now and try to enjoy the ride a little more than we have ever been able to! We are still as passionate but somehow its no quite so critical anymore is it?

Sorry to go on, but it is Christmas, and thanks for all your kindness and support over the past twelve months. The Diary will be back next year on 7th January and I promise to be in less of a philosophical mood, but, we are lucky, we really are! In the mean-time, it just remains to wish you all a wonderful, peaceful and Happy Christmas!!!
Thanks for all your support!

Keep Believing!!!!!! …………..And

Faithfully yours