The Dentist’s Diary – 612th

Two weeks on Friday and we’re off!!!!

Next week it’s Saints in our final warm up game before we are plunged straight into a season which will, I’m sure, be tough going for everyone at the Club.

Although great for the two Danny’s the game at Wakefield was always going to be a bit of a lottery with 51 players being initially named to take the field and although it was good to get more first teamers out there to honour the two stalwarts of our game, it was always going to be hard to judge our chances that much; that’s something that we will only really be able to gauge on 1st February. This week was all about a step up, a bit of game time for some first teamers, dusting off the cobwebs and avoiding injuries. At least we ticked the first three boxes!

The fairy tale at least unfolded from the off as both Testimonial Beneficiaries scored the first two tries and what are the chances of that eh? The game did its job as well, but as for what’s ahead in 2019 for Hull FC and indeed what our starting line-up will be, there are still more questions than answers!

The anti for the coming campaign was cranked up a notch this week with the Club’s Press Day at County Road. The emphasis from Coaches and players was on positivity, a big season and a top 5 finish. However, for the casual observer it was hard to get away from the fact that we were also reminded that at least 4 players won’t be fit to start! The depth of the squad however and their fitness levels, are without doubt the best I have ever seen at this point in the proceedings and I guess at present we just have to hope that we catch a couple of other teams cold. But credit to the Club because as an organisation we are certainly in optimistic mood!

Off the field the news from Hull FC was even more encouraging. Our season tickets sales for this year have now gone well over, (what is in the current climate, a staggering) 8000, while many other clubs are not doing so well again this year. Attendance wise we are the only club to have increased our match day gates year on year for the last 4 seasons and we were last year one of only two clubs to actually increase their home attendances. I’ll be having a close look at just how parlous was the state of British Rugby League live audience wise last year and revealing some of the fact behind the headlines, which I feel indicates that something has to be done about the issues some Clubs are having, and quickly!

The game yesterday saw the home team starting briskly and taking the ball to the line a lot before they passed it, as in a typically busy performance, Brough tried hard to make an early impression for Wakey. That seemed to unsettle us a bit as they had all the possession in the first few minutes. The Wildcats certainly looked more expansive with the ball, whilst we looked a bit ring rusty and ponderous but we soon got going. Kelly ‘Mr Porky’ when he returned to training looked really fit and his great kick produced the try that saw us take the lead for the first time. As the rain fell we started to get some ground and looked really handy at times with Albo and Connor leading the way from half back in brilliant style. Soon we saw that pressure pay off and we went into a 12-point lead before back to back tackles and some ball watching out on the wing let Johnson in to reduce the areas. Ill-discipline was our downfall and you can’t afford to give so many penalties away, even in friendlies.

We kept giving them the ball back and it was really scrappy for a spell from us. Wakefield looked really handy at times and took the lead just before half time in a first half that had entertained but contained a lot of mistakes. Kelly limped off just before the break, but that and our poor discipline apart, it had been a good hit up so far. At least it was played with spirit and at an intensity that would certainly benefit both sides. Turning the ball over too easily was a definite weakness in the first 40 minutes, but Wakefield after they had drawn level, lost a bit of ball themselves with some good impact from us making that happen.

The second half started with Kelly off the field and he was not to return which sent alarm bells ringing across the crowd straight away.

We needed to just steady down a bit and from the outset we looked a lot more stable and a great pass from Connor put Ratu Naulago away and he did really well to score in the corner as Connors towering conversion went through the post and we were back in the lead. Ratu needs to work on his positional play a bit, as he got caught out a time or two, but he looks a really promising player as he scored for the second week running. Then Connor kicked a brilliant 40/20, before the referee gave Wakey a dodgy penalty for obstruction. Pauli, Pauli was as big and as rampant as ever, but twice Matongo took him out, as the intensity increased a bit and we looked to control things.

That caused Wakey to hurry things a bit and they played a bit off the cuff which unsettled some of our younger players. It has to be said that I was impressed with Connor at half back but when he went off for a break we suddenly looked to have lost some direction. Still, Miloudi directed things well and then Fairamo came on and immediately bust a big hole down the middle, but twice we couldn’t count as we gave the ball away at the end of two sets of six instead of kicking it downfield, which showed a lack of mental alertness that has to be sorted out too.

Players came on and players went off, Hadley looked strong, Dawson Jones looked useful and carried the ball well, whilst for a small prop of a tender age Brown was tremendous and pulled off some monumental hits on their big guys. Litten, who last week was a real revelation coming on half way through the half, did so again yesterday which suddenly speeded everything up from acting half, before Jordan Cox was miraculously held up over the line when he should have scored. Miloudi was doing well at half back and is becoming hard to leave out and he produced a great kick to the corner which nearly got us in. At a time when a lot of our youngsters were out on the field, all our pressure came to nothing as Mickey Paea knocked on as he crossed the line and the chance to put the game to bed was lost. Had we had some more senior players out there to steady us down near the line, we would have been out of sight.

However, twice Miloudi forced drop outs with deft grubber kicks and we looked pretty steady. Then disaster struck as after all our hard work and control we let Ryan Hampshire shoot away with just 9 minutes to go to score the first Wakey try of the second half, which allowed them to retake the lead. We had so many starting players off the field for the last 10 minutes that we looked to be caught out a time or two and in the end it finished 30-24 to Wakey. None the less it was a great hit up and the youngsters really stood up to some big Wakey forwards for most of that second half, but the injuries to Fash, Levy Nzoungou and Albert Kelly (who looked really commanding for most of the first half) took the shine off a good performance.

Of course it’s hard to know with 25 players out there for both sides, how teams will actually cope with the 8 substitutions rule and we’ll only find out who can and who can’t in the first weekend of February, but it is all about getting everyone game time and there is no doubt that a lot of our players benefitted from it. I liked the way we controlled large chunks of the game as well, but as I say, already the injuries are starting to mount up.

So to other stuff at the FC and our new shop in Saville Street opened on Saturday in what is a much bigger space and a really big improvement. Once again the Club are moving forward and with the continued excellent choice of merchandise and the subsequent support from us the fans the Club are flying. Of course the article that announced the new facility stressed three times that the unit at St Stephens is just temporary and after looking at the cost of units in there with a commercial letting agency this week and I could see why!

None the less that ‘pop up’ store has done really well over Christmas, it has offered us a high profile outlet and filled an empty shop for the centre and now with a new City centre unit to augment the KCom shop, the future of our income streams away from match day look very healthy. There was a new range of training ware on sale on Saturday too and things on that side seem to be going from strength to strength at present.

The Clubs Press day in mid-week was a well-attended event with national regional and local papers and radio in attendance. They certainly got their money’s worth from a wide array of players and Coaches available for interviews with the Yorkshire Post in particular featuring several pieces since in their paper. What did we find out? Well we already knew four players were missing and we discussed that last week, but we also found out that Josh Griffin is still not up to full training speed and is a doubt for the start of the season as well. Kelly and Sneyd apparently will be back, but according to Adam, and as we suspected after some ‘noises off’ before Christmas, Albo’s off to Australia at the end of the campaign, if he can get a contract. Thus, with the bumps and bruises of the pre-season games and these set-backs and delays, we could well be half a dozen players short of an ideal starting 17 come 1st February. That is, I guess, where our new strength in depth comes in.

As I said earlier, the average attendances at Clubs for last season were released last week and they confirmed what we all thought in that the game is struggling or at least that in 2018 it was in severe decline and struggling in that convoluted and complicated league’s format. We are the only Club that has actually improved its attendances for 4 years on the trot and only ourselves and Saints showed an increase on the previous seasons gates last time out. Plus, three of the top seven regular season attendances were at the KCOM. Skewed a bit by areas of Headingley being closed I’ll admit but, firstly, with this year’s pre-season sales, it has to be said that for a team that lost 11 on the trot, if nothing else, it confirms officially that we have the best and most loyal fans in the country. When you add to that the expected record season sales for this coming campaign, that’s all pretty special stuff!

So perhaps once again the FC fans have come good but let’s look at what’s behind the headlines on this story because it reveals some interesting stuff. Last year our gates never fell below 10,000 all year, which again is pretty amazing, whilst our average of 12,174 was over 4000 better than ‘the empty vessels’ that seem to have been making a lot of noise of late from across the river. Whatever the team do this year I think it’s safe to say that as fans we have already done our bit!

However, when you look around the game and consider Grand Final winners Wigan dropped by over 2000 a game, as did golden boys Castleford’s and teams like Warrington and Catalan who had pretty good campaigns saw dropping attendances too, whilst others who played out of their skins at times like Wakey, stayed where they were, grossing slightly lower averages. When you look down the list, then for a senior professional sport its all pretty appalling really.

Five Clubs didn’t even have a home gate above 10,000, whilst Salford’s attendances went down from 4,700 in 2017 to 2,700 in 2018 and with Widnes leaving through relegation and yet having an average gate for 2018 of almost 4,800 and London coming up with a stadium that only holds around 3000, things ain’t gonna improve in some quarters in 2019 at all, whatever happens.

Despite the journey from Widnes to Salford being barely further than Hull to Market Weighton, the lowest attendance was ironically for a Salford v Widnes game and was just 2,248, with only 90 travelling down the East Lancs Road to attend. You can see why the Super League Clubs are so worried about the future of the game, because when you peel away the veneer of the initial announcements about gates there are major problems to address. As a game we have to do something about all this and quickly, so over to you Mr Elstone!

You know, this closed season, as its been very quiet at our Club I have, I know, spent a lot of time focusing on changes to the game, the benefits of Super League owners controlling the senior competition, developing the sport and in hoping that we can get the Challenge Cup back where it belongs; something that resembles a nationally accepted sporting event again. I make no excused for that, because I feel very strongly that this is our last chance and as I said last week James Elstone and the new set up have at least tried to do something positive to put things back towards achieving just that. The game has been a mess in decades past as well, but now with the distractions forged by open access to sport through social media and the internet when a spectators walk from any sport they never come back.

At least after the perennial poor efforts of the RFL, the Clubs are having a go. Once the season starts, with their manufactured Derby day bang, it will of course be the acid test and then I’ll not have the time or the space in here to continue this crusade, but I finally feel as though we are at last making a little progress as 2019 begins.

However, Elstone’s plans don’t end with this year’s changes because it’s an on-going process and as he prepares to, next month, move a host of staff out of the RL offices and into his new Super league base in Central Manchester he said this week, “Super League will be different in 2019, that’s for sure, but you’ll see a much better-looking competition in 2020 and the years after that. That’s a guarantee.”

Expanding Super League’s global reach is high on Elstone’s agenda, with refreshing and reinventing the Magic Weekend high up there. We have only signed up for one year at Anfield and it appears that the now traditional event could soon have an international flavour, with Barcelona a likely venue for it. In May, Catalans will host the reigning champions, Wigan, at the Camp Nou and Elstone admits that the success of that game in Catalonia could set the stage for all 12 clubs to play in Barcelona at some point. He said, “If that works, then it would increase the chances of Magic going there without question. I think Wigan playing Catalans there is the most incredible development we’ve had for years. It’s a huge statement and it creates huge traction beyond our traditional circles. Super League has to get out of its own bubble, and the Nou Camp helps do that. It’s not lost on me that our sport has a rebellious soul and was founded out of injustice. If there’s one region of the world that captures that, it’s Catalonia.”

That won’t suit everyone much, me included, but at least it’s proactive stuff. As I say the proof of the pudding will come from next month onwards when we start playing the game again, however as our administrators at the RFL continue to make woeful blunders, it seems to me that talk of a split between Super League and the RFL is not as wide of the mark as many may think it is.

Those staff are moving on to ‘Elstones Empire’ simply because, with the re-allocation of funds from the Sky income to the new body, the RL can no longer afford them. Quite frankly for me the governing body deserve all they get, for after years of frustration and disappointment in their actions, when the fans have looked on and shook their heads, now, at last, we see some sort of an attempt to sort the game out. It buggers belief that some in the media (Just one or two I’ll grant you) are actually saying that the RFL are right, that the rule changes are naff, we should have kept the middle eight’s, whilst adding that exercising the bond for the Challenge Cup is a good thing to do.

Relying on tradition is one thing and a very worthy pursuit, I know, this old git has subscribed to it for years, but it does tend to see you bump along and become oblivious to the changes going on around you in the world of media and technology. It’s the pursuit of ill found expansionist and gimmickry that has brought the game to the state that it now finds itself in. They should get real and realise, I think, that the actions of the RFL have for years seen fans turning away from the game. Even those of us who have stuck around are pretty fed up with the embarrassments served up by the governing body, who itself is now finally marginalised by the establishment of a separate executive for Super League which is attempting to save the game. Again it might be another false dawn but at least it is a dawn!!

Those RFL embarrassments resonate in national sporting circles and continued with the Wembley bond fiasco and the Castleford salary cap stuff that emerged this week. Toronto and Catalan were asked for a six figure bond (despite the fledgling Canadians agreeing to turn down their central funding and Sky money and Catalan being cup holders), just so that they could be allowed into the Challenge Cup all on the back of claims that the RFL was short of money. Meanwhile, and this is where the injustice comes in, Nigel Wood was sailing off in to the sunset on the back of a frankly outrageous half a million pay-off, as well as claiming a six figure consultancy fee for supposedly progressing the New York bid; how’s that going Nige?

Now, surprise, surprise, the administrators of the game are worrying about being skint! Any attempts to expand the game by the RFL, in its current parlous state, would be futile, because nobody is going to be attracted to the sport in its current mess. Sky brings the only real large scale commercial income there is and fear of their withdrawal has led to them being allowed to call the shots. Just look at the fact that despite their perennial protestations, the RFL have had little joy with the prospect of us seeing any Championship rugby televised on a regular basis have they? Yet Sky has the sole rights.

Why shouldn’t the Super league owners distance themselves from the central administration? The remaining centrally controlled showpiece events, like the Magic Weekend and the Challenge Cup Final, are marred by banks of empty seats and at the same time, as fans complain about high ticket prices before many walk away, they wonder why there are no sponsors queuing up to support the game. That should be obvious. What is the RL’s answer to those empty seats, Market Wembley on a national scale? Give every professional and amateur club an allocation of tickets to sell with benefits to that Club if they do (split the income 50/50?) Let schools have free tickets for kids and discounted ones for their parents? … ? … ? No, lets instead surcharge Clubs that are unlikely to bring many supporters if they get there, so that we (the RFL) don’t end up out of pocket! Amazingly, and no one is saying this, but with three weeks to go to the First Round games they still haven’t got a major sponsor for the competition. With Super League pulling away it’s the only major competition they have left at the RFL yet if they start without a replacement for Ladbrokes we are certainly in a mess, so is that why they want a bond?

Whilst we are on about how ridiculous the RFL are at times, what did you make of them giving a special salary cap dispensation out this week? For me it’s another clanger and wrong for so many reasons. Firstly, Cas. should be filling the half back role vacated for the season by Gale from within the Club, that’s what most clubs would feel they had to do but what the RFL have done is set a very dangerous precedent, how long will it be before other clubs exploit it and perhaps Hull FC could have exploited it last year?

Last term ourselves, Hull KR and Leeds Rhinos, as well as Castleford all had terrible injuries, does that mean we should all have been able to go out and exceed our caps to sign a host of replacements. Just because it ‘Classy’ Cas. and golden balls Gale, it shouldn’t be any different. We should all just have to cope as best we can and get on with it.

How stupid it is when we as a game grant a special dispensation to break the salary cap to sign a temporary replacement for a player who they already have replacements for and who is still on their payroll. One could say why have rules and then let selected teams break them, whilst the bigger worry is what message does it sent out to younger players? If everyone is to be treated the same on a level playing field, then this should never have happened and the RFL once again just make themselves look like idiots. Just my views of course.

Ironically after they were threatened with that Challenge Cup surcharge it is actually Toronto, bereft of any of the sort of handed out financial ‘cushions’, that all the lower division clubs enjoy, that are showing the way with a pretty courageous deal. They have by choice no central funding or TV money and so they have struggled a bit. They couldn’t sustain their wage bill because of that, but as some gleefully stood on the touchline waiting for them to collapse, they have looked at the whole issue as a business model and decided to think a bit more laterally to raise some cash. The deal they have come up with will see the club boosted by a $10m (Canadian dollars) investment, that’s around £5.86m. It will also see three major blue chip Canadian companies become shareholders of the club. Between them, they will invest the money.

We don’t know which companies as yet but we do know is that as part of the deal, the Wolfpack brand will be used to launch three separate products. One is an isotonic drink, another is an alcoholic beverage and the third is in the homeopathy market. These products will be distributed in the UK, Canada and Europe, while the Wolfpack will get a percentage of the revenue as part of the deal, there will be extensive TV advertising for the products which will raise the profile of the Wolfpack and thus our game and there is also potential for further investment as the project roles out.

Of course, as I say, it might just be another false dawn but we have to hope that it isn’t. The Wolfpack have struggled to meet their obligations for wages etc. but they have invested a lot in a short period of time and this new investment has been devised to solve that problem. They have had to find a way of making the club sustainable and the new deal it is hoped will do that. One things for sure they have already done far more to help themselves than some other, ‘expansionist’ clubs have ever done. In two years they’ve spent big on broadcasting their games in partnership with American and Canadian TV companies, Sky, Premier Sports and even the BBC and in doing so they have put the rugby league product into 150 million new homes world-wide.

It doesn’t mean all those people are watching them, but they have the ability to do so, because the Wolfpack have built that platform. They produced all the TV shows themselves in Toronto before they were networked out across the world, but that’s costly! So is all the travelling! Their participation in the Million Pound game last year cost them around £150,000, because they wanted it to go out through the TV network they had developed, but that meant bringing in new fibre optic cables at the Stadium, camera gantries and an additional production lorry and although they televised the game, it doesn’t look like Sky helped them much!

Their aim is to develop a model that does not depend on central funding or one TV company and before the protagonist’s poo poo their efforts, perhaps they should compare their actions with those of some of the less proactive RL clubs in the lower reaches of our game who still receive central funding in the form of Sky money. Indeed, perhaps Super League Clubs should be looking to diversify the same way.

There is no wonder that Adam wished that they had been promoted this year, but all that said, as you know, I’m not a massive fan of spreading our league across the world, I wanted to resign the Toronto Club to the ever increasing dustbin of failed expansion projects, but I’ve begrudgingly warmed to their efforts and business approach. So, when I looked closely at what they were doing I could do little but wish them luck, simply because for once a club is showing some real entrepreneurial skill with regard to marketing the game and sustaining growth. It might not happen. they might go under, but they are giving it a right good go and this new deal is certainly an interesting development that is well worth watching I think.

So to a bit of nostalgia and this week’s Codgers spot. I know that I bang on about the significance of 2016 in our Clubs history, particularly for the standpoint of fans looking back on it as a milestone year in decades to come, but then I would, I hear you say, I wrote a book about it!! However already people are starting to look back on that campaign with a nostalgic glow that inevitably brings back some wonderful memories and a wistful smile to everyone faces. In the pub it’s not just that Wembley glory that takes centre stage but some amazing wins in Lancashire and a fantastic semi win at Donny against Wigan that gets discussed. So, because it’s that time of year again, that 2016 pre-season has been on my mind a bit this week and therefore I want to feature a game that took place just three years ago, when a closed season of frenetic transfer activity, that completely changed the shape of our team, culminated in the usual pre-season ‘friendly farce’ against the Dobbins.

But that year, as we sat and marvelled, what hope that performance brought and what a season we were to witness. It was a campaign that was to be so significant change the rugby following lives of us all forever and one so memorable that perhaps someone HAD to write a book about it!!! So, here is an extract from Chapter One and that Rovers Friendly, just to jangle a few memories.

“……..Walking across West Park there were a few knots of Rovers fans stood around chatting, all of whom by 4-00pm were destined to say, “It meant nothing, it was just a friendly”. However, there they were before the game with their flags and banners and painted faces looking a lot like a group of reject clowns from Billy Smart’s Circus!

If nothing else was forthcoming that afternoon, in what was in the end a quite amazing outcome, then it was the fact that Frank Pritchard was undoubtedly about to become a big fan’s favourite and thus real ‘Box Office’ for the Club. As the game progressed, the smiling started with him, spread to the rest of the ‘Polynesian brotherhood’ and by three quarter time it was manifest in everyone in the FC team and indeed in everyone on the terraces.

Except that is of course at the North End, which was occupied by what was to become a hoard of hapless and bemused Robins’ fans. Silence there ‘fell with a thud’, but with the scoreboard showing 60-20 to the FC at the end, their dumbfounded state was understandable.

Of course as I said, as far as they were concerned for the next couple of months it was “only a friendly!!” but between about 2-10 and 3-30pm that afternoon, something special happened. Ok, we started a bit ‘ring-rusty’ in the first ten minutes as Rovers’ game time the previous week against Super League opposition showed through. We also finished the game somewhat in disarray following too many substitutions and players playing out of position, but in between it was just a brilliant exhibition of power rugby. There were some marvellous performances and, as they were still out injured, we did it without two of our big hitters, Talanoa and Ellis.

The Hull Daily Mail headline on the previous Friday read, ‘Scott Taylor: There’s something special bubbling at Hull FC’ and after that showing, those of us who attended found that comment hard to argue with! It was great to again get the game out of the way without any injuries and as we all let out a big sigh of relief and the Rovers’ fans tramped off back to East Hull to lick their wounds, we started to look with some anticipation towards the first game of the 2016 Super League season which was to take place at the KCOM in just 11 days’ time.

Despite the fact that the morons in the North Stand spent an hour before the game serenading us with that pathetic one-line anthem about us never winning at Wembley, the whole game that afternoon was played in a carnival atmosphere that started on the field and spread throughout the stadium. In any case had they known what was to come in just a few months’ time, then the Rovers’ fans in attendance would no doubt have chosen their words much more carefully!! But I guess, forward thinking had never ever been their forte.

However as far as the outcome of that game was concerned, it was hard not to focus on Pritchard. With so many ‘Big name’ signings, who had arrived in the years gone by to great trumpeting by the media, it was usually about immediately dropping their first pass, getting injured before they even started or at the very least missing a tackle or two, because at Hull FC in general, as big signings go, the bubble of expectation has usually been pricked very quickly!

Not so ‘Man of the Match’ Frank the Tank that day though. We knew he was hard and he didn’t disappoint at all in that department, but I don’t know what impressed me more, his wonderfully soft hands for a man of such stature or the way, as the Rovers’ fans chanted, “You fat Bastard”, he just kept on smiling walked over to them and kissed the FC badge on his shirt!! At that point, that day, it seemed a legend was born. Like all the ‘brotherhood’ at the Club it was not so much how good they were and believe me that day they were, but more about their big personalities and the happy, ‘playing and enjoying it’ persona, they all portrayed.

Sneyd and Pryce looked really good, with a platform built on the back of our forward dominance creating a bit of space to play in. Both appeared to thrive in an attack that was more potent and more structured than we have seen for years. The second rowers and half backs created space for the outside backs and in Carlos Tuimavave and youngster Logan we had at last two centres that could step when necessary and put their wingers away almost at will. Throughout the team the support for the man in possession or on the break was at times phenomenal, with often a breaking player having four or five options to pass to. This completely mesmerised Rovers particularly on the left, where Tuimavave showed great ‘feet’ and anticipation on the break.

The halves provided thrust and hardly put a foot wrong and both Marc and Leon ever seemed to take a bad option. It was good as well to see Sneyd had ditched his truncated goal kicking method and gone back to the round the houses, minute and a half style, that served him so well at Castleford and in the early days with us, he never missed a conversion all afternoon and most of them were from wide out on the wing!!

Two things struck me in the first half above all others, one was Frank’s impersonation of ‘the smiling assassin’ and the other was two amazing gang tackles featuring four of our forwards that saw Rovers go from being almost 20 yards out from their own line to having to drop out. The two Rovers’ ball carriers were hit by what looked like a runaway train, firstly by Frank and then, just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, Manu, Watts and Taylor piled in to push the ball carrier back over his own line.

That afternoon, for the first time that year, we had seen the full force of our ‘first string’ players as they cut loose to render the outcome nothing short of a rout; and that against the old enemy. It was the first of many occasions during the 2016 season when I wondered if any time soon I was about to wake up at home in bed and it had all been a dream! As I already intimated earlier there is no such thing as a ‘friendly’ against Rovers and even a win at dominoes over that lot would be celebrated long and hard!

I guess the only downside was the fact that a ponderous and obviously ill prepared Rovers’ attack did at times fail to test our defence sufficiently, but you can’t have everything and all in all I didn’t think I’d seen so many Hull fans leaving the KCOM smiling as I did that day, while down on the field after the rest of the team had gone off, Manu, Carlos, Frank, Feke and Fonua stood at the barrier waving and chatting to the fans for ages. Frank stripped off and gave his boots and strip away as a new hero was born.

At a team meeting the previous Thursday Lee Radford had laid it on the line about the importance of such wins to the fans, whatever the circumstances, and that afternoon the whole team certainly took his words to heart and delivered big style…..”.

That’s where it all started and what a great memory that day is, let’s hope such good times are just around the corner again eh?

I’m not a massive soccer fan but on Saturday I had one of my afternoons of ‘Proper Football’ when I went along with my pals Ian, Sarah and Adam to Cemetery Road Bradford to watch FC United of Manchester at the foot of the table, play Bradford Park Avenue who are at the top. In gale force conditions and heavy rain showers, United won a great game 3-2 and what an afternoon it was. As you know I have long admired the Manchester Club, set up and owned by the fans who were fed up with being ripped off by the Glazers and Sky TV at Old Trafford and the atmosphere singing and chanting at any of their games is something to behold. The Club is so constituted that whether you are a member, a player, a Director, or simply a supporter you only have one share so everyone has a say. The sense of community and It was certainly an eye opener with so much effort and no rolling about pretending to be dead. I loved it!

So, there we are another Friendly done with and three more injuries at least to contend with. I thought that Wakey gave us a good test and for long periods we looked in good fettle particularly when the youngsters were on in the second half, were for long periods we controlled things. Next week will tell us a lot but no one will know how any team is shaping up until we actually play our first game with just 8 substitutes.

Thanks as always for supporting the Diary, this week I’m meeting up with Geoff Francis, son of the famous Roy and I’ll see what tales he has to say about his illustrious father. In the mean-time thanks for sticking with me for another week of this drivel, thanks for all your letters, E mails and texts and see you next time.

Faithfully Yours

Wilf