So, hello to week ten of the serialisation of my first book and as we reach the late 70’s, things start to get exciting down at the Boulevard with the coming of Bunting and the amazing ‘Knocker’ Norton.
This week has been a quiet one rugby wise as the pandemic rumbles on and there is really little sign of it ever ending. There has been a lot going on behind the scenes as the Clubs got together again this week, for a long meeting to decide just how to get things moving again. I know that games will start behind closed doors but, I also believe from what I’m hearing from readers and people who keep in touch, that it will take a lot of convincing to get some fans back in the grounds even when we are told that the game is opening up again. There’s still a lot of apprehensive folks out there.
Still, the Aussie experiment seems to be going well and they have made a good job of re-launching the season for the TV cameras and all the sit at home fans. However, they do seem to have been a bit smarter than us with this and indeed with how as a country they have dealt with the virus in general.
Still I’ll keep going and move, after next week, into the second book, as we continue the life spanning journal of an average fan with an undoubted obsession for his Rugby League team.
674 The Dentists Diary
A less charitable affair as the ‘Benefit’ boys are short changed.
Sunday 1st February 1976: Hull 30 Blackpool 6
Back at work that week in the aftermath of that Cup Final at Headingley, it was all talk of heroes and near misses, but in our heart of hearts all us Hull fans knew that we had missed out on a rare trophy, having gone so close in a big game, which could have been a famous victory and the following weekend it was back to the grind of the Second Division.
That next game we played was at least at the Boulevard and gave us a chance to welcome the lad’s home from the final. It was also testimonial match for two of our long serving stalwarts Alan McGlone and Eric Broom. We played Blackpool and in the end, we won easily 30-6, but there were other problems in the dressing rooms that day. The players had agreed to forfeit their wages for the game and the Board at the Boulevard had agreed to give the proceeds from the match, after expenses, to both players who were having a well-deserved Benefit Year, which was with interest in the club waning, proving to be a hard slog for their Testimonial Committee.
This situation was not made any easier by the actions of the players that day either. Eric Broom said afterwards that both players were extremely disappointed at the actions of some of their colleagues after nine came forward to be paid after they had all agreed to give up their match fees for the game. That caused some acrimony in the camp and the two beneficiaries ended up with just £95 each. At the end of the year they both received a cheque for £600 which was then a lot of money but perhaps scant reward for all the years of service they had given the club.
Mum continued to find it hard to get about and Dad and I were obviously worried. She used to have a full window ledge of prescription drugs in the bathroom to keep her going and now stayed at home most of the time, whilst Dad was still working at Ross’s the butchers in Savile Street. At work I was finding the management stuff pretty tough going and a couple of difficult ‘disciplinary hearings’ with members of staff at which I didn’t get a lot of support from the senior management, left me pretty disenchanted with everything Hull City Council wise.
Adventures at The Hull Cheese.
On top of that the lady, with whom I had been spending some time between games over the past year, had decided that perhaps we should be thinking of living together or even getting married and to raise some cash, she had got a job at the new Hull Cheese public house in Paragon Street. This establishment used to be known as The Paragon and had been for many years a regular haunt of seamen visiting the City and of those infamous ladies of the night. It had recently however been purchased by the Gilpin Group from Leeds who had completely refurbished the place transforming it into a top quality and quite sumptuous lounge bar.
Having collected her a few times from work I got to know Doug Barnfield the Manager quite well, in fact after a while I started popping in and ‘drinking our savings’. The Gilpin Group were not only well known for running a string of quality pubs across Yorkshire but were also renowned for running ‘outside bars’ at big events like race meetings, weddings and, private parties. I decided that as things were a bit tough at the Council and as a bit of a distraction I would go and do a bit of ‘Moonlighting’ and work for the Gilpin Group, driving their van to and from these events, setting them up and serving behind the bar. This was great fun, as well as hard work and I often turned up for the day job next day bleary eyed and exhausted.
The job involved loading the van up with copious amounts of beer, wines and spirits, bar sections, optics, pumps, gas bottles etc, then collecting waitresses and bar staff from various points around the City, before we all set off to the location of the bar we were to run that night. I promoted events in barns for Young Farmers barn dances, at people’s homes, church halls and even in a marquee at Beverley Race Course and at County Cricket at the Cricket Circle.
At one particular party in the Village Hall in Bilton the celebrations were in full swing when, as ironically the DJ played ‘Teenage Rampage’ by the Sweet, the Police arrived, requested that the music be switched off declaring that it was ‘a raid’. Several people who they thought were at the party had apparently jumped bail and so everyone was lined up against the walls and had to give their details and proof of identity. At this point as we all stood and watched form the safety of the back of the bar a rather officious looking sergeant who could have done to lose some weight, came over to me and asked me for my identification.
All the staff were of course in their ‘Black and Whites’ as waitresses usually are, but I was just in trousers and a jacket. I told him I was the bar manager, but with the problems of my full time job’s ‘auxiliary work’ contract clauses, I was reluctant to say much more. He looked at me suspiciously, glanced across the bar and said, ‘Well where’s your license then’. Of course, the occasional license had to be displayed over the bar, at all times alcohol was being consumed and I suddenly realized that I had left it in the office at the Hull Cheese.
I thought at first he was going to handcuff me but he agreed to ring the Hull Cheese to ensure we had indeed obtained the document from the Licensing Magistrates. It was Friday night at 10-00 and the Hull Cheese was ‘banging’, so much so that no one could hear the phone ringing and so it was that I was carted off in a police car to Central Police Station. The bobby who took me was a lot less stubborn than ‘porky’ the Sergeant and agreed to go around to the Hull Cheese on the way, to at least try to verify my story. You can imagine how it looked as I walked in the packed pub accompanied by a policeman. However, to my relief the situation was soon sorted out and I picked up the license and left the bar with the constable.
‘Well Sir, you should be more careful in future but it seems that you’re in the clear and you can go back to Bilton and continue with your business’, said the PC once we were outside, to which I victoriously replied, ‘Ok, great but don’t say I didn’t tell you we had a license!’. However, as I attempted to open the police car door to get back in, he said, ‘We have no further business with you sir and so you can get the bus’. Great, I thought, typical Police, I dare not go back into the pub for fear of looking stupid in the eyes of Doug and there were just no buses going out to Bilton till the last one at 11-00pm. So, I flagged down a cab and went back to work. The Taxi cost me almost as much as I earned that night, but at least I had saved face and my most serious brush with the law to date certainly ensured that I never forgot the license again.
The only thing that was leaking more than the roof of the ‘Threepenny Stand’, was the Boardroom.
As sports fans we all have one thing in common, one thing that we all share and one commonality that is simply universal. We don’t like, or at least, we don’t often agree with referees. That’s probably because if you absolutely love your club, the officials rearely if never, get it right all the time, well they don’t as far as you are concerned anyway. It’s rare though that in any fans life time you see such a bad display by a referee that it becomes something you remember for the rest of your life. However, I have seen them on occasions and will now relate one such incident.
In February 1976 it was a time of ‘Board Room intrigue’ with rumors of unrest in the dressing room circulating the terraces, but it’s a defeat at McLaren Field, Bramley, on a cold Sunday afternoon that I remember best of all that year, simply because it was there that I witnessed one of the worst refereeing displays I have to this day, ever seen. The game featured an abject performance by a second-grade referee, who was ironically named Mr. A. W. Allen.
Our new Board of Directors headed by Charlie Watson were starting to flex their muscles a bit, which, as I said, made it an uncomfortable time for some at the club. They were as a board of course to oversee that great resurgence in the final years of the decade and those fabulous times in the early 80’s, but back then they were a bit naive in some ways, particularly when it came to stopping what appeared to be a constant stream of leaks from inside the Boardroom. No one knew where they came from but the ‘rumor mill’ at every home game’s had gone into over-drive as everyone seemed to know who we were about to sign, who got on with who at the club, what our debts were etc. etc.
Dick Tingle the Hull FC rugby writer at the Hull Daily Mail was having a field day as he revealed that the latest rumor to come his way was about several of our Directors being unhappy with David Doyle-Davidson and looking to replace him as coach with our current Prop forward Bill Ramsey. All this was apparently being discussed just four weeks after we had been the toast of the RL as the first Second Division team to reach the Players No 6 Trophy Final. But four weeks was a long time in the intriguing morass that was club politics back then and this particular week it had emerged from ‘Sources close to the Board’ that there was also some unrest within the ranks of the players with several unhappy with the way things were going remuneration wise.
Trouble in the camp at (Mrs.) McLaren’s Field.
This particular weekend we were all heading off to McLaren Field Bramley, for an away trip which was still, for me anyway, a rare occurrence back then. The habit of vast amounts of fans travelling away to every game seemed to catch on in the great 78/79 season and before that, although we did go away, it was usually only to the West Riding based clubs and then only when we could afford it. That day I travelled with East Yorkshire Motor coaches on one of three bus-loads of fans, and was looking forward to a few pre-match pints in the Barley Mow pub. All the way there the travelling fans were fascinated with the rumors of unrest which were discussed endlessly for the whole journey to West Leeds. It was said by the Mail that Bill Ramsey had been promised the coaching job, after he had turned down a recent approach to coach at Rochdale. Chairman Watson stated in the press that nothing was confirmed as far as the position was concerned, which must have hardly inspired DDD, but he did intimate that there were one or two other off the field issues to sort out at the Board meeting the following Tuesday.
These, we fan’s speculated, probably involved the fact that Malcolm Walker, having been dropped the previous week along with recognized goal kicker Keith Boxall, had refused to be named as substitute for the Bramley game. This action of dropping Boxall seven days before by Doyle-Davidson, meant that we had played Saints at home in the cup without our first choice kicker, which led to some criticism, when we lost 5-3. This unrest, compounded by the problems I outlined at the Eric Broom/ Alan McGlone Testimonial game certainly indicated that all was not well with the players.
I think looking back that there was a fair amount of internal ‘politicking’ going on but I wasn’t too bothered about that as we tumbled out of the coach and entered the newly re-built Barley Mow pub in West Leeds. This was a shrine to the Bramley club, having dozens of pictures of players, teams and action past and present festooned all over the walls. It had been built to replace the old hostelry of the same name that had once accommodated the changing rooms for the clubs Barley Mow Ground, which had been sited behind the public house and next door to McLaren Field.
This strange arrangement had come about as the Brewery who owned the original ground gave Bramley notice to quit in 1964, because they needed the space for a car park. This luckily (for them) coincided with the death of a Mrs. McLaren who owned the field behind the then best stand and who in her will donated that piece of land to the club. So Bramley moved next door and built a nice little ground with a new all seater stand and open terracing over most of the rest of the perimeter. The whole move was completed in just 10 months and so it was that on that Sunday in February 1976, we stood on the open terraces of ‘Mrs’ McLaren’s’ Field overlooked by the stark outline of the Brewery’s tall slender chimney, that was a well-known local landmark right across Leeds.
‘Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh, What a Referee’ Mr. Allen shows his true colours!
Sunday 22nd February 1976: Hull 13 Bramley 14
Bramley were an improving side but still one that we should have beaten and we put on a brave fight against the odds, the biggest of which was Mr. Allen the referee. The game started in freezing cold conditions with both teams trying to play a bit of rugby. In the first scrum our hooker Tony Duke was penalized for striking early and Hay kicked a penalty. Hull were succeeding more than Bramley, and so Terry Dewhurst and Ian Johnson of the hosts decided it was time to try and disrupt our pattern of play a bit with some off the ball fisticuffs and although the referee completely ignored their often blatantly illegal tactics, we still battled on. When Boxall crossed for a perfect try, running onto a short ball from Hancock, referee Allen said he had bounced it, which as it was right in front of us, I can tell you, he certainly didn’t.
Next Allen awarded a penalty to Bramley again under the posts and, although the poorer of two poor teams, they were 5-0 up. Straight from the kick off Hull stormed back and Bill Ramsey sent Boxall in again, this time for the try to be awarded and Kieth converted his own touchdown to level the score. In the next passage of play two fine touch finding kicks by Foulkes saw us down on the Bramley line where Portz was held inches short. Then after 29 minutes we scored again when Hancock shot between Naylor and Hay to score near the posts although Boxall missed a relatively simple conversion, leaving us with a slender three-point lead.
Mr. Allen’s worst refereeing error however came just four minutes before the interval when Hull’s half back Hancock kicked over the advancing Bramley defense and as he ran through to collect the ball he was flattened by a fore arm smash from Steve Naylor, the home sides second rower. This was such a blatant foul and it left Hancock rolling on the floor, clutching his neck in agony. Mr. Allen however, having watched exactly what happened, waived play on and ignored the incident.
Seeing this fiery FC prop Alan Wardell, who had clearly had enough, went after Naylor and finally caught up with him seconds before half time, flooring him with a tremendous right hook; of course, he was then sent off! It was certainly a blow because just ten minutes earlier we had lost our other prop Bill Ramsey with torn ankle and knee ligaments, meaning that in the second half both Keith Boxall and Jimmy Crampton had to move into the front row to cover the missing 8 and 10’s, and just before half time, with the last kick of the half, after Wardell’s dismissal, Bramley converted the penalty and went in just one point ahead at 8-7.
With a reshuffled pack we dominated the start of the second half as the snowflakes started to fall across the ground. Then on a breakaway, against the run of play, the hosts second row Johnson drew full back Robinson before releasing Bond who touched down and converted his own try. Trailing 12-8 and still the butt of some terrible refereeing decisions, we hit back again. This time Foulkes received the ball at first man, wriggled through the first tackle and then set off on an arching run towards the corner. Our centre, George Clarke, came back inside him and took a wonderful slipped inside ball, to go on and score, and with a great Boxall conversion from wide out into the now driving snow; we were a point ahead at 13-12.
Of course Mr. Allen was to have the final say and we were beaten by a penalty two minutes from the end. Under our own posts a Bramley player was held up by Crane and Hunter in a standing tackle and as he retreated Crane said something to the opposing player, who threw the ball at him as he retired to our defensive line. The ball hit Crane on the head and immediately Mr. Allen blew his whistle and penalized Hull for what he said afterwards was stealing the ball. Hay made no mistake and shortly afterwards, the official blew the final whistle and we had lost 14-13.
Mr. Allen waited on the centre spot until his police escort arrived, and our indignation as fans was certainly vindicated when he failed to return to first grade refereeing that year. It was a hard result to take though in that it was so unfair, because our patched up pack had played magnificently and had we received a bit of ‘even handedness’ from the referee, we would no doubt have won a famous victory with just 12 men.
In the mean time David Doyle-Davidson, ’Quite Rightly’ survived the ‘Night of the long Knives’ at the Board meeting the following Tuesday and Bill Ramsey with his several injuries and no coaching post, quit the club, and signed for Widnes.
I become a ‘cannibal’
I was still working as an area manager for the Parks Department and as the rugby season meandered to an end with Hull just missing out on promotion on points difference, the Council and the club decided that it was the time to re sow the centre strip of the Boulevard pitch with new grass seed. The grass had been so badly worn away during the previous hard winter that now this area was just made up of rolled mud. The arrangement between the club and the Council was going well and although the Boulevards ageing handyman and groundsman Fred Daddy marked out the pitch, my staff cut the grass and generally did everything else. What was needed though was a complete rebuilding of the infrastructure of the pitch itself and so twenty tons of soil were tipped across that central section and then leveled and fresh grass seed sown the length of the field. We then top dressed the whole playing area with fertilizer and left strict instructions to the club staff, (who were prone to a bit of tinkering when the ‘Council’ weren’t around) to ‘Keep off the grass’.
A few days later I called in at the Boulevard and was horrified to see a long thin line of powder stretching out onto the field. As was the tradition with gardeners back then I licked by finger and took a small amount of the powder and tasted it. It was certainly like fertilizer and so I was off to find groundsman Fred for an explanation. Someone, I thought, had obviously fertilized the pitch against our instructions and if that wasn’t bad enough carried a punctured sack, dribbling fertilizer, across the field to the centre area. I challenged Fred with what I had found and added that it looked and tasted like fertilizer to me which contravened the instructions that I had left the previous week. As a smile spread across Fred’s face he said, ‘Oh that’s not fertilizers it’s just old Bill Stamps ashes, he left a final request in his will for them to be sprinkled on the pitch’. I apologized for my outburst and slunk away musing on whether my actions that day actually deemed me to now be a cannibal?
The night the shirts ran out!
Sunday 28th November 1976: Hull 7 Bramley 5
Although 1976/77 was the first really successful season of the decade, in which we had some good wins and a great finale, I feel I should here cover one of the most bizarre games I have seen in all the years that my life has been inter-twinned with the sport of Rugby league. Great times were around the corner at the Boulevard, although we certainly did not know it early that season, as we battled away with poor attendances and a deal of debt. Back then it was really difficult for most clubs to make ends meet with falling gates across the game still a massive problem. Despite the best efforts of the club, me and the Council our pitch was still a mess, and although there was some nice new grass to be seen at the start of the season, as the drains silted up with Speedway shale it soon left the usual morass of mud with very little of the new grass evident at all. In winter it was a mud bath and for the last few games it was as hard as nails, in fact on one occasion that year Castleford even tried to get an end of season game cancelled when they arrived to find the playing surface made up of rolled baked mud.
The game in question was another one against Bramley who our A team had visited and beaten two days earlier, the Friday previously, the significance of which you will see a little later. The weather that month was shocking and the general opinion in Hull was that we would be lucky to see a game that weekend at all. Still as game day dawned, our desperation to generate some cash to keep the debtors from the door, dictated that the match was still on, and I watched from the Threepenny Stand with four of my pals that I had met in the ‘Eagle’ on Coltman Street for a pre-game pint. 4000 others hardy souls were in attendance that day which was a great attendance for us back then.
As we walked down Saner Street and onto the Boulevard the rain was coming down like ‘stair rods’ although by we had got through the turnstiles it had stopped again! The pitch was covered in small puddles and Fred the groundsman and several helpers were busy forking the pitch to ease the water away. It was a thankless task, as even the ‘invalid carriages’ that usually parked on the pitch got stuck in the mud well before they could get into position behind the dead ball line!
Bramley’s player/coach was Peter Fox, a colorful character from the ‘Fox’ rugby playing dynasty of Wakefield, who always had something to say and where Hull were concerned it was usually derogatory. He got the usual rousing and abusive welcome from the Hull supporters when he walked out onto the pitch before the game, and although the conditions were dreadful, the game started on time. The match itself was a nail biting tussle, with veteran scrum half Keith Hepworth playing a storming game for us. Bramley were, as I said earlier, a handy outfit back then and it was only through three great last-ditch tackles by our full back George Robinson that we kept them from scoring in the first ten minutes! However then, on the eleven-minute mark, from our first attack Hepworth, Hancock and Hunter linked to send ‘Super’ Alf Macklin in at the corner. We continued to press until a long looping pass by Hancock was intercepted by Langton and he scooted fifty yards down a thin track of green on the wing, to score for the visitors.
That mistake turned the game and with Fox’s canny ‘spoiling’ tactics behind just about every move they made, Bramley started to dominate in the sludge down the middle of the field. In fact, after Boxall had punched Jack Austin in the tackle, it was their player coach that stretched their lead to 7-5 with a penalty goal. Try as we may, we could not get another score and with the ball like a bar of soap, mistakes were to the fore and we saw 24 scrums in the first 40 minutes. On three or four occasions, the respective scrum halves dropped the slippery ball before they had even left the back of the scrum and the players left the field at half time, muddied from head to foot, with that same close score of 7-5 showing on the score board.
During half time as we went for a cup of Bovril and a hot dog, it poured down again and when we got back to our places we all had to move back up the steps to get out of the rain and to avoid being drenched. Both teams changed their shirts at half time and as the rain eased no further points were scored before once again it became really dark and the heavens opened. It rained so hard that the referee had to stop the game at a scrum as no one on the field could see. After 56 minutes so muddy were their kits, that both teams looked exactly the same, so the referee had little choice but to take both sets of players off the field to change their shirts again.
Unfortunately, our Chairman Charlie Watson, claimed that we had already gone through two full strips on Friday in the A team game, and now having used up two more strips that day, we had no more shirts left. Bramley had just brought two sets of kit and although the referee said he would play on if just one team changed, neither side had anymore shirts!
As we stood on the terraces stamping our feet the tannoy interrupted a very scratchy rendition of ‘Morningtown Ride’ by the Seekers, to announce that the referee had abandoned the game and we all trudged off chuntering about getting our money back and what a farce the whole afternoon had been. Peter Fox was most vociferous in Mondays Yorkshire Post though, saying that Bramley could have won the game and it was the responsibility of the home team to change their strips. He also refuted what Watson had said about changing strips at half time in the previous A team game and it all got a bit personal. However, the RL decided that the game should be declared void and it was replayed later that year when on a Wednesday night we beat Bramley 26-10. As you can imagine, ‘Foxy, Foxy what’s the score?’ was the chant that rang round the ‘Threepennies’ that night!!!
We the fans never liked Peter Fox really and he didn’t like us either, something that cause a long running feud to develop between him and the fans in that famous stand. Later in his career when visiting as a coach, he returned a bottle (that had been thrown at him on the trainer’s bench), back into the Threepenny Stand. The bottle hit a stanchion support and shattered all over the crowd and as several supporters clambered over the fence to have a go, he was asked to leave the touch line by the Police, probably for his own safety.
The next time he appeared at the Boulevard in charge of Bradford, he complemented his usual ‘pork pie hat’ with an immaculate, obviously new, sheepskin coat. One fan, probably fed up with his constant goading of the crowd and abuse of the Hull FC players, climbed over the fence and quick as a flash poured the trainers bucket of water over his back. He was not impressed at all, but then again Peter Fox was never the most popular visitor to the Boulevard. It’s not difficult to see why the trainers huts were moved to the other side of the pitch at the end of that decade, because the folks in that famous Threepenny Stand were certainly no respecters of reputations and, as a player or an official, if you represented the opposition, you were in for it!
Man the pumps; the Boulevard is flooded.
In January 1977 as the City was just coming to terms with a tragic fire at the Wensley Lodge Old People’s Home in Hessle had seen 12 men burnt to death, sport was the last thing on a lot of people’s minds. It was to be 1981 before Bruce George Peter Lee was to be found guilty and imprisoned for life after confessing 11 acts of arson including starting that fire, but at that time it was seen as a tragic accident and a disaster for the City. The whole of Hull was though in mourning. However as is always the case in times of local and national grief sport continued there in the background bringing some semblance of order and consistency to everything that was going on around it and so we looked forward to a game against Keighley at the Boulevard on Sunday 16th January.
It had been a strange start to the year really and in the Parks Department work had been severely interrupted by the coldest weather that the region had seen for 13 years, as frosty nights and heavy snow fall brought the local road and rail network to a grinding halt. As it seemed was always the case in our part of the world the bad weather went as fast as it arrived and then the problem was melting snow and flooding, with Springhead Golf Course, The Cricket Circle and Oak Road Playing Fields all under water. That Wednesday I was driving my little maroon Council van between East Park and the City Centre when I received a call on my intercom to say that at the Boulevard the South West corner of the ground was under ‘a foot of water’, and that only three days before the game against Keighley was to be played.
I went down there to be met by the sight of a lake of water spreading over a quarter of the playing area and Fred Daddy with a fork!! As Fred gave me a lecture about how that area of the ground was once a brick pond, I managed to hire some pumps and piping and eventually got all the water pumped away and into the drains in Division Road, so that he was able to mark out the pitch and the fans were able to look forward to an exciting if not soggy encounter with the team from Lawkholme Lane in the West Riding.
On the Sunday morning of the match it was still raining although local radio had informed us at 10-00am that the game was to go ahead and there was an appeal for fans to go down to the Boulevard with garden forks to help drain away some of the standing water forming on the touchlines. It was an important game because although we had experienced a run of four losses before Christmas since a Boxing Day defeat at York we had won the last two games and Hull were now back up there battling with Keighley to regain the top spot in the League table. Just over 4,200 people went to the game but as we stood on the Threepenny Stand and awaiting the 3-00pm kick off little did we know of the drama that was unfolding in the dressing rooms.
Where’s Mike Stevenson?
Sunday 16th January 1977: Hull 16 Keighley 3
We had suffered several bad injuries in a big win at Doncaster the previous weekend and our playing resources were already stretched to the limits. The previous night at training Ibbetson had pulled out injured and second rower Tony Salmon who was already expected to play on the wing was drafted back into the forwards with a young Terry Lynn coming in onto the wing and Chris Davidson returned to the bench. Then 15 minutes before kick off a head count in the dressing rooms revealed that Mike Stephenson our stand-off half was missing. He had simply just not turned up. This set the panic bells ringing. Brian Hancock switched back to off half, and Davidson moved into his centre spot but there was no one to play second substitute with Clarke. We then all realized that something must be wrong when there was an appeal over the Tannoy for any players in attendance at the game to go to straight the dressing rooms.
At one stage Steve Mallinson looked likely to make his first ever first appearance, but in the end retired A team coach Kenny Foulkes took the number 15 shirt. This must have buoyed a Keighley team who had won their last four games and as their players ran out it was clear that they were confident of getting some reward from the game. Before the match started Dave Bassett one-time Director of the club, eminent local scrap dealer, and lifelong supporter of Hull FC was presented with a scroll enrolling him as a life member of the Humberside Sportsman’s Club. He was already Hull’s first ever Vice President and the honor was met with a warm round of applause by everyone there, because Dave was that rarest of people back then, a popular Director.
From the kick off, no doubt due to the late changes the team looked disjointed. Then Hull broke away but a good move faltered when a Jimmy Crampton pass destined for Lynne was easily intercepted by the visitor’s winger Morgan. After that we started to slowly get some cohesion into our play and Jefferson the Keighley full-back made a try saving tackle on Alf Macklin, before play was switched inside and hooker Tony Duke was held just short. Always alert to these situations Tony stood up played the ball forward to himself and ambled in for an easy try, which Lynn converted.
Ten minutes later in the 34th minute Boxall broke out from deep in his own half and having made about 20 yards passed onto Crampton who raced to the line only for the pass to be adjudged forward and the try disallowed. Referee Naughton kept a tight grip on a game that was starting to get a bit fiery and with two minutes to go to half time their ‘cheeky’ scrum half Loxton was a bit too cheeky to the official and from the resultant penalty Lynne sent us in at half time leading 7-0.
The interval discussions amongst the fans were almost drowned out as the rain beat on the roof of the stand but by the teams re-appeared the rain had stopped again and the second half started much as the first had finished. Charlie Birdsall who was playing loose forward for the visitor’s tripped centre Mick Crane as he carried the ball forward and another scuffle ensued. However, we were now starting to play some better rugby much of which came from loose forward Nick Trotter who held the makeshift pack together superbly and instigated a lot of Hull’s moves. He twisted clear in a tackle after 45 minutes but Tindall dropped his pass when he should have scored. However, we pressed again and Jefferson had to kick the ball dead as Hepworth threatened to score from a grubber kick through by Crane.
From the resultant drop out Hepworth who was now starting to run things, collected the ball and passed onto Foulkes who instigated a flowing cross field move that saw Alf Macklin score in the corner. Lynn failed with the conversion but we led 10-0. Then there was a concerted period of Keighley pressure but the visitors lacked much invention and their attacks proved too orthodox to break down what was developing into a resolute Hull FC defense. When we did get the ball back Macklin again went close before he took a great ball from Davidson to go wriggling and squirming towards the corner flag, with three defenders in attendance. As a fourth joined the effort he popped out a great pass back inside to Mick Crane who ran in untouched.
The best move of the game came ten minutes from the end and it had everyone in the ground and indeed on both team benches on their feet applauding. Hepworth broke the line and passed to a marauding Boxall who crashed down field before Chris Davidson appeared from nowhere to grab a pinpoint pass and fly in to score in the corner with four defenders trailing in his wake. With a 16-point lead we relaxed a bit and Birdsall, who was easily the visitor’s best player, sent Morgan in wide out from an obvious training field move. As referee Naughton blew his whistle for the end of the game we jumped over the railings and slipped and skidded our way across the mess that was the playing surface and as the Tannoy public address system let rip with Old Faithful followed by a very unlikely rendition of Smokie’s hit ‘Living Next Door to Alice’, the players left the field for a well-earned plate of sandwiches and a beer or six to celebrate a 16-3 win. David Doyle Davidson then led us on to win a string of good victories which consolidated our position at the top of the League.
Champions Again!!! Norman Collier does the honours.
That Spring of 1977 the weather continued to be extremely changeable and on Easter Monday I took Mum and Dad for a ride out to Hornsea to have a look at the real novelty of snow on the Beach! Then at our last home game on 24th April the title of Champions of Division two was officially bestowed on the club as Comedian Norman Collier presented club captain Brian Hancock and Chairman Charlie Watson with the Trophy. After the ceremonials, in his own inimitable fashion and to a rousing cheer from us fans, Norman treat the crowd in the Best Stand to one of his famous trade mark ‘Chicken Walks’ as he left the field to the strains of ‘Old Faithful’
So it was a great season, at least for those of us who had managed to survive the trials and tribulations of the previous five or six, in fact Hull were even starting to attract some bigger gates for certain games and that made it all the sweeter for the rest of the lads in the Threepenny Stand who had, like me, seen some torrid campaigns of late. We had finished top of the Second Division and ‘The Doyle’ had successfully rebuilt the team bringing in players like veteran half back Keith Hepworth, Dave Marshall, Graham Bray, Mick Sutton, whilst Tony Banham left for Doncaster, Len Casey for the Robins, Barry Kear to Oldham, and Nick Trotter was granted a year’s Testimonial to run from the end of that season.
One should never underestimate just what a great Coach David had become, for he was the master tactician and nothing but inventive with the ways by which he tried to give his team of ‘Cut Price’ heroes the advantage. One ‘Special Move’ that Doyle-Davidson came up with was called the ‘buzzer’ which we used to great effect on several occasions in that great season. It was used I remember in a game against Whitehaven at the Boulevard and it went something like this. We were awarded a penalty 20 yards out from the Whitehaven line. Five FC players lined up shoulder to shoulder just behind Chris Davidson who tapped the ball. He then passed it to the first man as all five players turned their backs on the advancing defence.
The players passed the ball along the line completely confusing the Whitehaven players who could not see who had the ball, and then all of a sudden Boxall turned and as the other FC players ran off in different directions he charged at the advancing defenders who were by now totally confused and in disarray and taking three players with him he crashed over the line. Whether it was named the ‘Buzzer’ because of the way that the players buzzed out of the line, or because of the ripple of excitement that went around the crowd when we set up for it is unknown, but although a bit too ponderous for modern Rugby League back then, with semi pro players and that pitch, it was a joy to behold.
The clubs balance sheet showed that the increase in our gates and the hard work of Ernie Mason and his programme sellers had led to the match day publication and the ‘Souvenir Shop’ showing their first profit of £329. Most significant though was l the fact that the Speedway franchise was still keeping the club afloat, bringing in an income of £6138.
Back up Where we belonged …for now anyway!
Wednesday 31st August 1977: Hull 19 Leeds 11
So, we were set for our first season in the top Division for several years and although little had been spent developing the team over the summer we were optimistic that in 1977/78, buoyed by the inspirational pre match eloquence of David Doyle-Davidson, we would survive. The first games were played as part of the Yorkshire Cup Competition and after a good victory over Division One side Bramley we were again, as was ever the case, drawn against Leeds, something we should by now have expected. The game was at Headingley and we drew, before winning a great return game at the Boulevard attended by almost 5000 by 19-11. Then we started our Division One campaign with an away game against Leeds which meant that we had played our arch nemesis three times in seven days. This time though we lost 25-13 although we got our first league points the following week with a home draw against Workington.
However, one vivid memory of that season was setting out from Sutton at around 5-30pm one damp and misty Tuesday tea time to watch Hull play Castleford in the BBC 2 Floodlit Trophy. It was 19th October and the drive down to Holderness Road was fine but once I got near the River Hull, which I had to cross, a thick and clinging fog reduced my speed to just ten miles an hour as I crawled along in a long line of traffic. I had just bought a new car to replace the old Ford Anglia and I was still getting used to a much bigger Ford Cortina Mk 2 in metallic ‘Blue Mink’. PRH 703G was a really nice car but with the windscreen wipers going full pelt and the fog lights on, by the time I got to Carr Lane in the City Centre, I could not see more than five yards in front of me as a mixture of fog and industrial smog descended like a curtain.
By the time I got to the Boulevard conditions were much better, although once in the ground I had hardly had a chance to get a cup of that beefy hot water that passed for Bovril, (and no doubt burnt my tongue as usual), when the fog caught up with me. As the floodlights worsened the situation as only they can, the referee appeared out of the gloom had a quick walk round the touchlines and despite the pleas for a further delay on a decision by the BBC crews there to televise the match, he called the game off with half an hour to go to kick off.
We all got our money back as we left and I returned to East Hull and Sutton in that long crawling line of traffic, until I got to North Bridge and crossed the river when the pall lifted and by I was back in Sutton the weather was as ‘clear as a bell’. That week the fog actually came and went for three more days after that and as the city shivered under a shroud of smog, the TV news’s further increased the feeling of depression with their favourite subject the bread shortage, which was due to a national baker’s strike.
There were stories of housewives walking miles trying to get their hands on some of the diminishing supply of bread loaves and all the talk between everyone seemed to be about where it was possible to get that illusive loaf the next day. It was described as the ‘Great Bread Strike’ by the Hull Daily Mail who also claimed that it was ‘Starting to bite’. They have always did have a knack of writing naff headlines.
The night after the aborted Castleford game things were just as bad with thick fog again descending right across the City, although I again battled into the town centre this time to take Mum and Dad on a rare family outing to the Dorchester picture house in George Street to see the chart-topping Rock and Roll revival band Showaddywaddy. Despite the fog it was great to see Mum having a good night out and she stood watching the kids dancing to ‘Under the Moon of Love’ before the end of the concert. As for the Castleford game, well that was rearranged for 30th October when we lost a close and exciting encounter 7-10.
If the game of Rugby League was a great spectacle to watch it was still really hard for those who played it. If ever there was a good example of this it had to be Steve Portz the 24-year-old centre who signed for Hull from local Rugby Union outfit Old Hymerians. Steve like most players, as well as playing rugby, held down a full-time job. He was a really nice guy who always had time for a chat with the fans when we met up in the pubs and clubs of the city. However, that month he was injured when he dislocated his right shoulder for a second time in twelve months and that after a severe ankle injury had also side lined him for twelve weeks. Previous to that in 1973 he had to get over a serious operation when he dislocating the other shoulder. With employers refusing to continue paying players injured in games and the recompense and insurance payments from the clubs little more than a pittance, it was certainly still a tough life for the people like Steve and professional rugby league players in general in 1977.
The End of ‘The Doyle’
Thursday 28th December 1977: Hull 3 New Hunslet 23
Whilst the rest of the Country was dancing and singing along in the cinema’s to the John Travolta movie and the Bee Gee’s album ‘Saturday Night Fever’, back in the more sanitised surroundings of the Boulevard two defeats by Featherstone and Widnes meant that the going was getting really tough in our first season back in the top flight. We had simply not made the signings we needed to make the transition. However, Coach Doyle-Davidson had been able to make one significant move into the transfer market as after Mick Crane left the club for Leeds commanding a fair-sized transfer fee, he was able to bring in Vince Farrar in mid-October. He was an International prop forward from Featherstone who ‘The Doyle’ immediately made club captain. Some of the players had simply had enough, Chris Davidson had threatened to quit the club and then Mally Walker, a good local second rower, walked away from the Boulevard, telling the local media that he had left because the players had been ‘let down by the Board by their failure to bring in new players’.
This of course saddened the fans because Mally was well liked and we seemed to be witnessing the club fall apart just when we had all been looking forward to life in the top division. The Coach, who after all those years of inspiration and motivation seemed to have lost the players, struggled on but our displays got worse and worse. Finally on 28th December 1977 we were beaten by New Hunslet at the Boulevard 3-23 in an abject display that lead to the supporters running out of ‘Christmas spirit’ all together and mounting demonstrations on the pitch and outside the Board room after the game. In fairness it was one of the most spineless and disjointed Hull performances anyone had seen for years.
I didn’t join in with this demonstration, I never have because it was all just too sad really and as is my wont on these sorts of occasions I just tramped back to the car to get away from everybody else and grieve on my own. We were all fed up about the lack of signings that the club had been able to secure, although in fairness the Board had done their best but once again our geographic position and the jobs that potential signings already had in other parts of the country made luring players to the club a difficult business, before you even considered the wages they wanted.
After the game David Doyle-Davidson, (to everyone surprise, simply because we thought he would be the fall guy and get sacked) resigned as Coach saying, ‘We insulted the fans with the most gutless and heartless performance I have seen in my life’. He also indicated that he could no longer motivate the players and the decision he was making was not for himself but for the good of the club.
Our Chairman who was visibly shocked by the coach’s action ‘accepted his resignation with regret’. Although Charlie Watson had stood by ‘the Doyle’, we all sort of got the impression when we read the newspapers next day that several other members of the Board, trying to cover themselves after their inaction in the transfer market, had at last got what they had wanted for a while; the head of David Doyle-Davidson. So, Kenny Foulkes was put in charge of the team for the next game whilst the Board started the search for a replacement coach to take over a de-motivated and unhappy playing staff.
Arthur Bunting: The start of a dynasty.
Mum was still ill and getting less and less mobile but she seemed to rally a bit that Christmas so much so that I was able to take her out just after New Year to the January sales in the City Centre. It was just as we left Binns Department Store in Paragon Square that she noticed a Daily Mail placard announcing ‘Hull name New Coach’. So it was that on the 3rd January Arthur Bunting, who had, until two years earlier, been Rovers coach, took over as our supremo and although of course we had no idea of the fact back then, the first green shoots of the ‘The Golden Years’ of the late seventies and early eighties were about to start to appear.
There was in fact all sorts going on at the Boulevard, and the very next day the local paper was full of the fact that Hull Vikings whose franchise payments for holding Speedway meetings at the Boulevard were still playing a major part in keeping us going as a club, had signed the most famous speedway rider in the world, Ivan Mauger. More worrying though for us FC fans was the fact that the Hull Daily Mail revealed that he had only signed after he and the promoters had met with the Hull Board and agreement had been made to widen the track on all four corners. The pitch was narrow enough as it was and although we all liked the money it brought in, this action was seen by many fans as a step too far. Still, with Billy Bremner plying his trade and packing them in down the road at Hull City, many of us just felt pleased that the speedway was there helping to keep our club in business during what had turned out to be another depressing season.
‘Hull Sign Norton’, read all about it!
Vince Farrar was doing a great job as captain on the field, but he needed some support, and some poor results indicated to the fans that as far as First Division survival was concerned we already needed a miracle. Vince and Arthur Bunting could not save our club alone so the board looked to getting some ‘instant class’ into the team and using Jimmy Crampon as a make weight in the deal, we made an audacious bid for one of the country’s best forwards. At the same time the games weekly paper the ‘Rugby Leaguer’ reported that Leeds and Bradford Northern were chasing and expected to sign, probably the best loose forward in the world. Then to the surprise of everyone in the RL, up popped little Hull, the ‘sleeping giant’ struggling at the foot of the table, to beat both these top clubs to the signing. That player was of course the great Knocker Norton.
It was with some disbelief that we received the news of the signing, in late January 1978, and I myself saw it again advertised on a Hull Daily Mail ‘board’ outside a newsagents on James Reckitt Avenue, this time, as I drove home from work. It read “Hull sign Norton” and I was dumbfounded, so much so that I did a three-point turn in the road and went back to make sure I hadn’t miss-read the placard. We had paid the struggling West Yorkshire club £25,000 and lost one of my favourite players Jimmy Crampon in the deal. But this was one of the best players in the world and he was class! Knocker Norton was a prodigious talent and when at 26 years of age he arrived at the Boulevard, he was definitely in the prime of his playing career.
Steve had joined Castleford, his hometown club, from local amateurs Freestone Juniors in 1968 and learned his trade at Weldon Road under the great Malcolm Reilly who was the West Yorkshire club’s loose forward at the time. In 1970, Mally left for Australia and ‘Knocker’ made the Castleford number 13 shirt his own. So successful was he that for the next two ‘closed season’ he followed Reilly to Australia and even played for Manley in their Grand Final in 1976.
On his return his success in Australia made him the target for the two top Yorkshire clubs at the time. He must have been aware of the demand for his services as he asked Castleford for a transfer and in stepped Hull. That was probably the point at which the greatest and most successful era in the history of our club began for real, and Arthur Bunting with his excellent tactical awareness and contacts throughout the rugby league world, was to mastermind it.
Mick Ronson doesn’t make a personal appearance.
Music was still a very important part of my life and I regularly went to the Queens Hall in Leeds and the Spa in Bridlington to watch the country’s best bands, although I was finding the new wave and punk movement a bit too much for my musical tastes which then included the likes of Genesis, Yes, Barclay James Harvest and Mike Oldfield. ‘Prog rock’ I suppose the experts of today would call it.
However, in early 1978 I went to an eagerly awaited concert at the Blind Institute on Beverley Road in Hull to see a band that I had first come across in a pub on Greatfield, the housing estate in the east of the City, back in 1975. Dead Finger Talks were local lads who the local paper told us were about to make it really big and who I guess you would say were in the somewhat dated genre of ‘Glam Rock’. In the early part of the decade that whole scene was started of course by Lou Reed, the New York Dolls and David Bowie who also included in his entourage Mick Ronson and the Spiders from Mars.
However, the ‘Dead Fingers’ had apparently seen an opportunity to revisit this great musical era and were best known as a band that satirized the homophobic attitudes of that early punk era and they were great fun to watch on stage as well. They returned to a small venue in Hull simply because it was coming back to their roots, although their first album was released nationally and produced by none other than my old pal Mick Ronson. Rumours abounded in the City that Mick would be at the gig, so I went along hoping to see him again, but of course he wasn’t there. However, the band was excellent and promised much but unfortunately the media seemed to misunderstand completely their motives and the satirical aspects of their music and branded them dated, a slur from which they never really recovered. I still have a copy of that album, ‘Nobody Loves You when you’re Old and Gay’ somewhere in my loft to this day.
Rebuilding for the future
Tuesday 11th April 1978: Hull 21 Leeds 14
At the Boulevard Arthur Bunting had struggled at first to make any headway at all victory wise and the club sank deeper and deeper into the mire at the bottom of the division. He had a lot more contacts across the game than our previous coach and so he used his influence to start to explore the market. Money was tight of course but he had a lot more success when he change the team’s tactics and took us on a run which saw ten wins in our next twelve games. However, what had gone before was just too much to overcome although we really had a good shot at overturning the odds and staying up.
Around then my partner at the time Gail, Of Hull Cheese fame, was working up at the new Job Centre that had opened at the Bransholme District shopping centre and one of her colleagues was the future Hull City Councillor Tom McVie who was (and probably still is), as Hull FC ‘barmy’ as I was. Every time I went to pick Gail up we would end up getting home late because Tom and I had been discussing the finer points of the club and their fortunes. In fact, it was Tom who rang me at work back on 21st November to tell me that we had signed Vince Farrar. That’s what it’s like though, when fans get together isn’t it? It happened back then at Bransholme Job Centre and it still does to this day when I bump into my pals in say Morrison’s or the pub, we can make no difference whatsoever to what happens on the field, but we can talk about it for hours.
So successful was that late season surge in our form that we moved off the bottom of the league table, and with four games to play we met Leeds at the Boulevard knowing a win would put us just a point away from New Hunslet, Castleford and Warrington, the three clubs above us. It was a critical game and one that brought a crowd of 5,411 to the Boulevard on a spring like April evening. This was said to be a must win game but when you’re at the bottom, there are a lot of those games around.
On the ‘Threepennies’ we had taken Norton, Farrar and Bunting to our hearts and all three had already gained hero status in our eyes. A brilliant 21-16 victory at Featherstone two days earlier had taken its toll and we were playing with six players that were injured and had been ‘patched up’ for this important match.
Hull started slowly and looked to be suffering as a couple of players highlighting their unfit state, took an age to get up after tackles. Leeds who were really throwing the ball around soon scored a great try that saw five players touch the ball before Gibson strolled in at the corner. Things looked very ominous indeed. The thing about Hull at that time was that in recent games, as at Featherstone, we had blown the opposition away with short sharp ‘purple patches’ in which we raised their game and the tempo of the play and scored a few tries in the process.
From the kick off after the unconverted Leeds try, we swept back down the field and a smart inside pass from Norton found Brian Hancock who, although in a tight situation, managed to shake himself loose from a tackle by Hague and Dickinson and touched down near the posts for Boxall to convert. Next, four minutes later in the 24th minute, Farrar changed direction to find Salmon who passed onto Norton whose looping pass wide out saw Turner take the ball, draw Smith, kick ahead and touch down just before the ball bounced dead.
This time Boxall missed the goal but soon we were in again. Our next try was scored just as Leeds got the ball back. Their half back Haigh looked one way, ran the other and dropped the ball behind him as Barr moved in. In a flash Barr was on the ball, picked it up and galloped downfield drawing and brilliantly beating Leeds full back Murrell, to cross the line. The next ten minutes saw Leeds pressing as first Atkinson and then Sanderson were felled by brilliant last ditch tackles by the Hull full back Marshall. The second effort left our last line of defence out cold and he had to be replaced just before half time by George Robinson.
With seconds to go to the interval, with Hull 11-2 up the FC struck again. Leeds were pressing and as the ball went across the line and Sanderson looked likely to put winger Smith in at the corner, up popped Turner to intercept on our 25-yard line and blaze downfield with the Leeds defence in his wake to score the try of the night. Boxall who was having an off night missed the conversion again, but we went in leading 14-3.
The second half started with Tim Wilby the player that was soon to join Hull and who had an ‘interesting’ part to play in the club’s future in the forthcoming years, taking over at full-back for the visitors. In fact, after 43 minutes it was his head high tackle on Hull winger Graham Bray that led to Boxall finding his kicking boots again to further extend our lead. As Farrar went off injured we lost our direction and although his replacement Chris Davidson worked hard, Leeds piled on the pressure. A foul by Salmon led to Gibson hitting the left upright with a penalty kick after 50 minutes and he followed up, collected the ball and from the next play Leeds shifted the ball wide for Dickinson to storm in wide out and for Gibson to convert the score from the touch line. Our eight-point lead started to look a bit vulnerable but Tony Dukes our hooker that night brilliantly won the next four scrums ‘against the head’ to ensure that we were able to ‘steady the ship’. Fittingly it was the outstanding player of the night who finally made the game safe after 79 minutes.
Following two great busting runs from Salmon and then Tindall, Knocker Norton got the ball from the acting half back position and ghosted through to score, showing the ball left and right as only he could. Although Sanderson scored four minutes into injury time and Gibson goaled it made little difference and as the stewards did their best to prevent us from getting over the fences and onto the pitch our battered heroes went off to a standing ovation and a score line of Hull 21 Leeds 14.
Although most fans really believed that the ‘Great Escape’ was on, sadly the following week we lost at Bramley and despite a good 18-4 home win against Salford in our final Division One match we were relegated to the Second Division. We had almost done the impossible though and on the eve of the Tony Duke and Brian Hancock Testimonial game on 28th April, Arthur Bunting was rewarded with a three-year coaching contract at the club. That game, which was against Wakefield Trinity, ended up being drawn 31-31, with both players receiving £1000 towards their Testimonial pay-outs. It was a great way to finish the season but it goes without saying that us fans were all pretty gutted that after all those years trying to get back to the Premier British RL Division we came back down at the first attempt, however little did we know what was to follow under the guidance of our new coach, in what would be the next record breaking season.
To be continued ……..
So, thanks again for your support and for reading the Diary which hopefully one day will return to its original state when we can all chew over what’s happening as the competition gets under way again. Once again a lot of you have been in touch and I really appreciate your support and hearing from you. I hope that regurgitating all this stuff again at least keeps you amused a bit and all being well we’ll be back again next week with that amazing, record breaking, unbeaten season and a return to the top Division.
Try to Keep believing