Welcome to another addition of the Diary as we hear the announcement that providing the idiots behave themselves and the virus continues to subsided, we will be starting the season again in early August.
There is still no news of relegation, but as I said this time last week with no home advantage for any teams and a curtailed season and perhaps some new temporary rules as well, it simply has to be scrapped this year. Now I guess we await news of when the players will be back in training and thus when the furloughing process will cease and the club will have to find the full wage bill again themselves.
That for me with games behind closed doors generating no income, is the dangerous time. I expect several clubs to suffer a lot then and we can only hope that they all make it through. We have made it clear that we won’t be signing anyone until the new year, which points to a situation that is only going to get worse before it gets better.
As for the Championship and Division One sides, well they can’t make their minds up what they want to do with the poorer clubs wanting to cling to furloughing as long as possible and the more ambitious lot baying for a return of the fixtures and promotion to be retained. It looks to me that its stalemate there and one wonders how exactly it will be resolved.
So, we’ll just have to wait and see, but for now I would like to take you back to the serialisation of the books and to happier times back in 1983/84 when we were in the middle of a purple patch, although it has to be said looking back, a time too when the cracks were starting to show. I hope that you find something to enjoy.
Eddie Kidd ‘defies death’ at the Boulevard whilst I get promoted!
After they had announced Gary Kemble as ‘Player of the Year’ the Board of Directors of Hull FC, always resourceful, hosted another fund raising event at the Boulevard on 23rd April when 3000 attended the Eddie Kidd Daredevil Show in which the world famous motor cyclist/stuntman performed motorcycle leaps and firewall crashes, drove cars on two wheels and produced dozens of ‘wheelies’ in what was an exciting night; or so I’m told. I’d had enough excitement on the rugby field and didn’t go! However, three days later with my current boss the City Entertainments Officer having left the Authority to take up a position in Whitby, I was promoted into his job and although still in overall charge at the City Hall, I was at least able to bring in a Manager to help with what was becoming one of the north’s busiest venues.
There was a historical re-enactment event in the City Centre that weekend too, which featured the English Civil War Society and a huge fabricated mock up of the old gates of Hull was constructed in Whitefriargate. It was staged to depict what is generally accepted as the first act of the English Civil War when after ‘having a few’ pints in the ‘Olde White Hart’ the elders of the City refused to admit the King’s General the Earl of Newcastle. This after the King, in order to secure his ‘Royal Town’ and arsenal, had sent him to take possession of it. I walked down to Market Place to witness a ‘skirmish’ that was staged outside Holy Trinity Church. I remember thinking at the time that there is something rather surreal about watching ‘the Royalist foot soldiers’ in full armour, fighting the Parliamentarians with pike staffs, swords and knives, whilst sporting Leeds United tattoo’s, driving gloves and Rolex watches.
Wembley Again and the bad dream becomes a nightmare!
Saturday 7th May 1983 Hull 12-Featherstone 14
No sooner had we won the League title and it was Wembley again and another weekend of drinking and debauchery with the ‘Mermaid Wembley Beano’. If the experience of the Widnes ‘drawn’ Final the year before had been surreal then this game was just plain excruciating, because Hull have suffered many heartbreaks and disappointments over the years in Cup Finals, but there was never anything to match the depths of despair that we all felt that day. I particularly pitied those who had made a big financial effort to attend. Times were hard and one gang of lads I knew, travelled down in a beat-up Vauxhall Viva and slept in it on the car park outside the Stadium, just to be there.
Hull were newly crowned Champions, whilst Featherstone had just managed to avoid relegation after finishing 12th of 16 Clubs in the First Division. Many of the players admitted in later years that all their partying on the week leading up to the game was certainly ‘inappropriate’ and the choice of the lime green suits, white shoes and yellow ties that the team wore for the walk round before the game, should have forewarned as to what was about to unfold.
The result was the biggest shock at Wembley for 50 years, and caused a real stir, but that was absolutely no consolation to the Hull fans who were gutted. In a game where Hull’s Paul Rose was the first player ever to be ‘sin binned’ at Wembley, both teams scored two tries a piece and Featherstone snatched a 14-12 victory with a penalty goal by Quinn just 3 minutes from time, which sent the fans of the unlikely victors into ‘Dreamland’. We were without doubt the architects of our own demise because with 20 minutes to go Hull lead 12-5 but then with Terry Hudson in the sin bin, instead of us taking the initiative, we threw it away. A try by Hobbs and a conversion and penalty by Quinn saw the little West Riding team home for what was for everyone in the game besides us, a great victory for the underdog and ‘The Game’. In a game that was full of records, Hobbs became the first forward to score more than one try in a Wembley Final while 40,000 Hull FC fans stood there that day at 4-47pm in total and absolute disbelief. Charlie the attendant from the City Hall who had sat next to me throughout the game and who had over the years become a good pal, said in his own inimitable fashion, “Well, that’s the last time, I say, the last time, I’ll see Hull in a Challenge Cup Final” Of course we all shouted him down and said, “We’ll be back next year” but Charlie’s sage like statement was unfortunately to be proved sadly and chillingly correct.
One lasting memory? Well I vividly recall getting absolutely ‘blathered’ that night and ending up in “The Sherlock Holmes” in Baker Street. There I met a lad of about 45 who had supported the Featherstone Club all his life and who just sat at a table by himself and cried. We tried to console him, but it was no good because he could just not believe what he had witnessed that afternoon. It was his nirvana and all we could get out of him was, “That has to be it, I won’t be wasting my money and going to Post Office Road again, it can’t ever be any better than this”. Poor ‘bugger’; I wonder where he is today?
The following Monday the team attended another Civic Reception at the Guildhall, which as I was now a ‘senior’ Council Officer I managed to get admitted to, although it was certainly a very low-key affair. The players seemed to know that they had let the fans, the Club and most of all themselves down and looked as if they would have rather have been anywhere else that night. The team appeared on the Balcony to a mixed welcome from a crowd of about 4000 diehard fans stood in the drizzle, but everyone was disappointed.
Mick Crane always the comedian lightened the mood temporarily when he whipped the Lord Mayor’s ceremonial three cornered hat off the head of Councillor Harry Woodford and declared to the masses below, “I’m gonna slash the tax on beer and cigs”, which got a big laugh, but in general it was an altogether forgettable occasion, which got too much for Coach Arthur Buntings wife who took one look at the crowd assembled below the balcony and burst into tears. I often tell younger supporters about what happened there on the terraces of Wembley that day in May 1983 because grown men cried, not one or a few, but hundreds.
That defeat and a further reversal against Widnes in the Premiership final seven days later at Headingley, totally took ‘the shine’ off the season for most FC fans, particularly those who expected to win everything and had jumped on board the ‘success train’ a couple of seasons earlier.
The ‘Sing when you’re winning’ fans and Iron Maiden, ‘Run for the Hills’
Of course, those ‘casual’ fans had every right to be fed up because they had invested their passion and ‘hard earned cash’ following their chosen Club around the country. We full time obsessive’s have always done the same of course but we’re different, we’re incurable and in it for the long haul, we’re the fanatics (or idiots) we had no choice and, unlike that lad from Featherstone, we have no option but to blindly continue on. We also knew that despite the abject disappointment we all felt, it was certainly still 100 times better than those dark days of the mid 70’s when we almost folded. Still, we had won the Yorkshire Cup and been crowned Champions of the Rugby League. The latter accolade being probably the hardest to earn and the most cherished to hold for the players.
However, we are still sport’s fans as well so we’re never really satisfied with what we’ve got and we invariably look for more. There were recriminations and a deal of “I’m not going to watch that again” however we still had two Trophies from a season that had started so well and that saw us play an amazing 49 games.
Of course, life went on, although it took weeks to get over the disappointment of the Featherstone game. In fact, I was ready for a period away from the game that had once again managed to find a way, in the midst of adulation and celebration, to thrust me back down into the depths of despair. At least we had a big concert on at the Hall to give me something else to worry about. It was a ‘Warm up Gig’ for Iron Maiden at the start of their ‘World Piece’ Tour. The principle Heavy Metal band of the time sold 1800 tickets in just 4 hours, five weeks in advance, for what was a really prestigious concert for the venue. All the rest of the arena’s they played on that tour had 3000 plus capacities but they always liked to do a ‘warm up gig’ where they could ‘snag’ everything for the tour and thanks to Phil McKintyre having such a good night the previous year promoting Judy Tzuke, he offered us the chance to do the gig.
The band was based at the City Hall for three days, one for technical rigging and the second for rehearsals. The actual concert was on the third and the public culmination of this period of preparation and was a brilliant night. It was a polished performance and when the band played their new single, ‘Run for the Hills’ it literally brought the house down, as amidst the mayhem a rotating gel-wheel dance floor light, fell from the balcony and crashed to the floor narrowly missing a section of the crowd. We had them all chained up after that (the lights not the crowd!)
‘Ada the asthmatic’ makes an entrance at the cinema
At Hull FC the season finished with the Seven Seas ‘Sevens’ competition at the Boulevard. We didn’t win or even get in the final. However, there was some worrying news when the annual accounts were released by the Club, because despite a very successful year our average home attendance fell to 11,525 and we showed an operating loss of £49,276. It was, for Hull FC, the beginning of a slide into debt which was to be ignored by many at first as we were all still blinded by the great time we were having supporting our team.
On 25th May 1983, and as part of my ‘closed season rehabilitation’, I queued for three hours to see the first showing of ‘Star Wars; Revenge of the Jedi’ at the ABC Regal in Ferensway. I was a big fan of the original trilogy of films but mention this here because of one particular incident that I’ll remember forever. There we were, sat in a packed cinema, as the cabin doors slid open on the Shuttle Craft and that tell-tale heavy breathing that heralded the arrival of the Chief henchman of the Empire, hissed out through the stereo speakers around the walls. It was a moment of high drama as a packed cinema was completely silent and totally captivated the little lad in front of me remained stock still in his seat with his eyes glued to the screen. Without turning his head and with one of those loud ‘stage whispers’ that echoed around the place, he said to his Mother, “Mum, Mum, Is that Daft Ada!”
Probably the best concert I’ve ever been paid to attend
After three and a half years of living and working at the Hull City Hall, the venue was probably as busy if not busier than it had ever been, and I was starting to get a lot more blasé about rock concerts. However, just occasionally you came across something that was so good, you stopped being the Manager of the venue and became just another fan. That was the case on 24th July 1983 when Hull played host to the ‘The Crossing’ tour featuring emerging Scottish rockers Big Country.
What a night that was, despite the fact their first album, after which the tour was named, had only been out for just 3 weeks the place was packed and they played every track in the order they appeared on the disc. The high spots were invariably the big single release ‘Fields on Fire’ that had been a hit earlier that year and that sounded like nothing else around back then and ‘In a Big Country’ that was at number 8 in the music charts that week.
I remember the encore at the end of the show which featured an amazing cover of Smokey Robinson’s, ‘Tracks of my Tears’ and then because they had run out of material the band repeated ‘Fields of Fire’. They finished the number by first the drummer walking off and whilst the music continued he was followed by the Rhythm Guitarist and then by Tony Butler the Bassist. This just left lead singer and guitarist Stuart Adamson on stage lit by a single spotlight and still playing. When he stopped and walked off it brought the house down. It was certainly really effective, so much so that ex local boxer Jackie Turner and ex Hull FC forward Alan Wardell, who worked as security staff that night commented that it was the best end to a show they had seen.
Rule changes at the Boulevard, anarchy at Boothferry Park and a sad farewell to Dukesy
Sunday 21st August 1983 Hull 22-Warrington 22
The start of the 1983/84 season was fast approaching and as usual I got my season pass, deciding this time to watch my rugby with Barry, Charlie, Trevor ‘the fish’, ‘Hard up Harry’ and (Beer Shampoo) Garry in the ‘New’ seats in the Best Stand. It was then announced that Tony Duke our ‘hooker in waiting’ for so many years was to retire, although we would never forget the part he played in that wonderful night when we won the Challenge Cup at Elland Road. Off the field Tony was a real gentleman, while on it he was a dumpy, hard, nuggety Hooker who was brilliant at winning the ball in the scrums and ‘mixing it’ with the best players around.
Hull FC Head Coach Arthur Bunting said, “Tony had every reason over the years, to complain, as players like Ronnie Wileman and Barry Bridges have been brought in over him, but he just went about his business played hard and well in the ‘A’ Team and waited his chance”. Another surprise was the naming of young Lee Crooks as Club Captain; a decision that we fans thought was probably more to do with the responsibility keeping him out of mischief, than his ability to lead the team.
I have already reported on the sporadic trouble we had at the Boulevard with so called ‘football hooligans’ but at Boothferry Park it was ten times worse, as the scourge of the ‘Beautiful Game’ continued to manifest itself in Hull. The Tigers had a ‘Friendly’ pre-season game which erupted into hand to hand fighting between the two sets of fans on the pitch at half time. In the end 140 Middlesbrough supporters had to ‘sleep rough’ in Hull overnight, when three coach drivers who had seen their vehicles ransacked on the journey down from Teeside, refused to take them home.
It was around that time too, that the Rugby League usually decided to change several of the rules of the game which that year included the introduction of 4 points for a try. In addition the number of scrums in a game was drastically reduced as they introduced the rule by which at the end of 6 tackles, you had to hand the ball over to the opposition.
The 83/84 season at the Boulevard kicked off on a boiling hot Sunday afternoon against a feisty, tough Warrington team. In the end we were fortunate to get any sort of result really as with a minute to go and the scores tied Stone fouled Hesford in front of the posts. It looked as if we were destined to lose but there followed a memorable example of the real power of that most influential of viewing galleries, the Threepenny Stand.
As Hesford, who had been engulfed for days in rumours of domestic trouble at home, walked up to take the kick the crowd fell quiet, no doubt in preparation for the inevitable chorus of ‘boo’s’ that was always forthcoming as the goal kicker ran up to address the ball. In that ‘silent moment’ as Hesford meticulously constructed a small pyramid of sand on which to place the ball a lone rasping voice rang out from the Threepenny Stand, shouting, “You might be here kicking a goal Hesford, but do you know what your wife’s doing?” What effect that lone voice had, we will never know, but as the ball sailed wide of the left upright, from a simple straight kick, the Warrington Player glared across at the Threepennies where they were all dancing, as if we had won.
It was certainly a very unlikely draw in which, completely unannounced, Hull FC gave a debut to a young West Riding lad called Gary Schofield. He was ‘welcomed’ to first team rugby by Warrington centre Ronnie Duane who gave the youngster a really hard time. Afterwards Garry said that he would remember his debut forever. Not because of the occasion, the crowd or the game but more for the bruises he carried for the next six weeks.
John Woods, “Six points away, ‘in off’ the wall”
Sunday11th September 1983 Hull 20- Leigh 12
I have already availed you of all the ‘dark satanic mills’ stuff regarding our trips to Leigh and Oldham and that years visit to Hilton Park was little different to those that had gone before, however it did contain one particular incident that sets it out from every other game I have seen.
It was early September and the country was experiencing what the weathermen were calling an ‘Indian Summer’ with everywhere bathed in warm, unseasonal sunshine. Everywhere that is except, Leigh (and no doubt Oldham!!). It was never anything but dull there, but after we had walked from the ‘Our House’ pub to the ground in our shorts and Hull FC T shirts and taken our places on the South terracing, at least the sun was straining to get through the leaden sky, as the fair skinned, drizzle loving, locals were goading us from the safety of the Tommy Sale Stand.
Despite Leigh being at the top of the table in those early stages of the season, just 5000 were in attendance, of which at least 2000 were from Hull. Deep in the second half we were dominating a tough forward battle and leading 10-4. We would have benefited from an even bigger margin but for the fact that Paul Prendiville was struggling with his goal kicking, however we still looked pretty certain to get a win. Well, we did until the 67th Minute.
It was then that John Woods hoisted a high ‘bomb’ but the trajectory was angled much too far towards our line. The ball hit the hard ground on the try line and Trevor Skerrett, Paul Prendiville and several other Hull players watched as it bounced harmlessly over the dead ball line and were none too worried when it hit the old concrete perimeter wall and Woods, following up, dived half-heartedly on it to touch down. To the players and everyone in the ground’s disbelief, referee Mean immediately pointed to the ground to indicate that John Woods had scored a try. The fans protested at what was an incredible blunder, but the referee who was 20 yards away when the incident occurred, refused to consult his linesman and just looked away and awarded the try. “Mean, you’re like our lass… bloody useless” came a shout from a guy behind me as 3 minutes later Woods stroked over a penalty and we were trailing 12-10 in a game we had never looked like losing.
Many teams would have folded at that point particularly after such a devastating turn of events, but not Hull FC. Leigh were relying on Woods and his high kicks to keep us pinned in our own half but after 78th minutes, with time fast running out he hoisted another ‘steepling’ kick which Harkin took on the run on his own 25-yard line. He swept back up field, fed Leuluai who drew the cover and sent French winger Patrick Solal off on a 55-yard sprint to the corner. He was just caught by Des Drummond who made the tackle of the game to save a certain try. Playing the ball quickly, we moved it right across the line and Barry Banks fed Dane O’Hara who slid in at the other corner for us to regain the lead. Hull hadn’t finished either because, accompanied by the chants of “You’re not singing anymore” from the now jubilant Hull fans, in the 80th minute we scored again when Mick Crane and Dave Topliss put Wayne Proctor over.
There was no time to restart the game and as the final whistle went we had ‘snatched victory from the jaws of defeat’, and won 20-12. However, that ‘in off the wall’ incident will live in my memory forever.
Tragedy strikes as Charlie bows out doing what he loved!
Sunday 18th September 1983 Hull 24-Wigan 8
When you talk to the real fans of any sport about death, there is little doubt that most would want to be around the people and the Club they love when the grim reaper ‘comes a calling’ and that fact is something that always reminds me of a game that year against Wigan. That day we watched the match with Charlie and his daughter and son in law. Charlie, my pal and trusted work mate was in really good form but as the game was about twenty minutes old he tried to get up from his seat, slumped back again and had what I can only describe as a massive seizure. Ashen faced he stumbled to his feet again, collapsed and fell between the rows of seats.
We struggled to carry him out through dozens of strangers who all paid concerned but ultimately detached attention, before the St John lads took over and we got my workmate and dear old pal into a waiting ambulance. He looked very grey and lay silent, and we feared the worst as the doors slammed shut and they raced him, with bells ringing, to Hull Royal Infirmary. The fact that we won that day was pretty incidental really because our thoughts were with Charlie and his daughter and son-in-law who had accompanied him to hospital. We left before the end of the match and went straight to Hospital, only to meet them both coming out with all Charlie’s possessions and clothes in a plastic bag, and that was it, Charlie was gone.
One minute he was watching his beloved Hull FC beating Wigan, the next he was not around anymore. It was a stark reminder of the futility of life and how you can be taken at any time, even when you’re watching your favourite team. We would all miss Charlie!
That incident left me with a lasting legacy and to this day I suppose dying like that would be the ideal way to do it, if it were not for the distress it would cause those loved ones and pals at the game with you. Of course, when you do die, your team, its fans and their aspirations just continue as usual, you might have moved out of the ‘cheap seats’ but the ‘circus’ rolls on. Perhaps, if there is a lesson to be learned from what happened to Charlie it has to be that its best not to look too closely at that ‘Glorious’ next season. Charlie knew four months earlier that he would not see another Wembley, he told us so that day as Featherstone paraded the Cup and if he were here now, he would probably tell us all to, “Enjoy it, I say, enjoy it, while you can”
‘Sterlo’ almost arrives and the Numan family take over the City Hall
On 21st September I opened the evening paper as amazing news was breaking for all Hull FC fans. The headlines on the back page stated that the Club had signed the best scrum-half in the world, Peter Sterling. The plan was for Sterling to come to England and play 16 games in what was the Australian closed season. It was certainly an exciting time for us supporters because in addition to this amazing news, the Club’s long awaited ‘Mystery’ signing from New Zealand, turned out to be none other than International half- back Fred Ah Kuoi, who we had failed to sign a year previously. Fred flew into Heathrow to join Hull FC, accompanied by Hull KR’s new signing Mark Broadhurst.
Hull’s Chairman Roy Waudby was certainly pleased to have captured two iconic players but he had other things on his mind that September as after numerous letters to the local paper and calls to Radio Humberside, he met the Police and residents of the area around the Boulevard, to discuss the chaos that parked cars were causing around the Stadium on match days. However, as often happens in sport just as you are on a high, the fans hopes were dashed, when we found out that because of a foot injury and a serious chest infection Sterling was advised not to come after all.
At the City Hall, although there was little in the way of concerts going on, we did promote a well-attended meeting of Dockers where they finally voted to end their longest ever dispute with the National Dock Labour Board. The strike action and work to rule had gone on for seven months and I well remember that after the event, despite the ‘No Smoking’ signs around the walls, the air in the Main Hall was, as usual, blue with the smoke that had been produced by hundreds of ‘ no doubt contraband’ ‘roll up’ cigarettes.
The first big concert of the season featured Gary Numan’s Tubeway Army and despite his rather outrageous stage persona he proved to be a decent ‘down to earth’ lad. This was the first concert that Charlie was missing from his usual back stage role and it was a really sad occasion for us all. Numan’s ‘Dressing Room Rider’ was certainly ‘austere’ for a ‘Rock Star’ and he was particularly well behaved and certainly quiet, with no clues as to the Aspergers syndrome that was to blight his later life. This behaviour was, I guess, not too unexpected either as his Dad, Tony was his Road Manager, his Mum Beryl was there as his Fan Club Secretary and his brother John played sax and keyboards in the Band. The Stage Set was however spectacular. It took all day to erect and featured the side of a half demolished four storey building set against a skyline of Sky Scrapers. The wall at the first-floor level appeared to have collapsed and that is where Numan performed whilst the rest of the band appeared at large windows in other parts and levels of the building. The concert was staged as part of the ‘Warriors’ Tour and although Gary seemed to struggle at times reaching the high notes, it was an inspired event and everyone in the 1400 audience, many of whom sported jet black dyed hair and white powdered faces, went home happy.
Back in the Yorkshire Cup Final against Malcolm Reilly on one leg!
Saturday15th October 1983 Hull 13 Castleford 2
That October we were back at Headingley for another Yorkshire Cup Final this time against Castleford. Like all Hull supporters perhaps I was taking another final appearance a little for granted because back then if we didn’t get to a Final, we were disappointed. However commonplace it was becoming it was always great to be there in the midst of that throng of humanity that was the ‘Black and White Army’ but I often think that as far as Finals are concerned, you sort of get a bit blasé about them and so it’s the odd one in the middle of a barren period of form, that is invariably the sweetest.
As holders of the Trophy we went into the game as favourites and this time the match would highlight the amazing skills of that most unlikely of heroes, the legendary Mick Crane. We had a great day out with the Mermaid crowd, who I joined again on the bus mainly because it gave me the chance to steady my nerves at the ‘Three Horse Shoes’ on Otley Road. We all raised a glass to Charlie and had a few beers and a buffet of chips and Saveloy sausages to prepare us for the fray.
Leeds was notorious for its football hooligans with the regular fracas at Elland Road often featuring on the national news. This led the Leeds Police to treat rugby games as they did football matches and so that afternoon they closed all the pubs in a three mile radius of Headingley. When we arrived ‘The Horseshoes’ was closed with all the curtains drawn, but we trooped round the back and joined another 100 or so Hull FC fans in a room illuminated by the mandatory plastic chandeliers. By the time we left it was raining and it steadily became torrential as we made our way to the ground.
Once there the crowd of 14,049 witnessed Hull seeing little of the ball in the first quarter, although after 18 minutes Kemble charged through and put O’Hara in at the corner. There were no more scores in the first half but with the second half just 7 minutes old Mick Crane took control of the game. In the first half he had seen colleagues squander his defence splitting passes and so this time he decided to ‘do it himself’. Castleford were left reeling as Mick produced a little dummy and a big hand off to Timpson that saw him over the line in an instant for a superb try.
‘Craney’ featured in Hull’s last try too, as he put Proctor in with a superb inside pass, and three minutes from the end a low dipping drop goal from Mick just crept over the cross bar, to seal a match winning, ‘Man of the Match’ performance for our unlikely hero. We had won the Yorkshire Cup for the second year running, by 13-2. 18-year-old Garry Schofield and 19 year old Lee Crooks both had brilliant games and Tony Dean also had a ‘stormer’. Even an appearance of veteran Castleford prop forward Malcolm Reilly, who at 35 risked aggravating a serious knee injury to lead his home town Club, couldn’t stop Hull grinding out a great victory in a game which we never looked like losing.
After our Black and Whites heroes had retired out of the rain and into the dressing room the ‘gentlemen of the press’ were treated to seeing Mick Crane with his Man of the Match trophy sitting on a bench puffing away on the mandatory cigarette. When asked about his smoking, he simply replied, “I smoke 30 a day and feel as fit as ever, I think I am playing better now than I have done for ages”. We all agreed with that statement as we made our way back in a convoy along the M62 on route for a few beers and choruses of ‘Old Faithful’ back at the Mermaid. We had won a Trophy again and the bitter recollections of that disappointing end to the previous season were fast evaporating.
At the City Hall we promoted a prestigious international event as the National Conference of the Mothers Union came to town. Their ‘Madam’ President met me at the Station Hotel to discuss the arrangements and we walked down to the Hall for a look around. She was just as I expected really, tall, immaculately made up, dressed in a tweed suit and sporting a pair of glasses on a gold chain around her neck. During the two-hour meeting she constantly mentioned the need for there to be a “Modesty curtain” available at all times. I just nodded in agreement and noted this on my clipboard, although I didn’t have the slightest idea what she was talking about.
Later I mentioned it to Frank, (who was now the Foreman) and he enlightened me by saying, “Oh she means that she wants a long tablecloth on the top table on the stage, so that no one sat on the main floor can see her knickers”.
The Magnificent Eleven
Sunday 6th November 1983 Hull 8-Castleford 4
There are in the life time of a sports fan those moments and matches that you remember forever, and a game in November 1983 is one such instance for me. It was a match that the national Newspapers next day hailed as “Simply fantastic”, with the Daily Mirror stating that, “It could have been from a comic book, but this was real life and possibly one of the ‘great’ displays of all time, in any sport!” Big words indeed, but it was all that and more, particularly if you were a Hull fan at 5-00-pm on Sunday 6th November 1983.
It was Coach Arthur Bunting’s ‘way’, back then when the team were playing in the West Riding, to take them for a light training session at Rothwell and an even lighter lunch in the local pub. Although Arthur was actually ill and this was to be the first of 6 games for which Assistant Coach Kenny Foulkes would take temporary charge, the same procedure was followed that day. That was however where the trouble started, as our charismatic loose forward, Steve ‘Knocker’ Norton pulled up injured (on the training pitch, not in the pub) and was a late withdrawal from the starting line up. This left Foulkes with little option but to ask current hero and local character Mick Crane to captain the team, in what turned out to be an inspired choice.
By 3-30pm Wheldon Road was packed with the ‘FC Army’ as it made up around two thirds of an 8000 gate. So full was the West Stand that I watched a game that is burned on my memory forever, stood with my pals on the South Terrace adjacent to the railway embankment.
It was fast and furious from the off and if the first 31 minutes were exciting, the last 49 had to be seen to be believed. As coal trains rumbled by on the line behind us, the first half hour was tight. Both sides were cancelling each other out and although Schofield made one 70-yard break only to be caught by Marchant, both teams kept the lid on things. After Fred Ah Kuoi was floored catching a kick from Gary Connell, the Castleford player should have been sent off, but all he received was a lecture from the Referee Billy Thompson, but at least the ensuing penalty from Lee Crookes put us into the lead.
It was however cancelled out by a Castleford penalty just four minutes later. Then in the 28th minute Paul Rose was subject to a brutal stiff-arm tackle from Hyde, which saw a skirmish break out between both sets of forwards and it was obvious what was to happen next. Wileman got a blow to the head in the melee and came away rubbing it furiously and pointing at a Castleford player.
As the home team moved the ball along their line, Ronnie Wileman stepped out of ours and ‘flattened’ Horton off the ball. The Castleford player lay on the ground and although Referee Thompson let play go on for almost a minute, he whistled when Castleford had got into our twenty-five-yard area and promptly sent Wileman off. It has to be said Ronnie deserved this dismissal but then, five minutes later, prop forward Trevor Skerrett followed him down the tunnel, as the referee lost control.
This was a completely uncalled for dismissal as Trevor lined up one of his famous big, but legal, hits on winger Steve Gill. He seemed to have timed it perfectly taking the Castleford player squarely across the shoulders but the referee immediately dismissed him for a high tackle. After the game Skerrett protested that he “Took him by the shoulders”, something that was borne out by the fact that Gill was later admitted to hospital with a dislocated collar bone.
So Hull FC were down to 11 men against a team that was known as ‘Classy Cas’, because of their reputation for throwing the ball around and playing fast expansive rugby. Once the commotion had died down Beardmore coolly stroked over the penalty and we trailed 4-2. But Hull’s ‘Magnificent 11’ was not going to give in. As the adrenalin pumped and the self-belief grew, we played like a team possessed and tackled everything as they formed an impenetrable line across the field. The Hull fans around us and across the other side of the ground were probably as loud that day as I have ever heard them and the lads responded brilliantly.
As we tackled and tackled half time and a rest, grew nearer and nearer. However, we could not have had a better boost when three minutes into added time, another big break by Schofield from 60 yards out, saw him tackled 30 yards from the Castleford line. At the play the ball Steve Evans rushed in, pushing Harkin away and scooped the ball up. He then chased his own kick and touched down wide out just before the ball rolled dead. Crooks missed the conversion but we still amazingly led 6-4 at half time. The break was a blessed relief for all the Hull fans, whilst the Castleford supporters smugly sipped their Bovril and looked forward to a landslide of points in the second half.
Hull came out after the break determined to hold onto that lead and give nothing away. At the scrums we just packed down four players, (as you could back then) although in fairness there were no forwards or back’s just 11 determined heroes. On numerous occasions close to our ‘in goal’ area, backs O’Hara, Leuluai and Ah Kuoi took on the role of driving forwards, to clear our lines. Castleford started to get frustrated and just as Hull looked to be buckling, Hardy was dispatched to the sin bin for a blatant trip that was a far worse offence than the one Skerrett had been sent off for earlier! Coolly Crooks got us another two points and the lead was stretched to 8-4. From then on, it was all Castleford attacking, all Hull defending and all the ‘FC Army’ singing, as the place shook to ‘Come on you Hull’’ and we repelled attack after attack from Castleford.
Props Crooks and Rose battled and tackled themselves to a near standstill with Crooks despite carrying a first half leg injury, never shirking a collision. In that last quarter Schofield pulled off 4 tackles that were top draw, whilst Kemble dealt with three towering ‘Up and Under’s’ from the boot of Bob Beardmore and drove the ball back up field like an additional forward.
At the helm of this terrific effort was Mick Crane who tackled, ran and ‘generalled’ the play as if his life depended on it. He was ‘Captain Fantastic’ as time after time he drove the ball at the home defence always making ground. These tactics led to a lot of the game being played in the hosts half and despite a big scare in the last minute when Hyde scythed through only for Proctor, Harkin and Kemble to hold him up over the line and push him back out to safety, our line held and we were home. When Ronnie Campbell finally blew the whistle Castleford probably heard the biggest cheer it had ever experienced from any group of visiting supporters, as our players fell to their knees and the FC fans went berserk, dancing, singing and cheering from the terraces.
The Castleford’s players were clearly upset about their performance and Hull’s victory and many refused to shake hands with our players. In fact, after the game, in the tunnel, Connell was sent off for swearing at the Referee. Even after a great journey home and a few pints back in the Mermaid there was a last surprise to come from the weekend’s heroics, because next day the Mail carried a story about how a disillusioned and injured Steve Norton, had announced his retirement (a decision he would thankfully reverse later that season).
Some great news was soon to follow however, as on 24th November the Hull Daily Mail announced that after his doctor’s previous instructions, out of the blue Peter Sterling had contacted the Club and offered to come to England for a ten match spell. He had recovered from his foot injury and bronchial problems and was soon on his way to the Boulevard. Finance was an issue but it was said that Sterling was not asking a lot of money and with the help of sponsors North Country Breweries, he flew into the Country at the same time as Wally Lewis, another iconic Aussie half back, who was joining Wakefield.
As so often happens in sport, serendipity then took a hand in the proceedings and the debuts of these two icons of the Australian game coincided with both their new Clubs meeting at Belle Vue Wakefield in a League fixture on 4th December 1983. The marketing men couldn’t have written the script any better had they tried.
Enter a legend and a Wally!
Sunday 4th December 1983 Hull 32-Wakefield Trinity 16
There are times in the course of being a life-long follower of one Club when you remember that on a particularly significant occasion, “You were there”. There when it happened, there when history was made and there when you simply couldn’t imagine being anywhere else in the world. Often it’s Cup Finals and critical, last gasp, wins in successful seasons that offer these fleeting glimpses of perfection, but sometimes it’s just about a monumental episode in the history of your Club. That day at Belle Vue was for me at least, one such occasion. There we were stood amongst around 4000 Hull fans on the open Western Terrace frantic with expectation, as out ran Hull FC and Peter Sterling, his long blonde hair blowing in the wind. Of course, all the talk in the West Riding City was about Wally Lewis making his debut for Trinity but in the end it was Hull FC that spoilt the party, as led by Sterling we took the home team apart.
After just a couple of days in the Country and at just 22 years of age, Sterling produced a magnificent debut to lead us to victory. Our team that day was a mix of young and old, as the continuing injury crisis at the Club bit into our reserves of playing strength. Without six regular first teamers and several players that were on International duty, Hull knitted together surprisingly well and Keith Tindall, at 36, and returning after 15 months absence, was a revelation.
However, it was Sterling that ran the show and despite a bright opening from an obviously inspired Wakefield side, he took all the plaudits at the end of the day. Indeed, we even had a Trialist winger playing on the right who popped up to score a try. Lewis was outstanding in the first quarter particularly when executing some brilliant cut out passes to set up attacks and we soon trailed 8-0 before Edmonds scored a try off a brilliant ‘scissors’ pass from Sterling. Then Mick Crane opened Wakefield up and sent Evans in for a try, but a Geary try right on half time saw the scores tied at 16-16 at the break.
The second half was all Hull as Dannett, Evans and Banks scored tries, each of which was engineered by Sterling. Lewis retired after 70 minutes, but ‘Sterlo’ played out the whole game, as we ran out winners 32-16. It was a moment to savour as our new hero came over to the ‘Kop’ to receive the adulation of us fans and I can still see him now waving to us all, before taking the bindings off his hands and throwing them into the crowd. Despite only playing 8 games in that spell at the Club and a further 28 the following season, you’ll hear a lot more about Peter Sterling in here.
That period of 1984 saw him leading Hull to success on the field as we went on a seven-match unbeaten run. Sterling was an instant hero with all the fans and quickly became a local personality, being followed everywhere (even on his regular visits to the local casino) by an entourage of autograph hunters and ladies. He was a real hero who I always wanted to meet and I had my wish granted one night in the Casino when after numerous pints I came face to face with him and said, “Your Peter Sterling” to which he replied, “I know” and that was it really.
Sunday 8th January 1984 Hull 16-Bradford Northern 8
That January on a cold and windy night Barry, Garry and I, went to the Boulevard to watch the Hull Colts team who were undoubtedly still the best young team in the country. They played New Zealand Universities and won 13-10 and over 4000 people turned out that night to witness the visitor’s only defeat of the tour. Try scorer Phil Windley dropped the vital goal and Carl Newlove was, I remember, Man of the Match.
A slump for the First Team coincided with a host of serious injuries, the most serious of which saw Trevor Skerrett admitted to Nuffield Hospital to have an operation to repair snapped ligaments. So, as a few injuries became a ‘crisis’, we brought in the youngsters.
It was around that time, after we had beaten the then all conquering Bradford team at the Boulevard, that the media coined the phrase ‘Bunting’s Babes’. The FC players led by Peter Sterling in imperious form, wrestled the initiative away from a Northern team that was on a 6 game unbeaten run and despite featuring youngsters Gary Divorty, Shaun Patrick and teenage second rower Wayne Proctor on the wing, victory was secured when Leuluai stormed in off a perfect ‘Sterlo’ pass to the unbridled joy of a big crowd. That day the team included three teenagers, two twenty-year-old’s and a twenty-one-year old and they delivered what was a famous victory.
Dance, in the old fashioned way?
At work despite still being the licensee, a new Manager at the City Hall meant I was able to concentrate a little more on the duties involved in my new role as City Entertainments Officer. There had been a big resurgence in the interest in Ballroom Dancing fuelled by a new craze called ‘Sequence Dancing’ which took the long-held wedding reception tradition of ‘doing the slosh’ (a sort of line dance for inebriated female attendees) a stage further and within a few weeks hundreds of new ‘formation’ dances were introduced. These included such exotic titles as ‘The Emmerdale Waltz’ and the ‘Mayfair Quickstep’ and saw the over 50’s streaming back to the Dance Schools and Dance Halls of the nation.
We had tried a couple of Saturday Night Dances featuring the Frank Cleveland Band and the records of John Riley, but having seen the popularity of ‘Tea Dances’ at some of the country’s more salubrious venues, such as the Pump Room in Bath and the Ritz and Savoy Hotels in London, we decided, to try a couple of Tuesday afternoon Tea Dances at the Hall.
The first of these events took place on Tuesday 17th January and even before we had opened the doors the queues were stretching around the front of the Building as that afternoon we were just short of our dancing capacity of 650. Tea and biscuits were available, but few partook of more than a couple of gulps before they were on ‘the dance floor’ and ‘twirling’ the afternoon away to a mixture of ‘Old Time’ and ‘Sequence’ dances. The whole idea was hailed as a great success and fuelled by the enthusiasm of everyone that attended and a full-page article in the Hull Daily Mail the following night, entitled ‘Dance in the Old Fashioned way’ we decided to make these ‘journeys back in time’ a regular fortnightly occurrence.
The siege of Victoria Square!
Our success soon got regional coverage on the TV and other local authorities around the North of England were soon on the telephone keen to find out more. Little did we know what would happen next! We scheduled the next Tea Dance for Tuesday 31st January and seeing the success of the initial event, decided that we would not advertise this one, but instead rely on word of mouth in the now burgeoning local dancing community. Despite the doors not opening until 1-30, by 11-00am the queues were starting to form outside the Hall. We opened early and two of our usual ‘bouncing’ staff were employed (we thought) to tear tickets at the door. Ticket sales reached the legal dancing capacity of 625 by 1.50pm and still there seemed to be hundreds in the queue. I announced that we were full and put up the ‘House Full’ signs as a near riot broke out in the foyer and spread quickly down the queue outside.
The more vociferous shouted ‘We pay our Rates’ and ‘I pay your wages’, whilst several ladies in their 70’s tried to conduct a sit in and collapsing to the marbled floor of the vestibule, refusing to move until they were admitted. Eventually we got everyone back outside and pulled the big metal hinged gates across the entrance. By now things were turning ugly, as dozens of ‘Grannies’ chanting ‘Let us in, Let us in’ were banged on the gates with their umbrellas and shoe bags, whilst several ‘Grandads’ shook their fists at the attendants and particularly me, as we peered out at them through the gates.
Two resourceful gentlemen, who claimed that they had travelled from Rotherham on the train especially for the dance, thought they had beaten the system by climbing into the Hall through an open window in Paragon Street. Sadly, as the Main Hall is on the first floor their plans were thwarted when they realised that they were actually in the stock room of Gordon Clarkes the School outfitters. What’s more, the window was too high from the inside for them to get back out again. It was absolute mayhem and when eventually the police had dispersed the crowd who departed no doubt to write their letters to the local newspaper and ring Robin Pulford on Radio Humberside, one Police Sergeant commented, “Give me the South Stand at Boothferry Park anytime!” “You don’t”, he continued, “Quite know what to do with three hundred irate pensioners wearing anoraks and long party dresses, swinging cloth bags with high heel shoes in them”
On talking to some of the fortunate dancers inside the Hall it was apparent that people had travelled from as far afield as Sheffield, Scarborough, York and Wakefield to attend what had been hailed in many regional newspapers around the north of England as “A new dance craze for the over 50’s”. In future, on Police advice, we sold tickets in advance for these events, which continued at the Hall for the next ten years. However, there is little doubt that few will ever see anything in the future like ‘The Siege of Victoria Square’!
That week the great news for all Hull FC fans was that after a brilliant few weeks at the Club and on the day before he was due to return to Australia, Peter Sterling signed a contract to return to Hull for the whole of the 1984/85 season. Our Club Chairman Roy Waudby was pictured in the Hull Daily Mail smiling victoriously as ‘Sterlo’ signed and everyone, (particularly the local casino operators and bookmakers), was pleased that the new hero at the Boulevard was to return to lead the team again next season.
More riots, this time right outside my front door
It was certainly un-nerving that February, when I was awoken at 1.00am on a Sunday morning by the sound of shouting, chanting and breaking glass. I knew that the City Hall itself was secure because there had been no events that weekend but I certainly wasn’t going downstairs to find out what was happening! In those early hours of Sunday 19th February store windows in Carr Lane and Paragon Street were smashed as the hooliganism that we had seen at Boothferry Park and at times at the Boulevard spilled out onto the streets, as drunken ‘skinheads’ ran amok around Victoria Square.
In total eight store windows were smashed and as the burglar alarms whined and the police sirens echoed around the deserted streets, 19 arrests were made and three policemen injured. Being in the middle of it all was pretty scary and I decided there and then that perhaps it was time to look for somewhere else to live.
I move out as Hull FC finish second.
After almost 4 years of living ‘over the shop’ those riots in the City Centre made me realise that I certainly needed to get out of the City Hall. I looked around and settled for a house in the east of the City in Lime Tree Avenue on Garden Village, while Nigel the Hall Manager moved into the flat so there was still someone ‘living over the shop’. My final weeks living at the Hall had seen sporadic outbreaks of violence and vandalism and just as things were quietening down a headline in the Hull Daily Mail of ‘We’ll Stop the Riots’ that followed the claims of a rather over exuberant police chief, saw it all break out again. Perhaps that’s what’s mean by a campaigning newspaper?
The City Centre was certainly changing as Whitefriargate, once the main retail focus of the City, was dealt a massive blow when, at the end of March, Woolworths closed its doors for the last time. However, it was good to welcome the first commercial radio station to the region when on Monday 16th April the dulcet tones of Dave Fewster heralded the advent of Viking Radio. The Station soon got involved in joint promotions at the City Hall, their first being another ill-fated visit of Bucks Fizz in May which saw just 600 people attending and the promoter Steven Stanley from Grimsby, losing a lot of money; so much, we thought, for the power of radio.
The rest of the rugby season saw some great performances and, after a run of 10 victories in the last 11 games and a great win over Rovers at Craven Park, we finish just behind the old enemy, as Hull KR were crowned Champions. Even so it had been a great year, although slowly but surely finance wise at least, the alarm bells were starting to ring. Despite all the great performances and a squad of players that were the envy of every other Club, average gates fell by over 1,500 to 10,679.
However, rugby wise it had been a great season when we’d introduced several great young players and set a new First Division record by scoring 147 tries and racked up 831 points. It was for me, the consummate fanatic, my second ‘watched every game’ season, (after the great undefeated one of 1978/79) so at least I’d done my bit. I’d also seen every one of young Garry Schofield’s record 37 tries in what was a year of changes, as Kevin Harkin had retired and Terry Day, Paul Prendiville, Charlie Stone, Ronnie Wileman, Garry Peacham, Mick Sutton and Steve Portz all left the Club. In a campaign when we recorded 30 wins in 42 games, we at least managed to lift one Trophy as, you’ll remember, we retained the Yorkshire Cup. As fans we had just wanted more, but with finance becoming a problem across the competition in general, perhaps we failed to grasp completely too, the fact that compared with the followers of struggling Clubs like York, Doncaster or Oldham, at Hull FC we ‘didn’t know we were born!’
Strikes, injured stunt men and torrential rain: Hull Show goes out with a whimper!
Summer that year came and went, with the Hull fans captivated by some ‘creative’ advertising on Viking Radio featuring Peter Sterling who encouraged us to buy our passes and of course we all queued, as usual, on the first day they were issued.
At the City Hall we staged a sensational sell out show by Van Morrison, who is I’m told a nice bloke. I say I’m told because that night he refused to speak to anyone, including the audience. However, despite the good weather that summer seemed to never end. There were the usual rugby rumours circulating and we went close to signing Kerry Boustead the Australian International winger, but his business interests finally precluded that deal. Then we went after his fellow countryman Les Boyd and got him signed before the Rugby League refused his registration because of a 12 months suspension he’d received in his home country.
It seemed to us fans in Hull that the Rugby League were perhaps not happy with the two Hull Clubs monopolising the competition and soon afterwards Hull KR missed out on another big signing when Noel Cleal had put pen to paper, only for the Adelaide giant’s registration to be refused because, over in Australia, he was declared bankrupt.
At work it was once again Hull Show time and I had a major problem to solve. A strike of Council staff was instigated after two gardeners were suspended for refusing to take out the new ‘ride-on’ multi mower grass cutting machines, because, they said, “The blades threw dog dirt back at the driver”. On the Monday and Tuesday of the week preceding the Show, there were pickets at the gates of East Park, with staff ‘blacking’ any work on the event and joining the strike. Things got a bit heated when, whilst I was in the Offices negotiating with shop stewards, another manager’s van entering the park, refused to stop at the line and hit one of the placard waiving strikers, catapulting him into a rose bed; looking back perhaps that’s what is meant by a flying picket! The whole unfortunate affair was over by Wednesday when the Council agreed to re-instate the staff and run tests on the mower and then it took a massive effort (and plenty of additional overtime), to ensure the event went ahead that Friday.
That incident set the tone for the week as the event was fraught with problems. The Police Dog Display Team had to cry off because they were deployed on the picket lines of the Miner’s Strike, and the ‘Dive of Death’ was cancelled when stuntman ‘Mr Incredible’ put his back out getting out of his van. Then, whilst all over the media there were images of the hot summer days and shirt sleeve crowds at the Los Angeles Olympics, on the Friday night the heavens opened over East Park, so much so that some areas were under two inches of water. Of course, attendances were well down, which cast a major doubt over the future tenure of the event. Still the region was pretty upbeat as Walkington’s Sue Hearnshaw won bronze in Los Angeles in the Long Jump, while down the road from the City Hall, the Tower had finally abandoned its short but ‘interesting’ role as a Rock Venue to concentrate on promoting ‘popularist’ entertainment, like drag artiste Kandy Le Barry and a rather voluminous lady called ‘Busty’ Johnson.
Fans are simply never satisfied.
Sunday 2nd September 1984 Hull 46-Workington 2
Despite the imminent arrival of Peter Sterling and his brother-in-law John Muggleton from Australia, the interest of the fans was certainly waning as season ticket sales dropped again. It was a situation that was possibly down to the fact that some supporters, almost drunk with our previous success, had become pretty disenchanted with finishing behind Hull KR in the previous campaign. Our opening league game against Workington saw us wearing new shirts sponsored by ABI Caravans, but the team was welcomed onto the field by a crowd of just 9,200.
That campaign began badly as Coach Arthur Bunting suspended four players after they turned up for training ‘allegedly’ drunk. Paul Prendiville, Knocker Norton, Lee Crooks and Gary Kemble, expecting the scheduled video and tactical meeting at the Club that night, decided to go out for a few beers in the afternoon. Perhaps they went down to the Minerva where their old pal Sammy Lloyd had just taken over as Landlord and was brewing the new ‘signature’ ale ‘Pilots Pride’. Of course, for our four hero’s one beer, led to ‘a bucket full’ and on arriving at the Boulevard they discovered that Arthur Bunting had now scheduled a full training session. From the start it was apparent they were all struggling and when Paul Prendiville started being a bit ‘too loud’ and Knocker threw up, Bunting lost patience and the four were sent home and dropped into the ‘A’ team the following weekend.
As the City’s Entertainments Officer, my new duties included overseeing the operation of Hull Fair. The traditional ringing of the Hull Fair Bell by the Lord Mayor of Kingston upon Hull was that year conducted on the ‘running board’ of a brand new Superbob/Matterhorn ride. This was preceded by a speech by Councillor (Mrs) Bell the Chairman of the Leisure Services Committee, which included in it an assurance to the Showmen that the Fair would, “Always remain on Walton Street”, a reference to a recent Hull Daily Mail article that suggested that it was the proposed site for a new housing development. Some things never change and the use of the Fairground for various alternative projects has over the years been a regular talking point in the local media!
The running of the event was a massive responsibility with around 1,000,000 people attending that year, but despite working 18-hour days for over a week my thoughts were never far away from the growing excitement that surrounded the imminent arrival of Sterling and Muggleton from Australia.
On the same day that we signed Welsh Rugby Union winger Kevin James, the two antipodeans flew into Heathrow after staying on in the Southern Hemisphere an extra week to attend team mate Brett Kenny’s wedding in Sydney. They also arrived despite not having been granted work permits. However back then these were easily secured documents and the pair made their season’s debuts in a 33-30 defeat at Leigh.
A ‘gnome’ game at Boothferry Park.
After beating Halifax, York and Leeds in the various rounds of the Yorkshire Cup, Hull again made the final for the third year running and it was to be played out this time against the old enemy from across the River. There was still a tremendous rivalry between the fans, players and officials of the two Hull Clubs and all parties quickly agreed to the Rugby League’s suggestion of playing the game at Boothferry Park. Hull KR, the Champions, were top of the League again whilst our slow and inconsistent start had left us languishing fourth from the bottom in the table! Although the game was not initially ‘all ticket’, they still sold quickly because the fans were worried they might not get in and caught up in this ‘panic’ I queued for about 2 hours for mine. In the end over 25,000 were in attendance for what was to be a truly extraordinary game.
There was certainly no end to the inventiveness and humour of the fans back in 1984 and both sets of supporters would constantly exchange insults and jibes whenever they were in each other’s company. On the morning of the Final the Boothferry Park ground staff arriving to prepare for the game certainly got a surprise from a stunt that actually made the national newspapers. Overnight someone had climbed into the ground and left 13 perfectly painted garden gnomes resplendent in their Hull FC kits and pointed irregular hooped hats on the centre spot. These had been perfectly arranged in a circle around one Hull KR gnome, who was broken in half.
Hull KR fans; not very good at losing!
Saturday 29th October 1984 Hull 29- Hull Kingston Rovers 12
Although we had ‘held’ the Yorkshire Cup for two years, few pundits believed that we could beat the table topping ‘Robins’ this time but as I took up my place in the South Stand, (with no segregation), I ended up next to the most obnoxious Hull KR supporter you could imagine. He was a short, stout individual, with a florid face, a big mouth, an enormous belly and several double chins which gave him the appearance of ‘peering over a pile of pancakes’.
He started as soon as we arrived with his “Scummy Dullers” remarks. You know the type, for whoever you support you have met them often enough on the terraces. Never looking at you, they don’t direct their remarks at you personally, but at the team, the coach, the fans in the other stand etc. etc. but they do it loudly and right next to your ear! It was packed where we were stood but we had a great view and as Trevor said at the time of our new portly antagonist, “There’s no show without Punch, why the hell should we move”.
The game kicked off and within 20 minutes we were in big trouble. Having conceded three early tries, the opposition’s overwhelming supremacy was only disguised by the fact that George Fairburn, their goal kicking Full-Back, had missed all three conversions. You can just imagine how ‘Motor mouth’ Cyril (as we later found out he was called) was behaving by this time. He ragged us relentlessly as most of the ‘friends’ that were with him, soon melted away into the crowd, while one or two of the less long-suffering lads around us had to be restrained from ‘poking’ him there and then!
Although our defence was being swamped, a rare sortie down field saw Garry Schofield get us on the scoreboard with a penalty and then after Crooks had managed to somehow crash over the try line from close range, he converted that try to make it 12-8 at the break. However, despite that try we all realised at the break that we had never really looked like winning! Fat ‘Cyril’ even refused the chance to go for a ‘cuppa’ at half time, announcing that he would rather stay and “Take the piss out of these losers”.
If we were to have any chance of winning at all, we needed to wrestle the initiative from the Red and Whites early in that second half. We pressed their line and forced a drop out and what happened next will certainly be a lasting memory for all FC fans that were there that day. The kick was fielded by Full-Back Gary Kemble right on the centre spot from where he started out on a fantastic arcing run beating first one player, then the next until he ran out of opposition tacklers and touched down in the corner. Schofield converted; the crowd erupted, while Cyril just grunted!! That was also his response when Schofield dropped a goal to make it 15-12 to Hull FC.
Our resurgence in the second half was all down to the magic of Peter Sterling. Cyril had commented on a few occasions in the first half, that Paul Harkin the Hull KR scrum half, had “Got Sterling in his Pocket” and few would disagree. But ‘Sterlo’ came out a different player and was soon completely eclipsing his opposite number.
I remember well not wanting to say too much to our fat friend because things were still in the balance, but after Norton and Kemble had scored two more tries, I could resist it no longer. After another Schofield conversion, I turned to him, to triumphantly give him ‘both barrels’, and of course, you guessed it, with still 15 minutes to go, Cyril had gone home, slopping off towards the exits, with hundreds of other Hull KR fans!
The best was yet to come though, as Steve Evans intercepted a Hall pass near our line and shot off down the field for a 90 yard try, the crowd went mad and a few over excited FC Fans clambered over the fence and ran onto the field to mob the scorer. After what resembled ‘The Retreat from Moscow’ there were few Rovers fans left to witness ex Rovers player Paul Rose come on for us and last just a minute, before being sent off for “illegal use of the elbow”.
As the final hooter went and with Dave Topliss the Club Captain an unused substitute, 21-year-old Lee Crooks went up to receive the trophy and in so doing became one of the youngest Captains to have done it. I have not seen our ‘fat friend’ since, but over the years I have experienced countless dozens of his ilk across the Rugby League grounds of this country; they’re just an accepted irritation when you’re a fanatic!
Dietary tips from ‘The Big Yin’
On Monday 26th November the City Hall staged one of its biggest shows to date when Billy Connolly played to a full house of adoring fans. At the peak of his popularity and notorious for the risqué nature of his act, the Scottish comedian was a cult figure and famed for his regular and often outrageous appearances on the Michael Parkinson Show on BBC TV. I was therefore a bit in awe of him, when I first met him. I was to accompany him to the Waterfront Hotel, where he was to make a cheque presentation to the Operation Raleigh ‘outward bound’ fund that was based in the City at that time. I first encountered Billy sat in the Main Hall stretched out over two chairs plucking at a banjo with his eyes closed. Immediately he struck me as just an ordinary if not a little hypersensitive guy and very much a person who displayed no malice, no hatred and little cynicism. I also soon discovered very quickly that he possessed an abrasive and wicked sense of humour, both on and off the stage and every sentence and statement he made seemed to end with a ‘punch line’.
As we walked across Victoria Square and people did a ‘double take’ at this tousled haired ‘beanpole’ of a man dressed in purple pants and a vivid orange shirt, he talked as if we had been friends for years. I remember under his breath he asked me, “Why does every ‘wee’ lass in Hull look like those Cabbage Patch Kids?” (The toy of the moment back then) but he waved, smiled and occasionally did a little dance for the passing folks who recognised him. A sense of humour and natural timing radiated from everything he said and did and as I made ‘conversation’ about the much-publicised birth of his first child Daley, he said, “Ohhhhh Yes! It was great; I was there when it happened. She came out one leg at a time, like a ‘Can Can’ dancer!”
In an effort to keep the conversation going I mentioned the fact that despite most things he spoke about relating to food, he was still amazingly skinny. His response to my observation was to brush back his long hair from his face, laugh and say, “Accch, whilst I’m on the road I stick to a strict diet. I have a big plate of All Bran three times a day and drink around ten pints of ‘Heavy’ (beer) a night; I call it ‘The Shit yourself thin’ diet”. I liked Billy!
That Boxing Day we went to Featherstone for a League match where despite the reversal at Wembley, we had always had a strong sense of camaraderie with those West Yorkshire fans. I well remember all 3000 of the FC fans in attendance there, subscribing to a half time bucket collection and reverently singing “Feed the Miners” to the Band Aid tune, as they did it. The miner’s strike was hitting Featherstone hard and there were several young kids outside the ground selling homemade Marmalade and Jam just to try and earn a bit of cash. On that occasion the Colliers didn’t show much charity in return and we lost 20-4, but revenge was sweet as we beat them at the Boulevard, 4 days later.
The Road Back to Wembley
Saturday 9th March 1985 Hull 6-Widnes 6
That was to be the season when, led by the mercurial Peter Sterling, we would returned to Wembley for what is still generally accepted to be the best Final of all time. We had also reached the climax of the John Player Trophy, but this time our near neighbours took great delight in exacting revenge and we were beaten 12-0 at a snow covered Boothferry Park on Saturday 25th January. Our indifferent start to the campaign had rendered the League title out of our reach and so ‘Sterlo’ and the boys were intent on victory at Wembley to right the wrongs of our previous three visits to the Capital.
Our progress through the early rounds of the competition was clinical. We beat a poor Carlisle side 52-2, and then went to Halifax to win 22-6, on a day when the ‘Mermaid’ coach again broke down on the journey home, this time near Bradford, where we sat drinking cans of ‘Super strength’ Lager for two hours in the cold until the replacement bus arrived. Garry said that he thought the drinking in such low temperatures had given him hypothermia and his ability to actually pronounce that condition correctly certainly indicated it had given him something! It was then that I decided that, for the sake of my sanity and the survival of my liver, in future I would drive to away games.
When ‘the balls came out of the bag’ for the next round we came out first, and were drawn at home to ‘Cup Kings’ Widnes. We immediately fancied our chances of progressing, but so did ‘The Chemics’. Almost 12,000 crammed into the Boulevard for a televised game we simply had to win and in what was a tight, ‘cagey’ encounter, both teams felt one slip up could lead to defeat. With ‘Sterlo’ injured and sat with Arthur Bunting on the bench, defences were very much on top and so it was no surprise when at half time neither team had scored a point. We were all entertained throughout by a lady stood near us, who was incessantly shouting at Lee Crooks and who turned out to be his girlfriend Janet.
Then, on the 57th minute, Norton finally broke away and passed on to Topliss who, using Muggleton as a foil on one side, found Divorty on the other and the youngster went crashing in to score and a Crooks conversion made it 6-0. However, just three minutes had passed before Lydon broke our defensive line wide out. He fed Currier who flew in for Burke to convert and make the scores level again. Despite Crooks shaving the outside of the post with a penalty attempt in the 72nd minute, that was how it stayed and the game ended tied at 6-6. So, having looked to have missed our chance, we faced the daunting prospect of a replay at Naughton Park in Cheshire the following Wednesday, where the home side had not lost a cup match for three years.
It’s not often a Yorkshireman has a good night out in Widnes!
Wednesday 13th March 1985 Hull 19-Widnes 12
Widnes were a tough proposition at home and so it was with some trepidation that I drove to the game that Wednesday night having feigned sickness to avoid working at an Orchestral Concert at the City Hall. Naughton Park (on the site where the current Widnes home now stands) was a funny old Stadium. Trevor the Fish who travelled over with me that night commented that it was like, “The Land that Time Forgot” which was an apt and accurate description. I had queued on the Tuesday to get one of a limited number of seat tickets that were on sale at the Boulevard, but the facilities were ‘Spartan’ when we finally found our seats in the ‘Popular Side’. The gap between the rows was so narrow and I seemed to spend the whole game with my knees under my chin. Once you were in, there was simply no chance of you ever getting out again, and I was glad that I hadn’t risked the ‘Mermaid’s’ coach and had the mandatory few pints before the game, because if I had, I would almost certainly have been searching for a bottle!
About half the crowd of 10,000 had travelled from Hull, but the feeling of the locals was that we’d had our chance the previous weekend and that the ‘Cup Kings’ would ‘blow us away’ that night. It was a damp misty evening and the visibility was not improved by the home team’s sparse flickering floodlights. We were playing the ‘Cup holders’ in their own ‘backyard’, although as usual, the ‘FC Army’ had little difficulty in ‘out singing’ the home fans.
Things were tough from the off, a couple of players were suffering from knocks and such was the state of the injured list that we drafted James Leuluai into the team despite him being side-lined with a broken hand. The physio just bandaged it up and sent him on. Lee Crooks commented years later that everyone was nervous that night and no doubt a few had a swig from the sherry bottle that Arthur Bunting used to leave in the dressing room to calm anyone who was suffering from pre-game nerves!! How things have changed eh?
Widnes kicked off and tackled and harried us back into our own 25. Once they got the ball the home team looked sharp and confident and we all feared the worst when after just four minutes Widnes scored. Kurt Sorenson returned a long Schofield kick and broke our line to pass to Kevin Tamati. He brilliantly cut inside to pass back to the ‘unmarked’ Joe Lydon who shot in to score a great try which Mick Burke converted. Behind the sticks as our players awaiting the conversion, ‘Knocker’ Norton gave the lads a real ‘finger wagging’ but things looked bleak as we returned to the centre spot to kick off again.
We battled on and our hopes were raised and then dashed as Steve Evans narrowly missed keeping hold of an interception from a long Lydon pass and Kevin James was stopped in full flight by John Basnett. After half an hour some superb Hull handling by Muggleton, Leuluai and Norton created a half chance for Evans who shot between O’Loughlin and Currier to spin out of another tackle and fall backwards over the line to score. Schofield converted and we were level. Back came the Cup holders and a succession of errors saw us pushed back before Myler suddenly found a huge gap inside our 25-yard area and laid on a simple try for Keiron O’Loughlin which Burke converted.
Down 12-6 at half time, the scramble to get out of the seats and to the toilets was farcical, but no sooner had we got back, then Hull got a penalty which took us deep into the Widnes twenty-five. Instead of going straight for the ‘killer play’, and thus risking losing possession, Hull meticulously went about slowly ‘turning the screw’ to prize open the home team’s defence. After 9 minutes of constant pressure Norton dummied left and then passed right to the on-rushing Kemble who was just held inches short by Mick Burke.
Then came a defining moment in that season! Norton again broke the line and linked with Evans who passed onto half time substitute, youngster Andy Dannett. Big Andy strode forward, passed to O’Hara, and the winger with three players on his back squeezed in at the corner. Dane had no room to work in at all, but somehow got over the whitewash and we were just two points behind. Crooks however watched despairingly as his conversion headed straight for the centre of the goal posts, before being blown off course by a sudden freak gust of wind.
Then the ‘Magician’ Peter Sterling, who looked handicapped by that knee injury and had blood streaming from a cut on his forehead, took charge of the proceedings, He received the ball just ten yards from his own line and planted a massive kick down field that amazingly found touch just ten yards from the opposition’s corner flag. Widnes won the ensuing scrum but Burke failed to play the ball properly and Schofield kicked the penalty to level the scores. As the crowd roared on the Airlie Birds, Widnes started to look vulnerable.
Frustrated by the superb tackling of Muggleton, Patrick, Skerrett and Dannett that pinned them near their own line, they started to kick desperately down field. From one such panic move the ball was fielded by Kevin James, who superbly kept it in play and then cut inside to beat the covering Basnett. He drew the rest of the cover as he flew towards the line before releasing Schofield who stepped out of two last ditch desperation tackles to touch down. Taking massive gulps of air to get his breathe back, Schofield then brilliantly converted his own try from out on the touch line.
You could feel the tension amongst the travelling supporters as the clock ticked down but in the end a superb drop goal by ‘Knocker’ Norton from 30 yards out sealed a 19-12 win. This match defining score was brilliantly set up by Sterling and as the ball sailed between the posts the FC fans went wild! Referee Holdsworth had a quiet night really, but had to split up Fieldhouse and Crooks on the hooter as fuelled by Widnes’s frustrations a fight broke out. With the home supporters streaming away like water down a drain, the FC fans ‘milked’ every ounce out of the celebrations and as so often happens on these occasions, we simply didn’t want to go home! We sang and danced on the terraces long after the last remaining Widnes supporter had shuffled away and the teams were long gone to the dressing rooms.
Hull had done it; we had beaten the odds (and the bookies) and got ourselves a semi-final tie at Headingley against Castleford. After the game the club attributed the victory to their Physiotherapist Ray Norrie, who, they said, had worked miracles on a hamstring injury that had threatened to put Peter Sterling out of the game. Resembling a latterday Long John Silver, ‘Sterlo’, finishing limping heavily, with a bandage round his head, and his long hair caked in blood. Afterwards there was also an insight into how good the team spirit was, when it was revealed that winger Paul Prendiville had, after being dropped in favour of James after the drawn game at the Boulevard, tipped his replacement off about opposing winger John Basnett’s tackling style, advice which James admitted later, “Helped me break their line to set up the winning try”.
As the excitement was building towards Wembley, Club Captain Dave Topliss the architect of so many great victories, sadly left for Oldham and ‘Sidewinder’ Barry Banks moved on to Hunslet. Our ‘A’ Team Coach Clive Sullivan had also departed to take over as first team coach at Doncaster, whilst Lee Crooks was, at 21, voted Rugby League’s ‘Young Player of the Year’.
However, all us fans could think about was another Semi-Final and the chance of a return to Wembley where we all hoped we would see Lee Crooks crowned as the youngest ever Captain to raise the Challenge Cup. First though, there was the little matter of getting past Castleford at Headingley.
So, there we are and I’m posting this today (Saturday) with the lingering traces of a hangover still evident as yesterday I celebrated my 70th birthday. I tried to keep it really low key particularly under the current national circumstances, but still a few readers found out and it was great to hear from you as I received cards from Brian in Spain, Bill in Portugal and Ambrose in France as well as several warm wishes from folks in this country. It still seems that the new season is some way off, so I hope you enjoyed the above and found something to bring back the memories. Thanks again for all your support and feedback, stay safe, be sensible and …..