“What the mind believes the body achieves” – Steve Prescott

Steve Prescott Bridge

Lest we ever forget; the newly dedicated Steve Prescott Bridge.

It had to be Steve Prescott’s night and every fan at the game did him proud. The FC supporters in attendance (and there was a big following for a Friday night), were simply magnificent, with the constant choruses of “There’s only one Stevie Prescott” often drowning out a big home contingent. It was an emotion night and almost as an aside, for long periods, an excellent game to watch too. In fact I was glad I was there. You know, just occasionally there are times when you realise how lucky you are to be part of that magnificent FC family, who know instinctively how to react to such an occasion and do so like no others can.

Well done as well, to the St Helens Club and the local Council who put on a great show to make it a real occasion and to facilitate the dedication of the Steve Prescott Bridge beforehand, when as the heavens opened I stood with 400 or so fans in the pouring rain, to watch a fitting tribute to one of the games great heroes.

As for the game itself, well as I walked away I remember thinking that all the chaos and gridlock on the M62 going over, would always be worth it if we continue this season to display that sort of effort and pride in the shirt. As many of the home fans left early, the FC Faithful remained and gave the lads a rousing ‘Thank You’ The team spirit was there for all to see, but with a pivot at each side of the field there was a lot more structure and form in that first half and again our effort throughout was exemplary. We lost but there’s still a deal of hope around for this fan.

However if it was about anything on Friday then it was the fact that “There’s only one Stevie Prescott!”

It’s a long way down the M62 on a Friday afternoon but, intent on making the pre game ceremonials; I left at 2-30pm and arrived, after a long procession of traffic jams and cloudbursts, to be greeted by the leaden skies of St Helens at around 5-00pm. There were plenty of Hull fans at the Bridge dedication which was well managed, including as it did fitting tributes from the Mayor, the Leader of the Council and Saints Chairman Eamonn McManus plus of course Linzi Prescott and the boys who also took part. But, boy did it rain!! It bloody poured down, although no-one budged and instead huddled under umbrellas for an occasion that I will remember for a long time.

Hull FC Following - Sts away

Moving on afterwards and passing what I still believe to be the biggest Tesco store I have ever seen, I was in the Stadium for 6-30pm, which is probably the earliest I have been in an away ground, but that at least gave me the opportunity to consider what a fine home Saints have built themselves and what a great place it is to watch Rugby League. I looked down the field to the Popular End and reflected on the fact that perhaps as far as the home fans were concerned, I was to watch the game from the terracing we FC fans usually make the ‘the unpopular’ End!!

We started the game at a really good tempo and a massive break by Westerman, (my man of the match), from a short ball by Paea, was continued by Micky when he received it back from the ensuing play the ball to crash in and put us on the scoreboard; as silence reigned on three sides of the ground.

St Helens vs Hull FC

You simply couldn’t fault the effort we put in as throughout the game we held the big Saints pack, quashing any thoughts they had of slicing us open down the middle, in the same way they had done at Warrington a week earlier. For the first 40 minutes we completely bossed the game although with Roby and Walsh always a threat the home team were worryingly effective close to our line, but our kicking kept them down at their end and we were good value for our half time lead. What was great to see was the way that we amended our tactics ‘on the hoof’ to thwart their ability to make telling kick returns from our ‘end of set’ plays, when we responded by readjusting to the tactic of constantly dumping the ball into touch, right down in the Saints 20.

In the second half we just needed to start tough and dictate the tempo but we couldn’t! We resolutely stuck to our game plan but the Saints had obviously had a bollocking at half time and it showed. It was then the old story of giving away penalties and making mistakes, which gave the home team back to back sets, momentum and field position, as we quickly surrendered any territorial advantage we had gained. The absence of the ability to bring back Carvell who with Paea had really bossed that first half, made a massive difference and meant against a good Saints pack we lacked the necessary grunt to hold the resurgent hosts as they continuously bent our line to eventually get on top. Gareth’s loss was for me critical, because the sizzle and structured attack that we had seen from Horne, Rankin and Westerman behind that first half go forward faded with the increased pressure and we were under the cosh for long periods of the second half.

However we never gave up and Ellis’s try, where he brilliantly forced his way over, was a great moment. But in all honesty Saints, who must be early favourites for the competition, were in the end, just about worthy winners. However, what was so, so heartening for everyone that was there, was the fact that at last we finally appear to have a bit of structure with ball in hand, players are organised and know where they are supposed to be and to see Horne, Heramaia and Rankin making calls and setting plays was great. So, despite being disappointing in the end, at least we stepped up from last week, our defence particularly on the right was much improved and we gave it a real go. Even putting all the Preckie stuff aside, I’m really pleased I went.

Tons of effort, endeavour, bravado and a bit of style made for an encouraging display and after what has gone before, as a long suffering FC supporter you can ask little more. Afterwards our Coach talked about a lack of game management in the second half, but in hindsight that was only probably because he, like all of us, was comparing that 40 minutes with an exception first half, where we controlled everything and seldom looked in trouble.

St Helens vs Hull FC - 21st February 2014

Performance wise, in the first half particularly, the forwards take all the plaudits. The injury to Carvell who had made yards every time he had the ball was as I say a big blow, but for me the pick of the front row was without doubt Micky Paea and what a signing he is turning out to be. It’s not just his power but he has passes and off loads a plenty in his armoury too and they make him a real ‘modern day’ prop forward. As an aside as well, I honestly can’t remember a front rower putting so much effort in his touch-line warm up running, before he even came back on; he’s one fit bloke. Bowden continued where he left off and played a strong, no frills, but reliable role and Feke brought the necessary go forward and impact as he rotated with Paea.

On the down side perhaps we could have expected better from Houghton and Heramaia, with the former being still a bit wayward with his passing at times and losing the ball on two occasions in that pressurised second half, while Aaron although still really lively, was, coming on after 30 minutes, less effective as he was last week. Both however, like everyone else, could not be faulted for effort. In the second row Whiting put in a tough hard working stint, while Ellis had a much better game and I have to say showed real captain’s qualities in the second half, battling down-field and leading the tackling by example when we were under the pump.

Joe Westerman (the butt of many a ‘Dentists’ recrimination in the past) was my Man of the Match with a good all round performance highlighted by a great first half where, like an old fashioned loose forward, he got through their line time and again. Although in the end he faded a bit, that was more to do with the fact that Westy had been suffering all week from food poisoning, so, when you consider that, his display was even more exceptional and we probably witnessed his best 40 minutes in a Hull shirt.

A word too for Jordan Thompson, because he came on having to fill in at prop and although giving away a stone or two to the Saints front row and playing out of position, he performed well and gave his all.

In the backs, big raps first of all for Crooks and Lineham who after the issues of last week, shored the right hand side up really well, Tom looked sharp but Ben got few running chances to shine. Arundel tried hard and didn’t really make any blobs, but the late loss of Yeaman was a blow, because he looked sharp last week. Talanoa worked hard and helped the forwards down the middle, while Shaul continues to impress and looked a real live wire again, (although he does continues to suffer ‘laddish’ lapsed as when he fielded an up and under brilliantly near his line in the second half, only to lose the ball in the ensuing tackle). Both half backs continued where they left off against Catalan, but Rankin faded in the second half after being hammered a time or two by the rampaging Saints forward. However he did OK in the first half, while Horne again showed up as a smart operator and a terrier in defence. He set up plays, kicked with precision and his chase and tackle game on the back of our ‘end of set’ kicks, was described in the first half by my pal Ian as ‘textbook!’

So this time it was ‘good but no cigar’ in a game from which I didn’t expect that much anyway! I’m not saying we are good but as travelling fans we did witness another heartening performance which appeared to possibly be another step forward. As long as each game is that, then it’s all we can ask, but I have to say that Saints do look the real deal. They have some really good big game players and a couple of forwards that are real tear arse exponents of the up close and personal’ stuff in the heat of the battle. Soliola is a real handful as is Karl Amour and in Roby and Lomax they have two real game breakers. I just wish we’d got Walsh, don’t you?

Once out of the heat of the ‘battle’ and driving home through the pouring rain, it was easy to reflect on how in the end, the lack of a big rotating forward in the second half, and some silly penalties and dropped ball, let what is an extremely good team back into the game. In the first half we were, through some stylish last tackle plays and basic kick and chase rugby, exerting a real strangle hold. However, teams like that are bound to come back out fired up and you have to be ready for it. After the break we were our own worst enemies as we allowed a classy Saints outfit to wrestle the initiative away from us, although that said, we never gave up and we never gave in. The trouble was, when Saints got on a role we couldn’t wrestle possession back from them and so we lost that ability to control the tempo of the game which had been so easy for us to manage in the first half. Still as I said earlier a good night for rugby and a great night for Prekkie!

Tribute van to Steve Prescott
Rugby League fans eh….don’t you just love em?

So to the last 7 days and although last week I discussed the fact that the advent of Gareth Carvell was welcomed across the length and breadth of the FC fan base, we were all left scratching our heads a bit last Tuesday, with the news of Liam Colbon’s one year contract. I’d heard stories about it for a week or so but I still discounted it as just another rather unlikely rumour, so for me when announced, it was to say the least a pretty ‘random’ development. Whist at Rovers, he always struck me as a strong player when driving the ball out of his own half who, until he broke his jaw, had a lot of bottle but since that bad injury he always looked a bit dodgy under the high ball and not that pacey either.

However, in an interview on Humberside, Colban sounded a genuine kid. He talked of the sacrifices his girlfriend was making, leaving a very good job in London to move north and support him in his last chance to play Super League. I guess if Biggs (as is rumoured) now won’t be here until May and will then likely need a few weeks at Donny to get acclimatised to the code switch and Crookes is a long term casualty, it does leave us short, with just one specialist (Tom Lineham) on one flank and Talanoa, a utility back, on the other.

I can only then think that the Club feel additional cover will be handy if injury strikes, while this development might also keep the Flying Dustman and Tom Lineham on their toes and although not wishing to cast dispersions in Liam’s direction, it’s fair to say that he’s only on a modest contract as he attempts to establish himself again as a first team player. Radford will have seen something in him, because one thing’s for sure whatever else happens ‘on his watch’ he’ll not be suffering fools or ‘make weights’. That fact and the reality that this is probably Liam’s last chance of a shot at the top level, make the move at least a bit more believable. In his favour he’s a good trainer who is certainly respected by his peers, (being Players Player of the year in the last two seasons at London), however cap restrictions must heighten the possibility that signing him and Gareth Carvell means McDonnell has been de-registered. Otherwise where is the cap space coming from?

After the announcement, my initial thoughts were ones of sympathy for young Tom Stark, who has impressed me with his strong running, no nonsense, and feisty style in the pre-season games. However Radford talked about Colbon’s ‘grunt’ and ability to return the ball, which is the one aspect of Starks play that worries me (and that’s understandable as he has only just had his 18th birthday) so perhaps with time on his side, the one year contract given to our new recruit, allows young Tom another year to bulk up and show his worth.

The thing is I guess that the reaction of the fans (no sign of “why another winger, why not a…..?) shows that we all feel we have strength in depth everywhere else and now it’s down to the quality of our personal rather than the number of players we have. I could have understood it if he could kick goals, but for me I have to admit that it’s a bit of a strange appointment and we’ll just have to wait and see if anything comes of it in the long run. However, perplexing or not, he’s pulling on the shirt but looking at some of the comments by so called fans on social networks etc., all I will say to them is; for heaven’s sake give him a chance. Welcome Liam and good luck!

Talking of cover and keeping our fringe players on their toes, it looks to me that the Duel Registration tie up with Doncaster is working well! By this time last season Peter Gentle had only been to one York game before the inflexibility of the North Yorkshire Club had caused the two Coaches to fall out, although I’ll hasten to add that I found out weeks later that it certainly wasn’t Gentles fault!

The performances last weekend of Jay Pitts, Joe Arundel and Dean Hadley in their first game, in which Doncaster, led by Cooke at off half, won at Workington, drew praise from their Coach. Cooke said: “Jay Pitts was phenomenal and Joe Arundel showed some class touches. Dean Hadley was defensively fantastic and we spoke about them and thanked them for their efforts” Pitts apparently played really long minutes at prop and soaked up some pretty heavy ‘treatment’ from the Cumbrian pack, while it was also interesting to note that Lee Radford took time out this week to watch the whole game, so he knew exactly how well his wards did. Let’s hope the relationship blossoms and some of our lads who are currently on the fringes, continue to get some invaluable game time. Incidentally loanee James Cunningham is doing very well playing for London and an altercation with Gareth Hock just after the break on Saturday, between our young hooker and the bad man of Rugby league, got the Salford man sin binned.

Our new Magic shirt will be launched, all being well, this morning (Monday) and it’s a special offering this year based on the art work of Sid Domic and is, I think, a real collector’s item. Personally I feel it’s a real coupe, as once again innovation, the hallmark of our brand, is at the forefront of our merchandise offer. The Club commissioned Sid to do the art work and if nothing else it’s certainly a very original idea. I know these things are all a matter of opinion and there are bound to be those who don’t like it, but I saw it last week and was really impressed. What’s more, Lee Jenkinson will tell you he believes that it is the best shirt he has produced in his 10 years at Hull FC retail.

Is it the best and should he quit while he’s ahead? Well, actually perhaps he’s about to! Maybe it should be his best offering so far, because it’s about to be remembered as Mr J’s ‘Swansong’ as I can confirm that all the rumours are true and the man who I think is probably the most innovative retail manager in the British game at present, is sadly moving on. He’s going to the only place he really can go; the only other British RL operation that is bigger than ours; the ‘enemy’ that is ‘Leeds Rugby’. Covering both the Rhino’s and the Tykes retail undertaking, it’s the only outfit that makes more money for its Clubs, than ours does for Hull FC. In his new position at Headingley, Lee joins a management team where he is the only Head of Department who has not been an internal promotion, which must also be a measure of his ability.

I’m not one for bulling up members of the management team of our Club, because as a fan, you never know when that sort of stuff will come back to haunt you. However, when compared with other Clubs offerings, I have always been impressed with not just the range but also the design and quality of our merchandise and the way or retail manager has driven the business onwards and upwards year on year. Lee has been around for 10 years now and in that time, as well as the general stuff all Clubs produce, he has developed some of the most innovatively branded campaigns in the game.

Remember, ‘The Lynch mob’. ‘The rub of the Green’ and of course ‘The Tongan Mafia’ plus the innovative Magic and Testimonial shirts and the 3 great ‘Final’ campaigns we have enjoyed and bought into over the years. Plus, and it’s a big plus, under his guidance we have annually been the first Club in the competition to have both home and away shirts on sale and indeed we have sold more than 10,000 of them every year for the last ten consecutive seasons. That’s some achievement and a record that some Clubs would kill for!

Under Lee’s guidance our operation is said to have grown to contribute around £1m every season to the Club and regularly turns over almost £3m. However, let’s not be too hard on him leaving, because this move is promotion to the top job in the biggest set up in the game, and so I completely understand why he is going. As always we have as a Club and a group of supporters to take it on the chin and move on. However we should all watch out for his replacement which will certainly be a critical appointment and as far as our financial profile is concerned as significant, I think, as any ‘marque’ signing we make on the field. Retail is still a massive growth area and our operation currently takes more per annum than several Clubs receive through the gate during the season!! That level of income is critical, particularly as far as Hull FC’s ability to move forward is concerned.

There is however little doubt that Lee, who it’s rumoured over the years to have turned down point blank, several offers from well….you know where, will always be an FC fan and although he’s already done tons of work on the shirts and memorabilia for the 2015 celebrations, he’ll be missed. What’s more, believe me he certainly won’t like me blowing his cover in here, as he tries to sneak out the ‘back door’ without too much fuss. This no doubt will get me into more trouble, but as always, I’m just saying what I think.

And while I’m on what I think, if I where Adam I’d have done everything I could to keep him myself! We’ll never know, but maybe the lure of the top job in the game was too much and perhaps our Club have done what they can to keep him; but I just hope they know what they are doing. He’s serving his notice at present, but when Lee departs it’s going to be a big loss. Every week for one reason or other I seem to be saying it and here I go again…….Bloody Garry Hetherington!

Now next, as if to remind Lee of what he is leaving behind, yet another example of FC fans going the extra mile and getting behind something they believe in, as some of our fans do their best to ensure the heroics of Steve Prescott are remembered for generations to come. Since his death, the RFL have faced growing pressure to rename Super League’s Man of Steel Award by including his name. It was brilliant therefore to read about the progress of a petition we all signed aimed at pressing the RL into some action. The games administrators seem to be dragging their heels somewhat, but this week campaigners Graham Middleton, Paul Whitaker, Debs Fitzgerald and Alison Watson handed over the petition of 12,664 signatures, to RFL representative Tina Ward at the League’s Redhall headquarters in Leeds.

Prescott Petition
Here are the guys presenting the petition to the RL…top stuff well done!!

Let’s hope that it has the desired effect, particularly after his two principle Clubs and their fans did so much on Friday to help the cause. Well done guys, a great effort for a great guy!

RIP Steve Prescott
Come on RL, get your finger out and get it sorted!

I thought one of the big plusses from our first Super League game against Catalan was the much improved form of Kirk Yeaman, which brought him two tries and put his career total onto 157. It was good to see the Club making a lot of the fact that his try tally overtook that of the great Johnny Whiteley, who was on 156. This made Kirk amazingly the fifth highest try scorer in the history of the Club with the standings, (courtesy no doubt of Club historian, the excellent Bill Dalton) as follows:-

Clive Sullivan 250
Ivor Watts 214
Alf Francis 166
Bob Taylor 164
Kirk Yeaman 157

Yeamo

So with a fair wind and not tempting providence too much, (and Yeamo will kill me for saying it) he could maybe be the third highest try scorer in the Clubs history by our 150th Years Celebrations. Now that would be something worth celebrating in such a significant year, but for now I just hope he goes well this season. The loss of Yeamo before the game on Friday to a tweak in the groin (in the same area that he had that operation last year) was a blow, although he says he’ll hopefully be back next week, however as far as injuries go Carvell is, at present, of considerably more concern I think!

I had to laugh at all the Rovers fans I bumped into this week that wouldn’t talk about their capitulation against Leeds and their inglorious debut in the 2014 season, but rather chose to go on and on……. and on about how many attended the game. I tried to ignore them, but one or two tried “But you only got just over 10,000” to which I could have said something about the ‘give away’s’ or the visitors or the new stand or our Friday night being on TV with no visiting support etc. etc. etc. but instead I just settled for the stock reply, “95 consecutive regular Super League games with gates of 10,000 or more!!” That shuts ‘em up!!

What’s all this about Longy then? Since Sean Long departed us after two injury ravaged seasons at the KC Stadium, controversy and incongruity have followed him wherever he has laced his boots! Quite frankly long term readers of this stuff will know that I was excited when he signed but soon lost interest, probably because of his morals and his self proclaimed image of a spiv type character who is ‘living on the edge’. Having said all that however, going to the game on Friday brought it all back! You see, I still have massively emotional memories of that first game he played in for us, away at his old Club, St Helens, when in the swirling fog he masterminded a memorable victory and we all sang ‘Walking in a Longy Wonderland’ at the end. I recall that Diary, prompted by the blockbusting performances of Luauki and O’Meley featured the headline of ’Gorillas in the Mist!’ It was a great first game to start the Longy era which, as is usually the case at Hull FC, thereafter quickly went downhill. On that subject alone, when you start looking at great starts that have come to nought, you soon realise that our Club have probably had more false ‘Dawns’ than a transvestites Conference!

However what prompted that memory as I drove to Lancashire on Friday, was the news that Long is now leaving the London Bronco’s, who he claims, asked him to continue in his role as Assistant Coach, but on a part time contract. Although the Club commented, “’Unfortunately, Sean’s performances as an assistant coach did not meet the professional levels expected at the club, as a result, his position as full-time assistant is no longer continuing”, so conflicting views of his demise there then? No change from the norm I guess?

His career has without doubt continued in the same sort of turmoil that it was in, when he was here. London was his fourth club in less than a year, could we be his fifth? Well, some ‘in the know’ believe it’s possible. He resigned as assistant coach at Salford after 18 months in April, and then had a three-month spell at Wigan. Then it was on to Featherstone where he ended last season as football manager, acting as a stop gap before the arrival of John Bastian as head coach at the Bigfellas Stadium, before he helped the Samoa national side in the recent World Cup and then moved onto London. The question now is ‘Where next for Sean Long?’ with the initial answer from me most definitely, ‘Anywhere but here…..!!!’ The rumours are already out there though, they were bound to be as an ex-player who is certainly developing into a legend in his own lunchtime, gains an unenviable reputation for having more Clubs than Tiger Woods!

Now you know I like a bargain, and this was spotted at the Charity Shop in Hessle as their New Years clearance sale finally comes to an end. The shop has been stripped of anything of any value and there are only now a few totally un-saleable items left, however as you see below, some it would seem are still a bit pricey for what they are!

Rovers Charity
I asked readers to send their photos in and I’m indebted to Stuart for the above absolute classic!

This week in ‘Codgers Corner’ I want to take you back to that fabulous 1988/89 season which was Brian Smiths first at the club and when, despite losing our first four games, we fought our way to the Premiership final and almost turned the form book inside out. A run of six victories over Christmas got us up there near the top of the League, and more steady form ensured that we got a home draw in the first round of the play offs, when we beat Cas 32-6. Once again because of the way that the games worked out in that first round, we found ourselves at home the following week too, this time we beat Featherstone 23-0. Both games are worthy of covering here in the future, but my over riding memory has to be Brian Smith coming onto the pitch after the hooter and racing towards the crowd displaying with his fingers that there were two and then one game left to us winning the Premiership. What a guy he was, he was as excited as we were.

So we got to Old Trafford, for a game in which no one gave us a hope, but this was Brian Smiths team, full of battlers and heroes. We looked hungry that season, and the fans knew that even if we didn’t win, we would continue hunting for trophies, because that year the Boulevard was buzzing. Widnes had a side packed with stars, that’s why they were known as ‘The Cup Kings’, but in the end it was the homespun unknowns of Hull FC that took a thrilling final by storm. Thousands of FC fans packed the M62 on the way to the game, and at Saddleworth Moor the whole thing ground to a halt as three packed lanes of traffic crawled all the rest of the way to Old Trafford.

The atmosphere in the ground was nothing short of electric and although Widnes had just had to travel ‘down the road’, as always, in a gate of around 40,000, we outnumbered their fans about three to one. In the end it was a game that I remember best for three critical incidents either side of half time that in effect cost us the game, the cup and the glory.

As we kicked off it was immediately apparent that we were in this one to win it, as our forwards led by Dannett, Steve Crooks and Welham pushed the Widnes six back at each drive. When we got the ball Lee Jackson was masterful at off half running first this side, then that, and ruffling the Widnes tacklers in the process. Of course as often happens after all this endeavour, with the FC well on top, the opposition scored first. Their rangy danger man Emosi Koloto had been kept quiet all afternoon until he broke a Windley tackle and started off down field. As Fletcher came across to grab him he sent out the deftest of passes to centre Darren Wright on half way, and the speed merchant ran straight down the middle to score. A Davies conversion saw us behind on the score board, when we were easily the better team. Next we received a real blow because as he was sandwiched between McKenzie and Joe Grima our scrum half Phil Windley was knocked out cold. He had to retire for the rest of the half although I remember Pearce made an excellent stand in 7, and dictating play for the rest of the first period.

Back we came and after three occasions when loose forward Gary Divorty almost got away from the Widnes defence, he at last stepped out of a Hulme tackle and sped to the line where he almost scored himself, before slipping out a peach of a pass for Welham to crash over. Pearce goaled and we were level.

By this time ‘Porky’ Pearce was running them ragged as his prompting and probing almost got both Eastwood and then Sharp in for tries. In the end though a penalty on their twenty five saw him grab two more precious points, to give us the lead for the first time. At this point we were threatening to take the game away from our illustrious opponents, but then the first of those three incidents occurred deep in the Widnes half.

In the last minute of time added on, Pearce was lining himself up for a drop goal, when Jackson instead went blind at the play the ball and fed centre Price. The youngster sent a bullet like grubber towards the corner flag for O’Hara to chase, but somehow Andy Currier got in the way, it stuck in his ‘bread basket’ and he was off. Brilliantly Price somehow recovered and moved to tackle the Widnes man, only for Tony Myler to step across and obstruct him, leaving Currier haring away down the left wing to score and Price on his backside and we went in at half time trailing 10-8. The FC fans were not happy and gave referee John Holdsworth a hard time as he left the field and with chants of ‘Cheat cheat’ ringing round the Hull end, we went off in search of a Bovrill.

The second half had hardly started when Widnes scored again, and it was a try that was to be the killer blow! Paul Fletcher who was playing really well for us at full back pounced on a loose ball and ran off only to be called back by the referee for a scrum with a Hull put in; what happened to the advantage rule we all shouted. Amazingly we only lost one scrum with the head all afternoon and that had to be this one, where the referee should have waived play on anyway. Again Price was obstructed and pulled down this time by Currier, and once Alan Tait had given Martin Offiah his only bit of clean ball all afternoon, what happened then was a foregone conclusion as he scorched down the wing as only he could. Another Davies conversion meant that all of a sudden we were 16-8 down and two tries behind. We needed a quick score and looked to have got one three minutes later, as the third critical incident started to unfold.

Paul Welham was pulled down inches short of the line and from the play the ball Jackson dummied to runners Blacker and Eastwood before shifting play the other way for O’Hara to cross the line and clearly put the ball down. He was immediately carried out of play by both Pyke and Wright, but as we all celebrated and the Widnes players heads went down, amazingly the touch judge ruled no try and John Holdsworth the referee ordered a 25 yard re start.

There was still plenty of time to go, Porky got a good angled penalty on 58 minutes, and Blacker, Nolan and Fletcher all went so close, but in the last 20 minutes we could not add to our score, although our defence which was superb ensured that the opposition didn’t get any either. So as the hooter went we had lost our first final for several years 18-10.

Paul Fletcher
A limping Paul Fletcher is inconsolable and leaves the pitch before the final parade

It was a sad ending but deep down in our hearts we all knew as we tramped away from Old Trafford that something big was happening under Smithy, although few of us could envisage what was to transpire just two years later at that same ground against that same Widnes team. Good days!

Andy Dannett
Andy Dannett leads the rest of the players around the terraces to acknowledge the massive FC following.

Well Ok I give up!! I’m sorry and for all those (mainly female) readers who stop me and give me a right ear bending about me saying that Tom Lineham appeared a bit porky at the Bradford match, the games up! This week I was sent this photo which, I completely agree, renders the whole debate, stone dead.

Tom Lineham
I wish I was that porky, I really do, let’s move on Eh?

Now, on a much more serious note, I was really saddened this week when word reached me of the death of George Gellatley, a massive fan of Hull FC, from a truly Black and White family. George had been ill for quite some time and my warmest wishes go at this sad time to Diary reader Linda, Katy and all the family.

You know envy is an awful thing but I, no doubt like many of you out there, find it hard to see Tom Briscoe in a Leeds shirt and watch him scoring tries like that one last Friday. I still think he should be ours and then there was Sam Moa on Saturday, just to add insult to injury! It all left me thinking that had we retained Tom, Sam, Willie and perhaps Danny Tickle we’d be a real force to reckon with this year and although we’ll never know all the facts, might the message from us fans to the Club on staff retention perhaps be ‘must try harder’?

So, that’s it for another week and it’s on to Warrington for one of those rare occurrences, a Sunday afternoon game. It’s another long trip but at least the traffic should be a bit lighter and let’s hope we can again at least put on a decent show. I loved my night at St Helens and I just hope the team continues to improve.

Thanks to everyone for their input this week, for the pictures from Stu and Dave, the correspondence from Mike Ullyatt, Steve Roberts, Matty Scarrs, Jane with the Rovers boss, Brian Chapman, John Ranby, Bill Johnson, Terese Brown, Alan Smalley and Darren Southwell, the bollocking from Richard D. and to everyone who said ‘Hello’ at Saints. Thanks for reading this the latest offering from a very average fan who just loves Hull FC and who, this week at least, and despite a defeat, feels a little heartened! The upcoming news on Gareth Carvell could change all that though, so let’s hope it’s not too serious an injury.

Finally, I never cease to be amazed by everyone who reads this rubbish, gets involved and just says ‘hello’ because of it! Thank’s for your continued support it’s priceless and I’ll see you all at the home of the (‘Wanky Wanky) Wires!

Faithfully Yours

Wilf

Prescott quote