Well at least Gareth Ellis now understands what I and many more of you out there have accepted for some time as he said on Friday, “This is harder than I expected. When I joined we talked top four but now it’s possibly relegation. It’s something we can’t ignore. If Bradford Bulls get their points back we could be in that mix”
Relegation??? You heard it here first, before, last week Adam mentioned it, on Friday it was the Captain and now everyone’s talking about it! Languishing in 10th place with 5 away games on the bounce coming up; we should I think be a little afraid!
I wasn’t exactly in tears on Saturday night at 7-00pm, but I have to say I was well depressed and it was nothing at all to do with Hull City either!! We had a real go in that second half, you couldn’t fault our effort but as the hooter went I reflected on the fact that I am fed up of this season already! Yes, it was better, but it has to be when it’s a Derby, if an FC player can’t ‘get up’ for that then you might as well stay in bed…..permanently!!!
You see for me, although against all the odds we came back and made a good game of it, we simply can’t kill games off as once again we let it slip and whether we play well or we don’t, I’ve just had it with losing. That was a poor Rovers team that ‘fiddled’ a win as our stupid mistakes, drifting focus and fatigue caused by a daft sending off, saw us beaten.
As fans there is only one certainty now and that’s the fact that it’s quite possible ‘we ain’t seen nothing yet’ and we really do now have to back the Club we love and stick together like never before.
It was a strange game in some ways because for me Rovers weren’t that good at all and we certainly showed some fight, but at critical times we blew it and although we showed some real tenacity and pulled ourselves back into the game twice when had looked sunk, in the end the heat and that man short, cost us and the slide continues as we all look over our shoulders towards the bottom of the table.
Losing Crooks was a massive blow and he should have thought before he was so reckless because being a man down in that heat was sheer suicide and although Houghton came on and did a massive job at rallying the troops they spread it wide where we were caught out for numbers. So although there were a few pluses by and large it was another disappointing game and it’s hard to see where we go from here.
Those positives were for me, Houghton who looked so much more effective, Yeamo who had one of his best games for ages, and although Millers tackling was poor, at least he tried at 7. Balancing that though for me was the fact that injuries meant that we had a very average three quarter line, Ellis again failed to lead from the front as he had talked about all week and Paea and Carvell simply ain’t cutting it anymore. While as Burns pulled all the strings, for us Rankin was almost anonymous and as it has been said already in here on many occasions, we simply don’t have the half backs do we? However Feke was for me a real game changer and the minute he came on the intensity was raised and we immediately looked better. His try was great as he went through dragging a player on his shirt tail to get the ball down with three tacklers in attendance. He had a massive game!
But, it’s so tough for the fans and for me it’s getting to the point of there’s only so much you can write, (while no doubt for a lot of you reading this it’s getting to the point of there’s only so much you can read!) As fans we know in our heads that we have been in positions like this before, we appreciate its tough and understand that we should give it time etc, but in our hearts we also realise that this slide is more serious than that, the fight we showed on Saturday was really commendable and I agree with Lee Radford that our second half showing deserved a lot better, but we didn’t get it and of late we never have. I could see that spirit as a positive but then again as I said, if you can’t show fight in a Derby you never will. Some would talk that passion up and see it as a step forward, but as fans it’s really hard not to view our tenacity and fight as just another pausing point on what is in general an ever spiralling downward path.
You see, I think that it’s the bigger picture of this slide that’s concerning and as a fan it’s a bugger when you’re sat on the edge of your seat willing Catalans to beat London Bronco’s and then you’re cheering on Widnes so Salford lose and backing Huddersfield against Bradford simply because they’re all below you, but that’s the reality for me these days. The saving grace from the weekend is that all the Clubs with fewer points than us lost and how sad is that mindset!!
I’m worried about relegation, I really am, but if the unthinkable were to happen at least then we wouldn’t have to play Rovers at least 4 times next season. It’s small consolation, although as I said a couple of Diaries ago, I honestly believe that in a worst place scenario relegation could mean we ain’t playing anyone in 2015!! The minute Bradford get their points back the drop is on and we should be recalling Pitts and Arundel from them immediately, because the thought of a team catching us in the relegation battle and using two of our players to do it, is unthinkable.
If these are tough times for some of the players, they are heartbreaking ones for the fans and with Leeds up next and then the pending doomsday scenario looming at Barnet the week after we are a beleaguered bunch indeed. We’ve been there before, lots of times, but after the reticence of many of the fans who have quite frankly now seen it all too often, it’s the demeanour of the team that is the most worrying. They gave it a real go in Manchester but came up wanting again and it’s the damage that can do going forward, as it impacts on our already fragile confidence, that could just add weight to our demise. One bright spot is that Sa is expected soon, perhaps even early this week, but we need a lot more than that!
In a week when the chant towards our administration could well be one of ‘It’s all gone quiet over there’ there’s little doubt few have been saying anything at all. In fact it’s been as silent a Derby week as I can remember. That even after Gareth Ellis had appeared live on Radio Two’s Chris Evans show (I have just changed that on final read through I actually put the Steve Evans Show!) which is probably our highest profile achievement thus far this season! It’s been interesting to gauge too, just how ‘frail’ some of our players confidence has been, something that can possibly be assessed by the fact that unlike most pre derby periods, it’s just been the ‘safe pair of hands’ interviewee’s like Gareth Ellis, Micky Paea and Joe Westerman that have featured in the media. I saw some of the players in the KC Kingston Suite after the Wigan game and many of them, particularly the youngsters looked as if their confidence was completely shot!
I don’t know about you but I bloody hate Derby’s, particularly when they are of the contrived and plastic type that we experience every year as part of the Magic Weekend! There is little doubt it’s a wonderful spectacle and this year the sun came out to make it a real festival of sport which has to be good for the game. However it’s the prospect of yet another Derby that just makes me totally reticent about it all. I could sort of stand two a year, could stomach the odd Cup clash, or even play-off game, because you have to, but when you add a friendly (that is anything but friendly) and an invented for TV money making beano for the Clubs called Magic, then it pushes the principle just too far for me!
There is little doubt that you can always gage how a Hull club is going by the amount of publicity there is out there in the week running up to the game and with both Hull Clubs struggling a bit and City at Wembley, this week has been as I say one of the quietest I can ever remember. As a club, for the Magic Weekend, we did everything we could off the field, the fans bought more tickets (as usual) than any other Club and we produced the ‘marmite’ shirt, (which some really liked and others really didn’t) which was once again the only unique offering from any Club over the weekend. Of course the thing we can’t get right is what happens on the field. We have the most passionate fans and some of the most innovative marketing, but as far as the product goes we’re crap!
Like it or loathe it there is little doubt that we as a Club once again topped the pile as being the only Club to produce a dedicated shirt for the Magic event and it was certainly another example of original thinking.
With not that much to think about and a pretty flat build up to this weekend’s derby in the media, which saw our RL reporter James Smailes decamping to Wembley and Radio Humberside in raptures about the football Club, it seemed to me, as an ordinary FC fan, to be a good time to look at the bigger picture.
So what do you make of the Magic Weekend as a concept, do you think it’s great or like me do you have reservations? Generally I believe that as far as the cross section of fans and indeed those of you reading this are concerned, most would agree that there are good points and bad points about the principles of the event and the concept of getting fans from all Clubs in one place at one time. However with big changes on the horizon as far as the competition is concerned, there is little doubt that this year’s extravaganza was one that was crucial for the game.
The sun shone and some of the rugby at least, sparkled, but I still find it hard to accept the whole thing. In my opinion and it’s only my opinion the Magic Weekend is a manufactured fixture that was made initially to spread the word about the game and to meet the requirements of Sky TV, but which has now evolved into a moneymaking exercise for the Clubs. It certainly makes a lot of cash too, so who can blame them? However with relegation being re-introduced this season and a new format from 2015, this additional game now takes on significantly different proportions, as it stops being a day out in the sun and a bit of a distraction from the weekly grind and becomes fundamental to any one Clubs destiny and survival.
I mean to say, can it be equitable that some clubs have a tougher match in this one off beano than others? It doesn’t when little is at stake, but with relegation back an extra game outside the normal ‘home and away against everyone’ format, can make a world of difference. However if it is to continue what can the RFL do because if you remember they have tried a draw in the past and even had a go at basing the fixtures on the previous season’s final ‘placings’, but in the end in a quest to raise as much revenue as possible the Clubs have decided derbies or Leeds v Wigan type ‘epics’ are the way to go.
There are of course positives as this past weekend is one that creates a great day out for supporters and one that certainly creates an opportunity to showcase the sport at a national level after (usually) the distraction’s of Football and Rugby Union have been put to bed for the summer. The image of one of the only true family sports is itself further enhanced too, with the sight of supporters from all the senior clubs mixing happily together and I guess it’s the only time one full round of a senior sport can be broadcast in its entirety live on TV to a wide audience, across a full weekend of coverage. So that’s another feather in our cap.
That said of course the Magic Weekend has yet to truly capture the imaginations of the game, as its success has to be measured by fans passing through the turnstiles. The attendance when the event first visited Manchester in 2012 was a record 63,716, but rather than building on that, last year’s gate was down by around 5,000. This year’s apparently more tickets than ever having been sold but its success year on year still looks to be a bit hit and miss and the fact that attendances should have been increasing since the event first began must put some question marks against the format. You know my views about the fixtures; that they should be as near as possible proper derby games or simply drawn out of a hat (but not a contrived mixture of both) so I won’t go on about that one anymore. However talking to a lot of fans across the game over the months and years, it appears to me that a lot of supporters simply don’t want to see their side play the same team three times in one season (and in our case a team that many of us hate playing in the first place)
Simply put and when you step away from the great time a lot of folks had there, it’s totally plastic, totally manufactured and just done for the dosh! However with the 8x8x8 system being introduced next season and the Magic event now in its eighth season, long-term decisions will have to be made about the weekend, going forward.
This is particularly pertinent when, as a lot of fans in this area point out, over exposure coupled to a pre season friendly, is just devaluing the fabulous occasion our Derby games used to be, being as they are the only true events of their kind in the game. With just 14 teams involved and, one has to presume, 12 next season, the proximity of these match up’s in the fixture list is breeding contempt too. Leeds faced Wigan just 15 days after the sides met at Headingley Carnegie and then it’s entirely possible both Clubs could meet up again in the Challenge Cup this year and maybe a couple of times in the play-offs. That’s 6 times in a total of around say 35 games!!! Other Magic fixtures (for example Castleford Tigers’ derby with Wakefield Trinity Wildcats and the opening match between Catalan Dragons and London Broncos) are just repeats of Easter games of a couple of weeks ago as well.
Then there is the question of why do we play it at Manchester? As a sport it seems to me that we only cater for the people who already love the game. It’s great for those of you who go, but then again hardly mould breaking in the bigger scheme of things. If we ever want to expand (as the RL have told us we should for years) and compete with the rest of the country’s major sports, then surely we need to appeal to people outside the heartlands. The reason our sport isn’t up there with football is not about excitement, physicality or skill it’s simply because we are crap at selling the game! If, after all the excursions and aborted attempts over the years in North Wales, Cardiff, Kent, Nottingham, Mansfield, Hemel Hempstead, Oxford, Gloucester etc, expansion is the ultimate ‘end game’ then what is the point of keeping the Magic Weekend in Manchester? We already have thousands of supporters up here in the North, why not go somewhere with less awareness, make it a real family weekend away for the fans and try to get the locals into the game?
Before the Clubs twigged that this event was a real gold mine, the weekend was originally devised as a way of promoting the sport outside its heartland areas, and so the event was taken to Cardiff and Edinburgh, offering a trip away to a new City for the game and that family break for the fans, but now it’s based in Manchester which means many supporters just go on the day and many only watch their own Clubs game.
The thing is for me, however much you like it or don’t, it’s simply now a ‘cash cow’ for the Clubs and let’s face it, with us selling the most tickets again this year (almost 5000) and probably making an extra £50,000 out of it, you can see why the owners will bend over backwards to keep it, can’t you? However for this fan it is no longer a development tool and there has to be a question mark over whether Magic can survive the changes being introduced next year, when if things don’t change the top division will see teams playing each other twice and one team three times in the actual season (with Magic). Then when the split comes they will play that team again and so that’s 4 times in 29 games, before Cup and play-off encounters (never mind in our case a friendly as well).
The new structure next season, if the magic event is retained, just perpetuates the issue that although we have the greatest game in the world we also have the most contrived and perhaps even cash driven one, too.
Games like football get the really big sponsorship and Television bucks, but that is based on the TV companies wanting desperately to cover the traditional competition that is already there and established. They tinker with broadcast times and play-offs were introduced a few years back, but there are massive sums involved as far as TV rights are concerned as we saw this week when the Premierships earnings league was published. We however support a game that’s very structure is getting more and more dictated by the needs of TV and that to the doubtless advantage of the media and I think at times the disadvantage of the ordinary attendee. TV audiences might be growing, but just look at gates across the game if you need any more proof that. ‘Dyed in the wool’ spectators are getting fed up with re-scheduling, TV hype and commercialism, let alone with crap officiating, messing around with the structures and a lack of central leadership. The Magic conundrum is just the tip of the ice berg and for me we are entering interesting times indeed! Well that my view anyway!!
Now for a quick mention of the passing of another bit of rugby league history because how sad it was as a full house (all be it restricted to just 800 these days) attended last Thursday night, the last game to ever take place at that great and evocative ground, Wildespool in Warrington. With the coal trains rumbling past the back of the stand and the stand being burnt down on a regular basis, the place was a real fortress in its heyday and I have some great memories of some fine victories there! But there were low points too like getting beaten up in the toilets and being chased back to our coaches by a gang of skinheads; in fact the place had the lot. I particularly remember going there the week after the debacle at Huddersfield in that semi final where the posts came down, and the way that Chief Executive Shane Richardson stood there in the middle of the FC crowd in a packed Railway Stand. However the old place is certainly run down now and it is about to be demolished.
It was certainly a famous stadium and will go down in history for the halcyon years when it was the home of the great Brian Bevan. He was probably the greatest British RL player of all time simply because of the number of games he played and the total of tries he scored. He scored seven against Leigh at Wildespool in 1948, in front of 20,000 fans and repeated that feat again against Bramley in 1953. The last touch-down of that second haul of seven was his 66th of that season. To great celebrations Bevan’s 700th try was notched up again at Wildespool in 1959 against Blackpool.
His final game was in 1962 and although I never saw him play it’s interesting that my Dad and a Danby’s motor coach load of FC fans from Hull Supporters Club went all the way over to Lancashire to witness his last home game! In all the Aussie scored an incredible 796 tries in all competitive matches in his career in England (a world record for tries by a rugby player of either code), 740 of which were for Warrington, in 620 appearances and many of which ‘The Wing Wizard’ scored at Wildespool. His memorial service in 1991 was attended by thousands and actually took place on the Wildespool pitch.
That last game on Thursday ended Warrington Wolves u16 – 46 Cumbria Regional Academy u16s – 16. It was no doubt a really sad and perhaps tearful ‘good night and God bless’ to Wilderspool. I hope they do something to remember the old ground in Priory Street Warrington where it stood for so many years in the shadow of the famous Greenall Witneys Brewery. Great memories of a truly iconic venue, which now like so many, is no more!
I had a great night at the Disabled Supporters Group meeting last Monday with John Ranby, Mick Robinson, Steph Miller, John Fletcher and all the gang. They really are a great set of fans who despite lamenting our current demise still stick with the Club loyally and steadfastly. I just wanted to mention it here and to thank them for their invitation. Most of them are doing their level best to support Lee Radford and to get behind the team, despite the current issues we have, but as a group there is a great affinity for the Club and it was good to be in the midst of such a loyal bunch!
Ben Jones Bishop to Salford Eh? That was an interesting one and something that change late in the day as the talented Leeds winger looked set to join Warrington before Salford swooped at the last minute and secured his signing. We’d definitely been in for him, but were gazumped by Warrington before Salford and Doctor KouKash came in to grab the player’s signature. It’s a strange one too because I think that Salford were always offering more but it looked like BJB would go to the Wire because they are a progressive, stable outfit, who regularly appear in finals, have a progressive but RL orientated owner and who have a large and loud fan base, the sort of place where he could really make his name.
However it appears for that young man the lure of the cash was just too much, but just how he will feel when he runs out on a long contract to a crowd of around 5000, with nothing but a few extra thousand quid in his pocket is something to wonder about. Quite frankly I know it’s a short career and I know that amount of money must be a big lure but for me I’m afraid he’s just a mercenary, he’d have never come to us, but to miss out on Warrington might just be something he regret’s in the future. Only time will tell but along with Locke he ain’t moving till November and it will be interesting to see what happens if Bradford get their points back and Salford keep losing. Our current demise is certainly not funny at all and indeed a real worry, but the good doctors Club sinking into the relegation mire would certainly make me smile a bit!!
I bet most of you remember that debacle of a play-off game at Leeds at the end of the Agar era and how Adam said that sort of capitulation would never happen again when he also stated, “It would be nice to sometimes beat Leeds…..and Leeds and Leeds and Leeds!!!” We’re back there this week and perhaps it’s fair to say that since then we’ve gone backwards, because this week anything but a severe drubbing would probably be seen to be a plus, so I thought this time in Codgers Corner I’d take you back a lot further to a time when we beat the Loiners regularly and to an era when their home gates were less than 8,500 (even when 3000 Hull fans made the trek to Headingley from the Boulevard). That’s something that, to a simple soul like me, begs the question to all those thousands of morons who will be taunting us and banging drums in the South Stand next Friday of, “Where were you when YOU were crap”.
On Sunday 9th October 1983, on a drizzly afternoon we all travelled over to the home of Yorkshire Cricket on the coach from the Mermaid pub on Boothferry Estate, for a game that was seen by most as a warm up for our defence of the Yorkshire Cup in the final at the same ground the following week. We had drawn one and won 6 of our first 7 games before we suffered a heartbreaking defeat at Craven Cottage London against Fulham and a big reversal at home to Rovers the previous week. It left us with just one game to get back in the groove before the final; a difficult looking tie at Leeds.
The home club had won 3 of their last 4 games and they were undefeated at home in 7 matches and so a few beers in the ‘Three Horse Shoes’ in Otley Road were needed, for ‘medicinal purposes’ to calm our nerves and to provide a bit of ‘Dutch courage’. I watched the game from the South Stand, as we took over most of the terracing, forcing the Leeds fans down to one end. By the game kicked off a watery sun was shiny through some thinning clouds, something that belied the fact that it was in fact Hull Fair week back in Hull. Gary Kemble had a leg injury and so James Leuluai had a rare trip out in the number 1 shirt, whilst a young centre called Garry Schofield, (whose spindly legs were described to me by one fan as looking like match sticks with the wood shaved off) made his first start for the senior team at number 4.
It took us just three minutes to get on the score board as a great break by Wileman saw Proctor in support to pass onto Crooks. From nowhere Schofield motored into the line and drew Leeds Full Back Healey before feeding Dane O’Hara who scorched into the corner to our left. Crooks missed with the conversion but it was only 4 minutes before we were on the scoreboard again. We looked to be bogged down in our own 25 yard area and running out of tackles when Tony Dean, in the team for the first time that season, got out of dummy half and broke the tackle of Mitchell before losing the ball. Garry Moorby pounced on it and threw out a ‘scoring pass’ to Mitchell who was lurking on the whitewash of the touchline. As we all felt a score was imminent, from nowhere, up popped Garry Schofield and (as he was to do so many times in his career at Hull) stretching above his head he intercepted the pass and without changing pace, the youngster glided away from the Leeds defence. With Hesslewood and Creasser tailing in his wake, we cheered every stride as he ran 70 yards for a brilliant interception try which Crooks converted.
Two penalties conceded by a Leeds defence that was becoming decidedly rattled were dispatched by Crooks and after just 16 minutes we were leading 14-0. The home Club rallied and Creasser landed a penalty when Crane tripped Dickenson, but with just a minute to go to half time and after Edmonds, Proctor and Skerrett had smashed the Leeds front row on a downfield drive, we scored again. This time Topliss fed Fred Ah Kuoi and despite the New Zealander appearing to be held by three Leeds forwards he brilliantly released the ball to Schofield. Garry simply took the ball dummied towards his winger Dane O’Hara and shot off for another touchdown this time from 40 yards out, Crooks converted and at half time the score was a very unlikely 20-2. Adam Pearson would have loved it!
Leeds had obviously got a roasting in the changing rooms and came out fired up as they camped in our twenty five for the first seven minutes. A penalty to touch from Crooks relieved the pressure before from the ensuing scrum Dean made twenty yards with a mazy run. Topliss then passed onto Skerrett who striding forward executed a brilliant and surprising reverse pass straight back into the path of ‘Toppo’ who shot through the Leeds defence to score just to the left of the posts. Crooks converted again and as the scoreboard moved on to 26-2 we were starting to dominate the game, much to the annoyance of the home fans.
Schofield was belying his tender years and ripping the home defence to bit, whilst Proctor, Wileman and Edmonds scrapped the initiative away from a big Leeds pack and Topliss, Dean and Crane marshalled the Hull team brilliantly. As we piled on the pressure Schofield followed Topliss down the field as he broke away from a Kevin Dick tackle and although Hull’s Captain could have scored himself he passed the ball onto the debutant who completed a hat trick, in his first full game for the Black and Whites and at just 17 years of age. Then just when we should have gone on to score 50 or 60 points we started to make a few mistakes as we over elaborated and I remember too that referee Whitfield who had been pretty anonymous thus far suddenly started awarding penalties and became a bit ‘whistle happy’. This disturbed our rhythm which allowed Leeds to score two scrappy tries from Martin and Mitchell.
Back we came though and a flowing move this time started by Dean and Leuluai saw Patrick Solal get another 4 points in the corner and a Crooks conversion and a Divorty penalty finished off the Hull scoring to leave the final score Leeds 12 Hull 40. It had been a fine performance and just what we needed to ensure that we retained the Yorkshire Cup the following week. Our pack has been a revelations and our half backs supreme. But on the day the real hero was 17 year old BARLA tourist Garry Schofield who simply mesmerised the Leeds defence. Whatever we have thought of him since, the one thing you remembered about Garry back then, was that he didn’t run, or ‘motor’ or gallop, he simply glided away from would be tacklers with amazing ease. Great memories of days when we won a few games at Headingley; at present it seems memories are all we have.
So we move onto the game we all want to get out of the way…..quickly, as we travel to Leeds again on Friday intent on…..well keeping the score down! The facts for me are pretty plain because we can’t win away from home and looking at the next 5 or so games it’s hard to see where a win will come from isn’t it! I don’t know what we do to change things though do you? We have no cap space and while it’s easy to jump on the Coaches back what alternatives are there at this late stage in proceedings? These are really tough times guys and however crap we feel and whoever we blame for our demise, in the end I just hope we all stick together as black and white fans. Those Dicks from ‘Poundland’ on Preston Road will have their fun but in the end we can’t desert the FC and we have to hang in there. Mrs R said the other day that, the worse our situation and the worse we are playing, the more it seems I have to be there. Friday is point of fact to that for me and however much I’m dreading it as I imagine in my head the wide open spaces of Headingley, I just have to be there with the team I love, it’s as simple as that, but if you see me come and say hello because I can’t see there being a big turn out and quite frankly, I already detect a bleak evening coming on!!
Special thanks this week to everyone in the Drum and Monkey last Friday night when we had a great pre Derby drink and to Bob and Neil in Spain, everyone at the disabled supporters group, to Sammo, Dave Cooper, Lee Jenkinson, Al Smalley and everyone who has been in touch this week to share their distress. You know as I said earlier, whatever’s going on out there on the pitch Hull FC still sell more tickets for the Magic event than anyone else, still get the gate at Caravan Park as near to a capacity as anyone else can and still take more away supporters to away games than any other Club. So, in the bigger scheme of things my message to all those gloating Dobbins and other fans across the game who are rubbing their hands as they see us slipping down the league would be; just be careful what you wish for!! Thanks so much for sticking with the Diary as I always say it’s only my thoughts, but your friendship and camaraderie at this time is greatly appreciated.
Try to Keep Believing and Keep the Faith and I’ll see you at Leeds!
P.S. didn’t I tell you a few weeks ago how good those new pies at the KC were!!