400 editions of this rubbish!! Can you believe it, I blooming can’t!!
No game this week (so no defeat), less stress for this particular fan and perhaps a little time to reflect a bit! Firstly though, at this milestone for the weekly ramblings of a hopelessly, obsessive FC fan, please allow me to say that my appreciation for the 16/1700 of you who read this blog every week is almost impossible to put into words, it’s just amazing and thanks so much for your continued support and encouragement! If anyone knows we’re all in this together, then it’s certainly me!!
Every week I marvel that anyone actually reads this waffle, never mind takes the time to get in touch, because in the end, it’s still, as it was in the first Dairy all those years ago, just the scribbling’s of an average supporter who is Hull born (and FC by the grace of God) and who just loves his club. However if I’m honest, with over 1.4 million words, 400 editions and over 600,000 reads to date, it has become something of a weekly ritual that has in many ways taken over my life.
It’s not just those who read it on line either, because over the years I have heard from dozens of fans who don’t have a computer and who receive the Diary in hard copy from their families and friends, its pinned on staff notice boards, given to elderly family members to read in the traditional way, posted through letter boxes and some less fortunate supporters even have it read to them, sometimes whilst in hospital. It has even encouraged a few more elderly supporters to invest in a ‘tablet’ computer! I have heard of it being left on trains for unsuspecting readers, comforting the seriously ill, connecting the exiled, pacifying the irate and indeed absolutely infuriating the Dobbins, all of which bring me great pleasure. All this support is extremely humbling and something that, when I started with 60 odd readers, I never imagined could ever happen. Everyone is by and large very kind, and it’s hard at present to see how I could ever give it up, even if I wanted to.
This edition is a particularly ‘milestone’ for me, and something, when I started back in 2005, that I thought I would probably never ever get anywhere near. I hope, this week you will allow me a bit of self indulgence and, in a repeated Codgers Corner, a personal memory of probably the most exciting game I have seen in almost 60 years of the soul destroying process that is being totally immersed in Hull FC.
So, here it is, the latest Diary, with all the usual stuff, a bit of navel gazing and some of my favorite past pictures. Although I might not always get it right (particularly last week when I put Tony Cotson the Club Chaplain through the spell checker and turned him into the little bloke at the end of a rowing 8) and I have undoubtedly infuriated you (and the Club Chaplain) a time or two on the way, once again a massive thank-you to everyone who has stuck with me and so kindly let me into their lives every week for the last 9 years.
Well with no game (and therefore a few more good nights sleeps this week) there’s still been a bit happening hasn’t there? Firstly, I was honored again last Monday to be invited to spend an evening with the Clubs disabled supporters group, which featured a question and answer session with Adam Pearson, Lee Radford and James Clark. They are, as I have said before, a great crowd of dedicated fans and as is usual at any such forum type events, it all started quite amicably before descending into the usual rough and tumble of halfbacks, loses, who is playing well and more to the point, who the fans feel isn’t.
There was little talked about or revealed that we didn’t know already, except perhaps that as an update to what I told you last week, the number of half backs on our radar has now increased from 3 to 4, with Dobson still expected to end up at Salford. Adam also said that both Miller and Rankin would be retained to work with the new addition. Meanwhile Lee Radford indicated that there will be a big clear out at the end of the season in an ongoing process of reducing our squad back to around 24, as we attempt to retain our quality players from this season and augment them with top quality high profile additions. Adam also put to bed all the wild rumors (which are so wild I haven’t even bothered with them in here) about us moving to a purpose built stadium at Costello. He said that although the arrangements at the KC are not ideal at times, we have a good deal (well, as its one he devised himself in 2002, that has a cut-off point for sharing the income based on attendances; it certainly is a good deal if your gates are falling). We did look at Costello as a training base, but the KC is likely to be our home for the foreseeable future.
How interesting it is that last year at this time Adam was lamenting a deal that gave too much to the SMC through us having to share all the income over an attendance of around 7,300, now he must be relieved that the Club retain everything under that threshold. However I detected again, as I have done in the past when I’ve talked to the owner about it, that he still feels in an ideal world our own home would be nice. Sadly however, at least for now, it’s just not going to happen.
There was a discussion about the height of the posts, next year’s 8x8x8 format (which Pearson said he didn’t like but was trying to warm to ‘Because he had been told he had to’) and a further reiteration that Adam will be here for the long haul and that he would be sticking with Lee Radford. It was also revealed that two referees would be used next season. While Radford, following concerns about both our short and long kicking games, indicated that we still have a kicking Coach spending time every week at YPI. There was also a question as to why Green had been sent to Featherstone for a month, rather than playing duel registration at Donny, to which Adam replied that Featherstone were ‘awash with money’ and offered to pay his full wages for the month and indeed Crookes’ for the rest of the season, which gets them both off the cap at the KC.
However the best bit of the night for me, which caused a massive laugh and a round of applause, was when one questioner said, “Question for Adam Pearson. Now we have signed Scott Taylor does it mean that Feke will be leaving” To which Adam replied, “Who said we had signed Scott Taylor”, and the answer came straight back, “His Dad, he just told me he’s signed” Classic!! Incidentally Feke will, it was confirmed, be staying for another year!
So onto Scott Taylor and those reports that he is bound for Hull FC, that were included in Wednesdays Mail. There was little there as well that we didn’t know or indeed much more than I had already included I here for the last 7 weeks, although the possibility of Watts being shipped out was if not a surprise, at least unexpected at this time. The rumored departure of Carvell sooner rather than later was totally expected by all of us, because although he started well, after his first two game s he has, ever since, looked jaded and battle worn. If Radford is to down size the squad as he revealed above, then one good young proven professional in Taylor, is in my opinion, worth shedding Watts and Carvell for.
Then on Thursday it was the turn of ‘Smailes Whiffs’ (doesn’t have the same ring about it does it really) as James took two pages in the Hull Daily Mail to rehearse some of the arguments for four possible targets that we could be looking to bring in as half backs for next season. I have told you already about my suspicions concerning Dobson and Leuluai although the former is still interesting Salford and possibly now St Helens, while the latter has had a bad injury, but now Smailes of the Mail has thrown both Terry Campese and Jeff Robson into the mix. Jeff is a bit old for me, although I remember going on about him being a target of ours in here a couple of years ago, he’s steady, a leader and has the best injury record of the 4 (with possibly the exception of Dobson), but that could change with his age I guess. However although more suspect to injuries Campese could be just what we want if we could keep him fit, but can you see him coming?
Our interest in him I have to admit came out of the blue for me, as all I was hearing from the Club was Leuluai, Dobson and ‘another’. However Campese is a one Club guy with a couple of years left on his contract and it would certainly be a coupe if we were successful. However on the negative side he is a bit slow for me and ‘fragile’ when it comes to injuries. He’s been a good player who always reminds me of a sort of Paul Cooke type character, with his great ability to steer teams around the field and his use of long and short passes so effectively. He certainly not a speedster by any means, but he’s a great general and has a really good kicking game, in fact to me he’s always looked like a class pivot for his Club. But his injury situation puts me in two minds and anyway, as I say, I honestly can’t see him coming can you? But then again this is Hull FC and stranger things have happened haven’t they?
Now, having set it as one of his personal pre-season targets, it must have been very gratifying when late last Monday evening Joe Westerman got a call from Steve McNamara in Australia to inform him he had made the England training team. Joe is one of those ‘Marmite’ players I talk about in here at times (you either love him or hate him) and we certainly have a couple of those…..don’t we? Personally I wasn’t a big fan of his up until this year in fact if I’m honest, I felt he was grossly over rated. However now, for me, it’s reward for a season where Joe has been one of our only consistent players and a tower of strength in the middle of the field. I thought quite frankly that at times last season he was pretty crap, but he has risen to the task this year and having been given a role that he wants and thrives in, he has really shone. He’s always been a bit of a wayward customer too, but he’s knuckled down this year and is one of the Clubs best trainers.
For me, the rest of the England train on squad is pretty predictable, but I’m surprised with two omissions! Sinfield and Myler have been less than impressive this year and, for me, it is wrong that they have been included at the expense of Super League’s best two playmakers – Kevin Brown and Marc Sneyd, who have scored and assisted a combined 47 tries in 2014. In contrast, Myler and Sinfield have finished or created just 18 tries!
I got an E Mail this week from regular reader Darren who wants a bit of help. His son is a junior soldier and is joining Darren in Catalan next week when his leave begins. He’s departing from Manchester on Friday 20th June, due to fly out at 8.30 from Manchester – arriving in Gerona at 11.30pm and is trying to find out whether there are any other Hull fans on the flight with whom he might be able to share the cost of a transfer to Perpignan. If there is anyone out there looking to share the cost, let me know and I’ll pass your information on.
In this 400th edition it’s still amazing to see so many reading the Diary in the region, but it is even more amazing when, from time to time, I discovered that a few fans of other Clubs read it too. There will always be those Rovers fans who’ve ‘lost their library tickets’ and indeed their marbles, but we even get a few from other Clubs. So, right on cue, my thanks this week go to Wire fan Jim Norminger who apparently reads this rubbish every week (now that is sad) and he added some ‘grist to the mill’ of my worries about falling attendances across the game which I discussed at length last week. James said, “I don’t read all the Hull stuff it bores me, but I do enjoy your angle on what else is happening in the game and falling gates is of concern here at Warrington too. We look to be a progressive Club and have featured a time or two in finals lately but our gates are still falling dramatically. They actually dropped by just over 7% last year and are now down another 4.5% this and as you said in the Diary, we are also including an extra 36,000 on our average for ‘Magic’. The most worrying development was the recent Wigan match which attracted 14,028 last year, but only 11,550 this – a drop of 2,478. Keep up the good work; James”.
So at long last it looks like we are to see two referees out there in the middle next season and while some who watch the NRL regularly say “Good thing too” others will retort “Twice the referee’s twice the number of gaffs” Then of course there is the question, if we can’t get enough quality referee’s now, where exactly will twice as many be coming from” Well I have a couple of suggestions at least, here’s two for starters!
So 9 years of Diary’s have seen the usual FC ‘ride‘, with unprecedented lows, lots of disappointments, three major final’s, three defeats, more than our share of bad luck, some great characters and literally weeks of bumping along in the mediocrity and frustration that is being an FC fan: If it proves one thing about us all, then it is that there is no doubt we all know how to suffer for our obsession. The time has flown since the winter months that followed that great day in Cardiff when riding on a wave of euphoria I felt a need to do a bit more for my club and started to put together these pieces. Granted, I had written a bit for the club programme, but otherwise I had no experience with this kind of thing at all! So it was, I guess, a need to be involved and do something that prompted me to have a go and if nothing else, it has at least provided an outlet and, if you like, a safety valve for my life long and wonderfully obsession.
People on RL fans give me some stick from time to time as the message board regularly descends into that ‘Hull Disease’ of knocking everything simply because ‘it’s more fun than being objective’. I’m branded by a few as supporting the Coach, being in the Club’s pocket, saying what Pearson wants to hear etc. etc. But I learned early on that if you worried about everyone you’d do nothing! I prefer to write what I think and try to do that honestly without being swayed by the general consensus; to do anything else stops the Diary being the thoughts of a simple fan and makes it more of a weekly forum which tries to influence the fans or the situation or even worse still, a vehicle for the Club!!!! Yes, I do know Adam and we do go back a fair way, but I’m no ‘Pearson lover’ or ‘Radford worshiper’, I’m just a supporter of the Club I love. And if being in that position for 56 years has taught me anything, then it’s that we experience a few highs and a lot of lows and although owners, coaches and players come and go, in the end loving that Club is all that really matters and the single thing that gets most of us through. Everything changes but us lot, the fans, and OK all I can say to my critics is, yes my cup invariably is half full, but that’s love for you!!
As average supporters, when it comes to putting up with it all we just press on and keep going, usually because we simply can’t stay away. I’m just a fan with some time on his hands, I’m certainly nothing special and there are thousands of others who in their way do their bit for our great Club in whatever way they can; some go to games, others take part on message boards, run coaches, write blogs, sit on FC Voices, are members of Testimonial Committee’s, become vice presidents, buy a programme or a lottery ticket, or just attend. In fact everyone does their bit! I was certainly reminded of that this week when I heard from someone I mentioned in the last Diary. Tony Roberts, you will remember, was about to make the London trip the last one for his famous FC bus, which was a sad day for the Club and particularly for those folks who have travelled with him over the years.
However, having seen how much those famous sojourns around the country would have been missed and more importantly how many he would be letting down, Tony having duly resigned last Saturday, re-instated himself next day!! I heard from him this week and he said “To be honest there were no one available to keep our trip together and on the road. This is our 38th season doing the away days; our first was back in 1975. I just felt we couldn’t and wouldn’t allow those days to stop. I have the best bunch of guys and gals you could ever meet and many would have been lost as to how to travel away in future, but I still always on the look-out for new trippers to help with numbers and costs”. So there you are, just another example of what goes on within the great FC family and indeed how hard it is to let it go and so make a note that if you’re ever looking for a seat on a Coach full of great people which is good fun then ring Tony on 07917033949 or 667553.
But we are certainly long suffering too, as over the years we have all been on that Roller Coaster ride that only FC supporters can fully appreciate. We get plenty of earache from the dimwits over in Banjo Picking Land across the River, we get depressed when we sign big names that are injury prone, we have more visa issues than Abu Hamza al-Masri and although everyone else seems to manage it, we can’t find a half back for love nor money!! But we are nothing if not resilient and we still perk up and ‘Bel13ve’ again when they give a promise of ‘jam tomorrow’ a flag we wouldn’t ever wave, a baseball cap that we’ll never wear, or a discount card for places we’ll never ever use!!
So to this week’s favorite chapter of Codgers Corner and it’s a repeat from around 3 years ago in which I feature a game I will love till the day I die, so I include it here in this very special, ‘special’ edition. It’s the best and most exciting ending to a game that I have ever experienced, and with Cardiff, Kirchin’s sleight of hand, Old Trafford and Toppo’s run round move at Elland Road, up there in my top ten all time FC memories, this game still makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck!
The season was 1987/88 (You know what’s coming here already don’t you?) and it had been a tough one. The great team of the early 80’s had almost melted away, with only Leuluai and O’Hara left in our ranks, Crooks and Schofield had gone to pastures new, with varying sentiments from the fans, and falling gates and a lack of finance were dogging the club. Brian Smith was still a few months away, and we were just two points clear of bottom team Leigh, although we had done well in the Cup, and having been draw against some of the easier clubs in the earlier rounds we were facing, the following week, a Cup semi final (the famous drawn one) against Halifax.
So it was that leaders Wigan, who were chasing a league and cup double, came to town on Sunday 20th March and quite frankly few of us held out much hope of anything but a drubbing. I watched the game from my ’Lucky Step’ on the terracing at the Airlie Street end, and as Wigan were always a good draw, that fact, and the building Cup tie fever, saw a very commendable gate of 6,371 attending the game.
With Andy ‘Popeye’ Gregory, Nicky Kiss, The Iro Bros. Joe Lydon, Henderson Gill and Andy Goodway in their ranks the trade mark of the Wigan side was fast open rugby and they had just put 50 on Castleford at Wheldon Road, so this was a big ask for a stuttering FC with one eye on the cup.
The game kicked off with some telling tackles from the FC six and the referee Mr Haigh soon had to separate Regan and Wigan prop Adrian Shelford as they traded punches. Regan as usual got in the last ‘slap’ which infuriated Shelford and in the very next play he pole axed our forward with a ‘copy book’ stiff arm tackle that saw the second rower stretchered from the pitch. As the Faithful bayed for a red card, the Wigan forward was sin binned for ten minutes, whilst Regan lay, out cold, over the touchline. On twelve minutes, after we had twice dropped the ball in good positions, Wigan opened the scoring. After Gregory had pushed play wide, a looping pass from Kevin Iro found Byrne on his own on the wing and he shot in at the corner although thankfully Lydon, (who was to have a nightmare afternoon with the boot) saw his conversion go well wide and land in the terracing just in front of us.
Ellery Hanley was starting to show why he was coveted so much and it was he who took a pass from Hampson in the 33rd minute to go in at the corner, luckily Lydon missed again. It was clearly quite easy for the Pies at this point and their slick and clinical play saw the ball cross first to the left then to the right with our defence, in which deputising centre Tim Wilby and full back Paul Fletcher were outstanding, just managed to hold them out. So after a penalty on the hooter drifted just in, we went in looking drained and were 8-0 down; we had been out played, and yet we were still in it! As the Wigan supporters chanted “Champions, Champions” we awaited the second half.
Hull’s half time talk we found out later featured a real ‘wigging’ for our veteran half backs Kevin Dick and Garry ‘Porky’ Pearce and we came out for the second half rejuvenated, and at once took the opposite halves Hanley and Gregory to task. It was Pearce who led Hull’s revival as we played towards the Airlie Street end. We pressed the ‘Pies’ line and after an excellent Tomlinson drive, ‘Porky’ spotted that their defence had come up too quickly, and threaded an inch perfect kick through to the corner, where veteran poacher James Leuluai pounced on it to score. Then in a ‘watch and learn’ moment, Pearce showed Lydon just how to do it, as he slotted the conversion over from about 6 inches from the touchline.
Nine minutes later in total disbelief the crowd went absolutely wild as after a spell of Wigan pressure we drove down the field and went into the lead. Prop John Carroll who was probably the pick of a hard working pack, slipped the ball out of a three man tackle, and Kevin Dick was, as usual, on hand to take the ball up. He shot through the scattered defence, drew Hampson before sending Divorty in under the posts. Another Pearce conversion gave us a four point lead and we all started to believe that the unthinkable could maybe just happen.
Then as often happens when you get your noses in front the game was nearly snatched from us, as referee Haigh gave Wigan 7 penalty’s on the trot. We tackled tirelessly but only had the ball twice in a total of twelve sets, and in the end we cracked as Gill shot in at the corner. In fact we were dead unlucky, because not only had Gregory’s pass been forward, but all the fans in that corner of the ground believed that Eastwood had Gill in touch before he got the ball down, but the try stood and as Lydon missed the conversion yet again, the scores were locked at 12 apiece. In the dying minutes Gill raced back to fly hack a ball into the best stand as a ‘flat out’ Fletcher homed in on it, but that seemed to be the final act, however the stage was set for the best ending I have ever seen.
I make no excuses for being a bit verbose at this point, the next few seconds were breathtaking and perhaps beyond imagination, and those of you who were there will no doubt remember them forever. Frankly it is just impossible to do the whole thing justice, but this is how I remember it………….
Well into injury time Terry Regan, who had come round from his concussed state and heroically rejoined the fray, (they didn’t have head tests back then, if you were standing and it was still on, it was OK) laid a great shoulder charge on Andy Goodway, which the whistle happy referee wrongly deemed to be a foul. We all felt aggrieved, but being just in their half we felt that it was in ‘safe’ territory. However from about 55 yards Lydon decided to go for goal. Our hearts sank; surely he wouldn’t miss another one? Was a great draw to be snatched from us? It was a straight kick and as the boo’s mounted he hit the ball hard straight and true, but, as was his luck that afternoon, it fell about 10 yards short right in front of the posts.
At this point, Dick Tingle will tell you the two time keepers next to him in the press box said, “Next Tackle and we blow for time”. This play would be the last of the game and with finger on the claxon button they watched as the drama unfolded.
The ball was taken by ‘Porky’ Pearce, who started to run it out, he was not the fastest of players at the best of times and, as if in submission, he ran straight at Wigan prop Adrian Shelford who was, with the rest of the Wigan team, chasing after the aborted conversion to try and get a hand on the ball. With his last ounce of energy Pearce produced a massive and audacious side step, went past the grasping arms of Shelford, and found himself in open field. He ran on for about 50 yards, getting slower and slower, probably little knowing that just one tackle would see the game end. He started to visibly flag as the chasing cover got nearer and nearer, and just as he was being caught by Hanley and West out of the blue and on his shoulder appeared ageing scrum half Kevin Dick, to take the ball on.
Visibly gasping for air the veteran number 7 drew full back Hampson and passed outside where substitute McCaffrey, who had only been on 5 minutes, had the legs to outpace the defence although his final run to the line seemed to be in slow motion, before he finally place the ball over the whitewash. As he did the hooter went, and we had won!!! The Wigan players to a man fell to their knees in anguish and Pearce had trouble tagging on the extra points as the pitch was invaded, but who cared, certainly not the lads round me who danced and sang like we had already won at Wembley.
It was a fantastic moment for this supporter, as we witnessed the greatest finish the Boulevard had probably ever seen. What a match it was and a memory fitting, I think, For this special edition of the Diary, it took two pages here to describe what happened in less than twenty seconds of real time and I just hope those of you who were there remember it with as much affection as I do.
Although I have featured it once before, it was important for me to include that game this week, because it is so central to my time as a fan and its things like that which when Hull FC is in your genes, ‘milestone’ your life. You remember where you were when ‘so and so’ signed, or when we beat Saints, or even when a great hero from the past died. My life is no different; as I have said before, my Dads last words before he died were, “Hull and Rovers at Wembley I don’t believe it”. Charlie, a big pal and work colleague, dropped dead sat in the best stand next to me in the first half of a game at the Boulevard and by the time we had beaten Wigan, his daughter and son in law who sat with us, were leaving Hull Royal with his clothes in a plastic bag. Sad though it is folks, Dad and Charlie, God Bless ‘em, probably wouldn’t have had it any other way. The first I knew of the floods in Hull a few years back, was when I tried to get Humberside’s commentary on the internet whilst on holiday in America and I remember holidaying in Cyprus in 1996, simply because I got sunstroke when my legs got severely burned whilst listening to a game on Blunderside from a phone box and as DDD said, ’It’s coming down in Stair rods here at the Boulevard” my legs gently fried in the hot sunshine; and so it goes on…..for all of us, we all have our stories and milestones in our lives and aren’t we lucky!
You see, if you really do love Hull FC it’s a bit of a bummer really because in reality, like some love sick member in a failing marriage, there is no escape. You can’t live with them you can’t live without them! You know they are going to disappoint you, you just hope it ain’t this week! I still get that churning feeling on match days as kick off approaches and it lingers throughout. Then when we are twenty points up with five minutes to go, I am feverishly working out in my head how the opposition could still score four tries in the time that’s left. That’s how it gets me, sometimes I wish it didn’t, but as I approach pensionable age I have decided it ain’t going away, so I have to live with it! Oh, boy but do I envy stamp collectors sometimes.
With our current league position things are tough and after a season of having a go and ‘my two penneth’ about the coach, the RL, the players and everyone else I could find to vent my disappointment on, I see no end to the anguish in sight!! Although we should always reserve the right to complain and gripe about what we think is wrong, we should also perhaps focus sometimes on supporting the 17 players who pull on the world’s most famous strip every week; but it’s hard when your crap isn’t it? Over the weekend Leigh and Castleford proved that the old guard is changing, but sadly that doesn’t appear to be happening in our direction. As an FC fan in the end its pretty simple because invariably it’s the hope that kills you!!
So that’s it, the end of the 400th Edition of the Dentists Diary which will be back next week for sure. However after 96 consecutive weekly offerings, I’m then taking a short break of three weeks and the Diary will then be back (for the next 99 editions) on around 7th July after the Warrington game. I want to thank everyone who has taken part over the years but that would take a full edition in itself, so, after giving special thanks to the brilliant Joe Bennett at blackandwhites.co.uk for all his help understanding and support and my apologies to TonyCotson, (my favourite boat steerer), all that is left for me now, is to finish as I started and sincerely express my gratitude to everyone who has supported this Diary over the last 9 years and allowed me every Monday morning into their own fanatical worlds, thanks so much, it’s great to know I’m not on my own and your faith, fanaticism and friendship will always be very special to me!
P.S. And finally a couple of really topical pictures!
Meanwhile after Castleford …poor old Sandy has got his backroom staff desperately looking for answers.