“We owe ourselves a performance, we owe the fans a performance, we owe the club a performance and the 17 who participate on Friday night owe themselves a huge effort.” So said Lee Radford before what turned out for me to be another nerve tingling, gut wrenching roller coaster of a game, but one that for once, ended in total ecstasy, a few tears and a feeling of redemption. And in addition to all that there was a strange sort of elation I hadn’t experienced since the semi final last year!
All week I’d been fed up with the media, as comments like ‘A red and whitewash” were all the rage, while Gardener was cited as, “Setting his sights on some more big hits” and Mr Lloyd and Mr Richardson were, well, their ‘usual selves’. However in the end it was a ‘black and whitewash’ and after Ellis had cut Adie boy in half with a thundering tackle, that was the last we saw of him and he soon retired with concussion. (That l might just teach him to keep it shut!)
For once, in a long time, we actually wanted it more than they did! We were mean-minded throughout and we sustained that mood for the full 80 minutes. I’m not one for ‘complete performances’ but our defence was as close as it gets, while no one who was not emotionally involved in the maelstrom of supporting either team would have guessed that the Dobbins were the only ones who had anything to play for on the night. We showed the necessary strength, passion, mental toughness and arrogance you need in these games and it was a glorious victory, the first nil in a derby for 28 years and the first time Rovers have been nilled in one since 1957.
Who was it who said it’s the bad times that make these good ones so good?? (Oh yeh now I remember!) Well Bradford was as bad as it gets but who would have conceived such a performance would follow in our next game? Its par for the course with us lot I know, but that was such a mauling and such a complete demolition job, it was hard for the ordinary fan not to believe towards the end that any time soon you’d wake up in bed. Most of the time, as an FC fan, I envy the stamp collectors and train spotters of this world but how they must have envied me at ten to ten last Friday! What a night eh, I wanted that minute or two after the hooter to last forever.
Years ago I used to think it was hard writing about defeats and disappointments in here, but unsurprisingly this season practise and necessity has seen me improve my style no end! I guess that I’ve got used to those disappointments of late and now, as I’m faced with talking about such a monumental mauling of the Dobbins, it’s proving pretty hard to reflect my absolute satisfaction at a job really well done and a brilliant night. So perhaps you should just bear with me and take it in the spirit of the roller coaster that is being an ordinary fan. That performance in the cold light of day is not the solution, nor is it the finished picture, but for now it’s a massive high in as low a season as we have seen for years; I loved it, (particularly when it was over) and I’ll wallow in it for a day or two yet!!
In the spirit of last week’s dirge written straight after the game as we drove home, this week’s was written in the same way in the car and then into the early hours of Saturday at home! So, as you have probably already guessed what follows is definitely and unequivocally over the top!!
As I sat at tea time tonight ( Friday), stirring at the rain sheeting down outside, I wondered how I’d managed all week to be so none plussed about a game that usually has me losing sleep from Monday onwards! I was not going to let the hope get to me this time, I’d been disappointed once too often this season and all week I’d convinced myself we’d get done. I just couldn’t see any other outcome. As I picked at my tea I also pondered how perhaps Adam should pack it in and retire to the outback where he could get a job as a rain dancer. He’s had it tough attendance wise this year, when even the weather has transpired against him, in fact it’s hard to remember a Friday night game when it hasn’t poured down.
After what had gone before, what firstly sticks in my mind from that terrific performance, is the way we wanted it so badly and even kept pressing in the final minutes when the players and everyone on three sides of the stadium was intent on that ‘black and whitewash’ and keeping Rovers to nil. We did it too with some ease and as Tom Lineham intercepted a Keating pass and outpaced (fastest winger in the League) Caro to return it 90 metres to score, I finally breathed more easily. Keating eh he’s a laugh isn’t he? Last week on Humberside they said he was suffering from playing in Burns shadow, from what I could see tonight he was in the shadow of whoever he could hide behind! Some Rovers fans are claiming they were shocking, but in that first half our pack assisted by Yeamo, Sa and Talanoa beat the sh*t out of the Rovers forwards; simple as!
That’s when a mean minded approach and an almost ‘orc’ like swarming defence saw the damage done. We got right over them in the wrestle, pushed them onto the back foot time after time when they were in possession and left them with no energy, no direction and no hope! As their players tried to escape one on one tackles they were invariably ‘scragged’ and thrown to the ground like rag dolls. It was awesome to watch and we thoroughly deserved to nil them.
In the end I thought they were lucky to get away so lightly, but as always this term, we didn’t finish them off ‘big style’. We still lack the skill to open up a flagging defence. In fact had we had a Sneyd type character to settle things down a bit in that second half, we would have got 50. But, let’s take nothing away from anyone, especially Horney and Rankin who did so well and got bashed a time or two for their efforts. Horney ran the plays and just failed to get over in his last Derby, while Rankin was in Burns’ ear from the first action winding him up like a clock spring and then running and tackling himself to a standstill; he could barely walk at the end. Who needs two referee’s when you have Burns out there waving his arms and questioning every decision while ‘Let’s get ready to Fumble’ Eden…… well he was spooked from the off! For us Sa really impressed me and showed with his strength and speed for that first try, his undoubted potential.
Ellis was man of the match and who could argue with that, before the game he paced the dressing rooms looking for someone to have a go at, he was so wound up. He was immense and cut down their forwards time and again. Some players relax after getting a new contract Ellis just got better! When coming on the short crash balls from Rankin and Horne he was unstoppable at times. He led from the very front and Watts, Paea, Green and Bowden followed his example and were massive too. Green is getting better and better while Watts is playing his best rugby at the Club. Afterwards Green, the guy who earlier in the season took his medicine at Featherstone so well, said, “I’m ecstatic obviously because that was a big result for us. There was no way we could let these supporters go home unhappy tonight. I think we have given them something to sing and rave about this week”. I liked that; I’m still raving now!
With the demise of Tusan and the absence of Whiting, Thompson too took his chance and had a really good game, his best for some time. Houghton led the charge while in the first half the introduction of Heremaia made a big difference as our forwards got on top and the game opened up a bit. It’s a shame that Feke got injured because he would have been a joy to see in that last ten minutes. There is little doubt too that the ‘Flying Dustman’ is turning into the find of the season. He’s just so strong, a real scrapper and was aptly described afterwards by Radford as a junkyard dog of a winger. But in the end everyone did well and played their part and if that what you get from employing a sports psychologist for two weeks I think we should get one full time.
As for me well, my ‘game management’ wasn’t so good! I was still edgy and panicky near the end and well remember turning round to a pal behind me with just 8 minutes to go, saying, “They have to score from every set now”, but after what we have suffered over the last weeks and months, letting it slip is par for the course, we’ve seen it all before and it was evident that everyone sat around me was there with their hearts in their mouths, even when we were 22 points up!
I had pondered a lot too on Lee Radford’s words when he said before the game that, any victory ultimately depends on whether we have the “desire” to succeed, because I felt that it spoke volumes about our problems this year. Paradoxically the fact that Radford, (who whatever you say about him as a Coach, as a player produced some thunderous performances in these fixtures), had to even pose the question, says it all really. But to everyone’s surprise we played to a man with the grunt and tenacity he so often adopted in these games and I was so proud and so, so happy! I wasn’t on my own either everyone was buzzing and our owner, so down for so long, was elated and afterwards text to say, “Top, top nite, I’m just delighted for everyone!”
However that wasn’t my only text, as my favourite came at 11-00pm tonight (Friday), when my phone was still red hot. It was from avid Diary reader Lisa Yeaman who said, “Kirks come home, he’s having a coffee and watching the Saints game!!! He’s so rock n roll that one!”
But, what’s this the latest edition of ‘who do you think you are’? No, it’s either a mass sponsored silence or a Guinness book of records attempt at the most Dicks in fancy dress in one place at one time!
There were some great moments in the crowd that perhaps at the time the stress of it all made hard to appreciate. There was the way the whole crowd rose to its feet and cheered when ‘Rock and Roll’ Yeamo waded in to protect Rankin, when he was being held by some and punched by others after the Thompson try and then how as the resultant chants of “Yeamo, Yeamo” rose from the East Stand, he turned to the fans opened his hands to the crowd and shrugged his shoulders. Then, at the only point in the game when Rovers looked to be getting at us and as Eden ran ten yards and dropped the ball, there was the chant of ‘One Billy Slater, there’s only one Billy Slater’. Plus I have to give a mention to the guy in front of me who shouted two minutes from the end, “Come on Adam isn’t it about time that you extended Radford’s contract?” In those circumstances there is simply no better place to be than at the KC amongst friends!!
If only we could guarantee that level of passion and commitment every week then the crowds would flood back and our three signings thus far would look really exciting additions.
But local Derby’s eh? As I always say in here it’s the hope, not the despair that kills you and my comments about my loathing of these games certainly resonated with a lot of readers last week. However this past week I had it beaten, at last I didn’t worry, didn’t fret and approached the game with no expectations except those that come with an anticipated drubbing. I went expecting nothing and came away with the world! The icing on the cake after such nights is listening to Radio Humberside and hearing their corporate disappointment!!
But as I awaited the day arriving I got to pondering last week why our thoughts as we look forward, or otherwise, to these games has changed so much. The fact is I think that the whole dynamic of the Derby match is different. For a start there are just too many of them, but then I used to jokingly say in here that it was so important to Rovers and ‘Their Cup final’. However now quite sadly, while it is still theirs, what Friday proved for me is that it is now also becoming ours as well and quite tragically in the bigger scheme of the competition, perhaps all we really have to play for at present is bragging rights over the old enemy! That has to be a bit of a worry don’t you think? Despite the elation we currently feel what a state we are in, when a win against the Dobbins is all we have to play for and indeed what new depths this season has seen us plumb. It’s worrying for all of us, but hey hoe, Friday has to give us great hope that things can only get better!
So I guess, although I could talk about that win ad infinitum we have now to move onto the week past and in the Whiffs department, over a month ago (on 27th July) I told you, “It was put to me that Rovers have been scouring the world for the last three month (and well before Sandercock went), to see what was available, but they found the answer to that was ‘very little’ and I’m told they are to settle with Chris Chester, so expect him to be given a contract shortly” and so it was last weekend when the Dobbins announce our once loved and now wayward child of the KC was their new supremo! See….. I do occasionally get some things right; so while I’m on a role, I’ll make a prediction or two.
Firstly, despite what the Club is saying at present, I’ll predict that we still have two players to come in, one a centre from Australia and one a bit of a raw youngster from the same country and I expect some movement this week. However I believe the centre target has changed perhaps 3 times over the last two months and as for the youngster? Well, I have absolutely no idea! Plus, I’m sure that Scott Taylor has now signed a contract for 2016 and that Tony ‘The Tank’ Pritchard is close to being signed up for that year too. It’s also said that Burns signed for Saints last Wednesday and despite saying he left the Dobbins for Australia, there is still a good chance that Reece Lovegrove could well be London Bronco’s bound! Finally if the chance that we were likely to change coach at the end of the season was unlikely to say the least, I would say after Friday it’s completely a none starter and now we’ll stick with Radford.
The headline read last Tuesday, Hudgell: Robins won’t sign another Hull FC player and it was I guess a fitting start to the Derby week madness that the media desperately try to inflate to their own ends. It’s also a headline that I will be noting, bookmarking and invariably, no doubt referring to in here in the future. That is a sweeping statement that I thought the Mails sub editors had got wrong but Hudge was quoted as saying, “In fact, the days of us signing any players from across the river are over for the foreseeable future as far as I’m concerned”. ‘Foreseeable future’ eh? Well we’ll see how long that one lasts won’t we? It’s never wise, I think, to say any such thing, because quite frankly you never quite know when necessity will call. I certainly wouldn’t want our owner making any such comment that could be pounced on so excitedly by the headline writers. I think you have to keep all your options open don’t you?
Well, next seasons squad is taking shape and we have made three signings thus far with, as I say probably another two to come. For many FC fans that’s certainly not enough, although both Pearson and Radford tell us that improvement with stability is the way forward; although we have seen little of either this time around have we? But just look for a moment at what is happening over at Wigan where despite risking the ire of their fans their Coach has decided to stick rather than ‘Twist’ as far as recruitment for the critical 2015 season is concerned. The champions are losing centre Darrell Goulding to Rovers and Australian stand-off Blake Green is returning to Australia, but Wane is happy to plug the gaps from within.
For me it’s interesting to watch the dynamic of a Club like Wigan, who it is generally agreed is to be held up as an example of good practise. Last week I examined the way the top four Clubs dominate the competition and exert a stranglehold on the top places by promoting their top youngsters and picking up the best of the rest from the other Clubs. They then make signings and splash the cash when they have to and only last week Simon Moran the owner of Warrington admitted that the purchase of Clarke from Cas had cost them an amazing £185,000 – (making him the sixth most expensive player in Rugby League history). Conversely, perhaps at the JJB we are now seeing the next phase of their development, where Wigan feel that they now have the leaders and experienced ‘foot soldiers’ in place and are thus prepared to facilitate the introduction of some young talent who are now, they feel, equipped to make the jump into permanent first team rugby.
Like Warrington, the Pies will now perhaps only go into the transfer market if a player of great capabilities shows an interest and so it appears that Wakefield forward Taulima Tautai will be their only recruit for 2015.
Wane has his critics amongst the Wigan fans though, who like all supporters want big names and signings and seem, like most of us on the terraces, to lack any sort of patience. Wane says, “We’re really young, we just need to be patient with our team. It’s exciting. We’re in fantastic shape as a club. I’m a big believer of building for the future. We’re the most successful team since 2010 when me and Madge (Michael Maguire) joined and we’ve still got a really, really young team which is going to be good for years to come. I get so many negative remarks sent to me about playing so many kids but people need to understand where we’re at. We’re in good shape”.
I had a look and noticed that Wane has given four home-grown products their Super League debuts this season and two other youngsters, George Williams and Sam Powell, have played in the majority of their games as they deputised for injured players including duo Blake Green and Michael McIlorum.
So I guess you can see what we are, at Hull FC, trying to do and why the Wigan model is a great example to follow. The problem is that because the top four Clubs have the monopoly on most of the top youngsters, it’s the quality of those young players that is the difference between them succeeding and the rest of Super League trailing in their wake. But it’s a strategy that even Wigan might find doesn’t sell season tickets! The problem for all of us as fans across the game is that signing up your own youngsters just isn’t such an exciting prospect and therefore doesn’t bring a dynamic impact marketing wise; well not like say signing big name Aussies or other Super League Clubs’ top performers anyway.
It just doesn’t inspire people in the same way and makes retaining supporters and recruiting new subscribers for season tickets a real challenge. In an ideal world Club marketers would base their new season ticket marketing strategies on the same principles they would use for say the launching of say, a new soap powder. They would create an impact by announce half their new signing on the day season tickets go on sale and the rest just before the end of the discount phase. I can’t see a new soap powder being announced, with all its great new qualities spread all over the media, 6 months before it actually comes out can you? Thankfully James Clark and Co. ain’t flogging soap powder (but at times I bet they wish they were) and it doesn’t work like that!! Sports Clubs are selling a dream, a hope and an aspiration and something that is for many increasingly becoming a luxury item.
In any case it’s impossible to keep the names of signings under wraps so as to use them as part of a marketing strategy, particularly when gifted (or otherwise) amateurs are discussing ‘Whiffs’ and rumours 24/7 from May onwards. Take our current situation where, if they step back a moment, everyone agrees that Sneyd is a massive signing, he’s a potential leader and a class act, but we have all now got used to the idea that he has signed and in fact did so weeks ago. So, now that signing is no longer an incentive to buy particularly, and despite Friday, when fans are left to contemplate our record on the field since he signed.
In other words I guess that the intenders (the fools such as me) will renew their season tickets in blind faith but there is little scope for Clubs to use signings etc to boost the offer to impulse buyers. To really make a difference sales wise you need unmitigated success on the field and despite three good signings all of whom I believe are definite improvements on what we have been running with this season, when you consider our abysmal 2014 campaign before this weekend, it’s easy to see how our marketing boys/girls have their work cut and how the next two months or so are going to be a tough, hard sell for the Club.
The next bit, after Friday, isn’t easy to write and will without doubt, upset a few of you, if not disappoint the Club, but in the spirit of saying what I have been thinking about all week I include it here, because talking to dozens of fans over the past days I’m seriously worried about those season ticket sales!! I have discussed here on several occasions over the last 9 years or so, the ‘Doomsday scenario’, the ‘thing’ that could do for our Club and I guess in 2015 that would be relegation. However for me currently, as they go on sale this Monday, the big, big worry is what happens if we only sell 3000 or 4000 season tickets for our 150th season. I think the financial impact of that level of sales could really have far reaching implications. In fact perhaps in my darkest moments what is so worrying is not so much us selling a comparable amount of passes as we have this year, but more what the implications of not selling that many may be.
In these sorts of situations (and not particularly referring to Hull FC here), all the dedicated fans of any Club can do if they fear the outcome of poor ticket sales, is to do their best to try and convince the ‘wobblers’ to give it one more go. Performances like Friday’s definitely help because there is hope again. However I think the dyed in the wool supporters bang the drum, not because they are in their managements pocket, or blind to what has happened during a poor season, but rather because it’s their Club, not the owners, not the Coaches and not the players, it belongs to the fans. They also believe that the only way that their Club will prosper (or perhaps even survive) is for as near as possible, that level of season ticket sales to be sustained. For me, even the Koukash’s of this world will get fed up if they don’t see an improved return for their investment.
It’s easy to grumble, (at Hull FC we’re all experts at it) and it’s the fans bloody right as well, however the prospect of their beloved Club going ‘Mammeries skyward’, is one that is simply unthinkable for the real ‘hard core’ supporters in any sport. I guess that the message is that if you have simply had enough and are genuinely bored with it all, then you have every right not to renew, but if you still care about the Club and are just ‘voting with your wallet’, in an effort to show some dissent against the current administration, the Coach or the players, then it could well be a self deprecating move. Fans that are contemplating doing that were still smiling on Friday and will invariably return when the going is good, if of course there is a Club for them to return to! As I said last week, I’ve heard a lot of excuses for not renewing already, ranging from “I’ll not get one while this Coach is here”, to “I’m waiting to see who we sign”, to even “I’ll get one if Adam raises the height of the posts at the KC!”
You see, I honestly believe that Clubs like ours with a single owner are more vulnerable these days, well, much more than those who have still got a Board of Directors anyway. In those circumstances if one or two directors get fed up they move on and are replaced but with just one owner if he wants out, you’re stuffed. I have always thought that with so much money in the Club, Adam couldn’t walk away, he’s not that sort of guy anyway, but nor is he a fool or indeed so rich he can urinate money down the drain. That scenario would mean that should a decline occur and be sustained, then one day he might have to sell. But, I always tell myself, to sell at a going rate demands a successful Club which in the bigger scheme of things, benefits everyone. However, if one day history dictates that any owner is losing so much money that he can’t sustain that loss then he could adopt a ‘sell at any cost’ strategy to get out. That’s the danger because then for the disenchanted owner ‘anyone will do’ as long as he get some money back!
This isn’t me having a go at Adam or indeed about him, I and thousands of others still totally believe in him and were so pleased for him on Friday. He’s a top bloke and I still think, here for the long run, but the Clubs sustainability doesn’t just depend on his willingness to continue to dig deep into his own pockets to keep the ship afloat. It also depends on the income streams from TV, retail, hospitality, sponsorship and most importantly admissions. At either side of the Christmas rush income is limited and the main source of stability is without doubt the lump of money any Club gets from season ticket sales. On two occasions in Kath’s ‘Reign of Terror’ the Board had to stump up from their own pockets in January and February to pay the wages because the cash flow situation demanded it. Most Clubs in the middle/bottom of Super League have turn-overs’ of around £4/5m and with up to half that coming from admissions it’s easy to see why season ticket sales have to succeed.
In the end despite all the TV money admission levels are what defines the status and financial well being of any sports Club. If fans feel so badly about their Club that they have to vote with their feet, that’s their absolute right and it will certainly have the desired effect and send a strong message to any owner. However in the end it also strangles the Club of cash and causes issues that in the domino effect of cash flow, might just lead to a disaster! Thankfully a lot of folks I speak to say that although they are fed up and at their wits end, they will renew just because they feel for Adam, and no doubt many of you reading this may harbour those thoughts too. That’s what’s great about FC fans, despite whatever is thrown at them there is a loyalty and camaraderie out there that is second to none.
But, the income from season tickets is massively important to all Clubs including ours and I therefore hope that you will consider renewing your pass or buying one for the first time if you feel you can; for no other reason but the fact that it is YOUR Club. I hope the fans back the FC again, but if I’m really honest in my heart of hearts, despite Fridays showing, I can’t blame ‘em if they don’t! Times are hard, money is tight so why should they? And yet I can’t help thinking of what the implications are if they don’t! Of course that’s just my opinion, you probably won’t agree and in any case what will be, will be; let’s face it we’ll all be surprised if ticket sales are anything but down wont we? But it’s my Club just as it’s yours and I can’t help worrying about the consequences of reduced sales, can you?
It was good to see that Doncaster got off the hook last week and were given their deducted points back after they and Batley were both found guilty of fielding an ineligible player, (in Donny’s case FC’s Ben Crooks) A statement, issued by the Rugby Football League, said: “An Operational Rules Appeals Tribunal has granted the appeals by Batley Bulldogs and Doncaster against the point’s deductions imposed for breaches of the sport’s rules relating to dual registration. The clubs were each deducted three competition points at an independent tribunal held on Friday August 15. After being presented with fresh evidence relating to previous historical breaches of Operational Rules by other clubs which had not faced similar sanctions, the Appeals Tribunal overturned the point’s deductions.” Another cock up by the RL as it appears some other Clubs have already got away with it; they really are pathetic at times.
Well Steve Crooks is back on the payroll and I for one welcome him, as he returns to our youth set up with that wealth of experience he has gleaned over many years spent at both Hull Clubs. He’s been temporary Coach a time or two as well and so this week in Codgers Corner I want to take you back to the end of the 1991/92 season and a game with many similarities to the match last Friday. The club was on the slide and we had just surprisingly sacked Noel Cleal the Coach, who had just over a year previously taken over from Brian Smith, and got us to the Premiership Final. That sacking was a big surprise too because we had got all the way to the Cup Semi Final that year before being knocked out. However the members of the Hull FC Board of Directors had asked long serving member of the backroom staff Steve to become temporary caretaker Coach till the end of the season. We had lost 5 of our last 7 games a run that had led to Cleal’s demise and left us teetering on the brink of relegation (recognise anything?). After a bad couple of weeks, Hull were looking for the win they needed to ensure they stayed in the First Division, but we faced a daunting task at Craven Park against the Dobbins who had themselves lost their last three games. It was certainly a drab afternoon and the pitch was heavy and devoid of grass in places. The team that day saw young Andrew Mighty playing on the left wing and Peter Spring returning from injury to play at blind side prop.
Referee Connelly blew the whistle and we kicked off into a stiff cold wind. Just like last Friday our forwards took control and keeping the ball tight set about winning the battle down the middle of the pitch. Although he had been at Hull around 7 years Crooks (like Radford) was an East Hull lad and still lived at that side of the City, so sitting there on the trainer’s bench trying to mastermind a win against Rovers must have seemed strange to him. From the off Hull soon showed a greater appetite for work than Rovers, and great tackling by Spring, Dannett and McNamara held them for long periods in their own half. Then on 15 minutes Gay ran from deep and sliced through the Rovers defence to be tackled 30 yards out by a last ditch effort from the home teams full back Mike Fletcher. In ran Greg Mackey and direct from acting half he hoisted a kick that seemed to stay in the air for ages. When it finally came down it was David Ronson who rose to catch it and crashed over the line for Eastwood to add the extras.
Ronson had fallen out of favour with the previous coach but Crooks recalled him and after another 14 minutes of nondescript rugby had passed, it looked like a really good decision. Rovers were at last pressing our line and on the sixth tackle Paul Speckman chipped over the top but straight into Ronson’s arms. Our centre set off down the outside channel and ran 80 yards to touch down for Eastwood to goal again. Ronson took both his tries with great aplomb before he faded badly, still we had a 12-0 lead and up front the Hull pack loved the heavy going, although we could not have asked for a bigger favour with Rovers opting to go down the middle instead of utilising their faster and more mobile back division. Ronson’s two tries did however certainly silence the Dobbins fans packed in the East Stand.
If Rovers needed some inspiration then they got it five minutes from half time when Barkworth, after fine work by Des Harrison and Hallas scored wide out and with Mick Fletcher converting at half time the score was 12-6. As the second half started it was obvious that their Coach George Fairburn had changed tactics as Hull were pressed further and further back by some booming downfield kicks by Wayne Parker. It was now a real war of attrition as Rovers continued to persist down the middle of the field and Hulls forwards led brilliantly by Jon Sharp had to work really hard to contain the opposition’s big men. Out on the wing debutant Andrew Mighty saw little of the ball whilst standoff half Stevens was on and off with an injured ankle and in the end was substituted by Rob Nolan.
As the half wore on it all got tougher and tougher. Harrisons pile driving runs were causing trouble in the Hull ranks and after Lee Jackson had stiff arm tackled him in desperation, Fletcher reduced the arrears to just 4 points with a penalty. Back stormed Hull KR. Substitute Dean Busby saved a certain try when he pulled off an amazing stretching armed ankle tap on the advancing Parker and then the home side thought they had scored when Sodje ran in at the corner off a flowing movement between Harrison and Hallas. Referee Connelly had thankfully spotted a forward pass and as the Rovers fans goaded us and celebrated ‘a try’ we sang the song with the “Shoot the Basta*d” finale as we realised it had been chalked off.
For the rest of the half we tackled like demons although in fairness the Robins had few ideas and in the end it was only a half tackle by Bright Sodje that stopped Paul Eastwood scooting in at the Corner. As the light faded and the poor Craven Park Floodlights seemed to enhance the encircling gloom the hooter went and we had won. We had lost a lot of possession in our own half and certainly gifted Rovers the ball on several occasions but our tenacity and brawn in the tackle got us through. Steve Crooks our new Caretaker Coach must have been one of the only folks smiling in East Hull that night having masterminded a victory that kept us in the First Division for another season. Rovers had scrapped a match day programme that year and instead produced a newspaper for each game. As I left the ground to go and see if I still had any wing mirrors left on the car, I noticed a copy of the paper blowing around by the gates. The headline, commenting no doubt on George Fairburn’s first year as Hull KR’s Coach said, “He’s Loving Every Minute of it!!”; not that day he wasn’t!
So two Rovers victories this week and all in all it’s been a great weekend for yours truly, full of pride, passion and John Smiths that has seen me high on emotion and low vocal chords. Best of Luck to Airlie Bird and his broken wrist which should at least assist his eye sight; sadly he got a bit too involved in Rankin’s celebratory dive and paid the price. It was a massive win and should at least shut the dicks from the east up for a week or two. It was the sort of night that you put away in a box in your mind and then when times are tough you get it out open it up and just wallow in that warm ‘final hooter glow’ that’s almost indescribable!!
However I have to say that not everyone at the black and white side of the City was pleased. Someone said to me today that winning would not do anything except perhaps paper over the cracks of a creaking team, a failing coach and a disappointing season, but who cares guys, we stuffed the Dobbins in what turned out to be a spectacular and historic fashion. I simply can’t get the smile off my face and any sort of sensibility and rational thinking will just have to wait! I loved it and so no doubt did everyone reading this. There are those who said they’d had enough and didn’t actually go on Friday, but they ‘just cut their noses off ….’ and boy did they miss a treat. The Dobbins got stuffed, the FC were heroes and we all waived as many of the visiting fans, finding it difficult to take, streamed out well before the end.
Thanks as always for all your support but has it all been a bit over the top this week? You bloody bet it is, because the owner the coach the players and most of all the fans needed that so badly!! At 10-00pm on Friday there were tears of joy and thousands of smiling faces, while Saturday morning brought thick heads and lost voices; what a night and what a tonic. If Adam could bottle it and sell it he wouldn’t have to worry about season ticket sales would he?
Faithfully and happily yours!!!