Welcome to the latest edition of the blog that just plots the thoughts of an average fan from one quiet week to another in a closed season that’s destined to quite literally go on forever. For instance, this week it crossed my mind that sometimes, in the often soul destroying life of a supporter, you bookmark certain statements for future reference and think, “Well that might one day just come back to bites us!”
That was the case this week when Adam Pearson said, “It’s a pivotal year for us next year. If we don’t do well, fans won’t hear me talking the team up again. I genuinely feel we have a real chance of doing something and respecting the tradition of the club by winning matches in style. If we don’t do it next season you’ll find me very quiet in the next close season. I sense everyone at this club, from staff, coaches and players is focused on success. I really feel we will make in-roads next year”.
That statement, from a question and answer article published in the Hull Daily Mail on Wednesday only really went to prove that as is usual at these times of the year there is nothing new to say and everyone at the Club is really just going over old ground in an attempt to convert a few more of the wobbling potential season ticket holders. The thought of him ever being able to keep quiet for very long was a hard one to believe anyway, but I honestly do think that our owner is genuinely feeling confident, let’s face it he’s still pretty new to all this FC pre season stuff!! He ain’t ‘been there’ as many times as we all have! So, it’s with a few concerns and worries that I approach the coming campaign, but then again they won’t be worried about me because along with many of the other ‘daft lads’, I’ve already got a pass.
Still, I’m certainly not on my own there, because there seems to be a lot of us ‘daft lads’ about, but with a massive 113 days to go to our first game in the new competition and still 49 days to go to the cut off discount date for season tickets, as we pass the 3,500 mark it’s great (according to James Smailes) to see us already 40 per cent up on last year. That’s us already past the half way point of last season’s total, but the first flush of the initial ‘price freeze for 2016’ period is now over and that will no doubt have appealed to a lot who have bought early because of it. So, I think that we still face a real hard sell in the coming 7 weeks before we can boast of reaching last year’s total of around 6,800 (excluding ‘corporates’). But, how great it would be if, in our 150th year, we could attain or even pass that!
I noted this week with some dismay, that it has now been muted that the RL are to devalue the Challenge Cup (one of the games only remaining ‘Unique Selling Points’) yet again, by declaring that the ’top eight teams from this season have been given a bye through to the fifth round in 2015, while Hull, Rovers, Wakefield and Salford (who all finished outside the play-off positions) will come in at round four as usual, alongside the remaining Championship, Championship One and amateur teams’. For me, that just removes further the magic of the competition for the ‘smaller’ Clubs who have battled their way through to the 4th round with a view of a crack at the really big boys.
That’s the magic of the Cup, that’s the dream and sometimes for struggling Clubs, the difference between financial success and failure. But, that concept seems to have passed the powers that be by completely, with a massive advantage handed to the top 8 Clubs and a chance of a dream tie becoming even more unlikely for the minnows of the game. In addition, it’s just another game to play for us lot in the bottom 4 and should one of us (or their scheduled opponents that weekend) fight their way through to the quarter finals the postponed fixture can’t obviously be played that weekend and so it will have to be accommodated mid week towards the end of the initial 23 rounds.
If we get through to that stage it will be pressure enough to be facing a Cup quarter final whilst all the time more than likely scrapping like hell to avoid the bottom 4 and the ‘League of Death’; and that, without us then having to play three fixtures in 8 days or so. For me, need I add, it’s all been poorly thought out….again, it’s biased against the smaller Clubs in the Cup and the lower Clubs in the League (if they progress in the Cup) and by the closing stages of the season the players will be absolutely knackered. But, as we go ‘sh*t or bust’ for the new format, who cares? Well not, I would suggest, the Rugby League or the Senior Clubs, as once again it is that great traditional competition, the Challenge Cup, that is being marginalised and devalued and the ‘big boys’ that get the advantage!
Nearer to home I see that the Club have announced Gareth Ellis’s Testimonial will take place for three months at the start of next year and I’m pleased for a bloke that has given his life to the game and who, from what I’ve seen, still gives absolutely everything both on and off the field. He richly deserves the recognition, but I have to admit here and now that I’m pretty ‘non-plussed’ by these type of Testimonials. I guess although I don’t begrudge such ‘short term’ tributes, I’ve grow used to rewarding players who have stayed loyal to my Club for 10 years or more! I think that the fans ‘coughing up’ for a player should be all about that individuals loyalty to those fans, rather than to the sport itself and so I believe that Testimonials for the likes of Yeamo, Whiting and Horney do capture the imagination and warrant forking out for perhaps a lot more than ones that are granted for ‘services to the game’.
That’s just me though and perhaps I’m just old fashioned because there is little doubt that Gareth has already proved himself to be a great servant to the game and latterly as well, to my Club. If these Testimonials are to be allowed then no one deserves one more than him because he is a glowing example for all the young kids of exactly how it should be done. So, despite my perhaps misguided misgivings, I’ll get behind Pete Smirthwaite and his committee and the benefit certainly takes place at an opportune time, coming as it does at the start of our 150th Celebrations. It’ll be great for Gareth at the start of a massive year for our Club, the plans for which are certainly ambitious and pretty exciting as well.
His big Testimonial Dinner, sponsored by DF Services of Hull, will be staged at the Willerby Manor Hotel on Tuesday 24 March 2015. However, I also expect Gareth will get a Testimonial game at the start of the season too; it won’t be Donny, and the Rovers game is too important income wise, so I expect it will be the other game of the three and against one of his old Clubs, Leeds or Wakey; with my money being on the latter! One thing’s for sure it will be away, because thanks to the ‘saviour of football in Hull’ it just ain’t viable to do Testimonials at home these days! How sad that is, but we’ll be there and good luck Gareth!
There was a long piece in Saturday’s paper about Lee Radford which explored what he had learned from last season, much of which once again was pretty predictable. However one bit that struck me was near the end when he said, “I’ve learnt so much more about my players this year. You are everybody’s best friend when you are an assistant coach. You’re the arm around everyone’s shoulder; you’re the one to offer encouragement. As a head coach, you are the last port of call I suppose and I think it has been difficult for one or two of the players to approach me. I’m aware of that and I’ve worked on it.” That for me indicates that perhaps Lee has found the transition from one of the lads, one of the gang and if you like one of a group of boozing pals, more difficult than he had first envisaged. Anyone who has risen through the ranks of the workers into a management position in any walk of life will know exactly what he’s getting at there! One thing’s for sure, it certainly looks as if we won’t be left wondering this season as to who the Club captain will be. I say that because Gareth Ellis said of his Testimonial, “The Committee will be staging only a handful of major events as I want to concentrate fully on my leadership as captain and my performance level for the club.” Hope someone’s told Lee Radford it’s already sorted!!
It certainly looks like the chance of an additional signing before pre season has started to recede somewhat. A recent press release from the Club said, “……with the Black and Whites completing their business in the recruitment market well in advance of pre-season training……”, so maybe now we have to settle for what we already have for 2015. We certainly have two good half backs arriving and Mark Minnichiello, who is certainly a real leader for the dressing room.
Hull will no doubt be quite a Culture shock and what Marcos Antonio Minichiello will make of Hull Fair, Bonfire night, carol singers, Newland Avenue and Fish and Chips, as well as other local tradition like Rankin’s try celebrations, Yeamo’s passing, Talanoa’s jigging on the touchline and Lancaster’s fake tan, heaven knows, but one thing’s for sure, it will certainly be different from what he is leaving behind on the glorious Gold Coast of Australia.
As Mark is about to embark on his British career it seems that everyone over here who is any good at all is off Down Under chasing, they say, the chance to play in the top competition in the World, but also usually failing to admit that money comes into it a bit too. We heard the other week that Hodgson had enough money within his contract to pay his own transfer fee to Rovers and now as Kevin Brown looks to be eying a move down under that will leave Widnes in the lurch, the first thing that Daryl Clark said after his award of the Steve Prescott Man of Steel trophy, was that he wants to play in the NRL. Now since Saturday it has emerged that Joe Burgess is also being chased by 5 Aussie Clubs as he emerges as the next exciting prospect in Super league, and so it goes on.
You know it must be nice to be an Aussie fan knowing as they do that all the best talent is coming their way, just as it did in the other direction in the 80’s. I don’t know how we’ll do it, but we have somehow to stop this migration of class from these shores and make it worthwhile for players to stay. Otherwise, it’s all just going to get staid and predictable as the British game either trains the flair out of our young players, or see those who have a bit of natural talent head to the sub continent ASAP. That for me is a real worry and a threat to the future of our game! Take the flair and the characters away and you’re left with the rump of ‘British playing ability’ taking part in what will develop into a boring and second rate competition. All the baffling fixture structures in the world won’t solve that one!
Last Monday I was lucky enough to be invited along as a guest to the meeting of the disabled supporters group which met at the KC. The main thrust of the meeting was a presentation by John Rose the Health and Safety Officer for the SMC and it was great to catch up with the ex-pitch presenter from the Boulevard and game announcer from our Brantingham days, Graham Holmes. At the meeting we were told that the person who let off a red smoke bomb in the away end during the Rovers game was apprehended, arrested and banned from the Stadium, which is good to know, isn’t it? There was also a bit of concern from folks who sit in the North East corner about the away supporter’s enclosure being shifted into the East Stand as it has been for Hull City home games. The SMC were not sure if there were any changes likely to this for us, so I contacted the Club afterwards and was told that the arrangements for away fans will not change at all, with them continuing to sit in the North Stand. It was a good meeting last Monday though, with, as always, some great fans present!
Talking of the football club as I just was, I hear from some of my City supporting mates that they are having problems getting into the KC these days and it’s a problem I think we should all at least be aware of for next season. The issue is that it seems the management of the Stadium are now insisting that everyone enters by the exact turnstile that is indicated on their pass or ticket.
Some FC fans I know who sit at the south end of the East Stand but approach from the Walton Street car park, enter at the North East corner turnstiles and walk down the concourse until they get to the other end and their seats. That doesn’t happen anymore for football games and word from the SMC is that this new more stringent arrangement will be the case next year for us too. Of course it’s all bloody bureaucracy and ridiculous for our games, where everyone always gets in quite easily without any issues. However I think myself there is another agenda here and it’s possibly all about the SMC eventually getting rid of turnstile operators altogether and having scanners at every entrance. The new arrangements are certainly likely to happen, so be warned and before next season begins have a close look at the turnstile indicated on the ticket or season card you get and make sure you enter by that gate.
Is there nothing that man will not do to boost his testimonial? Tickets for his final Christmas Party event on Sunday 21st December at the
Mecure Royal Hotel (who are sponsoring the event), are priced at
Adult £30 and Children (12 years and under) £15. More details to follow in future weeks in here.
Whilst I’m on about the Stadium I was approached this week by several aggrieved West Stand seat ticket holders who have been moved from their regular seats, many of which they have occupied since the Stadium was opened. It appear that after having to pay us for a block of corporate seats in that area, as per the user agreement, the SMC are exercising their rights to pick which actual seats they want. Of course in the past they have either not claimed them or been allocated other seats but this time it just so happens that some of the seats they want, are ones that current season ticket holders occupy and have occupied since the Stadium was built. It’s p*ssing a lot of folks off and so perhaps having ‘the desired effect’ for ‘others’, but on this occasion it is not the Clubs fault although that said it’s becoming par for the course these days.
While I’m on about Hull City, how interesting it was ‘standing on the touchline’ and hearing Councillor Parnaby’s posturing this week, as he settles into the role of self styled leader of ‘The Peoples Popular Front for the Independent State of East Yorkshire!’ I ain’t commenting at all on the pro’s and con’s of that argument, we all knew what the outcome of the ‘referendum’ was going to be anyway didn’t we? Let’s face it, nothing will change and it was just a waste of a lot of public money but I hasten to add that’s just my point of view. However, what I’m musing over this week is exactly what that vote of support for Mr Allam at the Council meeting on Wednesday was actually all about? I have presided over many votes of congratulations over the years at the City Council and even on occasions celebratory banquets (who’ll even forget Knocker starting a bread cake throwing fight in 1982!) when our teams have done well, but I’ve never encountered a vote to support an individual Club owner!
For a simple soul like me it just looked like another excuse to get some political clout lined up against the ‘City till I Die Brigade’. “It’s nothing to do with us” I hear some of you say and it shouldn’t be really, but as our West Stand season ticket holders are pitched out of their seats by the SMC, it’s something that has been occupying my mind a bit this week. As a pal of Mr Allam and a self confessed City fan for years, shouldn’t Chairman Stephen have at least declared an interest before throwing the support of an elected authority behind a local businessman with whom he is personally involved? What next, the ERYC endorsing the Clubs battle with the FA in support of a name change for the Club or even them joining forces with the Allam’s to try and force the City Council to sell the Stadium to the football Club’s owner? Perhaps after the high profile our two Rugby League Clubs have brought to Kingston-upon-Hull over the decades, the City Council will respond by granting Neil Hudgell and Adam Pearson the Freedom of the City; somehow I doubt that will happen though, don’t you?
Look, if I put my cards on the table and I’m totally honest, I raise this here because it bothers me. As an ordinary FC fan I fear greatly for our Club should the Council ever let Mr. Allam take over ownership of the Stadium and anything that strengthens his hand bothers me. Perhaps I’m worrying unnecessarily, but I seem in here to be citing bits of petty interference and issues being put in our way by the football club every few weeks. The fact is that I’m a bit twitchy when these sorts of things develop and I’m sure quite a lot of you reading this are too!
As for Mr Parnaby? Well my old Dad used to say, “We should always keep sport out of politics” and nothing that has happened since he said that back in the seventies has caused me to think he was wrong, but I would also add that perhaps these day’s prudent politicians should make it their business to keep ‘politics out of sport’ as well!!
For next term we seem to have signed a shed load of new backs and a second rower, but despite what some hoped, no props this time around. In fact we have delayed for one year the advent of our only prop target this year Scott Taylor arriving from Wigan, although I’m told he has actually signed a deal that will see him here in 2016. But when you look back at our history since the Second World War, as a Club we’ve never had a shortage of class Props have we? I remembered some great front rowers like Andy Dannett, Craig Greenhill, Gareth Carvell, Vince Farrer, Karl Harrison and Bill Ramsey. This week in Codgers Corner, if I am contemplating front row forward, I could easily have also talked about Keith Tindall, Eric Broom, the great Mick Scott or a whole host of ‘lesser’ Prop Forwards who were still ‘Tough as they come’. However instead I have picked two props who, despite possibly not being first choice have always been heroes for me. One, who the other week’s Codgers feature about the 60’s brought to mind, was as hard a player as I have ever seen, and the other who was simply a machine that crunched his opposing rivals as he ground up field and who was also probably as unlucky as any player could be.
Many props are referred to by the pundits as players who never gave a backward step and for this supporter none fitted that description better than Mick Harrison. What a hard man he was. As I said three weeks ago, back in the 60’s, when we fielded a poor team in a period of change and difficulty for our Club, he and second rower Jim Neale were worth the admission money on their own because they were always in the thick of things and no-one no matter what their reputations, got the better of them!! If we were not winning, then it was likely those two would be scrapping!! In those days the scrums were not the foregone conclusions they are now and props had to work really hard with the hookers to get the ball out in the first place. Neale was certainly feisty but no one was as tough as Harrison? I remember attending a benefit night for Arthur Keegan, in Hull Supporters Club in the early 1970’s when I asked two of his guests who was the best player that they had ever faced. Both those Featherstone hard men, Tonks and Farrar, agreed that Mick, if not the best ever, was by far the toughest opponent they had faced and the one they both least looked forward to facing.
Mick signed from Fish Trades at 18 years old and made his debut against Hull KR. He started as a second row but was soon promoted to prop and in an age when forwards were traditionally late developers, he surprisingly quickly progressed to playing for Great Britain at the tender age of twenty. Most of the good work that Mick did was unseen by us lot in the stands, and if he had been a boxer I guess you would say that he was the master of “Working inside” his opponent! I remember him best for his smother tackles and the way that he just kept going throughout the game!! Big hit would follow big hit and still he would get up out of the mud and go again. He also had an amazing ability to turn players over on their backs in the tackle, a skill that was to prove to be ‘years before its time’. He left Hull for Leeds in 1974 but after 8 magnificent years at Headingley, he returned to the FC aged 36 with the intention of coaching the juniors.
Then however an injury crisis saw him get his boots out again and he featured in that epic battle against the Aussies at the Boulevard when we were just beaten 13-7 by “The Invincibles”, in the Kangaroo’s toughest game of their 1982 tour. Mick belied his years that night and constantly took the game right into the Aussies faces. True to form he was scrapping within ten minutes, was our top tackler and worked himself to a standstill. He was so fatigued at the end that as a late scrum formed he could visibly be seen to drop onto his knees exhausted. He walked through the mud to the front row still on his knees before standing up, binding and leading another massive scrum push against the formidable Aussie front row. Mick played his last game for Hull in 1983, but will be remembered by me as the hardest player I have seen in a black and white shirt!!
In 1980, whilst Mick was still at Leeds, Hull FC were ‘THE team’ and heading for a short period when we were probably the best club side in World Rugby!! The 1979 Great Britain Tour of Australia had been its usual disaster results wise, but one star that really shone out was Wakefield Trinity’s prop forward Trevor Skerrett, who had a fabulous tour.
There was talk of our interest (back then if a good player was around we were always apparently interested) and so, with our Chairman Roy Waudby sending Knocker (his room-mate Down Under) a telex with the instructions to have a quiet word in Trevor’s ear while they were on tour, when the tourists returned home it was no surprise to hear of him putting in a transfer request to the Wakefield Trinity Board. We were in like a shot and within three days of him landing back in this country we had captured his signature, paying a then world record fee of £40,000 to secure his services!!
What a forward he was; big, strong with great hands, he was always available to ‘stick one’ on anybody who set about any of our smaller players!! In the days when both Hull and the Dobbins had some fantastic backs, it was still prop forward Skerrett who got the Man of the Match award when we beat the old enemy in the 1981/82 John Player Trophy final!! He had a towering game and almost single handedly smashed the Dobbins pack into submission! Time after time he would get the ball, step once to the side of the would-be tacklers, then crunch back into them from an angle as they crashed into the mud. I remember him best for his fantastic leg strength. He appeared at times to have a very low centre of gravity and a regular sight at the Boulevard back then was to see Trevor ploughing through the opposition with three or four players hanging onto his legs and waist but unable to stop his legs pumping forward.
He also won a Championship medal in 1982 and played in a total of 9 finals for our club! I said earlier however that he was unlucky and so he was. His international career was going really well and in 1984 he was awarded the highest honour possible when he was named to captain a GB tour ‘Down Under’. He was then tragically struck down with a severe knee injury that led to him withdrawing from the tour and that injury blighted his career for the rest of his playing days. Another injury blow hit him in 1985 when he missed the Challenge Cup Final against Wigan and three weeks later disillusioned and looking for an upturn in his fortunes, he asked for a transfer.
He was listed at a then phenomenal asking price of £75,000 but did not leave for Leeds until the following season! The deal that saw him depart featured both Trevor and Andy Gascoigne going to Headingley with Kevin Dick, and a fee, coming the other way!! Skerrett played two more seasons at Leeds and two at Keighley before he eventually retired, citing that old knee injury as the reason for his eventual departure from the game. He was a great prop forward though, probably one of the best two I have seen in the irregular hoops!!! Great players and great memories eh? So, I guess the question is this; will the younger fans of today be talking about some of our recent front row forwards in the same terms in 25 or 30 years time? Somehow, I wonder a bit about that one, don’t you?
I was at the Disabled supporters meeting the other night when I heard of an amazing achievement by our current Time Keeper Steve Pickersgill who has now been in the job for 40 years. That means Steve started in the mid 70’s and since then, as a bit of an unsung hero, he has attended home and away games season in season out. So, a big well done to him; we know and hear plenty about all the players and most of the staff, but he’s a good example of the unsung heroes that ensure a Club like ours keeps going! Well done Steve.
Now here’s a thing! I don’t have Premier sport but from what I’ve seen of late of the NRL on my computer, then I’ll be getting it next year!! I streamed the NRL Grand Final on Monday because quite frankly, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about and by the end I knew exactly what was meant when one of the Aussie pundits said that we support the finest game there is in the world. Thuggery apart, the Grand Final at Old Trafford was a good intense game but still fell well short of the NRL final the previous week. That said, the Aussie game also showed just how far our game in this Country is lagging behind and its intensity, bravery and overall ‘theatre’ (and that was the case in the NRL semi finals too) provided the sort of spectacle that will not, for me, be equalled in this Country for a long, long time. The heroics of Sam Burgess in a game where he played with a broken jaw for most of the match, made me think a bit too.
I say that because the only other occurrence I can remember to equal that feat of bravery following a facial injury, in such a significant Aussie game, was the famous one when another South Sydney hero John Sattler broke his jaw in the 1971 Grand Final which was ironically the last time ‘Souths’ won the Competition. Why does it stick in my mind, well it’s an episode in the annals of our great game Down Under that only came to my notice when I was listening to Bob Harris on Radio Two six or so years ago. He played a track called, ‘The Day John Sattler broke his jaw’ by Aussie singer/songwriter and South Sydney fan Perry Keyes. It’s a real taste of late 60’s early 70’s life in the tough back streets of the working class Sydney suburbs of Redford and Waterloo and of how Statler’s feat of bravery captured everyone’s imagination and galvanised the local community. If you’ve got a minute this closed season watch it on You-tube in a pastiche of old footage of life in Sydney or download it and listen to it ….I used to think that it was the best song written about the glorious game and I pass it on to you now, simply because after listening to it again this week, I still think it is!
Well you all know by now that I have a great affinity for the lads down at Hull Wyke and the phenomenal job they do both for amateur rugby league and also in the local community, in fact in here I recently featured their efforts to get a new club house onto their Cropton Road Site. They are the fastest growing Club in the region with 16 teams and over 350 players in their playing roster and that in a climate across the game, which is seeing less and less kids getting involved.
This week, thanks to the ubiquitous Hutchie, I found out they are in the hunt for a new Under15’s Coach and asked if I could help. Well I don’t know anyone, (and I’m getting on a bit and anyway my coaching badges only go as far as my cycling proficiency certificate), but I thought that maybe you did. So here is the gist of it, which is self explanatory! They are looking for someone with previous Yorkshire League experience or a desire to further their coaching career at that level and who has Scholarship or Academy experience. The team play in the Yorkshire Junior League and match days are on a Sunday. So, if you want further information ring Craig Beaumont on tel. No. 07800 901217 or Karl Hutchinson on tel. No. 07919 390318. Their E Mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Well in a week when our great game is infamous once again, this time for some outright thuggery on the field, I want to thank everyone who either contacted me or stopped to chat about the Diary and our Club. This week however I have to give a particular mention to Graham for supplying me with the missing editions to complete my set of Steve Roberts and Vince Groak’s Pulitzer Prize winning chronicle of our times ‘In any Kinda Weather’. I’ll do a bit about some of the extraordinary stories that were developed by our now legendary fanzine of the dark days, in the coming weeks, but it was great that Graham was able to help me out and I have to say that I’ve been chuckling ever since.
So that’s it another Diary completed in what has been another quiet 7 days, but I hope you found something in the thoughts of an ordinary fan to amuse and interest you again this week! It’s been almost impossible to find anything of interest about Hull FC so apologies for wandering off a bit this week. The next week should bring an announcement about the next fans forum which has proved somewhat problematic, but more no doubt, of that next week and in the mean time, thanks for sticking with the Diary, and try to keep believing!