Getting excited about a new away shirt!!! What’s all that about then?
The fact is of course there’s little else to consider at this time of the year is there? The players are in training and that appears to be going OK and Steve Michaels has now arrived, all be it two days late! A warm weather camp is booked and the players, as Super Leagues self styled perennial under-achievers, have been left in no doubt of what they are expected to produce for the fans of our famous Club, in this our 150th Year.
So, it’s all seems to be going smoothly at present, although everyone has their fingers crossed regarding the need for another final surge in season ticket sales this week, which will then get us up where we need to be by Saturday’s deadline. Yes, people are still sceptical and some just won’t be renewing, but many are now doing so and perhaps there are other reasons for our slow progress sales wise too. I honestly believe that our Club has laboured under the fact that they have perhaps been too efficient in their ‘early’ recruitment programme, which was done and dusted by the end of September. Our new arrivals are all good additions, but everyone was signed and on board by season tickets went on sale and that doesn’t help.
It’s certainly great for team planning, but on the down side it also means that there has been little or no exciting news to ‘spike’ our season ticket campaign and so I guess on the other hand we have perhaps been penalised for our own efficiency. Marketing experts always make great play about the importance of such ‘spikes’ in interest, and cite them as the essential ‘agents’ that help boost a marketing or sales campaign. This season we have had to manage without such assistance and yet have had to sell tickets against a backdrop of a supporter base that has just about had enough of under achieving and being disappointed.
Over at the other side of the City the Dobbins have been rebuilding a team for 2015, which has seen late arrivals, regular signing announcement, players walking ‘out… and in’ and rumours flying about. All of these, although appearing shambolic at times, do create regular lifts in interest that in turn excite the fans and helps push sales along. This scenario is a marketers dream but, by the same rule, it’s also a Coaches nightmare. Take for instance this Allgood character they signed on Friday. It will be at least 6 weeks before he arrives in this country, let alone meets his team mates and in addition he’s still in rehab after an operation. Even their new half back combination, which is absolutely critical in the modern game, is not in the country yet. However the timing of those late signings, although inconvenient coaching wise, will no doubt affect season ticket sales in a positive way, while conversely impacting in a negative one on Chester’s preparations for the new season.
Their Coach puts on a brave face, but it must be difficult getting an almost completely new team to gel in just 8 weeks, especially if some players are not even here yet. In fact some who are experts in these things would tell you it’s a near impossibility. However in Radford’s case at our side of the great divide, a massive effort has been made to ensure he has been given everything to help a smooth and progressive pre-season which started with 95% of the squad out on the training field. That though makes the marketing team’s job a lot harder. Why? Well consider this; had we signed Mark Sneyd out of the blue this week to complete out team, ticket sales would have soared immediately. However because he has been signed for months the fans are used to the fact that we captured the best young British half back in the country and paid £100,000 for his services. Now of course 4 months later the initial excitement his capture caused has died down and thus had little effect on sales.
However, it is imperative that all this preparation and planning is rewarded by us lot, the fans, buying into the dream and signing up for (in many cases I know) one last time. However we will never have a better chance to do well, everything is in place and no stone has been left unturned and the one variable that is yet to be answered is of course the one about, ‘exactly how good IS our team?’
The down side of that however is the mantra that I used last week; “This time around there are simply no excuses”. With ‘all our ducks in a row’ what happens if we don’t perform and what happens if they ain’t good enough? That scenario is simply unthinkable, because with our signing policy and training regime spot on, our owner fast running out of begging strategy’s towards the fans and the best two shirts for years now on sale, next year at this time we will only be able to sell seasons on the back of one thing; a great 2015 campaign.
The game is now up, all the excuses, pleas and gimmicks have been exhausted and anything else simply won’t wash with the fans anymore! It’s hard for this fan to see how jobs and livelihoods cannot be firmly on the line this time around. For our part we have to back the Club and get behind the vision, because I honestly believe that everyone at Hull FC knows nothing short of a great season will do and that 2015 is for Hull FC, the ‘Last chance Saloon!’ Well, it is as far as shaking off that under achievers tag is concerned anyway!
So while some employee’s may believe their future at the Club is on the line if we don’t do the biz, in fact for us lot it’s a spicy prospect and one that could just generate some surprises and dare I even say some fighting spirit. I’m up for it again now and can’t wait for it all to begin; whether I’ll be feeling that way in here come next April is of course completely another thing! But it’s easy to be optimistic when we’ve no one to beat at the weekend isn’t it?
As part of that well planned and scheduled build up I just mentioned, the new away shirt was revealed on Friday and at last the secret of the unique selling point I have hinted at for weeks is there for all to see. Steve Prescott is an icon, a hero and a legend, and when the Club decided last January to include his signature and an advert for his Foundation on the front, it was a masterstroke. Well it was when you consider what a good foil it will be for the home shirt which is so traditional it was always going to be a record breaker. The Club were no doubt mindful of the fact that, so popular was the home shirt, they were in danger of producing an away shirt that wouldn’t sell at all. But now, with such innovative thinking, I fully expect the Club to sell more home and away shirts in total this season than ever before, simply because folks like me who don’t always buy a home shirt let alone an away one, are this year buying both. The inclusion of the Steve Prescott Foundation and the involvement of the Prescott family confirms, as someone said the other day, just how proud it makes you feel to be a Hull fan when things like this happen!
The manner of the launch was in complete contrast to the viral introduction to the home shirt which spread across the region and the country so successfully two weeks ago. Everyone had a pretty good idea what that shirt was to look like so an innovative introduction for the home offering was essential. This time, for the away shirt launch, the theme, the emotive sponsorship and the principles behind it, spoke for themselves and a playing shirt that is a bit of a fashion item also tugs at the heart strings of everyone, even if some don’t like the colour. Let’s give credit where credit is due because the whole shirt thing conceived as it was way back last January long before Lee Jenkinson left, has been a big success, not just because of the designs, but also by the way that they have been introduced to us. I don’t think that will be the end of original 150th year shirts either!
Of course with this latest offering, as usual, one or two don’t like the quality and a few objected to the colour scheme; were it always so! The usual sad dicks on social media who find fault with everything had their usual go, but people in general loved it! I know the Club originally wanted to use the White star design for the away strip in this our 150th year, but the RL ruled that out because it needed to include a different colour, although I’m sure that iconic original shirt will re-appear in another form later in the year! However since the early 1990’s purple has been a colour that has drifted in and out of our shirt designs 3 or 4 times and as the black and white irregular theme has been totally traditionalised in the home shirt, you can see why they picked purple can’t you! I went in the shop at the KC on Saturday and the queue to buy the new shirt was impressive, so already it looks to be doing really well.
On Wednesday a bit of a firestorm started on twitter as news spread about Joe Westerman leaving us to sign for Salford. The rumour started from ‘loose cannon’ reporter (making the news instead of reporting it) Neil Barker of the Manchester Evening News who tweeted that Joe was on his way to ‘KouKash Country’ and of course, after a bit of concern and a lot of uncertainty, it transpired that it was all bollocks. That word ‘Bollocks’ was actually used when I asked the Club if there was any credence in the story, but before the situation was defused and put to bed, many fans were a tad concerned. I suppose we should have all considered the fact that at a time when season tickets are on sale and in a critical stage of the process, it would have been a ‘suicide’ move for an owner who bangs on and on about retaining our assets.
Of course it’s just mischief making, it’ll always happen and is I suppose an occupational hazard of being a sports fan. However it’s distressing for the supporters, baffling for the player and can also be disruptive for his colleagues. Two years ago I would perhaps have wondered if it were a possibility as Joe was back then the epitome of a loose cannon, but now he’s keen to go places with Hull, being tipped for a future stint as Captain and is someone who even helped make Liam Watts’ (his best mate) mind up to sign an extension to his contract earlier this year. He ain’t going anywhere, but a ridiculous assumption from a bored journalist had a few worrying last week. You see naive old me thought that reporters were employed to report the news rather than speculate and indeed try to influence it. Obviously I got that one wrong!
Season tickets are moving well now with getting on for 5,500 sold so far and that with still 6 days to go to the deadline. The introduction of a new 5 month direct debit scheme making it easier for those who still want to sign up, is the latest ploy to boost the total and the Club are certainly pulling out all the stops to get as many fans back on board. Last week on various evenings Gareth Ellis, Mini and Jordan Rankin joined Lee Radford, Adam Pearson and James Clark on the phones, ringing lapsed ticket holders and trying to get them to reconsider. To me in the first instance, that all smacks a bit of desperation, but you can’t fault their determination and as the deadline looms, so does the possibility of achieving the total that I believe will leave them at least satisfied. I think that is probably around 6,500 and I guess recently I’ve gone on a bit about getting your tickets but that’s not out of any bias toward our owner or our management, but rather because of the fact that I know what the SMC are up to and don’t want to give them the satisfaction or the excuse, to close stands in 2016.
We all want to get involved in this our 150th year and perhaps too, want to give the team one last chance, however as I said earlier quite what we will do in the future if we are crap this season; heaven knows. Now it’s simply sh*t or bust! But, let’s not worry because we won’t be wallowing at the wrong end of the table this time around will we? Well…………………we better not be!!!
So, it was in the end sad to see the departure of Jacob Miller because as I said last week, he and Rankin were my big hopes for our future at half back, although in the end it was not to be. However I guess it had to come and it’s no doubt cost Adam Pearson a lot of dosh to pay ‘Milky’ off. However Pearson would be the first person to admit that Jacob is a really nice guy and I don’t think you can really blame him for trying to get the best out of his remaining deal. Miller wasn’t to blame for what he was offered by Peter Gentle and Shaun McCrae and if your young and get a load of cash offered to you to take a leap of faith which entails moving across the world, then at his age you would probably take it and make sure you got your money’s worth! So good luck to Jacob at the Wildcats who I’m sure is already relishing a few hit ups against his old team mates.
The story in the Mail last Wednesday about the Club ‘s attempts to get New Zealand to the KC for a showpiece game at the end of the season, to conclude our special year, should have come as little surprise to anyone. It’s been planned for months but it was only a matter of time before someone thought of 2002 and the fact that that year the New Zealanders were on tour and took in the Boulevard for that memorable final ‘goodbye’. That theory then led to a few folks starting a twitter campaign to repeat the idea again this year and the Mail at last caught on and made a story of it. I don’t think the Club wanted to announce it yet, not because it’s a ‘secret’ but rather because they didn’t want to risk disappointing the fans. Despite New Zealand being keen on the game, there remain some big problems, with the availability of the Stadium and the RL granting permission, still major stumbling blocks. These are not insurmountable by any means, but don’t hold your breath.
Well it was exciting last weekend as the Philae probe on that far distant comet, finally gave us some amazing pictures before it gave up the ghost and expired. However, on the same day, we were all brought ‘back down to earth’ by the RL, as they announced the fixtures for the next Magic Weekend and the annual fiasco’s first trip to Newcastle! This manufactured showpiece holds little magic for this fan, as once again, despite all the talk of jeopardy and every minute mattering next year, the ‘fixing’ of fixtures continues, as some of us have to play traditional Derby’s while others like Wigan and Saints, who refused to continue to play them a couple of seasons back, have been given other alternatives that are still none the less manufactured. It appears that those two Clubs get their way while we, it appears, seem to have no choice in the matter.
For me it now becoming a case of over-kill and I know that as a Club we complained about the fixing of fixtures in this way and that FC Voices wrote to the Rugby League about things at least being fair to everyone, (without their correspondence even warranting a reply). The RL were told of almost everyone’s disdain for this contrived format at the joint forum at Hull University last summer, when even Neil Hudgell agreed that it diluted the impact of two regular season fixtures which are the two Clubs’ biggest pay days.
However in the end we get Rovers again, with us now playing them at least 4 times next year and with the new split, perhaps even 5!! Of course as always that viewpoint is just my opinion and it might well not be yours, but this fan who laments the current state of the game and really worries about where it will be in a few years time, yearns for the return of the days when the two Derby’s where the highlight of this great City’s sporting year and really meant something to every one of its inhabitants.
The Rugby League are just’ killing the goose’ to ensure they get people into what is just a ‘made for TV’ event and that’s fine, but not when Saints and Wigan will probably only play each other 3 times in the first 30 rounds (Bloody Hell 30 rounds; that certainly puts it all into prospective a bit doesn’t it?). The fact is that by the last couple of games of the second phase, the players will be banged up and knackered or worst still, their season long injuries will have crept up on them and rendered them ineffective, particularly that is, if they have played a few Cup rounds as well. That’s absolutely fine, if it’s the same for everyone, but when some teams have to play more Derby games, with all the pressure that entails, it unfair. I was looking forward to a trip to Newcastle and I might still go, (if not for the game then for the occasion), but the thought of yet another Derby has made my decision a lot less certain now.
30 years ago the two Derby games were the highlight of the sporting year in the City of Hull. The place buzzed for a week beforehand and stopped while the games were on. Now, these once great showpieces of the British game have been reduced to nothing short of hackneyed, played out, gimmicks that have lost much of their appeal and magic. It’s always brilliant to beat the old enemy whatever the circumstances but ‘familiarity’ is seeing, even that, losing its impact a bit. How sad is that? I can see the attraction of the Magic event for the fans particularly if they see it as a giant p*ss up first and a game of rugby second, but for this fan, if they are to persist with the crazy new format that they have introduced this year, then it’s about time the Magic Weekend was scrapped!
As for the story on Monday that Adam and the Hudge wish to promote the Event in Hull in 2017 as part of the year of Culture, well it’s a commendable suggestion, but for me it’s unlikely, impractical and unsustainable. They must both realise that not only is the KC too small (and to split it between the Stadiums would dilute the impact), but in addition what makes either party think the RL would do anything to suit the fans in Hull and our ‘cultural’ year. In any case ‘Magic’ is always staged at a neutral ground so a lot of Clubs would baulk at it being played in a place that offers home advantage for two participating Clubs. It ain’t gonna happen guys, great idea but for me it’s not really been thought through!
Talking as I was earlier of the Philae probe, last weekend it was great to see those amazing pictures from an object that was in size first likened to a washing machine and then to a fridge. In fact that description got me thinking and seeing it abandoned there in such a desolate and bleak landscape, reminded me of some of the gardens I’ve seen on Preston Road!
I’m hearing that we could all be treated to a new fanzine which is expected to hit the streets in January. Since the demise of the excellent ‘In any Kinda Weather’ there has been a big gap in the market for such a publication and although details are sketchy at present, I think it’s likely to happen and I’ll keep you posted on its progress in the forthcoming weeks.
Last Monday I was invited to the Central Library for the launch of a new book by Tom Palmer called ‘The Last Try’. The book that was initially written for children is a great read for anyone interested in Hull FC, as it follows the RL career of Jack Harrison and his later heroics in the Great War. It’s a mixture of fiction and fact but is based on extensive investigation by researchers Paul Dunholme and Terry Wood, about what really happened back in those dark days of the First World War both at Hull FC and at Oppy Wood. At the launch Tom Palmer had us all enthralled with a reading about Jack and the occasion of the first Zeppelin raid on Hull in the summer of 1915.
It was great to see the Club well represented too, with both Adam Pearson and Club Chaplain Tony Cotson in attendance. It’s amazing really when you realise that Jack, one of Hulls greatest citizens, has never been properly honoured by the City where he lived and played rugby. Perhaps someone should suggest to the Council, that he deserves independent recognition as a true local hero, his memory certainly deserves it. The book is to be stocked at the Club shop and at £6-99 it’s a great buy; it’s certainly inspiring and without doubt a good and atmospheric read for kids and adults alike.
Regular readers will know that I seem to be attracted ‘like a moth to a flame’ to the antics, benevolence, complaining and posturing of Dr KouKash, the owner of Salford. It’s perhaps a failing that’s probably down to the fact that he seems to do everything on a big scale and doesn’t care what he say or who he says it to! In fact the only thing that isn’t big about that larger than life character is the size of his Club, who seem destined to continue to attract interest from the game at large and pitifully small gates from the good people of Manchester. It seems he has still not sold many more than the 1000 season tickets he bemoaned so loudly just a couple of weeks ago, although now it seems he is doing things big again, but this time in the realms of the amount of money that one Club can lose in one season; a category in which once again he is setting new records.
For the financial year ending 31st January 2014 Salford City Reds lost £5,142,778 which is a new record for any Club playing in this country. In that time the Club turnover was just £2,298,378. The accounts in fact showed that the good doctor poured cash in at an alarming rate and even gave the Club another unsecured loan of £1.5m mid season.
For a Club that cost him just £1 good old Marwan seems to be finding the Reds Devils are a bit of a drain on his resources! The thing is of course on top of all that the Club has debts to other creditors that total £2.5m which must be a worry for their fans don’t you think? In fact you have to ask just how long will he put up with all that input for the same poor attendances. What he should have considered was the fact that Salford is a notoriously poorly supported team; they always have been even when they were based in the Manchester heartland of Rugby League at the Willows. Now they have moved to a Stadium that is brand new, but poorly designed, way out of town and that is really hard to access and even harder to get out of. I think Mr K will be off before long myself!
Now, one of the saddest elements of our demise over the last few seasons is that we have lacked a certain quality and it’s one that has downgraded us from our old position of being a battling, tenacious team. You see I for one believe that we have lost that ability to back up a defeat with a heartening win that lifts the fans and restores their belief. Over the years and as far back as the bad old days of the 60’s and 70’s we were always able to conjure up a big performance against Leeds or Rovers and when we got a disappointing defeat there was always the chance that we would bounce back again the following week. However sadly I don’t think we do that these days and so as we get knocked out of say the Challenge Cup, the fans have little hope for the near future and are resigned to there probably being more of the same the following week. This week in Codgers Corner I want to go back to those great, great days of the early 80’s were there were disappointments a plenty, but these were soon forgotten as the team lifted themselves to reward the fans the following week with a heartening performance.
One of my favourite games of that great 80’s era took place on 4TH March 1984, just a week after Saints had knocked us out of the Challenge Cup, when we faced the daunting task of taking on Championship rivals and top team of the season Widnes at the Boulevard. Gates were at that time starting to wane a bit and wouldn’t be helped by that defeat at Knowles Road and the fact that Peter Sterling had returned to Australia after a wonderful 10 week spell at the club. Sterlo was of course to return the following year for a sensational season, but with just the League left to concentrate on, we fans that turned up that day expected a heartening performance from the FC and we were not disappointed.
All week long we had sweated on the fitness of Steve Norton and talented young loose forward Gary Divorty but both came through late fitness checks although they had not trained at all since the cup reversal the week before. Both were greeted with a massive cheer from the 10,838 crowd when their names were announced on the team sheet before the game. Divorty was developing into a teenage sensation and was joined by several other great young players that Arthur Bunting was bringing through the ranks. Widnes needed a victory to go top of the League whilst we were in fourth position, just a point behind the top three. We had blooded several of those youngsters and as a team were becoming known that year as ‘Buntings Babes’ but Divorty, Puckering, Schofield, Edmonds and Proctor had not let us down, and at the other end of the age scale veteran Prop Keith Tindall was still going strong and doing a good job off the bench. However once the game got under way it didn’t look good when Edmonds tripped Burke and the Widnes full back converted an angled 45 yard penalty, however it was not long before the Hull pack soon set about the powerful Widnes six.
A massive crash tackle by Rose and Dannett straight from the re-start, set the scene as Evans ran the ball back for 45 yards and a good chance was lost when Schofield couldn’t hold a Norton inside pass. ‘Schoey’ was going really well and as another ‘teenage sensation’ was already on 24 tries, many of which had come from his trade mark interceptions.
It was he who opened the scoring for us after just 11 minutes when a quick play the ball and pass from Puckering saw Divorty break away and run 50 yards down field before feeding the young centre who went in wide out, but then missed with the conversion. Back came Widnes and it took two heart stopping tackles from Gary Kemble at full back to thwart first Hughes and then O’Laughlan. However our forwards led by young Andy Dannett in the second row and Phil Edmonds up front were dominating the massive Widnes six and on 21 minutes we scored again. A flowing move first across and then down the field involving Norton, Topliss, Ah Kuoi and Leuluai saw Divorty in the open again he whipped out a brilliant long pass and Schofield’s pace did the rest as he touched down close to the corner flag. At 8-2 our inability to convert our tries was a worry and Hughes nearly punished us as he broke through but was caught by Dane O’Hara ten yards short of the line as he spilled the ball in the impact of a tackle he didn’t expect at all.
Next after a scrappy few minutes the crowd were jumping for joy as Norton crashed through the line, linked with Topliss and as our charismatic half back looked around, who was on his shoulder but Phil Edmonds, who brushed Andy Gregory aside like a rag doll (not an easy feat at anytime) to score. However once again Schofield missed the kick. It seemed like we were missing the injured Lee Crooks in the kicking department, but it didn’t matter as we witnessed the try of the game, if not one of the best in the whole season. The move stated ten yard from our line as a Widnes attack broke down when Joe Lydon went through a gap ‘without the ball’, and Leuluai picked it up. He stormed on downfield and as the cover ‘funnelled’ him towards the corner and into a ‘blind alley’ James somehow passed the ball round the tackler and found Schofield again.
Off he went from 70 yards out with both Burke and Joe Basnett in pursuit. As we all held our breath he ran first one way then the other before burning off the latter in a curving run towards the corner. He placed the ball over the line and ran off towards the crowd to celebrate a 24 minute hat trick which prompted the national press next day to label him ‘Whizz Kid’ Schofield. As half time beckoned we scored another and once again it was Norton who made the break, he dummied once then twice before handing the ball onto Dannett who scored a well deserved try and at half time despite Schofield missing 7 shots at goal we still led 20-2, having scored 5 quite brilliant touch downs.
Eight minutes into the second half Schofield at last broke his duck with a towering penalty after Andy Gregory had ‘lost it’ and slapped Topliss as he danced past him. Two minutes later as the Widnes team seemed to have lost interest in winning and following some massive hits from the Hull forwards Schofield landed an easier penalty under the sticks and at 24-2 we were cruising.
In fact as often happens in these situations we ‘took our foot off the gas’ and Myler got a try for Widnes as Kemble was left facing three attackers in our last line of defence. Proctor came on for Topliss, who appeared to be concussed, and the evergreen Tindall swopped places with Edmonds who was limping badly. Norton and Ah Kuoi then combined from a scrum and the classy New Zealander somehow stepped inside Lydon and outside Myler to touch down and at last Schofield managed a conversion. Basnett scored a late consolation try when he ran 60 yards to score for Widnes, but by then it was all over.
At the end we all stood and cheered as the lads did an impromptu lap of honour so good had our demolition of the mighty Widnes been. The victory was built around a collective force, as individual skills blended perfectly with intense pressure, and where young players and old hands worked perfectly together. The pack was brilliant not just in their power but their ability to produce some fabulous running and ball skills, whilst Schofield was the predator supreme and with a dozen games to go he already had 27 tries against his name. Great memories!
In a week when we heard that Chocolate will run out by 2020, when a £1m lottery winner from Hereford was refused a mortgage and when we were told that the makers of Peppa Pig are being sued by a woman called Gabrielle Goat, we move within a few days of the season ticket deadline. This week’s newspaper cutting comes from the Selby District Councils Newsletter which said last week, “The winner of the competition to name the new Leisure centre in Selby is Steve Wadsworth, who has won a free year’s membership to the Selby Culture and Leisure Trust, for his winning submission he chose the name…..The Selby Leisure Centre. Priceless!
So, as the closed season rumbles on, for this scribe that’s about it again this week. It’s been great to hear from so many readers particularly Brian over in Spain, Harry in Kings Lynn and my pal Mike over in Cheshire, who gave me a bit of a rocket for upsetting the Green party!
Thanks as always for your support and for once again reading the Diary, have a good week, get your season tickets if you can and if you live around Driffield and see a sparrow sneezing; run like hell!!!
Try to Keep believing!
While sorting out a massive box of old Diaries, photographs, press cuttings etc I found this. It’s my favourite picture at the moment and perhaps an idea for Adam Pearson to get more people into the Stadium.
This is a picture of Mary (99) and Jack (91) Walsham (Jack was blind) sitting down to watch and listen to the 1985 Cup Final at their sheltered accommodation. I’m not sure who the guy on the left is but perhaps if we all take someone similar to the first game, the place will fill up in no time!!