“Until I get to the point where I look across the pitch and feel that the players are better than me or until I feel I am really struggling to be as good as I was the year before, then I will continue on,”
So said Gareth Ellis on the eve of his ‘Benefit’ game and although I’m not a big fan of these type of testimonials (much preferring for players to only be honoured for loyalty after playing 10 years with the same team) he thoroughly deserved the adulation he got yesterday at Wakefield. It’s just a pity the match wasn’t more befitting the occasion!
It was a real downer and I just stood there in the second half wondering “What the hell am I doing here”. Now, sat here on the way home with lap-top on knee, I’m deflated to say the least. The fact we didn’t even name a squad in advance indicated that we were to rest a few, or more likely hold a few back in ‘cotton wool’ for the Huddersfield start. Whether that was right or wrong we’ll know two weeks from now but at present I haven’t a bloody clue. What I do know is that some will feel that this afternoons fiasco fits perfectly the old wartime adage of, “Was your Journey really necessary!’ however those who went did Gareth proud, so I guess for me, it probably was!
Quite frankly as I walked away from the Wakefield ground I felt short changed! I have to say that had it been the Clubs intention to field such a young and inexperienced team, then I would have gone anyway, but perhaps a lot of others wouldn’t. I know it was Gareth’s game and they wanted as many there as possible, but money is tight and the Club should have fronted up and told us the teams on Friday, as they usually would have. For me, to not do that is a bit underhand as far as the fans are concerned.
Having said that we got a game to watch and I did it in good company; company who like me were at times bemused both with the team selected in the first place and then the tactics we adopted throughout the game. I just have to wonder what the Club actually got out of it, except an indication that perhaps our style of game demands that we use longer studs on that sort of surface and that when your packs beaten, you’re stuffed. Our lads slipped and slid to a defeat, which was at times painful to watch.
For me our starting pack in Super League would be Paea, Houghton, Watts, Ellis, Mini and Westerman of which only Gareth Ellis played yesterday and he only featured in a token cameo role at the start. I thought that Jordan Thompson played himself into a bench place for Huddersfield too with a smart performance of strength, tackling and running good lines. It was good to see Whiting back as well, although he’s a bit off the pace still and I just hope that Naughton’s injury isn’t too bad because he looked OK again. Actually it appears it may not be as bad as we feared because he tweeted last night, “All good just precautionary been stretchered off today, just a bit of a headache onwards and upwards”.
Yesterday we saw a game in which for long periods our youngsters just about held their own but created very little and conceded on a regular basis once Wakey got their noses through the line. Despite some of the Under 19’s trying hard, one or two players should be worried, none more for me than Tom Lineham, who had a bit of a shocker. He just doesn’t seem fit to me and lost the ball a time or two as well. Lancaster, on the other hand, tried really hard showed some nice touches and some good defence which could see him just pip Tom to a place, come the 8th February. Feke did some long minutes but the slippery surface didn’t suit that step of his and the longer he stayed on, the more ineffective he became. Sneyd stayed on for the full game and got the length and direction of his kicks more accurate, however unfortunately few seemed to have the positional sense or inclination to chase them.
As for the upcoming season, well there’s little indication around as to what we can expect at Huddersfield, particularly with some players only having a training run against York and having then had 40 odd minutes against Rovers. In fact you have to wonder if some will be a little undercooked. This final Friendly was a hard one for Radford to call really, I mean to say, does he go again with his starting team or do what he did, and leave them in cotton wool for fear of injury? In his defence it’s a bloody long time since we approached the first game of a Super league campaign without a single injury worry. Yet it’s a long time too, since we started the season with such a small amount of quality game time under the senior players belts either.
It’s a long, long, season perhaps that’s what’s on his mind but whatever he does he’s on a hiding to nothing and he will only be judged by what happens in two weeks time at the Giants. My gut feeling is that he should have done what he did last week and fielded the starting 17 and played them for 40 minutes and then swopped it about a bit. But what do I know?
I certainly don’t profess to understanding the thinking behind what our Coach is doing and anyway we’ll soon know the worst once the season starts when, there’s little doubt, his baffling and wondrous pre-season selections will really be under the microscope. I guess whether he will be adjudged to be the Messiah or it’ll be ‘Radford Out’, is for now anyone’s guess. So for me at least, stood on the terraces amongst the bemused FC fans who were trying to make some sort of sense of it all, it was a really disappointing afternoon. Perhaps our Coach was guarding against the usual flat showing we get after a Derby, who knows? Jake on RL fans made a very shrewd observation when he said last night “With Miller, Washy, Lynn, Scruton, Hall and Mcshane is this the first time that the opposition fielded more past FC first team players than we fielded current ones?”
Once the teams were announced we were on a hiding to nothing that’s for sure, but on reflection it was still a lot better than Featherstone last year, but still very disappointing all the same. It will be interesting to see how the Club handle the decision to field such a squad and yet not pre-announce their intention to do it. They need the fans behind then at present and that sort of subterfuge is for me counterproductive.
That said however (and I’m no expert), I simply can’t understand our pre-season team selections at all. Rather than testing them out for the full game either against Rovers or Wakefield the only time we have played our strongest side for more than 40 minutes was against the weakest opposition (York). Even Rovers did that yesterday and although they got found out big style, they at least ‘found out’! If we are expecting our team to be up and running and gelled from the first minute, until the 80th of the first game, then I just wonder if we have done enough in ‘real time’ game time to achieve it!
Time as they say, will tell!!
So to the week gone by when Marc Sneyd hinted that he had already come across the bane of our Club and two of the less palatable side effects in our undying support for the Club we all love. Yep, he was confronted by the almost blind longing there is to beat Rovers at everything and the un-necessary pressure the fans always put on any new half back that comes to Hull FC. He revealed that he had experienced some rather ‘caustic’ comments directed at him on twitter when he described the Rovers game as a ‘Friendly’. Apparently some fans needed to remind our new acquisition that to all of us, whether we like it or not, it’s much more than that. However, I ain’t too worried about Marc because what I’ve seen thus far I’ve liked and what a lot don’t realise is that one of the main reasons for Marc successful career is the fact that he is such a laid back character.
That’s why last season at Cas he was able to drift in and out of situations, be patient and wait, before pulling the trigger so effectively; he simply doesn’t let the pressure get to him. That doesn’t mean that his laid back demeanour both on and off the field makes him a phoney, nor does it indicate that he doesn’t care, but it’s just him using his disposition and temperament to get past the level of expectation placed on Super League play makers these days. To him it was only a friendly, last year prior to Cas’s semi final appearance he described that as “Just another game” because that’s the way he handles it. Perhaps that laid back attitude is the secret of his success, we’ll see, but there is certainly a deal of expectation being placed on the shoulders of both our new half backs this year.
Talking of attitude I was taken to task about mine last week, big style!! I found myself perhaps not the most popular blogger around as to the ire of some I had actually found positives from a defeat by the Dobbins. In all honesty I thought there were some, but in reality I was still struggling to recognise them. For all FC Fans the issue is that none of us can approach this ridiculous fixture as a trial game, because its Rovers and we hate them!
Wigan and Saints lost at Leigh and Widnes respectively that day too but reading what their Coaches and fans had to say they found plenty of positives. However as they actually played each other yesterday, some of their fans were moaning about it on their boards, despite the fact that they don’t even play each other at Magic!!! For us though, as I say, it’s simply because it’s Rovers and that’s a fact that’s difficult to see past for many fans. So for me the fixture should be scrapped, because friendly or not there is simply too much passion and emotional baggage involved in it.
Lee picked a bigger a squad than the Dobbins did and had both sides just had 17 to rotate as in a Super League game, then we would have had a better indications of whether we could keep up that first half pressure game that impressed us all. But what would the Coach have learned about the other fringe players outside that 17, if he hadn’t played them? As with yesterday, is it better to lose now and learn?
Well, it is as long as it isn’t against Rovers, but in general it should always be about making sure you are ready for winning by the time league points are at stake. So my plea to the two owners would be, please think about that and the over kill of too many Derby games. They’re too frequent and now ‘old hat’, so much so, that I’m sure had the Rugby League been lobbied hard by Hudge and Pearson to ensure that the Magic weekend fixtures were actually drawn or seeded and we had avoided the banjo pickers, then there would have been another 3000 or so there last Sunday. Unfortunately however 2015 will once again see a procession of Derby’s every 6 or 7 games and I think the fans are sick of it!
I have said it so many times in here that it’s now become like a cracked record, but 4 or 5 Derby’s a season is just too many! Perhaps they should play ‘The Friendly’ at Caravan Park next year then I and many reading this would have the perfect excuse not to go!! It’s not just that I don’t like the place (I don’t particularly like Wigan much either, but I go) but it’s the frequency of the games that’s the issue for me! I honestly believe that if we could just go back to two Derby’s a season home and away, I would probably go to both as I used to. As for the ‘Friendly’ one every year, for me it’s run its course and looking at the gate it seems that I’m not on my own in that conclusion. Scrap it I say!
Now, seen as I’ve been doing really well in the unpopularity stakes of late, I might as well attract a bit more abuse! On Friday in the Mail, James Smailes included an interview with Kirk Yeaman when our centre of 14 years told us that, with his contract up at the end of the year, he was playing for his future this season. With some of my mates in the pub Yeamo is fast evolving into ‘Marmite Man’ because people seem to either vehemently like or dislike our long serving and affable centre. Where it ever so with supporters eh? Yeamo has been and continues to be, a brilliant servant to the Club, he’s a real nice bloke off the field, he doesn’t have the stomach for playing for anyone else and he loves Hull FC. Fine words about a nice bloke? Well perhaps, but as with any player, all that is academic if for the fans, as far as rugby is concerned, he’s crap. Cup Finals are never won by 13 nice blokes are they? However for me he isn’t crap, he might not be as fast as he was and he might get criticised by some for not passing on occasions, but to all the protagonists out there I would just ask, if you don’t play Kirk at centre at present, who do you play there? Michaels is unproven and not yet fit and Logan and the couple of youth options are not ready. In fact to use them every game would be no better than when we played Crooks there last season; and we all know defensively what a disaster that was.
For me the game is so tight these days that perhaps the only advantage an opposing coach can get is by identifying a potential defensive flaw in the opposition. One thing’s for sure with Yeamo in, there is no chance of a leaky defence on the left and at present we simple don’t have a viable replacement. I still think with our new half backs he’ll get tries too. When he’s replaced it will be by someone who is currently playing better than Kirk and anyone who knows the guy will tell you when that happens, he’ll be the first to admit that’s the case. Until then he’ll battle on, revel in the chants of Yeamo, Yeamo, do his best for HIS Club, knock a few heads off and try and win a new contract. There will be groans when it looks like he should have passed to his winger, but there will also be the usual sighs of relief (that everyone forgets) when he stops a rampaging opponent in his tracks. Of course he’s coming to the end of his time as an automatic selection, (something that he’s been for well over a decade), it may come next week it may come next season but for now, for me, Kirk’s the best we have. When a new centre super star does come though and Yeamo is no more, his replacement might well be a better player and we might well be a better team, but, one thing’s for sure, the place will be a little less colourful without Yeamo around it!
Now, are the SMC and Mr A taking the piss or what? I probably shouldn’t say it, but I’m hearing a rumour from the Rugby League, that it’s very likely the only obstacle to us playing New Zealand in the autumn in a special 150th anniversary game, is not the touring side or the games administrators, but rather the SMC, who are concerned for the effect it will have in the pitch. Now we all know what ex grounds man and operations manager John Cooper told this very blog several years ago; that it is football that damages the ground and not Rugby League! Yet here we have City playing their under-21s clash with Mansfield Town in the aftermath of the first team playing Newcastle next Saturday!! The junior match isn’t a Cup game or anything special but just a bog standard league game for the kids. And that, when it appears we can’t even have kids playing at half time!! For me, the double standards that go on at present bloody stink!!
People often comment to me about why FC Voices don’t use Radio Humberside for their forums, well we seem to be doing very nicely without them, as the last one at the Walton Club attracted almost 500 supporters. Meanwhile on the same night as the Rovers event over at our first league opponents Huddersfield the anticipation is at fever pitch too, as on the same night, they were ‘rammed’ as well!
The new legends shirt didn’t last long on the racks did it? The limited edition ‘jumper’ that features the name of every player that has ever played for the Club, all but sold out in just over 24 hours. It was an interesting offering and certainly one the fans seem to either really liked or really disliked; it wasn’t for me, but I still bought one just the same. It’s of a hue described by one wag on social media as, ‘a sort of Snake bite sick colour’ but all 250 went quickly and so it must have worked for those who bought it! My Pal John Taylor who has been around the Club all his life and who would recognise well over a third of the names on it at least, said to me this week, “I got one and bought one for ex FC Aussie forward David Boyle (who he keeps in touch with) , I just wish Greg Mackay was still here so I could send him one too” Yep that’s a sad one indeed, but snake bite or not, it’s certainly proved a collector’s item for a lot of us old’ns.
I expect at least a couple more limited edition shirts to appear before our 150th year is out, but while we are on the shop stuff, I was sorry to see the short term contract at the store in Bransholme Centre is up and it’s closing down. However having dug around a bit at the Club this week I discovered that it was only ever going to be a limited lease and they would have considered a longer one but the rent for that was ‘extortionate’. The idea was to clear the 2014 stock and introduce the 2015 stuff and it’s taken a shed load of money so it has certainly been successful, in fact the Club tell me it’s an exercise they will probably repeat again next year! Rovers are definitely moving out of their shop in Saville Street too, but as of going to press no-one knows if they are to get another city centre one.
Finally while I’m on retail I heard a great story the other day from my pal at the gym who went to the KC shop with his pass to get his Derby ticket. On presenting his pass and his money for a senior Citizens concession he was told by the lady who served him that he had in fact paid for a full pass and not a concession. He hadn’t realise when he subscribed, but by the time he had thought about it, the girl was presenting him with the refund on his pass, without any quibble at all. We are often quick to complain about service, but on this occasion it’s nice to have some good feedback to report on!
A few fans who stopped me last week to talk about the Rovers game at the KC commented to me how they felt that there was ‘Something there’, as far as Curtis Naughton was concerned and although he came on at a point when it was hard to impress, he still looked to have something. Yesterday again behind a beaten pack it was hard for our young full back to shine. However, he is certainly a self assured young man, both on and off the field. Speaking more like a throwback from ‘Wayne’s World’ or the ‘Bill and Ted’ films, the West Yorkshire based youngster said last week before the Derby, “It’s going to be absolutely awesome. I’m stoked to be involved and with a good crowd there and against a good side, it’s going to be Excellent!!!’
There was news this week that our Foundation was to form a partnership with Hull Veterans. This voluntary organisation work to rehabilitate all areas of the armed forces as they help provide accommodation, employment training, computer skills and guidance and you know that got me thinking. You see, for some time I’ve struggled to understand just what goes on at all the many satellite centres that our Foundation operates out in the community; what happens at Sirius, what’s going on at Chamberlain Road, why all the secrecy about what is unfolding at Area 51 (project Ideal Standard) how does St Mary’s SM6 facility fit into it all and what’s cooking at Bishop Burton?
I guess we all wonder about it from time to time and so I thought occasionally in the coming months, I’d do a bit of research and try and find out! So last Thursday I met the bloke who heads it all up, and who has made massive strides forward with what is on course for being one of the best Community set up’s in British sport, FC Director Richard Munson. This week I’ll start with the facility on the Sirius Academy on Pickering Road, which has been operated by the Hull FC Community Foundation since late 2011.
This is a flagship development which has been set up as a hub for the surrounding Community on the West Hull Estates and indeed the City at large. It’s the anchor project for the Foundation and is packed with people and activities throughout the week. Working with youngsters during the day, after a short turn round at tea time it’s used every night for residents groups, dancers, community organisations, learning projects etc. For the last two years, during the day, it’s been the base for the FC Learning Centre which provides, in partnership with education institutions Hull College and Hull Training, educational programmes for young people aged 14-19. It’s currently the base for 70 young people who are completing qualifications in sport, employability, and functional skills.
The Centre also provides a brilliant service in helping adults who are looking at getting back into work. To date over 200 people have achieved qualifications with over 160 of those progressing into further education or employment. Some have progressed onto university while two are now employed as community staff by the Foundation and take what they have learned forward by providing mentoring for new learners. The dedicated team down there includes former players Liam Cunningham and Anthony Thackeray.
I also found out that on an evening the community involvement include’s local community sports clubs featuring netball, basketball, boxing, cheerleading etc. I know this is all a bit dry when you want to read about players, rumours whiffs and such, but I include it here because as fans we should be really proud of a Foundation which is attracting much national recognition and hundreds of thousands of pounds of support for the sterling work it does. Sirius is a big part of our community network which operated across the City and I hope that when it’s mentioned in future, you’ll now have an idea about just what it does. Without a doubt, the facility is hugely successful, greatly coveted across the game and amongst sports Clubs in general and a real jewel in the crown of Hull FC. There will be more about the Foundation in weeks to come.
Well if I can presume to give you a bit of advice for this season then it would be if James Webster talks about the game listen to him!! He might have been our adversary yesterday but last year you might remember that I told you that I had listened to him on that Super league Heroes programme Humberside used to broadcast after the games had finished on a Sunday. He talked so much sense about the new league structure pulled no punches and really got me thinking about the flaws there are in it; and there are several!!
This week he was at it again and raised a brilliant point about the new structure that I hadn’t thought about before. Webster believes that the restructuring of Super League and the Championships could lead to a bigger gulf emerging between the elite teams and the rest of the game. He said, “No one will really know what the new structure is like until they’ve experienced it and I’m willing to give it a go. I do believe the system will allow the top clubs to get first crack at signing players for next year so my opinion is that the bigger teams will just get bigger and it will be harder for the smaller teams to try and climb up”. That bit about the top 4 or 5 Clubs being more appealing to players who are out of contract at other Clubs is a massive point that could de-stabilise the whole game. With a transfer free for all from May onwards if a team is obviously struggling their top players who are out of contract will be looking to ‘bail’ while the top Clubs will be looking to grab them. For me, I like relegation and promotion but Licensing had its advantages too as this example shows. As for Webbo I’ll be watching what he says in future very closely.
I’m very impressed by the new branding on the front of the KC Stadium and well done to KC for ensuring it came to pass. I’m told that they withdrew all their branding from inside the stadium and replaced it with 6 big sheets on the West side as I show below. It’s great when someone at least recognises that it’s our Stadium as well as City’s and that we are equal tenants isn’t it?
A massive well done to KC for their actions which depict three Hull City heroes plus Johnny Whiteley, Richard Horne and Steve Prescott they really do make the place feel like home again. Not particularly popular in some quarters at the Stadium (ha ha) they are really good, so congratulations to the Communications company for insisting on their positioning and content!
This week in my bi-weekly ‘Codgers’ series highlighting great players games and events in our 150 year history, I want to feature probably the greatest season the Club ever had!
A few Diaries ago I spoke about the dark days and the Huyton game and the significance of that record low gate that everyone remembers, but this week I want to move on in the same decade during which it seemed as if we would never ever recover from the doldrums. Of course we did and we entered probably the greatest period of our recent history the early 80’s. With the likes of Knocker Norton, Skerrett, Crooks, Lloyd, Stone and Sterling gracing those famous irregular hooped shirts those were truly great days indeed. For me though perhaps our greatest ever season as a whole was a little earlier, the 1978/79 campaign.
In that amazing year we created a record which it is unlikely anyone will equal. We went through the whole season undefeated with our record at the end of the year showing, played 26 won 26. They were great times indeed. I saw every game home and away and still have some great and cherished memories. We appeared invincible and the fans had a ball. Me and my pals had a great time, we got left by the coach at Oldham, congered out of the supporters club at Blackpool, got drenched to the skin at Whitehaven, and then there was Mabel the bar maid at the Barley Mow pub at Bramley!! But that’s another story!
You would not have guessed what was to follow when the season started with a tight 17-9 win at Bramley, which was then followed by a comprehensive 61-10 defeat of Oldham at the Boulevard. In that game new signing Sammy Lloyd actually equalled the clubs all time goal kicking record for goals in a game. The record had stood since 1921 when Jim Kennedy set it against Rochdale. Lloyd in fact went on to attain the club’s record for total goals kicked in a season that year with a massive total of 170, which is now unlikely ever to be equalled.
We were off and running, and despite Bradford being our Bogey team and booting us out of all the cup competitions that year, we were to go on and never see a “L” in the League fixture list for the rest of the year.
Some games were tight, as hosting the FC, or a visit to the Boulevard, was seen by most of the rest of the clubs in the Division as their “Wembley”. A couple of outfits (Huyton and Batley) even transferred their home game to the Boulevard to make more money out of them. I well remember that the switched Batley game in February was almost called off ten minutes before the game took place because of ice on the pitch. However the referee took one look at the size of the crowd and listened to their baiting cries in his direction and decided to go ahead. The game was played in conditions more akin to Ice-skating! But we won 20-0. There were some close calls too. We scraped past Blackpool at the Boulevard in November 14-13, just beat Bramley 8-5 at home in January and squeezed past Oldham at a rain sodden Watersheddings in our penultimate game of the season in May. Boy the weather was bad that day!
So the scene was set for the big game of the season against second placed Hunslet at the Boulevard on 18th May 1979. This was it, our chance to have a place in the Guinness Book of records, and to go through a whole season undefeated.
Although we were already promoted, I remember the Daily Mail revealing that Arthur Bunting, our coach, had decreed that the team would not be parading the Second Division salver around the ground before the kick off. He wanted nothing to take the teams minds off this last, important and possibly historic, game. If I remember rightly, Mr Bunting had in fact seen a similar situation, when he was coach at The Dobbins, end with the hosts losing the game and he was risking nothing this time.
12, 424 crammed into the Boulevard and I watched the game from the Gordon Street end of a packed Threepenny Stand. Hunslet really did not offer much at all on attack, but their tenacious tackling soon subdued even the usually noisy fans around me, as they did everything they could to keep us out. Lloyd, the record breaker, missed 4 goals in the first half and at half time the scores stood at 1-0 after Knocker Norton had dropped a solitary goal. The thorn in our side that night was I remember, little Tony Dean, a little general and a player who was to sign and star for us two years later. He was known as the drop goal king of British Rugby League and although he missed with two attempts, he slid one over in the second half to level the scores.
It looked likely that the game was going to end in a draw although Hunslet plugged away and another drop goal from Dean was always on the cards. Could we lose out at such a late stage? Then following a foul on John Newlove, Sammy at last found his kicking boots and slotted over a penalty. We were back in the lead, but it was still touch and go! It was then left for the most unlikeliest of hero’s to score the only try of the game and seal the record for Hull FC. Charlie Stone who only scored about 8 tries in 200 appearances for the club, side stepped his way over the line and although Lloyd missed again with the conversion we were home, we were the champions, and most important of all the real record breakers!!! It was not a classic game, but with so much at stake, for me, it still ranks as high as that win at Cardiff in the final, for sheer tension and ultimate ecstasy.
That season we scored more tries than any other team in the whole competition and although only playing second division teams in the League, we still managed to beat Leeds in the Cup and draw with Bradford away in the same competition. We of course went up and thus started that Golden Age in the history of Hull FC, the early 80’s! The rest as they say is history, but what a season eh?
So another Diary when there was little to report on besides the game yesterday, draws to an end. Don’t forget to get down to the Central Library to support the folks who are competing for the title of Poet Lauriot of Hull FC 2015 on Thursday it should be a good night. As part of the 150th Celebrations 6 finalists will read out their poems and be judged by a panel which includes John Godber and the playwright responsible for ‘Sully’ Dave Windass. It’s free of charge starts at 6-00pm and will be good fun so get there if you can! Plus I’ll be popping down to Bishop Burton this Saturday for the first outdoor event of the Celebrations, when kicking off at 12.30pm, the clash will feature a team heavily consisting of the Hull FC Under 19s side taking on a side from Lincoln, celebrating and duplicating the Airlie Birds’ first recorded fixture way back in 1866!
So there you are, it’s been great to hear from everyone this week even though I’ve come in for some stick as no doubt I will next week. However that’s fine, because that’s what it’s all about really…opinions. Thanks for sticking with another Diary, your continued interest is really appreciated were almost there and the new season is upon us.