The Dentists Diary – 431st

And so it begins…(and this time, it really begins!!)

On Sunday the talking will finish, the rhetoric will be over and the hats, scarves, smelling salts and worry beads will be out, but until then excitement and anxiety will vie in equal parts for the emotions of the average FC fan. Of course there is optimism, everyone across the game has aspirations for their own team and we all start with a clean sheet. But at least now the waiting is almost over, as the 2015 campaign is just 6 days away!

‘Cool dude’ Yeamo and Jordan (Sorry I was late but it took me ages to get these trousers on) Rankin meet the fans with the Super League Trophy in St Stephens on Friday.

This is the moment when all the new signings, pre-season predictions, the posturing and the aspirations come down to just one thing; the first game. We are all excited and daring to dream, however what we’ll feel like on the way home on Sunday evening is anyone’s guess, but, that’s what being an FC fan is all about really…because it’s that uncertainty that ‘kills’ you! Still, it’s that time when hope springs eternal and we all pray that this is the season that the ‘Sleeping Giant’ awakes. That’s been an annual state of mind for us lot, but invariably, for the last few years at least, it’s one that hasn’t stuck around very long. We can only dream that this year it will be different.

It’s going to be a real battle but we’re all in it together, it’s our Club and we’ll all bust a gut to help realise that dream! Currently we sit proudly in 4th position in the League (alphabetical order) and those past disasters and the sceptic in me, indicate that if I were you, I would enjoy that lofty status while you can!!!

However for all that, experience dictates that survival and therefore ultimately success or failure in the new league set up probably rests on one issue; who wants it the most. Of course as fans we always want it the most, you bet we do, but even though flair and skill are important and necessary out on the field, it’s another ingredient that really makes the difference. Having suffered some dire campaigns and horrible disappointments I am left in little doubt that when all the play books, combinations, drills and coaching are put aside, the sheer grit and determination to win at all costs, every time you run out to play, is the single most important ‘bit’ of being successful. It won’t get you over the line every week, but if you can achieve that level of focus and commitment week in week out you’ve a chance that you’ll win more than you lose and then of course the classy rugby follows… well I think it does. (It’s so long since all that happened I can’t remember!) The thing is that focus and passion is a mind-set that quickly rubs off on the fans and one that ensures that the supporters are in their battling with the team on every step of the journey.

As for me, well I just want to get going now and I am really looking forward to Huddersfield on Sunday. The Giants are talking a good game about fast starts, hitting the ground running and power rugby and I know that I might not be so full of anticipation come next week’s Diary. However for now it’s just a case of waiting to see if this is THE new beginning and this is THE season, when we start to show the rest of the game that the FC are more than ‘also ran’s. For me, standing as we do on the threshold of the 2015 season, there’s little more that we can do except get behind the team, cheer them on, sing our hearts out and ….HOPE!

This week’s offering is another mixed miscellany of thoughts, musings and bits of news but thankfully next week we will be back in the cut and thrust of the regular season and there will be plenty to mull over. However the news that Bobby Tyson Wilson is to be our first duel registration player, and feature regularly for Doncaster this season was hardly unexpected was it? I have been impressed with him in the Under 19’s when he’s been fit but he has been dogged by injury and if he is to get a new contract at the end of this season then it’s make or break time. The conveyor belt of talent coming through means that he has now to really make his mark and shine this time around or he’s out! He’s a strong lad with a big hit in him, but as with his colleagues in the front row Bowden and Green, he has to find the sort of aggression that makes people sit up and take notice, an area, my postbag indicates, that is a worry with all three of these young players for many fans.

Some feel we should have tried to capture a real ‘hairy arsed awkward sod’ to rough things up a bit but our preseason recruitment has pointedly concentrated on other positions. In the modern game the pack has to get on top and although big strong running second rowers are important it’s in the front row that the battle to get the half backs on the front foot is won or lost. With Scott Taylor arriving at the end of the season these three young hopefuls really do have to step up this term, or there could be casualties.

I was impressed with Watts last year, he’s on the up and will probably start with Micky Paea (who looked really good in the short minutes he’s played so far) but Feke hasn’t impressed me so much, although as an impact player with a bit of something different, he’s probably the best we have. It will be interesting to see how 8, 9 and 10 get on at Huddersfield on Sunday. They have to try and get over the Giants forwards as we did in the first half against Rovers, because Sneyd and Pryce desperately need that platform and a quick play the ball to do their stuff and get us running. Houghton can scoot all day which really helps, but before a tackle has been made in anger, the props (and what we do about rotating our number 9) are my biggest concern. Let’s hope next week at this time they have come through and matched the massive Huddersfield 6. If we don’t, then it will be a real worry and something that might be difficult to solve with our current personal, once the season is underway.

On the Wilf’s Whiffs front (that’s the rumour mill on signings for the uninitiated) it’s been really quiet of late, but I can reveal that the Club are negotiating with several players over extensions to their current contracts, some are already sorted and some are ongoing, but I expect an announcement when they are all completed.

The news on ticketing and the fact that he SMC have drawn back from their ‘no tickets on sale on the day’ stance is good, but eminently sensible too. The SMC were lobbied by the fans, plus the Club through Adam and James Clark, had several meetings with John North and the people at the Management Company. Sense prevailed and everyone who wants to attend a game whether they book well in advance or decide to come an hour before kick-off can now get in. The Club struggled to get this agreement, but before they could announce the outcome the whole situation was muddied again by a ridiculous ‘none article’ on the Hull Daily Mail web site (but not interestingly enough in the actual paper) entitled “Hull FC owner Adam Pearson: KC Stadium ticketless turnstiles won’t be an issue”

No guys of course they won’t, if that was a fact, but that was totally misleading because the one thing you need to get into almost every turnstile now is a bloody TICKET!!! I got several texts and messages from fans thinking that now they didn’t need a ticket after all! Talk about misleading, its ‘Cashless turnstiles’ or even ‘All Ticket’ turnstiles that have been introduced, which it was revealed later by the Club are indeed not a problem now, with the initiatives I’ve out lined above. So an article on the Mail website released just after midnight and not included in the paper was totally misleading, insinuated as it did that Adam had capitulated to the SMC when in fact the situation was completely the opposite and a compromise that suited us had been reached. Does anyone else wonder at times if they do this on purpose?

The situation is now that you will be able to get match day tickets for adults at a kiosk at the front of the West Stand and all other classes can get them at the ticket office, but the best things to come out of this whole ticket debacle is the advance ticket changes, where now you will be able to book your ticket on line and also get your admission with a £3 discount if you buy in advance. What next for the SMC, I wonder, coin slots on the toilet doors?

I don’t know about you but I do at times get City fans telling me to move with the times and get real, well Angus Young of the Hull Daily Mail probably their most respected and longest serving Reporters, needs telling too! He tweeted on Saturday after the Newcastle game, “Having experienced the KC Stadium turnstile fiasco today I can confirm it is indeed a joke. Missed 15 mins; stewards unhelpful”. Well said Angus, but let’s see how much of that he’s allowed to put in the actual pages of the Mail eh?

I heard this week that Matt Adams is leaving the Clubs marketing team and moving onto pastures new. From my own experience marketing is a strange animal, because when you’re in it, the bosses always think you’re not effective enough and the customers or fans don’t think you do enough of it. In reality of course, at times the product provided by the bosses and the promotional budget to sell it are both crap and the fans or customers can’t often see what is put in front of them anyway. I found that it’s a job in which you just can’t win! Matt’s worked through all that, helped me a lot and really is a top bloke and someone who has for the last couple of years, worked long and unsocial hours behind the scenes to make things happen. I know that James Clark will miss him and I just thought I take a few lines to wish him well and thank him for what he has done for my Club. Good Luck Matt!

I really welcomed Adam Pearson’s comments on the fact that pre-season friendly’s are to be scaled back next season, although I was less pleased to hear the only one we will be staging will be the bloody ‘plastic’ Derby….again! As the number of ‘in season’ games continue to increase more and more Clubs are cutting back on the number of these pointless pre-season matches and after the Wakefield debacle Adam Pearson commented to me that, “Fans get so disillusioned over friendly’s, coaches try to give everyone a game and players must be conscious of wanting to avoid injury” which summed up his frustration with it all. You know, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a couple of ‘behind closed doors’ trial games from next term.

We may still have to field the Under 19’s in a game with Donny as part of our Duel Registration deal but otherwise ‘friendlies’ are probably about to become a thing of the past. Of course for me after another patchy pre season I’m happy to go along with our owner, but I do also like the no stress environment that these games are played in, before we enter the purgatory that is often the real thing. Still I think it’s a good idea myself particularly after the ridiculous circumstances surrounding the Wakefield match, I know we have to play Testimonials but no more of those pointless games please!

So this weekend we face the first season under the new structure, which promises that every minute counts and every game is important. I won’t be visiting this subject again, I promise, well not until perhaps round 23 anyway, but I think it’s time for one last collection of my thoughts and what’s been gleaned on the new league table malarkey before it all begins to unfold. You’ve all seen my musings on it ad infinitum over the months as I’ve blown hot and cold about it, been sceptical then cautiously optimistic, confused and then just plain worried. Divorcing Hull FC and where we might finish from the equation, I’ve listened to the argument, tried to understand it all, questioned the rugby league and attempted to accept, as our owner says, ‘it’s here and we have to make the best of it’.

However now’s the time that the talking stops and the ‘adventure’ begins.

So this week before it all kicks off and we begin our journey into the unknown I’ll nail my colours to my own particular mast and say I think 2015 and the new fixture set up will be exciting at times, enthralling at others, brilliant for the aspiring Championship teams and that perhaps it’ll make even better TV (if only we had someone decent to commentate on it!) However ultimately for me as a fan of the game, in the long term I think it will be an absolute bloody disaster, particularly in the context of the future of Rugby in this Country.

I’m getting on and perhaps that shows in what I write these days, perhaps I’m set in my ways, a stick in the mud and what the psychologists call ‘resistant to change’. But, having looked at all the arguments, the hype and the propaganda, for me it’s ‘The Kings New Clothes’ and a system based on a bizarre mentality, where just for the sake of the hype, you want everything to mean something, every game and bugger the consequences. For me there has been little thought for the players who have to play more matches, under more pressure, with no doubt more of the ensuing injuries that the added fatigue and stress that scenario engenders.

For me Tony Smith, James Webster and Denis Betts, the only real voices of caution within the game, have got it right! They believe that the game could be badly damaged by the concept, which Betts described as “Car crash TV in the X Factor world!” he explains, “Its winner takes all and loser leaves the room, perhaps forever” He believes that Clubs will end up investing in things that are not sustainable in the long term, simply because they have to survive in the short term. I tend to agree because for years with traditional relegation and promotion when just perhaps two or three Clubs were involved we’ve seen just that, remember the Oldham Bears, Workington and Doncaster in the 90’s and more recently London and the Bulls?

So, I think that one day in the future, we might look back in despair at a time when the going was tough for the game and when the watchwords should have been consolidation, sustainability and stability. Of course, although in the long term those elements are essential for the survival of any sport under pressure, in the short term they are boring, ‘unsexy’ and don’t make good press do they? Its better it seems to instead chase the fickle occasional supporter, and massage his wallet and that of the media with manufactured jeopardy, razzamatazz and gimmicks! The second tear Clubs need one up one down, no one has an issue with that, everyone has to be able to dream and aspire to reach the top echelon, but a system that could see three or even four up and down is just too destabilising.

Even the mantra of ‘Every minute counts’ is rubbish really because every game won’t count will it? I mean to say if a Club is in the bottom 4 by say round 18 and so far adrift that they can’t get into the top 8, then they will start to field weakened teams as they save their players and rest them up for the battles to come in the league of death, as they endeavour to stay in Super League! The same goes for Championship Clubs who find themselves so far in front by the same stage in the process; they’ll rest players for the challenge ahead.

Sure it will make for exciting viewing in the short term, but what’s the future for those Clubs who will invariably overstretch their resources to try and stay up or indeed who have sunk millions into youth development and building a business over the last decade? Last week James Webster said that out of contract players in the likely bottom four or five Clubs would, because of their insecurity, come May every year be looking to pastures new, and if they are any good the vultures in the top 4 will be waiting to snaffle them up, and he could well be right.

Who wouldn’t welcome Bradford back into the Super League? I can hardly wait!

In a far off ‘1984’ style world of RL, there could come a time when the top few elite Clubs will control things and not need to run Academy’s and youth set up’s but rather leave that to the yo-yo Clubs and then just grab their assets when they go down. You know and I know that despite all the fine words viable and sustainable Super league teams will get relegated to all of a sudden find that the guarantees of financial assistance, parachute payments and ‘jam tomorrow’, are grossly over hyped and totally inadequate when it comes to squad retention and more importantly, to keeping the young starlets that they have worked for years to develop. Enter the Vultures again!!

I love the game and want it to succeed I really do and so I hope crowds go up, viewing figures rise, investment comes in and the game gets stronger and stronger, but will we in the end see a ‘Super’ Super League of the big 6 or 7 and if so is that sustainable? Will in fact fans like me just get fed up with it all and fall by the wayside? It won’t necessarily be next year at this time when we will see a change, but rather in three seasons time when Clubs have been up and down a time or two and a couple have gone bust and disappeared.

OK if you’re a Halifax, Leigh or Featherstone fan reading this then you’ll be jumping up and down because this is of course your big chance, the Promised Land and indeed your nirvana. However, if you’re perfectly honest, you have to agree, that dreams are great but the reality of any of your Clubs being up there with Wigan and Saints year in year out is pretty farfetched and perhaps just that; a dream. Instead we will all probably see the game evolve into there being 6 or 7 ‘Big’ Clubs who have the best players, around 4 or 5 aspiring ‘no-hopers’ at the bottom of the Championship and in the middle, 12 or so Clubs in a state of flux between the Leagues, locked in an almost unending battle to either get promoted or stay up, whilst all the while supplying players to the top few when they fail or look like failing!!!

I really depressed my pal Steve when I expounded this view the other day and please don’t let me depress you reading this. It’s just my take on it and for me if you’re Wigan, Saints, Leeds and Warrington et al, it’s great, otherwise it could be a worry for the rest, although in the spirit of ‘The Kings New Clothes’ few in boardrooms and on the terraces can see it at present. I could be wrong, I usually am, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

On this thorny subject, which I promise, as I say, to now abandon till Round 23 at the earliest, it’s always great when readers get involved and this week I was indebted to Chris Walker when he E Mailed me in some detail to make his own observations on the situation, he said, “……my biggest issue with the new league format is the fixture arrangement for the bottom 4 SL clubs playing the top 4 Championship clubs. To me it’s unfair that all previous results are discarded when the new mini league starts 2/3rds the way through the season. I also worry that it might distort results towards the end of the main season (he then makes the point I made above on teams resting players towards the end of the season)

I think it would be better if all teams carried forwards the results and points of the games played between each other during the first
part of the season into the second part. So, for example, if Wakefield, Widnes, HKR & Cas make up the bottom 4 of SL, they would start the 2nd part of the season having played 6 games each, and carrying forward their points from games played against each other. Similarly, if Halifax, Fev, Leigh & Doncaster make up the top 4 in the championship they would do the same.

This would reward teams for what they achieved against each other in the first part of the season, and give the top 2 Championship sides a decent chance of replacing the bottom SL side because they would start the 2nd stage with more points. The 2nd stage of the season would then just involve games between SL and Championship sides (i.e. no fixtures pairing 2 SL sides together or 2 Championship sides together) So, using the teams mentioned above as an example, Wakefield would play Halifax, Fev, Leigh & Doncaster home and away, but wouldn’t play Widnes, HKR or Cas again, having already played these 3 teams twice earlier in the season and carried forward their results from those games”.

Well it’s all a bit complex mate but if, like me, you all stuck with what Chris had to say, then you can see that there is a lot of credence in his thoughts and they make a lot more sense to me!! However don’t be waiting for the call from Redhall anytime soon offering a job Chris, your idea makes far too much sense for that!!! But thanks for input anyway!

Someone said this week that Rugby Union is Rugby League with the best bits taken out! For me Union have a poor game with brilliant administrators, while we have a brilliant game and you know my thoughts on the rest let’s just see what happens!!

It was great to hear from another regular reader Karl ‘Hutchie’ Hutchinson this week too and he told me that he was taking some of his lads from Wyke to Bishop Burton this Friday, 6th Feb, when they will be accompanied by another 30 or so Hull & district players. Its part of the latest RFL initiative called “Embed The Pathway” which offers a clear route for aspiring youngsters towards the professional Clubs and beyond and aims to ensure that we never again see the massive drop out levels we used to see in the sport for 15/16 year olds. That night there are sessions for local Coaches hosted by FC Assistant Coach Andy Last. It’s great to see how Bishop Burton and our Club are involved in developing the local youth and long may it continue. It’s such a shame that both last Saturday’s games there were called off following some atrocious weather! Thanks for the information Karl!

On Thursday I was subject to a pretty humbling experience when I was sat between Dave Windass (The playwright who penned Sully) and BAFTA winner John Godber, as a judge for the Clubs Poet Laureate Final at Hull’s Central Library. It was quite an amazing evening really as after the 50 or so original submissions had been reduced down to the final 5, every offering was quite amazing and every finalist could have easily taken up the position of Poet in residence at the Club. It was quite an enthralling experience for the crowd that attended too and it made for a really enjoyable couple of hours. Each of the contestants read two pieces of their work, which including Hull FC inspired poetry, before Phil Lamb was named the inaugural Poet Laureate after beating off a strong challenge from all 4 of the other contestants who included in their canon Steve’s poem called ‘Pass it on’ about the hereditary ‘hardship’ of Hull FC running in the family, a brilliant song from Kieran and Sue’s evocative and touching piece about Jack Harrison which was descriptively brilliant. In the end the judges deliberated for around 20 minutes before local vicar Phil Lamb was named the inaugural Poet Laureate. The ‘Rhyming Reverend’ painted a brilliant picture of the grunt and grind of rugby and his insight into the game and the psyche of the fans just swayed it in the end. I’m sure we’ll hear from him again during the year and this the first event of the 150th Festival was a real feather in the cap of Ash Foster the Clubs 150th Celebration officer.

The ‘Rhyming Reverend’ gets his prize.

Now, how much money do you make out of the Challenge Cup and is it the gold mine some of us think it is for amateur Clubs. There was a time when a draw against a professional team in the early rounds meant that your future was guaranteed for the next couple of years. But that ain’t the case anymore! Wigan St Patrick’s have withdrawn from this year’s competition having excluded themselves from the first round draw because they simply can’t afford to compete. Last year it has been revealed that they made just £63 from a Challenge Cup tie against Leigh. The National Conference League side were missing from the 40-strong line-up for the draw, which took place at Wembley Stadium a fortnight ago.

A spokesperson at the Wigan Club said: “For those that remember last year, we drew a home game against Leigh Centurions. Unfortunately due to the rules of the game we were unable to hold this fixture at home, which would have been fantastic for the club and town. After a frantic search for an alternative venue in Wigan, we were forced to use the Leigh Sports Village. Due to the ridiculous costs involved, which we had to cover as the home team before we shared the profit with the Centurions; we ended up making a total of £63”. After additional training, coach charges etc. and lots of other ‘on costs’ they were severely out of pocket, so decided against competing this year. That’s a bit of an eye opener isn’t it!

In our 150th Year I have promised to continue featuring an occasional series of games that have significance over our history and that they’ll not always be the ‘usual suspect’, like Cup Finals and big matches. So, before I get to all the finals and Trophy winning exploits, I’m trying to include some that were, in their own way, history making for our Club but for very varying reasons that are sometimes well nothing to do with Cups and laps of honour!

I don’t know if many of you read that little piece in some of the National Papers last weekend about a football team who play in the Italian Second Division whose players walked off the pitch half way through a League game. They were, shall we say, a little disappointed with the standard of refereeing! That got me thinking, as to whether that would ever happen in a rugby game? Nah, it couldn’t could it? Well actually once at Hull FC it almost did! So, this week’s Codgers Corner goes right back over 40 years to 1974, and to a barmy September evening at the Boulevard. That night we played a second round Yorkshire Cup (remember that) game against a Leeds outfit who were back then the best in the game.

Although by then I had been supporting the club around 14 years, this game is a real, “Stick in my memory job” for this fan and for many reasons as well. Firstly, I watched it from the Best Stand, which was a rarity, however precisely why I was not in the usual position on The Threepenny Stand escapes me, but the action in my mind’s eye all takes place from there, looking across towards my usual viewing area. In those days David Doyle Davidson was the coach and he was just starting to bring together a few youngsters that were the first green shoots of that great team of the late seventies. However we were floundering in the Second Division and playing a Loiners outfit that had won the Yorkshire Cup for the past two years and were on a long unbeaten run. If I remember rightly, they had some familiar names in their ranks back then such as Langley and Holmes. Syd Hynes, Keith Hepworth (late of Cas and soon to be of Hull FC), Mick Harrison, Clarkeson and a great winger called Atkinson.

The pundits had us down for a good hiding, but we shot into a surprise 7-0 lead in the first half hour, however it was just before half time when the whole thing kicked off. Hepworth tackled our captain, the usually mild mannered Brian Hancock, and a scrap broke out amongst several players, much to the delight of the fans. The referee was I think Mr Lawrenson and he sent Hancock straight off the field, for what was his first ever dismissal. The players crowded round the ref. to object, and Lenny Casey must have said a bit too much, because it all erupted again and he was off too.

Rather like our friends in Italy, our Prop Big Jim Macklin had by then had enough of Mr Lawrenson and our fiery hard man motioned to the players, pointed to the tunnel and most of them started to walk defiantly towards the touchline. Were we seeing the first ever walk off at the Boulevard? The official, who clearly had no idea what to do next, (nothing new there then) told Leeds to get on with the penalty, Leeds tapped the ball and set off jogging down the pitch, laughing, towards the Airlie Street end expecting to score.

However FC forward Don Robson stood his ground and motioned to his departing colleagues trying to recall then as they started to trudge off the field and he was was soon joined by Alf Macklin, Jim’s brother who was not part of the walk out either, Don shouted to the lads and pointed to the Leeds players. Our players turned round, saw them trotting down the field and in a rage ran back across the pitch and Jim and Don Robson sank the still jogging Syd Hynes with one of the biggest tackles from behind I have ever seen!! For the rest of the half the 11 players of Hull playing like men possessed, toughed it out exchanging blow for blow, with the visibly shaken Leeds 13.

Hero of the day Don Robson!
(Picture with thanks to Bill Dalton)

However the excitement was not over yet, because after the referee had blow the whistle for the break, a Hull fan, obviously enraged by the earlier dismissals, vaulted the hooped top fencing in front of terracing at the Airlie Street end and ran towards him. Spotting this, Lawrenson, who fancied himself a bit, set off toward the fan to confront him, head on! It was all happening, and the crowd roared their approval as two policemen rugby tackled the supporter, whilst Chris Davidson, our scrum half, held back the referee and escorted him off the pitch. The place had gone mad.

If the first half was pure circus, then the second half was possibly the best display of backs to the wall rugby I have seen from my club. The pitiful crowd of just over 3000 who had come alone to watch an anticipated drubbing, were treated to the best dogged, gutsy exhibition of Rugby League most of them had seen and in fact would probably ever see! The “flash” Leeds team ripped into the 11 men of Hull from the kick off, but the home defences somehow stayed intact and then Davidson kicked a penalty and a drop goal and amazingly we were 10-0 in the lead.

Leeds numerical superiority brought them two tries and a conversion and after 60 minutes they were trailing by 2 points at 10-8. For the last 10 minutes they bombarded our line, but somehow we held out! In those days of unlimited substitution the Doyle rang the changes so many times in that period that I think the referee stopped the game on a couple of occasions just to count how many we actually had on the field.

Looking at the record books for that year Hull finished the season 6th in the Second Division whilst Leeds were the first ever winners of the Premiership title! But I bet they remembered that September night at the Boulevard for a long time afterwards, I still do, vividly!

I have witnessed some great backs to the wall performances since, and Bill Dalton the Club Historian and I were only discussing this game, last week when Bill commented, “I have witnessed – as you will have done – 3 matches in particular where we were down to 11 and still won, the others being at Castleford in the John Player in 1983 (Campbell sent Wileman and Skerrett off just before halftime) and the opening match at KC when, once again, Ganson was determined to be the centre of attention. Another one was a Yorkshire Cuptie against Huddersfield in 1954, which was before my time”. So, although it wasn’t a unique occurrence the circumstances of this match and the unique actions of Don Robson makes for a very significant game that we were all destined to remember for many years to come.

So there we are, were off to Huddersfield and there is little doubt that 2015 is the season when Hull FC and everyone else has to get off to a good start! It’s an imperative because all of a sudden this season is a killer and whatever my prejudices for or against the new league structure, in the end if you love your Club then you have to go along with it all and get behind the FC. Of course it goes without saying that as always my allegiances lie within my life-long love affair with Hull FC and wherever they go, whoever they play, I’ll be rooting for them. However let me say that the prospect of us failing to hit the mark within the first 23 rounds in Super League and then, tired and bashed up, having to meet teams from the Championship who are already in winning mode, doesn’t really fill me with too much optimism. We HAVE to get in the top 8, simply because life will become very tough if we miss the cut.

It’s then that waiting in the wings are a group of clubs who from the start of their season will have had a variety of reasons to be highly motivated to make their point in the Championship and thus progress to the League of death. For a start, the Bulls and the club they were relegated with, London Broncos, will want to get back at the first time of asking. The Bulls essentially have to be a top-flight team given their size and proven fan base, while for the RFL’s sake the Broncos need to succeed, as Redhall have thrown a lot of time, effort and money into ensuring the game at some point actually takes off in the capital. But there are also clubs who have been waiting their chance in the Championship for a few years now, who will be scenting blood as well– not least of them last year’s winners Leigh Centurions’, Featherstone and Halifax. So failing to get in the top 8 is not an option, but of course in the end 4 teams will be in that position and we have all to fight like hell to make sure it isn’t us lot!!

However for now the start is almost upon us and at last we get back to the blood and thunder of proper competitive Rugby League. It’s all systems go again, as we set off on Sunday up the M62 heading for Huddersfield. The practise of packing the car up with every conceivable mode of dress, for every conceivable form of weather, will be back on the agenda, I’ll have my bag of sandwiches, while Mrs R will perhaps be relying on her hip flask again and despite the cathedral like surroundings, the mascot that looks as if he’s suffering from elephantitis and that tw*t with the drum, it will just be great to be immersed in it all again this weekend.

Last year we took them close!!

Best of all of course, it will be just amazing to be back in the midst of that black and white army as we grumble and grimace and cheer the lads and boo the ref, whilst all the while doing our bit to sing and chant the boys to victory in the vast open spaces of our opponents home. Travelling as always more in hope than expectation, there’ll still be well over a thousand there and its always great to see old friends and share the experience, because for me after all these years of torture ’there’s still nothing like ‘Being There’ is there? Next Sunday I start my 58nd season, I’ll be as nervous as ever and probably for the only time this campaign my glass will be half full until that is the whistle goes and the game begins, but by the 30 minute mark of the Huddersfield game we’ll all have a pretty good idea which way the wind of 2015 is going to be blowing. Get your tickets from the Club and get to the game if you can, it should be a great occasion!!! Everyone prepares for this moment differently but, on the threshold of a new season, if you’re still not in the mood or just want an extra buzz before it all kicks off then consider what I’ll be doing and put ‘Moscow 4 Pleasure We made the Noise’ into the You tube search box, get that brilliant video on and sit back and remember what it’s really all about!

Finally, once again thank you all so much for sticking with another Diary this week and indeed for putting up with my views, prejudices, opinions and rants through a closed season, which for a lot of the time has offered ‘B*gger All’ to talk about. The FC are back on the road again, it’s a new season and a new hope and boy am I looking forward to it!! Enjoy the game….

Keep Believing and………………..


Faithfully Yours