WEMBLEY AND THAT

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He’s coming home, he’s coming home, he’s coming, Blythy’s coming home…


We don’t expect that that to catch on (too much) over the remainder of the season, but if you’re off to Lloret in a few weeks for the Catalan game, why not let it be this year’s anthem of the holiday, much in the same way the Kevin Penny chant was the other year?

Remember that? When that news was announced? A large number of people wrote it off as shite; a sign that Smith has lost his mind or that Moran has more money than sense?

And at the start of this season, when it was announced Ryan Bailey was signing?

Blythe isn’t a world beater by any stretch of the imagination – and our sources in Bradford tell us he’s been pretty poor on the rare occasions he’s even been on the pitch this year – but, like Bailey and Penny, he won’t take up too big a chunk of the salary, he’ll be hungry and he certainly won’t be first choice.

Most likely, he’ll probably only be called on to ‘do a job’, probably in the back row, and to display a positive attitude around the place. In a sport that is regulated by a salary cap, it is these sort of signings that you need to accommodate the big money stars such as Clark, Sandow and Gidley.

Versatile, decent and, mainly, probably cheap cover. Not exactly worthy of an internet meltdown or a letter to the guardian or whatever the current method of protest is at the club’s recruitment policy.

In other news, we still can’t beat Saints at home, Wakefield haven’t got much better in the past few weeks and Daryl Powell is probably still blaming the referee for letting Warrington score a last minute try against his side last week.

We can’t really be arsed running through the past few games in detail. Victory over the ever-lovable ‘CasHullford’ Tigers (get a fucking grip) has guaranteed us a top four spot, which is welcome news, obviously, but the really important stuff starts this weekend.

With the treble still a possibility, the Challenge Cup final is followed by a tough-looking trip to the South of France, two local derbies and a very probable league leaders’ deciding trip to the KC to finish off the Super Eights.

Chances are, we will then face either Hull or Wigan – maybe even both – again in the top four play offs. Exciting times! As such, we thought we’d try to harness some of the Wembley hype into a hits for our little page with a bit of a Cup final preview.

Firstly, we said it a few weeks ago, but how refreshing is it as an advert for the sport as a whole that two teams who had nothing to play for this time last season, are now both firmly in the battle for all three trophies on offer.

Both ourselves and Hull made the super eights last season but were much too far behind the top four pace setters to really make any impact on the playoffs. After our semi-final defeat to their cross-city rivals, our season was a damp squib and our only highlight for the remainder of the year was beating Saints away in the final game and politely informing their players how we rated their chances of silverware. Correctly, as it turned out.

If you look back to the not-so-distant future, both clubs were in deep financial troubles, playing in front of sparse crowds at decrepit old grounds. The epitome of sleeping giants, both clubs closed the 20th century having endured a barren spell when it came to even challenging for honours, though as the new millennium dawned, shiny new stadia were on the horizon for both clubs, along with some genuine investment and both took it in turns to tipped by the pundits as the most likely ‘to crack the top four’ of Wigan, Saints, Leeds and Bradford.

It hasn’t come overnight, but two famous names are finally sitting at the top table of the sport.

Statistics are a funny thing; you can manipulate them any way you like. You could point to the fact that Hull have never won at Wembley (You can even sing it to the tune of ‘Old Faithful’, too), or the fact that we haven’t lost there since Thatcher was in charge, but those facts mean fuck all in relation to this final. You can’t imagine Sika Manu having sleepless nights this week having nightmares of Brett Kenny’s performance in the ’85 final, can you?

Hull, being top of the league as they are, and having beaten us twice this season, must go into the final as slight favourites. That has to suit us. Leeds were favourites in 2010 – and probably again in 2012 – and let’s face it, the favourites tag is never welcome where our beloved club is concerned.

They key battles in rugby league are the same in any game, but in a major final, certain positions take on added significance.

Forwards win rugby matches, they say (whoever they are), backs decide by how much.

And that is especially true of this Hull FC side.

Their pack is, to use the technical term, fucking massive. Scott Taylor and Frank Pritchard propping either side of the tackling machine Danny Houghton, Mark Minichello and the aforementioned Manu packing down with Gareth Ellis in the back row. It’s a formidable bunch and they are complimented by workhorses like Danny Washbrook coming off the bench to share the work load.

But, our pack is just as big and dominating, albeit in a different manner. Hill, Sims, Bailey and Westwood are the battering rams, while Hughes, Currie and Westerman is arguably the most dynamic back row in the league. Not as big and as smash-mouth as Hull’s pack, they’re more like two extra centres and an additional half back when compared to Hull’s ‘five props’ style pack, but it works for us.

We mentioned earlier in the season Hull’s similarity to that great Bradford side of the early 2000s: their reliance on brute force down the middle and individual strike players out wide a contrasting style to Tony Smith’s trademark expansive style.

To get on top in the cup final, it will be interesting to see if Wire try to blow Hull away early doors, like in the semi final, like Wigan away earlier in the season, or if we keep it tight for the first 20 minutes and try to grind down Hull’s big pack.

With Sandow, Gidley and Ratchford in the pivots, we must feel confident being able to spread the ball on the wide Wembley pitch and use the pace of our three-quarters out wide.

That said, we have to get into Sneyd early and stop his kicking game. While the Wembley pitch will suit our half backs’ ability to throw the ball around, it will also be an attractive proposition to Sneyd, who will fancy his chances of finding open space with his left boot that has served him so well this season.

Danny Houghton is another obvious threat for the Airlie Birds, but he does 80 minutes nearly every week. He must be a target for our pack and pivots to run at all game, especially when we have Clark and Dwyer interchanging at 9. The fresh legs around the play the ball should give us an advantage in crucial parts of the game, especially if and when the big Hull forwards begin to tire.

For all of Hull’s threats, we have to hope that our big names with big game experience will step up to the mark and make the difference on the day. The likes of Ratchford, Hill, Westwood, Atkins et al have won the cup before, while Gidley, Sims, Bailey have played for some massive clubs and on the international stage. Hopefully this tells against the likes of Jamie Shaul and Jordan Abdull. Talented players, no doubt, but lacking in experience in those cutting edge environments.

Hopefully you’ve not died of boredom after reading all that. We wish you all a fun – and safe – and hopefully victorious trip down to London.

 

SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON…

 

NOW THE FUCKING WIRE.

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