Bygones: Hull aiming to rekindle glory years to mark marvellous milestone

MAGIC MEMORIES: The poster designed to mark Hull FC's 150th year.
MAGIC MEMORIES: The poster designed to mark Hull FC's 150th year.
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“Old Faithful, we’ll roam the range together,

Old Faithful, in any kind of weather,

when the round up days are over

and the Boulevards white with clover,

for you Old Faithful pal of mine.

“Giddy up old fella cos the moon is yellow tonight,

giddy up old fella cos the moon is mellow and bright.

There’s a coyote howling at the moon above,

so carry me back to the one I love,

for you Old Faithful pal of mine.”

These familiar lyrics are, of course, as resonant with Hull FC supporters as their very own black and white colours or the sight of Clive Sullivan accelerating down the wing.

A cowboy song written by Michael Carr and Patrick Kennedy in the 1930s, the adapted version to incorporate the name of Hull’s erstwhile ground has been sung by the club’s fans for as long as anyone can remember.

Yet the fact that the famous club was in existence more than half-a-century before the original ditty was even penned, illustrates just how much history is woven into Hull FC.

Indeed, it celebrates its 150th anniversary this year.

No-one is sure exactly when in 1865 it was first founded with even club historian Bill Dalton struggling to find any official record detailing that fact.

However, it is believed to be around September or October after a group of former public schoolboys from York came together to put in place the first plans.

Regardless, Hull FC will be hosting a series of events over the next 12 months to toast this notable milestone and, perhaps understandably, it gives observers another opportunity to ask just who has been the greatest player in all that rich history?

A quick glance at the club’s specially-designed poster to commemorate the anniversary offers a snapshot of just some of the heroes in their ranks.

There is Billy Batten, the superstar centre and original RFL Hall of Fame member, who Hull doubled the world record transfer fee for by paying £600 to entice over from Hunslet in 1913,

He was worth every penny, leading Hull to their first Challenge Cup success in the 1913-14 season.

Much later on, but similarly evocative, there is Peter Sterling, of course, the legendary Kangaroos scrum-half who graced the sport here with his brilliant football between 1983 and 1985, helping Hull become an eminent team of the era.

Also there is Johnny Whiteley, the Ashes-winning forward and coach, who needs no introduction given he played his entire 15-year career with his home city after signing for £100 in 1950.

He became not just one of the club’s true greats but commanded respect worldwide, too. Now 84, Whiteley is still a regular spectator at Hull games, black and white clearly coursing through his veins.

Given the city named the main road into it after him when he died from cancer aged just 42 in 1985, it is no surprise Sullivan is present also.

The iconic Welsh winger scored 250 tries for Hull and went on to show a similar prolific ability when moving across the river to fierce rivals Hull KR in 1974.

That he is revered so much and held in such high esteem by both sets of fans says plenty about the enduring appeal of a wonderful player.

Steve ‘Knocker’ Norton may hail from that other fine rugby league stable of Castleford but the rugged and highly-skilled loose-forward earned cult status with the Airlie Birds when they were a true force in the early 1980s.

An instinctive ball player, many fans still say he is the greatest player to pull on the black and white jersey,

But more contemporary players are also included in Hull’s montage, such as influential Kiwi hooker Richard Swain, the victorious captain when they lifted their last major trophy in 2005 after an epic Challenge Cup final win over Leeds Rhinos.

Academy product Richard Horne, who retired at the end of last season having chalked up almost 400 games, featured that day in Cardiff, too, and the half-back’s contribution to the club will never be forgotten either.

Former players, like charismatic 1982 Challenge Cup winning stand-off Tony Dean, who have left us too early are included as well.

Steve Prescott, who spent five seasons there in two spells between 1998 and 2003 and either side of a solitary year at Wakefield, was in the public eye for much of his remarkable fundraising after falling ill with cancer himself.

But, after his death in 2013, people rightly recalled what an exciting exponent of full-back play he had been as well.

But look at the calibre of some of the players who are not highlighted.

Elegant stand-off David Topliss will forever be remembered fondly there, having captained Hull to six finals in just four years following his switch, at the age of 31, from Wakefield Trinity in 1981.

He lifted the Challenge Cup in ’82, having played in the same side as another heroic figure was at the other end of the spectrum and still starting out in the sport; a 19-year-old Lee Crooks.

The ball-handling prop was a revelation for Hull in that glory period and commanded a world-record £150,000 transfer fee when sold to Leeds in 1987.

That was marginally beaten soon after when Leeds returned to the Boulevard to snap up Crooks’s old pal Garry Schofield, the brilliant centre, who had shot onto the scene by rattling off 38 tries in his debut season of 1983-84, therefore, at just 18, becoming the youngest player to top the try-scoring charts.

The list could go on and on, given the constant reminder of the sort of class performers that have donned that shirt.

Current captain Gareth Ellis has quickly endeared himself to the Old Faithful masses with the sort of unflinching performances that have marked the ex-Great Britain second-row out as one of the best players of his generation.

Ellis, though, knows it is high time that the club finally lifted some silverware again.

The likes of Norton, Crooks and Topliss featured the last time they won the league title in 1983.

The new season starts next month and Ellis admitted: “It is a massive achievement to survive as long as 150 years and have some of the glory years this club has seen.

“But what a special year it will be if we can get our act together and be the team to rekindle that.

“We have the potential to go on and do something if we really put our minds to it. It’d be fantastic for us and for the club as a whole if we did.”