Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Sunday's Coming: York via Fev

Amidst growing concerns over the future of semi-pro Rugby League in York, over at the City Knights, the propaganda machine is in full effect.

Having been unable to confirm a venue for Sundays game until Tuesday this week, the board at the Knights chose to question Hornets’ veracity in the matter.
The beautiful York suburb of Featherstone yesterday...

A Hornets statement earlier in the week said: "Both the RFL and Rochdale Hornets have tried to work with York to find a resolution but with no communication received from Knights officials the RFL have been forced to step in and book Featherstone Rovers for the fixture."

However, according to a report in the York Press on Wednesday, a Knights spokeswoman said it was not true that the RFL booked the ground, and that: “… regrettably, at the moment, there is no suitable venue available within York for a professional rugby league fixture, with Clifton Park and Bootham Crescent currently being unavailable…”

Either way - from this distance -  the situation at YCK looks like an unholy mess, with the council this week continuing to stall community stadium talks over a compensation package

Neil Jennings - one of the directors brought in to deflect fire from owner John Guildford - said: "We are still talking to the council and are not in a position to comment at the moment."

The club later commented: "The board is only too aware of the slow progress of negotiations… currently the board is urgently trying to agree interim compensation arrangements with the council to secure the club’s financial position through to the end of the season. Discussions continue on this.” More obfuscation, then.

Meanwhile, in parallel with the off-field farrago, club captain Pat Smith took to the press this week to play down effects on the team’s on-field performances. “We’ve played some good football and some bad football…” he said: “… in the games we haven’t played well, we’ve come unstuck, but they’ve been against good teams. It’s nothing to get overly worried about at this stage.”

“Given the stuff off the field, I think we’ve got to give ourselves some credit for the way we’ve been playing…. There’s no need to have any crisis meeting or anything like that.” That’s the party-line toed there.

But being without a playing or training base for six months must surely have put some strain on coach James Ford’s plans for the season. Prior to York’s last ‘home’ game at Featherstone, he tried to remain philosophical: "The players are doing their part - they're sticking together and focusing on playing rugby league and improving and developing as individuals and as a team. Sooner or later all other things will have to fall into place so the club can move forward and fulfil its undoubted potential.”

In previous conversation with the York Press he’d said of the situation : “It’s inhibiting the team’s development. We recruited a squad to develop, a squad we would like to shape into the way we want them to be as people and players. That’s becoming increasingly difficult when we’re restricted in what I can do in terms of our preparations.”

He went on: “I am frustrated at the lack of progress…. I made assurances to the players that I would be leaving no stone unturned to help them improve as players. I want to take them forward. When you’ve got a team of young players, you need access to these facilities.

“Things like how we move the ball and our systems in defence are good. What’s letting us down occasionally is physicality, and our injuries, which comes from missing gym work and the appropriate conditioning programmes. We’ve got plans whereby we can catch up, but I’m talking four to six weeks for adaptation and for people’s performances to go up so it all needs to happen sooner rather than later.

“It’s frustrating. As a group I feel we’re doing a decent job but I know we can do better. I don’t like doing things below our best.”

Frustrated then.

Off the back of a creditable performance at St Helens in the Challenge Cup, Ford’s side have rammed 70 points through the Scorpions, but came unstuck last Friday when they went down 32-14 at Newcastle Thunder, leaving them 8th in League 1 and the lowest placed of the ‘heartland’ clubs’.

Ford identified errors as the critical factor: “In terms of errors, if you’re going to play an expansive brand of rugby league, you’re going to have errors and your completion rate won’t be up there with teams who play a less expansive way. But we made errors with really basic rugby league, with poor execution of pass or timing, or with kick defence.”

“We put ourselves under pressure and to be honest we weren’t good enough to deal with it.”

Conversely, Hornets come into the game on the back of a solid, professional performance at South Wales and, more interestingly, as league leaders - knowing that a win of any shade will see them retain top spot.

There’s no doubt that York’s narrow track away has been a bit of a graveyard for Hornets sides over the years - but the removal of home advantage creates an interesting dynamic in so much as any ’advantage’ will be gained via the fans most able to create a ‘home game’  atmosphere. Indeed, if ever Hornets fans could play a major role in boosting their side’s chances, this is the opportunity.

So we urge as many members of the #HornetsFamily as possible to get over to Post Office Road on Sunday, get together and make some noise.You could be the difference.