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Kathleen Sexton

Kathleen Sexton

  • Hull

Kathleen has been a Hull KR fan all her life going to games of all levels with her mum and dad. After over 50 years of watching has a good grasp of what it is all about

I first started going with my dad to Rovers in 62-63 probably. And mum worked at the time on a Saturday, because it was Saturday games then, and we used to go, watch the rugby, and we used to go to away games. Pre-M62.

And then we moved to a new house and mum stopped working. She didn’t always come with us and my dad was terrible. He was alright at home games, I could go to the loo, but an away game, he used to just get some random woman – obviously somebody he knew, but I didn’t know that – “Can you just take my daughter to the toilet?”. And I said to Mum, you’re going to have to start coming with us. And then we did, and we all used to go, pretty much… We went up as far as Cumbria. Because quite often Dad’s worked Saturday morning and it’d be straight in the car and off.

And then, when I was 16, I started a Saturday job, which meant I couldn’t go any more, because we played Saturdays. And then I moved out of Hull for a few years and wasn’t in a position to come home every weekend. Then when I came back home, I started going again. I used to go with a friend of mine from school, whose dad had played for Rovers. He actually scored the first try for them after the war. A man called Sidney Atkinson. And we used to go together and then she started a family and obviously couldn’t take a baby with her, so she stopped going, so I moved back and sat in the stand with Mum and Dad. I think that we were probably only two of a very small number of people who were happy when we moved grounds. Because we’d sat a full season with Dad’s seat empty. He died August 87. So, we moved to the new ground, obviously. I suppose it’s just a thing you always do. You know, like, night games are awkward now for Mum, because by the time you get home it’s late and when they moved the Huddersfield game, I said, look, if you want, we can watch it on the TV. And she said yes, we’ll do that on Saturday afternoon, won’t we? She misses not being able to sit outside and watch, but it’s not an option any more. I suppose it’s just something we’ve always done. I mean, when things were rocky, and … Keith Lyon set up the Rovers Supporters’ Group, you really felt then that you were part of a family.

This was in the early 90s, when that Smith man did the, he organised the march, the walk from East Park, from the old ground to the new ground. It was to raise money because they were in administration. And it was good then, because you went in the bar before or after the game and the players came in there after the game and you felt more part of the club. Whereas now, you don’t really see the players until they’re on the pitch. Which you miss a bit. But, it’s enjoyable. And I suppose its part of who you are. Since things like Facebook came on, and the various different groups, you’re sort of involved in that way as well, which is good. I’m just hoping and praying that we manage to secure survival for another season. Because, I think when we went down after the Salford drop goal, we went down, and I think everybody felt we can’t let this happen and we’ve got to… And gates stood up reasonably well, ticket sales stood up reasonably well, but then you don’t know what would happen if it happened again, which is sad. But I’m really pleased that they’ve done away with the joint academy and we’re going to have our own academy and we’re going to have an A team. Because I used to take some relatives’ children to A team games and I think A team is good for children, because you’ve got more time to talk about what’s happening. “Why have they done that?”, well, because… Whereas nobody wants to sit at a first team game and explain to a child why it’s been given for the first knock on not for the second or whatever, but you can do that at an A team game.

We always went to A team games and we used to go and watch when Gary Wilkinson was coaching the… I don’t know if they were Colts then or under somethings. They used to play on St Richard’s, and we used to go and watch those and that was good. You were all more part of it than you seem to be now. But you make good friends and people that – I mean there’s lots of people that you’ve known for years, just to say, “Now then, how are you doing?”. I think its part of your life. And it’s not the same. I don’t know, I’ve never been a football supporter. But to me, football seems to have a different ethos. Maybe I’m wrong.

Hopefully, when they start having A team games, they don’t have them all as double headers. You know, when you go to an A team game and a first. It always used to be that A team was home one weekend and the first team was on the next.

I don’t watch the Academy because it’s – where it is at the moment at Bishop Burton, it’s not remotely disabled friendly. I think you’ve got to walk across three pitches to get to the pitch they play on and you can’t push a wheelchair across 3 rugby pitches – well, I couldn’t push a wheelchair across three rugby pitches. It’s like when they sometimes play at YPI – there’s so little parking there. Unless you get there ridiculously early, you’ve no chance. So hopefully they’ll start playing at Craven Park again.

Once I was threatened at a Yorkshire Cup, at Leeds against Hull and Hull were winning. And Alan Burwell went down. Superb try. And I cried. And my dad said, “If you’re going to do stupid things like that, I won’t be bringing you any more”. I can remember that quite distinctly. And when we went to Wembley in 80, my mum said she wouldn’t go, because she wouldn’t leave her mum for a full day on her own. And I said, “Oh, you go, and I’ll stay at home”. And you remember that little car park that used to be in front of Hammonds that you could never get parked on? I was going to my gran’s and I thought, ooh, I wanted something, and I just – and there was my car and one other car on that car park. And in Hammonds, on the various counters, they had TVs ready, for watching the game. And then I did some work in Sheffield shortly after and a lot of people in the Sheffield office said you would never have got Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United supporters going down on the same coaches. They couldn’t get over the fact there were coaches with supporters from both teams. And then when we got to Wembley in 1986, we went that time. To me, do you go to support a team because it’s part of your life, or do you go to support a team because you expect to win silverware? And I don’t think you do, do you? You go because it’s part of what you do. It’s just good.

I was 8 I think when I started going. Might have been 7, but I think I was 8. I just always went.

When I first started going, there was a guy called Mike Blackmore, Cornish man, and I always used to call him every try, a spectacular dive, because he would never run around, he used to dive in the corner almost always. And I mean Flanagan was brilliant to watch. I have to admit I was a Frank Foster fanatic. I though Frank was superb. I rated Alan Burwell. And then you’ve sort of got people like Len Casey, Steve Hartley. Although the best game I ever saw Steve Hartley play wasn’t for Rovers. I think it was for England. And it was at the Boulevard and he played stand off to Steve Norton at loose forward. And I have never seen Steve Hartley have a better game. Because all he did – I am sure there was an invisible rope, because I don’t think he was further than 6 foot from Steve Norton all the way through the game. It was brilliant, really good.

And I think we’ve had some players who perhaps weren’t as skilful as some of the players that are there now, you know, when things were rough. We had a lot of players who played for the team, if you see what I mean. They weren’t there because they were on big money, they were there because … You know, people like Matt Blanchard, Jamie Bovill, Dean Andrews, John Wilkin before, but I mean it was obvious John Wilkin was going to go somewhere else, Andy Smith, Andy Thompson – players who were good, grafting, honest players. I mean like last season, when Tim Sheens signed Danny Tickle, I thought, what on earth? And then he came, and he played well above what I expected him to play. And we’ve had the same this season with Weller Hauraki. And I think sometimes the club has fallen for a so-called big name who hasn’t delivered. I might be wrong. Because to me, it doesn’t matter how good one individual is if he hasn’t got people around him. It’s like – you watch as I do – Ben Crooks. Some of the things Ben Crooks does are unbelievably skilful, but other people who are a bit flashier get the praise and that quite upsets me. I mean Ben Cockayne was a big favourite, because he was just mad.

And I was talking to Thomas Minns, I think in his first season, and he said something about his grandma, and it was her birthday and how old she was, and I thought, “Oh my god, I’m older than your gran”. And that comes as quite an unpleasant surprise. When you started going and all the players were about your dad’s age, or so you thought, they were obviously younger. And then you get to the point where people like Watkie, George Fairburn, were of an age, and now you think oh my god, when it hits you that you’re old enough to be their gran, it’s not funny!

Some players, to me, don’t get the credit they deserve for a lot of what they do. They just go out on the pitch and they graft for eighty minutes, and some flash devil – alright, he gets a good pass, he makes a good jinking break, you know, sidestep, whatever, burst of speed – but if it wasn’t for the graft that somebody else has already done, that couldn’t happen. It’s like when Fletcher was the goal kicker, it wouldn’t matter where you got a penalty from, as long as it was in your own half – sorry, as long as it was in their half – the answer was take the two and it rarely occurred to you that he was going to miss. And players like that who kept us going when things weren’t so good, to me, deserve as much if not more recognition than some of the flash guys who drift in and out. But we all see it differently, don’t we?

I had a bit of an altercation with a chap on one of the forums a little while ago. I expressed an opinion and he came back and said, “If you’ve never played the game, you don’t know what you’re talking about”. And I was actually quite touched that two or three people came back and said, “She was playing the game when you were still swimming. She was watching the game when you were still swimming”, and things like that, you know. Because, I think you can’t watch the game for 50-odd years without getting a bit of a grip of what it’s about. And I think sometimes – it’s what do you go for. Do you go to get on a bus trip, get paralytic, scream and shout and then have a horrible hangover the next day, or do you go to watch a game that you enjoy? And I think it’s the latter with me.

I think TV coverage has helped that because we used to quite often have serious disagreements at home. Because I was standing Aberdeen Street side. Mum and Dad were in the West Stand. And you saw a totally different version of the same incident. I think TV coverage has made people more aware of some of the things that go on and don’t go on.

I do think that, to a degree, they’ve tried to speed the game up, to the point where they’re not penalising things that should be penalised and then all of a sudden, they’ll blow up for it and you think well, if the last four occasions weren’t a penalty, why was that one?

We used to do fundraising dinners and things like that. Mostly getting on into the 90s, yeah.

We just support them really. Selling raffle tickets and things like that. I think it’s such a big part of a lot of people’s lives. We haven’t gone to away games for a long time because it isn’t practical any more. But you do what you can when you can, don’t you?

I wasn’t on the committee. It was Ian Cutler and Keith Lyons originally set it up. And they used to do… he used to raise money on his buses, and they used to have race nights and things like that and sort of help the club with things like expenses, bringing players to the club. Because things were tight.

Hopefully if all works out and we manage to buy the ground back, we’ll be able to create – it’s a favourite phrase, isn’t it? – other income streams. Because you can’t expect one man to subsidise a club indefinitely. Because, I think there’s a factor – and I think Hull have it as well – because we are 55 miles east of any other Super League club. If you’re living in West Yorkshire, you can feasibly travel to quite a lot of clubs within half an hour. You start then adding another 50 miles of M62 on, it starts to make it longer days… Do people want to move to a new house for a short career? Probably not.

When I were about 13 or 14, maybe a bit more, they used to have a young supporters club at barracks on Holderness Road and we used to go there, and they used to get players to come in and talk and things and that were quite good.

My friend and I both lived this side, so it was two buses and then one or the other’s dad’s come and pick us up to take us home. But my mum and dad used to go in supporters club on Holderness Road, but I never did. I mean you’d probably get your child taken off you now, but they used to go into the supporter’s club for drink after the game and bring me a lemonade and a packet of crisps into the car. You wouldn’t leave an eight-year-old sitting on their own in a car in a car park now, would you? You just wouldn’t do it. But it just wasn’t a problem, then. I had something to read.

I laugh at my mum sometimes. She talks about people like John Millington, Roy Holdstock – oh he was always a nice lad. She sat and watched him knocking seven bells out of somebody on the pitch, but he was a nice lad!

It’s strange really, that it’s just part, isn’t it? Just something you always do. Like when people say, “I’m not buying a pass if this happens, I’m not buying a pass if that happens”. Well, do you always expect to get things always your own way? Eh, no!

My grandad used to go, my mum’s dad, before the war.  We lived on Holderness Road. Just on the beginning of Holderness Road. As I say, my mum’s dad had gone to Rovers. And I don’t know why my dad went there. I mean I can remember when I was a lot younger, quite a lot of my dad’s friends had passes for Hull and Rovers. They’d go to whichever team was at home. Because if you worked Saturday mornings, which a lot of them did, you didn’t have a car, so you couldn’t really go to away games if you didn’t have a car. So, they’d go to one one week, one the next.

I think the Hull rivalry is sad. I mean, when Hull drew at Wembley, we went on a trip from the pub to watch the replay at Elland Road. No problem, as far as I was concerned – as long as Hull weren’t playing us, I was quite happy for them to win. I can’t get into the abuse, I just don’t see the point of it. But then when we were in administration and they were sort of, a certain element of Hull supporters – “Oh well, when we’ve taken you over”, and I used to say well, if you take us over, I’ll be going to Cas. Because I couldn’t go and – there was a game at Booth Ferry Park, early 90s, I’m not sure who it was who scored the try, it might have been Mike Fletcher, quite close to the end. And coming away, because my mum had gone with her friend and I was with some people I knew, I parked my car and I said I won’t try and meet you, just make your way back to the car. And my mum was walking along the road with her friend and they were holding each other up with hysterics and I got out of the car and said, “What’s the matter with you two?” “Oh”, she said, “A young girls just brought a policeman to us”. Apparently, this young girl had gone to the policeman and said, “Those two old women are trying to cause trouble”, and the policeman said, “What do you mean”, and she said, “Well, they keep singing”. Well, it doesn’t sound funny, but it was at the time. And of course, there was the horrific incident, I think it was 81 or 82 when they were doing building works at the Boulevard on Good Friday. And that was an absolute disgrace.

I very rarely went to away derbies as an adult, because they just got unpleasant. I used to go when I was a kid. Unfortunately, I was at the Boulevard when Artie Beetson got his leg broken. That was a year or two ago…

There are some people who just like to be abusive. And you’ll never get rid of it.

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