Hull FC in recent times have been something of an enigma – they’ve either been brilliant and unplayable or substandard and disappointing. I have experienced the ecstasy of many finals but also the despair of defeat.
I was there for the 1982 replay, the ultimate glory, and of course Cardiff back in 2005, but also for the heartache of 1980, 1983 and 1985. To me the latter defeat will always be the most difficult to take. We should have won it and maybe just a few more seconds of play and we would have.
This year the Wembley final has come as a surprise to some. At the beginning of the year at the FC Voices Fans Forum both Adam Pearson and Lee Radford said that they both wanted success. The goals were obvious.
Far too often owners are lambasted for not getting it right. Well let’s dish out the plaudits – they have got it spectacularly right this season. If anyone would have offered me a top four place and Wembley at the start of the season I would have snapped their hands off.
Preparation has been careful and each stone has been turned to make sure that we are ready. In our coaching team I believe we have the right mixture of playing experience and coaching know-how.
Pearson has constantly put his money where his mouth is. When he took over he promised us that he would restore the great name of our club. This season has gone a long way in doing that. I would like to publically commend him for what we have achieved. There’s still some improvements to make and some tweaking to do, but we are back, and people fear playing us.
Lee Radford meanwhile was a player who did it all. He was part of the all-conquering Bradford team who battered all before them. Lee has had his critics during his time as our head coach, but I believe he has matured to become one of the best tactical British coaches currently in Super League.
Lee wears his heart on his sleeve, he has raw emotion and defeats genuinely hurt him. He never uses excuses – please take note Mr Wane. He often takes the pressure off his players by taking it himself. He has made mistakes but he is the first to admit them. Last season’s favourite to be the first to be sacked Lee is now on course to be the coach of the year, and he fully deserves it.
Andy Last, an unsung hero, though not quite up to the standard required to be a full time professional, he has fully embraced his coaching roll and had prospered. His partnership with Lee is blossoming into a real strength and we are seeing the benefit week in week out on the playing field.
Richard Horne, another very important part of the coaching team, his attacking flare is evident in the way the under-23s play. Head coach of our reserve team the progress this season is there for all to see. Horne has his side playing to a pattern so when needed they can be integrated into the first team. Many people myself included welcomed the reintroduction of the reserve grade because it gives a natural pathway for players to develop and progress. It’s vital for any aspiring Super League player.
Also last but not least Paul Hatton and his rehabilitation team have worked wonders this year. Their efforts in keeping our players on the field have been imperative. Lee has the luxury of a fit squad to select from and a Wembley appearance and our current top of the league position bare testament to their hard work.