STEVE BRUCE has challenged Hull City to ensure the club’s bold FA Cup final defeat is “not the end of the story”.
The Tigers came within 19 minutes of becoming the first Yorkshire club to lift the famous old trophy in 42 years.
Arsenal ran out winners, in the end, after Laurent Koscielny’s equaliser had taken the game into extra-time and then Aaron Ramsey struck with the winner.
But there was no taking away the pride that everyone associated with the Tigers felt at the final whistle over the huge contribution Bruce’s men had made to a final that was as absorbing as any in recent years.
Coming on the back of survival in the Premier League being comfortably achieved this term, Hull are clearly a club on the up right now.
The next task, however, is to build on what has been Hull’s finest season in their history and Bruce admits another big effort will be needed come August, especially as 2014-15 will bring the East Yorkshire club’s first tilt at European competition.
He said: “It has been quite a remarkable couple of years. We have had a wonderful two years and we were very close to winning the FA Cup. We were 2-0 up against the mighty Arsenal.
“But what we have to do is make sure this isn’t the end of the story. Of course, as you would expect from me, we have to improve and we have to get better.
“We can’t stand still. So we will do that and try to improve. We have to move on and get bigger and better and stronger. We have to get ready for the new season.”
Hull enjoyed a dream start to the 133rd Cup final with James Chester and Curtis Davies scoring inside an incredible opening eight minutes.
Only a goal-line clearance from Kieran Gibbs which kept out Alex Bruce’slooping header prevented Hull adding a third goal just five minutes later and it proved to be a pivotal moment.
Santi Cazorla reduced the arrears not long after, paving the way for Koscielny and then Ramsey to complete a remarkable fightback.
Bruce, who had sprung a surprise before kick-off by naming Stephen Quinn in his starting line-up, cut a dejected figure on the touchline at the final whistle.
As a veteran of four FA Cup finals as a player with Manchester United, he knew how close his team had come to success.
The Hull chief said: “They were absolutely as valiant and gallant as I expected. I said that to them in the dressing room.
“I have been with them for two years. Sometimes footballers get a bad name, and rightly so on certain occasions. But they are an absolute delight.
“The vast majority of them were the ones who got me promoted last year and some of them were valiant to even make themselves available for the game.
“So to go and perform the way they did, especially in the first half (speaks volumes for the players).
“You just need that little bit of luck and the decisions to go for you. But it turned out not to be our day.”
Asked if there was any consolation in how well Hull performed, Bruce replied: “No, there’s not. There is none for me. We have lost.
“But I will get over it. I have got over it before. But no, it doesn’t give me any more satisfaction.
“The one thing I can take heart from, though, is the pride I have in this team.
“The players couldn’t have given us any more and they caused Arsenal huge problems. So in that respect, we will just congratulate Arsenal.
“They were under enormous pressure and they are a top, top club with a top, top manager and top players.
“You only have to look at Arsene’s record and what he has done. I think he has won the FA Cup five times now. That is not a bad record, not bad at all.”
Hull’s defeat at Wembley ended any hopes of the club going straight into the group stages of next season’s Europa League.
Instead, the East Riding club will have to get through two qualifying rounds before joining the competition proper. The first of those two legged ties will come on July 31 and August 7, well before the Premier League is due to kick-off on August 16.
Hull, therefore, are likely to be in for another big summer as Bruce looks to repeat the success of 2013-14 when he captured Curtis Davies, Tom Huddlestone, Jake Livermore and Allan McGregor in the close season and then £14m strike duo, Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long, during the January transfer window.
Bruce said: “We certainly need another five or six (new faces).”