MO DIAME admits that his 72nd-minute match-winning strike represented the best moment of his career after his stunning intervention secured Hull City a Premier League return at the first time of asking.
Special games are often won by special players, with the gifted, but mercurial Senegal international picking a delectable moment to display his divine traits to put the Tigers in Wembley heaven at the expense of Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Wednesday.
Too often this season, Diame has veered from the sublime – as witnessed on Saturday and by his majestic winning goal against Ipswich Town at Portman Road on February 23 among others – to the ridiculous on occasions, with moments of brilliance interspersed with the humdrum.
Thankfully for Diame, he has an unabashed supporter in manager Steve Bruce, who has consistently spoken about the Parisian’s ‘unplayable’ qualities on his day with the Tigers chief crucially backing and persevering with him when his best has not been at the table.
Bruce’s persistence and faith was ultimately rewarded on the big stage when it truly mattered, with the Hull attacker opening his locker to produce a scintillating moment fit to grace any Wembley final – his wonderful long-range strike one that will be recalled by the Tiger nation in years to come.
On whether his goal ranked as the pinnacle in terms of career highlights, Diame – who left Wembley in possession of a deserved man-of-the-match trophy – said: “Definitely. It was the most important goal of my life and I will always enjoy it.
“It is very special. It was the biggest and most important game of the season and we have done it 1-0 and that’s enough. So we are happy.
“I am proud of what we have done and achieved. It was a tough, long and difficult season. But we have done it and now need to enjoy it.
“I had a good sleep (on Friday night). I have played a lot of important games in my life, but this was the biggest one because there are so many people involved wanting us to get promotion.
“The fans and the families we have here and the chairman and the staff.
“I had 27 people coming from Paris to watch it and it was a great feeling to see them in the crowd before the start of the game and when I scored, I went in front of them.
“It was a good feeling and I think they enjoyed it.”
Diame, who almost broke the deadlock late in the first half following an instinctive weaving run which ended with his shot thumping the post, revealed that providing a fateful goal-scoring contribution had been in his mindset all week.
Saturday’s strike helped take his tally to 10 for the season, with his goal perfect in every way.
He said: “Even before the game and all the way through the week, I was thinking about scoring.
“I had a good chance in the first half and hit the post and when I came back out in the second half, I just wanted to score.
“I remember everything about the goal and know it is going to stay in my mind for all my life. When I hit it, I knew it was on target and to see it hit the back of the net was an amazing feeling.
“I didn’t see any movement from the strikers and just wanted to shoot and, luckily, I scored.”
On whether some cajoling words had arrived in his direction in the week from Bruce, he added: “He wanted me to be important for the team and told me to be ready and that it was a big game and that because I was an important player, I had to shine. So I had to get ready.
“It was the target to get the Premier League and we have done it and we are happy and need to have a good rest and look forward to the next season.
“Of course, I always believed. But at the start of the season, we wanted to be champions.
“We had a good run and then a bad run. But we ended it with promotion and that is great for the city. Before this game, I was confident.”
Diame’s strike helped spare the blushes of Scottish international full-back Andrew Robertson, who produced an astonishing miss in front of goal 15 minutes earlier, firing over from point-blank range when it looked easier to score as he raced through to meet a cross from Moses Odubajo.
Robertson, whose considerable relief was palpable when addressing the press after the game, said: “When you miss like I did, you always think if something goes wrong, everyone is going to be looking at you for if we had scored that, the momentum goes with us, of course.
“Although after that miss, I thought I had my best 20 minutes of the game. But Diame’s goal changed the momentum.
“When Diame’s goal went in, I didn’t know what to do.
“I just looked at the skies and thanked the people up there. That’s the way it is.
“I am just grateful to Diame for putting that goal in because my miss was a bad one and I won’t hide away from that.
“Diame came up with a bit of brilliance and that’s what he can do.
“After that went in, I didn’t think there was any doubt about the result.”