chairman Adam Pearson believes Hull FC’s squad have the ability not only to lift the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup today but set up a “legacy” for the next decade.
The Black and Whites are 11-10 favourites to defeat Warrington Wolves and, at the ninth attempt, finally win at Wembley for the first time in their 151-year history.
But Hull, like this afternoon’s opponents in London, are also chasing a treble with the League Leaders’ Shield in sight and currently standing just 80 minutes away from a Grand Final.
There is a hope that the East Yorkshire club, where Pearson took control five years ago, could re-establish themselves as a dominant force in the sport for a first time since the early Eighties.
Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, he said: “It would be enormous if we could win at Wembley.
“We’ve some big games to come in the next few weeks, but this is the biggest.
“Victory would take that millstone from around our neck and put us on our way. But we want to establish ourselves as a year-on-year top-four club challenging for honours. It has to be the prelude to something this time.
“When Hull last won the Challenge Cup in 2005, they reached the Grand Final the following year but lost and it had all gone in 18 months. We had eight or nine Hull players in our squad against Catalans last Thursday so there’s something there to keep us going and we want a legacy with this group for five, six, seven, maybe eight years.”
Hull failed spectacularly when they lost 16-0 to Wigan Warriors in the 2013 Cup final.
However, Pearson has greater reason for positivity ahead of today’s game given the way in which head coach Lee Radford, who took over from Peter Gentle soon after that defeat, has fashioned his in-form squad.
“I’m more confident that we’ll put on a performance fitting of the stage,” he said.
“I think it will be a really good final, particularly if it’s dry as there are two good teams who have been at the top all season. Because we’re playing more consistently, I am more confident we will perform, but we just have to make sure it’s absolutely good enough to win this game as to go to Wembley again and not do so would be extremely frustrating.
“I don’t want to put too much pressure on the performance, but certainly our past history means a win there is long overdue.
“I feel we’ve got our prep’ right; we’re not this time going down for a weekend away. We’re going down to hopefully win the game.
“I just sensed it came quite quickly in 2013 and don’t really think we appreciated how important it was – I didn’t.”
Pearson, 51, praised the impact of Motu Tony, the club’s football manager who was full-back in their 2005 Cup-winning side, after the Kiwi helped Radford secure some significant recruitment to augment their challenge.
The likes of New Zealand forwards Frank Pritchard and Sika Manu as well as Tongan centre Mahe Fonua plus prop Scott Taylor have been crucial.
“Recruitment is key, isn’t it?” continued the former Hull City and Derby County chairman.
“I used to think it with football, too, and for three years we’ve got it right at Hull getting just about every signing correct. That’s down to the coach and Motu; they work very close in tandem identifying the talent and whether they fit into how Lee wants to play.
“One or two we pulled out of as Motu knew their personalities and temperament, but the Polynesian guys they’ve brought in really bought into Hull, the city and culture of this club.
“Motu and Radders take it very seriously, spent that money like their own and got due rewards.”
Pearson doubted at one point whether he was right to invest in rugby league but, on the eve of today’s final in front of a crowd expected to be 70,000-plus, is now glad he made that move.
“It does feel very much worthwhile,” he said.
“It takes two or three years to turn a club around. We obviously went down a false avenue before.
“Lee took it apart in the first year, started to put it back in the second and, thankfully, it’s coming to fruition in the third.”
With more than 25,000 Hull fans descending on the capital, he is looking forward to seeing 35-year-old captain Gareth Ellis leading the side into action.
“I’ve met a lot of people in sport over 20 years or so and I’m not sure I’ve had greater admiration for any as I do for Gaz,” he said.
“He’s immense; his determination and character mean he’s an absolute inspiration to us. We find it hard to win without him – that’s the size of the guy – and couldn’t ask for a better captain.”
Wembley build-up: Pages 6-7