HE MAY be a hardened former prop and a decent boxer, too, but Lee Radford is not afraid to admit he privately cried after Hull FC’s 2013 Challenge Cup final defeat to Wigan Warriors.
As his squad prepare to meet the same opponents again in this year’s semi-final, the Airlie Birds head coach has implored them not to have the same regrets as they did three years ago.
Then, Radford was assistant as Hull simply did not perform in a dismal 16-0 loss – maintaining the club’s infamous record of having never won at Wembley.
They hope to get another chance to remedy that tonight but Radford told The Yorkshire Post: “The final itself isn’t an appetiser for me.
“The win is an appetiser for me. In ‘08 (as a player) we got there and just got pipped by Saints. In 2013 we got there and didn’t show up. I watched Hull KR get there last year and all the hype and excitement was just urinated on in an 80-minute performance as they lost (50-0 to Leeds).
“One hundred per cent I saw similarities with what happened with us two years before.
“I genuinely felt for Chezzie (Rovers coach Chris Chester) – despite whatever club it was – as I’d been there; I shed a tear by myself after the ‘13 final because of that disappointment, losing having not turned up.
“The good feeling and hype you have in the build-up is just diluted and disintegrates by not performing on the day.
“For me, it’s all about getting the result not just getting to Wembley and we know we’ve a tough challenge on against Wigan.”
Hull are well-placed, however, given their position at the top of Super League following by far their best campaign not just since Radford replaced Australian Peter Gentle three years ago but their solitary Grand Final appearance in 2006 as well.
Wigan, of course, are masters in this competition having won it a record 19 times and they sit just two points behind the East Yorkshire side on the league ladder having also beaten them once already this season.
Their coach Shaun Wane, however, has been playing some mind games, declaring as soon as the semi-final draw was made that he ‘did not have 10 NRL players in his side but 10 Wigan lads’ and, more recently, that Hull would be big favourites.
Radford smiles at such comments and added: “As a coach you say whatever you can to try and motivate your own players or try and wind the opposition up.
“It’s water off a duck’s back where I’m concerned. We’ve got the same quota spots as everyone else in the competition.
“I think we had 10 local lads playing last week and our youth production is something I’m really proud of.
“There’s actually three of our youth products on the coaching staff in Lasty (Andy Last), myself and Horney (Richard Horne); you couldn’t get much more of a homegrown club than us really.
“As for the other, the bookies don’t say that do they? They have Wigan as slight favourites so he needs to get himself in the betting shop!”
Joking aside, it should be a fiercely-fought and evenly- matched contest this evening, something Radford is firmly aware of.
“We know what we have got to do and what areas we have to perform in,” said the 37-year-old, who won the Challenge Cup with Bradford Bulls in 2003 at Cardiff.
“Ultimately it’s about taking chances in knock-out footy; you might get one chance or several chances but it’s about being as clinical as you can. We’ve spoken about that.”
For all that they possess strike players of the calibre of England full-back Sam Tomkins, Wigan remain a very methodical and structured outfit.
“They are very workmanlike, structured and detailed week in, week out,” added Radford.
“Stopping it is completely different gravy. (St Helens coach) Keiron Cunningham was at the Super 8s launch on Wednesday.
“When he played, you knew Keiron was going to have a dip 10m from your own tryline but actually stopping him was different.
“Wigan are a quality side and the plays they run and the intricacies they run them with, if they get it right, they are difficult to handle. That’s where we’ll have to be good defensively.
“But there’ll be no great final words of wisdom from me tonight; just that if we get this job done, it gives us a real shout.”