MATTY FRYATT’S only league starts this season may have come during a two-month loan spell in the Championship but the Hull City striker insists it could yet prove to be his best yet.
The reason is simple. Come May 17, the 28-year-old striker could be walking out at Wembley ahead of the FA Cup final, an occasion he has dreamt of playing in since first watching English football’s showpiece game as an impressionable eight-year-old.
“I loved the FA Cup as a kid,” explains Fryatt when speaking exclusively to The Yorkshire Post. “I watched all the finals but the first one I remember is the 1994 one when Eric Cantona scored two penalties and Manchester United beat Chelsea 4-0.
“It is amazing to think we could be going to a final ourselves if we can get past Sheffield United.”
If the Tigers can book a return trip to Wembley, Fryatt could potentially bring the curtain down on his time in East Yorkshire in the grandest of manners.
Few would surely begrudge the striker that. Not after both the sterling service and rotten injury luck that has characterised his time since joining Hull in a £1.2m transfer on New Year’s Day, 2011.
For the first 18 months, Fryatt could do little wrong. He netted nine goals in 22 games during the second half of 2010-11 to ease any fears City had about being dragged into relegation trouble.
Then, in the following season, the one-time Walsall trainee netted 16 times – which equated to more than a third of the entire team’s tally in the Championship as a push for the play-offs fell just short.
Steve Bruce’s arrival in the summer of 2012 – and his determination to implement a more expansive approach – should have then allowed Fryatt to push on.
Instead, a horror injury suffered in Bruce’s first game meant eight months on the sidelines and a battle to rediscover the scoring touch that had characterised his first 18 months at the KC.
The final four league games of last season, for instance, failed to spark Fryatt into form. The same went for pre-season and Hull’s first two Capital One Cup outings, something that prompted the striker being sent out on loan.
Sheffield Wednesday beat off stiff competition to win that race and Fryatt rewarded Dave Jones’s persistence by netting four goals in seven starts.
Jones’s successor, Stuart Gray, was keen to keep the former Leicester City forward at Hillsborough but the return to form meant he was needed at the KC Stadium.
A first Premier League goal followed on the final weekend of 2013 as Fulham were thrashed 6-0 but it is in the FA Cup where Fryatt’s reliability in front of goal has been most valuable.
Three goals in as many starts tells its own tale but maybe Fryatt’s biggest impact came at Brighton & Hove Albion, when his appearance off the bench sparked a struggling Hull into life and paved the way for Yannick Sagbo to net a precious equaliser four minutes from time.
“The FA Cup has had a few negative things said about it in recent years,” says Fryatt. “And in the early rounds, when you maybe don’t get the big games, it can be a bit of a struggle for teams.
“But I think we have been thoroughly professional throughout. Going away to Middlesbrough was a difficult start but I thought we did a great job on them.
“That sent us to Southend, which was what I would describe as a ‘proper Cup tie’. The pitch was really heavy and they were determined to cause an upset but we got through and since then the excitement has grown.
“The quarter-final (at home to Sunderland) was electric. The stadium was buzzing and that was great to be part of, it really was.”
With the January arrival of Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long, Fryatt’s chance to be “part of” any league games has been minimal. In fact, since the £14m strike duo signed, he has managed just 16 minutes from the bench in 11 matches.
The Cup, however, has provided salvation with Fryatt’s performance in the quarter-final triumph over Sunderland being a major factor in booking Sunday’s Wembley date with Sheffield United.
He said: “It has been a frustrating season for me personally, there is no getting away from that.
“Every footballer will tell you they want to play every week. But, while I might not have played much, this would be the best season I have ever had if we can get to the final and Hull stay in the Premier League. That would be a strange thing but I suppose it shows what the Cup means.”