MATTY FRYATT last night spoke of his delight at being assured a starting place in next week’s FA Cup final by Hull City manager Steve Bruce.
The 28-year-old has been the club’s top scorer in the run to Wembley with four goals, but he had to be content with a place on the bench in the semi-final win over Sheffield United.
Since then, Fryatt has made just two second-half appearances as a substitute for the Tigers – which means he is still to start a Premier League game.
In fact, his league starts this term have come in the Championship while on loan at Sheffield Wednesday before Christmas.
Despite that, Bruce revealed in the wake of Tuesday night’s defeat against the champions – when Fryatt scored a fantastic goal, his second in the top flight from nine substitute appearances – that the former Leicester City striker will definitely be in the starting XI against Arsenal on May 17.
The Hull chief also said that this message had been relayed to Fryatt immediately after his game-changing intervention from the bench at Wembley against the Blades.
Fryatt said: “I thought the manager only said that about me starting in emotion after the semi-final – that it was all done in the heat of the moment.
“At the time, I just said, ‘Hold your promises’. So I am delighted to hear he has said this again.
“It is brilliant to hear that is still the case because I haven’t really played since the semi-final.
“Obviously, if fit, I am not going to turn down the chance to play in an FA Cup final.”
Fryatt has endured a couple of frustrating seasons, with 2012-13 being wrecked by a serious Achilles injury suffered in the very first game, a League Cup tie against Rotherham United.
That kept the striker out for almost eight months and when he did return in April, there was understandable rustiness about his play.
Once this term was under way, chances were hard to come by with Fryatt’s only starts before moving to Hillsborough on loan in late September coming in the Capital One Cup.
Two months with Wednesday, however, transformed the striker, who returned to the KC Stadium looking as sharp as at any time in his time at the KC Stadium.
A first Premier League goal came in the 6-0 hammering of Fulham on December 28, but the £14m arrival of Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long meant he soon fell back down the pecking order.
Several Championship clubs tried to sign Fryatt on loan, but Bruce, mindful that Jelavic and Long were Cup-tied, opted to hold on to the £1.2m signing from Leicester to ensure he had sufficient firepower to do well in the world’s oldest knockout competiton.
Such a stance has been vindicated by not only Fryatt’s four Cup goals but also Hull’s impending appearance in a first major Wembley final.
The Hull striker said: “This has been an odd season. But it could yet work out to be the best season of my career, even though I have played the least, barring the season I lost through injury.
“Career-wise, this is the highest place I have ever been with a team and I have just got on with it.
“What chances I do get, I want to do well with. Obviously, the lads have been superb this year and I respect the signings we have made.
“That is why I have had to wait for a chance and I understand that. Although that has been frustrating, I have still enjoyed it.”
A Cup final appearance against the Gunners would, of course, do much to banish the frustration Fryatt has felt at being on the sidelines this season.
However, when asked if he would rather sit out Sunday’s final league game at home to Everton in order to rest ahead of the Arsenal encounter, the striker was in adamant mood.
He said: “I have been resting all season so I want to play against Everton. I would love to. Whatever chance I get to play, I want to do as well as I possibly can.
“Whether that be five minutes, 45 minutes or starting the game. I just want to do my best for Hull City.”
Fryatt will be out of contract next month and while Bruce has intimated that the club would like to agree a new deal, nothing has materialised as yet.
This has put a host of clubs on red alert with Wednesday one of several keen to sign Fryatt permanently. Asked about his future, Fryatt said: “At the minute, I am a free agent. I don’t know (about my future). I haven’t really thought too much about it. We will have to see what happens.”
Fryatt’s goal at Old Trafford could not prevent the Tigers slipping to a third defeat in four games. Bruce insists that the Cup final is proving a distraction, especially now that safety has been assured in the league.
Fryatt’s goal – a magnificent right-foot shot from 20 yards that gave David De Gea no chance – was something for Hull’s 1,100 fans to cheer.
He said: “The ball ricocheted to me back off Michael Carrick and it sat up well for me to take a shot early. It seemed to catch the ’keeper unawares and went on to nestle nicely in the corner.
“The first half was a little bit cagey. We had 11 of our players in and around the box at times and found it difficult to get out.
“It was disappointing to concede the second goal after half-time, but from then on I thought we played with a bit more intent and had our own chances.
“Dave (Meyler) had his shot but then my studs got stuck in the ground as I tried to follow in. Unfortunately, they then scored on the counter-attack and that was that.”