Hull City v Sunderland: Chester is out to put Hull in the frame with Cup glory

Hull City's Robbie Brady.
Hull City's Robbie Brady.
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HUGE images of Hull City’s only previous day out at Wembley adorn the walls of the media suite at the KC Stadium.

There is one of Wayne Brown planting a kiss on the head of Boaz Myhill as the whistle blows at the conclusion of the 2008 Championship play-off final.

Another features Dean Windass unleashing ‘that’ volley, while the entire squad is also shown – complete with champagne corks popping – celebrating promotion to the Premier League on the pitch.

To those of us fortunate enough to have witnessed what surely has to be considered the highlight of Hull’s 104-year existence to date, the images invariably bring a smile to the face.

James Chester was still on the books of Manchester United when Phil Brown’s men beat Bristol City at the national stadium so knows only second-hand about that special day.

This is probably why, as we talk about tomorrow’s FA Cup quarter-final at home to Sunderland, the defender’s eyes start to wander around the room.

Defender Chester knows that victory against the Black Cats will mean a return trip to Wembley next month and a chance for the current crop to write themselves into Hull sporting folklore.

“It would be nice to make history for Hull City,” said the 25-year-old, whose only previous visit to the rebuilt national stadium came in 2007 as part of the Old Trafford staff who watched Chelsea beat United in the FA Cup final.

“That would be great to look back on in years to come. I can’t imagine there are many fans around who went to the 1930 semi-final so it would be great to create new memories for today’s fans.

“I also look round this room and it would be nice to have pictures up of us at Wembley. Having said that, though, no one here is getting carried away. We have a big game on Sunday to focus on.

“We have been thinking all week about Sunderland and nothing else. With the way the games went this season (Hull have done the double over Gus Poyet’s side), we are probably the favourites.

“They are also having to get over the disappointment of last weekend and losing (to Manchester City in the Capital One Cup final) at Wembley.

“After a defeat like that, it can go one of two ways. But I would imagine it is difficult to pick yourself up from that sort of disappointment. Especially as they played well, particularly in the first half.

“They have done well in the cups but having beaten them twice, then we will fancy our chances.”

Before this season’s run with Hull, Chester’s experience of the FA Cup as a player had been minimal. The defender did once score against Tamworth in a Cup tie when on loan at Carlisle United from Old Trafford but, as he admits with a wry smile: “We didn’t get very far.”

That, though, does not mean Chester is anything but an avowed fan of the world’s oldest knockout competition.

“I always remember FA Cup final day as a kid,” said the defender. “My dad and his mates would get together with a big keg of beer and sit there, watching the game.

“As a United fan, the first final I remember is the one they lost to Everton (in 1995) and then Liverpool the following year when Eric Cantona scored and United won.

“My dad went to his mate’s house for that second game against Liverpool. He didn’t let me come so I had to watch it at home with my mum and celebrate with her. Maybe he thought I was bad luck the year before.”

Chester’s first season in the Premier League – his only appearances for Manchester United came in the League Cup and Europe – has seen the defender adapt well to the step up in class.

It has, however, also been a campaign that has seen the 25-year-old endure his fair share of injuries. Two lengthy spells out with a hamstring problem means Chester has played in just 18 of Hull’s 35 league and cup outings.

The most recent return from a spell out came as a late substitute in the 4-0 win at Cardiff City and he is now hoping for an injury-free run-in.

Chester said: “The injury feels a lot better this time around. Looking back, I probably wasn’t 100 per cent first time I came back.

“I had to take a lot of anti-inflammatories that first time, but this time has been totally different. I haven’t had any and, hopefully, that is the end of it.

“It has been frustrating. I worked so hard to get to the Premier League, but my first year has been disrupted by injury.”

Robbie Brady, like Chester an Old Trafford apprentice before moving to the KC Stadium, will be able to empathise with his team-mate’s words.

Yesterday, manager Steve Bruce revealed that the wing-back – still Hull’s joint top scorer in the league with three goals this term – has undergone surgery on a troublesome groin injury and will not play again this term.

Chester added: “Because of the injuries, I haven’t really managed to get any consistency. Robbie is the same.

“Like me, it is his first year in the Premier League and injuries have been a problem. But he is quite thankful that they have now worked out what is wrong with him. Now he can get himself fit for next season.”

Chester has featured in two of Hull’s four games in this year’s run. The hamstring injury has seen to that.

However, while his experience of the FA Cup as a player may be limited, he is well aware of the vagaries of knockout football after being part of the Manchester United team that reached the 2007 FA Youth Cup final.

He recalls: “We lost on penalties to Liverpool. 2007. I scored mine at the Stretford End but losing like that hurt a lot.

“The crowd was about 25,000 and that was a massive experience. Mind, we’d had 40,000 watching us at Emirates in the semi-final.

“As a young lad, it was a nice taste of what can be.

“It was a bit similar the following year when I went to watch the Cup final between United and Chelsea.

“It would be nice to experience that sort of atmosphere for myself. I actually went to the old Wembley once, as a fan. I was only four or five and Crewe got through to the play-off final. I went with my cousin and it was a great day.

“Obviously, if we could get past Sunderland then Hull would be at Wembley. An opportunity to play there isn’t going to come round too often so we have to take it.”