Stoke City v Hull City: Abel Hernandez puts Tigers’ survival ahead of own future

Hull City's Abel Hernandez ('Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe).
Hull City's Abel Hernandez ('Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe).
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THE list of Abel Hernandez’s suitors is a long one.

For much of his near three years at Hull City, the one-time club record signing has been in such high demand that he has been akin to a footballing eligible bachelor.

The Chinese Super League was the most recent to try to tempt the striker with the offer of a rich dowry in January.

This followed the striker’s very public courting by Aston Villa last summer and previous attempts to lure him back to Italy by all manner of clubs.

Hernandez, however, remains bound to the Tigers and is determined to maintain the union between the Yorkshire club and the Premier League.

“Now there are obviously more important things (to discuss) than what will happen with my future,” said the striker with 14 months remaining on his contract when asked about his plans.

Hull City's Oumar Niasse. Picture: Nigel French/PA

Hull City's Oumar Niasse. Picture: Nigel French/PA

“I am only thinking about Hull City and helping them. At the moment, it looks really good for us and now it depends on us to stay in the Premier League.

“If the season finished now we would stay in the Premier League. I am happy with where we are.”

Hernandez, revitalised under head coach Marco Silva, also seems content with the current state of a career that began in Uruguay and has included an impressive spell in Serie B with Palermo.

Those goal-scoring feats for the Sicilian club persuaded Steve Bruce to shatter Hull’s transfer record with a £10m fee shortly before the 2014 summer transfer window closed.

I am only thinking about Hull City and helping them. At the moment, it looks really good for us and now it depends on us to stay in the Premier League.

Hull City’s Abel Hernandez

A hugely encouraging start to life in England followed courtesy of three goals in his first five Premier League appearances. An instant rapport with Nikica Jelavic helped and the Tigers seemed to have unearthed a gem.

Then, though, Jelavic suffered the first of two knee injuries that would seriously hamper the Croatian for the rest of the season. Hernandez, among the Hull players, suffered the most through Jelavic’s absence and then had a restricted influence once back in the team. He netted just once in the final seven months of the campaign.

Hernandez’s off-the-ball clash with Manchester United defender Phil Jones on the final day, not seen by the officials but later punished with a three-game ban by the Football Association, as Hull slipped to relegation seemed a fitting farewell to what had been a miserable time in England.

Almost two years on, however, and Hernandez is still here despite all that interest in his signature. Asked about Beijing Guoan’s reported bid of £16m earlier this year, Hull’s Player of the Year for 2015-16 after netting 21 times replied: “There were a lot of rumours about China, but the club never had an official offer made for me. I am calm. I have got my manager to deal with and there is nothing else at the moment.”

This stretches to negotiations over a new contract with the Hull hierarchy. “We haven’t had any talks yet,” said Hernandez, one of half a dozen players who saw their deals extended by 12 months shortly before Christmas.

Just what will happen in the summer remains to be seen. As with Silva’s own future, much is likely to depend on whether Hull can avoid the drop.

Hernandez, for his part, is confident.

“We expect to stay in the Premier League,” he said. Recent results and the tremendous belief that Silva has engendered in his players lies behind Hernandez’s bold statement.

A 16-point haul from six league games at the KCOM Stadium has dragged the Tigers out of the bottom three. With Watford and Sunderland the next two visitors to the East Riding, there is potential to boost further that impressive tally.

There is, though, a belief that only a continuation of Hull’s form on home soil going hand-in-hand with ending a truly abject run on the road will bring survival. Hernandez concurs.

“The team has been playing really well at home, but when we have played away we haven’t performed as well as we should have,” he added.

“We have been playing some good football at some points against the big teams, but now we have to go and beat the teams in direct competition with us, teams like Stoke. This is where we have to put the effort in. Hopefully, if we can beat Stoke we can move away.”

Hernandez adding to his goal tally of four for the season in the Premier League would be a big help, not least because all have come in victories.

His first broke the deadlock in what remains Hull’s only away win in the league, at Swansea City in August.

Injury and loss of form amid a horrible run for the club then put the brakes on Hernandez’s season, his return only coming at the start of January in Silva’s first game as manager with a goal in the FA Cup win over Swansea.

Hernandez has since netted twice in a 3-1 victory over Bournemouth and then again in last week’s possibly crucial 4-2 triumph over Middlesbrough.

In the last of those scoring appearances, Hernandez was partnered by Oumar Niasse and he admits to preferring that to a lone frontman role.

“I feel more comfortable playing with another striker next to me,” he added, “especially Oumar, with his strength and his ability to score goals. But no matter who my colleague is, I do feel more comfortable with another striker alongside me.

“As for the season, I am not happy with how it has gone. The injuries and everything else affected me.

“But I am a lot better under this manager. Marco keeps saying to me to be calm and he gives me that confidence.”