Exclusive: Wembley-bound coach Gentle’s job is safe, insists Hull’s Pearson

HULL FC owner Adam Pearson last night reiterated that Peter Gentle is part of the club’s long-term plans and insists he has never contemplated sacking the head coach.

Adam Pearson shares a joke with coach Peter Gentle

A national newspaper yesterday reported the Airlie Birds chief had already decided to call time on Gentle’s stay at the end of the season despite the Australian guiding Hull to the Tetley’s Challenge Cup final later this month and still having two years left on his contract.

It claimed Pearson had already started a search for his replacement having grown tired by a lack of consistency in Super League.

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They have the chance to end their infamous losing run at Wembley when they face Wigan Warriors on August 24, but have won just one of their last six league matches to leave their play-offs hopes finely balanced.

But, while Pearson concedes being frustrated by Hull’s shaky league form, he maintains no change is imminent.

In an exclusive interview with the Yorkshire Post, the 48-year-old said: “I was surprised when I read the article that said that he was about to be dismissed at the end of the season as that was definitely news to me.

“I’m happy with the way the club’s progressing. I think Peter would say if the club finished outside the play-offs there needs to be conversations had but I’m not envisaging that happening.

“We’re two years into a four-year contract with Peter and it was definitely a long-term plan.

“I think we’re progressing very nicely in that time frame and I’d be very, very surprised if I came away from that long-term plan.”

Pearson took over the East Yorkshire club in July 2011 and axed coach Richard Agar at the end of that season to install Wests Tigers and Australia No 2 Gentle.

They finished sixth in his first season but more was expected this time around especially as Pearson invested so heavily and backed the signings of high-calibre players such as England second-row Gareth Ellis and Australian stand-off Daniel Holdsworth.

However, though they have revelled on their recent march to Wembley, Hull’s league form has been wildly erratic.

They won only two of their opening nine games, admittedly with Ellis injured, but then went on a thrilling run which promised much, winning nine from 10.

They then endured another dip before Friday’s 72-10 thrashing of Widnes Vikings ended a five-match losing sequence in Super League. That leaves them in the final play-off spot of eighth with just four games to go.

But Pearson, who was formerly chairman of Hull City and Derby County football clubs, insists he has never thought about severing ties with his head coach.

“There hasn’t been any time (I’ve considered that),” he said.

“The really down time was at the start when we couldn’t win a game and got beaten heavily here by Hull KR here (Good Friday).

“But even to someone who is learning the sport like myself it was quite apparent without half-backs, like we were with injuries, it’s difficult to play any kind of game or get any consistency,” he said.

“To bounce back at Wakefield the way they did on Easter Monday and then go on a run of nine wins in 10 showed the club is moving in the right direction under Peter’s stewardship and the players are responding to that.”

Pearson added: “I think the progress in all aspects of the club is tangible since Peter took over.

“The playing roster’s stronger, we’ve key players in key areas, the wages are better spent in there, the Academy’s developing and the whole club’s coming on.

“The fact we’re at Wembley for the first time in five years is obviously real progress from where we were before and we’re going with a realistic chance of victory.

“There have been periods of time where we’ve had inconsistent runs this season that we want to take out of the squad. But now I’d say the club is moving well.”

Now that Gentle has the pivotal Holdsworth back to full fitness, and young scrum-half Jacob Miller has bedded in since joining mid-season from Wests, Hull do look a far more balanced side.

The hope is they will impress in the play-offs making it imperative they secure their place in the top eight, currently being just two points ahead of Bradford Bulls.

“There’s a lot of pressure for Peter to reach the play-offs,” added Pearson. “For this club not to be involved with the playing squad we’ve got just wouldn’t be right.

“But I’ve every confidence we will be in them and I think the run to Wembley – the victories against Catalan, Warrington and Wakefield were all superb – shows Peter has really taken the club forward.

“I’m happy with the way the club is progressing – definitely – but I just want to eradicate patches of inconsistency within seasons.”

All the speculation around Gentle’s future has certainly not helped Hull’s preparations for this Sunday’s much-anticipated derby with fierce rivals Hull KR.

However, Pearson is confident that the squad are prepared to go and secure a victory at MS3 Craven Park which would usurp their city foes in seventh spot.

“It’s an absolutely vital game for us,” he continued.

“We need to finish sixth. We want to have a realistic chance of getting to Manchester (Grand Final) and to do that we’ve got to really try and get a home draw and start the ball rolling.

“To go to Catalan or St Helens would be difficult first up so this weekend is crucial.”