Nothing compares to Hull for Horne as retirement beckons

YOU can never imagine Richard Horne playing for anyone other than his beloved Hull FC.

Hull FC's Richard Horneis moving into coaching full-time.

It is part of the reason why, after stepping out for his 387th and final game for the Black and Whites tonight, the highly-regarded half-back will call time on his professional career.

He is still only 32 and, though Hull let him know they would not retain him in 2015 given Marc Sneyd and Leon Pryce’s capture, the urge to battle on must surely have crossed his mind?

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Championship? Perhaps a run with one of the city’s myriad National Conference League sides?

“Not a chance,” laughed Horne. “My mates have already been on at me seeing if I fancy a game. Quite a few of them play for (Hull) Dockers and have mentioned it.

“But then again they’ve also been messing saying I probably wouldn’t make the team.

“I’ve had a few injuries and have still been picking up some, too, carrying a few of them.

“Weighing up my options it was do I do two years somewhere else and put my body through all that again or sit back and have a long career in coaching?”

Horne, a naturally gifted and knowledgeable footballer, chose to take over the running of Hull’s Under-19 side, looking to bring through the next batch of youngsters to follow in his own footsteps.

He was just 16 when making his debut, a sleight teenager in April 1999 going up against the might of a Leeds Rhinos team that would lift the Challenge Cup just a fortnight later.

“We had a lot of young kids in and were probably expected to have a big score put up against us, but we ran them pretty close and lost just 22-18,” he recalled.

“It was really enjoyable. It’s always a great atmosphere at Headingley. I managed to put in a decent performance at full-back and kept my spot for the following week.

“And I’ve just about managed the same since.

“(Paul) Cookie, Paul King and Martin Hall had just come in, while Karl Harrison played too.”

Ironically, it is Leeds who are the opponents again tonight as the ex-Great Britain international takes to the field at KC Stadium.

“It’s a nice coincidence and quite fitting,” said Horne, who freely admits it has been a poor campaign given his side sit 12th.

“I’m looking forward to it. We can go out and enjoy it; we’re not really playing for anything like the play-offs so the pressure’s off.

“It has been a disappointing season.”

It was similarly disappointing when he missed out on his penultimate appearance on Sunday due to an ill-timed sickness bug, but it would take 13 Ryan Baileys to prevent him facing Leeds.

He famously enjoyed his greatest moment in the sport against the Blue and Amber, featuring as Hull stunned Leeds in the 2005 Challenge Cup final at Cardiff.

“It’s hard to look past 2005, winning something as big as that,” recalled Horne. “But all the finals are special. The 2006 Grand Final was enjoyable when we were up against a very good St Helens, really competing until they broke us just before half-time.

“It was a great occasion but Cardiff is the one that stands out.

“The best bit was just straight after the final hooter and you see just what it means to everyone – the players, the staff, the fans –and you can look around and see your family in the stands.

“We’d not really achieved anything for a long while before that so to finally have some silverware to brag about was so good.”

Horne’s durability is worth noting, too, considering he recovered from a serious neck injury in 2008 – his return after four months was in the Wembley Challenge Cup final defeat to St Helens – and was then diagnosed with insulin-dependent diabetes.

“To get through the other side was a challenge,” he said.

“To get back from the neck injury was tough but then to get hit with diabetes and get my head around that, it took a few months.

“But I found I was more mentally tough than I ever realised.

“It was more psychological with the neck but (against Saints) I got through that first collision with James Graham when he put that decent shot on, spun me and I landed on my head.

“That was great to be positive and kick on.”

He won 12 Test caps with Great Britain – “great to be around those elite players” – showing his versatility by playing wing, full-back, hooker and half while he has encountered some legends, too.

“When Henry Paul was at his best with Bradford he had it all – a running game, the ability to put a shot on and remarkable skills all-round – so for me, as a half-back, he was the best,” said Horne.

“But with Hull, Jason Smith was always class. He brought so much time on the ball, created things from nothing and everything just slowed down when he got it. It was crazy. He was very skilful and tough, too.

“The thing I’ll miss most is being part of the actual game, getting ready for that performance - it’s all I’ve ever known since I left school.”