ABEL: I’M LOV­ING IT NOW

FO­CUS ON TWO OF HULL CITY’S STAR MEN

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By John Lyons

HIS English may be ‘very bad’ and the weather ‘very cold’ but Abel Her­nan­dez is just start­ing to feel at home in this coun­try.

It hasn’t been easy for the Uruguayan to set­tle.

For starters, there was the pres­sure of hav­ing to deal with a club record £10m price tag when he joined from Ital­ian out­fit Palermo in Septem­ber 2014.

Ini­tially, it seemed as though the 25-year-old could deal with the ex­pectancy in the Pre­mier League gold­fish bowl.

He net­ted three goals in his first five ap­pear­ances – against West Ham, Manch­ester City and Arse­nal.

But then the goals dried up. His only other strike last term came against Chelsea in March. Four goals for £10m wasn’t the equa­tion the Tigers had ex­pected as they slumped to rel­e­ga­tion just a year af­ter reach­ing the FA Cup fi­nal.

Many thought Her­nan­dez would jump ship, with a re­turn to Italy his likely des­ti­na­tion, but he’s still here and be­gin­ning to show why man­ager Steve Bruce was will­ing to shell out such a huge sum.

Seven Cham­pi­onship goals have played a big part in Hull’s climb to the top of the ta­ble, while he’s also notched an­other in the Cap­i­tal One Cup.

It’s brought a smile back to his face – even though words, in English at least, are a bit harder to come by.

Smile

That’s why The FLP de­cided to make it eas­ier for him and con­duct an in­ter­view in his na­tive tongue, Span­ish, af­ter Hull’s im­pres­sive 2-0 vic­tory at Brent­ford took them to the sum­mit in mid­week.

Asked about his English, he ex­plained: “It’s very bad. I’ve been try­ing to take classes for a year but be­cause of my time with the na­tional team and other things, I haven’t had many.

“It’s im­por­tant to start them again to speak a lit­tle.

“Af­ter five and a half years with Palermo, my Ital­ian is very good. It’s eas­ier for a Span­ish speaker to learn than English, which is very dif­fi­cult.”

But one com­mon lan­guage in foot­ball is goals – and Her­nan­dez is en­joy­ing be­ing back on the score­sheet reg­u­larly this term, even if he in­sists the Cham­pi­onship isn’t easy.

“Per­haps it’s a lit­tle harder, tougher,” he said. “Maybe the games are more dif­fi­cult than in the Pre­mier be­cause all the teams go out to win and you have to play in dif­fi­cult sta­di­ums, like the one tonight which is small and they pres­sure you. But I’m adapt­ing well to the Cham­pi­onship.

“I’m play­ing the ma­jor­ity of the

games and I’m happy per­son­ally be­cause I’m scor­ing goals. We’ve got a good team and we’re ready to fight for pro­mo­tion. We need to stay on this path.

“To­day we’re top of the league and that’s im­por­tant. Our ob­jec­tive is pro­mo­tion to the Pre­mier League so we’re happy now – but there’s a long way to go.”

If Hull are to get there, then Bruce’s pow­er­ful squad will all have a part to play – and Her­nan­dez, who played for Pe­narol and Cen­tral Es­panol in his na­tive Uruguay be­fore mov­ing to Italy in 2009, could be cru­cial.

“I haven’t set my­self a def­i­nite tar­get, but I would like to score more than 15 goals,” he said. “That could help to get us to the Pre­mier League – and that’s where ev­ery­one wants to be.”

If he does score the goals that take Hull back to the top-flight, then Her­nan­dez will be a pop­u­lar man among the sup­port­ers. He’s al­ready a fan of them.

“In com­par­i­son to Italy, the fans are a lit­tle calmer,” he said.“They back you dur­ing the games, but they give you space away from the pitch which is im­por­tant for a player.

Quiet

“Hull is a small city, quiet and I be­lieve it´s what I needed af­ter liv­ing for nearly six years in Palermo, a big, crazy city. It´s im­por­tant be­cause I can be calm.”

Aside from his club com­mit­ments, Her­nan­dez also has his na­tional team to think about. Al­though the hold­ers had an unin­spir­ing Copa Amer­ica – los­ing to hosts and even­tual cham­pi­ons Chile 1-0 in a tem­pes­tu­ous quar­ter- fi­nal that saw Paris Saint-Ger­main’s Edin­son Ca­vani sent off – they’ve started the World Cup qual­i­fiers well.

Af­ter a 2-0 win in Bo­livia, Her­nan­dez was one of Uruguay’s scor­ers in their 3-0 vic­tory against Colom­bia in Mon­te­v­ideo last month.

With the likes of Diego For­lan, Ca­vani and Luis Suarez, Uruguay have been blessed with top-qual­ity strik­ers over the last decade.

“It’s beau­ti­ful to have play­ers of this level and I can learn from them,” said Her­nan­dez.

“I feel as though I’m still young and I can im­prove. I’m work­ing day to day to learn new things.

“We’re miss­ing Suarez, who is a fun­da­men­tal piece of the na­tional team, at the mo­ment but for now we´re do­ing well.

“I’m play­ing more and I feel more com­fort­able.

“The Copa Amer­ica was dis­ap­point­ing. We thought we could fight un­til the fi­nal but there was a lot of con­tro­versy against Chile. Now we have to look for­ward and try to qual­ify for Rus­sia.”

Cold

But first and fore­most, Her­nan­dez’s bread and but­ter will be at­tempt­ing to help Hull back to English foot­ball’s top ta­ble – and sur­vive an­other win­ter in the north of England.

He added: “It’s very cold in com­par­i­son to Uruguay and Palermo.

“I’m try­ing to adapt, but I’ve been here for more than a year and I’m still feel­ing the cold more than nor­mal.

“In the win­ter, I’ll need gloves, hats, every­thing to stay warm!”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Images

POINT­ING THE WAY: Abel Her­nan­dez has had plenty to cel­e­brate this sea­son

TALK TIME: Her­nan­dez is in­ter­viewed by The FLP’s John Lyons

PRIDE: Her­nan­dez play­ing for Uruguay

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