ABEL: I’M LOVING IT NOW
FOCUS ON TWO OF HULL CITY’S STAR MEN
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.
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.
“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.”
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!”
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