Pain in the past for Pablo Hernandez who is convinced Leeds United will be promoted in fourth year with Whites
PABLO HERNANDEZ had already enjoyed a glittering career before joining Leeds United.
Four caps for the Spanish national side, droves of La Liga and Champions League experience with Valencia, goals against Barcelona no less.
Then came two years in the Premier League with Swansea City and success in the League Cup final at Wembley.
Just short of three years after joining Leeds from Qatari club Al-Arabi, promotion to the Premier League with Marcelo Bielsa’s Whites looked destined to follow.
Even the hugely experienced Hernandez has to pause several times in trying to explain exactly what went wrong in the final month of the season last term.
Yet Leeds and Hernandez are back for more with Hernandez now in it for the long haul and “100 per cent convinced” that this time his fourth season at United really will end with a place in English football’s top flight.
Hernandez was visibly distraught by United’s failure to take their 2018-19 promotion bid over the line last term.
Nearly the whole season in the division’s automatic promotion places yet tears on Easter Monday at Brentford as United were consigned to the play-offs and further tears at Elland Road three weeks later as those play-offs ended in defeat to Derby County.
With 12 goals and 12 assists, few Whites players if any outshone Hernandez last term and the pain was plain to see.
Hernandez, though, is back for more, with the Spaniard thrilled to sign a two and a half year extension to his contract on Tuesday and sure that a rejuvenated Whites will build on last season’s near miss to finally get it right as he turns 35 next Spring.
“Last season is hard feelings for us, for everyone here at the club and the fans,” admitted Hernandez, opening up on last season in an interview with LUTV.
“But sometimes in football these things can happen. All the year we deserved to go to the Premier League, we were staying in first or second position.
“But in the last games we lost this position and went to the play-offs and in the play-offs we had one bad game at home which didn’t give us the opportunity to go to the Premier League.
“But this is football and what’s most important is to take the positive things, for everyone stick together and try to improve this year to achieve the target of the Premier League.
“I think we are going in the right direction and I am 100 per cent sure and convinced that this is the year that this club will come back to the Premier League.”
Hernandez has been there before - for two seasons with Swansea City following his arrival for a club record fee of £5.55m from Valencia back in August 2012.
Signing as a 27-year-old who had played for the Spanish national side as recently as 2010, 57 Premier outings and five goals followed plus silverware as the Swans beat Bradford City in the final of the League Cup.
Invaluable experience that the now 34-year-old Spanish magician is keen to pass on to United’s young brigade of stars in their teens and early 20s.
Hernandez said: “For all of the players it is a responsibility to try to be an example for the young players and to try to help them to know new things in football and new things about the club.
“I love this role and I try every day and every game to help the young lads because I think this club works very well in the Academy and we have some players with great futures at the club.
“It’s an obligation and a responsibility for the experienced players to help them.”
A tutorial role from United’s elder statesman yet even Hernandez insists that he too remains very much in the learning process thanks to United’s head coach.
Hernandez’s career may have taken in Valencia, the Spanish national side and joys in the Premier League but Marcelo Bielsa is something altogether different.
"He is very positive for me because with him I can play some of the best football in my career last year,” said Hernandez.
“With my age, sometimes when you arrive to this age, 33, 34, 35 years, you think you have a lot of experience and you know everything in football.
“But a manager like Marcelo can improve you and can help you to know new things in football and this has happened with me last year.
“It is a great experience for me to work with him.”