DAVID MEYLER is far from thrilled with what he sees as a major similarity between the current Hull City squad and the one that won promotion in 2013.
The Tigers moved to the top of the Championship in midweek courtesy of a fourth straight win to set up today’s mouth-watering clash with Middlesbrough, who sit just one point and three places behind Steve Bruce’s men.
Such is the level of anticipation ahead of the all-Yorkshire clash that the KC Stadium is set to host its biggest crowd of the season with more than 20,000 tickets having been sold.
However, as pleased as Meyler is with the level of local interest, the midfielder feels City are yet to receive the respect the team deserves from the wider sporting public. And it is this that Meyler sees as the big similarity with the last time Hull moved up to the Premier League.
“It got under my skin the last time we were promoted,” admitted the 26-year-old, who appeared 28 times during the campaign when Bruce’s men finished as runners-up in the second tier. “No-one mentioned us at all.
“In hindsight, it probably worked out better for us like that. But it still got to me. Even on the last day of the season when we won promotion (by drawing at home to Cardiff City), of the six lads in the (Sky) studio not one of them said Hull would do it.
“Everyone said Watford would do it. These were fellas who had played football for 15 or 20 years and yet they couldn’t predict a simple game.
“It is the same now. I was watching Sky Sports the other day and they were discussing the Championship. Derby were mentioned because of the run they have been on, Middlesbrough also cropped up. But not one person mentioned Hull.
“Maybe that is a blessing. But we do not get the respect we deserve as a team. Come the end of the season, we will be up there and people will have to respect us.
“We keep defying people and we can do that again.”
Victory today at home to Boro, of course, would surely make the critics sit up and take note of the Tigers. Especially if those three points came accompanied by a sixth clean sheet in seven outings, a run that means City now boast the best defensive record in the Football League.
“Maybe you are right and a win against Middlesbrough will change things,” added Meyler to The Yorkshire Post. “I do expect us to win. I know they brought in (Stewart) Downing and (David) Nugent, experienced players from the Premier League with England caps, and I know they have a good squad.
“But, with the squad we have and the mentality, I think Middlesbrough will be in for a bit of a fright.
“If we can beat them, maybe people will say, ‘We have to take this Hull side seriously’.”
Manager Bruce has sympathy with his midfielder over the notion that City are overlooked. “We are out on a limb a little bit here,” said the Tigers chief.
“We are not back-page headlines for any national newspapers. It reminds me very much of when I was at Norwich as a player, you are stuck out of the road a little bit.
“That is not a bad thing either. You can get on with your job. It doesn’t worry me avoiding the exposure. We just get on with our job.”
The midweek win at Brentford that nudged Bruce’s men into pole position was typical of the resilience that has helped City overcome the hammer blow that was relegation from the top flight last May.
Meyler believes a big motivating factor behind Hull’s positive start has been a desire to get back to the Premier League as quickly as possible.
“We spoke recently among ourselves about this,” added the midfielder. “The 2012-13 team was probably a lot hungrier to succeed because those players had not had much time in the Premier League.
“That is why we were so galvanised. We are galvanised this time but probably for different reasons. This time, a lot of the lads have been in the Premier League but there are also a few who haven’t even played much Championship football so that gives us a nice blend. We all want to go to one place.
“People ask if the manager has to keep our feet on the floor, but he doesn’t. It is more a case of him steering us in the right direction, rather than taming the lion.
“We are all desperate to get back to the Premier League. It is where we all want to be. We want to be going to Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool. The big stadiums in front of 50-60,000 is what we want. So, the task is to make sure we play in the right manner every game and make sure we do our jobs.”
Including the club’s progress to the quarter-finals of the Capital One Cup for the first time, Hull are unbeaten in 11 games – a run that stretches back to the September 12 defeat at then leaders Brighton & Hove Albion.
The hope, of course, is that the Tigers can head into the international break with that record still intact. Meyler, however, insists that today’s clash with Boro will not define how the season is going to pan out for either club.
“With us being at home and Boro flying as well,” he says, “it would be good to show Boro we mean business. And that we want to go straight up.
“But, the way I look at it – and I don’t want to really say this – if we lost, it won’t define our season. We will still have 90 points up for grabs. So, it is not the be all and end all.”
Today’s clash with Aitor Karanka’s men starts a tough six or so weeks that will also include meetings with fellow promotion chasers Derby County, Reading and Burnley.
“We haven’t really played any of the top teams alongside us yet,” added Meyler.
“But they will come soon enough. So far, we have had a good start.
“Tuesday saw us go top of the table but the most important thing is we are winning games. We are also starting to play much better than we were at the start of the season and getting more towards the level of performance that we expect from ourselves. We seem to be clicking.
“Middlesbrough will be a tough fixture. But, if we are at it, we can get the job done.”