stepping up from non-League to Premier League was something Aaron Mclean dared not dream of after being shown the door by Leyton Orient eight years ago.
Now, though, with Hull City threatening to gatecrash the Championship play-off race on the back of an impressive run of form, the 27-year-old striker is starting to believe it might just be possible.
The Tigers may still be in mid-table and seven points adrift of the top six. But there is a growing belief at the KC Stadium that this season could have a similarly happy ending as did 2008 when Phil Brown, back in the East Riding today as Preston manager, led the club to promotion.
Not, however, that Mclean is likely to be caught boasting just yet. “Results have been good,” admits the £1.2m January signing from Peterborough United. “But I am not the sort to go out shouting about how this or that is going to happen. That is not my style.
“What I will say is that things are going well and we have been playing some good stuff. If we can keep doing that, then we have a chance.”
Such a grounded attitude is, perhaps, not a surprise considering the roundabout route that Mclean has taken to get to within touching distance of the top.
After starting his career at Orient, the then 19-year-old striker was told the words every footballer dreads: “Sorry, we’re letting you go.”
With no takers in the Football League, Mclean had to look to the Conference for salvation and it came in the form of a move to, first, Aldershot Town and then Grays Athletic.
He said: “Dropping out of the League was hard. A lot of lads fade away when that happens, the disappointment is probably too much.
“Luckily for me, I joined Aldershot Town and managed to stay full-time. It was the same when I moved to Grays. I had an offer to go to Canvey Island when still at Aldershot and I could have doubled my wages.
“But I thought my career would be best served by going to Grays as it meant staying full-time. I am glad as it proved to be the right decision as Peterborough came in for me from Grays and, suddenly, I was back in the League.”
A haul of 23 goals from 45 starts for Grays earned Mclean his return to the fourth tier of English football and it was a second chance he gratefully accepted.
His first full season at London Road brought 33 goals in all competitions as Darren Ferguson’s side finished as runners-up in League Two. Posh repeated the trick the following season to claim automatic promotion to the Championship with Mclean again among the goals with 19. The progress of Peterborough and Mclean stalled somewhat last term as the club were relegated but that still did not prevent Nigel Pearson spending £1.2m on the striker the moment the January transfer window opened.
Mclean said: “It wasn’t a hard decision to join Hull, not at all. Hull City are a big club. Plus, when I spoke to the manager he told me all about his plans so I knew this was a club going places.
“I had been in the Championship before and wanted to play there again. Getting relegated was a blow and I knew my only chance to get back there would be by working hard for Peterborough.
“I had some good years at Peterborough but have stepped up another level to Hull. Now, I want to go even further and reach the Premier League.
“That would be something I could never have imagined happening when I left Orient a few years ago.”
To fulfil Mclean’s dream of reaching the top flight, Hull will have to maintain the current impressive run of form that has brought just one defeat in 15 games.
The Hull striker said: “I have been in a similar situation to this before at Peterborough when we won promotion to the Championship with a late run. Hopefully, we can do the same.”