THE parallels are striking. Five years ago, Burnley came to the KC Stadium in the final weeks of the season looking doomed to relegation from the Premier League and left having all but dragged Hull City down with them.
A resounding 4-1 victory – the Clarets’ first on the road that campaign despite being their 17th away from Turf Moor – left a Tigers side managed by Iain Dowie staring into the abyss.
City had started the afternoon of April 10 hoping to leapfrog West Ham and move out of the bottom three but ended it sitting a place lower in 19th and four points adrift.
A fortnight later, another home defeat – this time to Sunderland – all but sealed a return to the Championship for Hull after just two years among the elite.
Along with Michael Duff, who this week won his appeal against being sent off at West Ham United, Paul McShane is one of two players involved that day likely to feature again tomorrow so the Tigers defender could perhaps be forgiven for having a sense of deja-vu ahead of a potentially season-defining encounter in the East Riding.
The Irishman, however, is adamant that, five years on, things have moved on massively for Yorkshire’s sole Premier League representative as they prepare to host the Lancastrians.
“It is totally different to back then,” the 29-year-old told The Yorkshire Post. “At the time, the writing was on the wall for our season.
“We are in a very different position now. I believe we have put ourselves in a good position to stay up so, hopefully, we can do just that.”
McShane’s belief that the Tigers of today are a very different beast to the one of 2010 is backed up by a glance at the respective seasons.
Where the recent back-to-back wins over Crystal Palace and Liverpool has engendered a sense of belief, five years ago City’s seven games preceding the visit of Burnley had yielded six defeats and a change of manager as Phil Brown was dismissed.
Hull looked like a side heading back to the Championship long before that four-goal romp for the Clarets, whereas this time around even slipping a place in midweek following the 3-1 loss to Arsenal has not lessened the belief among the squad that survival is an attainable goal.
“Burnley is massive,” said McShane, the club’s longest-serving player after moving to the KC, initially on loan, from Sunderland early in the 2008-09 campaign.
“But all the games have been massive. Palace, Liverpool and Arsenal were the same. But Burnley now looks even bigger.
“We have got to get ourselves prepared and I know we will. We are still confident.”
City last occupied a place in the bottom three in mid-February. Before tomorrow’s match even kicks off, however, Steve Bruce’s men could be back in the relegation zone due to Sunderland’s trip to Everton kicking off at lunchtime.
Thanks to Hull’s superior goal difference, the Black Cats – who have a game in hand, at Arsenal on May 20, on all the other sides in trouble – must win to move above the Yorkshire side.
McShane and his team-mates will be warming up for the Burnley match as events unfold at Goodison Park but with the Saturday lunchtime kick-offs all being shown on the concourses this season, keeping up to date with Sunderland’s progress should not be too difficult.
An Everton win, of course, would leave the Tigers fired up ahead of what has to be considered the club’s biggest fixture since promotion to the Premier League in 2013.
“Losing to Arsenal was disappointing but there were positives to take into Burnley,” said McShane.
“The way we fought back is a positive to take into the weekend. But I also feel up to that half-hour mark, we did all right.
“I thought the game had ‘0-0’ written all over it at that stage. But then they got three quick goals and everything looked totally different.
“Credit to us, we kept going and that has to be a big, big positive.
“Arsenal were clinical but I wouldn’t say it was all down to a fantastic Arsenal performance. When they got the first two goals, they started to perform.
“But, up to the 30th minute, it was looking like a 0-0 draw. They got the two deflections and it was a different game after that.”
Stephen Quinn’s second-half strike may not have been enough to prevent City slipping a place on goals scored but it helped preserve a goal difference that is superior to all but Leicester among the strugglers.
McShane added: “When the third goal went in, I was certainly conscious of the goal difference. It is an advantage we have over a lot of teams down there and we don’t want to give it up.
“My thinking at half-time was, ‘Let’s just take our medicine and go home’. We got one back but it is a tough task to come back from 3-0 down at half-time against a team like Arsenal.”