HAVING spent eight months battling back from cruciate ligament damage in his right knee, Jack Hobbs is not going to let the craziest eight minutes of Hull City’s season unduly affect him.
Not with the prize of a return to the Premier League, a level he briefly played at as a teenager, so tantalisingly close.
“Promotion would mean everything,” says the 24-year-old, who a week ago was left as bemused as anyone in amber and black as to how the Tigers ended up 3-0 down just eight minutes into their game with Bolton Wanderers.
“It is fantastic to be involved in the promotion race, especially after what happened over the last year with the injury and so on.
“My knee is fine now. I still get aches and pains and I have to work on it every day but it has been good so far and, hopefully, it will continue to strengthen and become more stable.
“Before suffering an injury, I don’t think you realise just how lucky you are to be able to go out and ping a ball about. I won’t lie about how difficult it was.
“There were some bad moments along the way during those eight or nine months I was out. Having gone through that, I dread to think what it must be like to suffer a career-ending injury.
“Luckily, I got a lot of support from family and friends and people here at the club. My fiancee also had a baby (called Maxwell) and that was a big help in taking my mind off it. Seeing him grow up a little bit has been brilliant.”
Hobbs’s return to action came in early December during City’s 2-1 win at Watford, the team who currently sit immediately above Steve Bruce’s men in the final automatic promotion place.
Since then, he has played in all but one of Hull’s 12 subsequent Championship outings and played a big part in keeping the club’s push for the Premier League on track.
The first major setback, however, came last Saturday when the Tigers suffered a nightmare start to their game at the Reebok Stadium. Considering that the celebrations after Bolton’s trio of goals probably took the best part of three minutes in total, Hull’s defensive frailty is laid bare.
Hobbs, though, is adamant that the early collapse at the Reebok was a one-off as the Tigers look to make amends today against Birmingham City.
“What happened last week is hard to explain,” he admits. “I have never witnessed eight minutes of football like it. Bizarre, really.
“At 3-0 down, the only thing I could think was, ‘Let’s not concede any more’. We needed to consolidate, simple as that.
“But now we have to push it to one side. That is probably easier because it was such a one-off for us. We have never performed like that at any other time in the season.
“So, we move on and don’t dwell on what happened. It has been mentioned this week, of course it has. But the message has been, ‘Let’s move on’.”
Three points against Lee Clark’s Blues today would go a long way towards making up for the disappointment of that Bolton loss. It would also leave the Tigers in confident mood ahead of Tuesday’s trip to promotion rivals Crystal Palace.
Two positive results in those games would keep City firmly in the hunt for automatic promotion and Hobbs, who already has one promotion from League One on his CV with Leicester City, on course for a possible return to the Premier League.
As a teenager, he played twice for Liverpool in the top flight during the 2007-08 season. Hobbs, who moved to Anfield from Lincoln City in a £750,000 deal, also made a handful of other appearances in the Cups and would love to get back to the top level with Hull.
“To play against the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal, Spurs and Liverpool would be amazing,” said the defender. “Obviously, Hull have had it before and everyone wants it back.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for us. On a personal level, it would be great to get back there. I am not sure if it (playing for Liverpool) came too soon.
“I was just pleased to play in the Premier League. But then, Liverpool bought Martin Skrtel just as I was getting a couple of games.
“Now, six odd years down the line, I am a lot more experienced and have a lot of games under my belt. I have played 200-odd games since getting that opportunity (in the Premier League) so am a totally different player.
“It would be great to get another 200-odd under my belt, especially if most of them come in the Premier League.”
City are determined to use to their advantage the disappointment of last year when the club’s promotion challenge fizzled out courtesy of a calamitous run during March that yielded just one win from nine outings.
Hobbs, who suffered his serious knee injury on the final day of that damaging month, insists City are better equipped to push on this time around.
The City defender said: “We are playing a different formation, that is the first thing to say. Three at the back with two wing-backs has been successful for us this season and got us to where we are.
“I would say there are also a few more goals in the team than last time. We are slightly more attacking. We all know what a big opportunity this is.
“The experience of last season means we are another season along in our development. I wouldn’t say we bottled it last year. A few things went against us and we drifted away. Obviously, this time we are in a much stronger position – joint second in the league – and that should be an exciting run-in.
“Promotion would be huge. On a personal level, I have won promotion before from League One but this would be to the Premier League, the best league in the world.
“It would be a dream come true, especially after what happened to me with the injury last season.”