David MEYLER loves football. So much so that, if the Hull City midfielder is not playing or training, he will invariably be found watching football.
Nothing unusual about that, of course. Most footballers are the same, loving nothing more than passing the night by watching a game on the television at home.
What sets the 24-year-old apart, however, is that he is willing to drive a fair distance to watch a game live. Every time, Meyler gets the same rush of excitement as he did as a boy growing up in Ireland when treated to a trip to watch the Premier League.
“I love watching football,” said Meyler, whose most recent outing as a supporter came among the 9,000-strong travelling army that followed his former club Sunderland to Manchester United for last month’s Capital One Cup semi-final second leg at Old Trafford.
“A lot of footballers are, deep down, still fans. It is why I enjoy going to games when I am not playing. I went to Old Trafford recently with a couple of buddies who are Sunderland fans. They can’t get tickets so they look to me. It is probably why they invite me!
“At Old Trafford, I got to my seat and looked around before thinking ‘this is why they call this place the Theatre of Dreams’. It is fantastic.
“I remember going there for the first time as a kid and thinking ‘wow!’ I am 24 now and have played there five or six times but I still get goosebumps at a place like that every time I visit.”
Meyler’s football watching odyssey has had to take a back seat in recent weeks thanks to Hull’s heavy schedule. The club’s progress in the FA Cup and the fact that league fixtures are starting to come thick and fast has meant any spare time has had to be spent relaxing.
The coming week will bring three tough games, including two in the space of three days as today’s trip to Cardiff City is followed by Monday’s fifth-round replay at home to Brighton & Hove Albion.
Steve Bruce is unhappy with the scheduling, which has been caused by UEFA insisting this season that no Premier League or FA Cup ties clash with the Champions League.
For Meyler, however, the prospect of back-to-back games – even ones as important as Cardiff and Brighton – is something to relish.
He said: “It isn’t a problem for us. We came from the old Saturday-Tuesday schedule of the Championship last season when it is a flow of games, which I think is good.
“Sometimes in the Premier League, you play and then it is another week or two of waiting for the next one, which, if you have a disappointing game, is not ideal.”
The importance of this week’s games can not be overstated. Thanks to the concertina effect in the bottom half of the Premier League that means just four points separate Swansea City in 10th place from Sunderland in the relegation zone, every point is going to be crucial.
With that in mind, Hull must return from south Wales today with at least a draw as defeat would mean Cardiff, second-bottom right now, more than likely moving out of the drop-zone.
As for Monday, a home win over Brighton and the Tigers will have just a home tie with Sunderland – a team they have already beaten twice this term – standing between the Yorkshire club and a trip to Wembley.
“It is very close in the league but I would rather look up than look down. If we win at Cardiff we could jump up a couple of places. We can’t be looking at getting sucked in.
“As for the Cup, there is no point even looking at the quarter-final draw without beating Brighton. I think that was maybe a fault in our heads (before Monday’s 1-1 draw at the Amex) where we were thinking ‘Jeez, we could be playing Sunderland at home in the quarter-finals’.
“We didn’t actually focus on what we had to do first, which was beating Brighton.”
Meyler came off the bench at Brighton but he has mainly been in the starting XI this season. His form has been good, as is illustrated by the midfielder being named in the Republic of Ireland squad to face Serbia next month along with team-mates Shane Long and Stephen Quinn.
With Robbie Brady and Paul McShane, the latter out for the season through injury, also on the staff at the KC there is a healthy Irish contingent at the club.
Meyler said: “It is great having all the Irish boys here. Though I don’t think the manager (Bruce) likes it. He keeps complaining that there are too many of us. He seems to think we are a ticking time bomb. Or a car crash. I am not sure why.
“I was delighted when Shane Long signed. I was pleading with him to come in the summer. So, to finally get him here was great. There is also Mr McShane.
“We are all devastated for him to get this injury. Mind, knowing Paul, he will declare himself fit in a couple of days’ time. He is made of iron. He feels no pain.”
The Serbia game means Meyler will not be at Wembley with his mates to watch Sunderland take on Manchester City in the League Cup final. He will, though, be glued to a television at the Irish squad’s hotel.
“My buddies will be going to Wembley and I hope Sunderland win for them,” he added.