Hull City v Middlesbrough: Alfie Jones using past experiences to prove Tigers can ‘man up’

BEING PART of a promoted side who are striving to keep afloat in a higher division is nothing new to Alfie Jones.

The Hull City utility player earned his footballing stripes in the black and white of St Mirren during a loan spell in 2018-19 when he swapped the comparatively secure and safe environment of under-23s football at Southampton – where he was captain – for a stint some 435 miles away in Paisley.

It was an early indication of the character of Jones, a strapping centre-half/midfielder raised in the predominantly rugby city of Bristol.

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Jones had joined the Buddies for the entire season, but it was not all sweetness and light with the man who brought him to the club in former Rotherham United manager Alan Stubbs being sacked in the autumn as the club – promoted back to the top tier of Scottish football at the end of the previous season – struggled for early results.

Up for the fight: Alfie Jones, right, in action against Blackpool on Tuesday as Hull battled back to earna vital point. (Picture: PA)

St Mirren – and Jones – would find their feet with the then-21-year-old being one of the few success stories in his time in Paisley before being recalled by his parent club in the new year.

The Buddies went onto achieve their aim of safety in the Scottish Premier League, winning a tense play-off with Dundee United after their city rivals Dundee occupied the sole automatic relegation slot in the SPL.

That time north of the border should serve as useful preparation in Jones’ current mission with Hull, battling to find their feet in the second tier following promotion last term.

Having survived his ‘sink or swim’ experience in Scotland, Jones is intent on not going under during his new challenge.

Hull City laonee Alfie Jones. (Picture: Tony Johnson)

He said: “One hundred per cent, that is how you grow. You are tested in times like that and it is sink or swim.

“Getting out and playing games was the most important thing at that stage of my career.

“To be in that battle with them, having just come up, we were down towards the bottom of the table and it is an experience I can definitely take with me and help me and the (Hull) team grow.

“I moved away from the family and was away from home, living on my own. It was a tough time where we were not getting the results and the fans were on our backs and having to deal with those pressures was a good experience for me.

“It is tough, but it is about sticking together, being positive and grinding out the results and being the most efficient in the game.”

For Paisley, read Hull and this particular moment has not been easy for Jones and his team-mates either, far from it.

City head into today’s game with Middlesbrough on a nine-match sequence without a league victory stretching back to the opening day of the season.

You have to go back a fair bit longer for their last Championship home win, which ironically arrived at the expense of today’s opponents back in July 2020, when a late goal from Mallik Wilks secured a first win in 14 games for City.

Ultimately, it proved a false dawn in a season when Hull went down with a whimper, barring that victory in isolation over Boro.

In the here and now, fight was shown by Hull in midweek when they shrugged off the dismissal of Lewie Coyle to show real heart and determination to come from behind to claim a gutsy point against Blackpool with a player previously on the periphery this campaign in Tom Eaves showing his mettle to notch an equaliser that meant so much to him and his colleagues.

In a scrap, those precious moments can matter as Jones can vouch for during his time at St Mirren.

“I’d like to think I have gained experience from that loan spell and I can take it into now to help the boys out and push on, get the points and work our way up the table,” the 23-year-old added.

“It only takes a couple of results to go our way and we are further up the table. Hopefully, that starts on Saturday and we have the players in the dressing room to do that.”

After failing to win their one-on-one battles in their previous home game with Yorkshire visitors a fortnight ago in Sheffield United, the onus will be on Jones and co to show how much they have listened to some damning post-match words from Grant McCann after that 3-1 loss to the Blades when he told his side to ‘man up.’

Jones is up for the battle, but for him and his team-mates, it is about actions and not words.

He said: “They have got a lot of physical players in their team and they are also good on the ball. It will be a tough challenge, but it is one we relish.”