AFTER fulfilling his boyhood dream by appearing at this summer’s World Cup, Jackson Irvine was ready to hit the ground running once back at Hull City.
A bout of illness, however, put paid to those plans with the Australian having to sit out a significant chunk of the all-important pre-season build-up.
This false start was aped by Hull City once the action got under way, their solitary point from the opening three Championship games being the club’s worst return since the 2006-07 campaign that saw relegation only avoided in the penultimate fixture.
Now, though, the Tigers are – like Irvine – fully up and running after a much-needed 3-2 win at Rotherham United.
“It was a frustrating couple of weeks for me coming back here,” said the 25-year-old to The Yorkshire Post. “The illness really knocked me. But I feel like I am up to speed now.
“I wasn’t quite expecting to go three 90 (minutes) in a week. The original plan was to build me in, play 70 against Sheffield United (in the Carabao Cup) and then all of a sudden you have three injuries in a game and you end up playing 90.
“Sometimes that is the best thing to propel you back into the team. Now, I feel ready to go again.”
Irvine’s outstanding performance in Tuesday’s triumph at the New York Stadium certainly backed up those words.
Starting in an unfamiliar role on left side of the attacking midfield trio, he netted the first double of his career and could have had a hat-trick.
His link play with Evandro, Fraizer Campbell and Jarrod Bowen also suggested those expecting Hull to struggle in attack this term may yet be proved wrong.
“We put together some really nice combinations and created some nice openings,” added Irvine, who netted 10 times in 2016-17 as part of a Burton Albion side that staved off the drop in the second tier.
“It was a different role for me, over on the left-hand side, and I enjoyed it. The manager wanted me to try and get in goalscoring positions and that is what happened. I got two and maybe could have had a hat-trick.
“I have a target to score more goals this season. I only scored three last season and want to improve on that. To get two in the fourth game is a big help.”
As for Hull claiming that elusive first win, he added: “The big frustration had been how we had not been able to maintain a certain level of performance. But it wasn‘t panic stations after (losing to) Blackburn.”
Irvine may have played for Scotland at Under-19s level, having qualified through his Aberdeen-born father. But few in the Australia squad will have been prouder to play at the World Cup for his home nation than the midfielder.
He was just 12 and in the crowd when the Socceroos qualified for the 2006 World Cup, their first in 32 years, by beating Uruguay in Sydney.
To go from boyhood fan to coming off the bench three times in Russia this summer brought memories to treasure, even if Australia proved unable to get beyond the group stage.
“The World Cup was hard to put into words really,” Melbourne-born Irivine added with a smile. “It was pretty special but also gone in a flash, unfortunately.
“You spend all these years and months and weeks in build-up, but then it is over so fast.
“But I had an absolutely amazing time and to be involved in all three games was incredible.
“I was obviously disappointed that we never achieved what we thought we could have, but to have been out there and played against the eventual winners (France) was a wonderfgul experience.
“Hopefully, it won’t be my last but it is the kind of thing that can be once in a lifetime. I thoroughly enjoyed it and, hopefully, I can be part of another campaign over the next four years.”