Should Hull City beat Birmingham at the KCOM Stadium today then they could find themselves within one win of breaking into the Championship’s top-six at the halfway point of 2019/20.
Given that they are still getting used to the methods and demands of a manager only six months into his tenure in East Yorkshire, the Tigers players could probably be forgiven for thinking that they were doing pretty well thus far.
According to ambitious City boss Grant McCann, his team is underachieving, and he has told them in no uncertain terms that they have to do much better during the second half of the season if they are to stand a chance of realising their goal of securing a play-off spot.
“We’ve got 30 points from 22 games,” the Northern Irishman said.
“If we can win on Saturday, and hopefully we can, that will be 33 from 23. It’s not good enough. Simple as that.
If we can win on Saturday, and hopefully we can, that will be 33 from 23. It’s not good enough. Simple as that.Grant McCann
“It ain’t good enough. And if we do that again in the next 23 then we’ll finish 12th or 13th in the league, and I’ve explained that to the players.
“I don’t think that we are doing well, because we’re not. We are actually just doing okay, and if you accept that, then that’s what will happen to us in the second half of the season, so we’ve got a lot of work to do.
“We’re not far off, but not far off doesn’t matter. If you finish seventh and you’re outside the play-offs then you haven’t done it, simple as that.
“That’s the way I look at things and the players are well aware of that. They know that what we’ve done in the first half of the season ain’t gonna be enough in the second half of the season.”
City didn’t exactly hit the ground running during the early weeks of the campaign, winning just three of their opening 12 league matches.
And while McCann believes that their slow start is to blame for his side not being as high up the table as he would like, he is still adamant an improvement is required on their more recent run of form – one that has seen them victorious in five of their last 10.
“I think we’ve turned a corner possibly after the first 12 games where we took 14 points,” he added.
“When you think back to that, some of the results at home and silly points we dropped along the way, we’ve got better after that. The next 10 games we’ve got a lot better, but we need to improve. We need to pick up second half of the season.
“We [McCann and his assistant, Cliff Byrne] don’t just accept what’s gone on. We have to drive home standards every day, and we will. Every single day in training, we do it.
“What we’re doing on the football pitch at the minute is okay, that’s it. We need to be a lot better if we’re gonna get in the top six.”
Stating that his players need to do better is one thing. Identifying exactly where they are going wrong is another.
But, McCann seems fairly certain exactly what it is that the Tigers need to address.
“We’re one of the best attacking teams in the league, very threatening when we go forward, but the reason why we’re not in the top six is because we don’t react quick enough when we lose the ball,” he said.
“And that’s something we’ve got to continually try and work on. We’ve worked on it this week, our energy, our application.
“We’ve got no time for sulkers or people throwing their hands up in the air. We’ve only got time for people wanting to react and be a good team-mate.
“We’ve drummed that home to the boys because I feel as if we are nearly there, but the teams at the top – West Brom and Leeds – are excellent going forward and excellent defensively.
“At the minute, we’re excellent going forwards and probably a touch away from being excellent defensively.
“That means the reaction, the counter-pressing, the sprinting back. Three goals we’ve conceded in the last two games from our own corners or attacks and we don’t recover quickly enough.
“Those little things have to improve for us if we are gonna have a chance at the top six. And they will, and we will.”
Opponents Birmingham come into today’s fixture just one position behind 14th-placed Hull in the Championship standings and knowing that victory would see them leapfrog their hosts.
The odds are however against the Blues, a team victorious just once in their previous eight matches.
Not that McCann will be underestimating Pep Clotet’s men.
“It’s going to be another tough game,” he added.
“They’ve had a decent start and they’ve got a huge squad. They’ve got certain strengths that we need to be aware of.”