Hull City v Reading: Chelsea loanees are committed to Tigers’ cause

Battling for the cause: 'Tigers' Ola Aina.  Picture: Tony Johnson
Battling for the cause: 'Tigers' Ola Aina. Picture: Tony Johnson
Have your say

UNDENIABLY it has been a bumpy ride out east for Ola Aina and his fellow Chelsea loanees at Hull City in 2017-18.

But, refreshingly, Aina’s maxim is very much akin to the adage of former German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who once famously stated: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”

Young Blues defenders Aina – who celebrated his 21st birthday in October – and Fikayo Tomori, who only turned 20 last month, have done it tough alongside their Tigers team-mates, who include another defender contracted to Stamford Bridge in Michael Hector.

A litany of late goals against and the costly concession of valuable points – something which many pinpoint to be the main reason for Hull’s demise this season – will have been painful to endure.

The sad descent of Leonid Slutsky from a bubbly, avuncular figure to something resembling a broken man following the Tigers’ wretched plight cannot have been easy to witness either for young footballers. Then there is the off-the-field background music at the club, which is far from harmonious.

All the while, Hull have been slipping, almost inexorably, towards the danger zone in the Championship in a suffocating campaign where a perfect storm has been gathering energy off the Humber.

We know the club is going through a bad period and we feel it as well.

Hull City loanee Ola Aina

It has been hard for supporters; it has been hard for players and, while the loan status of the likes of Aina may indicate that Hull’s predicament is not truly theirs, he still professes to feeling that sense of hurt, having signed with expectation for his first loan move last summer.

It is all a far cry from the comparative safety and comfort of age-group football at Chelsea, when Aina and his colleagues were used to winning most weeks and picking up a prize or two at the end of a season.

But hard experiences can be the most invaluable.

Aina, hoping to do his bit to ease Hull’s plight at home to fellow strugglers Reading this afternoon, said: “Of course, we (loan players) are here for the season and it can’t just be a thing where we think, ‘It is not really our club’. You can’t have that attitude.

“I feel if someone had that attitude they would not be playing well anyway. You have to invest in it and I feel all three of us have invested in the club.

“We know the club is going through a bad period and we feel it as well. We are not disconnected because we are just loan players and I feel all three of us have actually taken to the club and really want the club to progress.

“When I do move on at the end of the season, I will always keep up to date with Hull because it is special. It is my first loan as well, so I feel I will always be connected.

“We are going through a bad time now. But it only makes me stronger mentally. If it does happen again in the future, I will know how to try and get through the situation as I am obviously coming across them now with this team.

“Obviously, growing up in the academy at Chelsea there is a lot of talent there and you are winning most things and getting to finals. You are not really getting that feel of going through bad periods.

“Coming here and playing men’s football in the real world and going through these obstacles is good. I would not say it is a negative, it is a learning curve and that is what I like.”

The current Championship table may make for grim reading for the Tigers, who are out of the relegation positions only on goal difference, but the vibe, according to Aina, has certainly been good at their Cottingham training base this week.

It is, in part, helped by last weekend’s uplifting FA Cup win at Blackburn, in which Aina scored the first senior goal of his career.

Granted, Aina – and most definitely, Hull – would probably swap that win for a couple of victories in their next two key games against Reading and Sunderland. But the benefits of a winning dressing room are restorative.

As someone who accentuates the positives and whose glass is always half-full, head coach Nigel Adkins has used last weekend’s events as fuel for getting his side in the best possible mindset for two seminal games in Hull’s season, starting against his old club.

Spirits are resolutely healthy, according to Aina, yet the trick will ultimately come in how they deal with the next two Saturdays.

Aina acknowledged: “Saturday is very big. We obviously got the FA Cup win and just to get back-to-back wins is something we would like to do . It is a big game.

“Training has been really energetic and lively and the mood has been bubbly and you do feel that uplifted spirit around the camp.

“I know everyone is enjoying training sessions and his (Adkins) meetings as well. We feel a togetherness and confidence going into every game.

“Maybe earlier in the season we were not as confident. But now we are, going into every single game, and that is one difference.

“We all sit down as a group, but even individually, if it just walking out to training, he (Adkins) will pull you aside and give you that confidence you need.

“Sometimes it is good for a player to have an arm around the shoulder and I think he does that well for every player, not just certain individuals, and is like a father figure.”

As for the notion of pressure, Aina defiantly insisted: “Personally, I don’t feel it and I don’t think the team do. We just go out in every game and have our objectives to hit and I don’t think the team feel any pressure. We just go out there and try and do a job.

“We try to stay positive and always do our best. Looking at the negatives is something that the team does not do.”