WHEN Tom Ince rejected the overtures of Inter Milan during the heady days of last summer for a move to Hull City, European football and an assault on the top half of the Premier League were very much on the menu.
Five or so months on, however, and neither the fortunes of the 22-year-old nor the Tigers have gone as planned to leave both player and club looking to the New Year as a chance for a much-needed fresh start.
For Ince, he hopes, 2015 will bring an extended run in the side and a part in City’s climb away from trouble in the top flight. And it is a challenge he is ready to tackle head on.
“Whatever challenges are thrown at you, you have to rise to it,” said the former England Under-21 international ahead of the New Year’s day clash on Thursday with Everton at the KC Stadiun.
“This is a squad that is more than capable of doing that. After winning at Sunderland (on Boxing Day), we had a great opportunity to get back-to-back wins but that didn’t happen. Leicester came and got a smash and grab.
“Now, though, we have Everton coming on New Years Day and if we start as we finished the last match I am sure there will be no problem.”
Ince played a full part in that late onslaught on the Leicester goal that came so close to snatching at least a point for Steve Bruce’s men.
Brought on with 19 minutes remaining, he joined fellow substitutes, Nikica Jelavic and Abel Hernandez, in giving the Tigers much more attacking potency during the closing stages.
Such was the impact made by the trio that manager Bruce, who will be without suspended duo Tom Huddlestone and Stephen Quinn, faces some major decisions before naming the starting XI to take on Everton on Thursday.
If the Tigers chief opts to unleash his attacking forces, Ince could well be in line for his first Premier League start since the August 31 defeat at Aston Villa when he was substituted early in the second half.
Ince then scored a little over three weeks later in the Capital One Cup defeat to West Bromwich Albion but that proved to be his last act in a City shirt until Boxing Day.
A loan spell at Nottingham Forest filled the gap, though hardly in a satisfactory manner with Ince making just four starts in a little over two months before being recalled amid a worsening injury and suspension crisis.
“It was good to be back involved over Christmas,” said the wideman, who also came off the bench late on at the Stadium of Light.
“The loan spell didn’t go that well. I expected to play more games but that is the manager’s decision and it is up to him.
“It has been good to have that ‘home’ feeling again and to see the boys. It has also been good to be thrown straight back into the squad and it is up to me now, with the minutes that I get, to try and show people why Hull City brought me here.
“I feel in the coming weeks I can get some game time, score some goals and create some goals.”
The defeat to Leicester means Hull have won just three of 19 games this term.
Asked as to what had gone wrong this season for the Tigers, Ince replied: “Obviously, there have been key players missing. Mo Diame, Michael Dawson, Tom Huddlestone with his suspension – they are all important to us.
“We didn’t start nearly as well against Leicester as we did at Sunderland but the last 20 minutes showed exactly what Hull City are all about at home.
“We get on the front foot, we passed the ball and we got men forward. We can cause teams problems, we have shown that.
“Now, we are back at the KC on New Year’s Day to face Everton. If we can start the way we played for the last 20 minutes (against Leicester), we will give them a real problem.”