HULL CITY midfielder Jackson Irvine believes the East Riding club must be careful not to talk themselves into a second successive relegation battle.
The Tigers’ hopes of making an instant return to the Premier League are receding with each passing week.
Tuesday night’s 3-1 defeat to Middlesbrough, the club’s second on home soil inside four days after Nottingham Forest triumphed 3-2 at the weekend, means Leonid Slutsky’s men sit closer to the bottom three than the play-off places.
Even allowing for the upheaval of last summer that saw a host of big name departures, City were expected to perform much better under the former Russian national team manager.
After the Boro loss, beleaguered Slutsky was even moved to admit just four wins from 15 games is enough to invite uncertainty over his future.
Irvine, however, believes everyone at the KCOM Stadium must remain upbeat or risk being dragged into trouble at the wrong end of the Championship.
It is all well and good saying it is a long season but I was in a similar situation last time. Game by game, if you don’t pick up the results it can mean people start to look down.Hull City’s Jackson Irvine
“This is a talented squad,” said the £2m summer arrival from Burton Albion, where he was named ‘Player of the Season’ for 2016-17 as Nigel Clough’s men beat the drop against all the odds.
“We are still learning a lot about each other. There was a massive turnover in the summer – a new manager, a lot of new players and we are still trying to learn about each other.
“We need to do that quickly. It is all well and good saying it is a long season but I was in a similar situation last time.
“Game by game, if you don’t pick up the results it can mean people start to look down. We don’t want to do that. As a club, we have to look up and always be chasing the teams up towards the top end.
“You can drag yourself down if you start looking there (down), 100 per cent. We need to keep our heads above water, above that zone, and keep focusing on the teams above us and beating them. We need to claw back that gap.”
Life is unlikely to get any easier for the Tigers this weekend, as a trip to high-flying Sheffield United brings the curtain down ahead of the third international break of the campaign.
If City are to dent the Blades’ promotion aspirations, the errors that proved so costly in the 3-1 loss to Boro will have to be eradicated.
Hull, in fact, boast the worst defensive record outside the bottom three with 26 goals having been conceded in those 15 outings.
A much more positive statistic comes via the 27 goals scored by Slutsky’s men being matched by only leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers, something Irvine believes should not be overlooked.
“Errors are costing us at the moment,” said the Australian international. “We are making them in vital points in the game and vital parts of the pitch, it is as simple as that.
“We always look a threat going forward and have scored in just about every game this season. We just need to tidy up, we all know that.
“No-one is down about it (City’s start). Obviously, it hurts and we don’t like losing matches. Everyone is trying to put their finger on what needs to change. We need to stay strong in what is a brutal league. The Championship often gives you just three or four days between fixtures and we have to be ready to go again, put Tuesday behind us and let’s be ready for Sheffield United.”
Once the trip to Bramall Lane is out of the way, Irvine’s focus will switch to Australia’s World Cup qualifying play-off against Honduras.
Prevail over the two legs and the Socceroos will book their place at next summer’s finals in Russia, something the 24-year-old admits is a tantalising prospect.
“These two games are absolutely monstrous,” added the City midfielder.
“It is high pressure and high stakes, probably the highest stakes of international football – a place at the World Cup.
“We have had to deal with some incredible conditions, with some of the places we have had to play. Some people wouldn’t dream about playing in 45 degrees and 98 per cent humidity. That was tough, I can tell you. Unbearable at times. Twelve minutes into the game, we were time-wasting because you had to.
“But we just deal with it. Those conditions are just part of playing in Asia and playing in our Confederation. I am sure it will be a hostile environment in Honduras (for the first leg) but we will be ready for that.”