HAVING helplessly watched Hull’s spectacular collapse from the sidelines last season, Matt Ingram is revelling in the dramatic turnaround in fortunes and believes this year’s Tigers have the makings of champions.
The 26-year-old goalkeeper made just one Championship appearance throughout 2019/20 following a summer move from QPR, featuring in a 1-0 defeat to Luton in July that all but sealed Hull’s relegation.
A 3-0 loss at Cardiff four days later – their sixth in a row – confirmed a bottom-place finish, representing a remarkable fall from grace after flirting with the Championship play-offs at the turn of the year.
But having promised to reset and regroup ahead a first tilt at the third tier for 15 years, manager Grant McCann, below, has inspired a remarkable improvement at the KCOM Stadium this season. Their opening four League One games yielded maximum points and four clean sheets.
It is that latter statistic that unsurprisingly sticks out to Ingram, who has been handed the gloves among a sea of changes, after playing second fiddle to ex-England youth international George Long last year.
“It’s frustrating as a goalkeeper when you’re sat on the bench and you’re champing at the bit to play, because there’s only one place up for grabs and you don’t get ten minutes at the end of a game to show what you’re about,” said the former Wycombe man, who came through the ranks at Adams Park. “You have to support and respect the guy in front of you, keep your head down and make sure you’re ready to take your opportunity when you get it, which I feel like I’ve done so far.
“The gaffer and his backroom staff deserve a hell of a lot of credit for our turnaround in form. Last season was difficult but we’ve all put that to bed now – they looked at the squad and have strengthened in all the right places.
“I’ve always had massive faith in Grant. He’s got his principles, everyone understands the way he wants us to play and I think you’re seeing that out on the pitch now with the success we’re having.”
Although Friday night’s 4-1 defeat at Fleetwood blotted their copybook, Hull’s fast start – which also saw them beat Premier League Leeds on penalties in the Carabao Cup – has seen them emerge as one of the favourites to bounce back to the Championship at the first time of asking.
Ingram is familiar with League One, after spending time on loan there with Northampton and back at Wycombe during a frustrating three-and-a-half-year spell at QPR, and is clear about the Tigers’ ambitions.
He added: “I know what this league’s all about and, looking around our dressing room, I know we’ve got more than enough quality to go up as champions.
“We went out to West Ham in the cup after beating Leeds, but it was a great confidence boost to go to Elland Road, compete with Premier League opposition and be the better side. There’s a great buzz around the camp at the minute and we see ourselves being in and around the top of the table at the end of the season if we continue playing like we are. Promotion is our sole target.
“It sounds clichéd but we’ve just got to focus on ourselves, keep working hard and hopefully that will see us over the line.
“From my point of view, I just look forward to playing well in the next match. Hopefully I can continue keeping clean sheets which will in turn contribute to the team earning three points more often than not.”