Former Ross County midfielder Jackson Irvine spent the dramatic final day of the Championship season watching on as Burton Albion and Liam Boyce suffered the pain of relegation.
Burton were drawing with Preston as Bolton were losing to Nottingham Forest, results which would have kept the Brewers up.
However two goals in the final four minutes for Wanderers hauled them to safety and dumped Burton and Boyce back into the mire, with Louis Moult’s late goal for Preston confirming their relegation to League 1.
Irvine believes that with a fully-fit Boyce – he missed all-but the last three months of the season with a knee ligament injury – they can make a return to the Championship at the first time of asking.
He said: “I was sitting in the stand taking in the other games. It’s final day drama for you – you can be sitting second-bottom until the 80th minute then two goals have you safe.
“It’s heartbreak for them. I haven’t spoke to Boycey since then, but I spoke to him a few times since he came back from injury. It’s very disappointing for him to end like that and hopefully he’ll bounce back straight away. He’ll be such an important player for them. If they have a successful season next year, it’s a great platform and we all know his qualities. He’s very capable of scoring goals and if he does that, he should be able to keep himself in the national team.”
His Hull City side finished 18th this season after being relegated from the Premier League. Their aspirations for 2018-19 should include pushing for the play-offs and beyond, according to the 25-year-old.
Irvine said: “I’ve got two years left here and I hope the club can be competitive and push towards the top end, then you never know. I feel I’ve proved myself as a good Championship player over a couple of seasons and who knows where I can go. I’m working with international-level players and it’s great. I’ll take it season by season and look to improve on what I’ve done.
“The last 12 months have been a positive step in my development. Burton was a brilliant stepping stone in English football and getting the move to Hull was a reward. It’s my first experience at a club among other senior internationals and the club has high expectations. It’s helped my international career and I’m really happy.
“Hopefully next season we can kick on again, push towards the play-offs and the Premier League. The Championship is so competitive. You’ve seen the run Cardiff had; all it takes is a good run of form and a positive mentality among the players.”