Forgotten man Paul McShane hopes his Hull City fringe days are in the past
THE pathway to redemption has been a popular route chosen by Hull City's forgotten faces this season.
Jay Simpson and Seyi Olofinjana were the first to make their way merrily down the track, bounding out of the wilderness and back into the spotlight.
Now, after making his first start for City in 2012 in the defeat to Blackpool, Paul McShane is eager to follow suit.
Much like Simpson and Olofinjana, McShane has found himself cast as an extra on set at the KC Stadium.
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As many appearances have come on loan at Barnsley and Crystal Palace (22) as they have for City during two lost years and, such has been his plight, McShane admits it comes as a surprise to still be a Tiger in the fourth and final year of his deal.
Injuries to James Chester and Alex Bruce have left the door ajar for McShane to start back-to-back Championship games at Sheffield Wednesday this afternoon, but the Irishman is wary of celebrating a false start.
"It's been a long two years but I'm not out of the dark yet," he said.
"I've got to keep going. You can't take your eye off the ball for a minute because this game has a habit of turning round and kicking you in the privates."
If that is the case, McShane has been bent double for much of his time in East Yorkshire.
A successful loan spell in 2008-09 led to a £1.5m switch 12 months later, but once City fell out of the Premier League in 2010, McShane's career has been largely stagnant.
"There's been some hard days over the last two years," he said.
"You're training every day to prepare yourself for the chance and when it doesn't come it's very tough.
"You come in and feel like a spare wheel sometimes. You feel as though you're out in the cold.
"You keep your head down and work hard but you start doubting yourself.
"But you have to understand it's just part of the job. I suppose that's life in general, it's a survival of the fittest."
Loan moves have punctuated the gloom and served a purpose. Spells at Barnsley in 2011 and Crystal Palace in 2012 helped to keep alive his international career with the Republic of Ireland, peaking with a place at Euro 2012, but permanent offers have never materialised.
He added: "In a way I'm surprised I'm still here. You come back for pre-season every year and you don't really know what to expect.
"I've never really wanted to go out on loan but it had to be done. I'd seen how things were going here and it was clear I wasn't going to get chances.
"Going out on loan to Barnsley and Palace was enjoyable, but I was never sure what they'd lead to. Football can change quickly so I wasn't thinking about anything happening next.
"I just tried to play as many games as I could and not get too bogged down by things.
"It has seemed like there's been one obstacle after another in the last few years, but I'm still here and I'm still willing to give everything I've got for the club. I'm still desperate to play as much as anyone."
McShane, by nature, is a cheerful soul, but his time with City has tested that effervescence.
Nigel Pearson was the first manager to lose faith in the defender during 2010-11 and moves for James Chester, Jack Hobbs and Liam Rosenior soon planted awkward obstacles in McShane's bid for regular football.
Nick Barmby also overlooked the Manchester United graduate, starting McShane just once in the 1-0 defeat at Burnley on the final day of 2011 before granting his wish for a loan move to Palace in January.
For a defender who boasts 27 caps for the Republic of Ireland, the adversity has been tough.
"Sometimes I've felt a little bit hard done to," he said.
"You do doubt yourself a little bit at times. You're thinking to yourself 'What's the story here then?'
"I've always had the belief in myself. It's important to always have that because the minute you start losing belief in yourself, you're lost."
That belief delivered overdue rewards in midweek when McShane started his first home game for the Tigers since December 2010.
The 26-year-old accepts Tuesday's opportunity only arose due to the injury misfortune of others, curbing his enthusiasm when contemplating the return of Chester and Alex Bruce ahead of hosting Ipswich Town in a fortnight.
It was also Steve Bruce who sanctioned McShane's move from Sunderland to City three years ago, but the defender is determined to prove himself worthy of an extended run.
"I was pleased enough with my performance the other night but it's not as though I'm back all of a sudden, it's just the start and I've got to keep going," he said, reflecting on the 3-2 loss to Blackpool, where supporters voted him Man of the Match.
"It's my responsibility to make sure I pick myself really. Stuff can easily be said but it's the actions that matter.
"I just want to look forward now and put everything behind me. That's what I've tried to do in the last few weeks and not get dragged down by what's happened in the past.
"I'll take each game at a time and hopefully make decisions hard for the manager. I'm sure that's what he wants.
"I got an opportunity the other night and although it was a bad result, I was delighted with the fans' reaction."
McShane is likely to partner Abdoulaye Faye in City's depleted defence at Sheffield Wednesday today as the Tigers look to arrest a run of three consecutive defeats.
A late surrender against Blackpool, where a 2-1 lead quickly turned into a 3-2 deficit, was the latest installment of a lamentable theme for City, and McShane wants to banish those memories with a reaction.
"It was a good performance in a way but you can't keep having that where you play well and lose," he added.
"It's about getting results. The best teams can play badly and win and I'd like to think we can bring that into our game. You need to be at it in every game in the Championship. If you're not you'll get punished."