Socceroos midfielder Jackson Irvine has opened up on his premature exit from relegated Hull City, insisting he felt he had little option but to depart the Tigers last month.
Vice-captain Irvine joined skipper Eric Lichaj and two other senior players in heading out of Humberside before the Championship restart, after being effectively told they were no longer wanted.
Tigers officials even informed the quartet - which also included Stephen Kingsley and Marcus Maddison - they would have to fend for themselves should they incur season-ending injuries during the Championship run-in.
With more games in the bank than any other Hull player - 112 over three seasons - Irvine admits to being “dumbfounded” at how his time on Humberside came to such an untimely conclusion.
“I’ve read a lot of things over the past few weeks about negotiations falling through and these types of things, but there really were no negotiations,” Irvine told The World Game.
“I’m sure there’ll be people out there who’ll draw their own conclusions and still think I should have played on, with or without any kind of security.
“I had a tough call to make: do I play out the rest of the season with no security, or don’t I?
“I asked the club if I played and got badly injured would they then trigger that year (extension), so I’d have a measure of security.
“They said they wouldn’t - so for me the risk was too great and I knew my time at the club was over.
“To have left in that way is upsetting.”
Irvine, 27, explained that while he believes the club forced his hand, he holds no grudges or grievances and feels only sadness at their fate.
“For me, it came down to the club having an option to trigger a contract extension for next season, which they chose not to take,” he added.
“They also decided not to offer a new contract, whether on reduced terms or not.
“It was the club’s option to trigger and not mine.
“I made myself available for the games in June up until the end of my contract, but in the end we came to an understanding that that wasn’t going to happen.
“It was an unbelievably disappointing situation - I felt like I gave my all to the club for three years.
“But ultimately it felt like I was let out of the side door with a bag of boots and didn’t even get to say goodbye to a lot of people because of the coronavirus situation.”
Back home in Melbourne for the past month, Irvine continued: “I’m very disappointed for the fans and club to see them drop to League One.
“I don’t want it to seem like I’m talking now because of the situation the club finds itself in.
“I have ultimate respect for the fans and (coach) Grant McCann who made me part of the leadership group.
“I like to think I gave something back during my time there.”
“I’m focusing more now on what the future might hold.”
Irvine returns to England next week to begin the next chapter of his career, with the likes of Sheffield Wednesday showing interest earlier this year in a player with a proven Championship pedigree.
“I’ve had a bit of time to reflect on things and conversations have been ongoing between my management and clubs,” he said.
“I’m excited for what comes next but as it stands there is nothing overly concrete in the pipeline.
“Over the next few weeks things will become clearer and hopefully I’ll be able to start up with an ambitious new project.”
Still in his prime, Irvine has ruled out the A-League as an option - for now.
“It’s probably not time for me yet,” he said. “But I keep a very close eye on the A-league, and it’s very much an ambition of mine to be part of it one day.”
Irvine saw the writing on the wall at Hull back in March, before lockdown and with nine games remaining, when he’d had no word from Tigers bosses on the their intentions regarding his future.
“There was no sign of anything - not a peep from the club,” he added.
“The season got extended but I only got a call eight days before our first game back asking what was going on.
“I was a bit dumbfounded - there was a brief chat about the option and the fact they wouldn’t be activating it.”