Hull City fighting history in Chelsea FA Cup clash

Jackson Irvine of Hull City battles for possession with Jonny Howson of Middlesbrough. George Wood/Getty Images

Should Jackson Irvine and his Hull City teammates turn to the history books for a bit of inspiration ahead of Chelsea's visit for the fourth-round FA Cup on Sunday morning, they won't much like what they find.

The Tigers are yet to defeat the Londoners in seven previous attempts in the world's oldest national football competition, their most recent failure coming back in 2018 when a brace to Willian and goals to Pedro and Olivier Giroud powered Chelsea into the quarterfinals.

The last time the Blues suffered defeat in any competitive meeting came way back in 1988 when, at the now-demolished Boothferry Park, Hull prevailed 3-0. Since then, the Premier League powers have gone 15 unbeaten.

Eight-time winners of the FA Cup, Chelsea - wearing a gorgeous kit inspired by their 1970 triumph - booked their place in the fourth round with a 2-0 win over Nottingham Forest in early January.

"It's obviously very exciting," Irvine told ESPN Australia when asked about Chelsea's visit.

"I was lucky enough to be involved when we played Chelsea two seasons ago in the FA Cup, but it was at Stamford Bridge.

"That was a great experience for myself; in my first season at Hull and playing in a fixture like that. But playing in our home stadium will be very exciting.

"You can't lose your philosophy and your style completely [against teams like Chelsea], but when you're playing against players of this calibre you're going to have to make slight adjustments. We'll have a look at their threats that we see as their biggest strengths and we'll try and counteract that but do it within our system.

"Because we've got a clear philosophy over the last 12 months and you want to try and maintain that and not allow everything to go out the window to try and hang on for one game.

"You're not really [thinking about past results] at all, that's the beauty of the FA Cup; you know anything can happen in a one-off game. That's why you get so many fairy-tale stories and magic moments because it can be so unpredictable."

Chelsea was held to a 2-2 draw against a Gabriel Martinelli-inspired Arsenal at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday morning, just days after a dramatic 94th-minute winner from Newcastle's Isaac Hayden consigned them to a 1-0 defeat at St James' Park.

Frank Lampard's side twice surrendered a one-goal lead in the game against the Gunners, despite being handed a one-man advantage as a result of David Luiz's 26th minute red-card.

Sitting in fourth on the Premier League table, the point earned at the Bridge moves them six points clear of a chasing pack of Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Wolves.

Hull enters Sunday morning's contest amid their own two-game skid; suffering back-to-back 1-0 defeats against Derby County and Fulham in their most recent Championship fixtures.

They secured their place in the fourth round of the FA Cup with a heart-stopping, come-from-behind win over League One side Rotherham - in which Irvine was a 61st-minute substitute.

"At times we've been a little bit of a roller-coaster with the results but that's been pretty standard for me since I've been at this club," the Socceroo midfielder explained. "We seem to be able to go and blow teams away 3-0 or 4-0 and then lose three days later.

"So there are things we need to adapt on but the style is something I've really enjoyed as a midfielder. It requires lots of energy, you get through a lot of work but the rewards are great and some of the football we've played is really exciting."

Recently ringing up his 100th appearance in a Hull shirt - scoring an 89th-minute winner in a 2-1 triumph away to Queens Park Rangers - Irvine has been a fixture in the Tigers XI in 2019/20.

Arriving in East Yorkshire ahead of the 2017/18 season, the former Ringwood and Knox City junior has featured in 98 of the 107 Championships games that he has been available for - his only extended period of unavailability arriving when he was away with the Socceroos at the 2019 Asian Cup.

This remarkable dependability hasn't gone unnoticed, with the 26-year-old named as vice-captain ahead of his third season on the coast by new gaffer Grant McCann.

Leadership, as it turns out, has always been a facet of Irvine's character.

Go back as far as 2013 and you'll find articles praising the leadership potential of the then-Young Socceroos as he attempted to mount an ultimately unsuccessful push to be included in Ange Postecoglou's 2014 World Cup squad.

"It's been something that's been thrust upon me a few times in my career," he said. "I was lucky enough to captain my youth team at Celtic and the young Australian teams as well, building up through the Young Socceroos and Olyroos.

"Then even at Ross County and Burton on occasions when I was quite young, I wore the armband a couple of times. It's been a quality that's been identified in me by a few managers but it's something I try to embrace and learn from all the time.

"I'm working with Eric Lichaj, our captain here. He's a fantastic guy and a great player and I'm trying to take as much from him as I can and hopefully it's something I can carry on for the rest of my career."

Ultimately, regardless of Sunday's result, Chelsea's visit should serve as a memorable occasion for Irvine.

Local reports have suggested that the Tigers are set to attract their biggest FFA Cup crowd in 47 years for the contest, with the visitors having already sold-out their 4,100 allotment.

"For myself and a few of the others who have been here for two or three years, this will be the first time they've opened the top-tier of the stadium," Irvine said. '[It] doesn't normally get opened for a normal match day, so it's going to be hopefully a full house and that will be amazing; a fantastic night for everybody, for the club for the fans for the city.

"[Beating Chelsea] would just show you just how far we've come, if you look back to the result we had against them in the FA Cup two years ago.

"We have a really exciting but tough time ahead in the league, we've got a good chance of being able to crack that top-six so it's going to be interesting.

"This is kind of a free hit for us in some ways.

"You can go out there and enjoy the experience and go on and try to win the football match.

"And if you get through you never know what can come from there because in these one-off games anything's possible."

Watch the FA Cup on ESPN with Kayo Sports