All football in England has been postponed indefinitely because of the coronavirus pandemic, with FA, EFL and Premier League officials waiting for the all-clear from the government before deciding when to allow teams to return to action.
It is now 40 days since the Australian international midfielder and his team-mates last took to the field, with the suspension of matches compounded by a Government-imposed lockdown that has also prevented the Tigers’ squad from training together.
Along with the rest of the public, Irvine has been following government guidelines and staying at home and admits that life without football has been hard.
“As a footballer that is used to a day-to-day routine and structure, it is tough but I’m doing alright in what can only be described as bizarre times,” he said.
“It’s so bizarre to have a total break from football. To not even be able to watch live games on TV is so strange. Even during the summer breaks, there is usually one international tournament going on somewhere that you can watch.
“It always feels as though football never really leaves your life, but this has been a really strange time in that sense. It’s gone from everything to nothing!
“Obviously, I’m missing it all massively, more so because of that fact that we weren’t prepared for it. You can prepare for your summer break during the close season when you kind of want that time to switch off, but for it to happen in the middle of a season when you’re still in full training mode is really strange. It just feels as though the rug got pulled from underneath us.
“Being away from the changing room environment is a big thing as well. When you’re not going into your workplace on a daily basis, you do miss that aspect of it as well. You do miss the banter that flies around because being in a football dressing room is a very unique working environment.
“We spend an awful lot of time together and to not have that on a day-to-day basis right now is very strange. It’s such an enjoyable place to work and this time away from it all makes you so grateful for what you have.
“We’ve set up some group calls between us all every few days to keep everyone in contact with each other, which has been really good. Now with the power of social media and technology, you never feel like you’re too far away from anybody. That has been great for myself in particular with my family being back in Australia. But I’m sure the dressing room will be a very lively place the day we do return – I’m certain of that.”
Talking about what he’s been up to during the enforced break from play, Irvine continued: “I’ve just been keeping myself busy with my music – playing the guitar and listening to my records. And now, with an endless amount of streaming services, there’s always something new to watch on TV as well. Along with that, I’ve been reading and just trying to keep myself occupied in the usual ways I do.
“On top of that, obviously I’m also doing my best to keep fit and do all the physical work that I need to do. It’s important to stay active – both physically and mentally. You just have to keep yourself motivated and use your time wisely.”
Irvine and his team-mates are still able to fulfil their scheduled exercise each day, with a programme set out for every individual player, in anticipation that football will resume at some point in the future.
“It’s strange being in a day-to-day exercise routine where it’s yourself against the clock. It doesn’t quite give you the same motivation as being out on the field does. The thing I’m missing the most is the competition within training on a day-to-day basis. I’m the sort of person that thrives on a competitive edge.
“But, we’re working with what we have. I must say the programmes that have been put in place for us have been great. We’ve all been given individual gym programmes that we can adapt ourselves, depending on what kind of equipment and space everyone has available to them at home.
“It’s the same when it comes to the physical side of it all. Some will be out doing their running in the park, while others may have access to treadmills and bikes at home. It’s all adapted to individuals and the best way for each member of the team to do it. I’m just focusing on working with what I’ve got and making sure I do that to the best of my ability.
“The message that all the coaching staff have drilled into us is that when the call comes to say we can come back, we have to be in the best possible shape and have the mentality to be ready to crack on. Whenever the season does resume, we know we have to be in the best condition possible in order to be ready for what is going to be an incredibly competitive last nine games.”
With the lockdown process set to be extended by a further three weeks and no scheduled return for football, vice-captain Irvine has reiterated the importance of people to remain at home as much as possible.
“It’s a new set of circumstances for everybody up and down the country,” he added. “Yes, we all love football and can’t wait to get back playing the game but the priority has to be everyone’s health and safety.
“It is what it is. I know it’s not easy for everyone due to individual circumstances but it’s something that has got to be done. That’s the advice that has been given and, although the government are being as lenient as possible, they’ve stressed it’s important that people follow the guidelines.
“It’s been good to see that everyone is taking it seriously and doing the right things and the best they can to follow all the guidelines. At the end of the day, the health and safety of the public is of paramount importance at this time. Everyone just has to knuckle down and play their part.”