Grant McCann chose Liverpool, the Premier League champions elect, to illustrate how much his Hull City defence had suffered due to injuries inside the last month.
“Can you imagine having (Trent) Alexander-Arnold, (Virgil) Van Dijk and (Joe) Gomez all missing for Liverpool?” he asked.
“It’d be huge and that’s what we’ve been for the last five or six games.”
For Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk and Gomez at Liverpool, read Eric Lichaj, Jordy de Wijs and Reece Burke at Hull City.
A trio that had started 84 Championship games between them this season has recently been struck down by a damaging series of strains and ligament damage.
De Wijs was the first one to fall last month, then Burke followed by Lichaj. Six games have come and gone since the three defenders were all fit together and so, too, have City’s hopes of reaching the Championship play-offs.
Those half dozen games have returned only two points and, most tellingly, seen 16 goals shipped. Scoring four times at home to Swansea City last time out was still not enough to end a long winless streak as the Tigers’ defensive shortcomings haunted them once more in a 4-4 draw.
Lichaj, City’s captain and dressing room leader, will still be missing with ankle ligament damage when the Tigers head to Preston North End tomorrow, but it is hoped De Wijs and Burke can both help shore up an injury-hit defence craving familiarity.
“It’s a huge lift for everyone,” said McCann. “People from the outside can talk about Jarrod (Bowen) and Kamil (Grosicki) but having a settled back four is the key to us.
“The first 10-12 games (of the season) we were win one, lose one, draw one. We didn’t have any consistency in the back four, we kept having to chop and change because of little knocks and niggles.
“Then we get consistency and we win seven out of 12, I think it was. Two draws and three defeats. We were almost on promotion form with a consistent back four.
“Then it strikes again. We all know where we are; we’ve lost five of the last seven.
“Leading into this period we’d won two games away from home against QPR and Sheffield Wednesday. It’s very easy to talk about Jarrod and Kamil, for us it’s about consistency in the back four.
“It’s about getting that real understanding there. It’s so key to any team.”
The purple patch McCann references came between the middle of October and Boxing Day. For 13 league games on the spin he was able to play Lichaj, Burke, De Wijs and Callum Elder in an unchanged back four.
Wins came away to Nottingham Forest and Fulham, while Derby, Preston, Stoke and Birmingham were all swept aside at the KCOM Stadium.
City returned home from QPR and Sheffield Wednesday with wins secured without Elder but the latter remains the most recent taste of victory.
Ryan Tafazolli, Matthew Pennington, Robbie McKenzie and Sean McLoughlin have all attempted to plug the gaps as the injuries have kept on coming. Even Leonardo Da Silva Lopes was forced into playing at right-back away to Blackburn.
McCann knows all those to have deputised will feel long-term benefits but everything points towards De Wijs and Burke being ushered back in at Deepdale.
“What you’ve seen in the last two weeks is a young lad who’s come over from Cork, who’s had six good months at St Mirren and now we’ve seen first-hand he’s going to have a big future,” said McCann.
“He looks so calm on the ball but he’s been learning off Jordy and Taff, people like that.
“Robbie McKenzie has not played many games this season with the consistency of Eric Lichaj. He’s come in and done well.
“I’m putting any sort of blame on anyone but we’ve got a young group, with boys stepping up to the plate at this level.
“What it’ll do is give these boys an unbelievable sense of belief that they can play at this level, players like Robbie McKenzie, Sean McLoughlin and Brandon Fleming. It’ll only benefit them for years to come.”
Options at centre-back also brings options at right-back. McKenzie was Lichaj’s understudy last time out but the availability of Burke and De Wijs could free up Pennington to move out to the right of defence, as he did so successfully away to QPR and Sheffield Wednesday.
“We’ve got options there,” added McCann. “Robbie has played there, Penno has played there. We’re all gutted for Eric because for consistency he’s played a lot of games this season. It’s not like him to get injured.
“We’re gutted for him. It was just a freak accident at Reading where his foot has planted and his body has taken him the other way. It’s an opportunity now for those two definitely.”