QUITTING Hibernian this month would have meant leaving a job half-finished, according to Ryan McGivern.
Having made a big impact during his first few months at Easter Road, the Northern Irish defender was delighted to agree an extension to his loan from Manchester City, and is now looking forward to spending the rest of the season with Hibs.
Club captain James McPake has received a lot of credit for the team’s improvement in defence this season, but McGivern has arguably been the more consistent player. He is also more adaptable, having moved from right-back to centre-half when required.
But, whatever their relative merits, both men have demonstrated the tough competitive streak which had been glaringly absent from Hibs over the past few years. Their drive has helped Pat Fenlon’s team become established in the upper half of the SPL, and McGivern is confident they can put in a sustained challenge for second place.
“I was happy to agree to stay,” the 23-year-old said. “Since I’ve been in the team I’ve played every game, and that was the main factor why I came up here.
“The Northern Ireland manager [former Hibs player Michael O’Neill, who lives in Edinburgh] is on my doorstep as well, so it enhances my chances there as well. So I thought there was no reason to upset the season with change. I’ve really enjoyed it here and I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.
“Michael spoke to me about staying on and said he was happy I was staying here. He told me about Niall McGinn going to Aberdeen and the form he is showing now and how that’s enhanced his international career. Hopefully staying here and getting a lot more game time will enhance my Northern Ireland career.
“The first half of the season has been good and I didn’t want to leave half-way through the season, as I feel there is a chance for us to go on. We could be sitting higher up the table with a few more points, but it’s only half-time in the season and if we can get our heads down, sorting out a few little errors we’ve got a great chance of being right up the top end of the table.
“The fact we’re still in the Scottish Cup and also the derbies was another factor as I’ve really enjoyed them. I know there’s definitely one more, but I’m hoping for two.”
McGivern has also been encouraged by Wolves’ decision to allow striker Leigh Griffiths to extend his own loan at Hibs. “It was brilliant news to keep Sparky for the rest of the season,” he said. “He’s been in brilliant form and is probably our main asset.
“If we’d lost him it would have made a big dent in the squad, and would have been big boots to fill. Thankfully Wolves have let him stay on and he wanted to stay on, which was great news. It’s a boost for everyone.
“I said when I signed that second place was up for grabs and we are not far off that just now. If we can cut out a few areas of our game that have cost us, especially away from home, and keep plugging away at home, I don’t see why we can’t target a top-three finish.”
McGivern is well aware that being a Manchester City player is no guarantee of a great career – it was revealed this week that Michael Johnston, once a team-mate of his at youth level and a player who was touted as the new Paul Gascoigne, has quit the game after a variety of problems. He knows, too, that he faces an uncertain time in the summer, as his City contract expires. For the time being, however, he aims to put such uncertainty to one side, and keep turning in the sure-footed performances with which he has regularly impressed in a Hibs jersey.
“Since I’ve been here this has been home,” he said. “My City contract is up in the summer, but I’m just concentrating on doing well for Hibs and seeing what happens.
“You could say I’m in the shop window because I’m on a free in the summer, so there is a chance for me to do well between now and the end of the season. Hopefully there will be a few offers coming in, and it will be a case of weighing them up and making the right move for my career.”