ROWAN VINE today revealed he’s determined to recapture the form which once earned him a £3 million move after clinching a one-year deal with Hibs.
The 30-year-old has been handed the No.9 shirt by Easter Road boss Pat Fenlon, the first time he’ll have worn his favourite number since an impressive spell at Luton Town which tempted Birmingham City to step in with that mega-bucks bid.
Now Vine hopes it will prove a lucky omen, the forward having endured a torrid few years since suffering a horror double-leg break only months after switching from the Midlands to Queens Park Rangers. The injury put Vine out for 16 months and on his return he fell out of favour with then manager Neil Warnock, despite having signed a four-and-a-half year contract, resulting in him being sent out on loan with a string of clubs.
However, Vine feels he has begun to prove his doubters wrong by bouncing back to play 37 times for SPL rivals St Johnstone last season and now he’s anxious to pull on a green-and-white jersey as often as possible – starting with Thursday night’s Europa League clash with Malmo in Sweden.
He said: “I’ve been through a lot that’s tested me mentally, but I think making 30-odd appearances for Saints was testament to me and my character. I would like to think I have the hunger, mentality and desire as I definitely feel I am clawing back time having missed a lot of football. That drives me on.”
Although he doesn’t regard himself as an “out and out” No.9, Vine revealed he’s delighted to have been able to take the shirt worn by 28-goal Leigh Griffiths last season, saying: “I’ve always loved the No.9, it’s my favourite number but I haven’t had it since Luton where I had a good spell. I haven’t been able to get it since but when I got the chance here I took it.”
Vine, who netted seven times for Saints, including a double in a 3-1 win over Hibs at Easter Road, is naturally well aware of the shadow cast by Griffiths’ exploits but he insisted he won’t be fazed by any burden of expectation supporters may have. He said: “I’m definitely a forward, but not an out-and-out goalscorer.
“I feel I can score goals. I played out wide a lot last season, not my strongest position, but I was happy to play there. But I do like to link play, create and score goals.”
And as for the prospect of a debut in Europe, a stage he’s never played on before, Vine said: “It’s a massive game for the club, Malmo are a good team but hopefully it will be a great occasion.”
• HIBS’ Under-20 side face Spartans at Ainslie Park tonight (kick off 7.30) aiming for their fourth straight pre-season win following their 3-1 weekend victory over Lothian Thistle. Admission is £5 for adults and £3 for concessions.