HIBS new boy Rowan Vine today insisted he wasn’t fazed in the slightest by the thought of following in the footsteps of 28-goal Leigh Griffiths at Easter Road by declaring: “There’s always a pressure on attacking players to score goals.”
Vine admitted the departure of Griffiths has left a “void” which will need to be filled if Pat Fenlon’s side are to achieve their minimum goal of top six football – a prize which just eluded them despite the exploits of the on-loan Wolves hitman.
However, Vine believes any potential shortfall can be overcome by simply sharing the goals around, pointing out that while no-one at his previous club St Johnstone had got into double figures last season, the McDiarmid Park outfit had managed a third place finish thanks to plenty of players, including himself, who scored seven last season, and fellow Hibs new boy Liam Craig, who scored nine goals, getting close to that number.
Agreeing Griffiths had left Hibs with something of a headache, Vine said: “At every club there should be pressure on the attacking players to score and make goals. That’s what they are there for and every forward needs to know that.
“To get 28 goals was unbelievable, even more so for a team which finished outside the top six. No-one at St Johnstone scored more than ten, but we managed to finished third, with a lot of our goals coming from midfield. It’s a double-edged sword. You look at individual achievements and team achievements, but I think the whole team knows those goals are missing, so everyone has to try that little bit harder to chip in with goals.”
Vine argued that he’d be doing Griffiths’ team-mates a “bit of disservice” to suggest they’d become over-reliant on the former Livingston and Dundee ace, but conceded opposition teams did pay particular attention to him.
He said: “If you look at the goals return, it does look like if he was not scoring then no-one else was. That’s a fair point. A lot of our team talks was stuff like not letting him turn, getting him high up the pitch and frustrating him, keeping him quiet because. If you did that, you had half a chance and I am sure a lot of people were talking the same way.”
Vine’s own goals return may appear much more modest in comparison to Griffiths given he played 37 times for St Johnstone, but Vine, who once commanded a £3 million transfer fee when he moved from Luton Town – where he had netted 22 times in 57 matches – to Birmingham City, insisted he was happy with his contribution in Perth.
Under then Saints boss Steve Lomas, Vine found himself invariably used wide, primarily on the left, a position he wasn’t entirely unhappy about being asked to play, but revealed he much prefers to play through the middle where, he believes, he is far more effective.
After a horrific leg break at Queens Park Rangers in 2008 saw him sidelined for 16 months, Vine was content to play anywhere for Lomas last season as he looked to get his career back on track. That injury effectively ended his chances at Loftus Road as he left on a succession of loan deals to the likes of Hull City, Brentford, Milton Keynes Dons, Exeter City and Gillingham before heading to Scotland.
The 30-year-old said: “I had not played for three years due to injury and had fallen out of favour at QPR, so wherever I was going, I was desperate to play. I was probably used to being a centre-forward, but I’d played so much out wide and in different positions. I’m an attacker, I want to attack and if I can all I think about is attacking and scoring goals.
“At St Johnstone, we didn’t win our first five or six games, but then I was played up-front and we went five or six on the bounce and I was enjoying it. Then an injury meant we reshuffled and I was not going to say I wasn’t playing there. We also didn’t have the most attacking, creative team, so if we scored a goal then it quickly became a 4-5-1 and there were a lot of defensive duties.
“Sometimes I did not enjoy it, but you have to play for the team, although I felt it was taking a way a little bit from what I could bring to the table.”
Disclosing Easter Road was his “preferred destination” if his career was to continue in Scotland rather than returning south, Vine also revealed Hibs’ new assistant manager Jimmy Nicholl was a factor in his move to Edinburgh.
Vine said: “I enjoyed myself last year – I thought the standard was fine and I thought I’d done okay.
“I’d played 37 times for St Johnstone, but I pretty much knew going into he last game of the season that no matter what happened, I probably wasn’t going to be there. They had an option in the contract to offer me a deal, but it had to be made before the January transfer window. There was no conversation with them for the whole season.
“I had my preferred destinations if I was going to come back up and Hibs were at the top. I came up last Monday, although I had spoken to the manager beforehand and it was all really positive.
“I have spoken to Jimmy Nicholll and he told me he’s known me since I was 17 or 18 playing for Portsmouth reserves. He said he’d seen me a few times. Apparently, he puts a star against your name if he likes you and follows you, which I see as a compliment that he thinks you are good enough a player.”
Vine’s exploits at McDiarmid Park helped Saints earn a place in the Europa League, but while the Perth outfit will be travelling to face Norwegian side Rosenberg on Thursday night, he also hopes to be in Scandanavia ready to take on Swedish outfit Malmo.
Insisting he’s ready to play if asked, he said: “All the registration has been done and over the last three or four years I’ve followed a summer training programme, which gets me a level of fitness that’s okay. I probably haven’t had as much ball work, but I should be fine to go on Thursday if selected.”
No Claros as Honduras lose
FORMER Hibs midfielder Jorge Claros was given a rest by Honduras as they lost 2-0 to Trinidad & Tobago in the Gold Cup this morning.
The Central American side had already secured top spot in Group B after Claros’ stoppage-time winner against El Salvador on Saturday. That result meant that manager Luis Fernando Suarez could rest Claros for what was essentially a dead rubber. Claros, whose loan from Motagua to Hibs expired at the end of the season, has been widely regarded one of Honduras’ best players in the event.
A penalty from Kenwyne Jones and a goal from Kevin Molino gave T&T the win in Houston, although Honduras had Jose Velasquez sent off. T&T move into the knock-out stage alongside Honduras and El Salvador, who beat Haiti 1-0 today.