Guillaume Beuzelin was once the ‘gem’ to adorn a Tony Mowbray-led Hibernian team sprinkled with rough diamonds.
However, the Frenchman firmly believes tomorrow’s Scottish Cup final against Celtic provides one of those previously unpolished stones with the perfect moment to shine again.
Beuzelin arrived as an unknown from Le Havre but quickly became a fans’ favourite down Easter Road way, thanks to his composure on the ball and a passing range that helped bring out the best in a clutch of youngsters plucked from the club’s much-vaunted youth system. Steven Whittaker, Garry O’Connor, Derek Riordan and Steven Fletcher all contributed to an exciting mixture of swashbuckling attacking play and, at-times, youthful naivety during Mowbray’s celebrated two and a bit seasons at the helm. Two others whose friendship blossomed as they shared the midfield beat with Beuzelin subsequently left to face each other across the Old Firm divide. Scott Brown remains with Celtic and retains the captaincy he was handed in 2010 after teaming up again with Mowbray at Parkhead, but things have not been as plain sailing for Brown’s best pal, Kevin Thomson.
A success at Rangers, who bought him for £2 million, his time at Ibrox was nonetheless blighted by a cruciate knee ligament injury before he moved on to Middlesbrough, again for £2m, after returning to peak fitness. However, injury problems proved a major issue on Teesside and the Scotland cap finally cut his losses in January, paving the way for a return to Hibs. That move back to his first club, and first love, where he agreed to see out the season for free, means Thomson will renew his on-field rivalry with his long-time friend on the hallowed turf of Hampden tomorrow.
For Beuzelin, the fact Brown – who attended Hibs’ cup final defeat to Hearts as a supporter a year ago – now stands between Thomson and Hibs lifting the trophy for the first time in 111 years is one of the intriguing sideshows of the season’s showpiece. “I was lucky to play at the club when there were great young players,” he said. “Not just Scott and Thommo, but there was also Steven Whittaker, Steven Fletcher, who was 16 at the time, David Murphy as well. It was great to work with such good young talent. I knew in time they would progress to bigger things and they have done so well. I remember Brown and Thomson were always together – at the warm-up, after training – and it was no surprise that they both went on to become international players and to bigger clubs.
“It will be an interesting battle between them. Obviously Scott has been injured for quite a long time this season but I heard he played well last week, so he will be on form. But this will be a great day for Thommo to shine after coming back. If he can come back to Hibs to win the cup for us that would be a great achievement.”
Now back at Hibs himself as coach of the under-14 side, Beuzelin has never hidden his love for the Easter Road outfit he spent four years with before joining Coventry City in 2008. He ranks the CIS Cup win of 2007 as the best moment of a career that began at his native Le Havre and fizzled out disappointingly early because of injury. But, such is the club’s history in the competition, he pinpoints the defeat to Dunfermline in the Scottish Cup semi-final replay that same season as a low point.
Pat Fenlon’s side had an opportunity to end the drought in last season’s final against Hearts, only to lose 5-1. Hibs supporters have had to endure constant reminders of that haunting day and Beuzelin has revealed he is no different.
“I’m still getting stick from last year,” added the 34-year-old. “Some of my wife’s family are Jambos and I have a friend who got a 5-1 tattoo on his arm. He shows it to me all the time – it’s not nice I have to say. I felt like punching him the first time he showed me it! But that’s all part of the rivalry of both clubs.
“I would not get a tattoo myself if Hibs win the cup on Sunday, but hopefully it would stop my friend from showing his off to me all the time. I think there is no pressure on them compared to last year. I think there is less expectation and that might be a good thing for Hibs.”
• Beuzelin was promoting the Scottish FA’s 2020 Development Centre programme, which aims to fulfil One National Plan’s objective of creating more talented players. For more information visit www.scottishfa.co.uk.