PAUL Hanlon has described playing in the same Hibs team as Ian Murray as “an honour” – and he believes the former club captain will be remembered as one of the greats of Easter Road.
As a boyhood Hibernian supporter, Hanlon grew up idolising Murray from the stands early in the new millennium and cites his former team-mate as a major influence on his own playing career once the pair were united on the pitch.
Following his departure for Rangers and a subsequent spell with Norwich City, Murray was brought back to the club by Mixu Paatelainen in January 2008, just days after Hanlon had made his first-team debut in a Scottish Cup victory over Inverness Caley Thistle. He was then a guiding light for the younger left-back until leaving for a second time two years ago.
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The pair will be reunited this afternoon, on opposing sides, as Murray celebrates his second anniversary at Dumbarton with an apt home encounter against Hibs.
Management was always the next logical next step for Murray, according to Hanlon, who will not be short of familiar faces to spot as he lines up against former Hibs colleagues Colin Nish, David Van Zanten, Scott Linton and Scott Taggart, as well as Sons assistant Guillaume Beuzelin and sports scientist Colin McLelland.
“Ian Murray was a big help to me,” said Hanlon, “and when I was younger in his first time at Hibs he was one of the main players when I used to come and watch the games.
“So, it was an honour, really, to play in the same team as him. Ian will go down as a Hibs great. What he did for the club was brilliant and now he’s doing really well as a manager as well.
“It always seemed to us in the dressing room that he would go into management. He had that sort of temperament about him and I’m not surprised to see him be successful.
“He came back not long after I had made my debut and then I played with him for a few years. He was always captain and a leader at Hibs, and towards the end of his time here he was right into his coaching.”
Although a match against Hibs is a fitting way for Murray to mark his second year with Dumbarton, Hanlon is keen to ensure his one-time team-mate does not enjoy a victory.
Hibs travel west seeking a fifth consecutive triumph on the road, in contrast to four straight draws at home.
And Hanlon is eager to bury doubts that the side retains the soft underbelly of previous seasons.
He said: “I think Hibs get labelled quite a lot with ‘Oh, they’re playing Cowdenbeath away this weekend or Dumbarton away this weekend, they’ll slip up there’.
“But we showed at Cowdenbeath (a 2-1 success) that we’ve got the mental strength.
“We probably took too long to get going this season, to find our feet and to be familiar with how teams are setting up against us. But we seem to be used to it now and we’ve turned a corner.”
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