THIS season, Scott Allan is, arguably, the best player in the Scottish Championship, but a year ago he could not so much as get a game in the English Championship. Even accepting that the second tier south of the Border is at a higher level than its equivalent here, it is still surprising that Birmingham City, to whom he was on loan from West Brom, did not deem him worthy of a regular start.
It was a dismal time for the midfielder, who moved south from Dundee United in 2012 but did not start a single game for West Brom – and only played five times for Birmingham. He is over it now, though, and is not only getting his game for Hibernian, but proving the most important component of the team.
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“On game days I just sat and watched Soccer Saturday on TV,” Allan said yesterday when asked what he would do while his Birmingham team-mates were playing. “And there’s nothing worse than when you see your mates’ names come up on the banners. Scoring on a Saturday beats that.
“I’d been doing well in training, and the game before I came on and had an assist.
“But the manager [Lee Clark] bombed me completely and had me training with the youth team.
“I was down there myself and I thought I was doing all right and then I got bombed. And when that happens you just want to get back up the road and enjoy your football.”
He got back up the road this summer, signing a two-year deal with Hibs, and is certainly enjoying his football now. At 23, he is beginning to realise the promise that was evident during his two years with Dundee United, for whom he made only eight appearances. And, while his manager Alan Stubbs and many others have called him the best player in his division, he prefers to concentrate on ensuring that his career remains back on track after that fruitless diversion to England.
“It’s obviously flattering when people say that, but I just want to do well for Hibs and hopefully help us get back up. For me, I just want to have a good, consistent season and develop my game.
“I played in those eight games for United and a lot of the [Scotland] under-21 games were on TV, so people had watched me and had seen what I could do. It was just when I went down there I didn’t play, and I got lost for a bit and people forget you – that’s how easy that can happen in football.
“But I wouldn’t have got the move if I hadn’t done well to begin with. It’s one of those things. I had to take the chance.
“One manager signs you, another manager doesn’t like you. You see it all the time: people play a good run of games and then the manager goes and another one comes in and you don’t see them again for the rest of the season.
“If somebody’s your fancy then somebody’s your fancy. Hopefully, you are the guy the manager likes.
“It happens sometimes. But I was also to blame for some of the things that happened down there when things weren’t going my way. I’ve learned the hard way and I’m enjoying my football again, so it’s worked out well.
“This is the most enjoyable spell of my career because the team has started to do well and we’re playing some nice football. We have a really good coaching staff and a good team.”
Precisely how good will be shown on Saturday, when Hibs visit unbeaten league leaders Hearts. “We’ve put a few wins together, so this is a good tester for us this week,” Allan added.
“Hearts have been the most consistent team in the league, getting results at hard grounds. They’ve built on that and they’ve been unbeaten. But records are there to be broken and I fancy us to go there and get something.
“We just want to go there and put on a good performance and get the win this time and be the first team to beat them. There’s no option for us not to be up for it – the fans wouldn’t allow that. And, to be fair, I think every one of the boys can’t wait. We’re all looking forward to it.
“Obviously it’s a scalp if a team has gone the season so far without being beaten. So we want to go there and win, and the fact it’s a derby game puts the onus on us a bit more.
“A lot of their squad were together last season through hard times and they’ve adjusted the best and quickest to the Championship. That’s why they’re the top of the league.
“It’s a long season and you never know what can happen, but we just need to look after ourselves. We’re starting to put good performances and results together.
“Earlier in the season we were playing some good football but weren’t coming away with the results we wanted. It’s all clicking into place now and we just need to build on what we’ve done the last three games. If we were to manage to get back-to-back wins over the two teams in front of us, it would be a real confidence boost going into the second half of the season.”
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