HIBERNIAN are intent on seeing out the season nestled comfortably in the top six but, to do that, the players are having to get used to life outside their comfort zone.
Motivational tattoos decorate the body of newcomer Danny Haynes, while the cautionary tales of the more experienced players are being imprinted in the psyche of promising youngsters like Sam Stanton.
Among the sayings which greet Haynes when he looks in the mirror each day is “Time is more valuable than money, spend it wisely”. That winds its way up one arm while “actions speak louder than words” adorns the other. On one side of his neck he has his daughters’ initials, while the other side is the canvas for an inked plaque stating “I will always keep my head up”. It’s a promise he has struggled to keep to himself in recent times, he says.
But the body art and a fresh challenge offered by the loan spell at Hibs are helping keep him positive and focused. “I’ve a few tattoos. I look at them and remind myself why I got them. When I go to get a tattoo it’s always inspired by something that’s going on in my life at that moment in time.”
The here and now represents a chance to kick-start his career, having fallen into a bit of a rut. Having started his career at Ipswich, moving on to Millwall, Bristol City, Barnsley, Charlton and Notts County, he said he needed a fresh impetus. He believes his spell at Hibs will afford him that. “Speaking to Terry Butcher, he is confident he can take this club forward, and I just thought ‘why not’ because I needed to get out of my comfort zone, come away up here and do well. I wanted to get my career back on track. I think I was in a comfort zone. I had my family around me but I got a bit complacent. I’ve got two little girls I have to worry about. But football’s a short career and you have to make the right decisions. I think I can better my career up here. I felt it within myself that I could achieve more.
“I love the game. I wasn’t fed-up with it but I felt comfortable and I wasn’t being challenged enough. My career was at a standstill and I needed to come out of that. So I decided to come to a new league for a fresh challenge. It’s a beautiful club, a beautiful stadium and a beautiful city. I came up here with Barnsley and I was surprised by the facilities. It’s a professional set-up. I’d like to score goals here, that would be nice, and assists too. I’m just trying to better myself as a player. Terry has showed great belief in me and I’d like to repay him.”
That pre-season trip with Barnsley three years ago stuck in his mind. Having been to the stadium, torrential rain meant the game had to be called off, with a bounce game being played at the East Mains training ground instead. It gave him the ideal background knowledge for when Butcher came calling in January.
“It’s a good club and a good place to get my head down and focus. There’s an indoor pool, indoor training facilities, lots of pitches outside. It’s got everything you need,” he added.
He says the league is competitive, while even within the squad there is welcome competition for places.
Some who had been initially cast aside by Butcher have played their way back into the reckoning and there are the January signings vying for starting places as well, while the youngsters in the squad have also made themselves impossible to ignore.
Sam Stanton has attracted a lot of attention with his performances and goals in recent weeks and Butcher believes that he can go far in the game, provided he remains down to earth and doesn’t become complacent.
Butcher said: “He is like a McFadden at Motherwell. James had already broken into the team when I got there and David Clarkson came through too and with them all you think ‘wow, these boys have something about them’. There is an honesty, a naivety at times and the enthusiasm is unbelievable. If Sam hasn’t got a red face, he isn’t working hard but he always has a red face. Always! He is just sheer energy. He is like a new signing.
“When we first came I kept him in the 20s squad because I didn’t think he was ready for the first team. He thought he was, because he had played for the first team and done this and that, but I wanted to give him the challenge of getting into the first-team squad. You have to earn that right and he did and he hasn’t stopped since.
“I’m convinced he can go all the way but you don’t want to pile too much pressure on him because there have been a lot of kids here who everybody said would be the best thing since sliced bread.”