Hibs’ Alex Harris boosted by backing of manager Neil Lennon

Alex Harris, right, went on loan to Dundee and Queen of the South. Photograph: Graham Stuart/SNS

Alex Harris, right, went on loan to Dundee and Queen of the South. Photograph: Graham Stuart/SNS

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As an 18-year-old and in only his third start for Hibernian, Alex Harris grabbed a Scottish Cup semi-final against Falkirk by the scruff of the neck and inspired a memorable comeback.

Three-nil down at half-time in April 2013, Harris scored the first goal and set up Leigh Griffiths for the second as Pat Fenlon’s side roared back to win 4-3 after extra time.

The pacy midfielder had announced his arrival on the big stage and the supporters celebrated not only the victory, but also the emergence of a talented young player.

Harris, however, has struggled to replicate that performance on a consistent level since then. A persistent ankle injury hampered him the following season as Hibs were relegated under Terry Butcher.

He was farmed out to Dundee by Alan Stubbs in January 2015 and spent the whole of last term on loan at Queen of the South, making 27 appearances. But new Hibs head coach Neil Lennon has vowed to give Harris a chance and he is determined to seize the opportunity.

Harris, who came off the bench in Thursday’s 1-0 Europa League defeat by Brondby, said: “I’ve heard what the new manager has said and it’s obviously great to hear when you’ve been away on loan.

“I’ve got a new chance, a new manager to impress and it’s now down to me. He’s just said he wants to get my confidence up a bit.

“I broke through when I was younger, then I got the injury and things didn’t happen towards the end of the season when I came back from it. These things happen. I’m old enough to accept it and learn to get on with it.

“There were big expectations after the semi-final game against Falkirk but I’m still only 21, I’m still learning, I’m still a wee kid. It’s down to me – I put demands on myself every day and that’s what I’ll keep doing.

“Last year I got pushed out on loan when I got back from pre-season, so obviously the old manager made up his mind then. But with the new manager, everyone’s got a clean slate and you can see in training that everyone’s training to impress and win a starting spot.

“When a new manager comes in he speaks to the boys and gets his feelings across. He’s told me it’s a new start and a good chance to impress.”

Harris is in the final year of his contract at Hibs but admits he wondered whether he had played his last game for the club when he joined the Doonhamers last summer. He added: “Going out on loan I wasn’t sure what was going to happen the next year; I was just focused on Queen of the South and obviously Dundee before. I never really thought too far ahead of myself.

“I obviously wasn’t part of the plans, and that’s because the boys were doing really well.

“It wasn’t about him [Stubbs] not liking me – it was just that the boys were doing well and the season before I’d been away at Dundee and not really pushed my way into the team at that point.

“It was fair enough, I think. I went out on loan and played games so it benefited me.

“Playing games helps massively. The season before that, between Hibs and Dundee I didn’t play as much as I would have liked.

“But last season at Queen of the South I got my fair share of games and chipped in with a few assists and goals, so I was really happy with that.”

Harris was delighted to get a run-out at Easter Road again despite the narrow defeat by the Danes in the second qualifying round first leg.

His previoud competitive outing for the club came last August in a 3-0 League Cup win over Montrose.

He added: “It’s obviously been a while so it was good to get out on the pitch. I’ve had a good pre-season, and it was good to get back to competition. As a Hibee, it’s great to play for your club, and obviously it’s been a wee while. It was great to be back out, especially on a European night. We’ve not had that in a wee while. The fans were brilliant and we got a good turnout.”

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