DANNY Handling today claimed Hibs early return to action can help both him and Ross Caldwell catch the eye of boss Pat Fenlon before he brings a new striker to Easter Road.
Fenlon’s squad report back for the start of pre-season training a week on Monday and with top scorer Leigh Griffiths rejoining Wolves and Eoin Doyle moving to Chesterfield, as things stand the two 19-year-olds are the only recognised frontmen on the books.
But while he expects Fenlon to make signing at least one experienced striker a priority over the next few weeks, Handling believes he and Caldwell can make full use of the time before then to stake their claims for a starting place once the serious business of Europa League and SPL action gets underway.
Agreeing the coming season is possibly the most important of his career so far, Handling, right, said: “I want to be a regular in the first team, but have to prove myself. As it stands, Ross and myself are the only strikers, which puts a bit of pressure on us. But both Ross and myself are inexperienced and I am sure there will be one or two more experienced players brought in before the transfer window closes. Hopefully, however, the early start will give us both the chance to prove ourselves, to put down a bit of a marker ti the gaffer before anyone else comes in.”
Having captained Scotland’s Under-20 side in the 60th Ado Den Haag Youth Tournament in the Hague last weekend, Handling will have enjoyed barely a fortnight off before he rejoins his team-mates at their East Mains training centre, but, he insisted, the lack of a lengthy break is not concerning him.
He said: “In some ways I could have done without the tournament – you want a break to relax with family and friends, to chill. But it also kept me ticking over. The games were 25 minutes each way, which meant you were putting in a shift. I got a lot of minutes of game time and it felt beneficial.
“The last few weeks for me have been good, captaining Scotland, playing in the Scottish Cup final at 19, but there are exciting times coming up with Europe and a target of a top six finish at the very least. There’s a lot to be involved in and you want to get off to a good start and show the gaffer you are ready to play and to do a good job for him.”