SCOTT Allan believes Hibernian are able to depart for sunnier climes this weekend safe in the knowledge they are favourites to return to the Premiership.
The Hibs midfielder made the claim after being named Cheque Centre PFA Scotland Championship player of the year, and following his side’s success in finishing second in the league.
While Queen of the South and Rangers play the first leg of their quarter-final play-off tie on Saturday, Hibs will be preparing to leave for a short training break in La Manga prior to playing the winners of the clash between the third and fourth-placed teams.
Since Hibs ended the season strongly, Allan sees no reason why they should not be confident about progressing to play the 11th placed team in the Premiership. Even then, the 23-year-old remains confident Hibs will be able to take advantage of their opponents’ likely low levels of confidence.
“I would say we are favourites as in we are in a positive place right now,” he said. “We haven’t conceded many goals in our last few games and we are getting goals now.
“I would say we are favourites as the team going down don’t have the same momentum. If you are winning games you are definitely in a better place compared to teams going down the way struggling to get results. But, whoever wins over the two legs will deserve to go up and, hopefully, we can do that.”
Owing much to Allan’s own midfield promptings, Hibs manager Alan Stubbs has been able to make the Easter Road side more pleasing to watch.
Allan believes they would be a credit to the Premiership and relishes the thought of being given more time and space in which to operate, after some bruising encounters in the Championship.
He harbours hopes that Hibs’ stylish brand of football will prevail in the play-offs.
He added: “I think we have a point to prove in that we have played some of the best football in the league this year. And I think, if we were able to keep kicking on, we would go on and do well in the Premiership.”
“We have a really good set-up and fanbase, the stadium is good,” he continued.
“For us this season a lot of teams have come to Easter Road and parked the bus. But, in the Premiership, most of the teams will have a go and I think that will suit us.
“We’re good on the counter attack and that would definitely suit our style of play.”
Asked to consider a scenario in which Hibs failed in their bid to return to the top flight at the first attempt, Allan admitted it would be “unfortunate”.
However, rivals Hearts, he added, have proved inspirational by showing how it is possible to turn a negative into a positive with their sprint to the title this season.
“If we didn’t go up, we would just need to look at what we’d need to do and go and do what Hearts have done this season and try to romp it,” said Allan.
As for his own future, he was simply pleased to be “back on the map”, as he put it. A player of the year award in his first season back in Scotland means there is no doubt his career is on course again following a spell when he readily admits to losing his way in England.
A transfer to West Bromwich Albion when he was only 19 years old did not work out the way Allan had hoped and he is grateful to Hibs manager Alan Stubbs for helping re-ignite his career.
“This season has got me back on the map and people are talking about me again which obviously wasn’t happening too much down south, for one reason or another,” he said.
“But I have been given a platform to play under Alan Stubbs, I have had the freedom to go and play my game and it’s worked well for me and the team.
“Obviously after my experience down south I have taken on board why I wasn’t playing and I feel I have put that right this year.
“I have managed to kick on. It has worked for me.”
Not that Allan regrets the move south to the Hawthorns from Dundee United, a decision that prompted some dismay among those at Tannadice at the time.
Given the ill-feeling his departure prompted, with then Tangerines manager Peter Houston a particular outspoken critic of the player’s agent, it was perhaps surprising that the same club came back in to try to sign him on the last day of the most recent transfer window.
United chairman Stephen Thompson had two bids turned down by Hibs, where Allan has another year left of his contract.
Allan wasn’t so much shocked to hear the identity of the club trying to prise him from Hibs as heartened, since it seemed to suggest bygones are now bygones.
“I was not surprised, no,” he said. “But, given the way I left, for United to come back in I was actually quite pleased because of what the fans thought [of me] when I left.
“I was never leaving Hibs in January anyway,” he added. “For me this season was all about playing week in, week out and that’s what I have managed to do.”