THE smile was back on Fraser Fyvie’s face as you might expect from someone who had been handed an unexpected trip to the sunshine of southern Spain.
But as much as he enjoyed Hibs’ week-long break at the seaside resort of La Manga, the reason for Fyvie’s good humour lay in the simple reason he is once again doing what he loves best, playing football every week. A few short months ago, admitted the 22-year-old, he was “emotionally drained”, his highly promising career having come to a shuddering halt at Wigan Athletic where he found himself spending Saturday afternoons taking his children to the park.
It certainly wasn’t what he envisaged when he made his £500,000 move from Aberdeen, where he had become the youngest ever player in the Pittodrie outfit’s history when he made his debut at the age of 16, and a world away from his first season at the DW Stadium where, as an unused substitute, he picked up an FA Cup winner’s medal, as Wigan shocked Manchester City at Wembley.
Signed by Roberto Martinez, Fyvie found himself out of favour under his successor, former East German internationalist Uwe Rösler who himself was replaced by Malky Mackay, who also saw no future for the midfielder and sanctioned his release in January from the final few months of the three-year contract he had signed in 2012.
Fyvie, however, hardly had time to draw breath before he found himself agreeing a short-term deal with Hibs, head coach Alan Stubbs no doubt alerted to his availability by his first-team coach John Doolan who had worked with the player at Wigan.
England may have been a chastening experience for someone who had represented Scotland at every level from Under-15s to Under-21s, but while philosophical about what happened, Fyvie admitted he is all the more grateful for what he has now.
He said: “I have to say I appreciate the game more, the banter, playing every week, being involved with the guys going out on that pitch. When the manager names you on the teamsheet it’s a great feeling, one I want to keep. My first year at Wigan (right) was great but after that it took a big dip. A new manager comes in, that’s what happens.
“It was emotionally draining. You want to play every week, not be left at home on a Saturday.
“I was taking my kids out to the park. It wasn’t nice, something I don’t want to do again. I don’t mean taking the kids to the park, but when you are a football player you want to be playing. My missus, my mum and dad were probably the three main people who kept me going.
“Obviously when you have kids you want to do the best you can for them. That’s what kept you going and my wife has definitely noticed I’m much happier now.”
Now his focus is trained on helping Hibs succeed in their final push for promotion, the Edinburgh club due to find out their opponents for the first of their play-off matches when Rangers and Queen of the South meet for a second time at Ibrox this afternoon with Stuart McCall’s side 2-1 up in the tie.
To that end, Fyvie believes the trip to Murcia will prove highly beneficial for Stubbs’ players, who were left with the prospect of being idle for 18 days following the 3-0 victory over Falkirk on the final day of the regular season which clinched second place in the Championship table. He said: “It was a good result and the manager came in a couple of days later and said he was going to take us away. I came into the club in January but the boys have been going since August, it’s a long season. I think the 18-day break was a good thing for us. It gave a few of the boys who have played most games time to recharge the batteries and you can see that everybody is a little bit fresher.
“I never played down the road for six months so I’m probably a bit fresher than they will be, but I think this week has done them the world of good. The training was tough, especially in the heat, really sharp, no slacking or holiday mode whatsoever.
“It was exactly the same intensity as we’d have trained had we stayed at East Mains – the only difference was having to slap on the factor 50.”
Now the preparatory work is all but over and Fyvie senses his team-mates are raring to go. He said: “Every footballer wants to be involved in games that mean something, you don’t want to be coming towards the end of the season in mid-table. You want to be up there challenging for promotion or for cups like Hibs have done this year.
“We were unfortunate to go out in the semi-final of the Scottish Cup and I think in the last game at Falkirk we showed that result at Hampden against them wasn’t justified, but good luck to them in the final.
“I believe we showed in that game we’re ready for what lies ahead. We’ve a great squad, very talented players and whoever it is, Rangers or Queen of the South, we’re ready for them.”
Premiership play-off semi-finals
Wed 20 May First leg: Queen of the South or Rangers v Hibernian
(7:45pm, live on BT Sport 1)
Sat 23 May Second leg: Hibernian v Queen of the South or Rangers
(noon, live on BT Sport 1)