Kevin Thomson says he was on the verge of hanging up his boots before he decided to return to Hibernian in the hope of a fantasy ending to his career.
Signing on for his third spell at the club where he embarked on his professional journey a decade and half ago, he is hoping to make up for missing out on the Leith side’s 2007 League Cup triumph by helping them to silverware this term.
“It would be a fairytale but, I don’t know, is football made of fairytales? I’m a believer that you make your own luck and you get back what you put in and, for me, although it’s an old cliché, it would be a boyhood dream to potentially lift a cup for Hibs,” he said. “For as long as I am playing, I will always have that dream.”
As the club head to Tynecastle this weekend to face St Johnstone in the first major semi-final of the season, it serves as a reminder of what Thomson passed up when he ended his first stint at Easter Road. “I told the gaffer when I was trying to get back here that my dad reminded me that the year I left, we won the cup after we’d beaten St Johnstone, at Tynecastle, in the semi,” he said. “I left on the Tuesday night and the game was on the Wednesday night. We got to the final and won that.”
He has enjoyed success elsewhere but it has been a career punctuated by injury lay-offs and while he is proud of what he has accomplished, he doesn’t believe his full potential has been achieved or all his ambitions realised.
“I think I have had an alright career. If I hadn’t had injuries it would have been far better,” he added. “But I have probably achieved a lot more than other people would have in certain circumstances.”
A fairytale ending to his playing days would help balance that misfortune.
“Of course it would but I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me,” he said. “I know there are 100,000 Hibs fans who’d love to win a trophy with Hibs, so I’m not the only one. I don’t think I somehow deserve it and no-one else does but it would be a nice way to close my career if I could finish the season or maybe even have another season here and then retire, having been playing in a good team, having a good vibe and going out on a high, playing for the team that you grew up supporting plus the team where it all started 14-15 years ago.”
Returning to the club, this time combining coaching with helping on the field, it strikes the perfect balance for the 31-year-old midfielder. Having started the season captaining Dundee, he says the situation became unsustainable in his mind, given the specific demands and his ageing body.
“Being the club captain and being at the top of the food chain, I felt I wasn’t always fit and available and that was becoming frustrating. The travelling – an hour and a half to training and the same home – certainly wasn’t helping my OAP body.
“The manager up there relied on me a lot and not being available every weekend was a frustration between him and myself. I don’t think the manager here will have that problem because he has a big squad and I’m not coming here to play every single week and every single game. It is a different situation for me and hopefully one that can help me maintain a little bit of fitness and be available a bit more.”
He had considered retiring and switching his focus entirely to coaching, but having asked for advice, he was swayed by those closest to him.
“I spoke to Scotty [Brown] and people who were close to me in my career for advice – he said ‘you’re bloody mad’, which I would expect from him! But I spoke to my dad and he said the same, then this opportunity came along.
“It was a wee bit of a surprise to hear from Alan Stubbs. I had a couple of offers from Premier League clubs so I must still have something to offer, but when Hibs came in it was something I wanted to be a part of. It is an exciting time to be at the club. The coaching aspect was another thing that ticked all the boxes for me.”
With a Championship title to contest and both the League and Scottish Cups still up for grabs, he says the feeling of positivity at the club is refreshing.
“The manager is brilliant, he is in there in the morning playing darts with the players. When I came in to do the media he was beating the young boys at table tennis and he’s in the gym with Danny Handling every day.
“I think he’s done that because he knows how hard it is to be injured at a young age. He helps him along and I wish I had that throughout my career. I think he has created an environment that people love coming in to.”