Paul Hanlon compares 2014 woe with Hibs’ new feelgood factor

Paul Hanlon models Hibernian's new away kit for next season. Picture: Alan Harvey/SNS
Paul Hanlon models Hibernian's new away kit for next season. Picture: Alan Harvey/SNS
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Ask many football lovers what they remember from the summer of 2014 and a memory such as Brazil falling 7-1 to 
Germany at their own World Cup is likely to feature near the top of the list.

Paul Hanlon also associates that period with disarray perhaps every bit as marked as Brazil’s performance. At least the Selecao had enough players that night in Belo Horizonte – and they had a manager.

The Hibs defender shakes his head when he remembers life directly after relegation and before the Easter Road 
club were “reborn”, as the new promotional campaign describes it.

Turning up for pre-season training three years ago was a dismaying experience.

Between Terry Butcher’s departure and Alan Stubbs’ appointment there was little to suggest there was any life at all at Easter Road.

Hibs seemed to still be in shocked stasis at the events of a few weeks earlier, when they’d lost out to Hamilton Accies on penalties in the 
Premiership play-off final.

Fast forward to 2017. As well as being seemingly well stocked in terms of players, the current manager is eyeing second place in their first season back in the top flight.

“It has been such a turnaround since that day we came in,” admitted Hanlon. “No manager, not enough players for a five-a-side, no goalies. It was a case of ‘do some running, get yourselves fit’.

“No-one knew what was 
happening. Now, with the number of supporters coming through the door every week, the season ticket sales going through the roof, if you had said that would happen within three years, I wouldn’t have believed it.

“It is such a great place to be, the feelgood factor is there. Winning the Scottish Cup obviously helped but it has just kept going and it is snowballing and getting bigger and bigger.”

Even so, Hanlon is minded to be slightly more cautious than manager Neil Lennon, who has suggested Hibs should be aiming to finish best of the 
rest behind Celtic in their first season back in the top flight since 2014.

“We have been in the Championship for three seasons and there has been a lot of change in the top flight,” said Hanlon. “We just need to aim for top six and anything above that is a bonus. It is great to see the gaffer has that belief in us, and if we were to get second place I think that would amaze everyone after three years in the Championship.”

Hanlon was unable to contribute as much as he’d like to a season when Hibs finally secured a return to the top flight. He has started only two games since the turn of the year after attempts to treat a pelvic condition saw the 
problem get worse rather than better.

“The only word for it was ‘frustration’,” he said. “I got an operation in February and things only got worse after that.

“I kind of wish it never happened. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and I felt much worse after the operation than I did before it. But it’s done now and I need to deal with it.

“I probably tried to come back too early a couple of times, due to an eagerness to play rather than actually being 100 per cent fit,” he added. “I’ll learn from that and hopefully keep myself fit for the whole of this season.

“It was a ligament issue. Before I had the operation, my only problem was kicking a ball. I would get shooting pain through my pelvis when I hit a ball hard. Twisting, turning, movement and all that was fine.

“After the operation – which everyone said was needed, and I trusted them – it was worse. But there is always that chance. Not every operation will work for you and it didn’t work out for me.”