ON the last day of the transfer window, Matt Done settled in to watch deadline day unfold on television.
There had been one or two rumours that Barnsley’s 24-year-old winger would be the subject of an 11th-hour move but, when he sat down with a cup of tea late in the afternoon, he had given up hope.
Until, that is, his agent called to ask if he would be interested in going on loan to Hibernian. Done was interested all right. Negotiations were quickly opened between the two clubs, the player got out his laptop to do some research into the Edinburgh team and a long night of waiting and wondering began.
“It was a relief,” says Done, pictured below. “It was out of the blue but I wanted to come here straightaway. It was not one of the whispers I had heard. That was the shock factor. But you take notice of where they are in the league. I didn’t know they were doing so well to be fourth. As soon as I saw that, it was a no-brainer.”
Later that evening, in the kind of old-fashioned business manoeuvre that seems to survive only in football, Done was asked by his agent to find the nearest hotel, ask for their fax number and wait to be met there.
“I’m only 24,” says Done. “I’ve never used a fax machine in my life. I dived in there and said ‘can I have the fax number?’ She looked at me and said ‘yeah’. My agent arrived ten minutes later and I let him do the rest.
“I’m used to texting so I didn’t know what was going on. I was still by the fax machine at half nine and it had to be done by eleven. Faxes went through from both clubs and I signed them, but we still needed to go to FIFA. We got something to eat and were still sat by the phone at half ten, quarter to eleven.”
Thankfully, a message confirming that the deal had been completed came through before 11pm and a career that had lost its way was back on track. Done started out as a teenager with Wrexham, where he was so impressive in a friendly against Liverpool that the Anfield club offered him an apprenticeship. He turned it down in favour of first-team football, which he then had with Hereford and Rochdale before joining Barnsley in 2011.
At the start of this season, just when it looked as though Crystal Palace were about to spend a significant sum to acquire him, he suffered a knee injury. His subsequent struggle to regain his first-team place was then complicated by the sacking of Keith Hill, who was replaced by David Flitcroft, his assistant. “Flics got the job and he put five at the back,” says Done. “He is a top man. He pulled me in and said, ‘the formation we play, you don’t really look like you’re going to figure much for me’. They weren’t playing wingers.”
Which is why Done jumped at the chance to play for Hibs. Easter Road manager Pat Fenlon had been alerted to Done’s potential by Curtis Fleming, a fellow Irishman who was a coach at Crystal Palace, and who has joined Dougie Freedman’s backroom staff at Bolton Wanderers. Although the loan deal is for only three months, the hope is that, with his Barnsley contract due to expire at the end of the season, the winger will be anxious to impress.
“People ask you what you learned from last year,” says Fenlon. “You look maybe at some of the loans we’ve done, and you think, is there hunger there? He’s come through the lower leagues, got himself to a good club and probably stalled a little bit, missed out on a big move.
“He has the hunger to try to get himself back into that position. He can get himself back into the profile he had probably six months ago in relation to a club like Crystal Palace.”
Done, who made his Hibs debut as a substitute against Aberdeen last Sunday, will be pushing for a start against St Johnstone at Easter Road tomorrow night. Fenlon hopes that he can provide the spark that has been missing from many of his team’s performances. While Paul Cairney and David Wotherspoon have done well on either side of midfield, the new signing has pace and a desire to run at opponents. He can be frustrating at times, but his sense of adventure, his willingness to take risks, particularly on the left wing, will give Hibs another dimension.
“If you can get him into that wide area, one v one with defenders, he will excite people because he tends to be really direct and go straight at defenders,” says Fenlon. “Paul and Dave are a little bit different in that they want to come in off the line and play balls into feet. He gives us a different option. He can play on both sides, and he has played off the striker too. He’s a utility player, which helps when you don’t have a big squad.”