They are both blunt-speaking Yorkshiremen so they are bound to have a discussion about Daryl Horgan sooner or later.
Neil Lennon used to phone up international mangers to advance the cause of his Hibernian players and it’s likely Paul Heckingbottom will do the same if Horgan is not included in Mick McCarthy’s Republic of Ireland squad for the upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers against Switzerland and Bulgaria.
The midfielder has started this season as well as he ended the last one and has another opportunity to put himself in the spotlight this afternoon against Rangers at a packed Ibrox.
It’s the latest step in an operation where the aim is getting back into the Irish squad as quickly as possible.
“I have made no bones about it, I love playing for my country,” he said. “I want to get as many caps as I possibly can. Obviously, I have been out of the last few squads which has been very, very disappointing.”
Horgan has to acknowledge an awkward truth: Ireland have been doing pretty well without him. McCarthy’s side are top of their group after four games and however well Horgan is doing at club level, there might simply not be a place for him at present.
Horgan was included in the provisional list of names when McCarthy announced his first squad since he returned as manager for the games against Gibraltar and Georgia in March. However, he was cut from the final 23-man line-up and so missed the wins which saw the team top the Group D table. They remain there after a draw against Denmark and another win against Gibraltar in June. Worryingly, Horgan was not even in the preliminary squad for these games despite scoring twice for Hibs in a 2-1 win over Hearts at Tynecastle in April.
“They have done well, they have picked up results and they are top of the group so it will be more and more difficult for me to get in,” acknowledged Horgan.
“But I will just have to play as many games as I can and as well as I can and hopefully get my foot in the door. I think he will be watching me, I have heard he has been. But it is up to me, really. If he picks me, great.”
Horgan already has six caps, all won under Martin O’Neill, McCarthy’s predecessor. A former Celtic player, McCarthy should be no less inclined than O’Neill to look at the Scottish league and Horgan knows he has a chance to impress this afternoon. He knows excelling at club level, and for a team that’s going places, is the first step to re-igniting his international ambitions. He’s desperate to help Hibs back into Europe. He’s conscious that playing at that level with Dundalk helped him secure international recognition in the first place.
The Irish club qualified for the group stage of the Europa league in 2016 and by the end of the same year he had been called up to the squad for the first time.
“I loved the style of [European] football,” said Horgan. “We had some amazing results. We beat teams that no one gave us a chance against leading up to the game. To get out of the group stage and be competitive was unbelievable for a club who were part-time and with lads who were working. To compete with Zenit St Petersburg and teams like that was incredible. And to be a couple of minutes and a goal away from the Champions League as well was incredible. Unfortunately, that’s long gone. But I’d like to have the opportunity to get back to that because it was unbelievable.”
Horgan was linked with a move to Rangers along with teammate Andy Boyle, who later signed for Dundee on loan, after this adventure and during Mark Warburton’s time as manager at Ibrox.
“I think that was all paper talk, I never heard anything of it,” he recalled. “It never came back to me anyway.”
Current teammate Scott Allan’s link to the Ibrox club got closer than mere paper talk, to the extent he was cheered by the Rangers fans while playing for Hibs in a Challenge Cup game against them four years ago.
The proposed move did not happen and Allan joined Celtic before returning to Hibs, originally on loan and then in a permanent move this summer.
If Hibs are to reach the heady heights of Europe again, as Horgan desires, much will depend on how he and Allan link up. Early signs are promising following last Saturday’s 1-0 win over St Mirren.
“I would say there is more than Scotty who is on the same wave length as me in an attacking sense,” said Horgan.
But he’s aware what Allan brings to the team. “He’s a very, very talented lad, really good. He’s started the season really well,” said the Irishman.
Both have their own points to prove this season.