Emerson Hyndman took one look at Hibs’ punishing match schedule and immediately thought: “That’s for me.”
Starved of first-team action at English Premier League outfit Bournemouth, the American midfielder jumped at the chance to move to Easter Road on a six-month loan deal.
Part of the attraction, he said, was the intense run of fixtures Neil Lennon’s players are facing as they combine their bid to reach the group stage of the Europa League with the start of the new Premiership season.
The 22-year-old was pitched into action within 24 hours of completing the deal, almost making it a debut to remember as he came close to claiming a match winner against Norwegian side Molde, thwarted only by a terrific save by goalkeeper Andreas Linde.
That stop leaves Hibs having to travel to Molde’s Aker Stadium next Thursday knowing they must score if they are to progress to a likely showdown with Dinamo Minsk in the play-off stage following their shock 4-0 win over the highly-fancied Zenit St Petersburg.
Hyndman, who replaced Marvin Bartley with 11 minutes left as Lennon sought a lead to take into the return leg, said: “It was just instinct. I just hit it and on another day it might have gone in. I was just glad to get the opportunity to play because the move happened so quickly, but it would have been some story if I had scored. It was a good performance on Thursday night, we kept a clean sheet and that’s a good starting point for the next leg.”
Hyndman’s arrival in Edinburgh was announced just as Hibs midfielder John McGinn was being unveiled by Aston Villa but, he declared, he shouldn’t be seen in any way as a replacement for the capital club’s former talisman.
He said: “I’m not looking to be anyone’s replacement or to get a label. I just want to do the best for the team, whatever position I am asked to play.
“You always want to prove yourself no matter where you are. It’s a big opportunity for me to be here at an ambitious club and I want to improve them and get the trust from the lads.”
Hyndman has already had a taste of football in Scotland having enjoyed a previous spell on loan with Rangers where he scored four goals, including the winner against tomorrow’s opponents St Johnstone and, he revealed, he has kept an eye on events north of the Border since returning to Bournemouth.
The American internationalist said: “A club like Hibs have big ambitions, Europe is a big deal and they want to do well in the league. They did really well last season and that is something I was aware of because I keep up with the league. I saw they were doing well and when I heard of their interest, I was quick to jump on it. The deal happened very quickly because of the European game. It was so quick I hadn’t even trained, so to get on the pitch was nice.”
Although he hasn’t enjoyed much game time of late - his last start for Bournemouth was in a 2-1 win over Burnley in May – Hyndman was adamant his fitness is decent having featured in a number of pre-season matches including one against Marseille.
He said: “It’s been tough with not much football. I’ve been in and around the Bournemouth first team squad, but it has been a grind training behind the scenes. It has been frustrating but now I am looking to get a run of games. I saw the schedule here before I came up and there are games every couple of days. It’s up to me to get my fitness up and I am sure that will naturally come.
“You can say I haven’t played a lot of games but the training at Bournemouth is hard. I have been doing a lot of running so when I came on against Molde I felt sharp, mentally and physically. It is a similar situation to when I came up to Rangers. I came off the bench and then got 90 minutes in the next game. It’s all about keeping our mind fresh knowing it is going to be a challenge. I take each game as it comes.”
Hyndman is well aware of how loan spells at Easter Road helped kick-start the careers of strikers Florian Kamberi and Jamie Maclaren, the pair now back in Edinburgh hoping to re-establish the partnership which claimed 17 goals in the second half of last season.
He said: “They had positive times and Jamie said that was one of the reasons he came back, to score some goals. It is something I always hope to do. I am quite an attacking player and the stats, the goals and assists play a apart. But at the same time I want to be a link and to create opportunities for the team.”