Understandably, finding the net in the final couple of games of the Premiership campaign would only enhance that, especially if it helps Hibs secure European football and undermine the ambitions of their capital foes Hearts in the battle for the top-four positions. “Obviously the derby goal helps that [the relationship with fans] as well,” said the 26-year-old striker, who scored eight goals in his first eight games back from injury. Since then there have been two in ten but one of those was the April derby winner at Easter Road. “It was a long time without beating Hearts and you've got the fans singing Sunshine On Leith, it was a great experience. I think that brings me and the fans closer as well.”
Hibs and Hearts meet again at the weekend, but first it is Celtic at Easter Road on Wednesday. “We're delighted and looking forward to the game against Celtic. It's all about getting three points and trying to take it down to the derby on the final day," added the player who signed from Dunfermline in 2020. “I’ve been involved in a squad that finished third, played in Europe, played in massive derbies and just scored in one. They’re great memories to look back on.”
Nisbet nearly left Hibs in the January, a move to Millwall falling through and Wigan failing with a bid for his services. He is likely to attract more interest this summer and the Easter Road hierarchy will be aware that with his contract running down, they could be left vulnerable to ultimately losing him for little return if he goes on to sign a pre-contract with another club. Stung when Ryan Porteous, with six months left on his deal, left for Watford earlier this year for less than he is worth, they will not want a similar outcome. That is why Nisbet cannot rule out the possibility that the meeting with Celtic – his 100th appearance for the Leith side – could be his last outing for Hibs at Easter Road.
“I've honestly not thought that far in,” Nisbet said on his future. “Just for me, coming back from the ACL, it's about playing every week, taking it a game at a time and really enjoying football. Whether it happens now, in January or next summer I want to be on good terms with the club and the fans. I think I am now. Obviously there were times when I wasn't, when I didn't have that connection or it was a bit up and down. Now I've got that really good connection with the club and the fans. If Celtic is the last game then I want to put a really good performance in.
“These games [against Celtic and Hearts] are very important for the club as well, financially. In January if someone had said to us, 'you'll be going into the final two games fighting for Europe' then you'd bite their hand off for it. We know we've not been as good this year in terms of consistency, but we've put ourselves in a position to go and get a European place, which is a good achievement considering where we were in January.”
Back then, Nisbet was only a few weeks into his reintroduction following his lengthy lay-off with cruciate ligament damage. He was also weighing up the possible move to Millwall. It was a switch that looked all but done and dusted before the Scotland striker made the late call to remain in the capital. “I think I've matured a lot, especially over the last year,” he said. “When I first got here I'd only really played in the Championship and lower leagues, and life experiences just make you stronger as well. I've obviously come back really well too. So in terms of mentally and maturity I've done really well, and I'm probably going into my prime years as well.
“Sometimes you just get a feeling that it isn't the right time to go. Maybe it's too soon after my ACL, coming back from injury you just want to get settled a bit more. Or whether I go now, in January or in the summer, it's about feeling settled. I think I made the right decision. I've come back in, I've played well, I've scored goals and I've put myself in the shop window for the national team as well. Looking back in hindsight it was the right decision and let's see where we go from here.
“It wasn’t about Millwall, it was me – I wasn’t in the right place. I wanted to come back and do my thing for Hibs and be ready and now I am. Football’s a short career and you have to make important decisions. That was life changing money but it didn’t feel right.”
If this was to prove his Easter Road swansong, he says a game against the champions would be a fitting way to bow, especially if he could help the team to victory and remind Scotland manager Steve Clarke of his ability to perform against the best teams ahead of next month’s Euro qualifiers.
“I didn’t really expect to be in the last [Scotland squad] to be honest,” Nisbet said on his international aspirations. “I was just back from injury and maybe not up to match sharpness. But I’m fully fit now, sharp and feel good, probably better than I ever have so I think I’ll be in or about there and it’s about me proving I should be with my performances in the last two league games.
“When you play Celtic, Rangers, Hearts that’s where you get judged the most. You get less of the ball and have to do a lot more in the games to stand out. These are the games I like. I like pressure being put on me to score goals and I’ve maybe not done that the last couple of games but I think my performances have been good. It’s about me performing well and scoring a goal or two in the next two games.”