Hibs’ James McPake relishing early start to season

HIBs skipper James McPake insists the excitement over the club’s European adventure has made this week’s quickfire return to pre-season training well worth it.

Hibs resumed training on Friday, less than four weeks after their Scottish Cup final defeat to Celtic, while McPake himself returned on Monday in a bid to rebuild his fitness after missing the final because of a back injury. Hibernian, like St Johnstone, enter the Europa League at the second qualifying round on 18 July and will find out who they will face when the draw is made in Nyon tomorrow.

It will be the first time the capital side have competed in Europe since a defeat to Slovenians NK Maribor three years ago.

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McPake admits everyone at the club is relishing the prospect of welcoming European opposition. He said: “I’m sure they’re going to be two great games and Easter Road is going to be bouncing for the home leg. That’s something for everybody to look forward to. The boys here know what that’s like when we’ve got that crowd behind us and for the new boys coming in they’ll get a wee taste of what it’s like to play for Hibs.

“It’s exciting and we’re all looking forward to the draw. It makes it easy to start back early when you know you’ve got that coming up. I’ve heard of the teams we could get but I’ve not really looked into it too much. I’m just waiting for a wee surprise.”

Depending on how UEFA distribute clubs into the eight pots for tomorrow’s draw, Hibs could face the likes of Russians Rubin Kazan, Standard Liege of Belgium, Israel’s Hapoel Tel-Aviv, Lech Poznan of Poland or Turks Trabzonspor. Clubs in Romania, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Ukraine also lie in wait, although there could be more straightforward ties against Malmo or IFK Gothenburg in 
Sweden, Tromso of Norway or Ireland’s St Patrick’s Athletic.