Seeing a photo of his wee boy happy and healthy proved the perfect inspiration as Marc McNulty weighed in with a goal and an assist as Hibernian moved into the quarter-finals of the Scottish Cup on Saturday.
After a nightmare week, he dedicated his performance to his partner Jade and 20-month-old Freddie.
“It has been a tough few days. The wee one was taken into hospital a few days ago and there have been some long nights at the hospital. It has been difficult,” said McNulty, pictured. “He has been in there a few days and when we played Celtic I had to leave the team hotel and was through in the hospital for most of the day but, to be fair to my missus, Jade, she was saying: ‘Look, he’s in safe hands and there’s not really much you can do so there is no point in sitting by the bed. He is going to be fine so go and try to play’.
“That was difficult but it was great on Friday night to get him home because you then have that peace of mind.
“Thankfully he is all right now. He is good. He had a bit of pneumonia on his lungs and was struggling to breathe so he was rushed in and he had all the tubes, and seeing your baby with all those tubes is a bit worrying.
“But the doctors and nurses at the Sick Kids were great and luckily he is okay and back home now.
“At the end of the day, your family is the most important thing and to see your little one lying there not well is really not nice but I’m just glad we have got him back home healthy, thanks to the doctors.”
With overnight stays at his son’s hospital bedside behind him, while he was focused on the football as Hibs eased past League 1 Raith Rovers, McNulty revealed that young Freddie was still in his thoughts.
He added: “I got him a Hibs strip during the week with DADDY on the back so my missus sent me a picture of him earlier saying ‘Good luck, daddy’ and with his strip on. That gave me an extra wee boost before kick-off.”
The first goal came in the 22nd minute when Vykintas Slivka played the ball inside for Daryl Horgan who moved it on to his left foot and dispatched it past Raith keeper Robbie Thomson. McNulty was involved in the build-up for the second, providing the perfect lay-off for Slivka from a Stevie Mallan cross from the left and the Lithuanian buried his shot.
But McNulty made it three when he nodded on a long ball over the top of the defence and burst on to it himself, slotting his low finish under Thomson.
In Hibs caretaker boss Eddie May’s final game in charge, as he prepares to hand over the reins to Neil Lennon’s permanent replacement this week, Raith pulled one goal back from a 74th minute corner, when Flanagan’s delivery was headed past Ofir Marciano by Euan Murray, pictured.
While others have not been completely ruled out, Michael Appleton remains the frontrunner for the Hibs job but McNulty is unfazed by all the managerial uncertainty and says it is important that the players focus on the bigger picture and moving up the league and trying to repeat the Scottish Cup-winning feat of 2016.
“In my first three years at Sheffield [United] there were three different managers, and I’ve been on loan at different clubs,” he said. “That’s football and maybe it can give the boys a wee kick up the backside because now everybody has to impress whoever comes in and it keeps us all on our toes.”
On loan until the end of the season, McNulty is determined, regardless who is at the helm, to chase silverware.
“God, that would be great,” he said. “Obviously, being a local lad I have a lot of mates who are Hibs fans and they don’t let me forget about the Scottish Cup. It was great to get this win and it will be exciting to see who we get in the next round.”
He is fuelled by memories of 2016, the final and the open-top bus parade the next day. “Our season was over so I was back home and I watched it with a few mates.
“It was a good day… from what I can remember! I watched it in the local with a few boys. It was great just to see how happy they all were and if we could do that for them again it would be brilliant.
“The next day I was with my mates who are Hibs fans and they were walking the streets [following the bus route] singing the Hibs songs. It’s a wee taster of what it could potentially be like.”