MICKAEL Antoine-Curier might not feature in many Hibernian fans’ greatest XIs, but he can claim a more than respectable record of four goals in eight starts for the club.
He remembers playing for Hibs when they were top of the Premier League. However, the 31-year-old is now desperate to condemn his old side to relegation on his return to Easter Road tomorrow.
The fall from grace would be a startling one were Hibs to surrender a two-goal advantage against Hamilton Accies, in the second leg of the Premiership play-off final. Antoine-Curier will be doing his best to cause an outbreak of tension amongst the home fans, which would surely be the case if Hamilton were to score the first goal.
Although they failed to find the net in the first leg on Wednesday, the visitors know where the goals are. They scored ten times when they had to against Morton on the last day of the league season. Unfortunately for them, Dundee also did what they had to do by winning against Dumbarton.
But Antoine-Curier is aiming to create some unease among supporters he described as “demanding” even when their team were challenging at the summit – as they were in Autumn 2007. Now they really do have something to complain about, although Wednesday’s 2-0 win over Hamilton has restored some of the accord between fans and players.
“It is a great stadium, a great set of fans and they will tell you when you are not doing right and they will tell you when you are doing well,” he said yesterday. “As long as you fight for the jersey and you fight for Hibs then the fans will always support you.
“You always have fans who are against you and who say nasty things to you on the pitch, that’s part of the routine of being a footballer. We all know, Hibs supporters have always been demanding. But I had a great time there.”
“They were not quite so demanding then because we were top of the league when I was playing,” he added. “We beat Rangers and were top of the league, and we also beat Celtic.
“We were honestly flying under John Collins. But then after that, when John Collins left, things became a bit rocky. I was sent on loan by the new manager. There was nothing I could do – I had scored four goals in eight starts.”
Mixu Paatelainen, who replaced Collins when the manager surprisingly quit in December 2007, was clearly unconvinced by Antoine-Curier, which is surprising since he, too, was a robust centre-forward who liked the ball at his feet.
Antoine-Curier now wishes he was given the chance to play under John Hughes, Paatelainen’s successor.
“I have heard only good things about him,” he said. “I love to play football and what I heard about him is that he loves to put the ball on the deck and pass it around. That is what football is about. I have only played against him, not for him, and I have managed to score every time.”
However, Hughes arrived too late as far as Antoine-Curier is concerned. The striker had already left to join Dundee after being let down by Paatelainen.
“The new manager told me to go on loan and if I do well and score a few goals I can come back and get a new contract,” he recalled. “I managed nine goals in 11 games for Dundee.
“But he [Paatelainen] did not give me a chance,” he added. “He did not bother to give me a chance. He told me one thing and did something else. I guess that was his way to deal with things. At one point I scored goals and then I scored goals for Dundee, it doesn’t matter. It’s the past. I don’t have any grudges. Everything happens for a reason.
“I did well for Dundee and I got my first call up for the national team [Guadaloupe],” he added. “I cannot say anything bad about Hibs because I had a lovely time there. I lived in Edinburgh. For me, Hibs were the first club I joined in Scotland. And now I am settled in Scotland and I want to stay in Scotland.”
With his current contract due to end later this month, the ideal scenario would be to sign another deal with a Premiership-bound Hamilton. “I think I have done reasonably well this season,” he said, having scored 11 goals. “Unfortunately we did not get promoted as champions but that was our own fault. I did well and I definitely want to stay in Scotland and play football in the highest league possible, if not I am happy to stay in the Championship.
“You always have to weigh up your options,” he said. “Obviously the first club I will speak to will be Hamilton. And if there are other offers I will be thinking wisely and be happy to consider them. As for now, I am only focused about Sunday.”