New Hibernian forward Danny Swanson believes Easter Road is the ideal environment for him to thrive on and off the park after revealing how head coach Neil Lennon opened up on his own mental health problems.
The 30-year-old will realise a lifelong ambition when he pulls on the green jersey next season after joining the team he grew up supporting in a switch from St Johnstone.
Like Lennon, Swanson, who has unveiled to the media yesterday, has battled depression in the past and spent time at the Priory clinic in 2011 when he was with Dundee United.
Former Celtic manager Lennon even recently revealed how he suffered a bout of depression during Hibs’ Championship-winning campaign.
An unnamed English League One club once cited Swanson’s battle against the disorder as a reason for not signing the player. So, naturally, he was delighted to be told by Lennon during contract talks that his “door is always open”.
Swanson said: “Neil was very good when I was speaking to the club. The thing that really struck me came after the meeting, was when he took me away from my agent and spoke about mental health, which is a massive thing for me.
“I’ve had a manager say to me before that he wouldn’t come near me because I’ve had depression.
“For Neil to say ‘my door is always open’ and tell me about his problems was massive. It takes a lot to do that and I really respect him for that.
“You never know if us having things in common like that will be a good thing or a bad thing, because I’ve still got to produce the goods on the pitch. That’s what it comes down to.
“But to have it in the back of my head that if I’m having a bad time I can go and speak to him is a really big thing.
“I was surprised he brought it up, even though he’s been quite open about that publicly. I think that’s also a good thing.
“He’s not embarrassed and he shouldn’t be, but I still didn’t expect it. I came away thinking ‘I’d like to play for him’.
“It didn’t change my perception of Neil because Darren McGregor’s spoken a lot about him. Darren’s never had a bad word to say about him.
“It wouldn’t have mattered who was in charge. I always wanted to play here.”
Swanson admits the 45-year-old’s attitude towards depression is in stark contract to what he experienced on one occasion south of the border.
He added: “I was going down south to speak to Coventry [in 2014] and one other team.
“I was really excited about the other club because they’re a big club.
“We were in the meeting with [Coventry manager] Steven Pressley when my agent took a call and he left the room.
“He came back in and when Steven left he said ‘the other deal’s off’, but wouldn’t tell me why until we got back up the road.
“He said ‘it’s because you were in the Priory for mental health reasons’.
“I was upset at the time. It’s a worry if there are people like that in the game but I wouldn’t want to play for someone like that anyway. It was a blessing in disguise.”
Swanson grew up idolising Russell Latapy at Hibs and hopes his style of play will get the supporters off their seats on the team’s return to the Premiership.
He added: “I came to every home game. I used to go on my dad’s bus to away games but I didn’t make every one.
“Me and Darren [McGregor] actually used to sneak in together at times to the East Stand.
“Russell Latapy was my favourite player and I’ve still to see a better player at Easter Road than him, maybe Paul Gascoigne.
“I like him because he plays football the way I like to play it although he’s a little bit better than me so lets not make comparisons.
“In my eyes he was one of the best. He was two-footed and I like to play with both feet, create things and score goals and hopefully I can do that as much as he did.”
Swanson recalled how Trinidad & Tobago legend Latapy and former striker Dirk Lehmann even visited him in hospital when he underwent heart surgery as a 13-year-old.
He added: “They actually sat and spoke for a while and it was a good time for me after such a horrific point in my life.”