THERE can’t be many players to have claimed three championship medals, for three different clubs, in three different set-ups, while still a teenager.
That is the mission Liam Henderson is on with Hibernian this season. And the propulsion the on-loan Celtic midfielder is providing in the engine room of Alan Stubbs’ team alongside John McGinn and Fraser Fyvie, makes the possibility of achieving a special triple before he turns 20 next April very real.
James Keatings’ hat-trick, and the ditty of “he used to be a Jambo but he’s all right now” it inspired from the travelling fans in Paisley, understandably framed an encounter that brought win number 12 for the club in a 13-game unbeaten run. The industry and invention of Henderson, however, very much helped put Keatings in the picture.
The 19-year-old provided the quick free-kick that allowed triple-bagger to finish neatly for his first. “Keats just gave me the old eyes and I knew where he wanted it because he is always on the move,” Henderson said of a strike that made it 2-1, shortly before Keatings produced a beezer of a top-corner drive.
The 3-1 half-time scoreline seemed unlikely after a good early spell allowed St Mirren to strike first through Sean Kelly. The opener was made to count for nothing thanks to a sweet finish by Jason Cummings before his fellow forward’s contribution.
That was completed when Henderson was upended in the box midway through the second period and Keatings slammed in the penalty.
The Celtic youngster is delighting in being able to make the scene on a football stage where he is appearing front and centre, as opposed to the periphery.
That was true of the two seasons he was in and around the senior squad of the Scottish champions, though he was struck a medal after scoring the night the 2013-14 title was clinched away to Partick Thistle.
A loan spell earlier this year with Rosenborg, who clinched Norway’s summer league last week will ensure another winner’s medal will come his way.
“I’ve been dipped in and out of teams so far but I’ve managed to get a run of games here and it would mean a lot to get this team back to where it belongs because it is far too big a club to be in the Championship.
“If I’m totally honest, he [Hibs manager Alan Stubbs] is the first manager that has put his trust in me, playing me week in week out. I’m extremely grateful to him for that and I’m just keeping my head down and listening to him, Taff [Andy Holden] and John [Doolan]. I’m still really young and listening to the older boys.
“Neil Lennon put me in at Celtic when I was 17 so I’m indebted to him but the gaffer here has put a lot of faith in me and I’m thoroughly enjoying it. It gives you added confidence that he wants to make things happen for his team. All I can do is keep my head down and my feet on the ground and working hard for the boys.”
Rangers’ consistency suggests that Hibs will need to win practically every one of their 23 games. Yet, their ability to blitz most sides – and St Mirren, despite their desperate, lowly position and lack of a home win showed promised in spells – means they appear well capable of continuing to rack up the wins. Stubbs’ young squad sense there is something in the air. A rearranged home game against Livingston next Tuesday gives them the chance to move within two points of the Ibrox club, not in action that night. Henderson seems to be loving every moment on Leith. “It is a really tight group, everyone gets on and I’ve never been part of a dressing room where all the boys are so close,” he said.