Delays in agreeing a new loan deal at Hibernian mean that Jamie Maclaren is now desperate to make up for lost time.
Left kicking his heels at parent club Darmstadt and fielding texts from Florian Kamberi, he had to watch the Leith side’s early progress in the Europa League from afar, fearful that an agreement may never be reached that would allow him to return to Edinburgh.
“It’s the problem players sometimes have,” said Maclaren, “if you do well then the guys that own you have the power. However, you always want to go somewhere and do well. Being in a squad last year that didn’t lose at home from January, scoring goals freely, I just had a good vibe. I’m all about positivity and last year was overflowing with that.”
Just as they have managed to turn Kamberi’s loan deal into a permanent move, there were similar hopes with Maclaren but the longer that dragged on, the more the Australian sought a resolution, even if it meant kicking that particular issue further down the road.
“Yes, there were discussions but then it came down to the nitty stuff that players don’t want to get involved in – sell-on fees and things like that,” said the striker. “And I got to a point where I said, ‘look, whatever is the quickest solution that can help me get there’.
“The German window doesn’t shut until 31 August and I didn’t want to wait that long. I just felt we needed to get this deal over the line. It came to last Wednesday and Darmstadt had a game on Sunday and Hibs also had Motherwell and I just wanted to be in Edinburgh.
“Whether it becomes permanent is out of my control but I have 12 months of really solid football. I just want to be successful at this club and I can really sense it.”
With the deal struck, he got 25 minutes against Motherwell in the opening league game and a precious couple of minutes as the latest European tie, against Molde, edged into stoppage time. He will be hoping for more time against St Johnstone today.
Still a week or two off peak condition, the 25-year-old, who played a key role in ensuring the team earned one of the Scottish slots in the competition and was a frustrated and envious spectator as they eased through the opening qualifiers without him, insists he is up to the task of travelling to Norway with the team this week and helping carve out the vital away goals needed to prolong the European adventure.
“That was tough,” he said of his role as spectator, “but I was also happy for the guys. I saw the win against the Faroese side, which was a given you would think with the quality in this dressing-room. But Asteras are a good side and have done some good things in Greece. “Those are the games you want to be involved in. Thursday was another of those occasions and we have another game now in Norway. We have left a really good chance for ourselves. Sat at 0-0 there’s all to play for and we can go there and just attack. That’s the mindset of the coach and now it’s down to the players. We have to give it a real crack. These are the games you want to be involved in.
“As a striker you never lose that sort of smell. I feel I’m at 90 per cent and I will know when I’m at 100. I will do extra things, I might do a double session myself and just do that extra yard. I’m not far off it.”
Slightly behind thanks to a delayed, post-World Cup holiday, after his initial vacation was interrupted by a call up to an Aussie training camp and then subsequent inclusion in the Socceroos squad for Russia 2018, Maclaren is now raring to pick up where he left off in the capital, linking up well with Kamberi and grabbing goals.
“It feels like I’ve never been away, I’m so familiar with the place now and I’m just so glad we’ve got it over the line for a full year and I’m able to settle,” he added.
“Once I did sign, it was nice to see all the boys again. You can’t take for granted the sort of dressing room we have – seeing the smiles from the boys on the first day again – and it’s a good feeling.
“At the end of last season we didn’t know if we would see each other or play together again. Then Flo and I bumped into each other on holiday in Dubai! So that was quite funny. Then he signed and was flicking me messages all summer to say ‘are you coming back?’ I had to keep telling him that my situation wasn’t as clear-cut as his.
“But I have that special connection with Flo and, including these European games, we will play more than 40 games and hopefully me, Flo and Oli [Shaw] will produce goals. It’s a similar squad, albeit minus John McGinn, and we are a strong group.”