WHEN Scott Allan suddenly left Hibernian’s training camp in Spain last week to return to Scotland it inevitably reignited speculation that he was about to sign for Rangers, a rumour which has circulated all summer.
However, the young midfielder’s dash home was triggered by more pressing matters. His partner Natalie had gone into labour and within 24 hours their son Zac was born.
Barely 24 hours later, the player had returned to La Manga, the proud father showing his team-mates a photograph of the new arrival before getting back to preparing for the coming season.
“I was knackered to be fair,” said Allan after his whistlestop visit, having hardly slept and yet determined to be involved in Hibs’ first pre-season friendly, Saturday night’s bounce match against Wigan Athletic, the English League One side having also headed for the sunshine.
Hibs lost 2-1 but it was a good workout for the Easter Road side and Allan played his part.
Having been spotted on the plane on his way back to Scotland to attend the birth, social media went into overdrive, with rumours spreading that Allan was on his way out of Hibs.
“A few [passengers] were badgering me on the flight wanting to know,” the player said. “I told them the script, they probably didn’t believe me to be honest, but now they will have seen the pictures.”
Despite a summer of speculation, Hibs insist they have had no approach for the 24-year-old other than a bid from his former club Dundee United during the January transfer window – one which was rejected out of hand.
Allan has again reiterated his determination to honour the second year of his contract at Easter Road, the first having ended with him being voted Championship player of the year. Hibs had signed him after his much-vaunted move to West Bromwich Albion turned sour, the player moving out on loan deals to Portsmouth (twice), Milton Keynes Dons and Birmingham City.
He does, however, believe Hibs fans have yet to see the best of him, and his determination to improve on last season lay behind his quick-fire return to Spain, even if it meant leaving Natalie and Zac behind.
He said: “Obviously you don’t want to miss too much and having missed pre-season last year I want to hit the ground running and improve on things from last year.
“Natalie and Zac were going to be in hospital until Saturday so there wasn’t really anything I could do.
“I went home but I hardly slept again and I was back up at five the next morning to head back out to La Manga.
“I want to improve all round and dominate a lot more games. I had a good year last season but I want to move on, and adding more goals to my game is something I really want to do.
“Last season it took me about three and a half months to get up to speed, that first run of games.
“Ask any player who has missed a pre-season when you get that base fitness… you are left a long way short of match fitness. But now I am looking forward to having that in the bank.
“I always knew myself if I got a run of games I could show what I could do. The only time I got that down south was when I was with Portsmouth and I did well there.
“I have already improved my fitness by two levels from where it was at the end of last season when I was playing every week. Pre-season gives you that base level of fitness to kick on.
“I feel as if [manager] Alan Stubbs has already got some of the best out of me last season but I think he is the man who can improve me again. I’ve enjoyed my time here, it’s the happiest I have been.”
To that end Allan firmly believes the seven days his team-mates have spent in the searing heat of Spain will stand them in good stead.
He said: “Pre-season is quite a long process before you kick off the games, so it breaks it up a bit, gives you a bit of freshness and obviously it was a bit tougher trying to breathe in that heat.
“It was a bit hotter than we probably expected but it was good for team bonding as well with a few new players having come in.
“One or two weren’t there, but we have a tight-knit squad because we all do things together and I think this was part of it.”
Allan, like his team-mates, also enjoys a close relationship with Stubbs and his backroom staff, and that, he insisted, was the secret behind the transformation at Easter Road.
“It’s man management,” he said. “Even boys that aren’t playing week in, week out have a good relationship with the manager.
“I’ve been at a few clubs now and it’s not always like that, and that’s why he gets the best out of players.
“You always need to respect where the line is, but the gaffer can take a bit of banter from the boys. That’s massive and that’s why he’s got the full respect of the team and the boys will go the extra yard for him.”