Nominated yesterday for the Championship player of the year award, Scott Allan could have been celebrating a perfect few days. But instead the news came only as minor compensation for last Saturday’s last-four Scottish Cup defeat to Falkirk.
The midfielder admits he would swap personal accolades for the promotion he now hopes to secure with Hibs. But he was still proud to be included on the PFA Scotland short-list, particularly since he is the only non-Hearts player to be nominated in the Championship section which is, not surprisingly, dominated by those from across the city at Tynecastle. Hence yesterday’s press briefing to announce the Cheque Centre PFA Scotland player of the year nominees being held in Edinburgh.
Alim Ozturk, Jamie Walker and Morgaro Gomis are the Hearts players selected by their fellow professionals, fitting recognition in a season when the Tynecastle club were far and away the best side. Gomis yesterday admitted there were a number of candidates from Hearts, whose success this season has perhaps underlined the value of teamwork.
“I think all the players have had a good season, so it’s hard to pick one who has been the best,” he said. While Hibs are also far from a one-man team, Allan’s re-emergence as a player of quality is a major positive in a season where they still have much work to accomplish. Even given what happened last Saturday, Allan credited Hibs with putting the “smile back on my face” after struggling to break through at West Bromwich Albion, the club he joined from Dundee United.
The midfielder posted a reminder of his worth against Falkirk when he was his side’s best player at Hampden Park. Despite his best efforts, Hibs still fell to a defeat that has had some questioning whether they have it within them to secure promotion. “That’s just part of football,” said Allan. “If you don’t win games people are going to ask questions. But it’s up to us to put that right in the play-offs. That’s the only way to answer them.”
Hibs will need to prove they can flourish without their suspended talisman this evening when they take on Livingston in a rearranged fixture. Allan’s contribution this season means he is certain to be missed. As well as backing his team-mates to earn the victory they need without him, Allan is certain the group has what it takes to get over the line following last weekend’s disappointment, when Hibs were again accused of failing to take their chances.
I’m happy to be playing every week. It’s nice to have a smile back on my faceScott Allan
Allan himself saw one shot shake the crossbar. “On another day my shot hits the underside of the bar and goes in,” he said. “It was just one of those days.” He admitted that if he had one criticism of his own season, it is his failure to score as many goals as he’d have liked. He has struck twice in 38 appearances. Indeed, Hibs’ failure to be clinical is an affliction threatening their promotion ambitions.
“In nearly every game we have had more than enough chances to win comfortably and we’ve not done that,” agreed Allan. “But the good thing is we are creating chances every game. We just need to kick on and, hopefully, it clicks.”
Allan refused to be drawn on his future should Hibs fail to secure promotion, which would consign a player targeted for a return to Dundee United in the transfer window to another season of Championship football. Hibs rejected two offers from the Tannadice club but the question of his future is bound to resurface in the summer, wherever the Easter Road side end up. “I just want to be successful,” said Allan. “I knew if I applied myself I’d be able to have a successful season here and I have managed to do that. I’m happy to be playing every week, that’s why you start playing football in the first place.
It’s nice to have a smile back on my face.
“I want to see how this season goes first and take it from there,” he added. “The gaffer [Alan Stubbs] has obviously given me a platform to go and do well. I have managed to repay him. I am really happy with the coaching staff and the way things are going at Hibs.”
It is a more cut-and-dried case at Hearts, where skipper Danny Wilson has already confirmed he is departing. Gomis is confident Hearts will be able to persuade new recruits to sign, particularly given their stated ambition to finish in the top half of the Premiership next season. “Hearts are a big club,” he said. “If you take it outside the Old Firm Hearts are probably the third or fourth biggest club in Scotland. Edinburgh is a beautiful city, we’ve got a great stadium, we’ve got everything. I think it’s going to be easy to bring players in.”
Gomis has no regrets about dropping into the Championship last summer, enticed by the prospect of re-joining Craig Levein, his old Dundee United manager, at Tynecastle. Levein has “been behind the scenes” revealed Gomis, who paid tribute to head coach Robbie Neilson for the “calm” leadership that has helped the midfielder, and others, to shine this season.
“For me, he should be [manager of the year],” said Gomis. “He’s done a great job. Hopefully, he can carry on doing what he’s doing just now. When you speak to him he knows what he wants.”