Stevie Mallan has admitted his own season probably reflects that of Hibs, a scintillating start in which the Easter Road club climbed to second place in the Premiership table followed by a slump in which they have slipped to eighth.
A summer arrival from Barnsley where his move from St Mirren had turned sour, Mallan thrilled the Hibs support with a string of stunning strikes from long distance. But as Neil Lennon’s side suddenly hit a seven-match winless run and began to drop down the ratings, the goals dried up for Mallan who has now not found the back of the net in three months.
Acknowledging that he possibly set himself up for a fall with that early-season promise, the 22-year-old said: “I started off with a bang. It did level off towards the end of the first half of the season. I had meetings with the manager to get me back to where I was, to get my high standards back.
“I came into a new club and was obviously buzzing. I know that latterly my performances have not where I’ve wanted them to be. I know how I can play. I can make them a lot better.
“I hit a few great goals at the start. I maybe shot myself in the foot by getting off to such a flyer. I was on cloud nine over the first two months. I thought I was going to Real Madrid! I scored some cracking goals.”
Mallan had a tough act to follow at Easter Road in the shape of his old St Mirren team-mate John McGinn who joined Aston Villa in a £3 million deal last summer. Dylan McGeouch and Scott Allan left the club at the same time, leaving a huge hole in the Hibs midfield but Mallan is meeting the challenge head on.
“I thrive off the pressure,” he said. “I don’t want to be as I was last season [at Barnsley] when I wasn’t feeling the pressure to perform because I wasn’t really playing. I’m at a club where the manager loves me, my team-mates and I have gelled, I’m playing every week. This is what I want.
“John had probably put pressure on those who followed him, which shows the kind of player he is. He moved from St Mirren to Hibs and became a totally different player.
“I saw that and it made me want to come to Hibs as well; because of how much he kicked on as a footballer. He’s got his move to Aston Villa now. My thinking was that if he could do it then so could I.
“When I was down south at Barnsley, there was always talk about me going to Hibs so I kept my eye on them, plus I’m a good friend of John so I wanted to know how he was getting on.”
McGinn’s move to Villa, along with McGeouch’s transfer to Sunderland and Allan’s return to parent club Celtic after a successful loan spell, meant there was a major rebuilding job to do at Hibs over the summer.
Mallan loved watching the trio in action in the second half of last season and they have inspired him to try to emulate, or even better, some of those performances.
“They [Hibs] were great to watch, especially with those three linking up so well together. When they left, people like me who came in wanted to get to their level or maybe even do better. I’m so happy to get the opportunity to play at this club. I need to thank the gaffer for that because I had a lot of time out of football when I didn’t play a lot in Barnsley. Now, I’m playing in every game.”