Hibs’ Stevie Mallan embarks on Scotland cap quest

Stevie Mallan has watched plenty of his old team-mates make the move from Scotland’s Under-21 squad to the full international squad – and now the Hibs midfielder is determined to follow in their footsteps.

Hibs midfielder Stevie Mallan, watched in training yesterday by team-mate Daryl Horgan, has set his sights on breaking into Steve Clarkes Scotland squad. Picture: SNS.
Hibs midfielder Stevie Mallan, watched in training yesterday by team-mate Daryl Horgan, has set his sights on breaking into Steve Clarkes Scotland squad. Picture: SNS.

Mallan admits it is easier said than done but insisted it won’t be for the want of trying, convinced that if he can build on an impressive first season at Easter Road, there is no reason why his dream cannot be realised.

Arriving from Barnsley where he had played only nine matches as he watched his move from St Mirren to the English Championship side turn sour, he hit the ground running, an early flurry of spectacular goals leading to 43 appearances and the 23-year-old being named Hibs’ player of the year not only by his own team-mates but also by the supporters.

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As Mallan prepares for tonight’s friendly match at home to Newcastle United, his sights are set on raising the standard again. “I was disappointed with the season at Barnsley, but I feel it made me a lot hungrier,” he said.

“I played more than I ever thought I would last season. When I came to Hibs I didn’t know how it would go but it exceeded my expectations with the amount I played. To go from a position of not having a 90-minute game in the space of three or four months and then playing two a week for three weeks, I swear I was blowing.

“It did hit me like a ton of bricks but I loved it. It threw me back into the swing of things. Thankfully I got off to a flyer and it built momentum for me.

“It made me realise that I am a good player. It’s pushed me on this year to make my achievements even higher and see if I can get a sniff of the Scotland squads as well. The only way I can do that is if we play the way we can as a club and stay up towards the top.”

Mallan admitted being thrown into Hibs’ Europa League campaign – against NSi Runavik of the Faroe Islands, Greek side Asteras Tripolis and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Norwegian outfit Molde – rekindled his love for the game.

“My self-confidence has always been high,” he said. “But when you don’t play for a period you do go through stages of not knowing what’s happening.

“To get that feeling back was unbelievable and that feeling opened my eyes up a bit more, that I want to keep this feeling. It’s made me work even harder and pushed me on even more this year.

“Rather than going back to that lull, you want to start pushing even further. With the Scotland thing, it’s a harder goal to get but that can push me more as a player. I want to score more goals, assist more and win more as a team, maybe a cup.”

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Watching his old St Mirren buddies John McGinn, pictured, and Lewis Morgan – among others – win full caps has only served to strengthen Mallan’s resolve. He said: “I’ve seen boys at that age group, Oli Burke, John Souttar and Scott McKenna, make the step up.

“I’ve spoken to Lewis Stevenson who went away with Scotland last summer and he loved it. I’ve seen Sparky (Marc McNulty) come in, score a few goals and get in the Scotland squad. I’ve seen them do it and now I feel it’s my turn.

“You know the pathway is there for young players and guys who are doing well in the Scottish league but first and foremost I need to put the performances in at Hibs to be up there.”

Pointing out he has Premier League players such as McGinn, Kenny McLean and Scott Tominay to compete with for a place in Scotland manager Steve Clarke’s midfield, Mallan conceded: “It’s not easy to get in but it just means I need to be even better to get a chance – it’s a challenge I’m up for.

“I’ve looked at the midfield and it’s not short of options with the guys in England and players at Celtic and Rangers, but it’s something I really want to do.”

On the club front, Mallan believes playing in the early stages of the Betfred Cup has made him and his team-mates all the hungrier for Europa League football next season.

Paul Heckingbottom’s side have negotiated matches with Stirling Albion, Alloa Athletic, Arbroath and Elgin City to earn a tie at home to Morton in the last 16 of the competition.

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Mallan said it has brought back memories of this time last year when he made his Hibs debut against NSI Runavik before going on to play against Asteras Tripolis and then Molde.

He said: “I was in the door two minutes and I was straight into a Europa League game, which I’d not been involved in before. It was amazing and the games I played in were brilliant, one of the highest stages in the world. It’s sad we never made it through, but I feel we should be up there testing ourselves against some of the best opposition in the world. It’ll make us hungrier to get back there again.”