DANNY Handling believes overcoming “dirty” defending while playing for Scotland under-20s at the ADO Den Haag tournament in Holland last weekend has set him up for a breakthrough season at Hibernian.
The 19-year-old scored twice inside the opening three minutes in the Scots’ first game against Cruzeiro and later went on to captain the side which was knocked out of the semi-finals by Mexico with the young Hibs player missing a penalty.
It was playing as a target man that Handling, who was on the periphery of Pat Fenlon’s plans last season, found himself topping up his football education which he hopes to draw upon in the forthcoming campaign.
Speaking at the club shop at Easter Road where he was publicising the launch of Hibs’ new home strip, he said “It was a bit more challenging. I am usually more of a supporting striker but I played a different role, more of a target man so I learned a few different skills and things I should be doing in that position.
“Billy (Stark, coach) told me before the game I had to show discipline because the players you are playing against are a bit more physical and more dirty.
“They are niggling you and they show you a different side to the game that you don’t see here so it does take a bit of discipline to get used to it.
“It was a great experience for myself. I enjoyed it greatly and hopefully this season I will become a first-team regular and establish myself.”
Handling will soon be back on European duty with Hibs, who will enter the Europa League at the second qualifying stage in July, a prospect that excites the teenager from Haddington.
“It is massive,” he said. “Everyone is looking forward to it, the fans, the whole club.
“We have the second-round tie and that will be hard whoever we will be against as it will be different opposition to who were are used to.
“But it is something to look forward to. We will take each game as it comes and hopefully do well and see how we get on.”
However, Handling admits the 3-0 William Hill Scottish Cup final defeat against Celtic at Hampden Park last month, where he came on as a second-half substitute, will take a bit of shrugging off.
He said: “It will still be in our minds for a long time I feel because it is another cup final we have lost and it was only a couple of weeks ago but we have to get on with it.
“We put in 100 per cent in and we tried to play our normal game in the final but it just wasn’t our day.”