Hibs’ Danny Handling delighted with Berwick loan debut

Danny Handling made his debut for Hibs last season
Danny Handling made his debut for Hibs last season
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Hibs kid Danny Handling hardly had time to draw breath as he completed a whirlwind loan move to Berwick Rangers, completing the paperwork barely 24 hours before enjoying an explosive debut for the Third Division outfit.

The 18-year-old jumped at the chance to make the switch with only two Under-19 matches remaining, albeit they are this weekend’s mini-derby against Hearts, and Celtic, the switch offering him the opportunity to play seven matches at first-team level before the season comes to a close.

And the little striker has no doubt those games will prove of huge benefit to him, an opinion strengthened by the instant impact he had in his first match for the Shielfield Park club as he netted both goals in their 2-1 win over Peterhead.

The Haddington-based player only got wind of the move last Wednesday, training with his new team-mates the following evening before putting the finishing touches to the deal on Friday and then boarding the team coach early on Saturday morning for the long haul to Balmoor.

He said: “It all happened very quickly but I jumped at the chance and I couldn’t have dreamt of a better start with Berwick than scoring two goals. Obviously I was delighted for myself but, as always, the main thing was the three points for the club.

“Our Under-19s only had two games left, tough matches against Hearts and Celtic, and while it would have been good to play in them I’ve now got the opportunity to play right to the end of the season, six more games.

“It’s going to be hugely beneficial to me playing against older players, more physical guys, the experience of playing first-team football and the mental challenges that brings.”

Handling became one of the youngest ever players to pull on a green and white jersey when he replaced Derek Riordan in Hibs’ final game of last season against Aberdeen, but he realised that in the club’s current predicament there was little, if any, hope of boss Pat Fenlon turning to the likes of him over the course of the next few weeks.

He said: “Of course I’d have loved the opportunity to play in the SPL again and obviously my aim is to eventually claim a place as a first-team regular at Easter Road but I fully understand why the manager wouldn’t want to play youngsters at this time.

“There are good players in the squad and the gaffer will be looking for their experience to count, something we younger players can’t offer him at this moment. But I signed a new contract last October which takes me through to the summer of 2015 so I have plenty of time although, like anyone else, I’d love for it to happen sooner rather than later.

“There’s always pressure in football but the fact I have such a contract is reassuring, it’s not as if I’ve gone out on loan knowing my deal was up this summer. I can concentrate on doing my best and hopefully help Berwick climb up the table a bit.”

Handling admitted he felt it might take him a little time to adapt to his new environment, but Berwick boss Ian Little had no doubts about his ability, pitching him right into the action.

While he found familiar figures in Little’s squad, Hibs Under-19 team-mate Jordon Forster having made a similar move a couple of weeks ago and former Easter Road midfielder Lee Currie, Handling conceded he didn’t know much about many of the others.

He said: “I thought it would be difficult to try to get used to but Yano [Little] felt he could trust me and played me right from the start. I thought he got his tactics spot-on, it was a great team performance and his decision to play me paid off with my two goals and the manager seemed pleased with me after the game.

“It was quite difficult for me to adapt going straight into the team with only one training session behind me, but I thought I did pretty well. Lee chipped in a free-kick which I took with a first-time volley and then he played one over the top which I brought down, took to the edge of the box and put into the bottom corner.

“It was a great boost for my confidence, a good start and hopefully, I’ll get a few more games, starting with this weekend at home to Clyde. I know, though, that it will get harder as we face a few of the teams higher up the league thereafter.

“It was a long, long day, though. We met up before ten o’clock, drove straight to Peterhead, arriving about 1.30pm and then not getting back to Edinburgh until after ten at night.

“It makes your appreciate the other guys all the more. These guys are part-time, they graft away at their jobs all week and then make journeys like that on a Saturday.

“There are talented players at the club and I thought the standard of play was good.”

The only disappointment on the day for Handling was to see Forster being shown the red card for deliberate handball. He said: “I thought Jordon was unlucky. It had been great for me to have a familiar face there, he’d introduced me to all the lads and helped me feel at home a bit.

“I thought the red card he got was a bit harsh but he’s done well at Berwick and, as a young lad like me, he’ll learn from the experience.”

But while he may have joined Berwick, it won’t be a case of out of sight, out of mind, as far as Handling is concerned as both he and Forster will continue to train at East Mains on a daily basis.

He added: “I’ll only be training with Berwick on a Thursday night, the other days I’ll remain with Hibs who, no doubt, will also be getting reports each week on how I have played.”