It may be the last game of the season, but Andrew Shinnie is reluctant to concede tomorrow’s clash with St Mirren might be his last for Hibs.
The former Inverness Caley midfielder arrived at Easter Road last summer on loan from English Championship side Birmingham City for the 2016/17 campaign.
And with a year remaining on his contract, he is due to return to the Black Country although, he admits, his future remains uncertain.
The Blues go into their own last game of the season away to Bristol City two points away from the relegation danger zone, but with no margin for error with both Nottingham Forest and Blackburn Rovers breathing down their necks.
But while his entire focus will be on ensuring one final victory for Hibs as they prepare to celebrate winning the Championship title and promotion to the Premiership, Shinnie admits City’s fate could well have a bearing on where he is playing football next season.
Depending on what transpires over the next few weeks, the 27-year-old revealed he wouldn’t dismiss a return to the Capital if the chance were to arise.
He said: “I’ll have to see over the summer. There’s a lot of stuff to go on and although I have another year on my contract with Birmingham, they’ve got a big weekend coming up down there and whatever way it goes there’ll be a lot to think about.
“It will get sorted out over the summer. I don’t know what will happen, but I wouldn’t rule out coming back to Hibs. I jumped at the chance to come here when they were in the Championship, so being in the Premiership would be even better.”
Shinnie insisted he’d had no misgivings at joining a club facing a third successive season in the second tier of Scottish football, even if he was puzzled as to how they’d found themselves in such a situation, that capitulation in the second half of the season which brought relegation even more confusing given it happened with Terry Butcher, his old boss at Caley, in charge.
He said: “I always liked Hibs as a team when I played in Scotland. I don’t know why, but it’s a great club, a big stadium and they always had a good team, a great team back in the day.
“It’s obviously been disappointing for them to go down and to be honest – I do not know how it happened.
“I was down the road and not paying too much attention to it, but to my mind Hibs should never have been in the Championship. I was with Terry at Caley and while he probably won’t be the most popular guy down Easter Road way because he was manager when it happened, he was great with me.
“I was surprised because you don’t expect a team of his to fold like that and go under. You never think you’ll be relegated, but when you go on a downward spiral it’s hard to get out of it as Caley are finding right now.
“You can have good success as they had but one bad season can end it all for you.
“But I’ve loved it here, it’s been a great season. I said when I came up I was excited to be in a title race as I’d never been in one before. It’s great to have come out the other end. We’re a bit unfortunate not to be in the Scottish Cup final again, but I’ll take the title.”
Finally clinching the promotion, admitted Shinnie, prompted a mixture of relief and satisfaction but, he insisted, it would be even sweeter for players such as Paul Hanlon, Lewis Stevenson and Jason Cummings who were at the club when that play-off defeat by Hamilton consigned them to the drop.
He said: “When you come to the end of the season as we have, you think it has flown i,n but at the same time it’s gone a bit slower than you feel.
“There have been a few hard times, but we’ve been top most of the season and been pretty solid. There were a few draws, times when the boss was unhappy but at the end of the day they were draws, not defeats, and we won the league quite comfortably.
“We’ve put in a lot of hard work over the season and it has paid off.
“I think that for the lads who have been here and seen the ups and downs like Paul and Lewis, it has been a big relief for them. There’s been quite a bit of pressure and now a bit of relief and satisfaction for everyone, but we are delighted and excited to have played our part in winning the league and taking Hibs back up.
“I’d think the likes of Paul, Lewy and Jason will feel they’ve probably righted a wrong. Jason has been crucial, he said he’d stay until Hibs were back in the Premiership, although he’ll hopefully be here longer, while Lewy has probably played almost every game since relegation.
“Paul, too, has been great. He’s had this annoying injury of late but he was brilliant in the first half of the season so I am very happy for them in particular.”
Hibs finally returning to the Premiership will, argued Shinnie, be good for Scottish football in general, pointing to the crowds he and his team-mates have enjoyed with the attendance tomorrow predicted to touch 19,000 and the fact that over the past couple of seasons they have more than held their own when drawn against top flight competition in the cups.
Even the disappointment of seeing the Scottish Cup wrested from their grasp having given Aberdeen a huge fright could, he claimed, be seen in a positive light.
He said: “I think it’s been bad for the image of Scottish football Hibs being out of the Premiership for such a prolonged period. I think we should be up there competing for top six, top four.
“We have a good squad and I am sure the gaffer will have a few irons in the fire. He’s brought in Danny Swanson, a great player, and I’d imagine he’s going to add a few more to go with the bulk of the squad we have already.
“We got off to a bad start against Aberdeen the other day but could have won a game against a team that’s been second best in the country for the last few years competing with Celtic. We did well against them and Hearts who have been comfortably in the top six.
“I think it will be exciting for the fans, a lot of big games, a lot of big away matches. I have to admit Edinburgh is a bigger football city than I thought. It’s a massive football city with loads of fans out there. A few of the lads hang out together away from the game and there are always supporters coming up wanting to speak to you.
“The fans have backed us massively throughout the season and it would have been a travesty had we not gone back up. Now we want to win our last game and enjoy the day. St Mirren might be hoping we’ll be in party mode and not interested. They have a lot to play for, it will be a tough game but we’re looking to sign off by turning in a good performance.”