Danny Haynes may be something of a stranger to most Hibs fans, but as far as former Easter Road star Ivan Sproule is concerned, boss Terry Butcher’s first January signing is the man to get them off their seats.
Sproule and Haynes were team-mates together at Bristol City, and the Northern Ireland winger firmly believes that if the Hibs new boy can replicate the form he showed at Ashton Gate he’ll quickly become as a firm favourite with supporters in the east end of Edinburgh as he was in the West Country.
Today Sproule, now playing for table-topping Linfield in his homeland, revealed 26-year-old Haynes enjoys the blistering pace he demonstrated during his years in a green-and-white shirt, adamant the London-born star will quickly prove to be a massive threat to opposition defences.
And although Haynes appears to have lost his way somewhat, released by English League One outfit Notts County only six months into a two-year deal, Sproule is firmly of the opinion that Butcher has again used the happy knack he displayed time and again while manager of Inverness Caley in unearthing relative unknowns who rapidly became household names north of the border.
He said: “Danny is similar to myself, to be honest, in the way he plays. He’s fast and very direct. He’s a bit bigger than me and a great athlete. He’s floated round a few clubs but when you see he’s been at the likes of Ipswich Town, Charlton, Barnsley and Bristol his pedigree speaks for itself.
“He was a fans’ favourite at Bristol and he seemed to thrive on it, and the one thing I know is that when the Hibs support take to you like they did me then there’s no better place to be. Danny might tell you he is as quick as me, but he never won that race. I don’t want to build him up too much before he’s even played for the club, but he can play wide or through the middle and if he gets it right then I’m sure he’ll really excite the Hibs fans.”
While not a prolific hitman, Haynes has got his share of goals wherever he has gone and Sproule believes that James Collins, burdened by that £200,000 price tag when he arrived from Swindon Town in the wake of 28-goal Leigh Griffiths’s departure, will thrive on the service he’s likely to receive from his new team-mate.
He said: “I don’t think it’s fair to try to compare James Collins with Sparky, they are two different styles of player. I don’t think James is the sort who will go creating a lot of chances for himself but if you get the ball into the box then it’s a different story. I played with centre-forwards like Lee Trundell and Stern John, both clever players, but they thrived on people like myself and Danny.
“It’s a bit like Garry O’Connor who’s had a first-class career but he had good service through guys like Steven Fletcher, Dean Shiels and myself. I watched the Celtic game at the weekend and thought Hibs did very well against a team which is unbeaten this season and are looking as strong as any Celtic side has for a while and yet Hibs matched them for long spells. There was that period when they looked as if were going to get an equaliser but perhaps just missed that wee killer touch, that bit of sparkle which hopefully Danny can bring.”
Sproule also pointed to Haynes’ age, saying: “Danny seems to have been about for a long, long time but he was in the Ipswich first team at a very young age. He’s had a lot of big clubs since and he’s at the right age, just when he should be beginning to hit the prime of his career. Terry Butcher has earned himself a great reputation for identifying players who, and no disrepect to them, most people probably hadn’t heard of and I’d be willing to bet not too many people in Edinburgh would have known of Danny until these last couple of days.
“I’ve heard Terry talk of wanting width and wingers getting on the ball so Danny is well capable of doing that and also of playing through the middle if asked.”
Sproule, naturally, knows nothing of Haynes’ short spell at Meadow Lane but, he insisted, his move to Easter Road could be just what he’s needing, citing his own experience when, having found himself on the periphery of the action under former Hibs boss Pat Fenlon, he was rejuvenated by a switch north to Ross County.
He said: “It goes like that for football players sometimes. They do well for one club, go somewhere else and it doesn’t really happen for them for one reason or another. People say it’s just the same wherever you are, that football is 11 against 11, but there are lots of factors going on behind the scenes.
“You feel people don’t believe in you but you go elsewhere and feel loved again. I look at my move to Ross County, things clicked again for me, I enjoyed my football, we had a great run, a top-six finish and just missed out on Europe. Hopefully Danny will enjoy the same experience, he knows Terry wants him at Hibs and I’m sure he will thrive on hearing the fans chanting his name.”