Danny Swanson admits he’s looking forward to tonight’s final pre-season friendly at Shielfield Park for no other reason than offering his heartfelt thanks to John Coughlin, the man who gave him his big break in football.
The Berwick Rangers boss took a chance on the little midfielder 12 years ago when no-one else was willing to do so.
Snapped up on a £20-a-week contract, 30-year-old Swanson is now living the dream by playing for his boyhood heroes Hibs in a career which has seen him turn out for Dundee United, Peterborough, Coventry City, Hearts and St Johnstone.
Surprisingly, Swanson has never been back at Shielfield Park since leaving, Coughlin acting as his agent to seal his 2008 move to Tannadice.
But when he steps through the stadium door tonight, the first person he’ll seek out will be Coughlin, back in charge of Berwick for a second time following spells with Stenhousemuir and East Stirling.
Swanson said: “I’ve never come out publicly and thanked him. I kind of regret not thanking him enough as he was definitely a big part of my career, where it all started.”
The Easter Road midfielder revealed he had all but turned his back on football when his father John persuaded Coughlin, a family friend, to give his son a trial.
He said: “I was doing plumbing. I had been playing with my mates at Leith Athletic, but we split up having won all the cups and couldn’t go any further.
“I didn’t know what I was going to do. I wasn’t really bothered about football so it was just my dad phoning John asking for a trial.
“I went down there, enjoyed it and since that day I’ve never looked back.”
It wasn’t the promise of riches that lured Swanson to Berwick, as he revealed he can’t even recall if he was given travelling expenses to eke out his weekly £20.
He said: “John said all he could offer me was £20 a week and I snatched his hand off for it. I can’t remember if I got expenses, it didn’t bother me.
“I was just happy to be playing senior level, the money was irrelevant.”
Coughlin continued to play an important part in Swanson’s career, chauffeuring him to Hamilton who were desperate to sign him, only for the player to decide he didn’t fancy that particular move.
And when Dundee United boss Craig Levein came calling, Coughlin was again instrumental, Swanson recalling: “John took me up to Tannadice and did my deal. I trusted him 100 per cent, he’s been a great friend as well as manager.”
Having featured in Hibs’ first two pre-season games, claiming his first goal in a green-and-white shirt in a 4-0 victory over Dunfermline and then playing an hour of Lewis Stevenson’s testimonial match against Sunderland, Swanson disclosed he will be badgering boss Neil Lennon to play tonight, admitting he needs the game time to familiarise himself with his new team-mates.
Describing his performance against the Black Cats, his first appearance at Easter Road as a Hibs player as “probably the worst I have ever had”, Swanson said: “I’ve played better, but I enjoyed it especially at the end as it was brilliant for Lewy.
“I was looking forward to it, I really was. I just wish I had played a bit better. But I am sure that will come with games and fitness.
“I’m a bit slow at the minute, but that will come. I tried to get myself into good positions against Sunderland but it just didn’t happen for me.
“I think it will take time to get used to the way we play, it’s very different to St Johnstone. Working with the boys and a bit more training should help.
“I just feel sometimes I’m thinking a bit too much about it at the moment. In the Dunfermline game I hadn’t played with a lot of the boys. At Saints I played with Steven MacLean every game and that helped me. I just need to adapt and hopefully when the games stat it is all clicking. The gaffer has said he isn’t sure who is going to play tonight, but I’ll ask if I can go down because I need the games, I need time on the pitch.
“I want to play with the boys as much as possible before the season starts so hopefully I’ll go down. I’ll look forward to it. I haven’t been back to Shielfield Park since I left Berwick. I’ve planned to go down to some games but for one reason or another I never got there.”
Swanson became Lennon’s first signing for the new season, followed by United striker Simon Murray, Nigerian internationalist Efe Ambrose and Israeli goalkeeper Ofir Marciano with the promise of more new faces to come.
The presence of Anthony Stokes and Steven Whittaker – among others – at Easter Road on Sunday inevitably heightened speculation regarding a return for the former Hibs players, with Lennon admitting he’s already in talks with Whittaker.
Swanson said: “I’m a massive Whittaker fan, he was one of the players I came to watch. He was a massive player for Hibs back then and would still do well for us and the Scottish Cup final made Stokes a Hibs legend.”