Darren McGregor has revealed he feared he was playing for his Hibs future last season only days after clinching a new two-year deal with the club.
Although he and his team-mates had lifted the Scottish Cup, ending Hibs’ 114-year wait for the trophy last May, McGregor admitted the pressure was on after they failed to win promotion for a second year in succession.
And, he claimed, even retaining the cup wouldn’t have been good enough if they hadn’t won the Championship title and a return to the Premiership.
Disclosing he’d been made the offer of new contract before the season ended but dependent on Hibs bring promoted, the 31-year-old said: “I think before the season started we knew the demand was there; that it was imperative we got promoted.
“That was a huge burden. We felt we should probably have been promoted last season but this year I don’t think even the Scottish Cup would have saved us.”
Leith-born McGregor revealed the last two seasons had surpassed his own expectations, the Hibs-daft defender saying: “I think when I came my ambition was just to pull on the strip and play against Hearts in the derby.”
Now, though, he’s looking forward to playing in the top flight again, predicting that while he believes boss Neil Lennon’s current squad is capable of a mid-table finish, he feels that with new players arriving they could “push up to fourth, third or even second”.
Of Lennon he said: “He wants to finish as high as possible. With Aberdeen, Rangers and Hearts it will be difficult but we feel we can be challenging these teams – why not?”
Joining McGregor next season will be his close neighbour Danny Swanson, snapped up on a pre-contract deal from St Johnstone. He continued on Hibs TV: “Danny and I grew up just 50 yards from each other and spent our summers playing together. Danny has plenty about him and he scores goals. We’re coming off a great season but the one criticism perhaps is that we didn’t score enough goals. Jason Cummings contributed fantastically but Danny has scored 13 or 14 goals for St Johnstone this season.”