Dylan McGeouch has been oblivious to any sense of despondency around Hibs in recent weeks.
Although disappointed by back-to-back home draws with Raith Rovers and Dumbarton, the on-loan Celtic midfielder, who is privy to the mood in the dressing room and the work going on behind the scenes at East Mains, feels there is plenty to be optimistic about.
As a ball-playing midfielder, McGeouch is particularly encouraged by the style of football preached by Alan Stubbs and believes it is only a matter of time before the positive chat from the head coach and his players starts to manifest itself in a surge up the Championship table.
“We’re playing good, attractive football,” said the 21-year-old. “Some of it’s been excellent at times – I’ve been really impressed. We’re not just lumping it forward and playing off second balls; we’re getting the ball down and passing it from the back, working it through. Last weekend [against Dumbarton] we played really well again, but couldn’t find the killer edge to get the ball in the net. We just need to be more clinical because we’ve had a good few shots at goal. If we get one, I think we’ll get a few. It’s just about getting the first goal because we need to start turning these performances into results.”
While many Hibs fans have been left dispirited by a slow start in terms of results, McGeouch believes the squad has too much quality to remain in mid-table for much longer. He only has to look at his own position, in which he vies with captain Liam Craig, Scott Robertson, Sam Stanton and Scott Allan for a midfield starting berth, to conclude that a sustained upturn is not far away.
“You’d be happy picking any three of our central midfielders to start – we’ve got good competition in most positions,” he continued. “It’s a good young squad and we want to play the right way. There’s a good group of young lads here, lots of young boys who all get on well together, so there’s a good atmosphere about the place. We just need to start putting the ball in the net.”
With impressive away wins at Ross County and Rangers in their last two matches under the floodlights, McGeouch views tomorrow’s teatime trip to Livingston as an ideal opportunity to rediscover the winning feeling after the frustration of their last two home games.
“We showed against Ross County and Rangers what level we can get to but we just need to do it that bit more consistently,” he said. “Livingston have a big pitch and it’s a good stadium to play in. They are at home so they’ll probably come out and try and play a bit, which suits us as we want to get the ball down and play as well.”
McGeouch travels to training with Allan and believes he and his fellow Glaswegian can form a fruitful, creative alliance in the centre of midfield. The duo have started only one match together – McGeouch’s debut against Cowdenbeath five weeks ago – but the on-loan Celtic man feels their mutual desire to pass through teams can help give Hibs an edge in tight matches such as last weekend’s.
“It was good to come into a new club where I’m already close to someone,” explained McGeouch. “I’ve known Scott for a few years through the Scotland Under-21s and also through mutual friends, so we’re quite close.
“We’ve not played much together but already we’ve a good understanding. We’re similar players and we know what we want to do. Scott gets the ball down – he’s a footballer. He wants to play good football and get the passes going through the middle of the park.”
McGeouch views himself as something of a playmaker, eager to get on the ball and make things happen. With Hibs misfiring in recent weeks, he is eager to step up and add a goal threat. “I’d like to think I’ve got a bit of everything for a central midfielder, but I’ve always been more attack-minded,” he said. “I like to get on the ball and try to make things happen and break from the middle of the park into the final third.
“I hope to become more of a goal threat. The goalkeeper made a good save from me last weekend, but goals is something I want to add to my game.”
McGeouch was relieved to return to the starting line-up against Dumbarton after a red card in the League Cup win at Ross County led to him sitting out his team’s stunning victory over Rangers through suspension and then having to settle for a substitute’s role in the draw against Raith Rovers a fortnight ago.
For a player desperate to get as much first-team football as possible under his belt following a frustrating few years of trying to break into the Celtic team, suspensions don’t sit easily with McGeouch.
“It was a bit of a nightmare – it was my first senior sending off,” he said. “It wasn’t ideal that I missed Ibrox and I’ll also miss the Dundee United game in the cup. I didn’t intentionally try to hurt the boy [Joe Cardle]. It was a blatant free kick but the ref saw it as a red and I just had to accept that and move on.
“It was good to be back in the starting line-up last week and get another 90 minutes under my belt even though the result was disappointing.”
McGeouch, on loan at Hibs until the end of the season, is out of contract at Celtic next summer, although he has the option of extending his deal at Parkhead for another year. He is unsure what the future holds beyond the end of this campaign, but is intent on making sure he puts himself in as strong a position as possible by making the most of his opportunity at Easter Road.
“It’s been great at Hibs,” he said. “It’s good training all week and looking towards being in the team instead of just playing bits and bobs here and there. It’s great to be getting regular first-team football. It gives you a lift knowing that if you do well, you’ve got a good chance of being in the team the following week.
“At Celtic I was just coming off the bench and getting the odd game here and there, but I’m at an age where it’s important to be playing more regular first-team games.
“Celtic are keeping an eye on me, sending people to watch my games, so it’s good to know they’re still taking an interest in me. We’ll see what happens at the end of the season, but for now I’m just concentrating on getting regular games and doing well for Hibs and seeing where it takes me.”