He didn’t appreciate it at the time, but Dylan McGeouch already knows just what it takes to get Easter Road rocking.
The 21-year-old was on the receiving end as a goal from former Hibs talisman Leigh Griffiths spoiled his only previous visit to the Edinburgh stadium with parent club Celtic back in December 2012.
Easter Road has become a difficult venue for Hibs, who have struggled on their own patch over the past couple of seasons, but McGeouch, who sealed a season-long loan move to the Edinburgh club on transfer-deadline day, is intent on seeing the Leith ground bouncing just as it did when Griffiths’ goal gave Pat Fenlon’s team a surprise 1-0 victory on his last visit a couple of years ago.
He said: “Being beaten wasn’t great but the atmosphere was superb. The fans may not be happy at the moment but I can remember what it was like when Leigh scored and I’m sure once we start stringing a few results together the place will be rocking again. I think we’ve got a great bunch of lads and if we put things right then that buzz will be back with the fans right behind us.”
Having realised he wasn’t going to be central to new Celtic boss Ronny Deila’s plans, McGeouch opted for a season-long loan with Alan Stubbs’ Hibees in an effort to kick-start his career. He said: “I felt I needed more regular games instead of sitting in the stand or coming off the bench every few weeks. My agent put it out that I was looking to get out on loan and Hibs came in.
“I spoke to the manager and straight away it seemed right for me. I could tell he is good with young boys, how he encourages them, wants them to try things and if you make a mistake not to worry about it but to keep going. He’s obviously had great experience working with younger players at Everton and we do have a young squad here at Easter Road.”
Although a newcomer, McGeouch has felt immediately at home at Hibs, where he is surrounded by familiar faces from the Scotland Under-21 squad. He said: “I know the likes of Danny Handling, Paul Hanlon and Alex Harris and I’ve known Scott Allan for a few years. I also played with Jordon Forster at Celtic youths.
“I’m settling in well, it’s a young squad but we have a few experienced boys and I’m sure we’ll soon put it all together.”
McGeouch burst onto the scene in November 2011 when a magnificent solo goal after a 70-yard run sealed a 5-0 victory for Celtic against St Mirren in what was only his second substitute appearance for the Hoops and his first match at Celtic Park.
It was a moment which will live with him for the rest of his career, but, as memorable as it was, he is eager to ensure there are plenty more such high points in the years ahead. Not much has gone his way since that goal three years ago. He struggled to break through under Neil Lennon, suffered a broken jaw in pre-season in 2012 and last season ended up on a six-month loan to Steven Pressley’s Coventry City where he made only eight appearances.
He said: “It didn’t really work out for me at Coventry although it was a good experience, getting away from Glasgow, living on my own, meeting different people and going different places. I didn’t play as much as I would have liked but I took a lot from it.
“Now I’m hoping to get a lot more game time with Hibs and make an impact on the team. My goal against St Mirren is a great memory. It was my first home game and goals like that don’t come along every week so you do cherish them. Although it will stick with me, I said even then I didn’t want to be remembered for it. Hopefully there will be a few goals for me with Hibs that I can also look back on and enjoy.”
Although used as a winger, McGeouch feels he is more effective playing centrally, even if he accepts many managers are reluctant to pitch inexperienced youngsters into the engine room of their team. To that end, he’ll have enjoyed hearing Stubbs say he sees his role in that area.
The youngster said: “I think John Collins [the former Hibs midfielder and current Celtic assistant] in his early days was played wide and we know what a player he turned out to be in central midfield.
“That tends to happen, young boys are pushed out wide because the base of your team, the more experienced guys are in the middle.
“I prefer to play through the middle, I feel I am a more effective player in the centre and while I’ll be happy just to get out on the pitch to play for Hibs, hopefully that’s where the manager will play me.”
McGeouch, who has now played his last game for the Scotland Under-21s as Billy Stark prepares to build a new squad for the Euro 2017 qualifiers, is certain that after this weekend’s international break, he can start helping his new team get themselves back into the Championship promotion race after a disappointing start to life in the second tier.
While some may question the wisdom of stepping down a level, McGeouch has no such reservations.
He cites the prospect of playing in Edinburgh derbies and clashing with Rangers – where he was once a young player – as reason enough to jump at the chance to move from the west coast to the east even though the Hibees already languish nine points adrift of city rivals Hearts after losing their last three league games.
He said: “The Championship is going to be a very competitive league this season with Hibs, Hearts and Rangers all in it, three teams trying to push their way back up to the top division.
“There’s going to be a lot of big games, against Rangers and the Edinburgh derbies coming up and I am looking forward to them. Obviously it’s not great for the club not to be in the Premiership and it’s not good for the top league to have three of the top clubs not in it but it’s happened. I’m hoping I can play my part in helping Hibs get back to where they belong – but Hearts and Rangers will be looking to do the same.
“Hibs haven’t had the best of starts, but it is still early in the season, we’re looking to put that right and I’m sure after the break we’ll get a good few results and start moving upwards and getting ourselves back into contention at the right end of things.”