He wouldn’t go as far as to say it was all worthwhile but, after having the first seven months of his Hibs career wrecked by injury, Dan Carmichael felt the pain ease away as he stood in the centre of Easter Road listening to a rousing rendition of Sunshine on Leith.
For the former Queen of the South midfielder, it was a particularly poignant moment, one which reminded him of exactly why he had made the move to the Capital.
Plagued by an abdominal problem, Carmichael admitted he’d probably been forgotten by most Hibs fans until they caught sight of him standing on the touchline ready to replace Kevin Thomson for the final 30 minutes of a Scottish Cup replay against arch-rivals Hearts which was balanced on a knife-edge.
Although Alan Stubbs’ side were leading thanks to Jason Cummings’ fourth-minute strike, Premiership outfit Hearts had come roaring back, threatening to claim an equaliser just as Hibs had done nine days previously at Tynecastle.
But, as he prepared to make his first appearance since the beginning of October, Carmichael insisted he didn’t think for one second he was being thrown into a scenario where it could all go horribly wrong.
He said: “Obviously, it’s been frustrating but, given how long I’d been out, I was simply keen to get on.
“It was a derby, a close game and we maybe had to hang on for the last ten or 15 minutes but I thought the boys were brilliant, everyone stuck to their job and we got through in the end.”
Although Hibs found themselves under pressure, they also carved out a couple of chances for themselves, Carmichael volleying an Anthony Stokes cutback wide before James Keatings applied a similar finish to Martin Boyle’s pass seconds from the end.
Carmichael, 25, said: “I perhaps caught my one too well. And it would have been great for James to score against Hearts but thankfully neither counted for much.
“The scenes at the end, the singing from the fans probably made it one of my best times in football. Brilliant.
“It’s nights like that which made me want to come to Hibs in the first place but obviously my game time has been limited.
“I’ve probably become the forgotten man. I’ve been under the radar so long and, with the boys doing so well, all the attention has rightly been on the guys who have been playing and getting such good results.”
Carmichael’s problems began shortly after he agreed a two-year deal taking him from Palmerston Park to Easter Road, the abdominal injury preventing him from undergoing pre-season training and leaving him at home in Edinburgh as his new team-mates headed for the sunshine of the Spanish resort of La Manga. Game time was strictly rationed, Carmichael making just six appearances in three months, the last of which, ironically in Dumfries, was on October 3.
He said: “Coming to a new club you want to hit the ground running and show your new fans just what you can do. But I was struggling. We did everything we could apart from going for the operation to see if that could be avoided, but nothing worked.
“I did a lot of strengthening work but finally we decided surgery was the way to go.
“It was so frustrating and sometimes you actually doubt yourself but I had the op twelve weeks ago and now it’s a case of getting my fitness up.”
Carmichael admitted part of him now wishes he had pressed ahead with the operation much sooner than he did, but he insisted: “They know what they are doing here and you have to trust them. Now hopefully I can get myself fit, get a few games under my belt and get going again.”
To that end, while Stubbs’ players did little more than a recovery session yesterday morning, Carmichael found himself pitched into a bounce match to take him that little bit closer to his goal.
He said: “I thought I was just coming in for breakfast and a bit of a loosener, so it was a bit of a surprise. But it was a game for those who haven’t been playing to keep them ticking over.”
Carmichael acknowledged that he faces something of a fight if he is to claim a regular starting place but he is determined to play as big a part as he can in what promises to be an exciting finale to the season with Stubbs’ players chasing success on three fronts.
He said: “The most important part of the season is coming up. We’ve got lots of big games to play, fourteen more Championship matches, the League Cup final and now the quarter-finals of the Scottish Cup to look forward to.
“But we’ve such a big squad it’s going to be hard to get in. When everybody is fit there’s always going to be three of us sitting in the stand.
“So there’s going to be a few who are unhappy each week. All I can do is try to impress when given the chance and hope to get a sniff in the next match.
“Hopefully, though, I can play my part and finally show the Hibs fans what I am all about.”
Stubbs caused some waves in recent weeks by pointing out his players were fighting on three fronts but, Carmichael insisted, there was no point in shying away from that fact.
He said: “We are in these competitions to go all the way in each of them. Inverness Caley in the quarter-final of the Scottish Cup is going to be another tough game as is the League Cup final against Ross County but I think we are capable of beating anyone with the squad we have.”
Stubbs has also contended, as he did again in the immediate aftermath of beating Hearts, that Hibs are a Premiership side trapped in the Championship. And again Carmichael wasn’t for disagreeing with his boss.
He said: “We’ve beaten four Premiership sides this season – someone told me that’s more than Dundee United have beaten – but it just shows we can mix it with anyone although I don’t think there’s too much between the two divisions.
“It’s more about who performs on the day.
“But we have to keep it going, every match is as important as the next to us.”