Hibs kid Lewis Allan has certainly clocked up a good few thousand in his pursuit of his dream.
Living in Melrose has seen the 17-year-old striker rise as early as 5.30 in the morning to make kick-off, that day’s trip to face Inverness Caley at the Highland Academy in Dingwall not seeing him hit his bed until 2.00am the following day.
Factor in the strapping youngster spending half of last season making the trip from the Borders to Hibs’ East Mains training centre unpaid after not quite convincing head of academy coaching James McDonaugh he’d done enough to earn himself a contract and Allan’s determination to make the grade can’t help but impress.
Having been at the Easter Road club since the age of eight, last summer’s news left him devastated but today the 6ft 2in forward couldn’t be happier having featured in new head coach Alan Stubbs’ first two pre-season matches and notching a goal, the fourth in the weekend win against Berwick Rangers, to leave him sporting a grin as wide as Princes Street is long.
“It was obviously a huge disappointment to be told I wasn’t going to be offered a contract,” he admitted. “I’d had my first trial with Hibs at the age of eight and had been with the club ever since. I took a bit of time off football but my Dad Craig, who was on Rangers’ books as a youngster himself, kept me motivated as did my Mum Sandra.
“We had lots of chats and they helped talk me round.”
The upshot was Allan continuing to make the journey from Melrose with a lift in each direction by his parents, although there were days when he’d return home on the bus to join the other young hopefuls at East Mains on a Thursday and Friday before playing on a Saturday; with the rest of the week spent studying at the Borders College.
He said: “I was doing a diploma in sport which was basically football so although I was part-time and unpaid by Hibs, I was in effect full-time. I’d also joined a local athletics group in Melrose so I was in the gym two or three nights a week. I wanted to work hard to achieve my goals so you have to be strong and look after yourself.”
It wasn’t until after Christmas, however, that everything began to fall in place for the youngster, the goals began to flow and, in what was a big surprise to him, he was named the East of Scotland League’s player of the year. He said: “I’d scored a few goals, was out injured but then came back after Christmas and the goals really began to come. I scored 15 in the league an 21 overall.
“I began to fall back in love with football again and now I’m delighted to have signed a contract with the club a few weeks ago. My Mum and Dad have been a huge support for me. They must have clocked up thousands of miles ferrying me up and down to training and matches.”
Even that epic trip to Dingwall is brushed off, Allan saying: “It was a long day, up at 5.30 to be in Edinburgh to get the team bus and not getting back home until the early hours of the next day but we won and I scored so it was all definitely worthwhile.”
Scoring at Shielfield Park, however, has topped the lot – at least so far – Allan taking advantage of the fact Stubbs is currently working with a much depleted squad to feature as a second-half substitute in both matches. The arrival of Farid El Alagui and the return of veteran hitman Paul Heffernan who has yet to feature pre-season as he nurses a thigh problem, will, along with the continuing emergence of fellow teenager Jason Cummings, see Allan fall down the pecking order although he is determined to take every opportunity presented to him to catch Stubbs’ eye.
He said: “It’s been great to be involved, we’ve got a small squad at the moment but the new manager has been brilliant. He’s told us young lads that if we do well we will get a chance – but you have to take it.
“So I was delighted not only with my goal on Saturday but the one I set up for Tom Gardiner.
“I might have had another one or two but hopefully I’ll get the opportunity to keep trying to impress the gaffer if not in tonight’s match against Dunfermline then tomorrow’s game at Spartans.”