Hibs’ Danny Handling hopes to walk on air against Celts

Hibs' Scott Robertson, left, is closed down by Danny Handling. Picture: SNS
Hibs' Scott Robertson, left, is closed down by Danny Handling. Picture: SNS
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Hibs kid Danny Handling has been feeling a bit down at heel recently, but he’s hoping he’ll be left walking on air tomorrow as the Easter Road side aim to end Celtic’s season-long unbeaten run.

The 19-year-old was forced to sit out last weekend’s defeat by St Mirren after suffering a build-up of fluid inside his left heel, which was so painful he couldn’t even pull on a pair of boots.

But he bounced back in midweek to score Hibs’ opening goal as the Capital club’s youngsters beat the Buddies to go back top of the Scottish Premiership’s Under-20 league, a strike witnessed by boss Terry Butcher and his assistant and one the Haddington-born youngster hopes will allow him to force his way into the management team’s plans for tomorrow’s lunch-time start.

Today Handling revealed he’d been left mystified by the problem he endured, diagnosed by the club’s medical staff as “bursitis”, an irritation of the sack of fluid at the back of the heel which everyone has and, apparently, caused by his boot rubbing against it.

He said: “I’d actually been wearing the same pair of boots since the start of the season, for about six months. I’d noticed my heel getting a bit harder although it wasn’t painful. But suddenly it became very sore, so much so I could’t pull on a pair of shoes never mind football boots.

“I was really struggling up at Aberdeen the other Friday night, it was a real disaster I just couldn’t run and on the Monday I wasn’t able to train at all.”

Rest and a course of prescription drugs was the remedy, the danger of infection ruling out any thought of, as Handling put it, “popping” the offending collection of fluid and it did the trick, allowing Handling to play on Wednesday night in Paisley and so renew his hope of facing the Celts tomorrow.

He said: “I was really disappointed to miss the St Mirren game, I had a wee feeling the manager might change things around a bit and that I might get a chance. The gaffer did make a change, but it was Jason Cummings who came in with me out.

“Just why the boots caused me a problem after wearing them for so long I don’t know. If it had been a new pair and I’d suffered then I’d have been able to point to them right away. The old boots I’ve ditched, I’ve given them to my younger brother Darren and I’ve got a new pair which cost me £170 as I don’t have a boot deal with anyone. At the moment I’m getting them stretched a little bit so hopefully there will be no problem with them.”

Injuries to defenders Paul Hanlon and Ryan McGivern along with a one-match ban for midfielder Scott Robertson have restricted Butcher’s options tomorrow a little although the return of teenage winger Alex Harris from five months out with a broken ankle will help while another youngster Sam Stanton did his hopes of being involved against Neil Lennon’s side no harm at all. He delivered a sparkling performance against the Saints as Hibs restored a little pride in the second half although James Collins’ double proved just too little given the Edinburgh side had surrendered three goals in a miserable opening 30 minutes.

With Jordon Forster certain to continue partnering Michael Nelson in central defence with veteran defender Alan Maybury at right back and Lewis Stevenson on the left flank, Butcher could field as many as five players aged 20 and under should Handling force his way into the starting line-up alongside Cummings, a move which many would see as something of a gamble against a side which has swept all before them in the league so far.

Lennon’s players have drawn just three of their 21 games so far, scoring 48 goals and conceding just 12, have clocked up a run of 11 straight wins and goalkeeper Fraser Forster hasn’t had to pick the ball out of his net against domestic opposition for a staggering 855 minutes, or, to put it another way, nine-and-a-half games.

But while agreeing the Glasgow giants boast a highly impressive array of statistics to match the strength and depth of Lennon’s squad, Handling insisted he and his team-mates will be treating tomorrow’s confrontation as “just another game”.

Scoring against Celtic, never mind beating them, would appear big enough an ask, but Handling insisted such things mean little to him and his team-mates. He said:“To be honest, we do not look on games as being big or wee. They are all the same no matter who we might be playing. “Celtic are a massive club, they are on a terrific run of results but, like anything else, all good things must come to an end and it would be great if we could become the team to change all that.”