If Scott Allan privately harbours any doubts about the appeal of staying with Hibs for another season in the Championship, head coach Alan Stubbs should lock his talisman in a room with Fraser Fyvie.
The two highly-regarded young Scottish midfielders reignited their careers at Easter Road last season after lucrative moves down south had failed to pan out as hoped.
Within days of last season finishing, Fyvie had snubbed interest from elsewhere to sign a new two-year contract with Hibs. Allan is already contracted until next summer, but the danger for the Edinburgh club is that their star man has his head turned if, as has been widely speculated, a bigger club comes calling.
While Fyvie would never be disrespectful enough to tell a colleague what to do, in outlining his own reasons for choosing to remain in the Championship with Hibs, the 22-year-old Aberdonian gave what amounted to a glowing endorsement of the club Allan is currently employed by. “Both myself and the club were keen to get the contract sorted out at the end of the season,” he said. “I had a bit of interest from elsewhere, but this is somewhere I’ve enjoyed being for the last six months and the only thing on my mind was wanting to sign.
“Staying in the Championship probably put a slight second thought in my mind but when the manager speaks to you and [director of football operations] George Craig speaks to you, that sells the club. I knew what the club was all about. Everybody, the manager, the players, the staff, the backroom staff, the people everybody else don’t get to see, are second to none. They really are fantastic, from kit man to physios, and so on. They’re all a joy to work with.
“Then there are the training facilities, the stadium, the fanbase and the club itself. There are not many bigger clubs than Hibs in the Premiership. It is set out for you and everybody enjoys it. I never heard anyone coming in here last season and moaning about anything, it’s an enjoyable place to be.”
With a lack of game time tarnishing his two and a half years at previous club Wigan Athletic, the fact Fyvie swiftly established himself as a regular starter for Hibs after signing on a short-term deal in January was the main factor in him deciding to stay on. “It was great to get back playing week in, week out after how things were at Wigan,” he said. “I felt more part of the team than I had at Wigan and I was enjoying it a lot more.”
Fyvie was the first of four out-of-contract players who have re-signed this summer, with Lewis Stevenson, Martin Boyle and Liam Fontaine all following suit. New captain David Gray also extended his deal by a year, while Scott Robertson, who has since headed for pastures new, said last week that he was “devastated” to leave.
“A lot of the boys have re-signed so that shows they all feel the same way about the club and the manager,” said Fyvie. “With the squad that the manager has put together, you see boys signing up and you want to be part of that.
“Liam Fontaine must have had many offers from down in England and his family is down there but he made the choice to come back up. I think we all feel there’s a bit of unfinished business from last season. We all want to be together and get the club back where it should be.”
Hibs can only hope that Allan feels just as contented and focused as his colleagues. Fyvie was certainly encouraged by indications from his team-mate yesterday that he is happy to stay and see out his contract at Easter Road. “If Scott’s said that he’s staying, that’s fantastic,” said Fyvie. “Everybody saw last year that he was the best player in the league. I’m hoping he can do the same for us this year. From the things you see in training and what he does on the pitch, he’s up there with the best I’ve played with. Some of the things he does, you think ‘how did he do that?’
“He’s good to play with – he’s one of those guys that, if you’re in trouble, you just give him the ball and he’ll deal with it. He is a game changer. If you want to grab a goal or get an assist – I think he set up around 20 goals last season – he is the one. He is the man you go to for a creative spark. There were times in the play-off games that Rangers tried to flood him and it gives other boys like myself extra space, but he is the guy who can make us tick in the final third.
“I’ll be surprised if big clubs don’t come in for him, but the fact he’s said he’ll stay is massive for the club. He’s obviously seen from last year that this is a good team with a great bunch of boys. Everything about the club is fantastic. If he can stay here for another year, win promotion and get player of the year again, then he’d be in a good position to get a big move from there if that’s what he wants to do.
“I don’t think the speculation will be hard for him. He has been at West Brom and, like myself, has learned a few lessons. All he wants to do is play football. He took part in every training session, rain or shine, last season and this is where he wants to be; here, playing football rather than on the bench somewhere. The manager here clearly knows how to get the best out of him which is great for us. I can’t speak for Scott, but he was committed to the club last year, and if he has said he is committed to the club this year then I’m sure he is. Hopefully he can do the business for us again.”
Fyvie is looking forward to locking horns with his old Wigan pal, Rob Kiernan, the central defender who recently joined Championship rivals Rangers. “We played together a few times, mainly in the reserves at Wigan,” said Fyvie. “He contacted me before he signed and asked about Scottish football in general and the club. I think he’ll be a good signing for Rangers. He is good on the ball and anything you put in the air, he is winning it. He is a big guy and loves the gym so he can bully people. He is not short of a bit of pace either and he can spray it to be fair to him.”
Fyvie and his colleagues returned for the start of pre-season yesterday, and the midfielder insists he feels in great condition following a break of almost five weeks. “The holidays are done now so it’s good to be back in amongst it. I gave myself a ten-day break at the end of the season but then I started running again. Craig Flannigan [the sports scientist] gave me a programme the day I signed to keep as fit as I could so I’ve followed that. I just got off a plane from Dubai the other day but I’m fine. I feel fantastic. I was also away in Kos as well with the family and I did a bit of running out there.”