Jamie Insall is refusing to give up on his dream of breaking into Hibs’ first team despite rejoining East Fife on loan on transfer-deadline day.
The 24-year-old striker, who had only previously played in the lower echelons of England’s non-league pyramid, earned himself a three-year deal at Easter Road last summer after former manager Alan Stubbs spotted development potential in him.
Insall was farmed out to the Fifers for six months last season and after scoring eight goals in 21 appearances to help Gary Naysmith’s side win the League Two title, he had high hopes of starting to establish himself in the Hibs first team under Stubbs this term. However, that plan was dashed when Stubbs left for Rotherham United and was replaced by Neil Lennon, who soon informed him he was free to go back out on loan.
Insall understands entirely why the Northern Irishman has been unwilling to take a gamble on him in a season when Hibs are under pressure to win promotion, but he is intent on doing enough with the Methil side, and in training at East Mains during the week, to ensure he can force his way into his plans over the next year.
“At the end of last year, I had spoken to Alan Stubbs and was planning to come back to Hibs and fight for my position,” he said. “He was obviously the man who brought me in and knew what I was capable of, so I’d like to think I’d have got a chance at Hibs if he was still there. But then Neil Lennon came in and he obviously had his own ideas in terms of what players he wanted to use and bring in.
“If he thinks I’m not good enough or not ready for the step up, then I totally respect his decision. I understand Neil’s situation. He’s a class manager and his aim this season is to get promoted so he wants to get people in who he knows can win him the league. I’ve got nothing but respect for him and his opinion. I’ve had numerous conversations with the gaffer and his assistant, and they just told me to keep going. Garry Parker told me to go out on loan, score as many goals as I can and give them a decision to make with regard to bringing me back in January.”
Insall has joined East Fife for the season but Hibs have the option to recall him in the winter transfer window. The striker feels he has already improved to a level where he could currently hold his own in the Hibs first team, but, having worked in a laundrette a little over a year ago, he retains a philosophical outlook and is encouraged by the fact he is simply working on a daily basis alongside players like Grant Holt and Jason Cummings. “I believe I could play for Hibs now,” he said. “I believe I’m good enough to be in or around the first-team squad. I’ve trained with them every day and I don’t feel I looked out of place.
“At the moment, though, there’s a demand to win the league this year, so Hibs have brought in some class players like Grant Holt, who has played in the Premier League and was on the verge of playing for England. They also have Jason Cummings, who is a £2 million player, whereas I was folding towels for a living 18 months ago. That’s what I’m up against, but just to be fighting against these type of players is a privilege for me. People who have been in the game for ten years would struggle to get a game ahead of these players. I’m playing at a level now I couldn’t have imagined 18 months ago and I’m in much better shape than I’ve ever been. This has been the best period in my life. I’m living every boy’s dream, and I just hope it continues.”
Insall is excited about returning to East Fife, especially as they are now operating on a higher platform. He knows that another successful stint with the Bayview club could aid his hopes of a long-term future in the professional game, regardless of whether or not he is deemed part of Lennon’s plans at Hibs. “It’s another step in the right direction for me because East Fife are playing in a higher league than last season,” he said. “I had options down south and in Scottish League Two but I didn’t want to go back to that league because I already played in it and won it last season, so it would have been a step in the wrong direction. League One is a new challenge for me, and it’s at a club enjoyed being at last season. If I do well in League One, then I’ll feel like I’m ready for the Championship, which is the league Hibs are in just now.
“If you score goals, it’s not rocket science to suggest that people will take notice. But for now, I’m totally focused on East Fife, and beyond that I’m totally dedicated to being a Hibs player. That’s all I’m thinking about.”