Richie Towell is determined to leave Hibs boss Colin Calderwood with a lasting impression by helping steer the struggling Easter Road outfit to a much-needed win against St Mirren tomorrow.
For the 20-year-old star will then find himself sidelined as the Capital side face Celtic twice in the space of four days, Towell ineligible to play in either Wednesday’s Scottish Communities League Cup quarter-final or the SPL clash which follows as he is on loan from the Glasgow club.
But while admitting he’s bitterly disappointed to miss out through red tape, Dublin-born Towell accepts the rule is in place for a good reason.
He said: “To be honest, I’d love to be playing against Celtic, to me it would be no different to facing any other side as I’m playing for Hibs at the moment and I’d be giving 100 per cent as usual.
“It’s a bit like when you leave a club and then come up against them, you want to show them what they are missing. Neil Lennon has allowed me to join Hibs on loan because he feels I need some experience and games under my belt which is understandable because I am still a young player.
“However, I would love to be able to play in these two games and show him what I can do. But I understand why the rules are as they are and I have to respect them. I remember Jim O’Brien playing against Celtic when on loan at Dundee United and doing very well against them. Celtic weren’t best pleased and you can understand why.
“Then there is the other side of the coin. What, for instance, if I was to give away a penalty for the only goal of the game. Fingers would be pointed no matter how much I protested so, as much as I would like to play in both games, I realise why the rule is in place.”
Another consideration for Towell is, of course, the fact that whoever Calderwood drafts in as he takes an enforced break will be desperate to stake a claim to retain the jersey beyond the Celtic double-header, hence his desperation to turn it on in Paisley tomorrow.
Personal considerations aside, though, Towell appreciates the over-riding need for Hibs to conjure up a win in any shape or form following a dismal first-half performance against Motherwell last week, one which Calderwood described as being as poor as he’d seen in his year at the Easter Road helm.
The Republic of Ireland Under-21 internationalist said: “Everyone was disappointed last week, the manager, the fans and not least us players. It’s not as if anyone went out there not wanting to play well or not to give 100 per cent, but none us seemed on the same wave-length, particularly in that first half.
“Although the defeat we’d suffered at Ibrox a fortnight earlier had brought our run of five matches unbeaten to an end, there were positives we could take from our performance that day and we were looking not only to take them into the Motherwell game but to build on them.”
And Towell agrees with team-mate Ivan Sproule that the time for talking a good game has come to an end, that it’s only what happens over the course of 90 minutes that counts.
He said: “Ivan was right, everyone can talk about it but it’s putting those words into action. We can’t keep saying it’s going to get better, almost a third of the season has gone already and we have to make it better.
“The disappointment is that we know we have a good team, a good squad of players, guys who can come off the bench and change a game for us. We know we are better than we have been but we need to do it out on the pitch.”
Towell agrees that St Mirren have been one of this season’s surprise teams, a 2-1 victory at Easter Road earlier in the season as Danny Lennon’s players capitalised on two defensive howlers in the space of three minutes, helping elevate them to sixth in the SPL table.
And while his second loan spell in Edinburgh had yet to begin at that stage, Towell insisted the sloppy defending which has been on display far too often has to end. He said: “I wasn’t here for the first Saints game but I’ve heard about it. Obviously if we go 1-0 up at their place we need to defend better than we have been doing all season, if we don’t concede goals we are most definitely going to have a better chance of winning games.
“It’s a big game for us as they have been doing well. They got a good result against Rangers last weekend so they will be in good spirits, but with the squad we have we should be able to cause them a few problems.”
Insisting the good of the team outweighs any thoughts of personal glory, Towell nevertheless admitted he’d love to turn in the sort of performance which will stick in Calderwood’s mind during his enforced absence.
He said: “As I have said, it’s going to be disappointing to sit out the two Celtic games but it will make it a bit easier if I’m doing so on the back of a win rather than have a defeat going through my mind for a fortnight before I get the chance to play again.
“A win over St Mirren is all I am thinking about but obviously if someone comes in for the Celtic games and does well then I could be left having to try to fight my way back into the team. So hopefully we can not only get the three points but I can play well enough that the manager remembers and I get straight back in against Dunfermline in a fortnight’s time.”