Liam Fontaine wants the Alan Stubbs era to be one that Hibs fans are still talking about for years to come.
Every day the centre-half walks into the East Mains training ground, he is confronted by an array of pictures on the corridor walls of heroes from memorable periods in the club’s history. The Englishman knows supporters still reminisce about legendary sides like Turnbull’s Tornadoes and the Famous Five, while, in more modern times, Alex McLeish’s team from around the turn of the Millennium and Tony Mowbray’s swashbuckling side of the mid-noughties are fondly recalled.
Head coach Stubbs is overseeing the most uplifting period the club have had since Mogga left nine years ago, and now Fontaine wants his team to be held in similarly high regard to illustrious predecessors in green and white such as Lawrie Reilly, Pat Stanton, Russell Latapy and Derek Riordan,
Speaking ahead of today’s Championship clash with Queen of the South at Easter Road, the defender said: “When you finish playing you want to look back and say: ‘I was involved when Hibs were promoted back to the Premiership, when Hibs won the league and trophies or went on a record run that became part of the club’s history’. You want to look back on all these things.
“You walk round the training ground and you want to see your face up there. There are things around this club you do genuinely want to be part of. Around the stadium there are photos up everywhere and obviously if we can get ourselves back up we would be part of a time in the club’s history when we put it back to where we believe it belongs.”
Fontaine, who spent eight years with Bristol City prior to joining Hibs, is enjoying one of the most thrilling periods of his career as he helps the Easter Road side vie with Rangers for the Championship title. Hibs trailed the Ibrox side by 11 points in October, but have now got the deficit down to just three, with a top-of-the-table clash in Glasgow looming a week on Monday. “As a footballer you want to be involved in these sort of situations,” he said. “It’s a great buzz. Until you’re in it, I genuinely can’t explain the feeling. This is probably one of the most enjoyable times in my entire career, being at Hibs and trying to achieve what we’re trying to achieve. I’d love it if we could achieve it.”
If they can maintain their form, Hibs will be entitled to fancy their chances. They are unbeaten in four months, a run of 16 games in all competitions which has incorporated 14 victories. This unblemished sequence was maintained by a stoppage-time equaliser against Falkirk last weekend while the Easter Road side were playing with nine men following the first-half dismissal of John McGinn and the loss of Lewis Stevenson to a head knock after all three substitutions had been made. Fontaine explained that a burning desire to remain undefeated is underpinning their promotion challenge.
“Jason Cummings said afterwards that he knew we would equalise and I think that sums up the confidence in the camp,” said the 29-year-old centre-back. “He is one of our great characters and when you have him feeling that way, you know it’s deep within every member of our squad.
“When you play in good teams and good squads, you want to be known for putting together good runs of results and be part of a team which doesn’t lose. I genuinely believe that is the way the gaffer drills things into us. He can see we are all feeling confident.”
Hibs lost two of their opening three league games this season, but Fontaine doesn’t buy the notion that his side are guaranteed to have another blip at some point this season. “I don’t think it’s necessarily true that we will have a wobble,” he said. “People are going to say that, because averages suggest that you are bound to have a wobble at some point. However, we just look at the next game, next game, next game. We don’t look too far down the line and we don’t fear anyone.”
Fontaine, meanwhile, is sporting an impressive beard, although he refused to divulge the reason behind it. “The story of the beard remains a secret right now. It’s nothing to do with our unbeaten run though. You’ll get the story at some point, you will. It’s a big ask to keep it neat and there are some mornings you wake up and want to whip it off but I’ve got to stick with it for now. I haven’t put a date in the diary yet for shaving it off. It gets a lot of attention – the lads love it. I might even dye it white for next week!”