It’s not been a summer to remember, but even so, the weather has been far from that predicted to Marvin Bartley as he made the move from London to Edinburgh, a picture of a snowman having flashed up on his mobile.
The chilly warning came from Queens Park Rangers striker Charlie Austin, a big mate of the new Hibs midfielder, who was anxious to know how Bartley would manage to cope with the cold in Scotland.
Although he’d spent three years with Burnley, Reading-born Bartley had never ventured north of the border until, his contract with Leyton Orient having expired, Hibs boss Alan Stubbs made his move and the 29-year-old travelled to the Capital for talks and a look at both Easter Road and the club’s training centre at East Mains.
“Charlie is a good friend of mine,” he revealed, “I’ve known him for years from our non-league days when he was about 17. I was at his wedding to his fiancee Bianca in the summer and I speak to him on a daily basis.
“He was quite curious as to how I’d get on up here and the first thing he said to me was ‘how are you going to deal with the cold’ and then he sent me a picture of a snowman. Come the winter I might send him a few pictures of snowmen back.”
If temperatures have been on the chilly side for summer, Bartley admitted the warmth of the welcome he has received from all at Easter Road has more than compensated, saying: “I’ve settled in well, my new team-mates have been fantastic. Coming to a new club in a new country it could have been different but everyone has been fantastic, not just the boys but everyone around the club,
“There’s a great vibe around the place.”
Little has been seen of Bartley since he agreed a two-year deal, but that’s all set to change today as he makes a long-awaited first appearance in a green-and-white jersey as Stubbs’ side face Montrose in the first round of the League Cup, the player having spent the intervening period playing “catch up” in terms of his fitness.
As he looked forward to his debut, Bartley said: “Yes, there has been an element of frustration. You want to play from day one, but you have to be sensible as well and for me it was important that I got myself up to speed before playing. You’d be taking a huge risk playing before you have a good couple of weeks training.
“I understand that, I’m not a kid, I understand how it works and things have been absolutely fine, the club has done the right thing by me.”
As such, Bartley has undergone a pre-season with a difference, initially working one-on-one with Craig Flannigan, Hibs’ head of sports science and fitness, before being introduced to training with the squad. He said: “It was very intense at first but really good.
“Different fitness coaches have different ideas of how to get you fit. It keeps your mind working as you are constantly learning new things. After that I was slowly introduced to training with the lads and I’m now doing all they are and topping it up with a bit extra afterwards.”
Bartley may have got to know his new team-mates, but he’s totally upfront when asked what he could tell us about today’s League 2 opponents. “I was told the other day they’d only kept their place in the league in a play-off last season,” he said, “but other than that, absolutely nothing. I think given I’d never been in Scotland in my life until I came up to have a look round before signing for Hibs I could be forgiven for not knowing anything about Montrose, and that’s no disrespect to them.
“So as far as I am concerned, it will be a case of just going out there and playing the game. I think these games are the same in every country when a smaller club plays a bigger club. The bigger club is in a no-win situation because you are expected to win and if you don’t then you know what the headlines are going to be.
“It’s a matter of going out there, being professional and getting the win. I don’t know how they’ll play, if they’ll try to get everyone behind the ball and frustrate us or come out and have a go. I’d imagine, particularly with the game being here, that it will be a bit of a cup final for some of the Montrose players, but if we play well we will win.”
And Bartley already has his eyes fixed on an extended cup run. He said: “My memories of cup competition are a bit indifferent, I never really had a massive cup run so I’m hoping to get that here. Hibs did well in both the League and Scottish Cups last season, they’ve done not too badly at all in recent years so it would be nice to see that continue, starting with a win today.”
Hibs’ involvement in the Petrofac Training Cup was, of course, brief, Stubbs’ side knocked out by Rangers although Bartley, like the head coach, felt the 6-2 scoreline flattered the Ibrox club.
He said: “I don’t think you can draw too much from it. It’s still very early in the season so we’ll put that behind us, learn from our mistakes and look forward rather than back.”
Bartley also made the point that fellow summer signings James Keatings and Dan Carmichael have, like himself, not been involved as they recover from minor injuries, while Farid El Alagui and Martin Boyle are still getting over knee operations. He said: “We had five players missing and when we all come back it will most definitely be a stronger squad. Add that to what you saw in the first half against Rangers and I’d say we have a good chance of doing well this season.”