With a mind as deep as the Atlantic Ocean that separates his adopted home in Scotland’s Capital and his native Iceland, Victor Palsson still bears the emotional wreckage three days on from Hibs’ heavy defeat at Kilmarnock.
From a wider perspective, the loss of a chance to gain three points in only their third SPL game of the season should be of grave concern to Hibs, but Palsson is a man who takes things personally, harbouring himself a misery on the collective scale of the 300 unhappy Hibbies who watched from the stands as their team capitulated in Ayrshire.
His day-to-day mood is a barometer of his on-field fortunes, similar to the fan whose weekly outlook is dictated by a team’s result at the weekend.
“Everyone’s disappointed,” said Palsson of the 4-1 defeat to Killie. “We performed really badly obviously and we didn’t perform like a team. Losing games is one of the worst things that can happen to me. It takes me two or three days to get better. I don’t like losing games. I want to do my best for the team and for the team to do well.”
If those sentiments appear deep-rooted when spoken by an earnest Palsson, perhaps they can be weeded out by the prospect of facing St Mirren at Easter Road on Saturday. The fixture, after all, holds a fond memory for the 20-year-old Icelander, who made his home debut in a victory over the Buddies in February this year.
“It was a great feeling walking onto the pitch for the first time in a Hibs shirt at Easter Road,” he recalled. “We beat St Mirren 2-0, and we’ll hopefully do the same again this weekend.”
With six months of SPL experience now under his belt, Palsson is still familiarising himself with the landscape of football in this country. In that short time, however, he has already found a nemesis – in the form of Jim Goodwin, St Mirren’s midfield enforcer. The pair exchanged a number of kicks and taunts amid a combative relationship during the bottom-six clash in Leith in April, and Colin Calderwood felt compelled to pull Palsson from the fray for fear of his player being sent off.
The 6ft 1in former Liverpool man, though, insists he will enter Saturday’s match – most likely with Goodwin lining up for the opposition – with a wholly more mature head on his shoulders. “Last time when we played I got really sucked in, and it was really unprofessional of me,” admitted Palsson. “I’ve got more mature since then. It’s not about me and Jim Goodwin, it’s about Hibs and St Mirren.
“I haven’t changed as a player, but in the head. With me getting sucked into the things Jim Goodwin was doing, I was getting angry and losing my head – that’s something I’ve got more mature about. I’m a different person in that respect.
“You never know what happens in football games, but right now, I’m concentrating on doing well for the team. Goodwin is a good professional and an experienced player and I respect him.”
The danger of the over-zealous rivalry reigniting between the Icelander and the Irishman may well be removed by Palsson being pitched in at right back, rather than his better recognised position at central midfield. Having grown up as a striker and a right-winger, Palsson has played in a defensive role since his teenage days at Aarhus in Denmark and at Liverpool. His one senior appearance for the Reds came in a summer friendly at Grasshoppers Zurich last year, where he partnered Sotirios Kyrgiakos in central defence, and after moving to Scotland he featured, until recently, in the midfield holding role.
Calderwood has since instructed Palsson to perform at right back, and despite being given the difficult task of adjusting to yet another role, the Iceland under-21 internationalist is more than happy to become a versatile option for his boss.
“I played at right back in two games for Iceland, and if the manager wants me to play right back, I’ll play there. I’d happily play centre midfield, or centre forward. For me, as a right back against Kilmarnock [on Sunday], it wasn’t a good day for me. But right back is okay, and I felt I did well against Inverness and Sunderland. I need to keep learning and gaining more experience in this position.
“It’s always good for a manager to have a player who can play in several positions. After a few games at right back, there’s a lot of small details I need to know and learn. I will work hard on those and try to do well.”
A young player such as Palsson certainly does not appear out of place as part of a youthful Hibs back four. When results go against Calderwood’s team, the decision to field such a relatively inexperienced backline is likely to come into question. That scenario, says Palsson, would be unfair, as he and his fellow defenders have already proved they are capable of performing at a high level.
“If you look at the games against Inverness and Sunderland recently, we got two clean sheets and we did really well,” he observed. “Hanlon and Boothy have had a lot of games there and we’re all good players. I don’t think it’s got anything to do with putting anyone else [more experienced] in there.”
Establishing himself either at right back or elsewhere in the Hibs team is high priority for Palsson, alongside reclaiming his place in Iceland’s under-21 team. He was heartbroken and confused earlier this summer upon being omitted from the 23-man national squad to contest the European Championships in Denmark, Palsson having played a major part in helping his team qualify for the finals in the first place. The finals, held every two years, will next be staged in Israel in 2013, and Palsson expects to be involved in the qualification process that commences early next month, with Iceland set to face Belgium and Norway ahead of a double-header versus England before the end of the year.
“I think the manager [Eyjolfur Sverrisson] can’t look past me this time,” he said. “But, you never know what happens. I’m playing, I’m fit, and hopefully he’s taken a look at me and seen I’m doing fairly well.
“Before the Euros I was involved in almost every game, and I was the youngest in the squad. Like I said earlier, I don’t know why I wasn’t in the squad, but I really hope he will call me up. I love playing for my country and it means a lot to me to be called up.”
At the time of his first run-out at Easter Road six months ago, Palsson was a regular representative of his country and Hibs were primed to embark on a five-game winning sequence. Palsson will hope another visit of St Mirren this weekend can lift his spirits – and the fortunes of his club – once again.