Paul Hanlon had only a few words of advice for Kleton Perntreou as the 19-year-old prepared for an unexpected debut against Cowdenbeath after Hibs No.1 Mark Oxley was hit by a back injury.
And they were exactly the same as those offered to him as a nervous 17-year-old by skipper Rob Jones after he’d been handed a shock call-up for new boss Mixu Paatelainen’s first match with both David Murphy and Lewis Stevenson ruled out through injury.
The Easter Road defender revealed: “Big Rob told me it’s a game of football, something you have done hundreds of times before, and just to go out and do my own thing and that’s exactly what I told Kleton.”
Hanlon went on to enjoy victory in his first match, a 3-0 Scottish Cup win over Inverness Caley almost seven years ago thanks to a hat-trick from Dean Shiels, and while Perntreou had a perhaps less comfortable introduction in the spartan surroundings of a Central Park subjected to an unrelenting deluge he, too, emerged from the experience victorious.
Today Hanlon, now a veteran of more than 200 games in a Hibs shirt, said: “The conditions were terrible for any goalkeeper, never mind a young lad who’d suddenly been told he’d be playing the second half, giving him little time to get his head round it. But Kleton dealt with it well. There was one shot which was moving all over the place but he managed to palm it out.
“That was great for him, it would have given him a bit of confidence, and the experience can only be good for him.”
Goalkeeping coach Alan Combe kept a careful eye on the Albanian-born kid, his gaze rarely straying from Hibs’ penalty area as he stood beside the away dug-out oblivious to the downpour.
While Perntreou was blameless as Jon Robertson’s header threw the Blue Brazil a lifeline after Hanlon and Jason Young had fired Hibs into a two-goal lead, Combe would have spotted a couple of minor errors, the root of which were no doubt an anxiety to impress but, his team-mate insisted, the goalkeeper had plenty of reason to be satisfied with his first 45 minutes of action.
Former Scotland Under-21 captain Hanlon said: “As a defender your job is to protect your goalkeeper as much as you can. Kleton likes to help his back four as much as he can but he will learn through experience of when to come and when to stay on his line. He’s got a good No.1 in front of him in Mark and a good goalkeeping coach in Alan, and they’ll be helping him progress.
“But I’m sure he’ll remember his first appearance and enjoy it all the more for us having won.”
While Hibs had won plenty of plaudits for their impressive performances against Hearts and Dundee United in their previous two outings, Hanlon admitted it was a different type of display which had secured the three points in Fife. He said: “We’d played good, attacking football in those games, but this was more gritty and determined, grinding out a result at a difficult venue.
“Conceding that goal made it a bit more uncomfortable than we would have liked, but in the end it was a great win.”
The monsoon-like conditions made for a difficult afternoon as far as both sets of players were concerned, but Hanlon appreciated the misery endured by the travelling support. He said: “First and foremost, every fan that went to the game deserves huge credit. They stood in torrential rain without any shelter for the full 90 minutes backing us, but hopefully the win will have made them feel it was all worthwhile.
“The conditions were horrendous, but at the end of the day it’s a football pitch with two teams of 11 and you have to deal with it. I thought we passed the ball well in the first half but the game became a bit more scrappy as the pitch got more and more waterlogged. But it was one of those games where beforehand we were determined to get out there, get the three points and then head home.”
Hanlon’s strike was his first of the season but, the 24-year-old insisted, it made up for an earlier miss in the game. He said: “I actually thought the earlier chance was a better one – a header at the front post.
“But when Scott Allan’s free-kick went over the head of Liam Fontaine I managed to lose my marker at the back post and put it in, making me happy to make up for that miss.”
While United’s dramatic penalty shoot-out win at Easter Road in the quarter-final of the League Cup had, in effect, ended Hibs six-match run without defeat, Hanlon insisted he and his team-mates had taken great confidence both from matching a team which subsequently went top of the Premiership table and coming within seconds of smashing Hearts unbeaten start to the season.
He said: “Losing to Dundee United the way we did was very disappointing, but we took everything positive we could from the game. We haven’t been beaten over 90 minutes in our last eight matches now. We’re on not a bad run, but it’s a case of keeping our feet on the ground and trying to keep this sequence of results going.”