Tomorrow is going to be a special day for the Stantons. Pat will be celebrating his 70th birthday, a milestone marked by the Easter Road club handing out 7000 free tickets in tribute to a man who is a true Hibs legend.
And for Sam, some 50 years his junior and absolutely no relation, a reunion with Cowdenbeath, a club which played an all-too-brief part in his fledgling career, a stay at Central Park which was intended to last five months ended after just two matches by injury.
But, as fleeting as his association with the Blue Brazil might have been, the young midfielder revealed he’s still grateful for the belief shown in him by then Cowdenbeath boss Colin Cameron at a time when he was struggling to force his way into Hibs manager Pat Fenlon’s plans despite having made his debut a year earlier.
He said: “My move to Fife didn’t work to plan unfortunately. I went there in the January to get the games I wasn’t getting with Hibs – the intention was I’d be staying until the end of the season. But I managed just two games, against Morton and Hamilton before I picked up a knee injury training at East Mains.
“I was hardly at Central Park long enough to get to know anyone but I still look out for their results from time to time as it was nice for them to come in and show a bit of belief in me at a time when I hadn’t played many matches.”
However, on a day of high emotion as Pat takes a bow in front of the home support, Stanton the younger insisted there could be no room for sentiment with Alan Stubbs’ side – having lost three of their first four Championship matches – desperate for three points as they attempt to begin that long haul up the league table and towards those positions which carry that hope of immediate promotion.
He said: “I have to admit I’d never have expected to be playing Cowdenbeath other than in a cup tie, but what has happened has happened. We feel that, the Alloa game apart from which we didn’t deserve to take anything, we could have had more points than we’ve managed. It’s been a case of not taking our chances but tomorrow it is vital we win the match.”
Stanton admitted the performance at Recreation Park, branded by Stubbs as the poorest he’s seen since he became head coach, had left everyone at Easter Road perplexed, the feeling beforehand being that Hibs season was about to kick off after having that stunning League Cup fightback against Dumbarton just a few days earlier.
A side which had struggled to score in its previous matches claimed three in just 12 minutes, the comeback capped by a strike from Stanton worthy of winning any game and, when Jason Cummings put Hibs ahead in the first quarter of an hour against Alloa, the travelling support sat back in anticipation of more to come.
However, exactly the opposite happened, Hibs disintegrating, eventually losing and finding themselves trailing league leaders and Capital rivals Hearts by nine points. Two weeks have elapsed since that disappointment but, Stanton revealed, the time has been put to good use.
He said: “We’ve done a lot of work, talking about things we need to improve on and hopefully we’ll take that into tomorrow’s match. We’ve gone over everything, we are all fully aware of the mistakes we made and what we didn’t do well. The gaffer has gone into great depth, we’ve watched near enough the full ninety minutes again, the goal we scored, the goals we conceded, every single detail. He’s picked up on everything.”
The international break has also allowed Stubbs to start integrating his latest signings into the squad, Dylan McGeouch and Jake Sinclair arriving on loan from Celtic and Southampton respectively, the pair followed by the arrival of striker Dominique Malonga following the ruptured Achilles tendon suffered by Farid El Alagui in Clackmannanshire.
Those additions have given Stubbs greater options, adding further competition to a squad which welcomes back defender Paul Hanlon after injury and a four-game absence, adding further intrigue for a crowd which will be swelled by those free tickets to allow season ticket holders to bring a friend to the match and the fact tomorrow is a Hibs Kids’ day.
It’s an opportunity, Stanton agreed, for him and his team-mate to perhaps win back some of those supporters who might not otherwise have bothered turning up on a more permanent basis with an entertaining performance, goals and, of course, those all important three points.
He said: “We haven’t started the season as well as we would have liked from a results point of view but, if we can win games I’m sure we’ll start to bring the fans back. Every game is important, but the matches at home are the ones you must be aiming to win every time. We haven’t had the best of records at Easter Road over the past couple of seasons but the gaffer is determined to instil an attitude that no matter who we are playing that they’ll be arriving at our ground with the thought at the back of their minds that they’ll be leaving with nothing and that’s a great mentality to have.”
A victory would also be the perfect birthday present for Pat, but Sam believes such is the former player’s affection for the club he’d be far happier for Hibs and the fans than himself.
He said: “Believe it or not, people still ask if I’m any relation. I’m not but I guess, because Stanton isn’t a common surname, it’s a question I’ll continue to get.
“Pat is a legend at this club and it would be great to get a win for him on this special occasion.”