Scott Robertson admits to being “devastated” that he won’t be part of a Hibs team that he expects to flourish in next season’s Championship.
The midfielder was eager to remain at Easter Road, but, with a young family to consider, the 30-year-old felt he had no option but to decline a new contract offer on vastly-reduced terms to his original deal.
It is with a heavy heart that he will prepare for a new challenge away from Hibs, where he has spent the last two and a half years of his career. However, he is confident that his former club is finally about to enjoy some genuine success under the guidance of Alan Stubbs.
“There were lots of ups and lots of downs – too many downs for my liking – but on the whole, I enjoyed my time at Hibs,” he told the Evening News. “I didn’t want to leave them as a Championship club, but I think overall they’re probably in a better position now compared with when I arrived two and a half years ago.
“Back then [in January 2013] there was a lot of talk about Leigh Griffiths, who was a bit of shining light in a relatively non-shining team. But the style they’re playing now and what Alan Stubbs is trying to create on and off the park is something that everyone seems to be enjoying. I was lucky enough to be part of it for a year and I’m devastated that I won’t be staying on to be part of it next season. I felt we would really have done well if we could have kept the whole squad together and added a few more new faces.”
After being brought to Hibs by Pat Fenlon following an ill-fated move from Dundee United to Blackpool, Robertson’s Easter Road career took some time to take off, with injuries, an omission from the 2013 Scottish Cup final and the team’s relegation under Terry Butcher ensuring that his first 18 months in Edinburgh were far from harmonious.
However, in his final season at the club, under Stubbs, the midfielder started to show the type of form that had made him a standout at United and earned him Scotland recognition prior to his move south. He made more than 40 competitive starts last term and was Hibs’ third top scorer, with six goals, despite playing in the sitting midfield role. The only disappointment for Robertson was that he was unable to savour either Scottish Cup glory or promotion from a season which, at the onset of springtime, had promised so much.
“My last season at Hibs was definitely my best there, both from a personal point of view and in terms of how the team played,” he said. “The season before last was a disaster. I missed a lot of it through injury and then we got relegated. I don’t have a particular high point, but the last season in general was very enjoyable. The difference between how involved I was in games under Alan Stubbs compared with the season prior when we got relegated was remarkable. It was like a different sport we were playing. From an enjoyment factor, the whole of last season was excellent. It was just a shame we couldn’t cap it off with something to celebrate.”
After losing to Rangers in the Premiership play-off semi-final last season, Robertson is confident Hibs can beat the Ibrox side to the title next time round. He has no worries about them continuing to be able to attract a high calibre of player despite their continued status as a second-tier team.
“Hibs are definitely equipped to win the Championship next season,” he said. “I find it hard to believe that any team will do what Hearts did last season but if there’s any team equipped to do it, I don’t see why it can’t be Hibs. I’m not going to be part of it, but I’m sure the manager will bring in the type of players that will strengthen the squad even more.
“Even in the Championship, Hibs are still an attraction to players. Fraser Fyvie’s re-signed and they’re looking to re-sign Martin Boyle and others. Last season we were able to get in the likes of Scott Allan and Dylan McGeouch, so there’s a massive attraction for people to go to the club. It was a big draw when I first went there and even in the Championship, it’s now viewed as a club that’s going in the right direction.”
Robertson is currently weighing up his next move. The midfielder is open to the idea of moving away from Scotland, but he insists he has no clue as yet where he will end up. Despite entering his thirties, he is in no mood for winding down at his next club.
“It’s all still up in the air,” he said. “I’ve known for a little longer than I’ve let on that I was going to be leaving Hibs but I’ve got no idea where I’m going next. I’ve got a few good clubs in England that are interested and I’m hoping to hear soon if there will be any offers from them. I’m quietly optimistic about what lies ahead. I’m 30 now, but I’d still like to think I’ve got a few years left at a decent level. I had a good season last year where I played over 40 games and only missed one or two through injury so I think I’ve got a few good years left wherever I go next.”
Wherever he goes next, Robertson will arrive full of confidence. As well as rediscovering his mojo over the past year, the Dundonian has also found his scoring touch. As someone who considers himself an all-round central midfielder rather than simply an anchorman, he is hopeful of being able to flourish as an attacking force at his new club. “I enjoy getting forward and scoring goals, and it’s something I feel I could probably do a lot more of,” he said. “Last season I was playing in a relatively defensive position and even though I was in a midfield with a lot of more attacking midfielders, I still managed to get six goals, which is close to my best-ever tally of seven. If I wasn’t focusing on my defensive duties so much, I feel I could get forward more and score a lot more.”
Robertson was buoyed by the warmth he received from Hibs supporters when he announced on Twitter on Tuesday night that his time at the club was over. He knows he wasn’t always universally appreciated by the fans, but he viewed the widespread sense of disappointment at his departure as a sign that he had won many over. “There were a lot of positive, good luck messages that I was delighted to get,” he said. “It was quite touching, actually. I’m happy with the response I got because I didn’t always get positive tweets in my time at Hibs so I must have done something right last season to turn around their opinions.”