Danny Handling on the Edinburgh City home truths he needed to hear and why he will keep making on-loan Hibs team mate angry
The former Hibs attacker has played a pivotal role in helping steer City towards the brink of promotion to League One with this week’s two-legged tie against Dumbarton the final obstacle to navigate.
Indeed, he scored the first in the 2-2 draw with Elgin in last week’s semi-final that saw the club progress 3-2 on aggregate.
Jim Duffy brings his Sons side to Ainslie Park for tonight’s first leg before the return leg at the Rock on Thursday, and for 27-year-old Handling, it’s an opportunity, he admits, he might not have been afforded had he not raised his performance levels.
“I think I’ve really come onto a game in the last few weeks,” Handling told the Evening News. “I had a really honest chat with the new manager when he came in and he outlined what I needed to improve on.
“I didn’t start the first game under his watch and I was thinking maybe it’s not going to go as well as I’d hoped. The gaffer did say if I didn’t work on a few things then I wouldn’t play as much as I’d like. But I think I’ve really worked hard and got my head down since the league got going again and that has shown in the number of games that I’ve played and my performances. I’ve really enjoyed it.
“The gaffer is an honest guy. He wears his heart on his sleeve and that’s all you want as a footballer. I probably needed it if I’m being honest because I probably got a bit too comfortable when James (McDonaugh) was in charge because I’ve known him for such a long time having been with him at Hibs.”
It took an 88th-minute wonder strike from Josh Campbell to seal the club’s place in this week’s final. But Handling, who played for Dumbarton in the Championship in 2017, revealed he has been taking some of the credit in the changing room for the on-loan Hibs midfielder’s late show.
“Josh actually admitted to me after the game that he shot out of anger because we’d had a wee argument during the game,” he explained. “If things aren’t going my way on the pitch and I feel someone has done something wrong or chosen the wrong option, then I tend to vent my frustrations and I can be quite aggressive. I made him angry so if that’s what it takes for him to produce the goods then I’ll keep doing it!
“There’s no better feeling than winning a game of football, particularly when there is so much at stake. I’ve been involved in a few play-offs and relegations so I know what it takes and means to go up and down so, from a personal point of view, I don’t want to let the club down. We all want to get promoted and I’m no different to anyone else.
“I don’t have a good record in play-offs with Hibs, Raith and Berwick so I’m determined to put that right. I’m really happy at Edinburgh City and perhaps I took my earlier career as a full-time footballer for granted.”