Corridors of the One Call Stadium in Mansfield are the last place you would expect to hear Hearts-Hibs banter. Yet, surprisingly, the two Edinburgh clubs are a hot topic inside the Mansfield Town dressing room each day.
Former Hearts midfielder Adam King and Hibs’ 2016 Scottish Cup-winning goalkeeper Conrad Logan are team-mates there. They engage in daily wind-ups about their old clubs, with Logan apparently the chief tormentor.
King, on loan from Swansea City, is greeted each morning by different Hibs-related memorabilia and cuttings attached to his locker. Just last week, he arrived for training to be told by his goalkeeper it was “Conrad Logan Day” – two years exactly since the 32-year-old made his Hibs debut with a heroic Scottish Cup semi-final display at Hampden.
The jibes are well-received and King takes the opportunity for retribution when he can. Being part of such camaraderie is like a home from home for a player who left Hearts, and his native capital city, for Wales aged 18. He is now 22 and helping Mansfield’s play-off quest fuelled by the daily Hearts-Hibs joviality.
“I always get a good bit of banter with Conrad especially,” explained King. “He considers himself a Hibs fan. I think everyone who goes up there – whether they join Hearts, Hibs, Rangers, Celtic, whoever – doesn’t realise how big the clubs are.
“With Conrad playing in the Scottish Cup semi-final and final, he really enjoyed his time up there. He was going on at me last week that it was ‘Happy Conrad Logan Day’. I think it was the day he made his Hibs debut and they won that semi-final.
“I get it pretty much every day from Conrad. It’s non-stop. He pins Hibs things up on my locker and stuff like that. It’s all in good spirits and it’s good to be in amongst that kind of atmosphere. The main thing is to get competitive football on loan and that’s what I’m getting. It’s great to be in amongst professionals who have been there and done it at other clubs.”
King also has Zander Diamond, the former Aberdeen defender and one-time Hearts target, as a team-mate. Former Dundee forward Kane Hemmings is another Mansfield loanee familiar to those in Scotland.
The Scottish contingent are hoping to push Town into the League Two play-offs for a crack at promotion to League One. “I’ve really enjoyed it here,” said King. “You’re learning under new people in different leagues and getting competitive games. That’s why I love going out on loan. Hopefully I can experience a promotion as well. It’s a good standard of club and they spent a bit of money last summer with a view to getting up a league. Promotion through the play-offs is still within our grasp so that’s the aim.”
His Swansea contract runs until next summer so he will report to his parent club for pre-season training in July. The future beyond that is very much unclear.
“I’m not sure what will happen because it’s not been confirmed. Swansea have been fighting to stay in the Premier League recently so chances are difficult to come by. The best option for me in January was to go out on loan.
“They leave it up to you if you want to go somewhere and play games or stay to play with their Under-23s and try to push for the first team. That might come, or it might never come.
“I had conversations with coaches and Alan Curtis [Swansea’s Loan Player Manager] and decided to go on loan. There was a lot of interest from Steve Evans at Mansfield. He targeted me and had tracked me since I was at Hearts. I spoke to him on the phone during January and decided that was the best option for me.
“I’ve had three loan spells since I joined Swansea and I’ve learned different things under different people each time. The first one at Crewe went really well. That was my first taste of competitive football every week in League One. It was a good standard and you’re learning from every training session and every game.
“Then I went to Southend under Phil Brown. I didn’t play as much as I would have liked there, but you’re still learning and training under these managers. Mansfield has also been a great learning curve.”
Evans left to join Peterborough last month, with David Flitcroft taking charge of Mansfield’s promotion tilt. King couldn’t allow the unexpected change to derail his attempts to impress watching Swansea coaches. He has a plan in mind.
“I think it’s a case of going back in the summer and hopefully getting on the pre-season tour with the first team. Then I’ll take it from there,” said the midfielder. “I’m not sure what’s going to come, whether it will be another loan spell or if I’ll stay at Swansea. Whatever happens, I’ve had a good grounding at Swansea. I’ve learned some priceless things since I moved there at the age of 18.
“That’s what Garry Monk used to tell me. ‘Whatever happens in your career, being around the first team here will be a great grounding for the future.’ Hopefully I can do that next season and push on. The ideal situation would be to get another contract at Swansea. Whether I do that via another loan spell or getting a chance in the first team and taking it.”
A return to Scotland at some stage is possible. “I’ve got a year left on my contract down here and it’s all positive coming from Swansea. The moment that changes, I’d have to re-evaluate things. I speak to Alan Curtis weekly so things are looking well. Coming back up to Scotland isn’t something I’d rule out in the future.”