Callum Crane feels he’s landed on his feet after parachuting out of Hibs and straight into another Premiership club.
Having been unable to make the breakthrough into the first team despite being on the fringes for the past few years, the 22-year-old left-back was braced for the likelihood of dropping down a level or two when it was decided, following discussions between club and player in January, that he would be departing Easter Road this summer.
However, Livingston, then a Championship side, took a shine to him after his impressive form on loan at League One promotion winners Alloa Athletic last season, and the West Lothian club maintained their interest after they’d secured an unlikely ascent to the Premiership with a play-off final victory over Partick Thistle last month. Even the recent departure of Lions manager David Hopkin hasn’t proved to be a spanner in the works for Crane, who sealed his move to the Lions on a two-year contract earlier this week. Not bad for a player whose first-team exposure for Hibs was restricted – largely due to the consistency of fellow left-back Lewis Stevenson – to one Irn-Bru Cup start against Turriff United and a second-half substitute appearance in a Championship match against Dunfermline Athletic 15 months ago.
“It’s a great chance to start showcasing myself in the Premiership because I never really got a chance at Hibs,” Crane told the Evening News. “I feel confident about it. I know it’ll be tough but you can’t go into the Premiership not believing in yourself. I’m going to a club where I know that if I do well I’ll get a game, whether that’s at left-back or in a different position.
“I’m delighted to get the move over the line because it had been in the pipeline for a few months. I never thought Livingston would be a Premiership team when I first started talking to them but I watched them in the play-off games and they full deserved it. When they got promoted, I was hoping my move would still be on, and thankfully it was, and now it’s done and dusted. I don’t think the manager leaving hindered the move at all – it all seemed to go quite smoothly. It’s a great move for me. It’s going to be a good challenge for us being in with Rangers, Celtic, Hearts, Hibs and Aberdeen. Every game’s going to be tough.”
A boyhood Hibs supporter who joined the club aged 12, Crane was always highly regarded while coming through the ranks and has been on the fringes of the first team for the past few years. Ultimately, the consistent form and durability of Stevenson has meant Hibs have had no real requirement for a back-up left-back during Crane’s time on the waiting list. Entering a period where he needed to be playing regularly, the Edinburgh boy knew he could hang around Easter Road no longer.
“I don’t think there was a time when I felt I had a real chance of breaking in,” said Crane. “I had Lewis Stevenson in front of me and he’s not an easy person to get out of the team. I knew I was around the first-team squad but I never really felt as though I was going to break into the team at any point. I think that was more to do with Lewis’s form because he was so consistent and his work rate is always 100 per cent. It was nothing to do with anything I was doing wrong – it was just that there was no reason for the manager to drop Lewis. It was very frustrating. I was full-time for four years and I had a player in front of me who had played well for that entire time. What else is annoying is that he is the nicest guy in football so you can’t really have a bad word to say about him. It was frustrating but I couldn’t really complain about it.
“Even after coming on against Dunfermline last season, I didn’t necessarily think I’d be in the team the following week. Hibs were short of defenders that day and it was just nice to get on at Easter Road and make my league debut. After that, I wasn’t looking too far ahead.
“I’ve no regrets because I gave it as long as I could to try and break in. If I wanted to sit on the bench or play for the reserves, I could probably have signed for another year at Hibs but if I wanted to get first-team football I knew I’d probably have to leave. I had a chat with Hibs in January and told them I wanted first-team football. I knew I wasn’t likely to get that at Hibs, so we came to an agreement that I’d move on this summer. Hibs said they’d help me as much as they could to find a new team and they’ve done that with Livingston. I’m a Hibs supporter which makes it a bit harder but that doesn’t mean I can’t leave to try and further my career somewhere else. I don’t regret leaving. I’m happy to have a fresh start.”
Despite his lack of first-team action, Crane has no hard feelings about the way his time at Hibs panned out. “It was all positive at Hibs,” he said. “I know I never got into the first team but I learned a lot from training with all the good players at Hibs over the last four years. I learned a lot from Neil Lennon after he came in and I learned a lot from being out on loan at Alloa last season and helping them get promotion. I’m thankful to Hibs for everything they’ve done for me but I’m looking forward to playing for Livingston in the Premiership now and hopefully doing as well as I did at Alloa.”