Of all the iconic photographs which adorn the East Mains training centre walls chronicling Hibs’ history, there was one which immediately caught the eye of Chris Dagnall as he contemplated a move to the club.
And it was one which every Hibs fan will happily recall, big Rob Jones powering through the Hampden snow to set the Edinburgh club on their way to League Cup glory with a 5-1 demolition of Kilmarnock.
Nearly nine years have passed since that memorable day but that image of Jones, pictured right, remains vivid and now, in a strange twist of fate, Dagnall and his team-mates of today again find St Johnstone and a visit to Tynecastle standing between them and this season’s final.
Dagnall has been made well aware that Hibs haven’t lifted a trophy since Jones, with whom he later played at Scunthorpe, held the then CIS Insurance Cup aloft, prompting that emotional rendition of Sunshine on Leith.
Now, of course, he’d love to have the chance to enjoy a repeat of that day in 2007, the 29-year-old saying: “I know big Rob well, he was a great lad and a great player at Scunthorpe.
“He talked a bit about being Hibs captain when they won the cup and I’ve seen that photograph of him scoring the opening goal. But the staff and the lads have told me how long they’ve been waiting for another cup success so hopefully we can progress to the final and give them what they want.”
Next Saturday’s trip to Gorgie will be the first of two visits to Tynecastle in the space of just eight days, Hibs returning the following weekend to take on arch-rivals Hearts in the Scottish Cup, two games which the much-travelled Dagnall admits are as much anticipated within the dressing-room as they are among the fans.
But the most important match is today’s Championship clash with St Mirren, one in which it is vital to take all three points given their cup activity over the following fortnight will present other sides with the chance to take advantage in terms of the league.
The striker said: “We were a bit disappointed at Falkirk. We felt we dropped points because in the last ten to 15 minutes we could have taken all three. After today we’re going to have two weekends when we are involved in the cups which is great but other teams will be in league action looking to put a bit of pressure on us.”
Today’s match will be Dagnall’s first at home and it will be his only Easter Road experience until Alloa travel to Edinburgh in the middle of next month.
He said: “I’ve been here three or four weeks now so I’ve had to wait a while for this game so I’m really looking forward to it. The lads have been telling me the fans have given them great support all season and that was evident when I made my debut against Raith Rovers at Stark’s Park when abut 3500 of them were there and again last week at Falkirk.
“I haven’t played at home yet, but I’ve been to a couple of games at Easter Road so I know what it’s all about.”
With Anthony Stokes having signed on loan this week, Dagnall knows the competition for places up front is perhaps even more intense than it was when he first arrived at the club, the realisation he was one of eight strikers vying for a jersey leading him to joke that he should perhaps have had a look at Hibs’ website before putting pen to paper.
But he is relishing the challenge, well aware of Stokes’ goalscoring record and the fact that many Hibs fans will expect to see the Republic of Ireland internationalist teamed up with top scorer Jason Cummings.
He said: “Jason has scored plenty all season, he’s done really well and hopefully that continues for the rest of the season. To have scored 17 following on from the number he scored last season is brilliant and I’m sure if he gets 25 or 30 he will be over the moon.
“And, of course, everyone up here has heard of Anthony Stokes. He’s a good player looking to get a run of games and get back among the goals. It’s no surprise to me that the gaffer has gone out and brought in another striker. That’s football and I’ve been in the game enough to realise that.
“The manager wants really good competition for places. That’s what he is aiming for and that is what he has got. But the dressing-room is a very happy place. That’s always the case when a team is doing as well as we are. All the boys know they have to be on top of their game in training every day if they want to keep their place.”
Having started against Raith, Dagnall found himself on the bench at Falkirk but he has his fingers crossed he gets a taste of the action today to give him the chance to put one over on former Hearts defender Andy Webster, the veteran now a stalwart in the Buddies’ side.
He said: “I was on loan at Coventry when Andy was there. He’s a good lad and I enjoyed playing with him, but I’d love to get a goal against him today.”