CJ Egan-Riley anticipating 'different tests' at Hibs as he makes Burnley claim
When you’ve come up through the Manchester City youth ranks and made your senior debut in the Champions League before joining Burnley, a midweek game in Dingwall might be a harsh wake-up call, especially with 40mph winds and horizontal rain.
Not for new Hibs signing CJ Egan-Riley, whose 78th-minute substitute appearance on Tuesday night marked his debut a little over 24 hours after he joined on loan for the remainder of the season. A versatile defensive player who is comfortable at centre-back, right-back, or as a sitting midfielder, he replaced Chris Cadden and slotted in well to the backline.
"I’ve never faced anything like that before,” he said, speaking after Yan Dhanda’s controversial goal direct from a corner kick cancelled out Élie Youan’s opener. “It was always the plan for me to leave later in the window anyway, if I was going out on loan. There were other options but I ended up at Hibs, it's a great club and I'm happy to be here. I'll get different tests as well and I'll also get more gametime and more minutes under my belt. I spoke to the manager here multiple times before signing and he laid out the plan for me as well which I was happy with."
Egan-Riley earned high praise from City boss Pep Guardiola after his debut and when it became clear he was looking for more regular football, former Etihad captain Vincent Kompany brought him to Turf Moor last summer. But with Burnley flying at the top of the English Championship table and the 20-year-old not involved as much as he would have hoped, he took the decision to head out on loan to keep things ticking over.
"Burnley has been great, I've learned so much and we're flying as a team and the manager's great, I just want to play more,” he explained. “It's nothing against Burnley, they've got great players and I've come here and I'm ready to give my all for Hibs. Vincent Kompany wished me all the best and even helped me by speaking to me about what move might be best for me and all that kind of stuff. He's a legend and a great manager so any advice I can get from him I'll take."
Having now had his first taste of Scottish football, Egan-Riley is keen to be involved at the weekend when Hibs travel to St Mirren. He filled in at right-back on Tuesday night but could well play elsewhere in Paisley if involved.
"To come on and make my debut and get a good 20 minutes was good, I'm more used to the conditions now and the playing surfaces and getting to know my team-mates as well. The result wasn't what we wanted but we have to keep pushing forward.
"We haven't clarified anything, the manager didn't tell me I'm definitely going to play in one position. He likes that I'm a versatile player and said he brought me in because of my quality more than the positional stuff. On Tuesday I was needed at right-back so if that's what he wants, that's what I'll do. The manager showed his faith in me by putting me on when we were drawing a game like that so it was a massive compliment for me.”