After the media calls, new kit unveilings and general excitement at signing for his boyhood club, Danny Swanson got down to the real work of being a Hibs player this week as Neil Lennon’s squad returned for pre-season training.
The midfielder trained with his team-mates for the first time since making the switch to Leith after his St Johnstone contract expired in the summer. While Swanson freely admits the intense conditioning work that pre-season brings isn’t his strong suit, knowing he is fulfilling a lifelong dream has made the prospect of the gruelling summer running far more bearable than in previous seasons.
“Yeah I am,” replied the 30-year-old when asked if he was looking forward to getting on to the East Mains training pitch. “I don’t really look forward to coming back from my holidays but I have been knowing I’m coming here and I’m excited. I never really look forward to pre-season – it’s not really my forte – but was looking forward to meeting the boys and pulling the jersey on. It’s a massive thing for me and I’m really excited for it.”
Swanson also linked up with his old mate Darren McGregor for the first time in a professional capacity. Both Leith lads, the two have been close since their school days, and McGregor’s passion for the club, never mind his own, is what partly convinced Swanson he had to make the move to Easter Road.
“I didn’t play with Darren before turning pro. He was a wee bit older than me but we played for the same club, Leith Athletic,” Swanson explained. “We hung about with each other and Darren was a bit crazy! He’s turned out unbelievably well considering because he was bad, like! He went to high school and then kind of just changed, stuck in and deserves everything he’s got. He’s worked really hard and he’s a great guy.
“Darren was actually at my wee boy’s party and when you speak to him about it, he loves the club and you can just feel it and you’re like ‘aye, alright Darren’ ... But then I spoke to him at the party and he said ‘you’ll regret it if you never do it’ and having that wee conversation with him sort of sent it home for me. I’m not going to lie, I was a wee bit jealous of him going up to lift the Scottish Cup with Hibs. Obviously I was delighted for him as well but there was a wee bit of jealousy there.”
Did Swanson pester his pal to put a word in with Neil Lennon? “I was saying to him ‘go speak to your manager!’ but thankfully it all worked out in the end. I’m delighted and looking forward to paying with him as well.”
Now comes the business of proving Lennon’s decision to bring Swanson ‘home’ was a good one. The Hibs boss has gone on record that he feels his team should be challenging for second spot in the Ladbrokes Premiership. While Swanson didn’t go into such specifics, he was glad to hear his manager aiming high.
“It’s something I’m delighted he’s come out and said,” admitted the former Dundee United man. “I’m not here to just finish in the top six. It would still be an achievement if we do that, but I’m a very ambitious person as well. This club deserves to be up there and over the years it hasn’t been. There’s been a lot of bad times at Hibs, but there’s a good feel about it at the moment. Everybody’s buying season tickets that I know and it’s just a club on the up.”
The Ladbrokes Premiership fixtures were set to be announced today, and there are no prizes for guessing that Swanson will immediately be marking down when he’ll be facing his former Tynecastle team-mates in his first Edinburgh derby.
“I can’t wait,” he enthused. “I’m looking forward to it because I’ve still got a lot of friends at Hearts. Its something you dream about as a kid, isn’t it? Darren has done it and now I want to do it now.”
Does he trust himself to ‘keep the heid’ given his previous? “I think I’ve done that every time I’ve played Hearts apart from when I got sent off [Swanson was a shown a straight red card for a foul on Eggert Jonsson in March 2009] the second time I played them,” he recalled. “That was just through being a daft young boy and I got well told by [then United manager] Craig Levein after that. Ever since then I’ve channelled it in the right ways and I’ve always done well against Hearts, so hopefully that continues.”