Élie Youan hopes to catch Rangers napping as Hibs forward declares confidence in the camp is high
Élie Youan insists Hibs believe they can beat Rangers on Wednesday night, pointing out that confidence is high after their 4-1 victory over Livingston on Saturday marked a seventh successive game without loss.
The French forward scored twice in the first half and engineered the Easter Road side’s third goal by launching a swift counter-attack. He now has five goals in five games and after a tricky start to life in the Capital, is now one of the team’s most potent threats. Getting a result at Livingston was just the start of a testing 10 days or so for Hibs in which they host Rangers in midweek before travelling to face Celtic a week on Saturday.
But Youan, who looks to be getting better with every game, insists a visit from the Light Blues holds no fears for Hibs.
“It’s important to win every week when you want to finish high in the league table. We were delighted with the Livingston result,” he said on Saturday. “I think it all comes down to small details. When I come to training, for example, I want to give the best version of myself every single time, during sessions and during games. I want to give my all for the team.
"You can see now how confident I am and as a team we are confident. That’s why I’m in good form now. We believe we can win against Rangers. We are the home team so let’s see what happens but we are confident – everything is possible in football. If you believe in yourself, you can do anything.”
It wasn’t so long ago that manager Lee Johnson appeared to be under a significant amount of pressure, especially after two 3-0 doings by Hearts. But Youan insists he didn’t ever get that impression – and says Hibs are not three points clear in fourth by chance.
“I speak to the manager every day and I don’t sense any pressure: he is always smiling. Of course, it’s hard to be a manager when you lose but he trusts us a lot and we also trust him. That’s why we are in fourth place and we deserve to be there. We’re not in this position by accident, it’s not random. We have worked hard and the biggest factor for me is our team spirit. We are united and we take that into our matches.
"The 6-0 win against Aberdeen [at Easter Road on January 28] created something in the changing room and now we are happy and chilled every day at the training ground but we also give everything – you need to have those two things together. It’s good for everyone. I think you are now seeing the true Hibernian. In my opinion, we have great potential as a side because we have young players but we also have older ones with experience – like David Marshall, Paul Hanlon, and Chris Cadden.”
He now has six goals and six assists in 26 appearances for Hibs – although both figures could and should be higher – and he has undoubtedly been one of the better performers signed in a summer window that Johnson and senior club figures have admitted could have been better. He’s also one of the few loan signings to have a concrete option to buy, assuming all parties are happy with the move, but is unsurprisingly remaining coy about his future for the time being.
“I’m focusing only on the next game and not really thinking about the future. There have been no discussions of that kind, we only talk about football – who we play next and what I can do to help the team, how I can progress, and be more clinical. I don’t talk about contracts because that’s not my business but you can see I’m happy here. I score goals and I get assists. I like Edinburgh a lot – it’s my home now."
There has been more pressure on Youan to produce the goods given long-term injuries to Aiden McGeady and Martin Boyle, and more recently, shorter-term issues affecting Mykola Kukharevych, Harry McKirdy, and Kevin Nisbet. On more than one occasion Johnson has lamented problems in attack in terms of goals scored, and available personnel.
But one gets the impression from talking to Youan that very little fazes him – including whether he takes up a role on the left, on the right, or leading the line. It might have been a surprise to see him shifted to the left flank to accommodate Matthew Hoppe as the lone frontman at the Tony Macaroni Arena, but it certainly worked.
“I just want to play, whether that’s on the left, right or in the centre,” the former Nantes youngster added. “I will play anywhere as long as it will help the team. I scored twice against Livingston coming from the left but I feel I can score from any position. The most important thing is that we win so I’m not really thinking too much about my position on the pitch.”
And about that interesting goal celebration…?
“I sleep a lot, I love sleeping! Whenever I have any free time, I go to sleep. I sleep for at least eight hours a night and then I nap for a couple of hours during the day. I sometimes have one at the training centre. On Saturday, I slept on the bus on the way to the stadium. I do that often and sometimes we arrive and I wake up and I’ve forgotten where we are. My team-mates tease me about it.”
The instruction ‘not to sleep on someone' can be used to describe an individual who shouldn’t be underestimated. Perhaps Youan’s celebrations are merely a warning to defenders in the cinch Premiership – because if he keeps up his current form, there could be more than a few opponents caught napping between now and the end of the season.