Faithful Youan believes in God, good friends - and his status as fastest in Hibs squad
As a man of faith, Elie Youan is blessed with a couple of absolute certainties that act as a bedrock in his life, among them his belief that even the darkest times can be endured in hope of a better day. The example of fellow true believer Jair Tavares merely emphasises the importance of staying anchored when your world seems to be falling apart.
And the other great conviction held close to his heart? That, in a flat-out foot race with team-mate Martin Boyle, far and away “the craziest person I’ve ever met”, the fleet-footed and quick-witted Socceroos star would not emerge victorious.
The Frenchman laughs when asked to compare his pace to that of Boyle, insisting there had been no need for a direct head-to-head contest out at East Mains to settle the issue. Who is faster? He’s almost insulted by the question.
“Me of course,” said Youan. “It’s me, of course. He knows, if you ask him, he will tell you!
“Martin’s such a guy, he is crazy, probably the craziest person I’ve met in my life. It’s good to work with him, we don’t need to talk too much. He is fast, quick like me, and since the first game we’ve played together there is a natural connection. I enjoy a lot to play with him, to give him assists. It’s good for the team of course.
“He is unpredictable; sometimes he can go in the changing room and is screaming, you never know what he is thinking in his mind. He is crazy, he is funny.
“Of course, he is older than me - and it’s always good to learn from players who are older than yourself. And he is a legend here.
“In football it’s good to have pace, a good strength for us. When we play against the other teams in the league, even when we play against Celtic or Rangers, I think they are scared of this. It’s a very good ability; we just want to work on it and take that advantage with this strength.”
Youan is a player who seems to think deeply about not just the game, but life in general. Whether he’s talking about his own tendency to zone out during games, or expressing his support for a pal on the wrong end of a raw deal, the 24-year-old always appears to be giving a considered answer.
He’s a close friend of Tavares, who this week opened up about the mental devastation caused by his treatment under former manager Lee Johnson, who signed the Portuguese youngster, talked up his prospects and then, after deciding he didn’t fancy the winger’s talents, exiled him to play in bounce games with the kids. Youan, who bonded with his team-mate because they can both speak a bit of Spanish, believes he knows what got Tavares through those tough times.
“Jair has always been a friend for me here,” said the former Nantes attacker. “I knew he was sad. When you don’t play, you’re not happy.
“He’s religious, he believes in God, so he has always been calm about it. He waited for his time and now his time is coming.
“I’m happy to see him playing and play well. It’s good for the team as well to have Jair with us.”
Pressed on the importance of faith in the process, Youan revealed: “I’m religious as well. When you are religious then the difference … when you have a storm coming it is easier to get through the storm because you never panic. You always come out of it because you believe in something and are just waiting for your time.”
Out on the pitch, Youan has endured as tempestuous a time as any Hibs player during a season of turmoil. Following the arrival of Nick Montgomery in place of the axed Johnson, however, he’s learning to address one obvious flaw in his game.
Explaining that he understands why Monty felt compelled to talk to him about his focus – or lack of focus – on game day, he confessed: “Sometimes I’m not in the game for three seconds maybe. But that’s enough to concede a goal or miss a pass. Now the next step for me is to stay focused on the game from the first to last minute.
“I’m still on my way. I’m not at my peak yet. I have to work on the defensive stuff if I want to get where I want to go. I’m still enjoying it. I have scored a couple of goals and got a couple of assists.
“The manager told me to stay focused from the first minute to the last. To be involved in the game and make the defensive stuff as well because I’m a good striker, I have a good side attacking but the defensive side is a bit less.
“I have to improve on this side. I know he’s right. I can tackle and cover - I just have to do it now.”