Harry Clarke happy to play anywhere as Hibs plot season resurrection at Hampden
Harry Clarke gives a wry smile as he addresses the fact that his former club Ross County made it into the top half of the Scottish Premiership when Hibs did not.
“I don’t have any regrets in football,” he insists.
“These things happen and that’s football. I don’t think I’ve made the wrong decision.
"They did well and we didn’t get the results we wanted and I think we deserve to be in the bottom six. It will probably happen again in the future if I move clubs – if I could tell the future I would.”
Ultimately, Clarke to join Hibs to increase his chances of playing in big matches and lifting silverware. Should Hibs win the cup, it would certainly vindicate his decision.
“Coming to a club like this, that is potentially winning cups is something I want. I want to win cups and to play in these games is the reason why I play football.”
The on-loan Arsenal defender has only just turned 21 but speaks with the experience and authority of a more senior player. That he has been put forward ahead of such an important game hints at his standing in the dressing room.
Hibs boss Shaun Maloney wants leaders and big personalities in his team and Clarke very much fits the bill.
He had a hand in Hibs’ goal last weekend, playing a smart ball through to Drey Wright whose deflected shot beat Craig Gordon, but he wants his side to put in a more complete performance at Hampden after dissecting the dismal defeat at the start of this week.
“We had quality in the first half-hour last week to put the game to bed because we had chances. We have loads of quality in the squad and a good bunch of boys and we need to show it,” he adds.
“All we could think about this week is getting a reaction. The mood in the camp has been very good; I think we have learned from last week and we will take that into this week.”
If Clarke and Hibs have identified precisely where Hearts got the upper hand, they are keeping their cards close to their chest.
“We are not sure if it was momentum – you can’t dominate an entire 90 minutes of a game – but we have to put it right this weekend because it can’t happen again.
“We definitely need to take confidence from the first 30 minutes. I thought we were all over them and they only had one chance in the first half-hour.
“We have to do that for a longer period of time and then we have to see it out.”
It seems simple, really, but football is rarely a simple game. Clarke dismisses any suggestion that the Hibs players downed tools at Tynecastle, however.
“I don’t think anyone wasn’t competing – nobody threw in the towel or anything like that.
“It was that they came out on top in duels where we should have done better. Experience plays a part but it is still a man-on-man football match.
“Yes, we could have been cleverer in a few things; we weren’t, and we hope to do it this weekend.”
Clarke will almost certainly start for Hibs at the national stadium and could well continue in the left-wingback position he has held in his first two appearances in green and white.
For a player who began life as a striker and played two different roles for the Staggies, it is a quirk that he doesn’t mind.
“As long as I am on the pitch then I don’t really care – I don’t want to go in goal, but any other position I wouldn’t really care about,” he grins.
To call him a utility man would be doing him a disservice, but he carries a goal threat and defensive strength, and in his first showings for Hibs has scored one and set up another. Imagine what position Hibs might be in had he not been injured for three months.
“I moved to Ross County as a centre-back, I then moved to full-back and now I am playing as wing-back. I am slowly getting up the pitch and I might be a striker in a few weeks.
"It has been a really good season apart from the injury,” he says. “After that it would be amazing if we could end it with the cup final and a win. We have to do the business at the weekend.”
Clarke had only been in the door a matter of days before sustaining an injury in a bounce game. After an eye-catching first half of the season in Dingwall, it was frustrating for him to be watching Hibs from afar, as he continued his rehab at his parent club.
“It is very hard to watch when you know you should be in the team or at least helping the squad or in the environment. I managed to watch every game apart from the Aberdeen one and cheered them on,” he recalls.
Whatever role Clarke fulfils in Mount Florida, Hibs will hope he can continue the impact he has had since returning to fitness. It will be the biggest game he has played in since, well, last weekend.
“I’ve played in the FA Cup with Oldham but apart from that I was on pre-season with Arsenal but that doesn’t really count,” he shrugs.
Saturday does count, however. For Clarke, for the club, for the fans.
“We still have the last five league games and we will obviously do as well as we can. This is a good chance not to write off everything that has happened but to have a really good end to the season, win a cup, and get Europe,” he finishes.
If that confidence and belief can spread throughout the team come 12.15pm on Easter Saturday, Hibs should have a fighting chance of resurrecting their season.