Hibs’ Cup-winning defence take first steps into coaching

Paul Hanlon
Paul Hanlon
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Hibs’ five-man Scottish Cup-winning defence – David Gray, Darren McGregor, Paul Hanlon, Liam Fontaine and Lewis Stevenson – spent part of last week’s international break together on a course at Broadwood as they kicked off their quest to earn their coaching badges.

Hanlon was the youngest member of this Easter Road quintet who went through the first phase of obtaining their UEFA B Licence. The 27-year-old centre-back hopes to have plenty more years ahead of him as a player, but he has harboured a long-term desire to try his hand at coaching, with a view to giving himself such an option for the day he eventually hangs up his boots.

“It’s just the baby steps just now, but I’ve always said I’d do the badges,” said Hanlon. “Probably the easiest part is getting the badges but it doesn’t mean you’ll be a good coach. It’s probably something you’d have to work at over a number of years. It’s something I’d be interested in but whether I’d be good at it, I don’t know yet because I’ve not done enough of it. I’ve started fairly early but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do, especially now the courses run through the international break. The last few years we’ve not had international breaks because we’ve been in the Championship, but this felt like the ideal time to get started.”

If Hanlon does venture into management in future, he wouldn’t be short of inspiration and influence, having played under eight different bosses, from Mixu Paatelainen right through to Neil Lennon, the current incumbent, since breaking into Hibs’ first team almost a decade ago.

Asked what aspect of Lennon’s management he would be most inclined to draw on, Hanlon said: “First and foremost, it would be how passionate he is about his work, and that’s something that definitely rubs off on the team. In every training session and every match, he’s passionate and wants to be the best, so that’s something I’d definitely want to take into my coaching career.”

Hanlon has enjoyed working under the ultra-demanding Lennon over the past 14 months and is thrilled that the Northern Irishman this week finalised a contract which commits him to Easter Road until 2020.

“It’s a great move for the whole club to get the manager signed up long term,” said the defender. “It gives us a good bit of stability for the next few years so hopefully we can continue the way we’re going. With the demands he’s got every day on the players and the whole club, hopefully it will take it us as high possible.

“Everyone can see the demands he puts on everyone at the club. He wants the best for us and he wants us to produce our best every day in training. We’ve had to adapt to that and keep our standards as high as possible, and I think that’s going to be good in the long run. He’s got that big club mentality and he wants to bring it here and keep it here for the next few years. He’s very ambitious and wants to be the best so it’s a compliment to Hibs that he feels he can fulfil what he wants to fulfil at this club. We’re delighted he’s staying.”

Lennon hasn’t been slow to tear into his players whenever they have fallen below his expectations. Hanlon has no problem with the manager venting his anger when he sees fit. “Personally, that’s the way I want my manager to be – that’s what gets the best out of me,” he said. “Knowing that even if you do something right ten times, if you do it wrong once, he’s going to tell you – that’s the way I want to be coached and probably the way I perform best. Even when he has a go, it’s never in a bad way. It’s always to get the best out of you because, if you’ve made an error, it’s because he knows you’re capable of better. The boys know that if he is having a go or being demanding, it’s only because he wants the best for us.”

Hanlon has praised Hibs for resisting Nottingham Forest’s efforts to lure Scotland midfielder John McGinn away from the club, with three bids declined before the transfer window closed nine days ago.

“It takes a lot for a club to be strong when the money’s on offer. There’s not a lot of money in Scottish football but it shows the ambition the club has got now that they can say no to big sums of money and hopefully get the benefits on the pitch throughout the season,” said Hanlon. “We were obviously delighted to keep John. You can see his quality every week. He drives us on from the middle of the pitch and does every part of the game well. He’ll drive us forward and create chances and he’s not scared to work hard and get back and help us. He’s a massive player for us.”