Hibs defender Paul Hanlon heads sleepless into battle

Paul Hanlon helps launch Hibs' season ticket campaign for the 2018-19 season. Fans should visit www.hibernianfc.co.uk for more details
Paul Hanlon helps launch Hibs' season ticket campaign for the 2018-19 season. Fans should visit www.hibernianfc.co.uk for more details
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Paul Hanlon spent an anxious Friday night awaiting the arrival of his first child and then a fretful Saturday afternoon trying to keep tabs on how his team-mates were doing at Kilmarnock.

Having not got home until the early hours of that morning, the Hibs defender knew he was in no fit state to travel to Rugby Park for a game kicking off at lunchtime.

Instead, he was back at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh at the bedside of his wife Danielle and the new arrival, a son for whom they have yet to decide upon a name, and finding his attempts to keep up with events in Ayrshire stymied by a poor mobile phone signal in the hospital.

Mum, son and proud dad are home together now but, admitted Hanlon, he’s quickly learning just what having a new-born baby in the house means.

He said: “The last couple of nights have seen plenty of broken sleep – not what I’m used to. But it’s all been worth it. He’s my first baby and it’s all gone well after a tough time with the labour.

“He arrived Friday night but doesn’t have a name yet but hopefully we’ll get that sorted in the next couple of days. Danielle had quite a long labour, starting about half-past four on Thursday afternoon and finishing on Friday night.

“There was no sleep at all or eating during that time, just grinding through with her. I didn’t get back in the house until around 1.30am on Saturday so when it came to an early kick-off against Kilmarnock I wouldn’t have been in any fit state to play.

“I tried to leave it as late as possible, but I had to text the physio to say there’s no way I could do it, especially getting through to Kilmarnock. You don’t want to let anyone down.

“I never even watched the game. I was in the post-natal ward with her and the wee man all day. I was trying to keep an eye on it, but the signal in the hospital wasn’t great. I was struggling to keep up with the scores – there was me never off my phone and she’s in pain and can’t get out of her bed ...

“But we get an email at night with the extended highlights from the club so I caught up with it then although I knew how the game had gone as my dad had told me about it when he and my mum came up to visit. Danielle and the baby got home no Sunday night. He is fine and she is recovering well so all is good. I was just glad to have them home.

“I was back in training on Monday and the manager was congratulating me and asking me all about it – although I haven’t asked for my two weeks’ paternity leave yet!

“By all accounts, speaking to the lads, we did not play as well as well as we could have and, having had a two goal lead, you are disappointed not to have taken all three points. Hopefully, though, we can look back at the end of the season and say it was a good point.”

The draw with Killie did pull Hibs slightly closer to third-placed Aberdeen and just that little bit further away from Capital rivals Hearts and, insisted Hanlon, he and his team-mates have their eyes firmly fixed on those sides ahead of them rather than looking over their shoulder.

He said: “Chipping away at Aberdeen and Rangers has to be the aim. There is no point looking behind you. We need to look above us. We have a good run of fixtures coming up before the split, they are coming thick and fast and we are coming into the final stretch of the season.

“Once the split comes, we are all playing each other and you have a chance to push on – I don’t see any reason why we can’t.”

Tonight’s visit from Hamilton gives Neil Lennon’s players another opportunity to maintain the impressive league form they have shown since the winter break but, conceded Hanlon, Accies have proved to be something of a bogey side for Hibs this season, winning 3-1 at Easter Road and then coming from behind to snatch a 1-1 draw at their own ground.

Martin Canning’s outfit will also be travelling not only buoyed by the memory of that day in August but the way in which they ended a run of five straight defeats with a last-minute winner, courtesy of former Hearts winger David Templeton, against Partick Thistle at the weekend.

Hanlon said: “Hopefully, I’m back in for this one and can kick on for the rest of the season. Hamilton beat us earlier in the season, we had a terrible second half, but away from home we played really well. They only had one shot on target and scored it so we deserved to win that game. Hopefully, we can put that right tonight.”

Ryan Porteous was again asked to deputise at Rugby Park, the 18-year-old having taken over only a couple of weeks earlier when injury prevented both Hanlon and Darren McGregor from playing at Ibrox. Many feared the worst as Porteous made his first start in the Premiership, forming a makeshift backline along-side Efe Ambrose and Lewis Stevenson but the youngster earned himself the man-of-the-match accolade with a performance well beyond his years as Hibs defeated Rangers for a second time this season on their own turf.

And the boy from Dalkeith impressed once more on Saturday, powering home a header to give the Capital side a two-goal lead in only nine minutes after Swiss striker Florian Kamberi had fired them ahead in less than 30 seconds.

Hanlon said: “I hadn’t had a Saturday off all season and then I miss two in three weeks. But Ryan is doing great and is putting real pressure on the more experienced boys to get in the team.

“Hopefully, he keeps progressing. I’ve said to him he’s 18 and looking back at myself at that age, I was playing at left-back, I hadn’t even started playing centre-half. He’s a good bit ahead of me in terms of development in that position at his age.”

Porteous is the current Scotland Under-19 captain just as Hanlon was in his younger days, and, insisted the 28-year-old, he’s already showing signs of being a real leader.

He said: “Ryan puts his body on the line, he is fearless and has that confidence you need as a young player coming through.

“It’s even tougher as a centre-half and a lot of managers are reluctant to play younger players in that position but he has shown he can handle it. I’m sure he’ll have a massive future here and there is no doubt in my mind he can definitely push on from here.”