Hibs star Paul Hanlon has insisted he’ll emerge all the stronger from the experience of battling for months to avoid relegation.
No-one in Pat Fenlon’s squad has had more game time this season than the Scotland Under-21 skipper and while he admitted the struggle had taken its toll at times, Hanlon claimed it will stand him in good stead in years to come.
Admitting he’d rather not have suffered the travails of recent months, Hanlon said: “It’s been a tough, tough season but when I go on holiday and look back on it all I’ll be able to say it’s made me stronger as a player and a person and make me want to win all the more.
“It’s not easy when you are being criticised week after week, but all credit to the boys, they’ve been under pressure for weeks and come through it.”
Fenlon’s players finally secured their SPL status by condemning basement outfit Dunfermline to the First Division with a 4-0 hammering in what was only their second home win of the season but, while it allowed everyone to sigh with relief, Hanlon agreed the events of recent months won’t easily be forgotten.
He said: “When you are not winning games it’s hard to keep confidence up but we have come through it and, hopefully, in the coming season it will make us all stronger as a group.
“When you are at a big club like Hibs but you are down at the bottom there is always going to be criticism, it’s how you take it and respond. We know how tough it can be so, hopefully, we can improve next season and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Now Hanlon wants to maintain the momentum gained with those victories over Aberdeen and the Pars as they go into their final SPL match of the season against Inverness Caley this weekend – just seven days before their showdown with Capital rivals Hearts in the Scottish Cup final at Hampden.
Winning by a three-goal margin in the Highlands would give the Hibees a tenth-place finish at the expense of Terry Butcher’s side. Hanlon said: “If you start taking your foot off the gas it’s hard to get back up for the final.
“There’s another place at stake in the league if we go there and get a good result. We’ve won twice there this season so there’s no reason why we can’t do it again.”