Paul Hanlon has warned his Hibs colleagues to be ready for a battle when they face rampant St Johnstone in Perth this afternoon.
Tommy Wright’s team are renowned for their tigerish work ethic and have made a strong start to the season, with three wins and a draw – away to Celtic – in their opening four Premiership fixtures.
Hanlon knows that to have any chance of imposing themselves on Saints and ending their unbeaten start, every Hibs player will have to be prepared to dig deep and do the dirty side of the game effectively.
“It’s a massively tough game,” said the defender. “No matter how well you’re playing or what stage of the season it is, you’re always going to get a tough game at St Johnstone. First and foremost, you’ve got to try and win the battle and then try and play the football we know we can. It’s going to be a really difficult game, especially the way they’ve started the season.”
Today’s match pits Hanlon against a couple of former Hibs colleagues in David Wotherspoon and Liam Craig. Hanlon came through the ranks at Easter Road with fellow 27-year-old Wotherspoon but the midfielder left to join Saints four years ago and has gone on to make more than 150 appearances for his hometown team. “We where in the same age-group, so it’s great to see him doing well up there. He’s doing great. He’s a really good footballer. When he’s full of confidence and playing well, he’s unplayable at times. He can do things not many players can do, so he’s definitely a player we’ll have to watch out for and keep quiet.
“He did well in spells at Hibs and then maybe had a dip in form but he was younger then – we’ve all gone through those stages. Now he’s found a club in St Johnstone where he’s comfortable and the fans love him. He’s done well every season.”
Craig played for Hibs for two seasons and was captain for a spell before returning to Saints in 2015. “Liam’s a great professional,” said Hanlon. “I got on really well with him and I still speak to him quite regularly. I’ll enjoy catching up with the two of them after the game but hopefully we’ll have done the business first.”