How Hibs' Scott Allan is getting on at Inverness - and why there should be genuine excitement
Up in the Highlands, Inverness are rising under Neil McCann – and one player in particular is going from strength to strength.
That player is Scott Allan with the Hibs loanee rebuilding his career after it almost ended due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a heart condition that affects roughly one in every 500 people.
Allan left Hibs on March 27 to sign on loan with the Caley Jags until the end of the season. He had made some sporadic appearances from the Hibees’ subs bench earlier in the year after being sidelined for five months. Being back on the pitch was huge, but to get back to anywhere close to his previous levels, he needed to play week in, week out. With Hibs gunning for European football and competition for midfield slots high, a temporary transfer made sense for the 29-year-old, if not Hibs boss Jack Ross, who wanted to keep him to enhance his options but understood Allan’s need to play.
McCann worked with Allan previously at Dundee. He knew what he was getting, a creative midfielder who can split defences with one pass, an intelligent operator who buzzes around between opposition defence and midfield, looking to be a kingmaker for his forwards. Until Friday night, Caley had not lost with Allan in their team, such has been his impact.
Friday night, though, was a seismic moment for Allan – who is also type-1 diabetic. He completed his first 90 minutes for 14 months, the last time ironically being against Inverness on February 20, 2020 in Hibs’ colours. It was his fifth outing for Caley – his fourth start – and McCann has been shrewdly and carefully managing his game-time, starting with 65 minutes, then 75, then 80, before giving the former Dundee United kid the full match.
‘I need to protect him’
McCann spoke passionately about Allan in the aftermath of losing 2-1 to St Mirren in the Scottish Cup. “I am delighted for the boy,” he said. “He received the medical news that he had to step off and then he got some really good counter medical advice that he could get back to action.
“He hasn’t finished any games but I don’t think that was through fatigue. I need to protect him.
“He hadn’t started a game since August but tonight he still looked fresh. They moved Richard Tait in to man-mark him because he was really pulling the strings and starting to find space. That gives him a lot of confidence.”
Inverness are going to have a barnstorming end to the season. While their position in the Championship play-offs is far from secure, with three games left and in such good form, they should be involved. McCann is working wonders. His team play attractive football and can batten down the hatches when needed to. It is clear he has constructed his team around Allan. They were the only real show in town when it came to signing him. While Dundee did show some interest, they did not step up when it mattered. Considering James McPake’s men are fighting Caley for the play-off spots and face them on Tuesday night, that might come back to bite the Dees.
How does Allan look?
What will please Ross and Hibs fans the most though is the way Allan is playing right now and fit he looks. Clearly one of the most dangerous creative midfielders in the Premiership on his day, Allan – sporting his trademark No.23 jersey – dictated a lot of the play against St Mirren. He hit the post in the first half, and nearly scored in the second with an effort that whistled wide, but it was his range of passing that stood out. He set Daniel Mackay – who, as an aside, is a right prospect – free on many occasions and clearly gets the best out of the teenager. On the opposite flank, Miles Storey benefited too. He was picking out the sort of runs Martin Boyle loves to make in Hibs colours, and to a lesser extent Jamie Murphy and Kevin Nisbet.
Allan looks in good shape physically, able to burst away from defenders and hold his own against physical opponents. Such was his impact at the SMISA Stadium, St Mirren manager Jim Goodwin tweaked his system to man-mark Allan with Richard Tait to try and nullify his impact.
And what certainly hasn’t left Allan’s repertoire is his set-piece delivery. He got the assist for Caley’s goal, an inch-perfect corner that Nikolay Todorov battered into the net. He caused the Buddies issues all evening with his delivery. It’s likely that, had St Mirren not scored a 90th-minute winner and extra time ensued, Allan would have been taken off, as 120 minutes is too much at this stage of his comeback. Allan did not show many signs of fatigue, though, still driving forward late into the game but, listening to McCann, you can tell he is so keen to look after his prized asset.
Hibs fans can be genuinely excited about the progress he is making. All being well, he will return to Easter Road after a strong end to the campaign with Inverness in the best possible shape and raring to go for the 2021/22 season. With one year left on his contract and his 30th birthday approaching, the hope is that he will still have so much to offer. Considering all he has been through, and what he can bring to the table with his ability, there will be so many smiles on faces if the mercurial Allan can be back in Hibs’ engine room, pulling the strings like before.