If Hibs kid Jamie Gullan’s head was in the clouds of the Faroe Islands, he was soon brought back down to earth with a bump as he was dispatched along with the rest of the Easter Road club’s development squad to face Coldstream.
A trip to Home Park might not quite have had the allure of a Europa League debut but, for Gullan, it was a case of “back to business”, the midfielder claiming a couple of goals in a 5-0 win.
Now the 19-year-old has his fingers crossed he’ll remain in boss Neil Lennon’s thoughts as Hibs seek to extend their European adventure even further as they prepare to take on Greek side Asteras Tripolis in Edinburgh in the first leg of the second qualifying round of the competition with Molde of Norway or Albanian outfit FK Luci awaiting the winners.
Gullan admitted even being told he’d be travelling to the North Atlantic as Hibs sought to build on their 6-1 hamering of part-timers NSi Runavik came as a surprise.
But an even bigger shock awaited, seeing his No.47 shirt hanging on a peg and hearing Lennon’s assistant Garry Parker list him among the substitutes.
The youngster from Buckstone said: “I was only told the day before the squad was flying out that I’d be travelling which was a surprise, but great to hear. I honestly believed I’d only be going for the experience – I never thought for a minute I’d be on the bench.
“I saw my shirt hanging in the changing room when we walked in. It was the first time I’d ever seen my name on the back of one but there was a jersey there for everyone who had travelled.
“It wasn’t until about ninety minutes before kick-off Garry read out the team and the bench – with my name the last of the lot – that I realised I was going to be involved. Even then I didn’t think for a minute I’d get beyond the bench.”
But Gullan got the call five minutes from time to replace Marvin Bartely in the middle of the park in what had been a crazy match, Runavik catching Hibs on the hop by claiming a two goal lead with only five minutes played before eventually going down 6-4.
Gullan said: “It was a strange few days all in. The Faroes themselves were an experience. A lot of the buildings have turf on the roof for insulation, so we had a guy up there at the team hotel cutting the grass.
“Then the journey to the stadium took an hour or so, narrow winding roads and long tunnels while, I think, we only saw three wee villages on the way. Then early in the second half a thick fog drifted in and there were a few shouts that the game might be abandoned.
“But the fourth official said to give it five minutes, that it would clear. Thankfully, he was right and I got my chance to enjoy those few moments on the pitch. All in all, it was all pretty surreal.
“For any young player making their debut is a special moment, but to have done so in a European match makes it that little bit more special.”
In fact, it turned out to be a week on the road for Gullan, part of last season’s league and cup double-winning youth team, travelling a few days before the Faroes trip as Hibs sent the development squad north to mark Wick Academy’s 125th anniversary and then returning in the early hours of Friday morning from the North Atlantic to be sent to the Borders.
Not that there were any complaints from a player nicknamed “Hammer” thanks to the powerful shot in his armoury.
Gullan, who was released by Capital rivals Hearts before impressing enough in a trial to be snapped up by Hibs, said: “To be honest, I never thought much about first-team football at all last season because the team was going so well and there was such a great depth to the squad “This is my third pre-season with Hibs and, although the gaffer hasn’t said much, he did tell me a couple of weeks ago that I’d made progress, that I was looking bigger and stronger and he’d be keeping an eye on me. That was a huge boost.”
While striker Oli Shaw and Scotland Under-21 defender Ryan Porteous have already won promotion from the development squad, Gullan insisted there was as intense competition at that level as their is in the first team squad.
He said: “There’s quite a few of us looking to follow Oli and Ryan. I’ve had a wee taste now as have the likes of Fraser Murray, Sean Mackie, Ben Stirling and Lewis Allan. There’s a lot of good young players coming through, all pushing for a spot in the first-team squad.”
Gullan, naturally, wants to build on his five minutes in the Svangaskard Stadium, but insisted patience was the key, saying: “Obviously I’m hoping to be involved again on Thursday night against the Greek side, but I am not holding my breath.
“I’ve had a wee bit of first-team football – now the aim is to keep working hard, to be involved in as many squads as I can and to learn and gain as much experience as possible and see where it takes me.”