KEVIN THOMSON may be playing for free, but the Hibs star insists returning to Easter Road has proved priceless as he rediscovers his love for the game.
The former Scotland midfielder, still only 28, endured a torrid two-and-a-half years at Middlesbrough as injury ravaged his attempts to make a mark on English football.
A £2 million signing from Rangers in 2010, he failed to find his stride with the Championship outfit and was never fully appreciated at the Riverside Stadium, starting just 38 games prior to his release in January.
Suffice to say, then, that Thomson was at a low ebb when he returned for a spell of training at Hibs in February, the club he left under a cloud in 2007.
Revitalised in familiar surroundings, the former Hibs captain agreed to forego a wage to return to his old stomping ground and he has not looked back since, picking up the sponsors’ man of the match against Inverness seven days ago.
Thomson is adamant getting back on the pitch for the Hibees has rekindled his fire for the sport after a Boro “blip”.
“To be back somewhere and appreciated again is a great feeling. When you’ve got kids and family, it’s hard when you’re getting booed and jeered,” he said candidly.
“At the end of the day we’re all human. It was a hard place to play my football. It was one of those situations that hopefully I’ll look back on in years to come and think it was a blip in my career.
“I think every player has them and hopefully I’ll go on and show everybody how good a player I am.
“When I came back I just wanted to play football. I wanted to enjoy that feeling of sitting in the bath at five o’clock, legs sore, body sore, either disappointed or happy. I’ve always said for a player there is no better feeling.
“I’m here for nothing. I could sit in the house and do nothing if I wanted to, but I decided to train and play.”
With just one league win in 2013, their current malaise looks likely to deny Hibs a place in the top six when the league splits after Saturday’s round of games.
The Edinburgh outfit require a minor miracle to finish in the top half of the SPL as they travel to Celtic Park needing a win. The Hibees also require Kilmarnock to lose at home to relegation-fodder Dundee, and Dundee United and Aberdeen to play out a draw.
Thomson is keen to pass on his experience, including two SPL titles, a Uefa Cup final and several Champions League nights with Rangers, to his current team-mates as they attempt to shake off a rotten run of results in Glasgow’s east end.
“The manager has been great with me. He has always asked my advice on things. He is a good manager, though, and he knows his job,” said the Hibs academy graduate.
“I’ve just always said that the further you get up the pecking order, the teams are more patient and the ball doesn’t seem to change hands as much. When we played in the Champions League with Rangers it was hard to get it back off the best teams.
“I think that’s a big difference I’ve noticed. And I’ve tried to push the boys into taking a bit more care on the ball and showing a bit more calmness.”
Hibs’ encounter with champions-elect Celtic, against whom they are unbeaten this season after a 2-2 draw at Parkhead and a 1-0 win at Easter Road, kicks off a week which will define the Leithers’ season.
The post-split fate for Pat Fenlon’s charges will be decided this afternoon before, seven days later, Hibs face Falkirk in the Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden.
Thomson continued: “The semi-final is a huge match, but the focus all week has been on Celtic.
“As a player I’ve always believed I could go anywhere and win, so I’ll be trying to instil that into the boys.”
With his pro bono deal at Easter Road set to expire at the end of the season, Thomson is remaining reticent regarding his future.
He added: “I just want to play some games and see what happens in the summer.”