Darren McGregor excited by new dawn for Hibs

Hibernian's Darren McGregor. Pic: SNS
Hibernian's Darren McGregor. Pic: SNS
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Darren McGregor has insisted Hibs are ready to hit the ground running when they open their Betfred Cup campaign against Stirling Albion on Saturday.

The Easter Road outfit have played three pre-season friendlies, the latest seeing them mount a dramatic late fightback to claim a 4-3 win over English League Two outfit Carlisle United.

Throughout those matches head coach Paul Heckingbottom has rotated his squad to ensure each player has been given optimal game time, McGregor himself having enjoyed an incremental number of minutes, culminating in the full 90 at Brunton Park.

The defender – who will turn 34 early next month – said: “The competitive stuff is upon us very quickly. We’ve done all the hard physical stuff, but there is still a bit to go.

“Someone like myself just needs to be playing games to get fitness and I’ve now got a 90, an 85 against Dunfermline and 45 at Arbroath under my belt – so I’m feeling good.

“The gaffer has made it clear, the season starts properly on Saturday. It’s a competitive game and the League Cup is a vitally important tournament and we want to do really well in it.

“We’ll go into it with the intention of putting out a strong team and winning the match.”

Heckingbottom has overseen his first pre-season at Easter Road, one spent not only honing his players’ fitness levels but integrating the raft of summer signings into his way of doing things.

McGregor said: “The gist of pre-season has been the same. You are trying to get our fitness levels up and the gaffer is working to implement the way he wants to play. We got a little bit of that towards the tail end of last season but we have a few new faces and it’s just about getting these boys on the same page and putting the ideas across.

“I think you can see patterns of play emerging. I thought we played really well at times [against Carlisle] and, although they scored three more goals than we would’ve liked, we came away with a victory and we’ve probably learned more from that game than if we had won 1-0.”

Hibs’ pre-season preparations have taken place against a backdrop of a change of ownership, American multi-millionaire Ron Gordon bringing Sir Tom Farmer’s 28-year reign at Easter Road to an end, heralding, claimed life-long fan McGregor, a new dawn for the capital club.

He said: “The news only broke to us about half an hour before it became widespread knowledge in the media. It’s great and a really exciting time for the club. I don’t think it changes too much in the immediate future but, being a Hibs supporter, to know we have no debt, own all of our assets and have an owner who wants to build for the future around youth – that’s terrific.

“It’s one of the most exciting times ever to be a Hibs fan, when you have a man of his stature coming in. He has laid out a plan of action and wants to build the infrastructure and focus on the youth set-up. Going forward that’s what Scottish football needs – to invest in youth development.

“I’ve heard the ‘we’ll compete with Celtic and Rangers’, but that’s a bit of wishful thinking just at the minute. That’s not to say over the course of the season we can’t compete with them and challenge them in games. But it’s a bit misguided if anyone thinks we are going to go out and start buying expensive players.”

If some might question just why Gordon has bought into Hibs, McGregor insisted the fact he’d previously looked at other clubs in different countries before deciding on Easter Road was, in fact, comforting. He said: “I’m sure that Sir Tom and Rod Petrie wouldn’t have sold their share to someone they didn’t have faith in. He sounds like someone who is definitely in it for the right reasons.”