'For those 90 minutes, I will have no affiliation to Hibs' - Marvin Bartley on his emotional return to Easter Road
Marvin Bartley admits he’s braced for an emotional night when his Livingston side face former club Hibs at Easter Road in a fortnight.
The midfielder developed a “special” bond with supporters during his four years with the Capital club before moving along the M8 to join the West Lothian club in the summer in search of regular game time.
Bartley will face Hibs for the first time on Wednesday, October 30 and he concedes it will be “strange” trying to inflict damage on a club he grew to love. “Listen, everybody knows how I feel about Hibs,” he told the Evening News. “Of the clubs I’ve played for previously, Hibs and Bournemouth are the two who are the most special to me. That doesn’t mean the other clubs I played for aren’t but those two clubs were fantastic for me. Bournemouth gave me my start in professional football and then Hibs revitalised my career and gave me back my spark as a player and a person at a time when my flame was burning out.
“But when I cross that line in two weeks I’m a professional footballer playing for Livingston Football Club and I’ll do whatever I can to win that game. For those 90 minutes, I will have no affiliation to Hibs, I’ll just go and play my normal game. But it will be difficult emotionally going back out there to warm-up and stuff like that. It will be strange. I don’t think I’ve ever been in the away dressing-room at Easter Road. I don’t think I’ve ever played against one of my former clubs before either but I’m big enough to deal with it.”
A few days prior to the trip to Easter Road, Livingston host Hearts. While Bartley’s focus at present is on Saturday’s match away to Kilmarnock, the upcoming Capital double-header looms large on his horizon. “Normally I don’t look past the next game but obviously having the two Edinburgh clubs coming up is something to look forward to. I’ll probably get two totally different receptions!” he laughed. “It’ll be like chalk and cheese. It’s quite good that we’re playing one followed by the other so the lads can see how much I’m hated by one set of supporters and liked by the other. I’m looking forward to both games.”
Hibs’ last three games before the international break saw them go undefeated away to Kilmarnock, at home to Celtic and away to Aberdeen. Bartley is hopeful that this is a sign things are starting to move in the right direction for his former club after a grim start to the campaign. “I hope they’re starting to turn the corner,” he said. “They had a brilliant result against a free-flowing Celtic team and then went to Aberdeen and should have won the game. I’ve been to Aberdeen with Hibs before and been well beaten and they’d also struggled at Kilmarnock recently before they beat them in the Betfred Cup, so I’m hoping this is them turning the corner, obviously with a little blip when they play us!”