Mark Milligan hopes to make his Hibs debut against Kilmarnock on Saturday – four weeks after clinching his move to Edinburgh.
The 33-year-old Australian internationalist checked into East Mains on Monday after finally being granted a work permit last week, and is eager to get going on what represents his first crack at football in Europe. Although he hasn’t played since the Socceroos’ 2-0 defeat by Peru at the World Cup two-and-a-half months ago, Milligan feels ready to be considered for selection for this weekend’s Easter Road showdown with Killie after a rigorous workout with his national team at their training camp in Turkey last week.
“I’ve been working very, very hard,” he said. “It’s obviously a little bit difficult training on your own in that you’re very limited in what you can do, but I think the seven days in Turkey with the national team was very good for me. They worked me very, very hard. I still feel a little bit off the pace but, again, I’ve worked hard the last few days so I’m not sure whether that’s just my body recovering. Obviously the final decision is with the staff but I’ll do everything I can to be ready as soon as possible.”
Milligan, who has spent his entire career in Asia and Australia so far, is relieved that the paperwork has now all been ratified after a lengthy procedure since he initially signed for Hibs on a two-year contract last month.
“I didn’t expect it to take so long,” he said. “After my medical, I thought things would progress quite quickly but my track record with visas for the UK is not great so it is nice to finally get it done. I’m very excited to be here. I have no British or European heritage so in order to get a visa it depends solely on our national team and their ranking over a two-year period and then on my percentage of appearances.
“The last five years I have been a regular fixture in the national team and the last nine months, since the Confederations Cup, we have been doing quite well as a national team as well. That has all helped get it over the line.”
Milligan has had to watch in envy over the years as several of his peers have made their big moves to Europe. Now he is delighted to get a crack at it himself.
“There are not a great deal of Australians who don’t have that European or UK heritage so when I was younger it was a little bit more difficult to take but that is football and everything happens for a reason,” he said. “I have had some wonderful years playing in Asia, especially in Japan, as well as in the Australian league which has obviously grown. It still has a long way to go but I feel that I have contributed to what they are trying to achieve.”
Milligan explained that seeing international colleague Jamie Maclaren choosing to return to Hibs for a second loan spell played a part in convincing him to continue his career at Easter Road. “Seeing Jamie and the desire he had to come back to the club probably spoke volumes, probably even more than all the good things he had to say,” said Milligan. “Just seeing how much enjoyment he had here last season and seeing how intent he was on getting back to be a part of things this season gave me a lot of confidence and made me feel at ease when we finally sat down to make the final decision.”