Mark Milligan happy to play centre-half for Hibs – and Socceroos

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Mark Milligan is totally comfortable playing as a centre-back for Hibs because he has grown accustomed to being utilised in various positions throughout his successful playing career.

The veteran Australian is viewed primarily as a holding midfielder and impressed in the engine room in his first few matches for Hibs.

Mark Milligan wins an aerial duel with Hearts' Peter Haring

Mark Milligan wins an aerial duel with Hearts' Peter Haring

However, he has been deployed in defence for his team’s past two matches, away to Hearts and at home to St Johnstone. Milligan insists he has no problem playing at the back as he generally tends to operate there for Australia. He may be asked to continue in defence away to Aberdeen tonight as Paul Hanlon has still not recovered from the leg injury that has kept him sidelined for the past five matches.

“I’m used to getting shifted around a bit and that’s what’s been required in the last 
few weeks,” the versatile 33-year-old said. “As I’ve said before, I’m always happy to do whatever job the manager needs me to do at any time. I’ve played at the back quite a bit throughout my career. I mainly play at centre-back for the national team now. It’s not too bad.

“When I was younger I used to get shifted around a lot when there was injuries, especially in the national team. When I was younger I probably played more games at right-back than I did anywhere else.

“I’ve played most of my football over the last few years in central midfield so I’d probably still see that as my main position, but a lot of coaches have used me in central defence. It’s more just a mental thing, being able to prepare for matches knowing what job you’re going to be doing.”

Milligan’s ability to play in defence augments a highly-regarded batch of centre-backs at Hibs which includes Scottish Cup-winning mainstays Darren McGregor and Hanlon, Nigerian internationalist Efe Ambrose and Scotland Under-21 internationalist Ryan Porteous.

“The club’s very lucky because it’s not always easy to get so many high-quality centre-backs at one club at the one time,” said Milligan. “Obviously there’s the more experienced ones like myself, Daz, Efe and Paul, and then there’s Ryan Porteous who is a wonderful young player with a bright future.”

Having performed solidly as ten-man Hibs secured a goalless draw away to Hearts a week past Wednesday, Milligan was within a few minutes of making it back-to-back clean sheets during his time in defence when Joe Shaughnessy popped up with a late winner for St Johnstone at Easter Road last weekend.

“When you play in defence you pride yourself on clean sheets,” said Milligan.

“St Johnstone’s goal came from a set-piece which can happen because the element of control is taken away from you. But as a unit we probably dropped a bit too deep late in the game, and that’s down to me and the other guys in the defence.

“I think we invited that late pressure. We’ve addressed it this week, we know where we went wrong and we’ll look to move on from it. We’re desperate to rectify it.”

That chance comes tonight when Hibs head to Pittodrie to face an Aberdeen side who are level on points with them in mid-table.

After three games without a win, Milligan is desperate to savour a victory before jetting off for international duty with the Socceroos.

“Results-wise the last few games definitely haven’t gone to plan,” he said.

“The St Johnstone game was a disappointing end to a couple of tough games. I thought we played well in the derby, considering the circumstances, but we let ourselves down at the weekend. When you have a poor performance and a poor result, you want the chance to get on with it and rectify it as soon as possible so this is our chance to try and do that at Aberdeen.

“It’s one of the toughest places in the country to go and we know what qualities they’ve got but our focus will be on what we can do and I think we have the quality to bounce back. It is important for us, especially as we have a break coming up, that we finish on a positive note, not just with a good performance but also with a good result.”