Despite never quite making the grade during his short-lived tenure at Easter Road, Martin Scott could not be more forthcoming in offering a strong appraisal for his former employers.
A switch from Ross County to the Capital within the final few days of the January window almost four years ago was an unexpected late Christmas gift for the Livingston-born midfielder.
One of then manager Colin Calderwood’s first bits of business at Hibs, Scott was deployed into the heart of the midfield almost immediately – making his first start in a green-and-white jersey in a 3-0 defeat by Dundee United at Tannadice.
And although his enthusiasm was often said to have overshadow his ability as a footballer, Hibs suffered a disappointing tenth-place finish that season. A poor start the following campaign facilitated Calderwood’s departure, Irishman Pat Fenlon taking the reins in November later that year. However, as Scott recalls, the exit of former Scotland internationalist Calderwood marked the beginning of the end to an unfulfilled spell in Leith.
Scott, now with Raith Rovers and preparing for the visit of his old side on Saturday, said: “When I first signed for Hibs I was straight in the team. I certainly hoped to maintain my place, but other things were happening behind the scenes and they changed managers.
“A change of manager never helps. If you’re not in his plans then you’re not in his plans so I think this was the case when Pat came in. I think there was a want for some fresh faces and it was just one of those decisions.
“He [Fenlon] was pretty honest with me, but because I was on a long-term contract, it probably made it a bit more difficult to put me out the door right away. I had a couple of meetings with Pat where he said I was a good player but sometimes I was bit of a distraction for him – those were his words.
“I started getting frustrated towards the end because I was performing well in training, but wasn’t being selected. That’s when I knew that what I was doing on the park wasn’t going to get me a game so my time had come to an end. But to be fair, Pat was spot on with me and he tried to do the right thing at Hibs, getting them into two cup finals.
“I really enjoyed my first six months there. If you’re playing in Scotland then Hibs are one of the clubs you want to be at. The future is bright for the club if they get it right on the pitch as they’ve definitely got the fan-base as well as the stadium and training facilities.”
The 28-year-old, who has since had stints with old club Ross County and hometown club Livingston, speaks highly of Alan Stubbs’ current side and expects a really tough encounter when he brings his troops over the Forth this weekend.
“I think Alan Stubbs is moving them in the right direction and has them playing some good football,” Scott insisted.
“They’ve got a very good squad and they’re actually getting stronger as the season goes on. If they had a Leigh Griffiths kind of player in this division then I do think they would definitely be challenging for top spot. But, with the players they have right now, it’s still up there with the best in the Championship.
“It will be a difficult game for us on Saturday and Hibs will be the favourites, but I think we showed at Easter Road that we can stick to our game-plan.
“The Hibs supporters always travel well, so it should be a good atmosphere. But we’ll want our own supporters to get behind us and we’ll be looking to give them something to cheer about over Christmas.”
As much as Scott acknowledges how painful it may be for Hibs supporters to accept, he doesn’t harbour much optimism over the prospect of any side being able to overtake, at times, a rampant Hearts side in the chase for the Championship title and automatic promotion. Disclosing Robbie Neilson’s outfit as the most formidable he has encountered this season so far, he said: “I definitely think Hearts have been the best team I’ve come up against and I think it will be very difficult for anybody to catch them. For a wee while there I thought Rangers were pushing on, but then they had the defeat at Tynecastle and then down at Queens recently.
“But around the Christmas period you just never know what can happen. Teams sometimes take a dip and what have you so it will be interesting to see how it pans out over the course of the next few months.”
The Stark’s Park men’s last home game – a 5-1 reversal at the expense of struggling visitors Livingston – did not bed well within sections of the home support. Scott was a noticeable absentee from the game after picking up an ankle know in training. However, after returning to the fold with a place on the substitutes’ bench for last Saturday’s defeat away to Dumbarton, Scott is raring to go in Kirkcaldy this weekend.
“It was obviously a really heavy defeat a couple of weeks ago, but I’ve said all along I know a lot of the boys at Livi and they’ve got a decent squad so it was probably only a matter of time before it all clicked.
“But I’m ready to go now. I’ve trained all week, made the bench last weekend [against Dumbarton] so I’m pushing for a start this week.”