“And I am not saying that because they are my mates!” added the former Easter Road skipper.
It said everything about the strides taken by Sean Mackie this month. He is already being regarded as a first-choice starter in a position where Hibs now have impressive options providing everyone is fit.
Of course, he did have that spell on loan under McPake at Dundee last season. He recently admitted that spell had taught him a lot, specifically about how to cope with criticism from supporters during games. The relatively inexperienced Mackie was trying to assimilate himself in a side that was struggling to put together a run of form at the time and where fans were expecting to win, if not every week, then most weeks.
An injury cut short his spell at Dens Park but the experience seemed to stand him in good stead. Now 22-years-old and having already been sent out on loan five times, it’s probably time for Mackie to either establish himself at Easter Road or think about a move elsewhere.
He’s seemingly determined to take the former option. While a far from convincing win over a struggling Dundee side was not proof of Hibs’ capabilities, Mackie put in another strong performance, his third of the week, at left-back.
It might not equate to the embarrassment of riches Scotland currently enjoy in the area, but Jack Ross can claim to have a pleasing strength in depth at left-back, whatever formation he wishes to play. Mackie can just as happily adapt to left wing-back, so, too, can Josh Doig, who has been kept out of the side in recent games. Likewise, the aforementioned Stevenson. The veteran originally displaced Doig to win back his place in the team but has been sidelined by an ankle injury picked up against Kilmarnock last month.
Doig’s time will come again. Stevenson is also bound to re-assert himself. But for the time being Ross will be content to see Mackie passing a variety of tests.
Hibs were of course expected to deal with Dundee, particularly in light of a 4-1 win against the same opponents in the same competition less than a fortnight earlier. The home team once again overcame their Championship opponents, though it was more of a struggle this time.
Another excellent finish into the corner from Jamie Murphy a minute before half-time saw Hibs secure a place in the last eight, with the left winger later praising Mackie for the effort he is putting in behind him.
Mackie was also impressive against Celtic seven days earlier when up against the speedy Jeremie Frimpong, whose first-half performance against Doig at Celtic Park in September directly led to the 18-year-old’s recent spell on the bench.
In what has been a busy spell for him, Mackie contributed to the 2-2 draw with St Johnstone last midweek though it was Hibs’ other full back, Paul McGinn, who rightly commanded the headlines by scoring twice.
After three successive home starts, Mackie must continue to show his current form in two difficult away trips to Motherwell and Hamilton.