Lewis Allan admits he must capitalise on his unexpected chance in Hibs’ first team after being persuaded by his parents not to give up on his Easter Road career.
The academy graduate has had a difficult three-and-a-half years since making his debut for the club as an 18-year-old substitute in a 1-0 defeat away to Falkirk in December 2014. A cyst in his back that required two operations and sidelined him for a year from October 2015 wreaked havoc with his development and resulted in him falling out of contention at Easter Road and being loaned to Livingston and Edinburgh City in the past two seasons.
It all led Allan to consider seeking a fresh start away from Hibs, but a strong second half to last season and a bright start to the current campaign while playing for the club’s development team has brought him back into Neil Lennon’s plans. The striker’s persistence was rewarded with a first start for Hibs in their Premiership match away to Livingston, and he earned the praise of his manager afterwards despite the team losing 2-1. With Florian Kamberi, Jamie Maclaren and Oli Shaw all more established in the pecking order for a striker berth at Hibs, the 21-year-old, whose contract expires next summer, knows he must do everything he can to build on this belated opportunity.
“I missed a year through injury so development-wise I’m probably only 20 but this is definitely a chance I’ve got to take if I’m to make it at Hibs,” said Allan. “I thought it would be tough to break into the team but you’ve just got to keep going. I was out on loan, I wasn’t playing (at Edinburgh City) but then I came back, did well and was on the bench a few times at the end of last season.
“Obviously a few boys left towards the end of the transfer window and I knew Flo was injured as well so I thought ‘there’s a wee chance here’, and the manager showed that by putting me in against Livingston, which was brilliant. He said he was going to throw me in but I didn’t know if I was going to start or be on the bench. He spoke to me before the game and said ‘I think you’re ready’. I absolutely loved it and it was a great experience for me but obviously the result took the shine off it. The manager wanted me to do what Flo does and try and be that target man, somebody to play off. I did that and he was pleased with me so hopefully I get more chances. The squad is very thin and we can’t sign anybody until January. There’ll be injuries and suspensions, so there should be chances to play if I’m doing well on a Monday (for Hibs’ development side).”
Allan explained that his parents Sandra and Craig convinced him not to give up on his Hibs career when he was thinking of leaving last year.
“It was probably my mum and dad who were the biggest influence in things turning for me,” he said. “There was a chance I was going to leave last pre-season but my mum and dad kept saying ‘look, you can still turn this round and change the manager’s opinion’. I was saying ‘no chance’ but my mum and dad kept at me and I had a good pre-season, went out on loan which wasn’t great, but then I came back and started scoring goals (for the development team) and everything seemed to be going for me.”
Allan knows his starting place could be under threat after just one game, with Kamberi in contention for a return against Kilmarnock this Saturday after a recent lay-off with a knee injury. The Melrose boy has enjoyed working alongside the highly-regarded Swiss striker at East Mains. “Just training with him and watching him in games, you try and take wee bits from him,” said Allan. “I think it definitely helps having someone like him at the club because he’s someone I can learn from. He’s a very good player and he’s somebody I’ll keep trying to learn from.”