Sam Stanton has insisted leaving Hibs won’t signal the end of his Easter Road career as he contemplates a loan deal which will give him the regular first-team football he craves.
Along with team-mates Danny Handling and Alex Harris, the 21-year-old has been told by boss Alan Stubbs that he’ll find game time limited during the coming season and that the head coach won’t stand in his way if he wants to seek a greater guarantee elsewhere.
But, if Easter Road fans were taken aback by the news, the midfielder admitted he hadn’t been “massively surprised” by the decision taken by Stubbs, only two of his final 13 appearances last season being from the start while, of his 64 games for Hibs, 37 have been as a substitute.
As things stand Stanton, Handling and Harris remain members of the Hibs squad. Handling, of course, is waiting to learn the seriousness of the knee injury he sustained early in Tuesday night’s pre-season friendly against Berwick Rangers.
All three travelled to last week’s training camp in Spain and enjoyed game time in the bounce match against Wigan Athletic that wrapped up the trip and again at Shielfield Park as they await developments with nothing more than rumour and gossip to sustain them rather than anything concrete.
Stanton, who replaced Handling as he was carried off by stretcher from the pitch after only 20 minutes, revealed that, although he’s never found himself in such a situation before, he’s adopting a philosophical approach, concentrating on attaining full match fitness and trying to impress both Stubbs and whoever else might be watching when called upon.
Expressing his sorrow that Handling appeared to have sustained a serious injury – Stubbs himself admitting he feared the worst for the Scotland Under-21 player – Stanton said: “At the moment. it’s all about trying to take your chance when it comes along and I think I did that the other night.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a difficult situation but it’s definitely different, one that I’ve not been in before. But Hibs have been really good with me, supporting me through all the training sessions and games.
“The three of us are still very much part of the squad. There’s been no nonsense going on, it’s just if an opportunity arises to leave we are free to go. I’m open minded. I’m happy to stay here but I’m happy to go so long as I go and play – that’s all I want.”
Meantime, Stanton is determined not to allow the situation to interfere with his pre-season preparations. He said: “I always try to show what I can do, to play as hard and as well as I can for Hibs.
“The three of us have talked about it and we all want the same thing, to be playing. We are all in the same boat, trying to impress the manager or whoever may want to sign us. We are all at that stage of our careers where we need to be playing first-team football. The manager has his opinion, a fair opinion. I was not going to play enough and I knew I was not going to be happy because I didn’t start as many games last season as I would have liked so it wasn’t a massive surprise.
“It’s a need I have, to be playing. I can’t sit around watching games any more, the most important thing for me is to play – wherever that might be.”
Exactly where, if anywhere, has yet to be determined but Stanton, who went on loan to Cowdenbeath early in his career only to have that spell ended by injury, is adamant he’ll be selective if and when the opportunity arises.
There has been talk of even Premiership clubs having taken note but Stanton said: “It’s always interesting, this game. But I’m not 18 any more, I feel I can do a job whatever division it is in but it has to be the right club and the right opportunity, there’s no point me going on loan to find myself in exactly the same situation. The manager has been saying that as well, he doesn’t want to loan me out to any old club.”
What has taken Stanton aback, though, has been the assumption by some that if he does go it will be on a permanent basis. He said: “It’s with a view to me coming back and cementing a first-team place, that’s what I want to do. I am a Hibs player, I am still here for another three years and this is where I want to play.
“You never know what will happen if you go out on loan, but there’s a few stories which seem to have grown arms and legs, a few people saying I was going to leave completely. That’s never been the case. The manager has never said that to me. It’s purely a chance for me to go and play.”
Even the length of a loan deal hasn’t been fully explored as yet, Stanton saying: “Whether it’s until the January transfer window or for the full season I’m again open-minded. There’s no timescale.”
“I obviously want to play every week. The manager has said he doesn’t think I’ll get as much game time as I would like but until something happens I’ll be trying to impress as much as I can while I am here. If that means I end up staying here I’ll be happy, but I need to play games.”