Sean Mackie thought his world had fallen apart when he was told as a 14-year-old he wasn’t good enough to play for Hibs.
Today, though, the young defender is all smiles having made his Premiership debut for the Easter Road club. It may only have been for the final five minutes against Aberdeen but, the youngster revealed, it was a totally unexpected opportunity having resigned himself to watching the game from the stand at Pittodrie.
He said: “I’d travelled hoping to get a seat on the bench only to discover I was the one who’d missed out. But Marvin Bartley was struggling with his foot and decided it was too sore to play.
“The rest of the boys were already warming up for the game at that time. I wasn’t kitted so I had to quickly get changed and had to do my own warm-up.”
As a left-back, the 20-year-old knows he faces one of the toughest tasks in Scottish football in trying to oust Lewis Stevenson from the Hibs side, pointing out the club’s longest-serving player is “never injured”.
But it was a rare knock for Stevenson which presented Mackie with his chance. He said: “Lewis picked up a dead leg in a tackle and you could see he wasn’t moving properly and he told the gaffer he was struggling.
“It wasn’t long for me to make an impact, but I felt I did okay in the time I was on.”
Now, naturally, Mackie is hoping for more game time with the first team but knows he’ll have to keep impressing Neil Lennon, the Hibs boss and his assistant Garry Parker – two of the most avid spectators at the development squad’s matches. He said: “They are always there so you know you have to do your best every time. It’s not as if a whisper goes round that he’s there and you up your game for that afternoon. So you have to constantly be looking to improve.
“I think the gaffer has shown he’s willing to give young players their chance. Ryan Porteous and Oli Shaw are the leading lights at the moment but others have been given an opportunity.
“But it’s a case of having that consistency and him believing he can have that trust to put you on.”
Having been released by Hibs all those years ago, Mackie joined Raith Rovers where Grant Murray – now first-team coach at Easter Road – was manager. He soon found himself a wanted man with both Capital clubs keen for his signature, the Easter Road outfit winning the race and forking out £25,000 nearly three years ago.
He said: “I wasn’t long into a two-year contract with Raith when the manager Ray McKinnon told me Hearts were interested and the following day he said Hibs also wanted me. I went to Hearts for three days, it was good, and Robbie Neilson said he wanted to sign me but I told him I was also going into Hibs.
“He said to make my mind up, that the offer might not be there but, having been at Hibs as a kid, I want to go back there.
“I’m from Elphinstone, just five minutes away from East Mains, and I’d been with Hibs since I was a wee boy. I wasn’t even told directly that they were letting me go. I went in for training and my dad was pulled in the other door and told I was not big enough, that there was someone better in my position. I was devastated, in tears. I thought that was it, that I was finished.”
Mackie was, however, prepared to let bygones be bygones. He said: “It was sort of at the back of my mind that I had a point to prove but I also felt I could develop as a player.
“I could have done that at Hearts but, despite being released, I still had a lot of memories of good times at Hibs and it helped some of the people I knew were still here and some of the boys I’d played with.”