The Graduate - Hibs Scottish Cup legend opens up on latest honour

Hanlon made his 550th appearance for Hibs last weekend. Hanlon made his 550th appearance for Hibs last weekend.
Hanlon made his 550th appearance for Hibs last weekend.
Man of distinction Hanlon rewarded for academic efforts

The class medal he received from Edinburgh Napier University this week may well pale in comparison to a certain other honour afforded Paul Hanlon on one very special day in May of 2016.

The Scottish Cup winner has not, for instance, been asked to parade his newly acquired BA Business and Enterprise in Sport degree through the streets of Edinburgh for the benefit of the thousands unable to attend Wednesday’s graduation ceremony at the Usher Hall.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

But the Hibs captain – awarded that medal for attaining the highest academic score in his year, in addition to achieving a Distinction in recognition of his overall efforts – will never undervalue the lessons learned during his years as a part-time mature student.

Along with the UEFA A Licence in coaching attained as part of his studies, Hanlon left Napier with a better understanding of how a football club works. And an enduring enthusiasm for lifelong education.

The central defender, asked if seeing all his hard work pay off compared to winning a trophy with Hibs, grinned as he admitted: “Nah, it wasn’t quite at that level!

“But it was actually a lot bigger than I expected. I was quite oblivious to it all, thought I was just turning up to a presentation.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“But it was a lot more grand and a lot more formal than I expected. My wife and my mum were there, as well, so it was nice to celebrate with family.

“I was pleased to get to the end, I was juggling two modules at the same time because it would have meant studying for another six months. I crammed a little bit at the end.

“But I do have a new thirst for knowledge. I wouldn’t do a full degree again - but I would like to do more courses and keep learning as I am going.”

Still of a generation where footballers were expected – if not actually mandated – to leave full-time education at age 16, Hanlon considers himself lucky that starting school a year early meant he had already achieved some Higher Grade qualifications before taking the leap into full-time sport.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Like a lot of people, the long days and nights of lockdown during the Covid pandemic prompted him to start looking around for ways to occupy his mind.

“We were all kind of in our houses, everyone was doing 5ks and things like that,” he explained, adding: “I had been looking around for a while, trying to find a course that was suitable.

“One of the sports scientists in here, Steve Curnan, had good contacts at Edinburgh Napier. Someone came in and discussed the course with me and Innes Murray, who is at Edinburgh City now.

“We both started at the same time. I accelerated a bit at the end, so he’s still got a bit to go.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“I have enjoyed that focus at nights rather than sitting on the couch watching nonsense on Netflix! It’s been good to get the laptop open and doing a bit of studying. I’ll try and keep it going in some form.

“But 16 was the last time I did any real studying; I had done a few courses but nothing as taxing as this.

“The hardest bit was dealing with the academic side, writing, reading, referencing.

“You can’t really say what you think, you need to back it up with references. That was the hardest bit to adjust to.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“In terms of the modules, I liked a leadership one - and one on stress performance and behaviour as well, which was really interesting.

“I really enjoyed it because you can relate it to the pressure environment of playing in football. I’m not sure if I’ll adapt the way I behave, too much, but it was nice to learn about it.

“There are a lot of high pressure environments in football, playing against the top teams, getting to the latter stages of cup competitions – it does become stressful.

“And obviously being at a big club like Hibs brings its own pressure, so it’s something you have to deal with.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

At the age of 33 and still competing for a starting place, 550 appearances into his Hibs career, Hanlon has begun dipping his toe in coaching with the club academy.

Admitting that he has begun to proactively plan for his post-playing career, he said: “I think I now have more respect for everyone, more awareness about different roles in the club.

“It’s easy to just be in your own bubble as a player. But this has opened my eyes to the whole way the organisation works, from the football department out to the wider club.

“I kind of split the course in half, with half on the coaching pathway and half on the business side.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“I think I want to give coaching a bash to begin with. I’m doing it one night a week in the academy. Until you practice it enough, you’ll never know if you’re any good at it – so I’ll give it a bash and see how it goes.”

Related topics:

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.