Paul Hanlon wants to finish his career with Hibs

Defender Paul Hanlon has reiterated his desire to see out the rest of his playing days with the Easter Road outfit.

Monday, 23rd May 2016, 5:30 am
21/05/16 EASTER ROAD STADIUM - EDINBURGH Hibernian's Paul Hanlon (left) and David Gray

The lifelong Hibs supporter, who is out of contract at the end of this month, was clearly emotional as he tried to comprehend the scenes that had unfolded right before his very eyes as Alan Stubbs’ men finally ended their 114-year wait for Scottish Cup glory.

The 3-2 triumph over Rangers in the Hampden sunshine erased any lingering despair of last Friday’s promotion play-off semi-final defeat to Falkirk, captain David Gray powering home Liam Henderson’s corner in the second minute of injury time to secure a fairytale ending.

Hanlon himself had been replaced by Niklas Gunnarsson with seven minutes remaining and was left to embrace the celebrations that unravelled on the touchlines after Gray had pounced right at the death.

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But, now the 26-year-old, who revealed contract negotiations are under way, is hoping to commit his long-term future to the new Scottish Cup winners in the next couple of weeks.

“I’m out of contract so hopefully we can get it sorted over the next couple of weeks. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but this is the club I love playing for,” Hanlon said. “I’ll have a decision to make but I’ve said before that if I finish my career here then I’d be so proud. There has been some discussions, but with the amount of big games we’ve had recently, you don’t want that sort of distraction.”

Hanlon, like all those with an affection for the club, has craved a success of this magnitude for so long that the former Tynecastle High pupil admitted he didn’t know what to do with himself when his team-mate’s header ruffled the back of the Rangers net in stoppage time.

“I had already come off by the time the winner went in,” he said. “I didn’t even really celebrate it, I just thought, ‘oh we’re going to do it’ and the excitement and nerves just took over. As soon as the final whistle went, I looked to my dad who was sitting a few rows back from the dugout. I know how much it means to my whole family – they’ve been with me the whole way through. It’s just incredible.

“You always wish it’s going to happen, but when it does it’s so surreal. It’s just an amazing feeling and until you experience it yourself, there’s nothing like it. Of course we’re disappointed not to win promotion, but to win the Scottish Cup is just incredible.”

Hanlon has been a mainstay in the Easter Road side’s defence since making his debut as a 17-year-old in a Scottish Cup tie with Inverness over eight years ago. In that time, he has had to endure the heartache of relegation two years ago as well as back-to-back Scottish Cup final defeats to both city rivals Hearts and Celtic.

“That was probably the hardest [the 5-1 defeat to Hearts in 2012], although I don’t think I can really split that or relegation to be honest,” he said. “It’s been hard times these last few years and the fans have all been through it with us. To have that one day for the fans, they love the club as much as I do.

“I’ve been lucky to play in three Scottish Cup finals and as a Hibs player all it takes is to win one and you’re a hero.

“You can’t blame the fans [for running onto the pitch]. They’ve had enough suffering over the years so you can’t blame them going mad. It’s more than they deserve.

“It’s such a great atmosphere the manager has created so we just need to get ourselves back into the top league and push on from there. This is probably better than promotion from the players’ perspective, but for the club, promotion was still the main aim.”