Released last summer after four years at Easter Road, goalkeeper Thomas Flynn just knew the fourth-round draw for the William Hill Scottish Cup would see Cowdenbeath pitted against Hibs.
He’s had a few weeks to wait since his premonition came to fruition but with the clash now little more than 48 hours away, the Geordie-born youngster admits he’s now counting down the minutes until he welcomes his old mates to Central Park.
Part of the Hibs Under-19 side which completed a clean sweep of SPL League, SFA Youth Cup and East of Scotland Shield three years ago and one of seven offered first-team contracts, Flynn was naturally disappointed to learn his time was up in Edinburgh.
But, he insisted today, thoughts of revenge or of proving a point won’t enter his head, only the determination to show why Colin Cameron’s side proudly sit top of the Second Division, six points clear and seeking to extend an unbeaten run which stretches to eight matches.
He said: “It’s nothing like that as far as I am concerned because I never played a first-team game for Hibs, I never knew what it was like. The goalkeeping coach [Scott Thomson] knew what I could do but the fact there were four goalkeepers there at the time told me I was never going to get a game.
“That’s always going to be the case when you are 19 or 20 unless there is a real injury crisis. It’s just one of those things as a goalkeeper, there’s only three or four in the SFL under the age of 21 and I don’t think anyone in the SPL is under 25.
“Managers like experience in that position which leaves you, as a young goalkeeper, in a Catch-22 situation because you are never going to get experience if you don’t get games.”
Now, though, Flynn has firmly established himself as Cameron’s No. 1, boasting six clean sheets in their unbeaten run, and although it’s now part-time football, he insists he couldn’t be happier.
He said: “It’s a strange thing, at Hibs I was training every day and not getting a game on a Saturday, now I’m training Tuesday and Thursday nights and playing every weekend. It’s a lot different, but I’m enjoying it.”
Flynn knows full well the funereal atmosphere which descended on Hibs’ East Mains training centre this time last year when then Second Division leaders Ayr United pulled off a shock by knocking Colin Calderwood’s side out of the Cup.
And with Hibs continuing to struggle under new boss Pat Fenlon, he’s aware the Blue Brazil will be considered by many to be the best bet to record another giantkilling exercise.
Flynn, however, considers Hibs as favourites despite their problems, saying: “We are riding high, top of the Second Division and unbeaten in eight games while Hibs, as everyone knows, haven’t been doing too well.
“But they are the SPL team, the full-time side and definitely favourites. The worst thing they can do is underestimate us while I don’t think many of them will have ever played at somewhere like Central Park.
“It’s certainly not what they are used to, a quite small, tight pitch surrounded by a track which is used for stock car racing. I have to admit it took me a bit getting used to at first.”
The excitement may be mounting, but Flynn insisted the fact Cameron’s players have retained their focus while on league duty since the draw was made is testament to their character.
He said: “We are all looking forward to it but, to be honest, the Hibs match was hardly mentioned until after our win over East Fife on Monday. We’ve been focusing entirely on our league matches and keeping our good run going.
“I have to say I wasn’t really surprised when we got Hibs because I just felt I’d come up against them in one or other of the cup competitions this season.
“It’s a big game for both clubs, Hibs will be desperate to get their season kick-started with a win while it’s a great opportunity for us to show what we can do.
“We played three SPL clubs in pre-season friendlies – St Mirren, Hearts and Dundee United – and beat the lot. The Scottish Cup is entirely different and I accept that, but we have shown we can compete against the better clubs.”
An early goal for the Fife club would certainly see Fenlon’s side, scorers of just 19 goals in the league so far this season, up against it, but Flynn is equally aware a first strike for Hibs could transform the Capital team.
He said: “I don’t think we’ll be playing with any pressure, we know what we can do – we’ve been doing it all season. We are unbeaten at home and want to keep that going.”
The return of on-loan players Jordan Morton and Kai Naismith to Hearts and Rangers respectively will disrupt Cameron’s plans to some extent but Flynn sees the ever-green former Jambos midfield star as a key figure for Cowdenbeath.
Although now 39 the former Gorgie, Wolves and Scotland ace continues to play – scoring his first goal of the season against East Fife – leaving Flynn to marvel at his enthusiasm for the game.
He said: “At a club like Cowdenbeath we have a real mix of players from all sorts of backgrounds and there is the gaffer – who has played at places like the Stade de France – now at Central Park.
“I didn’t expect him to play much because he is that little bit older but he’s still one of the fittest guys around, he can run all day, he still has that quality and he’s been brilliant for us.
“We are quite a young side and if we struggle at times he steps in with all his experience and is a calming influence. The fact it’s Hibs will also make it a bit more special for him, I am sure.”
A team-mate of Paul Hanlon, David Wotherspoon and Callum Booth as he came through the various youth levels at Hibs, Flynn, perhaps rather perversely, revealed he’s looking forward to pitting his wits against Easter Road hitman Garry O’Connor – if he has overcome the toe injury which has been troubling him recently.
He said: “Garry left Hibs just as I arrived and came back just as I was leaving so I’ve never had the chance to even train with him. He’s a big, strong guy so it will be an interesting contest.
“I haven’t really spoken to any of the lads I played with, I like to keep to myself before games and concentrate on the match but I’m sure I’ll have a word with them afterwards.”
Given his Easter Road ties would Flynn be happy with a replay back in Edinburgh?
He answered: “That’s a hard one. I only played a couple of youth games at Easter Road never in front of a big crowd.
“I was on the bench a few times but I’d love to play there again and while I wouldn’t imagine the gate for a replay would be huge, it would still be bigger than we are used to.
“However, I am not saying we would take a draw, the objective on Saturday is to try to win it at the first time of asking.”