Marc McNulty reveals his reasons for wanting to stay at ‘brilliant’ Hibs
Marc McNulty believes returning to Easter Road on a permanent basis can only boost his chances of winning further Scotland caps.
A call-up for the European qualifiers against Kazakhstan and Cyprus in March was the reward for a scoring burst of seven goals in just nine matches following the striker’s arrival in Edinburgh.
But now that loan deal which brought him back to his home city has come to an end, the 26-year-old due back for pre-season training with Reading on the first day of July even although the Championship club’s manager Jose Manuel Gomes has made it patently clear he’s not wanted at the Madjeski Stadium.
It was Gomes’ decision, made despite the Royals having forked out more than £1 million to sign him from Coventry City which prompted McNulty’s move to Hibs who pushed the deal through despite then head coach Neil Lennon’s sudden and unexplained departure.
McNulty admitted he was unsure of heading back to Scotland having left Livingston for Sheffield United five years ago, much of his career since having been spent on loan at Portsmouth and Bradford before 28 goals for Coventry prompted his switch to Reading.
Now, though, he’s convinced remaining at Easter Road where he sees the promise of Hibs making huge advances under Paul Heckingbottom as the place where, on a personal level, he can advance his claims for further international recognition.
He said: “I’m going to be honest. At first I thought I’m not going back to Scotland too early because people think you should stay down in England as long as you can. That’s probably why I took so long to make my mind up.
“I’ve come up the road, got caps for Scotland, played on the telly loads of times, played against Celtic, Rangers, at massive stadiums like Easter Road, played against Hearts. It’s been brilliant.
“When I came up my goal was to try to do well and get a Scotland cap – and I’ve managed to do that.
“Sometimes people can get caught up by playing in England, but Scottish football is on the rise and for anyone in England who is thinking about coming here, then I would definitely tell them to do it.
“Unless you are playing in the Premier League or Championship in England then you need to be doing something extraordinary to get a look in. There’s a pecking order and rightly so.
“If those boys are doing it at that level, they should be ahead of you on merit if you’re only in League One or whatever. But if you come up here and do it in Scotland then you’ve got a better chance of being in the squad.”
Heckingbottom has made if plain he’d like to see McNulty back in a green-and-white shirt next season but has admitted it could be difficult not least because of the fact the player still has three years to run on his Reading deal, the fee paid for him and the wages he enjoys down south.
McNulty is equally keen for that to be the case, revealing he’s enjoyed his time at Hibs while believing the potential is there for this season’s fifth-place finish, achieved against a background of managerial change, a slump in results which saw them win just three times in 17 matches and fall to eighth, can provide the springboard for better times ahead.
“When I first came some of my mates were saying to me that we would be bottom six, but for us to go on the run we did was great and it’s definitely something to build on for next year.
“Fifth is probably disappointing, there were a couple of disappointing results in the last couple of weeks. But I wouldn’t say Kilmarnock are a better team than Hibs.
“Hibs fans should be wanting to finish high up. Why not? I think the gap is getting smaller between the Old Firm and the other teams. We should definitely be up there challenging.”
And with “Hecky at the wheel”, McNulty has no doubt that will prove to be the case, pointing to the first-half performance in the final game of the season against Aberdeen in which he claimed his eighth goal for the club, although it wasn’t enough as Sam Cosgrove and James Wilson struck to earn the Dons victory.
He said: “You could see the kind of football we play under this manager. With a good pre-season it will get better, especially if we bring in a couple of new players – then we will be very strong.
“When I first came in Eddie [May] and Granty [Grant Murray] took it, and then the gaffer came in. Him and Robbie [Stockdale, Heckingbottom’s assistant] have been different class. Every day in training has been great and highly enjoyable, you are always learning.
“It’s been brilliant, sometimes training can be repetitive at some clubs, but here the gaffer is great and I do think if you give him a bit of time then Hibs will be up there.
“The potential is massive, I think everyone knows that, the stadium, training facility and the fan base, the supporters have been great home and away.
“It’s all positive and I think that will bring in some extra fans who will be excited to see the new faces and get behind the boys.”
McNulty knows that despite his desire to return matters remain very much out of his hands although, like Heckingbottom, he’s determined to do all he can to push for that outcome.
He said: “I’ve got three years left at Reading, it’s not just a case of me saying I want to go and Reading saying ‘all right, see you later’.
“It’s very complicated. It took ages to get the loan deal done. I’m guessing to make it permanent will be the same. There’s a lot of stuff in the background that makes it difficult. But if I need to push it, then I will.”