BY ALAN TEMPLE – Capital City Press
Hibs star Darren McGregor insists he will never forget the support afforded to him by St Mirren as he battled back from the agony of two crushing injury blows.
However, the 30-year-old fully intends to be the one inflicting pain on his former club when he faces his old Buddies this afternoon.
McGregor joined the Paisley side from Cowdenbeath in 2010 and handled the step up with aplomb, establishing himself as a top-flight defender and ultimately winning a move to Rangers four years later.
But his time at St Mirren Park was also peppered with fitness woes, suffering cruciate knee ligament damage on two separate occasions and making just 12 appearances in the two seasons between 2011 and 2013.
While McGregor appreciates the Saints handing him a crack at full-time football, it is the way they treated him off the pitch which left a lasting mark.
He recalled: “I was there for four years and had a right good time there. I had two bad injuries there and they really looked after me so I’ve got nothing but good things to say about them.
“Anybody will tell you when you get an injury you need a strong support network around you – that’s your friends and your family and also your club. I got an injury in my second year and they were good enough to give me an extra two years.
“They really looked after me. They’re a great club with good facilities so it will be good to play against them because I’ve never come across them since I left.
“I repaid them in the end but I’ve got a lot of good things to say about the club because they gave me an opportunity to showcase myself.
“When I went to St Mirren there was a lot of negativity about me because I was a Second Division player but they had faith in me and that is all you can ask for.”
The Hibees are in buoyant mood as they welcome St Mirren to the capital.
A magnificent 2-0 win over Aberdeen – and a fifth consecutive clean sheet for McGregor and co. in defence – saw Alan Stubbs’ side progress into the last eight of the League Cup.
McGregor is quick to guard against any complacency following that shock win, but reckons it was a result which underlines Hibs’ Premiership pedigree.
He continued: “The focus is now on St Mirren, who haven’t been on the greatest of runs but they’ll be looking this is a game to kick-start their season. We need to be vigilant against that and make sure we’re not complacent.
“But I’ve played in a few teams now and I think the quality we’ve got here is great.
“There’s a really good blend of young and older players and we have a few unsung heroes here – Dylan McGeouch, for example, does a power of work that you maybe wouldn’t notice from up in the stands. but you certainly notice it when you play with him.
“We’ve got good legs in midfield and we’re solid at the back which are two of the main attributes a team needs. [Liam] Fontaine and [Paul] Hanlon have proven themselves to be right good defenders who take no chances.
“Then you’ve got wee Jason [Cummings]. From back to front I definitely think we’ve got more than enough quality to hold our own at Premiership level.”
McGregor singled out irascible striker Jason Cummings for particular praise.
The 20-year-old turned in arguably his most complete performance for Hibs in the triumph over the Dons and capped his display with a wonderful instinctive drive to open the scoring.
Given Cummings netted four times against McGregor’s Rangers side last season, he knows all about the youngster’s potential.
And he has tipped the Scotland under-21 internationalist for the top if he continues him current rate of progress.
McGregor lauded: “I think will be a right good player when he gets into his mid-20s. I remember playing against him last season and he was a thorn in the side.
“He’s a great guy in the dressing-room and I think he’ll develop really well. He’s awkward to play against.
“I can see him continuing to do a right good job for Hibs.”