BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
Hibernian defender Liam Fontaine insists he is having the time of his life at Easter Road as he laps up every minute of a nail-biting title battle with Rangers.
The 29-year-old has turned out for the likes of Fulham and Bristol City and has played in front of 86,703 punters at Wembley, yet he is adamant this season is proving to be the most enjoyable of his career.
Hibs trail the Gers by three points ahead of today’s pivotal visit of Queen of the South, with the Championship’s top two set to meet at Ibrox next Monday in one of Scottish football’s games of the season so far.
You could forgive Fontaine and his Hibee teammates for displaying some nerves ahead of a fraught festive season. Instead, you can barely wipe the smile of his face.
He said: “It’s probably the most enjoyable time in my entire career, being at Hibs and trying to achieve what we’re trying to achieve. Unless you’re involved, I genuinely can’t explain the feeling. It’s a great buzz.
“It is great and, as a footballer, you want to be involved in these sort of situations.
“When you finish playing you want to look back and say: ‘I was involved when Hibs were promoted back to the Premiership, I helped them win trophies or go on a record run that became part of the club’s history.”
Pondering the portraits of club legends dotted around the corridors of the Hibernian Training Centre in east Lothian, he added: “You walk round the training ground and you want to see your face up there.
“Around the stadium there are photos up everywhere and if we can get ourselves back up to the Premiership then we would be part of the club’s history.”
There is certainly no shortage of confidence within the Hibs camp. Nor should there be after a run of 14 wins in 16 matches.
Their belief was illustrated following their 1-1 draw with Falkirk last week when the irrepressible Jason Cummings stated he “knew” they would equalise against the Bairns, despite being down to ten men going into the 90th minute.
That swagger permeates through the whole squad, according to Fontaine, and is the quality which makes champions.
He continued: “As a squad I definitely feel like we are a stronger squad and a better team than last year.
“That comes from the gaffer and the staff instilling what they want from the players. You see that pay off at the weekend, when we go in confident. I think you need to if you are going to be title winners.
“Jason’s comments sum up the confidence in the camp, especially with someone like Cummy. He is one of our great characters, but that belief is within every member of the squad.
“For example, Paul [Hanlon] played a different role in central midfield against Falkirk, but you could see he was comfortable, confident. That’s what the gaffer wants through everyone.
“When you play in good teams and good squads, you want to be known for putting together good runs of results and be part of a team which doesn’t lose. Everyone can see that we are all feeling confident.”