BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
He did not wilt when playing in front of 86,703 fans at Wembley and has remained unflustered during a fraught title race, but Liam Fontaine admitted to feeling the nerves yesterday.
“That was the most under-pressure shave I’ve ever had,” he laughed, before settling in – newly baby-faced – to chat to assembled press.
Even in the perennially peculiar world of Scottish football, the sight of the Hibernian defender ridding himself of five months worth of facial hair in the full glare of the media was an odd one.
Although Fontaine cut something of a sheepish figure as he took an electric razor to his whiskers, with only his iPhone camera for guidance, It was all for a good cause.
Fontaine has raised £2,315 for the Sick Kids Friends Foundation, which works closely with the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh, after agreeing to get rid of his beard for charity. That is more than double his initial target.
“We get to see the kids at Christmas and get to see the work the charity do,” explained Fontaine. “I personally went to open a new department at the hospital in Livingston.
“And my younger sister had a premature baby, who was looked after by a similar set-up. So, playing for a club in Edinburgh, I wanted to do something for the Edinburgh sick kids.
“£1000 was our target so to double that is fantastic for a great cause and it will be good for them.
“I’ve not seen every single donation but I’ve seen a few which have said ‘from a Jambo’ or whatever, so it has brought everyone together, which these things tends to do in football.
“I initially just wanted to grow a beard, but I’m lucky enough to be in a position – with followers on Twitter and things – that it can snowball if you get them going. That has been the case. It’s only a shave, at the end of the day, and it’s make over two grand for a worthy cause.”
Fans may have little time to get used to a cleanly-shaven Fontaine, however.
“It feels strange, it’s the first time I have felt my chin in a while,” he added. “I’ll be honest, I did become attached to the beard . . . literally! But it is a good cause and I can always grow another one.”
His first outing without the fluff will be tomorrow when Hibs travel to Falkirk, with only goal difference separating the sides – albeit the Bairns have played a game more.
Contrary to his unusual build-up to the fixture, Fontaine will hope to avoid any close shaves against a very capable Falkirk side.
“If you are going to win the league you have to be better than the teams around you,” said Fontaine. “When we come up against Rangers and Falkirk, we will need to come out on top to go above them.
“You can’t expect them to lose against the other teams in the league – you need to win those games.
“We’ll go there confident, we have had good results in the past, it’s a good surface – one of the better 4G pitches – and hopefully we will see a good match.”
*Donations can still be made at www.justgiving.com/Liam-Fontaine