MOST players break out in a cold sweat when they think about the hard running, endless fitness tests and triple sessions of a gruelling pre-season.
However, Paul Heckingbottom knows one man who cannot wait to be put through his paces with Hibs.
The Hibernian head coach has revealed that he held candid talks with incoming playmaker Scott Allan at a plush hotel, primarily to assuage any fears that the 27-year-old may have about his position when he joins the club.
Allan was a pre-contract signing made by previous Hibees gaffer Neil Lennon but the Englishman was keen to assure him that the change in the dugout has done nothing to alter how big a part he will play next term.
And Heckingbottom was immediately won over by Allan’s determination to shine in his third spell at Easter Road and make up for lost time after being frozen out at Celtic.
Heckingbottom explained: “We spoke to Scott a couple of times on the phone but I thought it was important that we arrange to meet up.
“He knows the club and everything about the place but he doesn’t know me and [assistant head coach] Robbie [Stockdale]. He was signed before we came in so I thought it was really important to put his mind at ease about where we see him.
“We are looking forward to getting him in and getting him working – Scott is exactly the same. He says he has never looked forward to a pre-season as much in his life!
“That’s good – we’ve got a hungry player there.”
But the meeting was far more than mere reassuring words.
Heckingbottom has swiftly developed a reputation for forensic attention to detail, whether on the training ground or via his regular video sessions with the squad.
That carried through to his chat with Allan as he outlined what his role in the Hibs side will be and how he will be expected to contribute.
It was music to the ears of a player who has become an afterthought with his current employers and has not featured in a competitive game since lining up in Hibs’ 5-5 draw with Rangers in May 2018 during his last loan stint at Easter Road.
He continued: “We showed him all sorts really – how we want to play and took him through the process of how we work and where we come from.
“I think he appreciated that sort of depth. It was important because he has been in a strange situation all season. He has not been playing, then agreed on a move that he wanted – and then the manager changed.
“He’d have been wondering ‘do they still want me?’
“Scott has been in limbo a little bit so we felt it was important that he feels a part of it and excited about coming back here.
“It’s important for him to be highly-motivated of course but also excited and – that’s why it was important to show him where he fits in.
“I could tell that Scott knows the game, that he is a sensible and bright boy. He clearly knows the game, he wants to do well – and now he knows exactly what will be expected of him.”
Heckingbottom’s path actually crossed with Allan when he was Barnsley boss, guiding his Tykes to a handsome win over Rotherham in 2016.
Suffice to say it has already been mentioned.
He laughed: “I made a point of showing him a few clips when we beat them 4-0 with Barnsley! Put it this way, he was chasing about a lot without the ball.”
The prospect of Allan returning to Easter Road is just further reason for cheer at a club currently riding the crest of a wave.
Hibs are unbeaten in ten Premiership games under Heckingbottom, albeit he acknowledges that ‘it didn’t feel like it’ after blowing a lead to draw 1-1 against Hearts last weekend.
He is acutely aware of how challenging it will be to retain that record at Ibrox today, crediting the first-half showing by Steven Gerrard’s charges on March 8 as the most impressive 45 minutes he has faced since arriving north of the border.
And Heckingbottom believes that was a formative experience for his charges as they battled back from a half-time deficit to claim a 1-1 draw – vowing they will go for the jugular in Govan.
He continued: “When we played Rangers last time, in the first half they were definitely the best opposition we have faced. They passed the ball quicker than other sides. They have pace throughout the team and pressed hard.
“That half of football was tough for us. We did well to cling on to them – the lads defended for their lives. If they can replicate that form they will be a tough side to beat.
“But the fact we changed and went more aggressive against them at half-time actually made us realise: ‘Oh, that’s what we are’.
“You don’t just sit back and hope against that and hope to keep them at bay. You have to fight fire with fire and try to make something happen. If you are going to lose, do it two or three while having a go.”