FIT-AGAIN Stevie Mallan can’t wait to see Jack Ross spark Hibs back to life during pre-season – after twice watching his boss having to fire-fight halfway through a campaign.
Mallan insists he is ready to hit the ground running when the Easter Road side return for non-contact training next Monday following their lengthy lay-off because of the coronavirus crisis.
Having aggravated a knee injury against Hearts in December, the 24-year-old has not played for longer than his team-mates but, after undergoing an operation on his cartilage, is confident he is back up to speed.
He started just three games after Ross took the reins in the capital in November and was desperate for a chance to prove himself following the winter break.
But, with the global health emergency and injury cutting his season short, Mallan knows he and Hibs have a big year ahead under his former St Mirren manager.
Mallan, who left for Barnsley the summer after Ross took over at St Mirren in 2016, said: “Jack hadn’t been in long so I was disappointed to miss the second half of the season.
“My injury came at the wrong time because the boys were starting to turn and I’ve loved working with Jack, having worked with him previously, so I didn’t want to miss too many games.
“As a player, when a new manager comes in, you need to do well.
“I know exactly what Jack’s like as a manager. That was never in question, I’ve always had a good relationship with him. We talk most days and he and Pottsy [assistant John Potter] always keeps me informed.
“They both spoke to me during the break, just to make sure I was back on track so that when we come back I’m at the same level as the boys and I come back flying.
“It’s the start of the new season and the first time I’ve worked over a full pre-season with Jack. I’ve always wanted that.
“The two times he’s come in, at St Mirren and obviously at Hibs, he’s been flung in at the deep end halfway through a season.
“So, I’ll get to work with him for a full pre-season and he’ll get to outline our plans for the season ahead.
“It’s going to be a massive year, especially having finished seventh because of the points-per-game thing. That’s not where we want to be.”
Mallan was close to a return to the team when the season was halted back in March because of the growing Covid-19 pandemic.
He has worked hard during the hiatus to ensure his fitness is back on a par with his team-mates for the return to training next week.
However, the Scotland under-21 cap admits he is not relishing the restrictions – though necessary – that he fears will mean yet more running in the coming weeks.
He added: “I just want a ball now, honestly!
“I spent about a month and a half running with the sports scientist when I was coming back from the injury and I got a touch of the ball here and there.
“But it just feels like that has continued for the last couple of months, so I’m just dying to see a few of the boys and get a touch of the ball.
“In the first few weeks, there is going to be a lot of running, the standard running that most teams do during pre-season.
“But usually after the first few weeks it’s all ball work and you’re getting back into playing small-sided games.
“So this is going to be tough, with just spaced-out running. Maybe there’ll be a bit of passing involved or a little bit of shooting.
“But it will be difficult not getting the contact and the short sharpness that you need.
“I think that’s what boys will find difficult going back to the football, the small short, sharp stuff, using the muscles that you’ve probably not used in the last few months.
“It’s definitely going to take a bit of time to adapt to that.”