PAUL HANLON has described speculation linking Paul Heckingbottom with Hull City as ‘a compliment’ but is adamant the Hibernian head coach has unfinished business at Easter Road.
The former Barnsley and Leeds United boss is reportedly on the Tigers’ radar as they draw up a list of potential candidates following the departure of Nigel Adkins earlier this week.
Despite a miserable stint in charge of the Elland Road outfit, Heckingbottom’s reputation south of the border remains largely favourable after securing promotion to the Championship and lifting the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy during two years in charge of the Tykes.
Boasting more than 300 appearances under eight different managers during 11 years as a first-team player, Hibs stalwart Hanlon is realistic enough to acknowledge that the Yorkshireman will move on if he shines in Edinburgh.
However, he is certain that will not happen this summer.
“He [Heckingbottom] is just getting started,” said Hanlon. “He’s only just got himself in the door and started to mould the team that he wants. This is his first transfer window to put his squad together and I’m sure he’s not paying any attention to anything else.
“He’ll be looking forward to getting the boys back in, getting the fitness test done then starting to get work done on the pitch.
“I’ve been involved for a long time now. These links come around and you’ve just got to take it as a compliment. The manager is doing a good job, we were doing a good job and getting results towards the end of the season.
“Hibs are a big club but there are always bigger that might want to take your manager and take your players. I’ve seen it all before!
“It’s the same with any manager or player in the Scottish leagues. If you’re getting the right results bigger clubs will take notice. But the only way that happens is for us to do well – and that’s all we want.”
Rather than cast eager glances towards opportunities elsewhere, Hanlon believes Heckingbottom will be relishing the upcoming pre-season campaign and his chance to truly put his stamp on the Hibees.
Heckingbottom made an immediate impact after succeeding Neil Lennon in February, racking up a 10-match unbeaten streak in the Premiership and securing top-six football.
A fifth-placed finish in the top-flight – one place above Hearts – was a laudable effort given they were eighth when he arrived. That has only served to fuel a sense of optimism ahead of Hibs’ return for pre-season training next Thursday.
“I think the gaffer will be as excited as anybody about coming back,” continued Hanlon.
“He has drip-fed things to us and got good result so far, but this is a real chance to get everything bedded in and understand the way he wants us to play. That’s exciting for the players – coming back and looking to learn and impress all over again.
“It helps when you come in and go 10 unbeaten. It gives everyone a belief that what we are doing is right and we were on the same page. But that doesn’t mean it will automatically continue like that.
“We need to work really hard, not just physically but on the shape and his philosophy. It will be a case of improving on last year and implementing what the manager wants. He will demand even more, even better, and that’s what we’ll use pre-season for.”
Having kept tabs on Hibs’ transfer business during the close season, Hanlon has been further buoyed by their early business – securing the signings of Adam Jackson and Joe Newell to add to the pre-arranged arrival of Scott Allan from Celtic.
“Joe and Adam come with a good pedigree and the manager knows them,” continued Hanlon. “He’ll want his squad settled as early as possible and it’ll be good to have Scotty [Allan] coming back as well. He’s only going to make us better.
“I’m just as excited as the supporters! I am a Hibs fan so I want Hibs to be as good as possible. The better players we get through the door, that’s great for me because there’s more chance of being higher up the league, reaching cup finals and succeeding.”
Paul Hanlon was speaking as he and teammate Lewis Stevenson launched the Hanlon Stevenson Foundation (HSF), a charity created to support schemes which help underprivileged youths