EASTER ROAD legend Conrad Logan readily confesses his career was hanging by a thread when he joined Hibernian.
A devastating snapped achilles tendon had sidelined the amiable Irishman for more than a year and, when he answered an SOS from Alan Stubbs in March 2016, it had been 16 months since his last competitive appearance.
‘Make or break,’ is the phrase Logan uses for the move, which has since gone down in Hibs folklore.
Not only did the former Leicester goalkeeper prove his fitness, he produced one of the most iconic Hibee debuts of all time, turning in a man of the match display in the Scottish Cup semi-final against Dundee United after being pitched in ahead of Otso Virtanen.
He made a string of sensational stops as the sides played out a 0-0 draw after extra-time before saving two spot-kicks in the shootout as the capital club reached the May showpiece against Rangers.
The rest, as they say, is history and the memories came flooding back for Logan when he saw that the fourth round draw had paired the sides together again this term.
“After being out for 16 months, it could have been a make or break moment for me,” recalled the 33-year-old. “I took a big chance going to Hibs, I had barely trained and I was nowhere near fully fit. I may have struggled to ever get a club ever again if it hadn’t gone well.
“When you are out for so long you do start to think ‘will I ever play again?’
“I was coming up and thinking that, in the worst-case scenario, it’s eight weeks training and could help me get something for the following season.
“Then, that debut against Dundee United ended up being one of the best games I ever played.”
Although Logan sparkled in the Hampden sunshine, some observers were more interested in the gut than glory, with some rather mean-spirited comments regarding his weight and general fitness.
He was experienced and circumspect enough to shrug them off but, make no mistake, he took note. And Logan enjoyed the last laugh when he lifted the trophy back at the national stadium on May 21 following Hibs’ breathless 3-2 win over Rangers.
“That’s part of the world we live in,” he continues. “People will always try to pick bits and bobs of negativity from anything. If someone can have a little giggle at someone else’s expense, then they’ll do it.
“I saw some of the comments and the coverage but, considering I was thinking I might never play football again, it wasn’t foremost in my mind. I was just happy to be out there.
Indeed, Logan was pivotal as 114 years of hurt were consigned to history and, less than 24 hours after their triumph over the Gers, 200,000 supporters crammed onto the streets of the capital to salute their heroes in scenes Logan never imagined he would ever witness.
“I didn’t realise what the Scottish Cup meant to everyone associated with Hibs and the suffering they had gone through,” he continued. “They told us after the final that there would be a couple of hundred thousand on the streets the following day and I said ‘yeah, sure’.
“After the civic reception on the Royal Mile we got on the bus and it was three or four deep so I didn’t think it would be as busy as some suggested – then the bus turned a few corners and it was like ‘Jesus!’”
Logan’s life changed forever that day.
Every member of that Hibs squad is assured legendary status but the big goalie is particularly revered, such was his remarkable journey from so long on treatment table to Scottish Cup winner in the space of eight astonishing weeks.
There can be few players with such a stunning legacy at a club after just EIGHT appearances.
“A few weeks ago a couple of Hibs fans travelled down for one of my games with Mansfield after winning that prize in the auction at Lewis Stevenson’s testimonial. There was another group of them when we went away to Crawley last season looking to get things signed.
“Things couldn’t have gone much better for me up there and I’m exceptionally proud of what we achieved.”
And the ‘Polar Bear’, who hopes to visit Edinburgh in the near future when his playing commitments with Mansfield allow, is praying that a tie against Dundee United can once again be a waypoint on the road to bringing the trophy back to Leith.
He added: “It was apparent what a massive monkey on the back the Scottish Cup record was for everyone at Hibs and, with boys like Lewis [Stevenson] and Paul [Hanlon] still there, hopefully the pressure isn’t quite the same.
“There’s no reason why they can’t do it again this season and I’ll have my fingers crossed.”