STEVIE MALLAN is adamant the competition for places at Hibernian is the most intense he has ever experienced, as evidenced by soaring standards on the training pitch.
Mallan has endured a largely frustrating start to the season, making just five substitute appearances prior to starting Wednesday’s 3-1 victory over Highland League champions Brora Rangers.
Hibs’ rise to third place in the Premiership, allied with the impressive form of Joe Newell and Alex Gogic, has seen the former St Mirren favourite slip down the pecking order. Nor did the arrival of Kyle Magennis on Monday bode well.
And Mallan was evidently out to prove a point against Brora, scoring twice within the opening 12 minutes before claiming an assist for Paul Hanlon’s late header which made the game safe.
“It can be frustrating when you see guys come in and you have to battle with them for places but it genuinely just makes you work harder,” said Mallan. “The manager [Jack Ross] changes between formations, so there’s always a chance for midfielders to come and it means we need to be on our toes every day in training.
“When you have been out the team for a while, I think you concentrate on training more. Whereas if you are starting every week, you kind of take your foot off the gas a bit.
“The standard in training at the moment is probably the highest I’ve been in since I started playing football because there’s not just myself; it’s guys like Melker [Hallberg], Drey Wright, David Gray, Darren McGregor.
“They are all chomping at the bit to get in the team. That’s the standard. Everyone is kicking and battering the manager’s door to get in the starting eleven – and that’s the sign of a good team.”
Mallan does not sound like a player ready to throw in the towel in his fight to become an Easter Road regular once more, despite his limited game-time this term.
The 24-year-old has battled back manfully from a knee injury which kept him sidelined for the first seven months of 2020, carrying out a portion of his rehabilitation in lockdown.
And his next goal is to win over Ross – and he has not been shy about telling the boss exactly that.
“I’m always chapping the door of the manager and telling him I want to be in the team,” smiled Mallan. “I want to be involved.
“The manager has been honest with me and told me it’s hard to get into a team that’s playing well. He has always said if someone slips up I’ll be in contention so – as bad as it sounds – you’re waiting on someone slipping up. It’s just going to be a waiting game.”
While Mallan’s bid to secure a starting berth may have become a more onerous one due to the six-figure signing of Magennis, he is not shy in offering a glowing endorsement of his old St Mirren teammate.
“I’ve been with Kyle through St Mirren and Scotland,” added Mallan. “He’s pacy, direct, brings legs to the team – he’ll take us forward and he’ll never pull out of a 50/50.
“After I left St Mirren, Jim [Goodwin] wouldn’t have made him captain if he didn’t think he was a quality player, so it was a really good coup for us to get him. He’s obviously going to be a project going forward and he is a really good player.
“I just hope he comes back flying from his injury and gets a chance in the team – although hopefully, I get before him!”