Hanlon: ‘You can’t blame them for going mental’
THE match may ultimately be remembered for all the wrong reasons. But Paul Hanlon is still trying to come to terms with the fact his name will pass into posterity for the right ones.
Thousands of Hibs fans charged on to the Hampden turf as the Easter Road club clinched their first Scottish Cup win in 114 years of trying, but Hanlon was a dyed-in-the-wool Hibs supporter in the privileged position of being able to spend 83 minutes on the pitch as the club finally got that Scottish Cup monkey off their backs.
While he was speaking perhaps without the full knowledge of everything that went on, Hanlon refused to blame the club’s fans for getting a bit carried away. Indeed, were he not playing, who knows, he would perhaps have been among them.
“You can’t blame the fans,” said Hanlon, a veteran of the club’s 2012 and 2013 Scottish Cup defeats, not to mention the club’s slump to the championship in May 2014. “They have put up with enough stuff over the years that you can’t blame them for going mental.
“It has been hard times the last few years, and the fans have been through it all with us,” the 26-year-old added. “So it was just this one day – for them to get on the pitch and fall about with the players and stuff. We can’t have a go because they’ve been through so much and they love the club.
“You think about this moment but when it actually happens, it’s surreal. I was off towards the end but by the time I got on the pitch there were thousands of fans around me. I’ve been watching the play-offs the last few days and that’s been happening. There’s nothing like it.”
As imperfect as the post-match presentations were, Hanlon still marked the moment in the bosom of his family. “My dad was sitting along just a few rows back from the dugout,” he said. “It took a while before we could get the fans back a wee bit but by the time we came back out to get the trophy, I got back to see my family and give them a cuddle and I could see how much it means to them. They have been there for me all the way through. Everyone is trying to let it sink in.”
When it comes to writing your name into the folklore of the club, it doesn’t get much better than wiping 114 years of misery off the boards with your first Scottish Cup win since 1902.
It wouldn’t have happened without him, not least considering his injurytime equaliser against Hearts earlier in the competition. But in terms of brass tacks, though, promotion might just have been preferable. Returning the Easter Road side back to the top flight is next on his list, and while this underrated defender is out of contract this summer, he hinted yesterday that there could be some movement on his future in the next few weeks.
“In terms of being remembered as a Hibs player, this is probably better than promotion but for the club I would say promotion is more important,” he added. “But the manager said it before the League Cup final, and it was the same for the Scottish Cup final. Finals don’t come around all the time and you have to grasp them. All you need to do is win one and you are a hero.
“I don’t know what is going to happen but at the end of the day this is the club I love playing for,” he said. “I have said I will make a decision at the end of the season so I will see what happens in the next couple of weeks. But I am proud to play for this club and I have said before if I finish my career here I will be proud of that.”
CAPTAIN MARVEL: Paul Hanlon (left) holds the trophy with skipper David Gray