• 'The right time' to leave Hibs
  • Will always come back as a fan
  • Interested in a coaching role further down the line
  • Laid back over his next move, wants to keep playing

The end of an era, how do you feel?

"I feel fine. It's a good time for me and the club. It's been coming for a while now. The last three years I've probably been preparing myself for this moment. We've known in house for a while this was happening this season and for it to be released now, it's news to others but I've known for a while. I'm sure I'll be emotional when my final game comes and I'm happy with everything I've achieved here. It's been a massive part of my football career but also a massive part of my life as well. I'd like to thank everyone for all their support over the years."

Has it felt weird seeing the reaction to the announcement?

"I'm not really on social media, that's probably been a good thing the last few years! I've had a lot of nice messages sent from ex-players, fans, staff members, family members, everyone. A lot of people have been on the journey with me and it's been tough for them at times. I'm 36 now. To be at this club for so long, it's been a lot longer than I ever expected. I've had one-year deals for the last five or six years! I've been preparing myself for a while."

Is your aim still to play on?

"I still feel pretty good, like I can play for a bit longer yet. Most of the folk I've spoken to have said to keep playing as long as you possibly can. You can end up regretting it once you retire, if you go too soon. Until I'm dragged off the pitch by someone telling me it's time to go and hang up the boots, then I'll keep trying to play on."

Would it  be weird to play against Hibs?

"It would definitely be strange. It's something that would actually maybe be fun to do. I don't think you'd need to worry about me scoring and celebrating or any of that! If I don't come back playing, then I'll definitely be back as a supporter in years to come."

Would your hope be that there's interest in the top-flight?

"I'm quite laid back. I think even this time last season, I don't think I'd signed with Hibs. I was still in limbo a bit as to what would happen this season. I'll try and get something sorted soon."

Have you had a chance to picture what that last game at Easter Road will be like?

"I didn't think it was going to be at night. It's an evening kick-off which I wasn't expecting. It'll be strange, I've not thought about it emotionally. Hopefully I'll be back as a supporter or in a role somewhere in the academy or something down the line. We'll see what happens."

How pleased are you with everything you've achieved here?

"I know I've won two cups, which is obviously really nice to have that bit of history. But it would have been nice to finish my time here on a high note. We're disappointed with how this season has went.  It has been close and it could have been so different with a few different things going our way."

Any unexpected highlights people might not consider?

"When people started saying I was getting close to 600, I didn't ever think I'd get there. I know I'm not there yet, but with three games to go I'm hoping I'll make that mark. I never talk about milestones, but I think that one would be some achievement. I was actually the same when I got to 500. Jack Ross was in charge and I wasn't actually playing that often. I went through a period of not playing and to get to 500, I thought that was going to be me. To get another 100 appearances after that has been a huge surprise to me. Thankfully my body has held up alright and physically I still feel very capable." 

Was there ever a time when you came close to leaving?

“There’s been times it’s gone to the last week of the season without a contract. I’ve said previously, it’s been a good fit for me and the club – I’ve probably saved them a good bit of money over the years by not having to bring somebody in, or being a safe pair of hands if they were to try someone else. Jordan Obita has come in and been absolutely fantastic. He’s probably what the club’s been needing for four or five years as I was getting older, a steady pair of hands and they probably need somebody younger to challenge him or be back-up to him. I totally understand it from the club’s perspective and, for me, I think it’s a good time to move on.”

Did you ever reach a stage where you fancied something else?

“Nah. Looking back sometimes people wish they’d tried something different, but I’ve been lucky enough that I’ve always had family and friends around me. I see players come and go, moving about, but as a footballer the furthest I’ve lived from where I was born is about 45 minutes. The older you get, you think it might’ve been different to try something, but it’s too late now as I’ve got kids who are settled and I can’t really venture too far out. The older you get, you think about different experiences. In the future, I want to do some sort of coaching, get my badges. If that is further afield, then I’d be open to it.”

Earlier you mentioned coaching here, is that something that could happen further down the line?

“We both said we don’t want to completely cut ties, the club don’t want to cut ties and we want it to be as amicable as possible. There’s been no fallouts or anything like that. I’m sure there’ll be conversations at some point, but my short-term future lies elsewhere. I’m looking forward to the challenge ahead.”

It must feel fitting that you and Paul get to sign off at the same time?

“Aye, it’s funny these things happening at the same time. I’ve only really known Hibs with Paul. I was in maybe a year full-time before him, but since I’ve been around the first team Paul’s always been here. It’s been nice, and even being two years younger than me he’s only about 30 appearances behind which shows how consistent he’s been over the years. We’re two different people with two different styles of play, it’s been a bit of a freak thing for a club to have two people here for so long who then both leave at the same time! It’s pretty mad.”

Will you lean on each over this period?

“I don’t know – I’ll let Paul deal with it how he wants to deal with it. We always seem to come as a pair, we always get tanned with the same brush – we even get stick at the same time! I’m sure wherever we go in the future, we’ll give our all.”

In what ways are you different?

“He’s a lot bigger than me! Paul’s a leader, he’s been the captain of this club, I’m probably quieter and go about things in a different way, but I really get on with him. Apart from my wife and kids, I’ve probably spent more time with him than anyone else in the past 16 years. He means a lot to me, and he’ll be sadly missed by Hibs. It’s a slightly different circumstance with him being a couple of years younger, I still think he can play at the top level in this league – but that’s for another interview, you can talk to him and see what’s happening! Centre-halves can play a bit longer as well.”

What are your hopes for Hibs over the next few years?

“I feel like I’ve been saying this for a few years, but everything is there for the club to go and have good success. The money the owners are spending on and off the field, something’s got to give and we’re going to have a good season at some point, it just needs to click at the same time. Maybe a freshen up – I don’t want to say we’ve been the problem but I think something’s got to change, and hopefully it will change in terms of the club. Me and Paul can hold our heads high and speak for how much we’ve given everything every day for the club. We’ll look fondly as the club goes on – maybe they’ll win the league next season and we’ll be the biggest supporters!”