THE end of the football season is now in sight, but for Haddington’s Danny Handling there will be no towels on the beach or no digging out a mask and snorkel.
The Hibs forward has endured two seasons to forget, after twice injuring his right knee and barely featuring for the first team.
Since April 2015, Handling has played just 227 minutes of first-team football but is finally getting back to full fitness.
Earlier this month, the 23-year-old secured a loan move to Raith Rovers for the remainder of the season, with a view to returning to Easter Road and getting back into the green and white shirt ahead of Hibs’ return to the SPFL Premiership next season.
Handling told Courier Sport: “I don’t think I’m going on holiday this year.
“I want to get my fitness back and get working on strength over the summer and come back for a pre-season and take it from there.”
While Handling’s parent club clinched the Championship title at the weekend, Raith lie in seventh place, moving up a spot thanks to their 2-0 win over Greenock Morton on Saturday.
Handling has featured in Raith Rovers’ last three games, including 80 minutes in the weekend win.
Ahead of the Morton tie, he reflected on his time at the club so far.
Handling (pictured below, by Jim Payne) said: “My first couple of games have not been ideal for the team.
"I got a half at Falkirk and then 90 minutes away to Dunfermline where we really could have won the game.
“They had chances and we had chances but they got the penalty and got the three points.
“I was happy with the way I played and performed and got the 90 minutes.
“I thought I was coming off and I was starting to feel my legs.
“I’ve been suffering this week and on Monday and Tuesday I was knackered.
“It took me two days to recover.”
Raith play Handling’s parent club on Wednesday – a tie he could miss as part of the loan agreement – but he added Raith had “three cup finals coming up”, in reference to the importance of winning their final three league games.
Handling, who also had a spell on loan at Berwick Rangers earlier in his career, suffered his first injury two years ago when he damaged his cruciate ligament.
After recovering from that blow, he was named on the bench as Hibs lost last season’s Scottish League Cup final to Ross County, while he also sat on the bench for the Scottish Cup semi-final success over Dundee United.
However, he and former Tranent Juniors midfielder Kevin Thomson missed out on places in the squad for the cup final win over Rangers last May.
The former Knox Academy pupil held no grudge against then-boss Alan Stubbs and pointed out that there were players who had been involved all season who made the squad ahead of him.
The 23-year-old was, though, heavily involved in the celebrations, which spanned several days.
He said: “Myself and Martin Boyle went out four days in a row.
“All the boys were out on the Saturday and there was the cup parade on the Sunday.
“I will never forget the parade for pure enjoyment and the fans’ faces after what we had achieved.”
However, there was another injury setback came at the beginning of this season, with damage to cartilage in the same knee.
A second spell on the sidelines followed, with hours of rehab work allowing Handling to return to training with the first team.
The striker has now been sent out on loan to get some games under his belt, and has linked up with ex-Hibees boss John Hughes.
Handling added: “It is great to be playing again. I have enjoyed my experience so far – the boys have been great and welcomed me in from the off.
“I know the gaffer very well from his time at Hibs and I played with Kevin [McBride, Raith Rovers assistant manager] as well. It was a no brainer to come and I am glad I did.”
“I have enjoyed my experience so far – the boys have been great and welcomed me in from the off.
“I know the gaffer very well from his time at Hibs and I played with Kevin [McBride, Raith Rovers assistant manager] as well.
“It was a no brainer to come and I am glad I did.”