'It feels like I've never been away': Jamie Maclaren's relief after summer in the dark

From an initial FIFA World Cup™ omission to constant uncertainty over his future, it’s been a difficult summer for Jamie Maclaren.

However, after making his first start of the season for Hibernian yesterday, the Caltex Socceroos striker feels right back at home in Scottish Premiership.

The 25-year-old Victorian instantly became a fan favourite at Easter Road last season, where he scored eight goals in 15 matches on loan from parent club SV Darmstadt - including a memorable hat-trick against Rangers on the final day. 

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Initially overlooked for Australia's campaign in Russia and with doubts over his club future intensifying, Maclaren's off-season began in bitter fashion.

It was a disappointment that did not tally with his stellar 2017/18 season and while the summer has been spent in the dark, patience has eventually paid off for the Australian marksman.

“The longer it went, the more I knew I wanted to come to Hibs,” he told The Herald.

“It took some time for that to happen, but that’s life in football. Did I doubt it would happen? Yes, 100 per cent. There were so many discussions.

“Don’t get me wrong, during the World Cup I was focused on Australia but in the back of your mind you are always thinking ‘are they [Darmstadt] going to ask for a bigger price?

“Discussions took place and I had some really honest conversations with [Darmstadt coach] Dirk Schuster and he was very good with me. He told me I was wanted but that it was ultimately my decision, as long as it works for both parties."

After meeting fellow striker Florian Kamberi by chance on a Dubai beach and Hibernian fans baying for his return daily on Twitter, fate was seemingly demanding Maclaren's return to Scotland.

The former Brisbane Roar and Perth Glory striker was a revelation for Neil Lennon’s side last season – and he told The Scotsman of the instant relief that was felt upon his arrival in Edinburgh.

“It feels like I’ve never been away, I’m so familiar with the place now and I’m just so glad we’ve got it over the line for a full year and I’m able to settle,” he said.

“Once I did sign, it was nice to see all the boys again. You can’t take for granted the sort of dressing room we have – seeing the smiles from the boys on the first day again – and it’s a good feeling.”

Jamie Maclaren scores for Hibs