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Loan star Booth dreams of leaving a long-lasting legacy

'IT wasn't the best." Callum Booth's summation of life for him at Hibernian under Pat Fenlon could be considered an early contender for understatement of the year.

Callum Booth played a major role in Raith Rovers' 3-3 defeat of Hibernian in the fifth round of the Scottish Cup this season. Picture: SNS
Callum Booth played a major role in Raith Rovers' 3-3 defeat of Hibernian in the fifth round of the Scottish Cup this season. Picture: SNS

Wasn't the best? Booth went from being hotly tipped as the next big thing at Easter Road to not being there at all.

The left-back had been an integral part of the Hibs under-19 side that had won a league and cup double, earned a four-and-a-half-year contract under former manager Colin Calderwood, and had broken into the Scotland Under-21 set-up. It seemed everything was in place for him to go on and become an established presence in the Hibs first team.

It hasn't turned out that way. Fenlon was installed as Hibs manager in November 2011 and two months later Booth played his penultimate match for the club, scoring in a 3-2 loss to St Johnstone. His final appearance came at the start of the following campaign, before he was packed out on loan to Livingston for the remainder of the season. It was a similar story this year, the defender sent out on loan once again, this time to Raith Rovers, with whom he will contest Sunday's Ramsdens Cup final against Rangers.

That Fenlon is now away from Easter Road, replaced by Terry Butcher, must be a source of considerable relief for Booth although, diplomatically and somewhat disappointingly for a room of reporters, he chose not to settle old scores. If there are gripes about being frozen out under Fenlon and dispatched to the SPFL Championship for two seasons then he elects to keep them private. The focus, instead, is on trying to deliver silverware to Raith, before returning to Easter Road in the summer to push for a place in Butcher's plans.

"No, there was nothing," he replied to a question on whether Fenlon had ever offered an explanation for his spell in the football wilderness. "It wasn't the best. I was sitting there for a couple of months until the summer came and, even when the Livingston move came up, it was kind of last minute. So it wasn't ideal. But there is no point in sitting and moaning or complaining. You get on with it.

"Up until that point, my career had been good. Everything had been on the up. I was playing for Scotland Under-21s and everything - I hadn't really had a knockback. So to get a little bit of a knockback under the previous manager, I wasn't going to sulk. It just meant I had to go on loan for two seasons. Which was fine. When I go back, I'll be a better player.

"There's definitely unfinished business for me at Hibs. I want to play more games for them. Terry Butcher phoned me a couple of months ago, which gave me a wee boost. It was nice of him. I will go back for pre-season but, from now until the end of this season, I'll do my best for Raith."

Booth will be back at Easter Road before next season, however. Having been part of the Raith team that knocked Hibs out the Scottish Cup earlier this year, he will return to Leith on Sunday for the final against Rangers. He hopes going "home" will work in his favour.

"I'll be familiar with the final venue - and I think we're in the home dressing room," he added. "I've not been in there for a couple of years. Obviously, we were there in February as a visiting team, so the boys all have experience of playing there.

"I think it might help a few of the boys, having been there. Especially for a cup final, you want to be a bit familiar with surroundings - and us having won there last time helps, definitely. It is a lovely pitch and it is a good choice of venue."

Booth's wish now is that he returns to Hibs having helped create a lasting legacy at Raith. "That would be a dream to lift a cup and the Raith Rovers fans would remember it for many years to come," he said. "We have a chance. Obviously, we are going in as underdogs, and rightly so. They have the bigger budget and are expected to win. But we have played a few cup matches as the underdogs this season - away to Dundee and away to Hibs - and it might suit us.

"We have won them. Everyone expects Rangers to win and that is a good thing. We can play with a bit of freedom."

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