INTERVIEW | Mike Coman: "We had a great bunch of boys."

Mike Coman spent just three seasons with Edinburgh, but the happy-go-lucky Kiwi has undoubtedly cemented himself as one the club’s most popular figures in recent years.

A product of Napier’s Hawke’s Bay, Coman – a versatile back-row - joined Edinburgh in September 2013, making his debut for the club as a replacement in a Boxing Day defeat to Glasgow.

Despite the team’s wavering form, Coman’s class and leadership were glaringly apparent from the get-go and it wasn’t long before then head coach, Alan Solomons, named the New Zealander as club captain at the beginning of the 2014/15 season – a title which he kept the following year.

Coman left for pastures new at the beginning of the 2016/17 season, joining English Premiership side London Irish, however, his popularity amongst supporters and players alike has never since dimmed. As he returns to Edinburgh for the first time on Saturday, the 30-year-old reminisced about the time he spent in Scotland’s capital.

“I definitely miss Edinburgh,” admits Coman. “My wife and I often talk about Scotland. It’s such a beautiful place and it was a great country to move to from New Zealand. At the time, it was such a big move going overseas but I soon settled in quickly. I really did love Edinburgh as a city.

“When I initially had the option of moving away, I thought of London because of all the hustle and bustle, but I really enjoyed Edinburgh and the size of the place. There is always something going on in the city.

“There was a great bunch of the boys in the club, so I’m really looking forward to coming back this weekend. It will different being on the other side for once, but I do look back at my time in Edinburgh with great fondness. It was an awesome time in my life.”

Coman also admits that he is looking forward to being reunited with Edinburgh’s devoted fan base.

“It will be brilliant to get a run around in front of the Edinburgh supporters, but I think I’ll have probably forgotten how cold it is! There are a lot loyal fans in the city that stayed with us when we probably didn’t do as well as we all wanted to.

“It will also be really interesting to see Myreside, because I was always based at BT Murrayfield. It will be cool to see the set up and what kind of crowd they get. It’s going to be a great weekend for sure.”

Despite the relatively short period Coman spent in Edinburgh, he tasted relative success both domestically and in Europe. The now 30-year-old earmarked the annual festive derbies against West-coast rivals Glasgow as his defining moments in the black and red – as well as the club’s historic run to the Challenge Cup final.

“When I arrived in Edinburgh, I didn’t fully understand the extent of how important the 1872 Cup was. I remember Greig Laidlaw and Ross Ford stood up in a meeting and explained how much it meant to them.

“They hadn’t won it in a while and at the time Glasgow were running really high. That year we weren’t really given a shot, so it was a fantastic feeling to win it and then follow it up the year after! Just in case anyone thought it was a fluke the first time.

“Being from New Zealand, it was really cool to see how much it meant to the Edinburgh lads to beat Glasgow and I really bought into that.

“I’d say that the 1872 Cup victories were closely followed by the run to the Challenge Cup final. It really brought the club to life and we got some great crowds in for quarter and semi-finals. It such was an exciting time to be involved with the club.”

A popular figure amongst the squad to date, Coman admits that he’s not the best at keeping touch, but is very much looking forward to reacquainting himself with his former teammates.

“Tom Brown definitely comes to mind when thinking about the funniest guys I played with. He’s a great lad, but the boy was an absolute liability at times.

“He was always great for some entertainment though. It’s unbelievable that he’s now a pilot. If I ever get a chance to go up in the air with the Edinburgh boys, I’ll be choosing Rambo (hooker Stuart McInally, who is also a qualified pilot) that’s for sure!”

I do miss big Simon Berghan as well. Seeing him move around in his flamboyant style weighing in at about 130kg was always brilliant to see. Then you had my old roommate Anton Bresler who was never off the protein shakes!

As Coman prepares to face his old teammates on Saturday, he remained refreshingly candid in his assessment of his new team’s season so-far.

“We haven’t been on the right side of results so far, but were slowly getting it right and improving. There have been a lot of games that could’ve gone our way.

“It’s been tough, but we’ve talked about it as a group – you can go one of two ways: you can look at the table and feel sorry for yourself or come in on a Monday, buy into what we’re doing and keep improving. And that’s exactly what we’ve been doing.”

Edinburgh supporters will be hoping their side spoil Coman’s homecoming, but the friendly New Zealander will no doubt receive the adulation he well and truly deserves.