Back to the day job for Hibs’ Alan Maybury

Alan Maybury steps in to stop a run from St Johnstone's Nigel Hasselbaink.
Alan Maybury steps in to stop a run from St Johnstone's Nigel Hasselbaink.
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Most players, having turned in a solid performance in their first appearance of the season, would make a bee-line for the manager’s office and reassurance that they’ll be in his thoughts for the following game.

“Whatever the manager wants” is the 35-year-old defender’s dictum as he adapts to his new role, coaching both his team-mates in Fenlon’s squad and Hibs’ youngsters who, under James McDonaugh, have made an impressive start in both the Under-20 and East of Scotland Leagues, currently second in the former and top in the latter.

Maybury would agree with the footballing adage that nothing beats playing, but at the moment he insists he is enjoying the best of both worlds as his days in the top flight draw to a close and a new career in coaching begins with his stated long-term aim being to move into management himself.

The former Republic of Ireland internationalist, however, proved he can still cut it in the Scottish Premiership, helping Fenlon’s side come from behind to defeat one of his numerous former clubs St Johnstone to stretch the Easter Road outfit’s unbeaten run to four matches, a record which has begun to dispel the gloomy clouds which had descended upon the east end of the Capital.

Although he’d been on the bench on three previous occasions, his appearance at McDiarmid Park was his first of the season, his previous activity having been restricted to the under-20 side for whom he’d actually played the entire 90 minutes earlier in the week as the youngsters clocked up another win against Motherwell.

Today Maybury revealed he had an inkling he might be called upon in Perth on Thursday, but, even so, he spent that evening at home preparing training drills for the following morning at East Mains and, on arrival at McDiarmid Park, took his team-mates through their warm-up preparations.

He said: “I would love to keep playing, but I had a chat with the manager during the summer when he told me if that was what I wanted to do all the time then it wouldn’t be here, but I feel I have been given a brilliant opportunity, one I am thoroughly enjoying. I knew I might play ten games, I might play 30, possibly just five or even not at all. I had a little idea on Thursday I might be playing, but I went home and wrote up drills for Friday morning’s training. Jimmy Nicholl told me the manager was putting me in the team, so the conversation then turned to which bits of training I would take and how we were going to structure the morning’s work.

“I took the warm-up at the game, as I would have been doing it in any case – it’s just about trying to get the balance between coaching and playing. I’d trained over the previous weekend when the lads were off because of the international break, but the under-20s were in and played the full 90 minutes for them – as a centre half. It was a little bit different, but it was good to get the minutes on the pitch, although there wasn’t the intensity of getting up and down the park.”

Maybury admitted he’s subject to some light-hearted banter from Fenlon’s squad as he changes from his coach’s kit to a player’s jersey, but he’s more than happy at the diversity of the role he’s taken on.

He said: “I’m learning and seeing it all from the other side and loving it. My role is to help the manager or James or whoever and in whatever they need. If it is playing, great. The manager needed me to play on Saturday, I thought I did a good job but I know we had one or two out injured and a couple of them are not too far away from coming back.

“I’d be delighted if I was called on again this weekend, but if the manager picks someone else then I will accept that. He’ll choose the team he thinks is the best to face St Mirren, that’s no problem for me.

“I won’t be going knocking on his door to ask why – I’ve got plenty of other things I need to be doing.”

Nevertheless, Maybury admitted he thoroughly enjoyed his outing in Perth, Tommy Wright’s side appearing to “target” him by deploying the pacy Nigel Hasselbaink wide left directly up against the Dublin-born right back. “You’d have to ask them about that,” insisted Maybury, “but I don’t think he went by me at all.

“I knew where I wanted to defend him, I knew what his strengths were and as the game went on I felt more and more on top of that battle. I think I did all right, although I did feel for the first 20 minutes I was trying to get my breath and get to the pace of the game.”

After what Fenlon conceded was a scrappy opening from his side, a period in which they fell behind to Stevie May’s inch-perfect drive which flew into the bottom corner of goalkeeper Ben Williams’ net, Hibs hit back, equalising through new boy Paul Heffernan, while James Collins also got his first goal of the club with what proved to be the winner 14 minutes into the second half.

It was a win which Maybury insisted was thoroughly merited as he produced a raft of surprising statistics to underline his team’s achievement – Saints’ first home defeat since Hibs beat them last November, the first time the Perth club had lost at home to a side outwith the Old Firm after taking the lead since March 2007 and, astonishingly, being one of only four clubs, Livingston, Rangers and Celtic being the others, who have gone a goal behind at McDiarmid Park and ended up winning.

The fact, too, that it’s now four games without defeat for Fenlon’s side may have slipped under the radar, but it’s another stat with which Maybury and his team-mates are well aware of. He said: “It took us a wee bit to get going on Saturday, but in the second half we were the better team.

“Paul’s goal gave us the lift to kick on, we played really well and deserved to win. I don’t think Ben had a save to make, they put balls into the box in the final 15 minutes, but I don’t think we felt we were under any great deal of pressure.

“I was delighted for the strikers. They’ve been working hard but nothing has fallen for them. James had been under a bit of pressure because the club had spent a bit of money but it’s a new team bedding in and we’ve been trying to get the new strike partnership working.”

Saturday also offered Hibs fans their first glimpse of French kid Abdellah Zoubir and he didn’t disappoint with a ten-minute cameo at the end of the match in which he lived up to the hype which had preceded him. And Maybury promised there will be plenty more to come from the youngster.

He said: “I think there had been a bit going around on social media after he scored those two goals in a friendly against Rangers, that made people sit up and take notice.

“Abdellah’s definitely a talent. He has great ability, he can travel and has dancing feet. He’s here for the season and I think the fans are going to enjoy having him here.”