KEITH WRIGHT reckons there’s no better motivator to lift Hibs out of the doldrums ahead of their clash with Motherwell than assistant manager Jimmy Nicholl.
Wright knows exactly how the Hibs players will be feeling this week after their 7-0 European thrashing by Malmo because he was part of the side which lost by an identical scoreline to Rangers at Ibrox back in 1995.
There’s no doubt the Easter Road squad will be on a downer, but they will have to bounce back from the disappointment of being knocked out of Europe at the first hurdle for the start of the new SPFL season on Sunday.
However, Wright thinks Nicholl is just the man to get them firing on all cylinders again.
Wright worked under Nicholl for a season at Raith Rovers in 1997 and believes that you’d be hard pushed to find a better motivator in the Scottish game than his old boss.
Former Hibs striker Wright, said: “This week won’t have been a very pleasant one for any of them.
“I’m sure they’ll have been going over and over the game to see what went wrong, how they lost the goals, what their defending was like and where they could improve, that kind of thing.
“It won’t have been an enjoyable task, but the one thing that they do have in their favour is Jimmy Nicholl.
“He is the best motivator that I have worked with. He’ll be worth his weight in gold this week and I think Pat Fenlon will be glad to have someone like him in his camp.
“He will make sure that the players are lifted and that they are in the right frame of mind for the Motherwell game.
“He has only been at the club for a short period of time, but he will really make an impression this season. He is a great man-manager and works really well with players either individually or as a group.
“He gets you going out on that park full of confidence and he can make you feel ten feet tall, no matter what else is going on.”
Wright remembers that 7-0 loss at Ibrox of 17 years ago like it was yesterday – and shudders at the thought of the reaction the Hibs players faced in the wake of the result.
“It was so embarrassing for us at the time,” he recalls. “There was a bad reaction from the fans and the media and you could understand why. A club the size of Hibs should never be defeated like that.
“We all felt like we had let the fans down because it was Christmas time and we took a really good crowd through there because everybody was off during the holiday period.
“It was a horrible time for all of us and one of the worst feelings in the world, but we were fortunate in a way because we had a game against Hearts just a couple of days later.
“We lost to Rangers, but didn’t have a lot of time to dwell on the result because the Edinburgh derby was right after it and we beat them 2-1, so that helped get us back on our feet.”
Wright knows how important it is for Hibs to get their domestic season off to a good start after last week’s demoralising defeat to the Swedes.
“Confidence will be at a real low and it is massive now that they get off to a good start.
“The best way to get a result like that out of your system is to make sure that you win your next game, but it is going to take strong, brave Hibs players to do that because everyone was full of optimism about the start of the season.
“There’s no doubt that they will be under the spotlight now and they have got to show that they can handle it.”
The one thing Hibs won’t want to do in their opening match against Motherwell is concede, but these clashes have a history of being packed with goals.
The two sides have scored 50 goals between them in their last 11 clashes – including ten in their last two meetings and that memorable 6-6 draw at Fir Park in May 2010.
And Wright expects more of the same this weekend.
He added: “There have been a lot of goals in these games and I am sure that this one will be no different because both sides will be desperate to get their season off to a good start.
“Obviously Hibs will want to shut up shop after Malmo.”