There’s been a lot of hot air swirling around Scott Allan for the past couple of weeks, but Hibs boss Alan Stubbs believes the midfielder is much happier doing his talking on the pitch.
Allan has had a transfer request rejected in the wake of two bids from Championship rivals Rangers having been turned down, with the Hibs ready to play hard ball by insisting their star asset won’t be going to Ibrox no matter the money on offer.
The stand-off has naturally led to questions as to how the situation will affect the 23-year-old; the former Dundee United and West Brom player starting from the bench in both of Hibs’ opening games.
Stubbs’ reasoning for placing him there, as his side faced Rangers at a time when speculation regarding Allan was at its height, was that “it wouldn’t be right” to do so. In this match he remained on the sidelines as new arrival Marvin Bartley was given an extended run to help tweak his fitness ahead of the league season’s opener at Dumbarton.
When he finally did make an appearance in this League Cup tie, it was to a mixed reception, boos detectable amidst the cheers, but Stubbs was adamant that the dissenting voices were those of the 153 Montrose fans which were drowned out by those of the home support who had given Allan a warm reception as he’d earlier limbered up on the touchline.
And it took him just six minutes to earn an even greater acclamation, a clever turn winning him the space to dispatch the ball beyond Montrose goalkeeper Ross Salmon for Hibs’ second goal, the one that clinched victory and a place in the draw for the second round.
In truth, Hibs hadn’t looked in any great trouble, already leading thanks to teenager Scott Martin’s first goal for the club and clearly in control but, as Easter Road fans probably know better than most, such a slender advantage can be so, so fragile.
Allan’s strike, however, removed any such fears, with birthday boy Jason Cummings adding a third, the striker acknowledging the worth of his team-mate by saying: “Scott’s easily the best I have played with, I was delighted when he got his goal. It says a lot about him that with everything that has been going on, he just got on with the job. Obviously he has been getting a hard time on Twitter, but all the boys are there for him. He is one of the boys and good value in the changing room. He is always there to help me and others and it is great to watch him, even in training.
“He’s quite hard-skinned so I am sure all the talk won’t affect him. He is quite experienced, knows the game and just wants to enjoy his football. Last season he gave me so many goals. It is great lining up knowing he is there behind you supplying the passes, he always knows where to play the pass.”
Stubbs admitted the ongoing saga has proved to be a difficult time for both player and club but, he insisted, he believes both parties have dealt with it well, Allan putting the issues aside to remind everyone of the talent which earned him the accolade of Championship player of the year last time round.
“He was just Scotty when he came on,” claimed Stubbs, “We all know the ability he has. We all know what he can do. I thought he looked sharp, dynamic and he gave us a bit of a lift. As a footballer you always want to play, to do your talking on the football pitch. That’s the place to do it. We just have to keep working away. Our stance does not change. I don’t mean that with us and Rangers, but with me and Scott.
“I have the utmost respect for him. I feel I am finding myself saying the same thing, but he gave us the maximum for the time he was on and long may that continue.
“It’s obviously been difficult for him and it has not been an easy situation for the club but at this moment I think both of us are dealing with it really well.”
If recent days have become the Scott Allan story, Stubbs, of course, has to look beyond a single player and manage what has been a difficult scenario, his squad left threadbare for both the Petrofac Training Cup clash with Rangers and again against Montrose, the lack of options underlined by the fact that Allan apart, the other five outfield players he had named as substitutes were all teenagers, four of them without a minute of first team experience between them.
That situation will change over the course of the next couple of weeks as players who have thus far been missing regain full fitness and become available for selection. To that end the minutes Bartley, pictured left, enjoyed in this match could be viewed as the beginning of that process.
Stubbs said: “We were always intending to give Marvin at least 45 minutes and we stretched it because of the game. It worked well for us, the way the game was going gave us the opportunity to give him some extra minutes.
“When Scott came on Montrose were starting to tire a little, gaps started to appear and when you have someone like Scott he is going to exploit that – and he did.”
Stubbs, though, was unhappy with his team’s performance in the first half, describing it as “a little bit untidy” with moments of poor decision-making and sloppy passing as Montrose set out to make life difficult, as Cummings acknowledged. He said: “We knew it was going to be a frustrating game when they would mostly sit behind the ball and invite us to attack them. But fortunately we managed to see it out in the end.
“The first goal was the important one. They were always going to sit back, while it was goalless and then try to hit us on the counter.
“We knew we had the better players so we had to be patient and Scott’s goal in the first half took a lot of the pressure off.”