Emerson Hyndman explains how he can get best out Florian Kamberi at Hibs
When Hibs' winless streak hit its nadir with the 2-2 draw at home to Ladbrokes Premiership bottom club St Mirren last midweek, the Easter Road coaching staff took the extreme method of calling out one of the team's biggest and most influential stars in public.
Florian Kamberi was told to improve “everything” in the wake of the draw. The club’s support couldn’t disagree. Kamberi, as one of the biggest talisman in the squad, was failing to live up to his billing and, with the dire form of the team showing little sign of stopping, criticism only naturally came his way.
Therefore, it was encouraging to see the leading man of the attack looking back to something approaching his best in the second half of Saturday’s 1-0 win over Hamilton Accies. He may not have found the elusive winning goal – that was snatched by strike-partner Oli Shaw – but he played an active role in the final third; dropping into areas, playing one-touch passes around the corners, testing the opposing goalkeeper with that stinging drive of his, and looking very much like Florian Kamberi once again.
It’s probably not a coincidence that his sudden improvement on the synthetic Hope CBD Stadium turf occurred after Emerson Hyndman rose from the bench to make only his second appearance in the last two months due to injury.
The American’s absence was perhaps overlooked in terms of its significance. He was one of three new central midfielders brought in to replace John McGinn, Dylan McGeouch and Scott Allan after their departures in the summer. Supporters and the management staff were still getting to grips with transformed line-up when Hyndman went down, and therefore his value couldn’t be properly understood.
On Saturday he made that known with an energetic and proactive performance that vaulted Hibs in the second half. Allan he may not be, but his ability to get on the ball and push the tempo in the final third gave the side, and the front two, the type of assistance from a central midfield area that they’ve severely lacked in recent weeks. And Kamberi, in particular, looked much better for it.
“I think we work quite well together. We read each other’s games quite well,” said Hyndman of his relationship on the park with Kamberi. “I think he’s always looking to play little passes and combination play, which is what I like to do so maybe naturally we just fit together in that way. He almost scored two on Saturday, one off my pass, and I thought he was good. He’ll gain a lot of confidence from that performance.
“He’s massively influential. He spearheads our attack and things can either go really well or break down up there, it’s a tough position to play. You get criticism sometimes, but it’s a really hard job up there. With that added confidence we’re looking forward to having him for these huge games coming up.”
Signed from Bournemouth in August on a long deal only until January, being out for the better part of two months through injury was not what Hyndman needed at this point in his career.
The 22-year-old has not given up on his dream of making it with the English Premier League side and would have been looking to build on a promising loan with Rangers the season before last, showing that he was more than capable of starring in the Ladbrokes Premiership.
Instead, he had to watch on from the sidelines as the team he’d helped to reach second in the table dropped like a stone, landing in eighth position before Saturday’s match.
“All I’ve been doing is trying to get fit and supporting the lads. I’ve basically been a cheerleader for a few weeks,” Hyndman said with a smile. “It’s been a bit frustrating, but it was really nice to get back out there with the lads and to put in a decent performance as a team. I did all right personally. I came on and just wanted to help the team out. Obviously I’ve had some time off so I thought I could bring a bit of energy [laughs] but overall I was pleased.
“You don’t really think about [reasons for the struggles] when you’re injured. You just focus on getting back. The lads have had some hard luck in some of the games where things haven’t bounced our way.
“It’s tough on everyone. We’re all going through it the same way, even if you’re not out there on the pitch.
“It’s all about working together, staying together through some tough times and I think we showed that we can dig ourselves out. We put on a decent performance at the end there.
“Hopefully this was a win that will help us turn things around after recent results.”
Hyndman’s immediate future with the club is still to be decided.
Though his deal expires next month, manager Neil Lennon has said he would be open to exploring the possibility of extending the midfielder’s stay if it suited all parties.
The player himself refused to be drawn on his future, insisting he was focused on nothing else other than helping Hibs to turn a corner and put together a run of their own, starting with the daunting task of facing Celtic in Leith this coming Sunday.
“I don’t really think that far ahead, I just try to focus on game by game,” he insisted. “Any match where I’m lucky enough to be able to play in I just try to give it my all. Because of the injury everything has been on hold, really.”