Clarity, honesty and fun - the inside story of Hibs manager’s first week in charge

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Nick Montgomery has sold his new Hibs players on a straightforward plan for matchday one

Getting out on the grass has been fun again, the stresses and strains that accompanied the dog days of Lee Johnson’s reign slowly fading from the collective mood.

As they prepare to take on Kilmarnock in precisely the sort of testing away fixture that new head coach Nick Montgomery can expect to face on a regular basis, his re-energised Hibs players must find a way to convert that feelgood factor into a performance. And, ultimately, vital Scottish Premiership points.

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If Jimmy Jeggo’s testimony is anything to go by, they at least seem to understand exactly what the boss – appointed as successor to Johnson on Monday - wants from them.

Speaking in terms of practicalities rather than some all-encompassing vision of where he sees this team in a year or even a month’s time, Montgomery has kept things simple in his first four training sessions at the helm. And focused entirely on this single fixture.

“He’s not come in and promised the world,” insisted Jeggo. “He’s been really clear in terms of what he expects from us - what we bring day to day, the training, implementing what he wants to do.

"But it’s not been a case of: ‘This is my grand plan.’ It’s been more along the lines of: ‘This what I expect, let’s get down to work’. With the first game coming so quickly there’s only so much you can do, so a lot of the focus has been on the game.

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“We’ll see. It’s been a really good week, the boys have really enjoyed it, and I feel we’ve got a really good grasp of what we need to do this weekend. Fun? Oh yeah, football is fun, mate! You enjoy going out on the pitch and training.

“It has been very straightforward and very clear what he expects from us and what he is going to give us. It’s been a good week, a lot of information and a lot of time out on the training pitch; that’s what we need especially with the new gaffer and the games coming thick and fast.

“It’s still the first week, we’re still getting to know him, he’s probably still getting to know us - but we feel like we’re in a good place going into the game.”

Montgomery’s Central Coast Mariners team played in a very different style to Hibs under Johnson. With no chance of adding new recruits until January, however, the manager may be restricted in how much he can tweak and tinker with the game plan over the coming weeks.

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Asked if there had been any radical changes to training, shape work or tactical briefings under the new coaching staff, Jeggo said: “There’s plenty of time for that.

“It’s going to take time for the whole process and his plan to come together but, going into the game, we’re clear on what we want to do in all aspects of the game and how we’re going to get a result. It’s up to us as players to go out there and put in a performance and put into practice what he wants from us to get a result.”

Jeggo is living proof of the steady Aussie exodus when it comes to players travelling halfway across the world to play in UK and European football. The former Melbourne Victory player believes it was only a matter of time before British clubs woke up to the potential of A-League coaches, as well.

And he says the example set by Ange Postecoglou, a runaway hit at Celtic and currently taking the Premier League by storm with Spurs, forced chairmen and chief executives to seriously consider candidates who had “only ever done it in Australia …”

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Jeggo said: “I think it’s a real positive for Australian football, Ange at Celtic and what he’s doing at Tottenham. Players have always come over to Europe but it has been a lot more difficult for managers - and I think Ange was the trailblazer there.

“It’s really good that our gaffer here he has that opportunity and hopefully it leads to more. There is a lot of talent in Australia but, when you are so far away from Europe, it can take a while for that to come through. The boys that have come over here have done well to continue that pathway for players and coaches.

“A hundred per cent, he was a manager I knew about because you just look at what he did with Central Coast, how impressive that was, winning the Grand Final. But you also look at what he did for players like Jason Cummings, or that a lot of young boys from his team have done well and come over to Europe. It was all really positive.”

As impressive as Central Coast’s football under Montgomery, insists Jeggo, was the team spirit he created at a club with the youngest squad – and smallest wage bill – in Australia’s elite division.

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“I know from his time there and from following the league that they are a really exciting team, scored a lot of goals and had a real togetherness and team spirit,” he said. “That was the really impressive thing, especially towards the back end of the season. You saw that there was that real bond between the staff and players; that’s one thing that is a massive part of being a successful team.”

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