Crowning moment for Hibs' Kevin Nisbet after a season like no other
In the aftermath of Hibs’ Scottish Cup semi-final defeat by Hearts in October last year, David Gray was seen consoling Kevin Nisbet. We assumed the striker was rueing his penalty miss in extra time and the skipper was giving him some words of support.
When it later emerged that Nisbet had lost his father Thomas earlier in the week but still found the strength and courage to not only play in such a huge game but also take a spot-kick, the photo became ten times more poignant.
Six months later and Nisbet has secured his place in the Scotland squad for Euro 2020. He is not in the group just to make up the numbers.
He offers something different to Lyndon Dykes and Che Adams and while we don’t know exactly what his role will be, with Leigh Griffiths omitted from Steve Clarke’s squad the Hibs striker is essentially the third-choice frontman and as a result we are likely to see him on the pitch.
Hitting the ground running
If the weight of expectation on Nisbet’s shoulders after two goal-laden seasons with Raith Rovers and Dunfermline Athletic was heavy, he didn’t show it. Eighteen goals and eight assists since making his debut in green and white suggests that he has taken to Scottish Premiership football like a duck to water.
A hat-trick in his second game for the club; goals at Celtic Park and Ibrox, and the crucial first goal in the Scottish Cup semi-final victory over Dundee United. Top-flight life is treating the 24-year-old very well indeed.
Nisbet was experiencing a mid-season dip when Birmingham City came calling during the January transfer window, having several bids rejected by Hibs.
Despite reports that the player had handed in a transfer request he remained at Easter Road after the window had slammed shut.
In the aftermath he insisted he was happy at Hibs and vowed to help the side reach Europe, score as many goals as possible, and force his way into the Scotland squad.
Check, check, and check again.
There is an argument that the enforced absence of Oli McBurnie, Griffiths’ omission, and Lawrence Shankland struggling for form at times at club level helped to clear the way but Nisbet’s hard work and the fact he consistently meets the targets he sets himself should not be overlooked.
An inspirational figure
It was as recently as mid-March that Nisbet won his maiden Scotland call-up but even then, 24 hours prior to the announcement he wasn’t taking anything for granted.
Two months ago it could be assumed that, fitness permitting, Adams and Dykes would be going to the Euros. Nisbet’s place in the squad was anything but guaranteed.
He now has a chance to display his talents on the international stage with the world watching on – although Hibs fans, Jack Ross, and his team-mates will be hoping the striker can celebrate his Euros call-up by helping the Easter Road side to Scottish Cup glory on Saturday against St Johnstone.
Whatever happens this summer on the international stage, the striker has excelled in his first season as a Hibs player against a background of personal loss.
He has been an inspirational figure.
Nisbet has already made his father proud, and his family. It would be no surprise to see him make a nation of 5.5 million proud this summer.