Kevin Dabrowski reveals what he told Hibs ace Elias Melkersen prior to Scottish Cup heroics
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The Polish stopper has seen in very close quarters the exciting blend of talent and determination which courses through Melkersen since the Norwegian teenager signed for Hibs in January from Bodo/Glimt.
The club’s support got their first taste of that in the quarter-finals of the Scottish Cup as the 19-year-old striker repaid the faith given to him by manager Shaun Maloney, who opted for the fresh-faced hitman over seasoned veteran Christian Doidge. He struck twice in a highly expressive first half performance, which was enough to carry the away side to a 2-1 win against the ten men.
Melkersen has had to be patient with his full debut coming over two months after initially joining on January 5 for a six-figure fee. Dabrowski, who himself knows all about waiting for a chance at Easter Road, was able to keep his friend calm and focused before offering some last-minute words of encouragement ahead of Sunday’s game.
"I'm not surprised at all. He's such a good professional who knows what he wants to be. He wants to be a top player. He's very talented and his mindset is very good,” the goalkeeper told the Evening News.
“He stays with me so I look after him and I was happy to slightly contribute to his full debut by having a wee pep talk with him. He was frustrated at the beginning because he wanted to play straight away and that wasn't the case. But I spoke to him many times and said 'listen, I've been here five years and I've been waiting for my moment for almost that long so your time will come'.
“I was sure that he'd be a smash so I tried to take him for extra training whenever I could. I know best as a goalkeeper how he can hit the ball; he can really finish.
“When he found out he was going to start against Motherwell I went up to him and said 'listen viking brother, you just be yourself, don't try and do anything new, just enjoy because you're good enough and I'm sure you'll score at least one goal'. And he did it!
“After the game he was just so thankful and emotional and for me as well. I was just so happy. I kind of feel like a big brother to him. It was just amazing and I'm sure there are more goals to come from him.
“He's a great lad. He's very helpful, very kind. He always takes more dishes to wash so I'm very happy about it, it's perfect.
“There's been a big lack of goals recently and Elias Melkersen is the answer. I'm sure everyone will see the more games he plays the more goals he will score. You just need to keep believing in him and trust him. He's still a young boy. He's very talented and he'll just get better and better.”
The victory in Lanarkshire saw Hibs in the last four of the Scottish Cup for the third season in succession. Even watching on from the bench, Dabrowski recognised the affect the boisterous away support had on the team as they were able to roar their favourites to victory.
"We showed the hunger and desire to win the game, because cup games are never easy. It's about winning the battle, both mentally and physically because Motherwell is a physical team. It's always a difficult place to play, so winning was so big for us,” he said.
"Listen, our Hampden record is amazing. Every season we seem to get to the semis or finals and we're so hungry to get there again and make a repeat of 2016.
“We've got the desire and the hunger. We're the team from the capital so we always have to be proud and show we're one of the best teams in Scotland, especially with having some of the best fans in Britain. You want to make them proud, especially the way they came to Motherwell and support us. They contributed fully to that win.”
It was announced on Monday afternoon that Scotland will use the date of their postponed World Cup qualification play-off with Ukraine to play Poland in a friendly at Hampden Park with £10 from every ticket going to UNICEF’s response to the war.
At the time of the announcement, Dabrowski was in a storage facility in West Lothian to help load vans with food, clothing and medicine destined for his homeland to help Ukrainian refugees who’ve crossed the border fleeing the Russian invasion. He was delighted to learn his homeland will taking on his adopted nation in the spirit of standing united in support of the war-torn European country.
"I think it's a great idea that both of those teams are going to unite and play for Ukraine, especially if we can get as many people as possible into the stadium to show how big a support Ukraine have got. Football always unites everyone so it's really the best thing that can happen right now,” he said.
“It was the right decision to postpone the game. For Ukrainian footballers right now it's just not possible to play. They can't focus properly on football because they're worrying about their families. For those who have to stay in Ukraine you can't imagine how stressful that could be.
“I just know that if I was from Ukraine, I couldn't imagine playing right now in such an important game. The most important thing right now is about their safety, their lives and their families.”