Drey Wright opens up on how close he came to leaving Hibs as he raves about Shaun Maloney approach

With January fast approaching, Drey Wright had all but packed his bags and was heading towards the Easter Road exit door, anticipating a departure during the transfer window. Then he was handed a first Hibs start in eight months.

By Patrick McPartlin
Wednesday, 29th December 2021, 10:30 pm
Has Drey Wright been handed a Hibs lifeline by new manager Shaun Maloney?
Has Drey Wright been handed a Hibs lifeline by new manager Shaun Maloney?

The midfielder was a somewhat surprise inclusion in the team to face Dundee United on Boxing Day but made the most of his 61 minutes on the pitch, playing a role in Hibs’ opener as the Capital club recorded a 3-1 win at Tannadice and a third successive league win.

The arrival of Shaun Maloney, and the new manager’s intention to give every player a clean slate, may just have given Wright reason to hang on and continue fighting for a starting berth.

"It was good to be out there, especially with the style of play we are producing at the moment. It was a joy to play in and be a part of,” the 26-year-old said after the match.

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Many supporters assumed the midfielder’s time was up in the Capital, with Maloney’s predecessor Jack Ross seemingly favouring other options in the middle of the park.

“It’s fair to say I found myself out of the picture a little bit,” Wright agrees. “These things happen in football. It's about looking forward and enjoying working with the new manager.”

Given the length of time between his last start – against Celtic on May 15 – and lining up against the Terrors, was there any special message from Maloney before the game?

"He just told me to go and enjoy it and play with no pressure. It has been a long time – eight months or so since I last started. He told me to implement the work we've been doing out there on the training pitch into the game. I think the control we had in the game and the amount of chances we had showed we did that. It was really enjoyable."

Wright was one of the first new faces through the door in the summer of 2020 and although he scored in a 2-2 draw against Rangers, first-team opportunities became more and more scarce, and he was limited to brief cameos off the bench.

He was also linked with a departure in the summer as part of a deal that would have taken him and Scott Allan to St Mirren with Jamie McGrath heading to Edinburgh but the move fell through owing to a delay in lodging the relevant paperwork with the Scottish FA. Despite that turn of events, he insists that there was reassurance from Ross that the former St Johnstone man had a future at Easter Road.

"I had talks with the manager a number of times,” he reveals. “I don't want to go into too much detail, but I wish him all the best in the future and it's just one of those things. It just didn't work out for us.

"It's been tough and you have to just keep on plugging away. I obviously trained as hard as I could every day. I think if you asked the staff, it was one of the things they appreciated because I never gave in.

"Under the previous manager, he assured me I was part of his plans which is what I was told. It was just a case of keeping my head down and trying to get an opportunity which never came about this season.

"Conversations have been had about leaving, but hopefully it will change now."

You’d be hard pushed to find a single member of the Easter Road first team who isn’t enjoying life under Maloney, and Wright has been impressed.

"His coaching credentials speak for themselves. He had a brilliant job being Belgium's assistant for the amount of time he did,” he continues.

"I've not asked him exactly what he did, but I would imagine it was good because he was working with players at the top level who took to him really well.”

Much work is done on and off the training ground under the new regime as Maloney and his coaching staff work with the squad to identify the best way of beating opposition teams.

"Never in my career have I come across a manager who goes into as much depth and that much planning into what we are going to do,” Wright states.

"He explains it really well and makes it as simple as it can be. It opens your eyes to the process that we are going to attack teams with. He breaks it down and makes it a lot more simple for us.”

Not that long ago Wright might have been anticipating January as a chance to move on and get a fresh start – but his involvement against United might just have altered the situation. He has plans for the winter break, but is only focused on returning to training and building on that long-awaited start in green and white.

"For a while now I have been looking towards January as something that might happen for me. Now I have got into the team and we've got another win, so the games being called off isn't ideal,” he admits.

"I'll try and see family and make the most of it. We'll have a lot more time on the training ground before the next game which will only benefit us.

"I am finding it all really interesting because of the detail and planning that goes into it and how we are going to break teams down and what we are going to do in the game to implement that. It's been really enjoyable and interesting because it's how I see the game as well,” Wright adds.

"Hopefully, it suits and it's the start of something quite good."

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