Hibs boss Neil Lennon brought in American international Emerson Hyndman prior to John McGinn’s exit to Aston Villa on Wednesday. Joel Sked looks at what the club are getting in the midfielder.
Lennon’s type of player
After a starring role in a 2-0 defeat of Motherwell during a 17-match loan spell at Rangers in 2017, this writer wrote ‘The Bournemouth loanee was a deserving recipient of the game’s man of the match award due to his positivity in possession, crisp passing and willingness to move forward from midfield’ for the Evening News’ sister title The Scotsman.
As Rangers fell to a third place finish, nine points behind runners-up Aberdeen, Hyndman was one of few positives in an otherwise disappointing finish. Despite coming into a pressurised environment, one which he had never experienced before, where the manager was under pressure he didn’t shirk responsibility.
It was the opposite, certainly in the nascent period. He was keen to get on the ball and involve himself as much as possible. His natural instinct is to attack.
Neil Lennon’s Hibs are renowned for their attacking qualities. At times it is as if the Red Arrows have been decked in green and white as they swarm forward. Keeping possession for the sake of having the ball is dismissed. Hibs need to show intent and purpose, Hyndman, when playing with Rangers, showed he can cope with such demands.
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Hyndman didn’t come out and say he was comparable to Real Madrid and Croatia star Luka Modric, but he used the midfielder as an example of the type of player he models himself on.
The player arrived in England as a No.10, a player who would simply concentrate on providing that defining moment in attack. However, he soon came to learn the importance of the defensive side of the game.
At Fulham, then at Bournemouth, he developed into a No.8 with the requisite defensive skills, able to play both ways.
Positionally, he is a replacement for John McGinn but in all honesty it is impossible to replicate what McGinn produced for Hibs. Hyndman is not nearly as dynamic as McGinn. However, he is competitive and trustworthy with the ball.
It could turn out that he is closer to Dylan McGeouch than John McGinn. Saying that, Hibs fans will be hoping it is more Luka Modric.
Despite being born in Texas, the home of the Dallas Cowboys, the Houston Astros, the San Antonio Spurs, the Houston Rockets and so much more major league professional sports teams, Hibs’ new midfielder loves football - or soccer as he knew it growing up.
Much of that influence could be put down to Hydnman’s grandfather Schellas Hyndman, who was head coach of Major League Soccer side FC Dallas between 2008 and 2013.
Hyndman JR was allowed to even train with the first team.
He told the Guardian: “I think I was 13 at the time. Seeing all these guys who are 25 to 30 it was a little intimidating at first but I just tried my best and worked as hard as I could. Looking back now they didn’t really go as hard as they could.”
Prior to that, even as a young kid, he was constantly analysing players on TV as well as his own game, looking to improve. He would take that into individual training sessions with his father.
“I did that all the time from 6 years old onwards,” he said. “He taught me anything from looking behind my shoulder before I receive a pass to any sort of technique passing a ball. He was a big part of my success.”
In September 2014 then United States boss Jurgen Klinsmann called Hyndman into national team set-up. Just 18 at the time and with only three first-team games under his belt at club level for Fulham the player was handed his debut in a friendly win over Czech Republic.
He was earmarked as one of a handful of young talents emerging to improve US Soccer, with Klinsmann keen on players moving to Europe.
Hyndman had already joined Fulham in 2011. However, he’s only had one cap since, making an appearance in another friendly victory in 2016.
Yet, his loan spell at Rangers remains his most productive period. Now 22 he’s only played 52 first-team games. He requires a positive spell at Easter Road to get a career which promised so much back on track.
Hyndman was at the centre of a strange incident while on loan at Rangers, one which added pressure on then Ibrox boss Mark Warburton.
The 22-year-old was Rangers’ best player during a 4-1 defeat to Ian Cathro’s Hearts at Tynecastle in February 2017. However, Warburton opted to remove the player around the hour mark with the away side trailing 3-1.
Hyndman had netted the equaliser in the first-half and was generally Rangers’ most inventive and best performing individual. His removal was met by boos from the away end. Not due to his performance but because the fans clearly saw that he was their best chance of getting something out from the game.
In Warburton’s post-match interview he made a fundamental error.
He said: “He is 20 years old, hasn’t played many 90 minutes and on Saturday he played an outstanding 90 minutes. He is a young, precocious talent and Saturday took a lot out of him. “The pitch out there is so heavy. We’ve got a responsibility to his parent club. We have got to look after their asset.”
Rangers fans didn’t want to hear about how they were not the priority.
Warburton left nine days later.
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