EXCLUSIVE - Hibs boss on X-factor needed by January signings

Monty talks loan markets, academy kids - and players with a point to prove

The match winners and game changes are out there, hiding among the scores of talented wunderkinds and Next Big Things unlikely to make the leap into grown-up football. Hibernian’s entire season hangs upon their ability to identify – and secure – some 24-carat quality in a sea of glittering promise.

As Nick Montgomery navigates his first transfer window as Hibs boss, he’ll definitely rely on one golden rule of recruitment – and scour the market for players with something to prove. Because guys intent on saving their careers, maybe even settling a few scores in the process, have just the sort of attitude needed to deliver some oomph to a flagging campaign.

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Montgomery, who will personally interview all potential signings to gauge their character and ability to make an immediate impact, sees Hibs doing most of their work in the loan market. Which means making dozens of calls to his contacts in the English game, as he seeks a central defender, a midfielder and a striker – just for starters – capable of turning some of those frustrating draws and agonising defeats into victories.

“It’s very, very hard to get that calibre of player,” said Monty, the former Sheffield United midfielder adding: “Because every team needs those sorts of players, guys who can win you games. And we have to be realistic about the budget we have.

“There are players who have gone six months without playing games. So are they match ready? Are they ready to prove their own club wrong and put themselves back in the frame?

“Then you get players who have possibly been playing but, due to other clubs signing players, they become surplus to requirements. They need to come somewhere and play games.

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“I need them to be coming here for the right reasons – like getting their career back on track. That’s the only reason they’d be coming to a club on loan, because it’s not going great for them at their current club.

“What is important is we get the right characters in. They have to want to come to Scotland, No. 1. Unfortunately, the salaries of players down south are very high. So you also have to be able to afford them.

“But they have to want to come to Scotland – and be aware that it’s not an easy league to come to. There are a lot factors, from the club wanting them to come here, the player wanting to come, the agent wanting it to happen.

“Ultimately, I will speak to any player we’re looking at. If I feel they’re the right fit for the club, I’ll bring them in. If I don’t feel they’re right, even if there is an option to bring them in, I won’t bring them in.”

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Montgomery stressed the value of actually having an in-depth conversation with potential signings, insisting: “It’s vitally important that we have that contact. It doesn’t matter whether you’re signing them permanently or on loan. We need to do due diligence.

“I’m fortunate in knowing quite a lot of people in football, so it’s quite easy to get character references. But sometimes it’s not always about what someone’s opinion is.

“I need to talk to a potential signing, tell them about what we want and explaining what sort of demands they’ll be facing from the start, make it clear there are no grey areas. This is what they need to do.”

There’s always a risk, especially during this mid-season window, of scouts and managers getting dazzled by the glitz surrounding academy players at Premier League clubs. They MUST be good if they’ve come through the ranks at such a major outfit, right?

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“You definitely have to be wary,” warned Montgomery, who won’t be spending any of billionaire investor Bill Foley’s cash until that deal is over the line. “Just because a player has been at an academy at a big club, that doesn’t mean they’re going to make it as a professional footballer. The percentage making the first team is so small.

“If you can identify a young player who is possibly close to making the grade at a big team, yeah, it’s always going to be a risk because they’ve never been tested at this level. But that’s a risk you have to take, knowing all the facts. If he fits and the position fits, and you feel they can give more than what you currently have, you have a decision to make.

“The reality is that’s the sort of players we can possibly target, because we can afford to bring them in. But the reality is academy football, as opposed to first-team football, isn’t the same. There is a massive gap, a big jump for players. Anyone we sign would have to be ready physically and mentally.

“I’m not going to bring in players who are going to sit on the bench and block younger players from gaining experience. We have to be really clinical and bring in players who can help us instantly, give us impact as a starter or off the bench.”

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