Exclusive - Hibs loan stars 'fighting for the badge' as gaffer makes fan vow

Marcondes and Maolida have both been loan signing successes so far.Marcondes and Maolida have both been loan signing successes so far.
Marcondes and Maolida have both been loan signing successes so far.
Players will always applaud fans - even when punters are giving them pelters

Between a full posse of loan signings and a handful of guys out of contract at the end of the current campaign, Hibs are hardly a model of long-term squad stability. There will undoubtedly be an enormous exodus of players this summer. No bad thing, in the eyes of many supporters.

But what effect is this imminent upheaval having on Hibs right here, right now? And can players with no skin in the game, footballers whose careers will be unaffected by where and how Nick Montgomery’s men finish this season, really be expected to sweat blood putting in the hard work to make life easier for their successors?

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There will always be a suspicion, among some, that players heading back to parent clubs – or, worse, dropping into the uncertainty of free agency – will start to make business decisions. That, when faced with a choice between risking injury and letting the other guy win the ball, take his shot or clear that effort off the line, they’ll hold back.

Montgomery, for one, doesn’t buy into that view. Out on the training ground at East Mains every day, and from his position on the touchline at games, he sees nothing but hardened professionals “fighting for the badge” as they put everything into pursuit of victory.

From on-loan Manchester United defender Will Fish to out out-of-contract veteran striker Adam Le Fondre, the Hibs boss can also provide plenty of anecdotal evidence to back up his opinion, pointing out: “Look, everybody’s in different situations. But we’re all here together. Whether you’ve been here for a long time or you’ve come in on loan, there’s a desire to do well.

“The boys who came in on loan came here for good reasons – and I don’t think anyone could question them. Myziane Maolida is our top goal scorer. He joined in January, probably didn’t really feel match fit until February. So that tells you a lot about the boys who have come here.

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“They’ve come into fight for the club, fight for the badge and fight for the fans. There is no difference in commitment between players who have been here for the long term and the loan guys.

“The reality is that everyone may have a slightly different mindset because they’re all in different situations. But as a manager, you have to manage that. That’s part of football.”

Having added seven signings during January, cut to an even half dozen when Owen Bevan failed to recover from injury issues, Hibs have become increasingly reliant on players under contract elsewhere. Fish, in his second season with the Edinburgh club but considering his options as he approaches the final guaranteed year of his Manchester United contract, was joined by – among others – Hertha Berlin’s Maolida, Bournemouth playmaker Emi Marcondes and Sunderland prospect Nectar Triantis, who had played for Montgomery at Central Coast.

With Le Fondre, former Scotland goalie David Marshall and veteran defenders Lewis Stevenson and Paul Hanlon all out of contract, there’s an obvious danger if even a few of the short-timers drop their intensity levels as summer approaches. Especially if Hibs miss out on a place in the top six, leaving Monty’s men scuffling around the bottom half of a table with nothing to recommend it as an enjoyable footballing adventure.

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The manager remains confident this won’t be the case, explaining: “Looking from the outside, this is a big transition for the club this year. There are a lot of players out of contract, guys who have been here for a while, and some boys moved on in January. Those are the challenges you face when rebuilding a squad.

“All I know is that everybody here is fighting for the team and desperate to finish this season on a high, starting with a win this weekend. That’s all we can focus on now. We’ve had some good runs, and we’ve had some bad runs this season. In terms of where we’re at, it would be nice if we were sitting comfortably in the top six.

“We know it was a game everyone expected us to win at the weekend. We expected to win. That was our own fault. A frustrating, frustrating result. But we’re still in with a fighting chance this weekend, hopefully. And we’ll continue to fight.”

Regardless of what happens in the race for a top-six place over the coming days, Montgomery is certain of one thing. However loudly Hibs fans may vent their frustration, he will never stop encouraging his players to thank supporters just for being there.

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Explaining why he led a lap of honour at the end of Saturday’s dispiriting home loss to St Johnstone, with the coaching staff and players applauding all home sections of the Easter Road crowd even while many punters loudly booed the team, Monty said: “I think it’s really important. It’s something I recognised that maybe previously was something the players weren’t doing. And I think it’s massively important.

“The away fans have travelled up and down the country, given up a lot to support the team. And the home support is massively important to us. You can never guarantee a result. But you can guarantee you show your support for the fans who have been through a lot at this club. That’s number one, no matter what happens, you go and clap the fans – it’s something that needed to be improved.”