Hibs have completed the signing of former St Mirren midfielder Stevie Mallan. Joel Sked looks at what Hibs fans need to know about their new recruit.
Not a McGinn replacement
The immediate, and reasonable, conclusion to take from the Mallan signing is that he is a replacement for John McGinn. However, that is as misguided as the assertion that McGinn is the successor to Scott Brown for Scotland. They are simply different players.
Mallan is much more aligned with Hibs’ former creative force Scott Allan, now back at parent club Celtic.
As the number he wore for St Mirren suggested, Mallan is a No.10, rather than a No.8 like McGinn. The latter enjoys starting from deep, using his stocky build to rebound off and away from opponents before driving forward, beating players with his pace, power and a dip of the shoulder.
Mallan is not as dynamic but is more cultured. He likes to face players and taken them on like McGinn, but he does so with skill and more finesse. His close control is excellent, shifting the ball between either feet. He possesses great skill as well.
In comparison to Allan, while Mallan has a great range of passing and can spot a pass with his vision, he is more selfish and direct, happy to shoot from distance or go it alone.
He is capable of the spectacular
Hibs fans have seen what their new signing is capable of from distance first-hand. Although, of the 4,393 there that day for Irn-Bru fourth round tie at Easter Road in 2016, many could easily have forgotten Mallan’s magical moment in a game Hibs lost.
Standing over a free-kick, more than 25 yards from goal, but in a central position, Mallan faced the difficult prospect of sending the ball over the wall with enough pace to beat the dominating presence of Ofir Marciano.
He did just that, rasping a free-kick into the top corner. If Neil Lennon had been allowed to field Ross Laidlaw as well, the two Hibs goalkeepers would have been unable to keep it out.
It certainly wasn’t a one-off. An even better goal came from the right boot of Mallan on 27 December 2014 against Dundee at Dens Park.
Despite being nutmegged in the middle of the park, Mallan endeavoured to win the ball back. Then, from the centre circle, he embarked on a solo mission which ended with a superb goal.
He jinked past one opponent with deft feet, produced a nutmegged off his own before skipping past the same player as he headed towards the box. Twenty yards from goal a line of sight opened up and he fired the ball into the corner.
Mallan was just 18 at the time.
The Barnsley move didn’t work out
There was an ominous sign ahead of Mallan’s move to Barnsley. When the Championship side made their move for the midfielder last year the move was delayed slightly after the club sent an offer for the player to a St Mirren fans’ site, rather than the actual club.
Despite the red-faced situation for the Tykes, they got the deal over the line with Mallan joining former Partick Thistle centre-back Liam Lindsay in moving to Oakwell.
While Lindsay impressed, leading to links with a multi-million pound transfer away, Mallan played just 447 minutes of football. He wasn’t helped by the club’s recruitment in the summer of 2017 with then manager Paul Heckingbottom “signing too many players with similar capabilities”, according to sister title The Star.
He had to wait until December to make the squad for a league game, playing his first minutes days before the end of 2017. He started just four games in 2018, his final start saw him hooked at half-time by the club’s second manager of the season José Morais.
Speaking to the Scottish press when part of the Scotland Under-21s in November, Mallan admitted the experience was improving him as a person and leading him to work on his mindset.
He played a huge role in keeping St Mirren in the Championship
Former St Mirren boss Jack Ross has understandably been given much of the credit for saving the club from demotion to League 1 in the 2016/2017 season, but it’s debatable whether he would have been able to do so without the talents of Mallan.
The 22-year-old was talismanic in the Buddies rise from the bottom of the Championship to safety despite looking doomed for large parts of the season.
In the club’s final 13 games, from a 2-0 win over Ayr United at the end of February, St Mirren won seven times, losing only twice, scoring 30 times in the process. Mallan was involved in 17 of those goals.
His finest performance came in a 5-0 destruction of John Hughes’ Raith Rovers. He opened the scoring breaking into the box to convert a cut-back. Just before half-time he saw his free-kick deflected into the net before it was his corner which was converted to make it 3-0 after the interval.
The best moment came just before the hour mark. Mallan traded two one-twos before looping a fabulous effort into the top corner from more than 25 yards. He finished by setting up goal number five.
It was a masterful performance highlighting all his qualities.
As anyone who has watched the World Cup, England specifically, will know, set pieces are as crucial as ever in terms of either breaking stubborn opponents down or simply as an attacking weapon.
Mallan’s arrival gives Hibs a dangerous set-piece taker.
Not only have Hibs fans had first-hand experience of his ability direct from free-kicks, he has also shown his ability from delivering free-kicks or corners. His right foot is a potent weapon, capable of swinging in accurate and fierce crosses.
The likes of Darren McGregor, Paul Hanlon and Flo Kamberi should see their chances of scoring from set pieces increase.
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