Alan Maybury reckons he has the best of both worlds after landing a new role as player-coach at Easter Road.
While the veteran defender will continue to pull his boots on for Pat Fenlon’s side when required, he will also be helping nurture the stars of the future within Hibs’ renowned youth academy as he draws on a wealth of experience from a career spanning more than 400 games.
The academy has produced an impressive list of graduates throughout the years, with Alex Harris, Danny Handling, Ross Caldwell and Sammy Stanton the latest to make the step up to first-team football.
But even so James McDonaugh, head of academy coaching, has found his department beefed up, a squad of 20 rather than 15 kids now ready as Hibs prepare to field a third team in the East of Scotland League this season.
Maybury lent McDonaugh and his staff a helping hand when first-team duties allowed but now that has been put on a more formal footing with the former Republic of Ireland defender conceding that, as he turns 35 today, opportunities to play top-flight football are likely to diminish even though he pulled on a green-and-white shirt 32 times last season.
He explained: “I had a chat with the manager over the summer and he told me he wouldn’t be able to make me an offer just to be a player but he’s handed me a great opportunity. I’ll still be registered as a player but James will have two teams in the academy between the under-20s and the East of Scotland so there’s a lot to be done. Next week, for example, there are a number of games which is a huge workload for James.
“I’m working my way through my A licence at the moment. It’s definitely what I want to do. This gives me that opportunity and I’d have been mad not to take it.”
Maybury’s duties, however, will not be confined to working in the academy as he revealed Fenlon also intends to utilise his experience on a number of fronts.
He said: “I’ll mainly be working with James but I’ll also be doing anything else the manager wants and needs, whether it’s being involved on match days – in the squad or helping take the warm-up – an extra set of eyes upstairs watching games as you get a different perspective from the stand, scouting or drawing up match reports.
“I’m eager to learn, to watch and see how the manager, Jimmy Nicholl and James go about setting up their week, how they plan training, record everything that’s gone on and so on. It’s easier being a player: you turn up, pull on your boots, play and go home. But there is more to it than that and this is a fantastic opportunity for me to learn all that goes into it.
“I’m delighted the manager saw something in me and offered me this role. I helped James last season when I could so I got his thoughts on it all and I’m grateful to him as well as I’m desperate to learn and improve as a coach.”
Although he recognises his playing days are drawing to an end, Maybury insisted his new role allows him “the best of both worlds.” He said: “I played more than 30 games last season and still feel fit enough to do that forever. Everyone says play as long as they can and I understand that as there’s nothing beats playing.
“But they also said you have to recognise when your playing career is on a downward slope and your coaching career is on an upward one and you have to jump across. That struck a note with me and as much as I think I can play, this was a great opportunity at a good club with a good set-up and with staff I know.”
Maybury was listed among Fenlon’s substitutes for the opening game of the new Scottish Premiership season against Motherwell last Sunday, but to underline his new responsibilities he played the entire 90 minutes as an over-age player alongside Ryan McGivern as Hibs Under-20s opened their own campaign with a 4-2 win away to Ross County, not getting home until the early hours of yesterday morning.
He said: “I think I will play my fair share of games which will allow me to keep my fitness up while I’ll also be able to help by speaking to the young lads, passing on little bits and pieces during matches.
“We’ve got a bigger squad now we are fielding both under-20 and East of Scotland teams which is a good set-up for the young lads as they will get plenty of game time. Sometimes you could find those boys who fell between the under-20s and the first team not getting a game for two or three weeks but now there will be games Tuesday and Saturday.”
Maybury sees his move into coaching as hopefully being the first step towards a career in management although, as he pointed out, with 43 other professionals seeking to complete their A licences at the moment, there is always likely to be stiff competition for such a job when the time comes.
The former Leeds United, Hearts, Leicester City, Aberdeen, Colchester and St Johnstone star said: “You cannot say what path your career will take. My ambition is to be a manager but I know I am a long way from that at present. However, I have got in the door, I have a chance to learn what is expected, how to do things – but it’s a hard business, as there are only so many jobs and I’ve been given that opportunity at a young age.
“I have my own ideas, I have worked with other coaches throughout my career and while you pick up something from all of them it’s a case of developing your own style.”