Hibs boss delighted to see skipper leading by example

Hanlon's patience has been rewardedHanlon's patience has been rewarded
Hanlon's patience has been rewarded
Captain back in starting XI after showing patience and dedication

Club captain Paul Hanlon’s attitude has been cited as an example to everyone at Hibs – after the central defender stormed back into the starting XI. And head coach Nick Montgomery insists he’ll always be “fair” to players who grab their chance to perform.

Saturday’s gutsy 1-0 away win over Livingston saw Hanlon start for just the third time under Montgomery, who hadn’t picked the veteran centre-half in his first XI since their 4-0 loss to Rangers at Ibrox back in October. Picked ahead of Rocky Bushiri at the weekend, Hanlon partnered Will Fish as the visitors kept a clean sheet.

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The 33-year-old spoke after the Livi game about the importance of showing patience. And he expressed the hope that he’d done enough to retain his starting berth, not just for this weekend’s trip to play St Johnstone in Perth, but for the longer term.

Montgomery said he appreciates the standards being set by Hanlon, declaring: “First of all, Paul is just a really good guy. He’s a top professional. His attitude every day, playing or not playing, he’s ideal. I demand that of everybody, that they give 100 per cent regardless of whether you’re in the team, because you never know when you’re going to be called upon.

“For Paul, there’s no doubt it’s been a little bit frustrating for him. I just felt that Rocky and Will’s partnership was going really well.  But just like the front pairing, the midfield or the wide players, you have a squad. When players come in, they’re asked to perform.

“All you can ask as a manager is that, when they’re not playing, the guys on the sidelines still want the team to win. They then come in and do everything they can to keep the shirt.

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“I’ve got nothing other than credit to give Paul for his attitude. He’s a leader, he’s been club captain – and he wears his heart on his sleeve.

“There are certain games where certain players suit different teams you are playing against. I think every manager is the same, with an element of horses for courses sometimes – but mostly concentrating on yourself.

“I try to be fair and, if you perform, I think I’m always fair to mostly keep you in the team. But you do have situations where someone has been playing outstandingly well, they get a suspension or an injury – and you have a big decision to either put them back on or stick with a team that has possibly just won the game. There is never really any right answer until after the game!”

Hibs boss Montgomery will go head-to-head with former Hearts and Scotland manager Craig Levein for the first time in his coaching career on Saturday. The former Sheffield United midfielder said: “I know he’s been around a long time, and I know he’s well respected – and I remember playing against his Leicester teams in England. I’ve got a lot of respect for him, someone who has been in and out of the game, back in it again.

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“You can see that they’ve picked up with the new manager coming in, they’re very organised and well disciplined. I think he’s definitely brought something new since he came in. That’s often the case – and it looks like the boys have responded.”

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