Hibs boss explains why he's well aware of Queen of the South dangerman Connor Shields
Connor Shields did not have the opportunity to make much of an impression on Jack Ross when the pair of them were at Sunderland and the Hibs boss is hoping the Queen of the South front man does not decide that Monday night’s Scottish Cup meeting with his Leith club is the perfect time to make up for lost time.
As it is, like several other Premiership managers, Ross is now well aware of the 23 year-old’s attributes and he knows that he is one of several players in Allan Johnston’s Championship side who could present a problem if his capital team let their standards slip.
“He has good experienced professionals like Willie Gibson and Gregor Buchanan and he has young guys on loan – a number from Rangers – and then he has Connor Shields who was at Sunderland when I was there and who is trying to work his way back up the levels.
“It’s a good mix and you can add the likes of Stephen Dobbie to that.
“Connor was at Sunderland before I arrived and in the U-23 squad. He was injured when I first went in and then he was out of loan. So even when I watched Sunderland U-23s he was very rarely playing. Then I left and he was still at the club for the remainder of that season.
“He’s not someone I got to see a lot of on the pitch. But he was a really good boy in terms of attitude, work ethic and his approach to it. But we probably never got to see enough of him as a footballer.
“When you have a player under your responsibility you are always keen to see how his career progresses and his form has been really good this season. He was hugely impressive against Hearts."
Seeing some similarities in the mental battles faced by Hibs’ recent Scotland cap Kevin Nisbet and the Queens man, in the way they have handled a couple of bumps in the road and come back even more determined, he is interested to see how their respective careers unfold.
“The different experiences you go through help mature you and form you as a player.
“The proof in the pudding will be the levels they get to and how they reflect on that journey. Connor was propelled quickly from Albion Rovers to Sunderland which is a big, big jump. Then into their younger age groups.
“It’s a bit of a different pathway [from Kevin’s] but in terms of being at a big club then having to find your way again – there’s always psychological challenges in that.”
With 11 goals in 22 appearances, Shields is thriving and Ross believes that having the right kind of playing partner has been a significant factor.
“I can’t speak on how Stephen Dobbie will influence him every day but what I can see is the type of player Connor is and the type of service Stephen can provide. They are a good fit.
“Connor is prepared to stretch the game and run in behind while Stephen likes pockets to play in. If I was a player who wanted to run in behind I don’t think I could ask for a better player than Stephen Dobbie to try and pick me out at times.”