Hibs boss plans for major rebuild - regardless of top-six finish

Short-term focus on Rangers - but busy summer ahead as Foley tie-in pays off
Where are you off to? NectarTriantis and Emi Marcondes were just two of SEVEN January signings.Where are you off to? NectarTriantis and Emi Marcondes were just two of SEVEN January signings.
Where are you off to? NectarTriantis and Emi Marcondes were just two of SEVEN January signings.

Reaching the top six will have no major impact on the major rebuilding job being planned for Hibs during a busy summer, according to Nick Montgomery. But the Easter Road gaffer remains fixated on keeping his men on the right side of the dividing line come the Scottish Premiership split.

Hibs currently occupy sixth place in the table. But Dundee, just two points behind, have a game in hand. Montgomery’s men have three games remaining before the split, beginning with Rangers at Ibrox on Saturday.

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With new minority investor Bill Foley unashamedly setting his medium-term sights on the Best of the Rest title about to be wrapped up by the *other* Edinburgh club any day now, it’s clear that a major squad overhaul will be needed during the close season. The billionaire Bournemouth owner, who wants to establish Hibs as the undisputed third force in Scottish football, has spoken about providing “help” in the transfer market beyond his initial £6 million investment, much of which will be spent on infrastructure.

Access to players within Foley’s multi-club Black Knight group is likely to be a factor. But there’s no doubt that finishing in the top half of the table, possibly even nicking a place in UEFA competition, would make Hibs an easier sell to potential recruits.

Asked about what difference a top-six finish would make to his budget and plans for the summer, Montgomery said: “When I came into the club, they were bottom of the league – or nearly bottom, anyway - and not in a great position. The aim was to challenge for the cups and try to get into the top six.

“The progress in the cups, a semi-final and quarter-final. Now the full focus is on finishing in the top six. Every team wants to be in there fighting for European football.

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“I don’t think it changes much in terms of what we’re looking to do in rebuilding next season. Coming into the club, I knew that, in the off-season, there was going to be a chance to freshen up and rebuild the team.

“I thought, as a club, we worked really hard in the January window, because we really did need some players in. I worked really hard with (director of football) Brian McDermott, and the backing of the Gordon family, to bring in the players we did.

“That’s what we need to do in the summer, as well. Because there is definitely room to bring players in. And there are conversations to be had.

“But right now, the full focus is on the next three games, getting as many points as we can. We’ve given ourselves a good chance of making the top six.”

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Hibs signed seven players during the January transfer window, among them Myziane Maolida, Emi Marcondes, Nectar Triantis and Nathan Moriah-Walsh. With as many as nine leaving this summer, either returning to parent clubs on loan or out of contract, East Mains might be one of Scotland’s most visited destinations during peak tourist months.

Of more immediate concern to Montgomery is taking something from Ibrox on Saturday. With Rangers in need of a win to maintain their own title hopes, that’s going to be as challenging as ever.

Monty believes the Light Blues have become a tougher and more combative team since Philippe Clement’s arrival as boss in October, saying: “They’ve obviously got really, really good players. You only have to look at the budget and squad they have to recognise the quality.

“But if you look at what has changed under Philippe, they’re a little bit more aggressive, a little bit more direct. That has been a real bonus to them in scoring goals.

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“The fact that they put up a really good fight against a real powerhouse like Benfica tells you that they’re a very good team. We just didn’t help ourselves in the last game.”

Montgomery, who took over from Lee Johnson in September, added: “My first game at Ibrox in October, when Philippe just started, I thought it was an amazing atmosphere. When you see the stands full and hear the noise, you have to enjoy it – until we gave away two poor goals in the first half!

“We’re in good form so we’ll go there confident. But we know how tough it is to get a result at Ibrox. But it has been done by other teams this season.

“There is obviously pressure on them fighting for that top spot, as well. Everybody knows the Old Firm rivalry, understands the pressure that they play under, challenging for the title every season.

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“I’ve got a lot of respect for Philippe because of what he’s done in his career – and what he’s done at Rangers. But yeah, there is pressure on everybody at this time of the season.

“This is a game with meaning. It means something to them and meaning for us. Those are the games you want to be involved in.

“They’re at home, in front of their crowd. So there will surely be more pressure on them. But it’s a game with relevance to both teams.”