Hibs defender opens up on pressure to perform and getting 'grief' from punters

Obita understands that playing for Hibs brings expectations. Obita understands that playing for Hibs brings expectations.
Obita understands that playing for Hibs brings expectations. | SNS Group
‘Fans are right to demand that we give everything in every single game ...’

Playing each game as if it’s your last. Learning to cope with the pressure of performing at a big club with lofty expectations. Understanding that the flip side of a passionate support is taking a bit of “grief” on occasion.

The Hibs players who walked over to applaud the travelling fans in Dingwall yesterday afternoon knew they weren’t going to get an easy ride from punters who had incurred inconvenience and expense to support their team in a Highland misadventure. With many in the squad – and possibly in the technical area – perceived to be playing for their futures, plenty of the paying customers gave voice to demands for a clear-out. All part of life as a footballer at Hibernian FC.

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Fullback Jordan Obita, summing up the approach taken by players dumped into the Scottish Premiership bottom six and invited to lift themselves for five games of limited appeal, explained: “Each season you go into you know that some players are in contract, and some are out of contract. Every single game you go into, no matter if it’s at the start, the middle, or the end of the season, you should be playing it like it’s your last, and giving everything.”

Agreeing that even the players apparently secure in their positions have a point to prove, given the way their bid for a top-six spot collapsed with the finish line in sight, Obita added: “Of course; this is a big club.  You should always play with pride and always want to do well.

"Whether you’ve got nothing to play for and three games left, or you’re in the top six pushing for a European slot, you should be playing the game the exact same way. Even with myself, I probably didn’t realise just how big a club it was until I got here, and I realised straight away. It’s a massive club and the expectations are really high.

“Some of the boys who came in in January came from big clubs in big leagues and I’m sure they’re aware of the expectation that you hit the ground running when you come here. And I think they have; it’s just unfortunate that we’re sometimes not getting the results we deserve, but at full-time it’s the score that matters the most.”

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Beaten 2-1 by a County side looking to put themselves clear of the relegation play-off place, Hibs had all their old failings exposed by the Staggies. Easy on the eye, fluid in attack but profligate in the conversion of chances, they were ultimately made to pay for not scoring two or three. Both goals conceded were awful. Darkly comic mistakes that speak to the sort of flaws unlikely to be fixed without wholesale changes to the team.

Providing some insight to the longer-than-usual interaction with supporters after the final whistle in Dingwall, Obita said: “Our fans are always behind us. Sometimes you get grief. But that’s football.

A word, sir? Fans beckon manager NIck Montgomery to hear them out following another late collapse in Dingwall. A word, sir? Fans beckon manager NIck Montgomery to hear them out following another late collapse in Dingwall.
A word, sir? Fans beckon manager NIck Montgomery to hear them out following another late collapse in Dingwall. | SNS Group

“After the game we had a chat, and if you lose the game, you deserve whatever is said to you. But next week we’re back at home and hopefully we can put some smiles back on the faces of our fans.”

The former Reading fullback, expanding on the idea – touted by manager Nick Montgomery last week – that players need the right mentality to withstand the pressure of playing for Hibs, said: “I think that’s the case in British football in general, whether it’s back in England or whether it’s here. You’ve got to give 100 per cent. It’s not always about ability. 

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"You see some players in lower leagues with lots of quality, but they don’t run enough or they’re not physical enough and they don’t make it. But, especially in Scotland, I think you have to give everything. And I think that’s what’s most important.”

Defeat to Don Cowie’s team, following the loss of another late goal, saw Hibs lose whatever momentum they’d built up by winning their first post-split fixture, away to St Johnstone last weekend, with something to spare. If yesterday’s game was always likely to be the most challenging fixture on the dance card, leaving with zero points – after creating so many goal scoring opportunities – has to have damaged morale in the group.

“Yeah, you’re obviously disappointed, especially when you’re coming off a win last week,” said Obita. "I thought we played well in the first half and probably should have been three or four goals up, but we didn’t take our chances. But that’s something we’ve been saying throughout the season.

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“We went 1-0 up and I thought we could try to get another, but like I said, we just didn’t take our chances to try to get two or three-nil up. Then they scored, and we were on the back foot a bit because they gained a bit of momentum. I thought physically we matched them but sometimes - and we’ve said this a lot all season as well - the other team gets a chance, and they seem to take it.”