Hibs Exclusive: 'I was hired to bring stability and sustainability to this club - and we're so close.'

Pointing the way ahead - Monty is confident in his ability to continue leading Hibs.Pointing the way ahead - Monty is confident in his ability to continue leading Hibs.
Pointing the way ahead - Monty is confident in his ability to continue leading Hibs. | SNS Group
Manager believes board review will dig deeper than headline results

Noise-cancelling headphones should come as standard issue for any head coach willing to immerse themselves in the ugly business of the beautiful game. At a club like Hibs, where the intensity of public debate often excels some of the seasonally variable football laid before supporters, not being able to hear yourself think must be an occupational hazard.

Yet, in the sanctity and sanctuary of his manager’s office out at East Mains, Nick Montgomery somehow manages to convey a sense of calm. A rarity in Scottish football, right enough.

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That’s not to say that the Hibs boss isn’t still fizzing with frustration over failure to make the top six. Or, indeed, that he’s completely forgotten about the “emotional” board statement issued in the wake of said failure. He’s been around football long enough to read the warning signs, even without them being put in print and emailed to every media outlet on the distribution list.

But Montgomery, who spent much of the build-up to last weekend’s thumping away win over St Johnstone publicly arguing his case to remain as manager, seems to be on more solid ground in the wake of that victory. Pointing out that he was hired specifically to bring “stability” to a club on its fifth manager in as many years, and emphasising the medium term ambitions now that billionaire Bournemouth owner Bill Foley is using every ounce of influence acquired along with that 25 per cent stake in Hibs, Monty is confident, bordering on bullish.

“The reason I came to the club is because they believed I was the man to bring stability, for starters,” he said, adding: “I’m in the process of building a sustainable team moving forward.

“There is a lot to look forward to at this club. But you have to be patient. Nothing happens overnight, not in football. I wish I’d had a pre-season, a chance to work with this group and start the season properly. But I got the opportunity when it came.

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“The club chose me to go in because they wanted stability, they wanted someone able to deliver the long-term project through a process. But everybody wants stuff straight away. I understand that.

“For me, I know we’re really close. There has been a lot of progress. People won’t always see that. But what I will say is I’ve had a lot of support from the fans. I understand the criticism, understand that people are upset – because nobody is more upset than me.

“Yes, we had things go against us. But we shot ourselves in the foot by giving away too many points. We accept that.”

The board publicly declaring their intent to conduct a wide-ranging review of football operations, a smart move even in a successful season, never mind a campaign as calamitous as 2023-24, obviously put Montgomery under pressure. Directors using the term “unacceptable” to describe failure to make the top six, before warning that “results need to improve,” was widely interpreted as the gaffer being five games to save his job.

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That still may be the case, with four games remaining. But Monty’s interpretation of the situation, based on his discussions with the people behind the review, is that there is at least some understanding of the mess he inherited – and the challenges he faced after replacing Lee Johnson back in September.

Laughing when mention is made of a “What if …” scenario, the Yorkshireman said: “We could go over the whole season if you want what ifs. What if there was no AFCON or no Asian Cup meaning we lost key players? What if we didn’t have 11 first-team players out for long periods? What if Owen Bevan hadn’t got injured when we signed him in January?

“You can look back on all these, which we did in the review. It’s an ongoing process but, when we looked back in length after the Motherwell game, there were a lot of very, very positive stats and metrics. But that’s not what you see. And, if you don’t put the chances away, you are always susceptible to dropping goals late on or incidents going against you.

“It’s always about the result, because that’s all people see, and all people care about. But when you are a coach and you have methods, when you believe in what you’re doing, you know when you’re not far away.

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“We’re close to being a very good team. But ultimately, games are decided on goals scored at one end and not conceding at the other! I know it’s funny to say that, but it is really simple, when you break it down.

“So we’re creating chances from the way that we play. I’ve got full belief in the way we’re playing. The club brought me here to change the identity and the way that we played. That’s something I fully believe in; we’re on the right track. Of course that doesn’t take away from the fact that we missed out on the top six.

“But looking at the bigger picture, there are a lot of positives, as well as the stuff off the field, all the stuff that’s been in the media, a lot of noise all season about the club moving forward. Those big picture things are going to provide sustainability and stability.”

Reflecting on the quality and character shown in the 3-1 victory in Perth, and aware that an even better performance may be required to beat Ross County in Dingwall this weekend, Montgomery – asked how it felt on a personal level, to see his team get what they deserved from the game - admitted: “There has been a lot of noise. But that is part and parcel of football. Any win feels good. You put a lot of effort into every week, building a game plan and working towards a win.

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“I thought the boys were excellent in terms of their attitude and professionalism, considering the noise that has been around. I didn’t have to speak to them. I’ve never really questioned the boys’ character; we’ve got a really good group.

“We all know, as a collective, that too many times this season we didn’t take the points we should have. We’ve lost concentration towards the end of games, which ultimately cost us getting into the top six on the last day.

“There were a couple of days of upset and frustration. But then everyone got their heads straight and understood what we needed to do, finish this season on a high and start to build momentum for next season.”