Exclusive: Hibs ace addresses Rangers red card controversy with 'never again' vow

Moriah-Welsh was one of two Hibs players sent off in 2-0 loss to Rangers.Moriah-Welsh was one of two Hibs players sent off in 2-0 loss to Rangers.
Moriah-Welsh was one of two Hibs players sent off in 2-0 loss to Rangers.
‘I wanted to make a massive tackle,’ admits all-action ball winner

There aren’t many in the Hibs camp willing to concede that Nathan Moriah-Welsh deserved to be sent off for his challenge on Rangers midfielder John Lundstram in last month’s Scottish Cup quarter-final loss at Easter Road. But the young midfielder would learn nothing from simply railing against officialdom and declaring: “Infamy, infamy! They’ve all got it infamy …”

So, sure, Nick Montgomery will still argue that Lundstram didn’t need to go down in apparent agony after Moriah-Welsh threw himself into an attempt to block a pass. The fact that the incident saw Hibs reduced to nine men, with Jordan Obita having picked up a second yellow just moments earlier, certainly added to a feeling of injustice in the green-and-white ranks.

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Yet the 22-year-old first-time offender, a player proud of his disciplinary record in a short senior career to date, is mature enough to recognise that he got caught up in the emotion of a powder keg fixture. And that he gave referee Steven McLean a decision to make by trying to make one of those challenges – legal but aggressive – guaranteed to produce a roar of approval from the stands.

Straight red? The Moriah-Welsh challenge on Lundstram that ended with the Hibs midfielder being dismissed.Straight red? The Moriah-Welsh challenge on Lundstram that ended with the Hibs midfielder being dismissed.
Straight red? The Moriah-Welsh challenge on Lundstram that ended with the Hibs midfielder being dismissed.

Explaining what he’d learned from the dismissal, subsequent suspension and struggle to reclaim a starting place in the aftermath of the incident, Moriah-Welsh insisted: “I now know to never make a tackle like that ever again. Even though I still don’t think it was the worst.

“It’s all a learning curve. At my age, I have to keep taking lessons on board and developing my knowledge. Being out suspended, it was tough, mentally. It was my first ever red card. In senior football anyway. So that was tough. But it was good to reflect.”

Admitting that he had let his emotions overrule his judgement, the former Bournemouth prospect explained: “Yeah, you know, I wanted to make a massive tackle, get the crowd lifted. Because obviously our fans are so vital to the way we play.

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“I just mistimed it really. That happens in football. Maybe in three years’ time, I’ll be faced with the same challenge, and I won’t go in with as much force – and hopefully get a better outcome. I have to learn from the experience.”

Moriah-Welsh served a one-game suspension for his offence, missing the 2-2 draw with Ross County in Dingwall. But he didn’t go straight back into the starting XI when available, only managing substitute appearances – including a full 45 minutes in last weekend’s loss to St Johnstone, to be fair – in the three fixtures since the Cup exit.

It’s been frustrating, waiting for a chance to return. But also another opportunity for self-improvement – and learning from an obvious role model.

“As a spectator, sitting on the bench and waiting to get back onto the pitch, it’s all about watching and learning,” said Moriah-Welsh, the Guyana international adding: “Especially watching how Joe Newell does it.

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“He’s such a great source of learning for me, with his confidence on the ball. He’s top class. So, sitting on the bench, I’ve really been watching and learning, trying to do more of the good things Joe does every week, implement that in my game.”

Amid a gaggle of January loan signings, Moriah-Welsh was that rarest of things – a player who actually arrived on a proper contract, in his case a two-and-a-half year commitment to the club. At a time when Hibs are being pulled in two different directions, with their current battle just to make the top six contrasting markedly with medium-term ambitions to use Bill Foley’s finances and footballing network to compete at the business end of the Scottish Premiership, the midfielder chose to buy into the bigger picture, declaring: “I see a lot of ambition. I see the potential to get to where we need to get to.

“And I see a process I bought into from even before the first day I signed, after speaking to people higher up in the club. I see real potential for Hibs to be a top, top club again.

“And getting into the top six is vital for us. Honestly, it’s vital. You want to end this season playing against Celtic, Rangers, Hearts. It’s not ideal, not being in the top six right now. But we’ve hopefully got all to play for.

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“We just have to go to Motherwell, get the three points and then see what happens. We can only affect what we can do. Against St Johnston on Saturday, we just made it harder for ourselves, at times. Yeah, we had brutal conditions. But overall we have to admit that we just weren’t good enough.

“I didn’t even know about the Dundee result until a while after the game. We have to stay focused on ourselves.”

Montgomery revealed that Moriah-Welsh had been nursing an injury when his red card moment provided him with an enforced rest, the manager – preparing his team for a potentially crucial clash with Motherwell on Saturday, even allowing for Dundee’s latest call-off - insisting: “Nathan will learn a lot from that moment. Whether or not it was a sending off or not, he got sent off. It’s a great learning curve for him.

“To be honest, he had a bit of a sore groin at the time. So the sending off allowed us to give him a bit of rest. I thought coming on in the second half at the weekend, he gave us real energy.

“It’s nice to have him back. He’s recovered from the groin injury. He’s back to his best. That’s good for us this week.”