Hibs hope John McGinn influence rubs off on Kevin Nisbet after Scotland slagging off
Hibs manager Jack Ross jokingly called into question the quality of the chat shared by his striker Kevin Nisbet and former Hibee John McGinn while they were away on Scotland duty.
But, he has no such concerns when it comes to the calibre of the example set on the pitch by the Aston Villa midfielder, who secured a valuable point and the headlines with a spectacular overhead finish against Austria and then added a midweek brace to make it three goals in three World Cup qualifiers.
Delighted to see Nisbet given game time as Scotland engineered a comfortable 4-0 victory over Faroe Islands at Hampden on Wednesday, Ross said he hoped that the 24-year-old had paid more attention to the footballing advice than any of the other conversational tit-bits.
“All I asked him was who he had spent most of his time with while he was away and he said John McGinn and I know John quite well through Stephen and Paul so I’m not sure what kind of level of conversation went on between the two of them! But that’s who he said he spent most of his time with so, hopefully, they will have spoken a bit about the technical stuff!”
For all the joking, and there was plenty of it as Nisbet’s Hibs colleagues made sure he kept his feet on the ground, it was business as usual when the Easter Road frontman returned to training at East Mains and the attention switched away from international duty to the start of this season’s Scottish Cup campaign, away to Queen of the South, on Monday.
“The players, in all sincerity, were really pleased for him,” added Ross, whose side have been among the top four in the domestic cup competitions and in the Premiership all season and are well-placed to cement their current third place in the standings.
That level of performance has seen several players called up to international squads, with Alex Gogic [Cyprus] and Paul Hanlon [Scotland] also earning their first caps this season, while Ryan Porteous and Paul McGinn have been included in previous get-togethers, Ofir Marciano is well-established as Israel’s first-choice goalkeeper and Jackson Irvine and Martin Boyle are recognised Australia picks.
“We have had a number of players involved with Scotland this season who never quite managed to get on the pitch,” said Ross. “So, the fact Kevin did that, the players and staff were delighted for him.
“He probably got a bit of stick from him telling them that he has been training with better players all week!”
The response was to tease him about the yellow card he picked up for a poorly-timed tackle soon after entering the fray. The only blemish on an otherwise positive night.
“I think Pottsy [Hibs’ assistant manager John Potts] said he wasn’t sure who that guy chasing back defenders was. He said he thought he saw for the first few games of the season but then he’d gone missing after that. As for the tackle, it must have been Pottsy who taught him that. I didn’t tackle, so it couldn’t have been me!”
But, as well as the banter, there was renewed purpose in Nisbet’s training session.
“Once he was back out on the training pitch he quickly settled back in. To be honest, I don’t know if he was expecting an easier day but he was back into proper training with us this morning and he trained really well and looked like a player full of confidence.
“There was probably still an element of adrenaline from the game that would have been coursing through him but I think he trained like a player who is feeling very good about himself and that will hopefully transfer into the remaining fixtures because he was really sharp and bright.
“It was a significant achievement in his young career to not only be part of the squad but to then earn his first cap. For us as a club, hopefully it is a good reflection on what we are doing here.
“He was back in and trained with us this morning so it was a quick turnaround from the game the previous night but you could see the spring in his step.
“As a squad and as a staff we are very pleased that he has had that recognition but, as is always the case in football, you get brought back down to earth very quickly when you get back in among your own group.”
A summer signing for the Leith club, Nisbet’s promotion to the realms of international football and a World Cup qualifying push came on the back of 14 goals for Ross’ side and the level of all-round performance that attracted the Scotland boss’ attention. And the Hibs gaffer said it is important that the striker remembers that as he stakes a claim for further inclusion.
“There are two parts to it. Firstly, there’s the confidence that he should gain from being recognised and considered good enough to be involved with Steve’s squad and then to have done well enough within that group for Steve to trust him enough to put him on the pitch.
“Secondly, there is this massive incentive now that he is in the squad to make sure he stays part of it because the next competitive fixtures are the Euros. There may be a couple of [friendly] games before it but he is in the squad and if he plays well with us and scores goals with us between now and the end of the season then he gives himself a really, really good chance of being involved at a major championship which would be outstanding.”