Hibs hope psychologist can give them an edge at Celtic as McAllister hails change in mentality
One can imagine the unspoken words in the corridors at East Mains this past week as Hibs steel themselves for a second visit of the season to Celtic Park.
‘Just so long as it’s not six again’. October’s trip to the east end of Glasgow resulted in a day to remember for Hoops hat-trick hero James Forrest, and a day to forget for Hibs who trooped back along the M8 having endured a clinical, devastating Celtic side as well as a post-match pasting in the press from manager Lee Johnson.
Hibs assistant manager Jamie McAllister experienced the best and worst feelings as a visiting player at Celtic Park, winning there with Hearts in 2005 but also experiencing a 7-0 defeat while with Aberdeen a couple of seasons earlier.
"You need a bit of luck but it’s also also about mentality and belief and executing the game plan,” he said, as he took a turn at media duties in place of Johnson. “You need them not to be at their best and we need every player at it. They have real quality and I think they average about three goals a game so it’s a tough ask but it’s one you have to set yourself up right, be strong at the back, be organised but be ready to counter and break and take your chances when they come."
McAllister came up against current Easter Road pair David Marshall and Aiden McGeady in Hearts’ win in Glasgow in 2005, with future Hibs managers Neil Lennon and Shaun Maloney also involved while current Jambos boss Robbie Neilson lined up at right-back for the visitors. At the end of the 2005/06 season Hearts managed to split the Old Firm, and McAllister knows exactly what triggered that achievement.
“When George Burley came in he gave us the mentality that it’s only 11 men against 11 men in these games, and that was from the start of the season, that belief. He gave you confidence and a strong mentality you could beat anyone on your day. You have to have that but also a bit of realism that they’re good players and we need a few of them to be off it. It’s something you look forward to as a player playing at these stadiums and I think we’ve got enough quality in the group to take points off them.”
Hibs will hope that whatever the result on Saturday, it isn’t as demoralising as the five-goal defeat from five months ago – and McAllister agrees with Johnson that the players are made of sterner stuff these days, revealing that the club has brought in a self-development guru and mentor to help bring the squad to where they need to be on a psychological level.
“There’s belief in the squad, there’s a stronger mentality, and that comes off the back of wins and a bit of psychology again. We’ve had Don MacNaughton in as well, who is helping with the psychological side of it as well, which needs improved,” McAllister adds.
"We are in a better place than we were back then but it comes down to when you step across that white line, then you’ll see the mentality and belief. It’s definitely something the group has got better at. The mentality is there.”