Exclusive: Hibs identify key failing that MUST be fixed in major rebuild

Monty needs more characters like club captain Paul Hanlon, being lifted aloft by his team-mates to celebrate his goal against St Johnstone last weekend.Monty needs more characters like club captain Paul Hanlon, being lifted aloft by his team-mates to celebrate his goal against St Johnstone last weekend.
Monty needs more characters like club captain Paul Hanlon, being lifted aloft by his team-mates to celebrate his goal against St Johnstone last weekend. | SNS Group
Monty’s ‘mentality monsters’ hunt curbed by cost of bloated squad

Hibs will prioritise the acquisition of mentality monsters in a quality-over-quantity summer rebuild, according to boss Nick Montgomery – who says a lack of ability to cope with pressure left him short of reliable performers in a squad stacked with his predecessors’ signings.  But the gaffer admits that the need to manage a surplus of EIGHTEEN players out on loan will impact on the planned overhaul.

Montgomery, who says some players are definitely playing for their Hibs futures in the final four fixtures of a calamitous campaign, became the club’s fifth ‘permanent’ manager in as many years when he replaced Lee Johnson in September. He arrived at East Mains knowing that he’d inherit an over-sized group placing a drain on the budget – and curtailing his recruitment options in the January window.

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While summer departures are likely to run well into double figures, the majority of loan players returning to Hibs this summer are still under contract and, in some cases, have multi-year contracts with the club. That’s a major issue on top of the financial hit suffered as a result of failing to make the top six, despite the £6 million investment from billionaire Bournemouth owner Bill Foley.

Montgomery, confident that the board-led review of football operations will result him remaining in place, looked to the future as he said: “Look, the reality is people put a big expectation and pressure on Hibs. You need players who can cope with that pressure.

“Ultimately, that does reduce the number of players in your squad, players I feel are capable of playing for the first team and are able to consistently cope with the pressure you get at bigger clubs.

“When you walk in and see that, you hope that some players have been out on loan and have impressed enough that you can help them on their journey into professional football, whether it’s down south or starting in the lower leagues in Scotland. That’s something you can always be proud of, as a club.

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“But it’s a challenge, as well, because the budget is the budget. Within that, reducing and having quality over quantity is something we’ve spoken about as a club. I think everybody now has the same understanding that it’s where the club needs to go.

“That’s nothing against decisions in the past, like having development players. But it doesn’t always work out. The club has an understanding that we need to bring quality in, so we have put out a starting team – plus a bench – all capable of competing week in, week out, and also coping with international windows, tournaments, injuries, the stuff you can’t control.

“There’s a lot of players contracted to the club who we have to find new homes for, which is not always easy. Some players out on loan have played, others have struggled for game time.

“They were signings made by previous managers for different reasons – some for development, some that haven’t worked out. It’s about looking at that situation and working internally to try and move some players on, and use those funds to bring in a couple of quality signings.

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“We’re working really hard to identify possible targets, but every club’s main window is the summer, when you’re recruiting to put together a squad for pre-season. That’s when the season really does start, in pre-season.

“Like I say, there are a lot of contracted players at the club, a lot of them out on loan. That forms part of the first team squad and budget. That’s obviously a cycle of the previous two managers – that’s what you inherit when you come into a club in this situation.”

Hibs need players able to impact on the first team immediately, with upgrades or replacements needed in areas from goalkeeper to centre forward. Clearly, the plan is not to acquire young prospects who MIGHT turn a profit in a year or two.

Monty said: “We’ve got areas we need to fill as priorities before we start looking at the bigger squad picture. We need players who can start in games next season.

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“We’re not talking a massive number of players. But we have to get it right – and we have to be patient. That’s one thing in the market, you have to be patient.

“If we make rash decisions now on signings, that comes out of the budget and leaves us short when it comes to bringing in real quality. We’re really conscious of that, because we have such a big squad under contract at the minute.

“There is interest in some of the players who have been out on loan. But some clubs will act quickly, some will be patient, some act straight away. We definitely have to make sure we get the right players.”

Addressing the review of football operations, Montgomery said: “The review’s always ongoing throughout every game. You review certain periods of the season, certain quarters.

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“It’s always ongoing and will go from now until the end of the season. There’s four games and it’s an opportunity for the players, as well, to show they want to be at Hibs next season – some that are contracted, some that aren’t. Most clubs go through this at this time of the season. 

“I understand the fans’ frustration, and that they’re upset about not making the top six. As a club, we understand that.  Moving forward, it’s to be patient, look at the positives and keep believing.

“Right now, there’s four games left, and we can finish the season strongly. We need the fans’ support. There’s a bright future for the club and nobody can doubt that with what’s happened on the field and the work off it – improvements to the stadium, training ground and working within the relationship with other clubs which will hopefully help in future to bring in more quality players that the fans can be proud of.”