Hibs' Joe Newell identifies part of game that needs work - and recalls encounter with smelly fan
Goals don’t come around very often for Joe Newell but should he manage to net one today, against Rangers, he doesn’t envisage wild celebrations.
That is no reflection on how much the effort would mean to him, and has nothing to do with the memory a fan’s body odour that still tarnishes one of his past contributions [the ongoing supporters’ lockout ensures there would be no repeat of that], he says he would simply be too stunned.
A player who has enjoyed a successful season, on a personal basis and as part of a Hibs team that remains on course for the club’s best league finish in 16 years, there have been few notable holes in his performances. But the unstated mantra at Hibs this season has been to keep improving and never to rest on their laurels.
Which is why Jack Ross’ side head to Ibrox this afternoon, looking for a victory over a side they have run close in previous head-to-heads this season and why, having excelled in other areas of his play this term, Newell has been having more shots at goal in recent weeks, coming closer to adding to the solitary goal he picked up against St Mirren back in September.
“I’m close to giving up, to be honest,” jokes the 28 year-old midfielder. “The ball just isn’t going in!” For a man who can be relied on to pick out team-mates with a pass, picking his spot and executing a finish has proved more tricky.
“I need to try to add more goals to my game. It will obviously help the team if I can pitch in with five a season.
“I played up front when I was a kid, but in the academy and youth teams I played centre-midfield and was never really a goalscorer.
“Going forward, that’s definitely something I’ll be trying to work on, but at the minute I’m maybe going to start shutting my eyes, shooting and praying it goes in!”
At Rotherham he managed a five-goal return in 2015/16 before conjuring up a heady eight two years later.
One of the biggest was a winner against Leeds, in the Championship, at Elland Road.
“That was a header as well. That was a good one. I think that was my first goal for Rotherham. Then there was a last minute penalty against Doncaster in the South Yorkshire derby for Rotherham That was in the 102nd minute, and I did a knee slide into a fan who stunk. That was good!
“I also scored a play-off goal at Scunthorpe, but other than that, there’s not too many memorable ones.
“Scoring the winner at Ibrox would be right up there, definitely. I don’t think I’d even celebrate, I’d just be shocked, the way things have been going.”
But, the dramatic improvement in his performances since last season prove that he is a player who can better himself and Ibrox would be a great place to make the breakthrough in front of goal.
“They’ve been a good team and deserved the title but we did well there the last time.
“Our performances against them and Celtic this season have been good, but we’ve been just that little bit short of a win up to now. Hopefully we’ll get that on Sunday.”