Hibs looking for their own Klopp - essential qualities of new gaffer outlined

Mackay (right) and Kensell have clear idea of what Hibs want.Mackay (right) and Kensell have clear idea of what Hibs want.
Mackay (right) and Kensell have clear idea of what Hibs want. | SNS Group
Mackay seeking inspirational leader able to cope with pressure

One of those brilliant German compound words that make the language such a hoot, the term menschenfanger – quite literally people catcher, in English – will be familiar to most students of elite football. If only because so many people have used it to describe Jurgen Klopp.

A way of explaining those characters whose personality inspires others to do remarkable things, to believe in themselves and their part in something bigger, it’s what everyone in sport is looking for. So it was no surprise to hear Malky Mackay drop the buzzword into conversation when discussing the essential qualities possessed by the next Hibs manager.

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Yes, the new man will have to be tactically astute and able to react to events. He’ll need to know his Xs and Os, as well as a few other letters, and be able to simplify the complex ideas that go into building a successful game plan.

More than anything, though, Hibs are looking for someone who gets the best out of players and staff. A leader with the soft skills and light touch to manage a squad, but the strength of character to drive constant improvement. Someone capable of getting people to dream big – and deliver on that dream.

Jurgen Klopp after his final match at Anfield. Jurgen Klopp after his final match at Anfield.
Jurgen Klopp after his final match at Anfield. | Getty Images

Assuming former Liverpool manager Klopp isn’t going to be taking calls from Bill Foley or Ben Kensell to discuss the vacant role at Easter Road, it’s not going to be easy to find someone of that ilk. In a business where so many clubs seem to take a scattergun approach to recruitment of the most important person in the football department, however, Hibs at least appear to be working to a plan. So let’s take a look at how the job advert, if it were posted in the pages of the Edinburgh Evening News, might look …

Essential qualities:

Tactical expertise. Too many gaffers pitch up in Scottish football with grand ideas, then get caught out by the pace and intensity of the game. The best not only understand how to get their own team playing but know how to stop the opposition.

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Every single top-flight team in Scotland will carry a degree of threat. And they’re all, as a general rule, extremely well coached. Nobody gives you anything for free. In fact, if you get distracted by the mayhem for half a heartbeat, they’ll mug your team with such skill that you won’t realise it’s happened until you’re shaking hands and reflecting on another baffling defeat. A proper football brain is essential.

Ability to manage up as well as down. No Hibs manager will survive without being able to handle input from on high. And not just from the new sporting director. One of the first lessons learned by many a young coach is that, unless you keep the most ‘helpful’ members of the board on your side, you’ll be ditched at the first sign of crisis.

Mackay, who admitted that there is no “exact science” when it comes to establishing boundaries between manager and director of football, hinted at as much when he said: “We have to make sure that support mechanism is wrapped around him, and there is an open line of communication for him to me.

“And I have that open line of communication to our chief executive, to our board of directors, to our ownership group, so that there is an explanation sometimes to say: ‘This is what the manager is going through. This is what has happened. These are the factors …’ So there is a rounded and a balanced approach to everything, with my football knowledge and experience in the last number of years.”

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Bravery to blood young players. No Scottish Premiership club can hope to flourish without being able to grow their own talent. And it doesn’t matter how good your academy system is, if the first team boss isn’t willing to take a chance on the kids.

Rory Whittaker - an example for other youngsters to followRory Whittaker - an example for other youngsters to follow
Rory Whittaker - an example for other youngsters to follow | SNS Group

If Nick Montgomery’s time as Hibs boss is remembered for one thing, it should be making Rory Whittaker the youngest debutant in club history. The 16-year-old has the potential to go a very long way in the game. He, and others of his ilk, needed to be given opportunities at the right time.

Desirable extras:

Local knowledge. Yes, Mackay may have openly declared that he’s looking for someone with a global outlook on the game. But you have to know your enemy.

This is where a candidate like Derek McInnes, or even interim boss David Gray, would score highly. It’s also important to have a grasp of what Hibs fans want and expect from their team. The “non-negotiables” laid out by Gray in his public pitch last week hit the mark.

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Gray took charge for the last two games of the season.Gray took charge for the last two games of the season.
Gray took charge for the last two games of the season. | SNS Group

Coaching ability. Could you call this an essential? It depends. Plenty of great managers have left the nuts-and-bolts coaching to others. Some like to take every session, from warm-up through activation to possession work and conditioned games. But, yeah, it would be good if the successful candidate could be an active participant in training. Even if it’s just as a motivator with an eye for detail, as well as the big picture.

Mackay, who has been tasked with leading the search for the next manager, didn’t shy away from setting the bar high when asked what he was looking for in a candidate, saying: “What I want in a new head coach is someone who can stand on a football pitch at the training ground and coach, move a team around the pitch, work on what you would call shape, put his ideas across and impart his ideas with ease – and maybe have a hundred people watching, so there is pressure on him. So to be able to coach with ease.

“The second thing I would want is for him to be a student of the game. I would want him to be broad-minded enough to take ideas from others. To realise when maybe one tactic is not working, to make in-game changes as needed.

“That he strives for best practice and wants to learn from others. Because we all should want to learn from other people. We all should have mentors, to an extent, and should all be looking at other places, seeing what they are doing well and thinking how we can adapt that to what we do. 

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“And the third thing is to be that people catcher. To have personality. To have someone who can make players want to play for him, make staff want to work for him, make a club wrap its arms around him, and make fans want to be there for him.

“Those are three qualities and it’s not an easy thing to do. Sometimes someone will be really strong in one area. But it’s my job to make sure those three areas come out in someone.”