Exclusive: Hibs playmaker on risk v reward, Rangers and Cup hopes

Dylan Levitt is congratulated by his team-mates for scoring in the weekend win.Dylan Levitt is congratulated by his team-mates for scoring in the weekend win.
Dylan Levitt is congratulated by his team-mates for scoring in the weekend win.
Monty trusts midfielder to go forward, take chances - and make things happen

He’s not one to take the easy option, making the ultra-safe pass in order to retain possession without purpose. Padding out his own completion stats with a couple of square balls is not Dylan Levitt’s style.

So, yes, he knows that his role – his instructions from on high, even – involves taking risks. When things go wrong, as they often will in a chaotic team sport with thousands of potential quirky combinations and non-repeating patterns, the midfielder knows to expect groans from the stands, where turnovers are viewed in the harshest of lights.

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But the rewards for adding a dash of go-forward to a Hibs team set up to attack, the pay-off when the perfect delivery gives Martin Boyle, Myziane Maolida, Emi Marcondes or Dylan Vente the chance to turn opponents, link play and punch holes in a defensive line, add real value to Levitt’s inclusion. If not always as a starter, then certainly as a potential ‘finisher’, to coin a modern term for old-fashioned impact subs.

Levitt, who dashed across the Easter Road pitch while tearing off layers of clothing – imagine a Welsh Superman unable to find a phone box - when he got the half-time call to arms in Saturday’s home win over Ross County, was sent out with instructions to be bold. He did well enough, even without his superbly-taken goal, to put himself in contention for a leading role in Sunday’s potentially season-defining Scottish Cup quarter-final against Rangers.

Explaining his necessarily fearless approach to looking for progressive passes, even if it means dicing with jeopardy, the former Manchester United youngster said: “I think you’ve just got to trust that you can do it, that you can make that pass. The players you are playing to are ready to receive that ball and drive us up the pitch.

“Obviously, with what we’ve got at the back, as well, and the quality we’ve got going forward, you can trust your team-mates. You know they will deal with the passes you are dealing out – and cope if they need to defend.

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“Myziane, for example, has been great for us so far. He’s got speed, strength, is so skilful – if you hit it into his feet, you know it’s either coming back to you or he’s getting his body faced forward and driving at defenders. That is what we want from our wide men, getting crosses into the box and taking shots. Obviously, all the front three or four, as well as the subs we can call on, have the right ability to play this way.”

Nick Montgomery’s switch from a flat 4-4-2 to something more flexible – a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3, depending on which freezeframe you decide to study – has definitely helped his midfielders, with the ability and work rate of Marcondes adding a new dimension. Levitt sees clear benefits to the tweak in formation.

“I think obviously it gives you licence to go forward, with an extra midfielder in there,” said the full Wales internationalist. “It releases you to get to the edge of the box, make that run and try to score, get an assist, whatever it takes.

“With the three in midfield, you’re also more connected – and that means you can keep the ball a lot more comfortably. Whether that’s playing out under pressure or switching play, it has helped me.

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“It felt very good to get on and score again against County. The way the game went, it really opened up in the second half and I just found my chance to go forward, get in the box. Thankfully it felt back to me, and I put it in the bottom corner.

“The result was obviously the main thing. At the end of the tough week, with three games so close together, it was really important that we finish with three points.”

Explaining his fast-forward strip tease when he got the call to get ready, just as he was enjoying himself in a rondo with the other subs on the far side of the pitch, Levitt laughed as he admitted: “I had a lot of layers on, pants and everything! So I had to take a lot off just to be ready to go, get my shinpads and everything sorted.

“I was warming up at half-time when the kit man shouted on me to come to the tunnel. I ran off pretty quick. As a footballer, you can be called upon at any time. You just have to be ready and raring to go.

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“The main thing, when I went on, was doing what the gaffer told me to do at half-time. He told me to try to play forward as much as possible – and find the switch to Lewis Miller.

“In the first half, Millsy had so much space, it was so obvious that we should be trying to find him. Even in the second half, we probably didn’t find him as often as I thought we should have done.

“But I was sent on to play forward passes to Emi and Myziane. The idea was to really put the opposition on the back foot.

“Hopefully I get on the scoresheet more. It would mean everything for me to get a goal this weekend, get us back to Hampden.”

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A second-half substitute in the 4-0 loss at Ibrox and a starter in the 3-0 reversal to Rangers at Easter Road, Levitt insists neither of those previous meeting with Philippe Clement’s men will have any bearing on Sunday’s game, as he pointed out: “I think obviously, with the new signings and everyone kind of settling into what the manager wants, knowing how he wants us to play, we’re a changed team. Having three games in a week last week was probably good for that, too. But having a full week of training to take into the Rangers game means we’ll be working hard and putting together a really detailed game plan. “

As for his own chances of being involved, Levitt welcomes the competition provided by January signing Nathan Moriah-Welsh – hoping to be recovered from a knock by the weekend – and others in a suddenly-healthy squad, saying: “When you get an opportunity on the pitch, you’ve got to take it with both hands.

“The idea is to put a doubt in the manager’s head. But the gaffer is always telling us that it has to be all about the squad. The guys starting, the people coming on as subs, even the guys not getting on, there has to be a real togetherness in the group. That’s important if you want to build a strong team.”

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