Hibs' reputation on the rise thanks to international call-ups
Sitting pretty in third place in the Premiership, Hibs have opened themselves up to a greater level of scrutiny this term but that only offers his players a greater opportunity to shine, according to Hibs manager Jack Ross.
The priority will always be domestic success as a unit but the Leith gaffer is one of the managers who also welcomes national-level interest in his star performers, believing it benefits the club as well.
Earlier this season, Paul Hanlon made his Scotland debut, joining Lewis Stevenson, Jamie Murphy and Chris Cadden as first team regulars with Scotland caps, while Paul McGinn and Ryan Porteous were also included in the full squad and Josh Doig is a Scotland U-19 cap.
This week Kevin Nisbet, who had been on the periphery of earlier squads finally made the breakthrough and was named in Steve Clarke’s squad for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Austria, Israel and Faroe Islands.
Add to that goalkeeper Ofir Marciano’s Israel caps and Alex Gogic’s ascension into the Cyprus team this term, as well as the Socceroos duo of Jackson Irvine and Martin Boyle and the fact Christian Doidge spent most of last season battering on the door of the Welsh national set-up and there is a burgeoning international presence at Hibs’ East Mains training ground.
That is not lost on Ross and, although some managers begrudge the imposition of losing players on international duty and the wear and tear on the body and the mind in a long, high-pressure season, the Hibs boss focuses on the positives.
Those include player development as they test themselves and learn at a higher level, and the reputational boost it offers the club, especially when it comes to attracting new players or bolstering commercial backing.
It also serves as a tangible source of inspiration for players who aspire to follow in their colleagues’ footsteps, with national team spies keeping close tabs on the club.
Which is why Ross was thrilled with Nisbet’s call-up, for the player and those around him.
“I think it was similar to when Ryan and the two Pauls were called up earlier this season, it is brilliant for all those players individually to get the recognition but it also reflects well on us as a club.
“I think it does show how well we have been doing and I think that is brilliant. I believe that we, as a club, should have the ambition to have as many players as possible in the various national setups.
“First of all you can only have that if the players are playing well individually but, secondly, if your team is doing well, that helps. There are players who have been involved in the squad who have been there on merit so hopefully it shows the progress we have made and the progress Kevin has made as a player. It has been a fairly dramatic progression, to be involved in the national squad as quickly as this but when we signed him we said we would help him progress and hopefully get him onto this stage.
“There will be a whole lot of things for him to deal with, including the attention that goes along with being involved with your country, the demands, the tactics and a different manager. There will be a lot of adjustments in a limited period of time. But the flip side of that is that he will be playing with and learning from some really good players as well which always helps.”
The likes of Porteous and Cadden, who gained two caps in 2018 and has made no secret of the fact Scotland ambitions factored into his decision to sign for Hibs in January, had both been tipped to join Nisbet in the latest squad.
While the omission is not something the Hibs manager or players want to labour on, it does offer them added drive to push on and make the most of the remainder of the domestic season in the hope that Clarke will feel he has ample reason to keep a close eye on the Leith club and revise his view on those who missed out when he names future squads.
“I think they know that if they focus on playing well for us every week then they will give themselves the best chance of being involved in the future. They have been in and around Steve’s thoughts as well and were in consideration this time so that is already a brilliant starting point for them. They are not a million miles away and they are guys, who in their own way, are having brilliant seasons.
“When you have at least one player in the squad you know that the Scotland manager is watching and even if he is watching Kevin, others have the chance to impress and catch his eye.
“It just brings greater attention to us as a club and that is something we want, to have people look at Hibs and recognise it as a club international managers can pick players from. That has been the case this season but we want it to be the same season after season and we need to keep producing and bringing in Scottish players we can improve if we want to do that but it would be brilliant if that was the case.
“We have to be aware that there is that knock-on effect for everyone at the club when we do get players in the Scotland squad, or other national teams, because of the extra attention and scrutiny that brings and the greater platform to impress that offers every player in the team.”