Hibs: Is the signing of Drey Wright the most interesting - Boyle evolution, Ross options, Doidge target
A look at what the first of Friday’s three recruits will being to the Easter Road squad
Prior to the shutdown there was a facet of Jack Ross’ Hibs which was becoming increasingly evident, the danger they posed on the counter-attack.
Results in the league may have been erratic, but with the pace of Martin Boyle, directness of Greg Docherty, forward passing of Scott Allan and runs in behind from Christian Doidge, they asked opponents plenty of questions when play transitioned.
Ross showed his practical and pragmatic side by fielding the team in a 3-5-2 to get the best balance of those players at his disposal. Yet, it isn’t a leap to suggest he would have preferred to play with a back four and more traditional wide men further up the pitch. Looking at his St Mirren and Sunderland teams suggest so.
When the club confirmed the expected signing of Drey Wright on Friday, his comments were telling.
"We have Daryl Horgan and Martin Boyle but there’s not much width beyond that, even with the younger players that are coming through,” he said. “We wanted another option in that area, which allows us to be flexible in how we use Daryl and Martin.”
Starting with that last point, Boyle, more than Horgan, has progressed in recent seasons to become more than a wide player.
The Australian international simply can’t be constrained to getting chalk on his boots. His evolution has been fascinating viewing. He is now much more than a 'get the ball, head down and run' winger.
Wright has the capability of doing that, whether as a winger, wide midfielder or wing-back.
Boyle, with a full pre-season under his belt after last year’s injury difficulties, could be an even more fearsome proposition.
Ross can provide Boyle with a more central role if the opportunity requires or presents itself. There is often talk about a playmaker in the mould of Allan being awarded a free role. But there is an argument to be made that Boyle is equally, if not more deserving of such status. Think of the damage he could do with his pace, his ever-improving tactical and technical qualities.
Opposition teams, rather than simply putting a full-back on him or doubling up when down the wing, would find it excruciating trying to pin him down as he drifts, darts and devastates in the final third.
But what about Wright?
In this writer’s opinion, Scottish football hasn’t seen the best of Drey Wright just yet.
The 25-year-old was emerging as an essential member of the St Johnstone team having signed from Colchester United in the summer of 2018. There was an unknown factor but also pace, confidence and directness. Until 14 league games into the season that is before his campaign was ended following cruciate ligament damage.
This past term it was more of a slow burner. While Boyle came back flying, Wright’s recovery was more gradual. Slowly but surely he re-emerged as a vital component under Tommy Wright who was desperate to get him on a new contract. He started the last six league games where Saints were unbeaten.
There is a lot to like about the Englishman. Watching him you can see similarities to Boyle. The way he dips, ducks and slaloms with the ball trying to evade defenders, arms outstretched ensuring balance is maintained.
When he gets the ball his first thought is about going forward but rarely looks to run down blind alleys. Instead, quickly assessing his options before making a decision on how to proceed. It is easy to see him being drilled as part of a structured Saints side under Wright, making sure to be economical and effective without allowing for his adventurous to take over.
When he decides to attack he looks to go down the outside the full-back almost every time. Boyle has grown more confident of driving in field but Wright likes to stay wide, front up his opponent and use his pace to blow past them or simply suggest he is about to accelerate, allowing him space to whip in a cross.
Doidge the number booster
Hibs fans looking at stats will see a player who has not scored or created a lot of goals. If ever there was a game or period of a game to act as microcosm of Wright in the final third it was St Johnstone’s draw at Ross County in February.
In the final 15 minutes he could have helped Saints clinch the win on a number of occasions. He showed his positivity and pace but also that lack of cutting edge as he sent a good chance over the bar before squandering an even better one much to the ire of better-placed team mates.
Yet, when you see the quality of his crossing and the areas he puts the ball into, it is surprising that his assists across his two campaigns in Scotland is four.
There is certainly an argument he needs to be more precise when in the final third, sending the ball to a team-mate rather than in an area he thinks the team-mate is or will be.
In Kevin Nisbet and Christian Doidge he will potentially have two excellent targets to hit at Easter Road this coming season. The relationship with Doidge could be particularly profitable for Hibs if worked upon.
A player Ross can trust
Hibs are getting much more than a quick and direct winger. They are also getting a defensively diligent and disciplined player.
Wright said: "I know I’ll be expected to bring goals and assists, to help bring drive and energy to contribute in the attacking areas, but I also want to build a good relationship with the full-backs and make sure I can offer them some protection.”
Positionally he is very good. Getting back behind the ball, supporting the full-back and getting himself into areas where he can intercept and put the team on the counter-attack.
He may not quite have the defensive fortitude to be constantly blocking crosses but he won’t be found wanting and has a willingness to put opponents under pressure.
The relationship with the full-back is important to the winger and he can use it to his advantage going forward, looking to bring his team-mate into play, almost as a decoy or to create space for himself.
Wright may have been the first of three signings on Friday but it is perhaps fair to say he was the least unheralded. In turn, however, he may just be the most interesting of the trio.