High-flying international must stay grounded as Hibs return to action
Hibs and Australia defender Lewis Miller may have spent the best part of two full days and nights in the air during a hugely significant international break. But club boss Nick Montgomery is determined to bring the youngster straight back down to earth ahead of a relatively short trip to Dens Park.
Miller and Martin Boyle both travelled to Melbourne and then Kuwait while the vast majority of Hibs players were either resting weary limbs or putting in hard yards at the training ground as the Scottish Premiership shut down for a fortnight. The Aussie pair returned to their day jobs at East Mains yesterday.
Montgomery, thrilled to see an excited Miller get his first start – and make a first appearance on home soil for the Socceroos – as Bangladesh were battered 7-0 in a World Cup qualifier, obviously kept a close eye on his absent internationalists. And Monty’s long relationship with Miller, who came through the ranks at Central Coast when the Yorkshireman was gaffer, means he knows exactly what the 23-year-old needs now.
The Hibs boss said: “For Lewis to go back home, play for his country, win a cap against Bangladesh, get an assist and man of the match - that’s good. But yes, we need to put his feet back on the ground because he has to make sure he’s consistent. Coming back, it’s now a different challenge away to Dundee; it’s going to be a physical battle that he has to be ready for.
“They’re both fine, Lewis and Martin; I don’t think Lewis was scheduled to play in the second game [against Palestine) but Ryan Strain came off injured so he had a lot more game time than he maybe expected; Boyle played 70, 75 minutes. Both returned back but the travel is something you have to factor into the training load - it’s more about them recovering. But they were both out there today in training, buzzing around - and both will be fired up for the Dundee game.”
Hibs would go above Dundee with a win at Dens, with a place in the top six also on the cards in the event of a victory. With eight games to be squeezed in before the January shutdown, there is the potential for someone – Hibs, possibly – to make a big move through a tightly grouped pack. Sitting four points off third place but just five clear of bottom in the Scottish Premiership, there is plenty to play for.
Montgomery insists he’s fully concentrated on the task in hand, rather than the prospects of jumping or dropping a place on any given day, declaring: “I try not to look at the league table. But, humanly, that’s impossible.
“We know it's a tight competition and a run of results can easily push you up the table. I'd be lying to say I never look at it. But I don't focus on it. I focus on training and preparing for the next game.”