‘I knew’ - Rocky Bushiri makes Hibs Nick Montgomery admission and St Mirren ‘no excuse’ warning
In-depth interview as John Greechan speaks to Hibs' Rocky Bushiri
and live on Freeview channel 276
Winning, celebrating with the fans, even taking a rare pop at goal … all were enjoyable elements of Saturday’s 2-0 home win for a Hibs player who rarely holds back on showing emotion. But the clean sheet? That hit differently for Rocky Bushiri. On a personal level.
The central defender knows he was at fault for the late equaliser that saw Hibs blow a 2-0 lead in new manager Nick Montgomery’s first game, an ultimately disappointing 2-2 draw at Rugby Park. He was extra motivated, then, to make amends for the lapse in judgement that saw him give away a needless corner. Always an unnecessary risk for a team that has struggled to defend set pieces this season.
As he prepares for a Viaplay Cup quarter-final against St Mirren, a home game with the potential to deliver a very early boost to the Montgomery era, Bushiri sounds like a man who has removed a massive weight from his shoulders.
“The new manager getting a win in his first home game was great for everyone, because we were very disappointed about the Kilmarnock game,” he said. “I have my responsibilities in the second goal against Kilmarnock. I take my responsibility for that. I know it and I recognise it.
“So I played against St Johnstone with a feeling like I needed to repair the damage. And the team knew it because, OK, last week I made a mistake, but football is about mistakes. Next week it might be someone else. We hope not! But when mistakes happen, we stick together and move forward.
“It felt good to get three points at home – and the clean sheet was the most important thing, having conceded two goals against Kilmarnock. So it was a big boost for the group to win. Now we have a big week. We’re used to the schedule with the European games we’ve had.
“The St Mirren game is a big opportunity for us to get into a semi-final. Being at home and having our fans behind us is the biggest advantage. No excuse, let’s make it happen.”
On paper, St Mirren should be favourites to clinch a semi-final spot at Hampden, with the Buddies sitting second in the Scottish Premiership table on merit. They’ve lost just once all season, in their opening Viaplay Cup group game away to Montrose, ironically enough.
And, of course, they beat Hibs 3-2 at Easter Road on the opening weekend of league action. Contributing significantly to the crisis that ultimately led to Lee Johnson’s departure. Montgomery’s solid start to life as head coach will be tested, then, by opponents who always seem to have a clear plan. And are usually quite good at putting it into place.
That’s more or less what every manager aims to do. And, under the new boss, the Hibs players certainly aren’t being left short of information or instruction. Revealing how in-depth the off-field prep had been under Montgomery, Bushiri – who missed the first few days of the new regime because he was on international duty with the Democratic Republic of Congo – declared “We’ve got loads, loads, loads of meetings during the week.
“Group meetings, defenders’ meetings, individual one-on-one meetings – so you are prepared for every game. The manager is really into tactics. Everybody knows his exact job, everybody knows where the space is going to be, who his direct opponent is and how they play.
“I missed the first few days when he arrived, so he explained to me his principles of defending. I knew everything about my direct opponent, where I was going to have space to drive or not, in possession of the ball.
“Yeah, I was playing catch-up a bit because I’d been on international duty. But I still know the players, so it made it easier. As soon as I arrived, we had meetings left and right, long days at the football club.
“You can tell that we’ve been working on it. There was maybe one pass from me to Joe Newell against St Johnstone, a 50-50 that was a little risky. But those are the risks. When you want to play out from the back, you need to be brave.
“The great thing is I know, as soon as I pass the first line of pressure, where my options are going to be and when I will have the time. Yeah, I even had a shot. Listen, the system means I can get forward a lot. It’s different – but it’s OK!”