‘I saw’ - How Tottenham’s Ange Postecoglou helped new Hibs manager Nick Montgomery
Big Ange hit UK football like some sort of unstoppable Aussie asteroid. And Nick Montgomery didn’t have to think twice about taking full advantage of the A-League trailblazer’s incredible impact.
The new Hibs boss believes the success of former Brisbane and Melbourne gaffer Ange Postecoglou, a serial winner at Celtic and already a Premier League sensation at Spurs, has generated a newfound respect for A-League coaches.
Montgomery, who was interviewed for the Motherwell job last year, was born and raised in Leeds, reached the Premier League with Sheffield United, played twice for Scotland Under-21s, regularly took holidays on his grandparents’ farm in Aberdeenshire – but made his coaching bones in Australia, having headed Down Under as a player in 2012.
His achievement in leading Central Coast Mariners to the 2023 A-League title put him on the radar of a number of clubs back home. And, asked if Postecoglou’s success might have helped open a few doors as Hibs looked to replace Lee Johnson, the 41-year-old admitted: “Definitely. The media around Ange and the negativity when he came over to Scotland, he quashed that pretty quickly.
“Ange is a good guy and I saw the work he did in the A-League, the success he had there and in Japan. I’m English but I have been in Australia, so I saw how good it was for Australian football. You see the support he is getting at Tottenham now is well deserved because he has done very well everywhere he’s been.”
Montgomery believes the ideas he put in place at Central Coast can translate to a Scottish game already bristling with Australian playing talent, saying: “Principles are principles and, while I don’t like to talk about philosophies, they can be implemented in any league. I have educated myself and watch a lot of football from around the world. I’m very confident that I can implant my principles in the SPFL with Hibs.”
The Aussie connections at Hibs are plentiful enough to make Montgomery’s transition less awkward than might be expected for a new manager travelling halfway round the world. With a handful of familiar faces in the dressing room and a phone full of messages from former Hibee Jason Cummings, the 41-year-old already feels well prepared.
Talking about his relationship with the always-colourful Cummings, now a full Australian international who turned out for the Socceroos at last year’s World Cup in Qatar, Montgomery said: “He really loves this club.
“He told me when the interest came that, if I get the opportunity, it’s a fantastic club. It’s a real family club. He loves Edinburgh and it was full backing from Jason. I keep in touch with him a lot. I try to have a good relationship with the players and support them.
“What Jason did for Australian football was fantastic. He is an inspiration to show that sometimes you can be down and out - and just need someone to believe in you and give you a bit of love. That’s all Jason needed because I don’t think anyone doubted his ability.
“He is an exceptional player. He has a long way to go and just needs to stay on the right side. I’ll keep sending him messages and make sure he keeps behaving! Jason will be the first person to tell you that he made some silly mistakes and probably his reputation preceded him at times.
“When I spoke to him about his ambition, it was to start enjoying his football again, number one, and then hopefully go to a World Cup, which he achieved. In 12 months, you could see that he just needed a little bit of love, discipline - I think he really matured.
“I think that relationship with the players is really important, it does not matter whether they are young or senior. That honest relationship, it was something that I really enjoyed in my career with certain managers. I think that’s always going to be my management style, to get the best out of them.”
Montgomery also revealed that he’d enjoyed a chance encounter with Hibs star Martin Boyle when the crocked Socceroo was jetting off to join up with the rest of the squad in Qatar, laughing as he said: “He was travelling over as the vibes manager to the World Cup …
“It’s great to see him back playing. I know he’s great friends with Jason Cummings and he’s a big character. You need big characters and I enjoy working with big characters. I’m really looking forward to meeting him and getting the best out of him because he’s a fantastic player.”
Eager to get stuck in on the training pitch and settled in Edinburgh, Montgomery said the move to Hibs met a lot of criteria – personal as well as football – for someone looking to return to the UK.
“It has been well documented that I was interviewed by Motherwell last year, that was in the media,” he said. “I had interest from other clubs as well but I wasn’t interested in joining them so didn’t take it any further. As soon as Hibs came and showed an interest, I was really keen to speak because I knew it was the right opportunity for me.
“I am just glad I impressed them enough to be given the chance to manage this club. “I have a lot of family ties to Scotland and used to come up from Leeds every summer on the coach to my uncle’s farm in between Aberdeen and Arbroath. My grandmother was born in Scotland so our roots are here.
“I always hoped one day an opportunity to come to Scotland and work would come up, so I’m glad it has. This is a real family club in a great city. I had been to Edinburgh quite a few times when I was younger and really liked it.
“My wife is really keen on coming here too, which is important because I am a family man. I have three girls, twins who are 12 and a four-year-old. I just thought the opportunity to come back and be near family, my dad is knocking on now and I’ve not seen my brother for a long time. Covid affected everyone travelling so that had an impact.
“This is a top club in a really good, top-level league, so it ticks all the boxes for me and my family. The club, the league, the city, the supporters, the community and then ultimately the people I’m going to be working with.”