Despair, sadness, pride and focus: emotions running high for Hibs midfielder Joe Newell

Joe Newell has been on an emotional rollercoaster over the past week.

Joe Newell is fully focussed on the match against Dundee on Tuesday
Joe Newell is fully focussed on the match against Dundee on Tuesday

First, came anger and frustration about the team performance in the immediate aftermath of the dismal 1-0 defeat by Livingston.

Then came shock the following morning when Jack Ross was sacked as a result.

That morphed into sadness for Ross and his assistant John Potter, as they arrived at the club’s East Lothian training base to say goodbye and wish the team luck.

Joe Newell says the dressing room was an emotional place to be when Jack Ross and John Potter came in on Thursday to say goodbye

Pride and surprise came next when caretaker head coach David Gray asked Newell to skipper the side against St Mirren in the absence of suspended captain Paul Hanlon and vice captain Paul McGinn.

That has since given way to a steely determination to get Hibs back on track with a much-needed victory in the cinch Premiership against Dundee at Easter Road tonight.

The 28-year-old Englishman has been around long enough to know what it is like when there is managerial change at a football club. He’s been through it at Peterborough and Rotherham.

Of course, he’s keeping up to date like everyone else with the rumours about who might be the new manager, but it’s not eating up his attention.

Hibs parted ways with head coach Jack Ross on Thursday morning.

“Obviously, I’m not going to lie and say I don’t look at it,” he admitted. “You see it everywhere. You go on your phone, you’ve got people texting you, you go on Twitter and see all these names.

“I don’t know anything. There’s no point paying attention to it until someone walks through the door.

Newell is fully focused on doing what he can contribute to help the team to get three points on the board and give everyone a much-needed lift ahead of Sunday’s Premier Sports Cup final against Celtic.

With Hanlon and McGinn expected to return after suspension, he doesn't expect to retain the armband and joked that it is perhaps just as well.

The players are comfortable with interim manager David Gray taking the team.

“It was a bit tight on me, wasn’t it?” he laughed. “It was really nice. David told me and it was a nice feeling, it was really surreal.

“I actually told a few of the guys that I had captained one team before, my youth team at Peterborough, and we lost 5-0 away at Port Vale. I thought it can’t get worse than that. Luckily it wasn’t too bad.”

Gray explained after Saturday’s 1-1 draw with St Mirren that he wanted to squeeze more out of Newell by making him captain. He sees leadership qualities in the midfielder.

Newell had shown that when speaking candidly to the media after the Livingston debacle about a performance “not worthy of playing for this club and the talent we have”.

He heard the fans chant for Ross to be sacked during that match, but he didn’t expect it to actually happen.

“We came in the next day and it was a real shock not just to the playing staff, everyone at the training ground,” he explained. “We were all in a bit of shock. There was also just a feeling of sadness.

“I’ve been around for a few years now. I’ve seen plenty of managers come and go. You do just have to get on with it.”

When Ross came in that morning to say goodbye there wasn’t a player in the dressing room who was glad to be seeing the back of him. Dressing rooms tend not to be emotional places, but it was a sombre place to be last Thursday. The players felt they had let Ross and Potter down.

Newell recalled: “They are real good guys and we had formed a relationship with them individually and as a group.

“Everyone got on with them. Even some of the lads who hadn’t played under them as much, no-one wanted him to talk. No-one had anything bad to say about him or Pottsy.

“Two blokes have lost their jobs, so it’s not nice and it is sad and emotional. But at the same time, it is football.

“We got together Thursday morning and just had to concentrate on the next game straight away. Especially the way things are going at the minute, these are all crucial minutes. So obviously it was sad, but we have to move forward as a team.

“It’s not nice. The main thing is two blokes have lost their jobs, which is a brutal way to look at it, the fact that they’re out of a job now. It’s a harsh reality.

“But we can’t think about it for too long, with so many games coming up. We have to switch on and look forward.”

Looking forward is exactly what he and his teammates are now doing. Not too far though. They can’t afford to have minds drifting towards Hampden just yet. With just one win in ten league outings, five points out of a possible 30, the Dundee match is huge.

Chief executive Ben Kensell hasn’t addressed the players to explain the process or timetable of the hunt for a permanent new boss, but with big games coming thick and fast there is no need to divert attention. Newell and the players are comfortable enough with Gary, Eddie May and goalkeeping coach Craig Sampson steering the ship for now.

“In my first year here, Eddie took over,” recalled Newell. “I think he’s done it a couple of times before. The way Dave is as a man, he steps up no problem.

“There’s not any need for anyone else to come in. They are two capable guys, along with Sammy who knows us all and is a real top man himself.

“Our attention is fully on [the Dundee match] and hopefully we can win and we can go into the weekend in a bright mood and be buzzing for it.”

After a whirlwind few days, buzzing after a win is an emotional response Newell and everyone at Hibs really need.

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