Hibs' Joe Newell enjoying upturn in fortunes for himself and team
Midfielder now targeting extended run of games with Easter Road club
Joe Newell joked that the upturn in fortunes for both himself and Hibs means he is now safe to walk the streets of Edinburgh.
He intends to keep it this way.
The 26-year-old endured a chastening start to his Easter Road career after joining from Rotherham United in the summer. The midfielder was written off by many supporters as he struggled to impose himself in his early matches at the club and he ended up starting only two of Paul Heckingbottom’s last 12 games in charge. Even in a team struggling at the foot of the table, he could barely get a look-in.
Since being restored to the starting line-up by interim manager Eddie May for the trip to St Johnstone three weeks ago, however, Newell has clocked up three consecutive starts and played his part in three successive victories as Hibs have soared from the relegation zone into the top six. The vibe has improved dramatically for the player.
“I feel good and I feel settled. It helps when you are playing well and getting a run in the team. I’m not afraid to walk to the shops now!” he laughed. “That’s been good, there’s a feel-good factor now. A few of the lads, Scotty (Allan) and Porto (Ryan Porteous), have told me that when Hibs are doing well the city is bouncing, the club is bouncing, and there is no better place to be.”
The other side of the coin when playing for a big city club, however, is that when things aren’t going well, it can become a severe test of character, as Newell discovered when he was being heavily criticised by underwhelmed supporters.
“It was a difficult time, it wasn’t good,” he admitted. “But it is part and parcel of football and you try not to take too much notice of it – if you can. You need to stay self confident, keep believing in yourself and keep believing in the team. You need to train well, remain professional and know that things will turn around.
“I never regretted my decision to come here. Even when I wasn’t playing, I was still enjoying it at Hibs. It’s a great place to be. I never once thought that I wanted to leave. It’s only been two or three months so that is nothing in the grand scheme of things.
“I was able to lean on my girlfriend, she has moved up here with me and I’ve got friends and family who will come up to visit. Plus, the lads here are all great. It’s a close group and we all do things together, so I honestly never got that worried and started to think ‘oh no it’s the end of the world’. I know my own ability and I know how good this team is so it was just a case of when the tide would turn, rather than if it would turn.”
Newell is glad to finally be getting a proper run in the team after being edged out on to the periphery in the closing weeks of Heckingbottom’s reign. With the likes of Martin Boyle, Daryl Horgan and Stevie Mallan among the substitutes in recent matches, the Englishman knows he must keep delivering if he is to stay in new manager Jack Ross’s team. “Earlier in the season, for whatever reason, I was just not playing as much as I would have liked,” he said “In fact, under the old gaffer I only started four league games. I just couldn’t really get on a run. Every player wants a run of games, that’s when your fitness comes through and your form and stuff. I have just been happy that I have been playing and that I am doing alright.
“The challenge is always to stay in the team, you can’t take your foot off the gas. There are very good players on the bench who are dying to start and you need to push yourself to keep playing well and stay in the team.”