New role is central to Joe Newell's improved Hibs performances

Midfielder enjoying being in a diamond formation

Saturday, 30th November 2019, 7:30 am
Joe Newell. Pic: SNS

Joe Newell believes playing a more central role will help bring out the best in him at Hibs.

The 26-year-old struggled to make an impact in his early months at Easter Road as he was used predominantly as an out-and-out winger by previous manager Paul Heckingbottom.

However, since being restored to the team by interim boss Eddie May three weeks ago, he has started three consecutive games, playing mainly on the left of a midfield diamond. This has allowed him to operate more centrally and have more of an influence on matches.

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“Yes, I definitely prefer it,” explained Newell. “I feel like I am more involved in the game. Sometimes you play wide and you feel like you are isolated and just stuck out there dependent on other people getting the ball to you. But when you’re inside, you kind of dictate it more yourself and I just feel more involved.

“Obviously I have played plenty of games wide and I am happy to do it. I don’t mind it, I played there loads. I just prefer playing a little bit narrower. Eddie asked me in the week leading up to the St Johnstone game how I would feel about playing in a diamond. I was like ‘yeah’, because when I came through at Peterborough, that’s what Darren Ferguson used to play every week. So, yeah, I was more than happy to play there. Obviously the gaffer [Jack Ross] has just played the same team in the last two games.”

Newell, as one of the main creative players in the team, has also benefitted from the fact Hibs have started with two central strikers – Florian Kamberi and Christian Doidge – in their last three matches.

“It has worked well,” said Newell of the new approach. “I think the fact the strikers are both different as well has helped. Doidge is a bit more of a target man, who wants to win things in the air and be a bit more physical while Flo is a bit more intricate and a bit more tidy with the ball at his feet. The fact they are so different helps us. When you look up for options, you have two rather than one, so it does help – especially when you are playing in the middle in terms of forward passes. I think that’s been quite evident in the games as well.”

Hibs, who were in the relegation zone when Heckingbottom left, have the chance to go level on points with fifth-place Kilmarnock if they beat the Ayrshire side at Easter Road today. “Everything has just been a lot better in the last couple of weeks,” said Newell. “The winning feeling is back and you look at the table and we are back in the top six, and with the games coming up there is the chance to kick on again. I think that’s what the gaffer will be drumming into us. The next game is always the biggest game, you can’t take your foot off the gas, especially when we are in this form and there’s a few games coming up in quick succession.”