Stevie Mallan explains why Jack Ross just had to be the Hibs boss
Midfielder worked with manager and explains why he's a perfect fit
Stevie Mallan believes Jack Ross can breathe new life into Hibs’ season, just as he did when boss of St Mirren.
Ross took over the Buddies when they were rock bottom of the Championship, but managed to steer them to safety before guiding them to the title and promotion to the Premiership the following season.
And Mallan, who reckons he played the best football of his career under the new Easter Road head coach, feels Ross is the ideal man to engineer an upturn in Hibs’ fortunes.
Just one league win since the start of the season resulted in Ross’ predecessor Paul Heckingbottom being sacked with the Capital outfit languishing at the foot of the table, a situation eased slightly by a victory over St Johnstone with Eddie May, Grant Murray and Steven Whittaker in temporary charge.
The vacancy created, naturally, attracted plenty of interest but, insisted midfielder Mallan, there was one outstanding candidate as far as he was concerned – his old boss.
“As soon as I heard all the managers in line, looking for the job, Jack was obviously top of the list,” said Mallan. “It wasn’t going great at St Mirren before he came in.
“It was about the same time of the season, in the October I think, and we were bottom of the league, a good 11 or 12 points off second bottom.
“We had a lot of pressure on us at the time, no question about it. We had to get points, had to win games that we weren’t expected to win. So against Hibs or Dundee United, we had to go out and get results.
“When we first started it was a bad time for the club, but we had a great end to the season and defied the odds by staying up.
“I gained a lot of experience from that, I improved as a player – and I’ve got Jack to thank for that. I did kick on when he came in and probably played the best football of my career in the last six months of that season.
“He gave me a lot of freedom to play. He brought in Stephen McGinn and that helped me because he was more of a sitting midfielder and he left me go forward and I ended up scoring quite a lot of goals.
“He would take that serious side away from it and let you go and enjoy your game even although we were wanting to win every Saturday.”
Mallan’s form earned him a move to Barnsley – then managed, ironically, by Heckingbottom – before returning to Scotland as Jack moved south, having won the Championship by 12 points only to be sacked last month with Sunderland lying sixth in League One.
However, he insisted that Ross’ experiences with the Black Cats – he took them to Wembley twice only to lose on penalties in the final of the Football League Trophy and then by a last-minute goal in the League One play-off – will stand him in good stead.
Pointing out that Hibs aren’t quite in such dire straits as St Mirren were a couple of years ago, he said: “He’ll be better for his experience down south. When you experience different things, you gain more knowledge.
“I felt that when I went to Barnsley, that I learned other sides of the game that I had to pick up on. I’m sure when he went to Sunderland, his eyes were opened and he learned a lot more. It makes you better as a player, or a manager, going and experiencing something different.”
Ross has only had a few days to work with his new squad but, revealed Mallan, he’s already bringing his own thoughts to bear, saying: “He’s just tried to bring a bit of positivity into the squad because the past couple of months hasn’t been great.
“He has looked to lift spirits, not change too much too soon, because he won’t want to confuse the boys before games. He has told us his door is open if anyone wants to go and speak to him about what they can do to make themselves better and get in the team.
“At St Mirren if you were playing he was always on you to keep your standards high and when you weren’t playing, he was always talking to you. That’s the one thing you want when you are not playing, somebody telling you what you need to do to get better, how close you are to the team.
“The boys who weren’t playing still enjoyed it because he was a good man-manager. He picked the spirits up, we all gelled together as a team and we felt a lot closer.”