Lee Johnson cold shoulder treatment left Hibs star 'mentally devastated'

Winger emotionally battered - but not broken - by internal exile
Back in from the cold - Tavares in action for Hibs, all he ever wanted.Back in from the cold - Tavares in action for Hibs, all he ever wanted.
Back in from the cold - Tavares in action for Hibs, all he ever wanted.

Jair Tavares was left “devastated mentally” by his treatment under former Hibs boss Lee Johnson.

But the Portuguese winger insists he’s been reborn since Nick Montgomery’s arrival at Easter Road.

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Tavares had been completely frozen out of the first team squad when Monty arrived, with Johnson – having previously hailed his capture of the Benfica youngster as a major coup for the Scottish game – openly talking about the need to move him on.

The 22-year-old, who made just two league starts in a year, admitted: “I was devastated mentally to be honest. At that time the hardest thing was to come here (to training) and smile.

“I was devastated mentally; I woke up every day knowing I wasn’t going to play at the weekend. I just had to try and smile.

“It’s difficult when you’re far from home. At the time I was thinking: ‘I left my home, my parents, my friends, so why would I give up?’ I kept doing what I was doing and working hard behind the scenes.

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“When I have problems, I don’t like to talk about them, I keep everything inside of me, but I kept talking to my dad; he’s the closest person to me in this football world. My friends sometimes come around and see me, which helped keep my mind strong.

“My teammates were always there for me too. They talked to me, the experienced guys were telling me not to give up, to keep smiling, and to keep training hard.”

Restored to first team training immediately after the arrival of Montgomery in September, Tavares has been a regular – both as a starter and a sub – pretty much ever since.

“Since day one he made it clear that it was a fresh start for everyone,” Tavares told the club website. “I saw that as an opportunity.

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“Mentally I was down, but when he told us this, I thought: ‘OK, this is a new opportunity, how am I going to react?’

“I had to keep working hard and training well. A couple of months ago, I was doing extras after training on my own. I knew I wasn’t going to play but I had to do extras to keep up my shape.

“Every player wants to feel like the manager trusts him. I feel that the gaffer and the rest of the coaching staff are giving me trust.

“I just need to prove I’m able to do something to reward the trust they have in me.

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“Now I’m playing I’m feeling very well. The new gaffer has been helping me so much. He told me what’s in the past is in the past, so now we move forward. I’m really enjoying my football now. It’s been a long time, but now I can play again, I’m really happy.

“I will keep working hard to reach my level because I know what I’m capable of. I need to keep going to push me forward.”

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