Shaun Maloney speaks on joining Hibs, backroom staff, recruitment, and getting the team to play like Belgium

There are the inevitable questions about Kevin de Bruyne, and the Premier Sports Cup final, but new Hibs manager Shaun Maloney is only really focused on his first match in charge.

By Patrick McPartlin
Tuesday, 21st December 2021, 6:00 am
Shaun Maloney was unveiled as the new manager of Hibs on Monday
Shaun Maloney was unveiled as the new manager of Hibs on Monday

He has had precious little time with his new squad, there being such a quick turnaround between Sunday’s final and the visit of Aberdeen on league duty on Wednesday night.

Then Dundee United on Boxing Day, Celtic three days later, and the small matter of an Edinburgh derby on the horizon. It isn’t so much a baptism of fire as a blazing inferno.

But the former Scotland internationalist is relaxed and eager to begin what he sees as a new challenge, although he would have relished the chance to be on the touchline against his old club at Hampden.

Sign up to our Hibs football newsletter

Maloney is eager to get to work with his 'talented' players

“I would have loved that but it just became impossible,” he said following his appointment.

Maloney was at the national stadum, however, and was heartened by what he saw from his players.

“I thought they were excellent, particularly in the second half, they performed very well. I think they can be proud of their performance,” he continued.

David Gray and Craig Samson can take a great amount of credit for the way they stayed in the fight and took it to Celtic.

“Towards the end of the game, the big moments went Celtic’s way and that was the difference between one team winning in 90 minutes and possibly another result.”

Both Gray and Samson have been kept on by Maloney.

“I was really glad to speak to them on Sunday and pleased that David was more than happy to stay on. And the same with Craig. They’ve given me an insight into the players and helped in training,” he added.

Gary Caldwell also arrived as Maloney’s assistant, joining first-team coach and strength and conditioning guru Valerio Zuddas and Head of Technical Support Brian Doogan, and it was Caldwell who helped sell the idea of Hibs to his former Celtic team-mate.

“I appreciate Manchester City for letting us have Gary so quickly because I know he is very highly thought of there,” Maloney continued.

“It was Gary, at the beginning of this process, who spoke so highly of the club, Hibs, and the city.

“Valerio is a really enthusiastic coach. He’s had different experiences and flew in from Rome a few days ago to get ready for this. He’s worked with so many different players from different backgrounds. He will be vital to the backroom team.

"Brian has great experience from working in the English Premier League for a long, long time. They’re all going to be a big part of where we’re trying to get to.”

It hasn’t escaped the new Hibs manager’s attention that there’s a transfer window fast approaching but he won’t be tempted to embark on a shopping spree come the turn of the year. He does, however, have plenty of contacts throughout the game that could come in useful.

“There is a lot of talent at Hibs. I’m looking forward to working with them. Yes, the January window is coming up but I’ve got to give priority to the players in the building before we look outside. Everyone gets a clean slate while we give them the messages they need.

“We’ll then take it from the training and the games. This club is built on bringing players through so we’ll also look at the Academy.

“Recruitment does run deeper than individual relationships. The process we will put in place will include a lot of homework on signings.

“I’ve watched so many European teams but all of these relationships can benefit us in the long run.”

Maloney isn't looking too far past the meeting with the Dons this midweek but he does have short- and long-term aims for his new team.

“What’s been shown domestically is there are other teams who have won cups recently. I think that’s something that we have to give ourselves the most chance of doing,” he stated.

“We have the game on Wednesday but we have to try and push as hard as we can to make that top four. We’re seventh at the moment, and there are other teams who have the same objectives, but we have to push for fourth with the talent we have in the squad. If we get there, we push for third.

“From speaking to the owner and CEO and also doing my own homework, if we can get to these places then I would really love to see if we can qualify for European competition. That has to be one of the long-term goals for the club.”

Maloney’s appointment represents something of a gamble but he insists his experience has prepared him well.

"Being assistant manager of Belgium is not pressure-free. There are really big games and tournaments so maybe that pressure is a big part of the reason why I feel completely ready,” he explained.

“From the point of view of it being my first job [as a manager], I’m aware of that. But I feel really experienced in terms of some of the high-pressure moments and coaching players. I’m ready to get going.”

Can we expect to see Hibs playing like Belgium any time soon…?

“Every team will play their own style or vision, whatever manager they have.

“No matter what decision I make in terms of tactics and team selection it is always to do with the players. There are certain ideas I have, but they are ideas around what I think is the best way to win.

“The big thing in that is I have to give something the supporters really enjoy watching, there has to be some sort of inspiration between the support and the players.

“I think that’s going to be vital over the coming days, weeks and years hopefully.”