Matthew Hoppe's Hibs ambition as attacker explains what he wants out of loan deal
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The 22-year-old moved to the Easter Road club on the final day of the January transfer window on a loan deal until the end of the current campaign.
The United States international, with eight caps to his name, has impressed thus far with two assists and a goal in the 2-0 victory over Kilmarnock earlier this month. He’s made five appearances in total, two from the starting XI, as his presence gives manager Lee Johnson more options in the attacking third.
After signing for the English Championship club last summer in a £2.5 million move, Hoppe saw his opportunities limited with only six appearances to his name on Teesside, all coming from the substitutes bench.
As a result he’s still to properly acclimatise himself to football in the UK, but he’s been receiving the crash course he desires in the famously rough-and-tumble world of the Scottish top flight.
While continuing his development he also hopes to help Hibs achieve their goal of catching Hearts and, likely, securing at least eight games of European football next season from finishing the campaign in third place.
“So far it’s been good – I’m getting to play games and have got a goal and assists. I’m working hard on my game and have been developing over the past two months and I think this loan is really helping my transition to British football,” he told Teesside Live.
"I have experiences of playing in different countries and seeing different styles. As a young player, that’s helping me grow. It’s a really physical league in Scotland, but that just means I’m needing to get stronger and work on other parts of my game to try and succeed.
"The club is currently pushing for Europe so my efforts are focused on that and trying to score goals to help that push. It’s a good challenge and it feels like the perfect move and the right step for my development. It’s a great club, great fanbase and great place to live, so I’m really enjoying it so far and I want to try and help them.
"The hope is still to come back in the summer and work hard in the summer to show what I’m capable of at Middlesbrough. The club have put a lot of faith in me and they’ve done a lot for me, so I want to be able to repay that.
"Right now, the most important thing is playing time. I think that’s when you see what someone is really capable of, and that was the biggest motivator for me coming to Hibs – to get the opportunity to show what I can do. When I get the opportunity to come back, my goal is to work hard to get a spot in the team and I’m working hard to achieve that.
“I always think it’s important to have a full pre-season with a team. The coaches make their game plans for the season in that period and it’s hard to integrate into that when you join after the season has already started. You’ve got to work twice as hard then and be patient to wait for the opportunity. I’m hoping this summer I can show what I’m capable of and hopefully get my chance.”
There was a lot of hope when Hoppe was brought to the Riverside having already had experience of playing in the top level of German football in Schalke before joining La Liga side Real Mallorca.
However, he became the victim of an internal power struggle at the north east club with former manager Chris Wilder stating he was “a development striker” and basically casting him to the side before Wilder was ultimately replaced by ex-England and Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick.
Hoppe holds no bitterness against his former boss and is just focused on showing the new man in charge what he can do after the 2022/23 season wraps up.
"When he said that it just motivated me to work harder to show what I could do. People can have opinions about you, but you can’t let it bring you down, you just have to work hard and do your best. You just have to focus on yourself and what you can do,” he said.
"It doesn’t serve much purpose to get frustrated. It was a hard time – for the club as well, because we weren’t getting the results we wanted either. But those periods serve as learning experiences and you’ve got to look at it that way and look forward.
"Michael arriving offered a fresh start, but I can totally understand, given the situation the club were in at that time, that he went with the more experienced players to bring us out of that. He’s done an amazing job. I’ve just got to keep working hard to prepare for next season and see what I can do when I get back.
“As a player, you can only focus on what you can control. I think there has been a lot of stuff that was ultimately out of my control. So I think for me, the biggest thing was just continuing to work hard and not get down when things weren’t going my way.
"Things can flip so quickly in football, which is ultimately what happened at Schalke. I don’t think you can let situations get you down. I know what I’m capable of, but it’s ultimately my job to show everyone else that."