Monty says tough Tavares deserves praise for not giving up on Hibs
Hibs boss Nick Montgomery has hailed Jair Tavares as a role model for any player going through a tough time – because he refused to embrace a “victim mentality” despite his treatment by Lee Johnson. The Portuguese winger talked openly this week about the mental devastation he experienced during his internal exile under the former gaffer.
Johnson famously hailed the arrival of Tavares as a “coup” after identifying and signing the former Benfica prospect in the summer of 2022. But the wide man made just two league starts in a year and was playing alongside schoolboys for the Hibs Development Squad before Johnson was ditched by the Easter Road club.
Restored first to training and then the first team under Montgomery, the 22-year-old has become a key player for Hibs. And that, says Monty, is all down to the strength shown by a footballer who always had the skills and work rate needed to succeed in Scottish football.
“Jair is a great example to any player who possibly moves to a club and things don’t quite go to plan,” said the Yorkshireman. “Because there is no doubt that he had a tough time.
“But the first thing I said to him was that you have to forget about the past. You can’t have a victim mentality because, if you do, it can be hard to move on and recover.
“I’m really, really proud of Jair. And I’m happy for the team because the boys supported him through a tough period.
“Everyone can see the ability he has. And he’s a real team player, a hard worker who has been outstanding in the run of games he’s had since we got here.
“His is great story for any player, young or old, thinking that their career is finished at a club. Because suddenly there is a change of manager - and you get an opportunity to impress.
“Just coming in with an open mind, I saw what players were doing in training, without having a bias. I knew about players’ situations when I arrived but his effort in training was always very good.
“He’s also really receptive and he’s an intelligent footballer. And you want people who have pride in wearing the badge, who want to play for Hibs. He has that.
“Jair is beginning to show his ability. With having missed so much football, it takes a couple of matches to get that game awareness. But he’s been great for us.”
Addressing the need to look after players when they fall out of the first team, Montgomery explained: “Being a footballer is mentally hard at times. Everyone wants to play every week. But most weeks there are a lot of players – especially in some of the bigger clubs down south, who might have a squad of 40 – who just can’t play.
“The players not playing, they are the most important guys when it comes to management. I remember Jose Mourinho saying the one thing he’ll never be able to fix is the fact that the players in the team like him, but the players not in the team don’t like him!
“I think those players can still respect and understand the situation. And you have to make sure those players are ready, that they’re mentally up to speed. We’ve got eight games in December so it’s important that everyone remains included.”