'One league loss in eight weeks on the job' - Monty defends record
'Physical and direct' league held no surprises for Hibs boss
Seven games without a win? Or one league defeat in eight weeks on the job? If we’re all occasionally guilty of using statistics as a drunk uses a lamppost, for support rather than illumination, there’s always merit in examining the numbers from a different angle.
Hibs boss Nick Montgomery, due some leeway as he continues to work with a squad entirely inherited from his predecessor(s), understands that his team aren’t winning enough games for anyone’s liking at the moment.
The fact that it’s been over six weeks since their last victory, at home to St Mirren in a midweek Viaplay Cup quarter-final, is a headline figure that can’t easily be overlooked.
As he prepares his team for another bare-knuckle battle at home to Kilmarnock this afternoon, however, Montgomery is adamant that he sees signs of progress in games, as well as on the training pitch.
And, insisting he has achieved total buy-in from players asked to completely change their collective style of play, Monty said: “The fact is, I’ve been here for eight weeks - and I’ve lost one game of football in the league, to Rangers, who are one of the best teams in the competition.
“And even in that game I felt we played really well up until we gave away a really poor goal.
“Moving forward, we will continue to improve and, with players out injured, there is an opportunity for others to come in. We have to look at it on a week-by-week basis; the positives are that we’re playing good football, we’re scoring goals, creating chances.
“There are 16-year-old academy kids starting games of football, coming off the bench, filling in for players or long-term injured players and I think that shows where we’re at - and I’ve got no problem in starting them. So there are a lot of positives.
“Every fan wants to win every game. I want to win every game, the players want to win every game - but unfortunately that’s not sport.
“Sometimes you’re unfortunate and games you should win you don’t, other times you don’t deserve to win but you do and that’s how sport goes.
“The improvements have been there for everybody to see. I think in terms of the style of play, the way we’ve been playing every week, it’s a process where we continue to do what we’re doing.
“I’m more than confident that the results are going to come but nothing happens overnight.
“There’s no doubting the buy-in from the players. They’ve given me everything.
"Every week the effort is there, the way that we play is there. At times it’s just a bit of naivety and lacking a bit of experience to finish games off when we’re in winning positions and playing well.
“I’ve got no issues with the players or the squad whatsoever. It would be nice to get some players back from injury but that gives opportunity to other players who would maybe never get a chance. That’s the beauty of sport.”
With no experience of playing or coaching in Scottish football, former Central Coast Mariners boss Montgomery – who did represent Scotland Under-21s and feature in a Scotland Futures squad during his playing days with Sheffield United – was hardly a complete newbie when he took the Hibs job, having followed the SPFL from afar and done copious homework when the opportunity arose.
Taking a step back to assess how his preconceptions have matched up to the reality on the ground, Monty said: “It’s a good league. Every single game is competitive - I don’t think anyone can doubt that.
“You have two teams classed as the ‘big two’ and they’re playing in Europe, the Champions League, but there are also spots for the clubs that finish below them - the likes of ourselves and Aberdeen, and opportunities for other teams.
“It’s a league where the rewards are there if you can finish high up the table.
“But it’s also one of the most direct, physical leagues and the stats will tell you that - I think there are more crosses from wide areas in this league than most leagues in the world and that’s probably been the way for a while, and it’s why certain teams are geared towards signing big physical players because that’s the way we want to play.
“My take is exactly what I knew before I came; it’s a very physical league, players will give 100 per cent every week, and it’s a very good league.
“I was probably expecting a little bit more rain, there’s only been one or two games where it’s rained so that’s been a real positive!
“I knew it would be a good challenge and that’s why I came to the club.
“There’s also the challenge of changing the identity of the team and the club and I think we’ve made some big strides in that.
“It’s up and down, it’s not all smooth sailing and you do get tested when you have quite a lot of players out injured. But there’s nothing I didn’t expect.”