Paul Heckingbottom has revealed how Stephane Omeonga has mapped out the way for others to force their way into his plans.
The Belgian Under-21 midfielder was one Easter Road player Heckingbottom didn’t know too much about as he became Hibs new head coach, Omeonga having arrived shortly beforehand on loan from Italian Serie A outfit Genoa until the end of the season.
Omeonga was pitched straight into action by Neil Lennon in what turned out to be his last match as Hibs boss, a 1-0 defeat. However, he lasted just 45 minutes before being replaced by Vykintas Slivka and made just two further appearances as a substitute before the former Barnsley and Leeds United manager took the helm.
Omeonga immediately caught Heckingbottom’s eye, but had to settle for a place on the bench for his first three matches – although he did play a part in each of them, the verve and energy he brought in the middle of the park earning him a starting place in each of Hibs last six games.
The first may have ended in a Scottish Cup defeat by Celtic on Lennon’s return to Easter Road, but Omeonga has helped the Capital club make it 20 points out of a possible 24 under Heckingbottom as they not only clinched a top six place in the Premiership table, but leapfrogged city rivals Hearts and into fifth ahead of the post-split fixtures.
Heckingbottom said: “We knew the team we wanted to play when we came through the door, but in the first training session Stephane impressed. I spoke to him about his role, how I saw it and what he had to look to improve on.
“You have to impress in training to get on the bench and impress when you get on the pitch to get into the team. Stephane made an impact coming off the bench which is important and when you do that you have to be rewarded with a starting place.”