What we learned from Nick Montgomery’s first Hibs press conference
Nick Montgomery has already made clear his number one priority at Hibs
Once you’ve covered your first hundred or so managerial unveilings, it’s inevitable that a few recurring themes begin to crop up.
At the risk of triggering Hibs fans who have been down this road once or twice before, then, would it be OK to fall back on a few old favourite first impressions – and suggest that new head coach Nick Montgomery spoke well, sounded confident and said all the right things in front of the media this morning?
Flanked by chief executive Ben Kensell and Ian Gordon, the 41-year-old Englishman with a pair of Scotland Under-21 caps definitely sounded like a man who wanted to be at East Mains. Which is always a good start.
Kensell and Gordon, desperately seeking a long-term solution to the short-termism that has typified the club’s approach to managerial hiring and firing over the past four-and-a-bit years, simply looked pleased to have found a genuinely promising candidate who ‘gets’ what the job is all about.
That starts with Montgomery’s insistence that Hibs will have a clear identity, as a team, going forward. He’s preaching to the choir on that one.
One of the most accurate accusations thrown at the team, during the dog days of Lee Johnson’s tenure, was that no-one really knew what Hibs were. They weren’t great at any one aspect of the game. Always seemed to be trying to figure things out as they went along.
That clearly won’t be the case with a coach who, while not much older than some of his new charges, among them former Scotland Futures team-mate David Marshall, obviously has some clear ideas about how things should be done.
If no card-carrying member of the League Managers’ Association ever waltzed into a new job and said he wanted everyone to stop working quite so hard, Montgomery puts a premium on commitment and effort. Mentally as well as physically, players will need to be locked into what he’s asking them to do.
With 16 weeks until the transfer window re-opens for business, he has few options but to work with the players already on the books. Including, perhaps, a few who haven’t quite broken through into the first team yet.
As you’d expect from a coach who lifted the A-League title with a youthful Central Coast Mariners squad, Montgomery intends to take in plenty of age-grade football during his time at Hibs.
He understands the value of the academy not merely as a long-term source of valuable players who can be developed and sold on for a profit, but as an easy-to-tap well of enthusiasm and energy. No-one would be overly surprised if members of the Hibs Development Squad got more exposure to senior football under the new boss.
Montgomery has been joined at Hibs by two close confidantes, assistant head coach Sergio Raimundo and goalkeeping coach Miguel de Oliveira Miranda.
Importantly, however, he made special mention of David Gray’s role in the new backroom set-up, talking about the Scottish Cup-winning captain having the club’s DNA running through his system.
Gray’s input, especially his advice and insight on domestic opponents, will be absolute crucial. The best plan in the world won’t work if it’s based on sub-par intel.
The next three Premiership fixtures – away to Kilmarnock, at home to St Johnstone and then at home to Dundee – should give Montgomery a good insight into life in the Cinch. Throw a Viaplay Cup quarter-final at home to St Mirren into the mix and September suddenly seems laden with potential promise.
And into October? There’s the small matter of a derby at Tynecastle, another international break, then an Old Firm doubleheader of Rangers away and Celtic at Easter Road. Each one a brilliant opportunity cunningly disguised as a daunting challenge.
Montgomery mentioned, more than once yesterday, his intention to build a team that Hibs fans can enjoy watching. Free scoring but solid at the back, they’ll be as tough as they are entertaining.
Hibs fans – including a few on the board – will be hoping that, by flying in a manager carrying an A-League winner’s medal in his hand luggage, they’ve found someone able to back up hopeful talk with definitive action.