Emerson Hyndman has admitted he would like to stay at Easter Road until the end of the season. Joel Sked looks at why Hibs fans should be happy if he does.
A little more than a minute had elapsed of the second half of Hibs’ trip to Hamilton earlier this month. Accies defender Lennard Sowah attempted to bring the ball under control and loft a pass up field. Emerson Hyndman had other ideas as he pressurised the former Hearts man, put in a strong challenge coming away with the ball before having the awareness to deliver a reverse pass into the path of team-mate Florian Kamberi, whose shot was beaten away for a corner.
A goal may not have arrived from the passage of play, but it set the tone following a dreadful first half at the Hope CBD Stadium. The home team arguably performed better in a half which featured a prolonged stoppage due to Hibs winger Martin Boyle’s injury. Hyndman was his replacement.
The American turned the game in Hibs’ favour. It would be imprudent to label his arrival from the bench as turning point in Hibs exiting the rut they have found themselves in. Yet, his influence was stark.
The 22-year-old Bournemouth loanee started the second period at the tip of a midfield diamond before being shifted to one of the shuttling roles when Daryl Horgan was brought on. In both positions, Hyndman knitted the team together, providing the conduit between defence, through midfield and into attack.
Touch, pass, move. A flow arrived to Hibs’ passing, a tempo which was clearly missing. His willingness to take the ball and remain composed brought players higher up the park, the full-backs into play and in turn striker Oli Shaw and more noticeably Kamberi.
The Swiss, who was the victim of some strong words from assistant manager Garry Parker following the draw with St Mirren, was below par in the opening 45 minutes. He finally appeared to react, to be stimulated, by the presence of Hyndman in the midfield.
“I think we work quite well together. We read each other’s games quite well,” said Hyndman of his on-park relationship with Kamberi. “I think he’s always looking to play little passes and combination play, which is what I like to do, so maybe naturally we just fit together in that way.”
Hamilton enforcer Darian MacKinnon was being led a merry dance by Hyndman’s movement and subtlety. It got to the point in the match where he tried to leave something extra on the Hibs midfielder. Yet, Hyndman’s guile was such that the Accies captain and he could barely lay a glove on him.
Hyndman wasn’t quite as visible in the win over Celtic, but he still played a key role in the 2-0 victory. He displayed a different side to his game, one which didn’t require constant possession to thrive. Working towards the collective, he helped Hibs press the game effectively and when it mattered shift the ball quickly to counter Brendan Rodgers’ side.
“We all knew we had to put in a shift,” he said. “I am a little more attack-minded, but I needed to do what I need to do for the team, that involves helping the right-back out sometimes and sometimes the other midfielders. It was a good shift, but it was worth it in the end.”
The player has expressed his desire at extending his loan deal from the Cherries, which expires in January, until the end of the season. Such a notion would have provoked a mixed response two weeks ago among the Hibs support, with one fan admitting he would “have driven him back to Bournemouth”.
Yet, there were those that recognised the player’s qualities and what he is capable of delivering, albeit it has been on an inconsistent basis. He impressed on his league debut in a draw at St Johnstone, while he was terrific in the reverse fixture with Hamilton - a 6-0 win.
Fellow midfielder Stevie Mallan may have stolen the headlines with his long-range shooting, but it was the American who zipped around midfield inventively. It was a team performance which prompted premature talk of a title challenge. Concentrating on the term ‘team performance’, when Hyndman is on his game, the team as a whole improve and are made to look better.
Somewhat frustratingly for fans, it’s not been the case on a regular basis. There are game where Hyndman drifts in and out or falls out of completely. In the 1-0 home loss to St Johnstone, he was Hibs’ most dangerous player in the early stages, but a switch in formation saw the game pass him by before being substituted.
The potential and quality is there, however. It would be disappointing to see a player of Hyndman’s talent leave before he expressed it at Easter Road regularly. He is an individual who can create, structure Hibs’ attacking game, act as a glue bringing all the components together in the final third.
On Wednesday evening he faces his former team Rangers. Another industrious, inventive game where he puts his stamp on proceedings will see calls rightfully increase among the Hibs support to extend the player’s deal until the end of the season.
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