Why Hibs fans should allow themselves to get excited about the Jack Ross era
Hibs fans were left purring after seeing their side dismantle Aberdeen
Stevie Mallan picked up a Ryan Porteous pass just inside the Aberdeen half. He shifted it sideways to Scott Allan, it went back to the centre-back. Martin Boyle made a run towards his team-mate, dragging Scott McKenna up the pitch. In turn, Florian Kamberi darted diagonally into the vacant space and was picked out by Porteous. He then fed Boyle with a slick back heel, the speedster motoring away from McKenna.
It was the 25th minute at Easter Road, Boyle veered towards the byline and with space lessening his cross was well over hit to the far side, the ball just kept in by Mallan.
While the attack ultimately came to nothing, it highlighted the freedom and enjoyment the players, especially those with attacking instincts, are revelling in since Jack Ross replaced Paul Heckingbottom.
Florian Kamberi said as much after the win over Motherwell two weeks ago.
“The whole team is happy because he knows what he’s doing,” he noted. “I think everyone is very motivated and, in my opinion, we’re now playing a very good formation.”
‘Front foot team’
Under the previous manager it just didn’t quite click, despite the fondness and respect many of the individuals in the squad had for Heckingbottom.
There was the sense among some fans that Hibs weren’t prepared under the Englishman, but it could be argued that the team were given too much information and were too drilled. Advised to be in a specific position as a specific situation arose or unfolded.
That’s not the case under Ross.
“We are very much a front foot team, it’s just about getting the balance right,” he said.
“But I’ve always mentioned being fortunate coming into a group so it’s the way I like to play but you need to have the players to do it. There’s no point me trying to play on the front foot if I don’t have good players in that area. But I do.
“We are working a lot on how we get the best from them in the right areas. But to do that we need to add more balance to that and it’s not easy at times to get that completely right. Even today with our team selection it’s pretty bold. We have a lot of forward going players within the group but when it clicks it’s good.”
And boy did it click.
The three goals scored after half-time were superb, highlighting the pace, vision, intelligence, creativity and cutting edge at Ross’ disposal.
Allan’s right foot acting as a hot knife, the Aberdeen defence welcoming butter to set up Boyle for the first. Kamberi’s movement and Boyle’s lightening speed for the second and then the Swiss front man’s mercurial qualities coming to the fore for the third.
Creativity and belief
Hibs fans were rightly purring at what they were witnessing from their team and they should be confident that they will get the chance to witness such performances, such goals on a frequent basis.
In an interview while St Mirren boss he said: “The one thing I am very big on is creativity and belief in the final third. We spend a lot of time on players being as positive as they can in the final. We put a lot of onus on of end product in the final third.”
Throughout the game there was constant rotation among four of the front five. In front Christian Doidge played a more static role with Melker Hallberg the protection at the base of midfield.
The shackles were clearly off and it was evident the players had been told to express themselves. Such freedom emboldens and inspires individuals, especially players like Mallan, Allan and Kamberi who are both effervescent and volatile in terms of consistency of performance.
The players and the fans were simply having more fun. And that has come with the arrival of Jack Ross.
Sometimes there is a manager who arrives at a team and you just get the sense he belongs. That it is meant to be. You get that with the Ross and Hibs partnership.
It was apparent in his post-match press conference. Any gloom or indifference was absent, it was brighter and lighter.
Before he had even started speaking he had discarded with the Hibs-branded manager’s chair which resembles one a teenage game would sit in for days at a time playing FIFA, Call of Duty or Crash Bandicoot or whatever folk play these days.
He stood with the press pack and oozed confidence and personality. It was easy to see why exactly players would warm to him.
Now, it’s only five games into his reign. There will be bumps along the road as Ross instils his philosophy and puts his stamp on the team when it comes to the transfer windows.
Yet, early signs are that positive times are heading back to Easter Road after a difficult last 12 months or so. That Jack Ross and Hibs are the right fit.
With there being a small sample size, which included defeat at Ross County, there will be those who may prefer to temper excitement. But where’s the fun in that?