Why Hibs striker Kevin Nisbet could be Scotland's Leigh Griffiths at Euro 2020
Scotland manager Steve Clarke insisted it was no surprise to see Kevin Nisbet hit the target in just his second international appearance, because the Hibs striker promised he would score if he got game-time.
It is precisely that sort of confidence – just the right side of arrogance – that could be hugely beneficial to the Scotland squad in Euro 2020.
That Nisbet's first Scotland goal came against the Netherlands, and a defence with a combined transfer fee total of more than €130 million, will only boost that confidence.
There must be a good chance of Nisbet starting at the Stade Josy Barthel against Luxembourg on Sunday and if he can get amongst the goals again then Clarke will have a nice dilemma going into the Euro 2020 opener against the Czech Republic on Monday, June 14.
Even if he opts to start Che Adams and Lyndon Dykes the Scotland boss will have the 24-year-old among his substitutes and there are few managers who wouldn’t relish having an in-form Nisbet as an option off the bench.
Prove the doubters wrong
Nisbet had an impressive season following his arrival at Easter Road from Dunfermline, hitting 18 goals and eight assists in 44 games. If there was one lingering criticism of him it was that he didn’t do enough in big games – although three goals and an assist against Celtic and Rangers and the opener in the Scottish Cup semi-final suggests he isn’t far off greater consistency.
But there is something different about Nisbet. Three years ago he was released by Partick Thistle. Since then he has hit double figures for Raith Rovers, Dunfermline, and Hibs.
He is open about the path he is on. He wants to reach the top, and he’s going to work damn hard to get there.
Higher and higher
There was an advert on TV for a time about Royal Navy careers. The script followed the pattern: “If you can fix a bike, you can fix a car; if you can fix a car, you can learn to fix a Lynx Mark 8 helicopter, a Pacific 24 sea boat, a four-and-a-half inch naval gun, a Samson radar system, or a Type-45 destroyer, and when you can fix all that, you'll be a Royal Navy engineer.”
One senses Nisbet is following a similar mantra: “If you can score goals in League One, you can score goals in the Championship; if you can score goals in the Championship, you can score goals in the Premiership; if you can score goals in the Premiership, you can get a Scotland call-up and score goals for your country, and when you can do all that, you’ll be an elite footballer.”
That he’s making his mark for Scotland at the tail-end of one of the most difficult seasons for him off the pitch speaks volumes for his personal strength, drive and determination.
His habit of being in the right place at the right time has borne fruit for Hibs and, so far, for Scotland. He offers something different to Adams, and Dykes. He can hit a mean free kick, and score goals with his head and both feet.
Scotland may not have a Leigh Griffiths for the Euros, and when they take on England. But they do have Kevin Nisbet and on recent form, that’s not a bad replacement.