HAVING worn the armband for most of the season so far, Ben Williams might have been entitled to feel a little downcast at being overlooked for the Hibernian captaincy by new manager Terry Butcher.
But the big goalkeeper has fully endorsed Butcher’s decision to appoint midfielder Liam Craig as the club captain and predicts he will shine as their on-field leader.
“Liam is a great lad to have in the dressing room,” said Williams. “He has a fantastic temperament and the lads all have belief in him as captain. Not only is he a fantastically gifted player, he’s a good man.
“The manager was good enough to take me to one side and tell me that it wasn’t because I was a bad captain, it’s just that he prefers an outfield player to have the job. I have no qualms with that. I’m part of a unit and we’ve got a fantastic belief now and, hopefully, we can push on in the league and improve.” Butcher, a man who knows better than anyone what it takes to be an effective captain, described Craig as a “good, solid type” with the right credentials.
“He might possibly also be the first ginger captain of the Hibs,” smiled Butcher. “Seriously, when you come into a club, you want to make your mark and say: ‘That’s my appointment’. I wanted someone who is in the centre of the action. Liam is experienced and canny, well respected by his team-mates and the fans, and he will be our captain going forward.”
For Williams, what was only Hibs’ fourth clean sheet of the season was the most significant aspect of Butcher’s first game in charge against St Mirren on Saturday. He is confident the goal-less draw in Paisley can be the platform for better times ahead under Butcher and his assistant Maurice Malpas, both of whom have made an instant impression on the Hibs players.
“The sheer desire to improve us as a group is the first thing we noticed from the manager and from Maurice,” said Williams. “They have a lot of belief in us. We have a lot of belief in ourselves and we work incredibly hard for each other. People like to be experts on how teams play and when we played Inverness two weeks ago, they were incredibly hard-working and they also played good football.
“I think that’s first and foremost what will get us through. You are never a finished article – you are always improving. I was fairly quiet against St Mirren and I didn’t have much to do. It just shows the level of hard work we are putting in as a team.
“It starts from the front and we are an incredibly hard-working side. If my season carries on nice and quiet and pick up a clean sheet every week I will take that. It’s about us building from Saturday. It was a good start it was a clean sheet, a very positive performance and something we can work with.
“I think it was just about instilling belief. Confidence was lacking but we have a trust in each other. Everyone is in it together.
“The manager is the first to admit it’s a good group of players and probably better than he assumed it would be. So it’s about bringing everyone along now and improving as much as we can.
“We have started something now and we have to see it through to the end of the season. I could see players putting in more on Saturday. It started at the front with Danny Handling and James Collins and we defended as a unit.
“It’s been down to both Terry and Maurice. We stripped it down to bare bones, had a couple of meetings. It was back to basics in many ways.
“When things are not going for you and confidence is low, there are games when you don’t play to any tempo. It’s all about the exact opposite of that now.
“It’s probably the most crosses we have had and attempts on goal and it’s the questions we were asking.
“We have been a little bit too nice and a little bit too soft this season. It’s a cliché to talk about a fortress, but we don’t want people looking forward to coming to Easter Road.”