ALAN Maybury moved out of the dressing room at the start of this season and says he is “no longer one of the boys” but, as illustrated last weekend as the Hibs coaches huddled around a laptop on the Inverness turf, picking through the debris of a game they felt they should have taken more from, the Irishman is an integral part of another clique.
Along with assistant manager Jimmy Nicholl and goalkeeping coach Scott Thomson, Maybury, 35, is one of the few whose opinions are valued by manager Pat Fenlon when it comes to team matters.
Although registered as a player at the start of the season, it was made clear to the full-back that coaching would begin to play a bigger part in his career. It was a change of direction which Maybury, who is part way through his A Licence, had been envisaging but he didn’t expect it to happen so soon.
He explains: “Lots of people say ‘play as long as you can because you’re a long time retired’. But something else I was told struck a chord with me. ‘No disrespect, but your football career is going down the way and you want your coaching career to go up the way so, if you get the chance, jump up and take it’.”
That became clear in a frank chat between Maybury and Fenlon last summer. “What he said was that I had a decision to make. If I wanted to play every week, like I did last year, it probably wouldn’t be here because he didn’t have the budget for it. He said he was trying to change things but there was a role here. I just needed to be clear in my head about not playing every week.”
That new position sees him help James McDonaugh, Hibs’ head of academy coaching, with the under-20s during the week but, come Saturday, when they play in the East of Scotland League, Maybury is back on first-team duty, scouting, doing a match report, watching from the stand to offer a different perspective or, if needs be, playing.
His manager describes him as “a breath of fresh air” and his impact as positive. “He has been very good with the young kids,” says Fenlon. “That was the reason I wanted him in. He is a good professional and has a good manner about him and he has played at some big clubs, so he knows what the game is about.”
“It’s the best of both worlds at the moment,” adds Maybury, “because I have been playing and coaching. It was maybe hard to juggle in the first few weeks but I’ve become more relaxed about it.
“There were no guarantees about whether I would play five games or 20 games so, if other people are available and the manager wants to change it, there will not be any knocking on the door for me.
“I know my role, I have plenty of other stuff to do. It’s not like I should be playing every week, even on the back of my performances.”
Maybury was missing from the team last weekend after picking up a dead leg in the League Cup victory over Stranraer. That had been his third game of the season, with those three games representing three-quarters of Hibs’ wins.
He says that, while he is able to express his views, he is not yet privy to matters of team selection so, while he is back in training and available for selection, when Hibs meet Partick Thistle tomorrow night, he doesn’t know if he will be in the starting line-up.
Hibs’ sticky start to the season gave Maybury a front-row view of how pressurised management can be, with a 7-0 home humiliation by Malmo in Europe and a losing start in the league generating calls for Fenlon to be sacked.
“I was barely in the door and then there was the Malmo game and I felt there was a lot of outside pressure,” says Maybury. “But I didn’t necessarily see it in the manager or the chairman or the coaches. They were determined to stick to what we were doing.”
His new role gives him a fresh perspective. “Your eyes are opened to a lot of things that you’re not aware of as a player, good and bad. I’m just trying to take it in, see how people respond to it and I have to decide whether I would go about things the same way.
“I think I’m probably a bit more relaxed than I was as a player. I watch things and point them out without ranting and raving. I’m picking bits from different people but I find people don’t respond well if you’re critical of them all the time. It’s trying to take that on, give praise and confidence. But, if they need a kick up the backside, I’ll give it.”
He may be poacher turned gamekeeper but the standards remain the same.