Terry Butcher has revealed he has brought with him to Hibernian the mind games that made Inverness Caledonian Thistle a success.
In his previous job, the former England skipper was famed for his use of psychology to get the best out of the Highlanders, with pre-match riddles forming part of his team talks. It is a side of his man-management style that he has already utilised at Easter Road, with Liam Craig calling the new manager’s match preparations “light-hearted” and involving “a few silly questions and stuff”.
However, Butcher, who steered Hibs to their first win of his tenure in Saturday’s 1-0 Scottish Cup victory over Ross County in Dingwall, insists the brain-teasers he tasks his team with off the pitch can play a big role in fostering improvements on the field.
He said: “I said before the game I wanted the players to be like wasps, to ‘irritate’ the Ross County players and be in their faces and be pests, which they were. So, I asked the players if they had any other words beginning with ‘i’, and there was ‘incisiveness’, ‘inject’ pace and all sorts of words, and Scott Robertson came up with ‘in the next round’, which I thought was pretty clever.
“Actually, James Collins came up with a couple as well, so he’s a clever boy as well as a hard worker.
“We’re getting the mentality of the players a little bit different and getting their minds shaped a bit differently – rewiring them, to a certain degree.
“If we can do that, allied to what we’ve seen on the pitch, in terms of their effort and skill as well, we’ll do okay.”
Hibs had to dig deep to hold out for their victory – and the celebratory fish and chips in Aviemore on the way home – after a disputed red card handed out by referee Craig Thomson to Paul Cairney in the 71st minute.
However, with striker Collins earning special praise from Butcher for dropping in to Cairney’s right midfield berth, the capital outfit earned their place in yesterday’s fifth round draw, in which they were paired at home with Raith Rovers.
And, as well as changing the mentality of his new charges, Butcher believes the Easter Road outfit are quickly getting used to the all-action gameplan that has worked well for him at previous clubs Motherwell and Inverness.
He added on Hibernian TV: “If you watch our teams, that’s what they do, they work right from the front. Our best defender is James Collins, at times, and our best attackers are our full-backs.
“I thought it was a great team effort from everyone, everyone knew what they had to do.”
Meanwhile, full-back Tim Clancy is expected to step up his comeback efforts with another run-out in today’s under-20s league clash with Dunfermline at Livingston’s Almondvale Stadium.
The 29-year-old Irishman has not played first-team football since April because of a groin problem that required surgery in the summer and has already broken down once in a bid to return to action earlier in the season.
However, he did play the full 90 minutes in Hibs’ 7-1 victory over Eyemouth United in their East of Scotland encounter on Saturday.