ABDELLAH Zoubir has already made a big impression behind closed doors since signing for Hibernian – now it is time for him to do the same in the full glare of publicity, according to Pat Fenlon.
The 21-year-old winger moved on loan to Easter Road at the end of last month from French club Istres, and scored twice last week in a bounce match against Rangers. It was a performance which caught the imagination of Hibs fans, and although Fenlon admitted to being surprised by their enthusiasm towards someone they have yet to see play, he suggested that Zoubir would constitute a different kind of threat to defences than the other players in his squad.
“It’s amazing how football works these days, as the fans haven’t seen the player yet, but they know all about him,” the Hibs manager said yesterday. “He’ll be a great addition, and he’s a different type of player to what we have at the club. He’s a good player, and when the Hibs supporters do see him they’ll get excited by him.
“That right-sided position seems to be jinxed at the moment, as we had Paul [Cairney], Alex Harris and Danny Handling in there and they’ve all been injured. We’re just hoping that Zoubir is okay and he’ll be a good acquisition.
“Zoubir has got great balance and two great feet, and his ball control and awareness and positional sense are very good. He’s also direct, and he likes to take people on and have a go and he’s really different to any of the ones that play in that position.
“When you’re looking for wide players it’s good to have someone like that, and he can play on both sides and we knew he could score goals as well. He’s chipped in with a few goals – we’ve watched his DVDs and he’s a calm finisher. He’s not a slasher of the ball.
“He has good feet, and the goals he got against Rangers were both cool finishes. Zoubir can help create goals for the strikers and he’ll provide plenty of ammunition for the players that we have up front.”
The arrival of Zoubir and former Kilmarnock striker Paul Heffernan took the number of Fenlon’s close-season recruits into double figures. The managed explained that he had always expected it would take some time for his new squad to fit together, but insisted that now was the time for them to prove how effective they could be.
“We had ten new players at our team photo, and it takes time for everything to gel. But that’s the same for a lot of clubs: there seems to be a fair bit of turnover, just by the way things are.
“We’re on a half-decent unbeaten run. Winning games will breed confidence and help players settle in that bit quicker. We have a really good squad here, although we seem to be getting people back then lose one or two, but I am very pleased with the squad we have. We now have to kick on and make sure that, with the quality of player we have, we get ourselves into a good position in the league.
“It’s a strong squad, but everything can look great on paper: we’ve got to do it on the park. We have great competition and if we can get everyone fit it will give me a real headache. It’s healthy competition, with a good balance between younger ones, middle-aged players and real experience. I’m pleased with the make-up.”
In tomorrow’s visit to St Johnstone Fenlon will come up against one of the players he allowed to leave Easter Road, wide midfielder David Wotherspoon, while Rowan Vine and Liam Craig will be back at their old club for the first time since leaving Perth for Edinburgh. “I’m wary about St Johnstone as a whole, but David is a good player and we know lots and lots about him,” Fenlon continued.
“He’s a player we tried to keep, and he decided to move on. I’m delighted he has had a good start to his career [at McDiarmid Park], because he is a fabulous professional and always worked tremendously hard. You would have to ask David why he moved on: it’s his hometown club, so maybe that is something he factored in. There’s a fair bit of movement in football and you often get players going back to their old clubs and playing against them.
“You just have to go and play the game and not worry about anything else and treat it like any other Saturday.
“As a manager, you pick the team based on who you think will win the game. Very, very few players stay at one club for their whole career and most players know what playing against their former club is about, whether you leave on good or bad terms.”
Like Zoubir, defenders Tim Clancy and James McPake played in the game against Rangers, but are not expected to feature tomorrow. Ryan McGivern and Danny Handling are definitely out, according to their manager.