JIMMY Nicholl has been “excellent” and “invaluable” since joining Hibernian as assistant manager during the close season, according to Pat Fenlon.
The Hibs manager, whose team are at Partick Thistle on Monday night in the last match of this round of fixtures, praised Nicholl, not only for his specific role in the signings of Michael Nelson and Paul Heffernan, with whom he worked at Kilmarnock, but also for his general ability to lift the morale of the squad.
“Heffernan happened on the last day of the transfer window because it wasn’t something that we thought we’d be able to do,” Fenlon explained of the striker. “He was under contract and we weren’t able to pay another transfer fee. But obviously Jimmy had good knowledge of him from Kilmarnock and we were absolutely delighted to get him in.
“I tried to sign Michael before he went to Killie and we missed out on him. We needed a centre-half with James McPake being injured and, again, I spoke to Jimmy about him. He’s worked with both of them and that’s the major plus of having Jimmy at the club – his knowledge of the game.
“He’s been different class and a breath of fresh air to the place. His contribution, and everything in relation to our games, has been very good since he arrived.
“I think we’ve been very fortunate to get someone like him into the club. I think he’s happy enough in the job and his experience is invaluable.
“I didn’t have a relationship with Jimmy at all before he came here. We didn’t know each other, but I spoke to others about him and what they told me is what you get with Jimmy.
“He brings a smile to people’s faces at the club. About the place, he’s really good and the players enjoy working with him. I’ve changed the whole coaching staff since I became manager, but Jimmy’s been a superb addition.”
The injury list with which Fenlon has had to contend in recent weeks is shortening, and Danny Handling and Paul Cairney have been added to the squad for Monday – although it looks like the latter will be given a few more games in the under-20s before returning to the first team. Alan Maybury is a doubt because of a knock, but is expected to train today and, all being well, will retain his place in a side that is desperate to get back to winning ways after a five-match unbeaten run in the league ended in a 3-0 defeat by Caley Thistle last week.
“I’m convinced the defeat in Inverness was just a blip, because we were on a good run of form before that,” Fenlon insisted. “We came up against a good side and didn’t perform to the levels we’d reached before. And they punished us for it. We have to make sure we turn up for the full 90 minutes in games.”