FINDING a way to keep hold of Scott Allan should be a priority for Hibs according to former striker Keith Wright.
The 1991 League Cup final goalscorer said that the midfielder was key to the team’s best performances last term and wants him to see through the job of getting the Leith club back up to the Premiership.
“He was probably the main man that made them tick. He’s definitely a top player,” said Wright. “Everything that Hibs did well last season came through the midfield – Dylan McGeouch did well and Scott Allan did well.”
Stating that Allan’s stint in England should serve as a cautionary tale for the former Dundee United starlet, who failed to hold down a starting place at West Bromwich Albion and returned north last summer after loans spells at Portsmouth, MK Dons and Birmingham City, Wright said that another big move would come if the PFA Scotland Championship Player of the Year continues to deliver but he said he should resist the temptation to head along the M8 to either Celtic or Rangers ahead of the new season.
“He’s had a shot down south that didn’t quite work out for him,” added Wright. “I don’t know what advice he’s getting, but if he’s enjoying his football and playing every week for the next couple of years I think he’s got to take advantage of that.
“His big move will come because he can’t play at that level and put in those performances every week without getting noticed down south. His big move will come again but I’d say if he’s enjoying it in the next two years then the challenge is to establish himself as a really good player who can pick his move if he goes down south.” Speaking as he helped promote a formal association between the Hibernian Community Foundation and Edina Hibs, his former boys club, which also developed the fledgling talents of other former Hibs stars such as Alex Cropley, John Brownlie Willie Miller and John Hughes, Wright conceded that Allan is capable of playing at a higher level and said Hibs may have to loosen the purse strings as a way of enticing Allan to rebuff other advances and spend another season in the second tier.
“That’s a problem that Hibs will need to try to sort out,” said Wright. “I don’t know financially if he’s on a good deal but that could be the thing to push him over the line to stay with Hibs – a wee bit more financially on his contract. Because I think he’s enjoying his football. He’s involved in everything that’s happening on the pitch, in every play, and he’s playing with a smile on his face. Hopefully that might prove more important than the money he could earn elsewhere.”
Even without the talented midfielder, Wright says Hibs are still in decent shape for an assault on the title but stressed that there will be competition from more than one team.
“Davie Weir has the Rangers connection but the manager coming in will bring a freshness about the place and I think you will see a different Rangers next year,” said the SFA development officer. “I’m not surprised that they’ve been made favourites by the bookies. I don’t know if they’ve got money but I’m sure the new manager will get something to spend.
“And he will also have contacts, having worked down south and no doubt watched Premier League reserve games for the last two years. He will have players ready to come in at a level they can afford to pay.
“But I wouldn’t say Rangers are clear favourites until we see who they bring in. There are other clubs to think of. Jim Duffy will have Morton well organised – no-one will have an easy time going there. Queen of the South, OK they’ve lost a few players, but they’ll not be easy to beat so it won’t be as easy as Hibs and Rangers just turning up at the likes of Palmerston or Falkirk and getting an easy three points. There are some exciting times ahead for that league again. It won’t be a two-horse race.”
But, having had a year to lay foundations he hopes the Easter Road side will be better placed to hit the ground running. “The problem I saw last year was Alan Stubbs coming in a bit too late,” said Wright. “By the time he got his team organised and his style of play set, Hearts had shot about ten or 15 points clear and it was a catch-up job all the time.
“I think now the fans can see there’s a manager in place and that things are moving forward on and off the pitch That’s the advantage Hibs have got and they’ve got to make sure they take full advantage of that – they’ve got everything in place, a team structure, they know exactly how they’re going to play next season.
“The wee additions are going to bring competition for places when they didn’t have enough in the right areas last season. So, it could be the opposite of what it was last year. Hibs could maybe get off to that good start and it will be Rangers playing catch-up this time.”