Florian Kamberi knocked back the chance to join Jack Ross while he was the Sunderland boss, choosing instead to return to Hibernian in the hope of building on a fruitful loan spell.
That was in the summer of 2018 and while he says he has no regrets, he is delighted to be finally working with a manager he believes will get the best out of the Easter Road side and build on Saturday’s winning start.
“I knew the manager from last summer because he tried to sign me for Sunderland. We had a chat about that but it was never that close.
“Sunderland are a big club but at that moment I felt like I wanted to be with Hibs, playing in the top league in Scotland. I still wanted to meet him to see what he is like as a person and I liked him. So, when I saw that he was appointed as the new manager here I was very happy because he is a good person.
“The whole team is happy because he knows what he’s doing, he prepared us very well for the Motherwell game and I think everyone can look forward now.”
Having ignored the gap between the Leith club and fourth-placed Motherwell prior to the match, Ross sent his new charges out to get the win, utilising Scott Allan at the head of the diamond and delighting Kamberi by pairing him with Christian Doidge. It worked, with all three contributing. Allan was a creative contributor as Hibs overhauled Motherwell’s early advantage and took an unassailable lead, while the frontline weighed in with the first two goals of Ross’s reign.
“I think everyone is very motivated and, in my opinion, we’re now playing a very good formation,” said the Swiss-born striker who was frustrated to have been denied his debut for Albania in the recent international break due to a problem with paperwork. But that close call has given him even greater motivation to shine at club level and book himself a place in the next squad.
“It’s a 4-4-2 with two up top. And I think the most successful times the club has had, it was always with two up front. The last two games, we’ve been very, very good when playing two up front. That made the difference.
“Everyone knows that Scott can play the final pass. Doidgie is very good in the air. And I do all the other stuff on the floor – so it’s a very good mix of all three. I think in the last two games, we’ve shown that pretty well. I hope that continues.”
Kamberi’s positivity was reflected in the team’s performance and in the mood around the ground.
The good cheer was tested when Motherwell scored the opener in the ninth minute. Jermain Hylton was incisive on the flank and ghosted his way past the home guard. When the ball was played into the danger area, the visitors’ first shot crashed off the post but Liam Polworth was first to react and buried the second effort
Hibs regained their composure and zest to deliver for the new gaffer and in the 20th minute they clawed back the deficit before moving ahead five minutes later. The equaliser was crafted by Allan, who played in Kamberi, who fed the ball to Joe Newell to shoot. Mark Gillespie denied him but the Well keeper couldn’t gather and Doidge got in to finish.
Minutes later, the home fans were partying as Allan again made his mark, picking out the overlapping Jason Naismith, who fired a low ball into Kamberi. The striker found space for himself and slotted the ball beyond Gillespie.
Motherwell are not a side that is easily quashed and, in the second half, they took control of the midfield and were dictating play.
They had a solid-looking appeal for a penalty rejected in the 58th minute, when Ryan Porteous bundled Sean Long to the ground in the box but Ross shook things up, sending on the pace and attacking prowess of Martin Boyle and Daryl Horgan to get the guests on the backfoot. It paid off.
Horgan cut through the tension to deliver the third goal. That 86th-minute contribution snuffed out Motherwell’s hopes of even a point. It was a welcome change for a Hibs team more used to succumbing from a winning position and a sign that the manager may not be the only thing that has changed.