Jack’s the lad to bring style back to Hibs

Celebration time for Jack Ross and his family as the Championship title is clinched for St Mirren. Picture: SNS.
Celebration time for Jack Ross and his family as the Championship title is clinched for St Mirren. Picture: SNS.
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In the 19th century, Frenchman Alphonse de Lamartine detailed the value of the past. “History teaches everything, including the future,” he opined, and as new Hibernian manager Jack Ross heads in to start work tomorrow, players who under-performed for the previous managerial team only need to look into the recent past to gain some insight as to what the new regime has in store for them.

While the past cannot be considered infallible in the realms of predictive science, previous jobs show that Ross is unlikely to waste too much time before imprinting his own views on players, on training and on tactics, having indulged in major squad overhauls at Sunderland and St Mirren, where he offloaded ten players in his first January transfer window and brought just as many in. His patience will not prove limitless when it comes to personnel.

But as an intelligent, empathetic, motivational and lauded man-manager, getting the best from players is viewed as one of Ross’s strengths. Having come through the ranks as an on-field leader, coach and manager, he has worked with youngsters, part-timers, Scottish lower league sides and then engaged with the higher rollers at Sunderland, where he has had to learn to live with demands.

At the Black Cats he used the first window to bring in a dozen new players, many of whom were viewed as positive acquisitions by the Sunderland fans, including Jon McLaughlin and Chris Maguire, who he knew from Scotland.

He has worked with a few of the Hibs players before, including Stevie Mallan and Jason Naismith at St Mirren, while Leith fans will be hoping that his time spent on Wearside with Dylan McGeouch may help lure the talented midfielder, pictured below, back for another stint at Easter Road.

But if he is brave when it comes to shaping his own squad, he is also rarely cowed by the opposition.

Under Alan Stubbs and Neil Lennon, Hibernian looked to have dispensed with any sense of inferiority when facing the likes of Celtic and Rangers in one-off games. Whether giant-slaying on cup duty while still in the Championship, or flourishing on their return to the top tier, there appeared to be few doubts in the minds of the players, regardless of the opposition. That conviction was diluted under Paul Heckingbottom, pictured.

History would suggest that Ross will work quickly to turn that around. At Alloa Athletic he inherited a poor situation and whilst he could not stave off relegation, he rolled his sleeves up and started the new campaign with a ten-game unbeaten run and gave Celtic a run for their money on cup duty, defying the gap in status to hold them to a goalless draw for 83 minutes before succumbing to two late goals.

That all caught the eye of St Mirren, who had their own fires that needed to be extinguished.

Taking over while the Paisley club were sitting bottom of the Championship, he guided them to safety and the following season they won the Championship title – and he was rewarded by being voted PFA Scotland Manager of the Year, ahead of Celtic’s Brendan Rodgers.

He did that while nurturing young talent to such an extent that they proved pivotal to the success, earning the club a pay-day.

Mallan moved to Barnsley, Kyle McAllister was snapped up by Derby and Lewis Morgan was sold to Celtic and then loaned back.

At Sunderland, that trend continued. Josh Maja was given regular game time before being sold, and other academy graduates such as Denver Hume and Bali Mumba made it into the team.

Those credentials will have played a major role in impressing the Hibernian hierarchy, who have seen him juggle demands while wheeling and dealing within a budget.

He did that at Alloa and St Mirren, playing a style of football that would appeal to Hibs. In St Mirren’s Championship winning season they scored 63 goals in 36 games –but there was always a highly organised defence.

Comfortable tweaking his own tactics mid-match, he also altered them at Sunderland as he accepted the realities of a difficult situation.

Just as Heckingbottom took the heat for too many draws and the paucity of a killer instinct at the top end of the pitch, too many stalemates left Ross’s side lower in the league than the fans and his bosses wanted.

It is one lesson the Hibs fans hope he has learned. But he can take solace in the fact that during his 75 games in charge of the club, he lost just ten. His successor Phil Parkinson lost four in his first month. Ross’s managerial record remains a good one and the past shows he has plenty of positives to contribute.