Hibs now have cup specialist in their ranks - this is a real opportunity for club
Still basking in the glory of winning last season’s A-League Championship – Central Coast Mariners’ first in 10 years – which involved elimination rounds and an all-or-nothing final showdown, his curriculum vitae also boasts guiding his charges to the first Australia Cup final in the club’s history.
Now, half a world away, he is hoping to make a solid first impression on the Viaplay Cup. One tie away from a Hampden semi final, their Paisley opponents are expected to make life difficult but, having made strides in his first couple of weeks in charge, picking up a draw and a win to move the Leith outfit up the Premiership standings, he believes an unchanged approach is necessary.
“In Australia, the end of the season is settled by the play-offs, which is exciting,” said Montgomery. “[Last season] we had eliminations and then semi-finals. The semi-final against Adelaide was two legs, home and away. We won both games, home and away, to get into the final. Any knock-out competition is a good opportunity to progress. That’s what we’re focused on tomorrow. This is a real opportunity, a quarter-final at home, a chance to get to a semi-final. No doubt St Mirren will come with the same attitude as us, to win the game.”
While there will be no second chances in cup competition, with the winner of the midweek tussle guaranteed a spot in the semi-finals at Hampden, Montgomery says the players have to treat it like any other game. “We don’t really change our approach, it’s still about trying to win the game,” continued Montgomery. “There are no replays. But, at the weekend, trying to go for three points, if you end up with one point, there’s no way of getting those two points back, so it’s the same here. We’re trying to progress through to the next round. Ultimately, that’s all the game boils down to.”
Determined not to look too far into the future, the HIbs gaffer, who is a former Scotland Under-21 cap and member of the Scotland Futures squad, is aware of the chance the fixture throws up in terms of booking a competitive visit to the national stadium. “I never trained there, never played there, unfortunately. But it’s great that I have the opportunity to go there as a manager,” he said. “I’ve been to Hampden a couple of times. I watched Scotland v England game there a couple of weeks ago and thought the atmosphere was electric. To see that stadium packed, the history the place has got, I will obviously do everything I can to experience that.
“That means concentrating on this game at Easter Road. Hopefully we get a good crowd because the boys are all looking forward to being there again. Obviously, quite a few boys have played there, they’ve had success there. There are boys in the squad who were successful at Hampden in 2016, so they know what it’s about. But we’re professional enough to know that there’s no point in thinking about that until we can get a result [against St Mirren].