With Efe Ambrose having departed in January it has blown the race for the club’s top end of season award wide open. Below are six candidates likely to feature in the discussion:
He was unfairly heralded as a John McGinn replacement in some quarters. Both diminutive midfielders, both former St Mirren players. Yet, how they interpret the midfield role is very different. Mallan arrived as a No.10 with a style closer to that of Scott Allan but Neil Lennon moulded him into a No.8. He hasn’t dominated games as a Hibs fans would like but he continues to adapt to what is asked of him. What can’t be argued with is his numbers: 12 goals in all competitions, plus another eight assists.
Similar to Mallan, the Irishman arrived with one position in mind but has since been fielded in different roles. It was thought he would provide more quality in wide areas but has spent time playing centrally as a No.10. It has led to inconsistency. In some games Horgan can look like one of the most talented individuals in the league, then a week later his performance level plummets. Since Paul Heckingbottom has arrived there has been greater consistency with the player starting every game.
Another whose influence has transformed under Heckingbottom. The Swiss was right to feel hard done by for being singled out by the former management team of Neil Lennon and Garry Parker for disappointing performances. He may not have hit the heights of last season but he was far from the worst for a drop in standards. With him in the team Hibs always retain a danger as seen by his 13 goals and seven assists in all competitions. His attitude has been questioned but under the new boss he has willingly played and worked in a wider area.
When Ryan Giggs won BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year in 2009 it was seen as a lifetime achievement award rather than reward for a particularly outstanding year. This could be the case for Lewis Stevenson. If Efe Ambrose had stayed he’d have likely been the standout. Alas, Stevenson has been one of few consistent performers throughout the campaign for Hibs, proving once again that he very much belongs at the Scottish Premiership level, seeing off competition from another left-back in Miquel Nelom.
Trailing 2-0 at home to Asteras Tripolis in the Europa League qualifiers Neil Lennon made a much-needed alteration. Off came Steven Whittaker and in his stead arrived David Gray. The veteran right-back scored as the Hibees completed a deserved comeback at a raucous Easter Road. He was excellent. A pattern soon emerged: when Gray played Hibs performed better. When he didn’t they usually failed to win. Of the 16 Premiership games he has played this term Hibs lost three times. Of the 14 he has not featured Hibs have won just twice. Inspirational.
His inclusion suggests one of two things. Either he has been hugely influential or there is a distinct lack of options. In this case it is a bit of both. To many Scotland fans, McNulty will be remembered for his miss against San Marino. But for those of a Hibs persuasion he will be known as one of the key figures in the transformation under Heckingbottom. Aside from the impressive haul of seven goals in nine appearances the striker has been impressive as a lone striker or in a partnership with Florian Kamberi. He is capable of linking play, showing a great vision to play in team-mates while getting himself into good positions in and around the box.
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