An academic, with a masters in sports coaching to back up his years in the game, the Hibs manager has made it clear that he is willing to use as many learning tools as possible as he seeks to get his message across to the players and tries to guide them up the Premiership table.
Just over a week into the job, Neil Lennon’s replacement has made screen time an integral part of training and while that is vastly different to the approach of previous managers, Hanlon says that it does clarify things.
“I’d say out of the managers I’ve had, he pays the most attention to detail – every small detail.
“In terms of analysis, this is definitely the most we’ve worked on it. Most days we’ve got a video meeting showing clips of training that we’re doing well, clips of things in games that we’re doing well. He showed us clips from the Under-20s reserve game of things they did well so it’s all things like that. Repetition all the time and showing us exactly what he wants.
“It’s just to get the information into us. It’s easy to say it, but some people learn better from seeing it rather than someone saying it. We’re getting that every day so it’s great.
“Some managers will maybe go over defeats and leave the wins but most managers will do an opposition/set play meeting the day before a game so you’re guaranteed that at least once a week and depending on the result, it might be a case of going over things that didn’t go well.
“But with the managers I’ve had before I’ve never had a video every day in terms of what you’re going to work on in training that day. It’s a fresh approach and one we’re all relishing.”
According to the experienced defender, that clarity of direction and frequent showcasing of positives has helped quash nerves and bolster the feelgood vibe that comes with the arrival of a new head coach and the possibility every player has to make a fresh impression and vie for a place in the starting line up.
“Yeah, it’s good because it’s straight to the point. We’re not sitting in the video room for hours on end watching it. It’s two or three topics, ‘that’s what we’re going to work on today’ or ‘that’s what we should have done better’. We then go out to training and we’re ready to work on it.”
Heckingbottom was just a couple of days into the job when he had to steer the side through his first Premiership fixture but with that win over Hamilton under his belt he has been able to spend the past week emphasising his plans as they head into tonight’s game, away to Dundee.
“When a new manager comes in it creates a buzz. Everyone’s got to impress him and boys who maybe weren’t in favour before have now got their chance. Training’s been pretty lively but the emphasis is that it’s a squad game and we’re all in it together.”
But no matter how many times he has been through this situation Hanlon admits that there are still nerves as he waits to see if he will find the favour of the incumbent manager.
“I’d like to think that [having been through this before] would help me but you still feel the same anxiety and that desperation to impress. There are always doubts when a new manager comes in but you need to be confident in your ability and adapt to what the manager wants.”
Heckingbottom accepts change will be gradual but he does want clear evidence that the messages he is trying to reinforce are seeping in.
“He actually stressed ‘I know you’ll all make mistakes’. He is comfortable with that and can deal with that,” added Hanlon. “The bigger problem is if we are making the wrong choices on the pitch and not doing things that we have worked on in training. That’s when he’ll get on to us.”