Shaun Maloney on facing Celtic as Hibs boss looks to claim 12-year first

There is no doubting that Shaun Maloney managed to get a response from his players in his opening couple of games as Hibs manager and he praised the squad’s ability to adapt to his tweaks and demands in such a short period of time.

Shaun Maloney returns to former club Celtic with his Hibs team on Monday. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)

But, heading to Celtic Park for their first competitive game of the 2022, he says he will get a clearer indication of how much all the hard work carried out throughout the winter shutdown has paid off.

“The break has given me a bit of time to learn more about the players away from football.

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“It’s been hard on the training pitch too and we’ve had numerous sessions each day, that period of time has been really beneficial.

“There will be stages [in the evolution of the team’s playing style] - I don’t want to give them everything in a short period of time. But, the players have been really responsive and they’ve picked it up really quickly. Even against Aberdeen and Dundee United, with limited time on the training pitch, they took on board a lot of the messages we were giving them.

“I’m looking forward to Monday to see how we do it in an intense environment. The way Celtic play it will be very intense as they try to press us extremely high.”

Aware of his Celtic counterpart Ange Postecoglou’s football philosophy, Maloney is respectful. But, he is not running scared.

“There’s more than one way to play the game and I respect every style of play.

“Some of Celtic’s performances have been very, very impressive. They are going to try and press us very high. They have their own style in possession that hasn’t changed for anyone.

“I know Ange’s coaching staff and Gavin Strachan very much concentrates on the set plays and John Kennedy writes and delivers all the sessions. I respect them fully, but I’m preparing my team as best I can to go and win the match.”

Maloney was still a Celtic player when Hibs last won there, in 2010, and it is close to five years since they garnered even a point. But, the former Parkhead player and ex-member of the coaching team has faith that the team he selects on Monday can provide a happy homecoming.

“I spent many great years there and learned under some great managers and coaches and got very close with some of the ex-players who have done amazing things in their history.

“But the last few days I’ve been focused on preparing my team for a football match, that has to be the focus.

“I certainly believe we can end that wait. It’s a great challenge, we have had big ones so far against Dundee United and Aberdeen. I’ve prepared the team, and that’s what I’m going to keep doing, to win the match. There’s no reason why we can’t go there and win.

“I am really looking forward to seeing how we are. It’s very early in the process of how I’m trying to get my team to play but I feel this way is the best way to win.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how we perform under the intense pressure of how Celtic play and also the full house. We have to believe we can win the game.”

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