Why Hibs boss Shaun Maloney is okay with a certain comparison as he spells out vision to fans

Comparisons are already being drawn between the Tony Mowbray era at Hibs and the new chapter being penned by Shaun Maloney.
Shaun Maloney addresses his Hibs squad in training ahead of the match against Celtic.Shaun Maloney addresses his Hibs squad in training ahead of the match against Celtic.
Shaun Maloney addresses his Hibs squad in training ahead of the match against Celtic.

The former is remembered fondly for a period of growth and development, of fast-flowing, entertaining football, when a winning blend of promising youngsters and experienced leaders helped them finish best of the rest and qualify for Europe.

Like Mowbray, who followed on from Bobby Williamson, Maloney has benefited from the ground works of his predecessor, who finished last term at the right end of the table and contested the latter stages of cups while blooding youngsters.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

But, now, in the minds of the club’s hierarchy and the support, it is about building on that and offering style as well as substance.

Maloney during his time as Belgium coach.Maloney during his time as Belgium coach.
Maloney during his time as Belgium coach.

And, as Maloney prepares to resume competitive duties with the cinch Premiership return against Celtic on Monday, he says he has no gripes about being likened to the Blackburn manager, who reached out when he was appointed at Easter Road, to wish him well.

“I am OK with any comparisons. I wouldn’t get too up or down about it.

“I just hope we get to a stage where it feels like that era, where there’s a real connection with the fans and me, and also with the club.

“I know winning matches helps, but for sure there will be moments we don’t win.

Maloney, pictured playing for Celtic in 2010.Maloney, pictured playing for Celtic in 2010.
Maloney, pictured playing for Celtic in 2010.

“But I still want the fans to feel there is something they have seen that they can connect to.

“I remember his [Hibs] team, they were very difficult to play against. I also remember the fans inside the stadium when that team was successful. It was an intimidating place to come.

“That has to be the plan. We have to get to a place where we sell out our home games as much as possible,

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“We need to give the supporters something really exciting, something they enjoy watching. They have to feel they’re part of this journey, that’s my job.”

But, while the emphasis is on attacking football, Maloney says the foundation will always be defence and having seen the way Hibs’ frustrated Celtic for long spells of the recent Premier Sports Cup final, he is heading to Celtic Park with belief.

“I found that we can defend under serious pressure. Celtic had a lot of the ball but something I saw then, and also in the last ten minutes against Dundee United, is they are really prepared to defend as a team.

“And I also saw in a 15-20 minute period my team can play, they certainly created chances, they caused Celtic a lot of problems.

“Look, I love attacking, exciting football and I want to give something to the fans they’ll really enjoy watching.

“But, from a coaching point of view I believe the foundation of any successful team has to be the defensive side.”

He is without defenders Paul McGinn and Ryan Porteous, though, due to suspensions and while new signings offer Maloney options, he wants an end to such complications.

“If you look at the history of that throughout this season, I think it hinders your chance to be successful.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“It’s not about individuals, it has to be a team collective because we need 11 players on the pitch as often as possible.”

Don't miss out on a 30 per cent discount on an annual sports subscription. We have a special offer throughout January where you can get a reduced package. Visit https://www.scotsman.com/subscriptions/sports for more details.