Why Jackson Irvine could be the missing piece of the Hibs midfield jigsaw
From his attitude in training, to his positive personality, his ability on the park and his high standards. An Australian international, who represented his country in major qualifiers, he has big game experiences to draw on, while his most recent gaffer, Grant McCann, of Hull City, added that the 27-year-old midfielder is “not afraid to voice an opinion, and I like that.”
He won’t be the only one. Hibs are a group of more than decent players, as their fourth place in the league and their presence in a third successive national cup semi-final attests, they are also thoroughly decent guys.
But, right now, they maybe need a big character to be the driving force.
Described as professional and humble, it was just a few weeks ago that manager Jack Ross spoke about the lack of swagger in the squad, while several key players admitted there was the need to make more demands of each other as they worked to recapture form.
After their best start in two decades, there has been a dip in matchday standards. They have taken just one point from 12, albeit two of those games were against Rangers and Celtic (and the performance against the former was widely praised). The other two were against sides who had benefited from the new-manager-bounce, one of which is also on an eight-game winning streak but that didn't excuse the manner of the losses which was disappointing.
Gone was the vibrancy and vigor of their displays earlier in the season, replaced by a lack of verve and creativity. The performances certainly did not mirror the character, craft, energy or grit that had previously seen them grind out results.
But, according to past managers Irvine is a guy who digs deep and demands others do, too. Even when flying halfway around the country for internationals he returns ready, willing and able. That attitude and ability to drag himself through games, pulling team-mates with him could be key to Hibs seeing out this season’s ambitions as he shuttles from box to box.
Hibs as a club boast one of the Premiership’s top goalscorers, and sit fourth among their top tier peers when it comes to clean sheets. They also have one of the season’s best midfielders in Joe Newell but they do not have one of the best midfields.
They have a number of candidates when it comes to filling the central berths around Newell but the individual strengths and weaknesses, injuries and form, mean they are always missing a little of something.
But the arrival of a box to box international, who knows the Scottish game, is not afraid to compete but can quickly take the game to rivals and galvanise Hibs in the final third could be a game-changer.
He allows Ross flexibility when it comes to formations, able to operate as a pair or a trio in the middle of the park.
He has the energy and the knowhow to strengthen the spine.
The big question, after sitting out competitive action since March, is whether he has the match sharpness and the fitness needed. And, if not, how quickly he can rediscover it.
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