Why Shaun Maloney to Hibs is fascinating - 'elite brain', how he works with Belgium stars, daft Ian Cathro comparisons
A new manager always brings a sense of intrigue and fascination. With it often comes hope and excitement of a clean slate, a blank canvas. It is a position Hibs find themselves in with the prospect of Shaun Maloney becoming their new manager.
His name is a familiar one in Scottish football due to his exploits with Scotland and Celtic where he won a glut of trophies. However, unlike the likes of Neil Lennon, Derek McInnes and even Alex Neil, supporters will likely view the appointment as fresh.
With his work as assistant to Roberto Martinez for the Belgian national team, there has been that separation from the day-to-day grind of the Scottish game which brings a certain aspect of mystery about the appointment, but he still possesses an abundance of experience of what is required to succeed in Scotland, albeit it as a player.
There have already been tiring comparisons to former Hearts boss Ian Cathro. The wonderment of a club appointing a football coach as manager really shouldn’t be as bamboozling as some make out.
While Cathro had worked at Valencia and Newcastle United, Maloney has been slumming it with Eden Hazard, Kevin de Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku et al.
He has learned his trade under Martinez as both player and coach and spoken about his admiration for the former Motherwell midfielder’s "principles of play” which is less about formations and more the belief of a team moving through the different areas of the pitch as one, while allowing the attacking players freedom. He, as he told the Graham Hunter Podcast, “found it liberating”.
‘Elite brain’ and 'deep thinker’
That admiration works both ways.
Martinez has spoken previously of Maloney possessing an “elite brain" and "high standards".
"He is a very important coach who can help young players because he has a true dedication," he said. “His passion for games is great.
“Shaun pays attention to every detail. He is very natural on the training ground and has a friendly feeling to all players.”
Listening to the former Celtic attacker speak, it is clear he is a student of the game and in possession of an analytical mind, often found watching a game on his travels with Belgium.
Former Scotland colleague David Marshall recalls the 38-year-old being close to managers at Hull City, including regular chats with Marco Silva.
“He was always a deep thinker," he said. “He was always going to be a coach.”
Putting on sessions and analysing games is one thing. Building a rapport with players as manager while communicating confidently and effectively with the media is arguably a more complex facet of management.
The latter shouldn’t be a problem for someone as high-profile as Maloney.
“Just be myself," he answered when asked how he deals with Belgium's arsenal of world class stars.
"If I’m quiet, I’m quiet. I’m quite softly-spoken, quite reserved at times. That's me. I don't change to try and create a certain situation with the players. I will always be honest.
"It's always about the player. It's never about me as a coach. I am there to help them in any way they need me.”
With David Gray set to take charge of the League Cup final, Hibs fans may need to be patient for Maloney's arrival. He may just be worth waiting for.
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