Neville Southall taught Hibs’ Chris Maxwell to ‘stop making saves’
As a youngster Chris Maxwell was told that if he was making saves, he was not doing his job properly.
The sage advice came from Neville Southall, a man he admired greatly, and it gave the Hibernian goalkeeper something to chew over as he made his way in the game.
“I am lucky enough to be from the same area of Wales Neville Southall is from and he told me as a kid: ‘If you’re saving shots, then you’re not doing your job properly’. I asked why and he said: ‘If you’re organising the boys in front of you, you’re taking crosses, you’re keeping the ball and you’re sweeping up behind… then you don’t have to save shots. And if you’re not saving shots, they’re not scoring goals’. It was as simple as that.
“He used to come to our boys club ceremonies and give us trophies and he was heavily involved in the Welsh set-up for years and years when I was young. Every month 20 goalkeepers aged 15 and under would go down to Cardiff and he would work with us there.
“He was a hero of mine. He was unorthodox in the way he did things. But he had a massive work ethic towards his practice, which is something I have always looked up to.
“That’s something the managers and players I have come across who had been in a dressing room with him have all tried to impress on me.”
At Hibs, Maxwell has been working at developing that understanding with a back line that has been chopped and changed due to injuries and suspensions. But with a quarter of the season gone and the club still in the lower reaches of the table, they are looking to set down a solid foundation from which they can build when the welcome Ross County to Easter Road today. And he is unperturbed if that means he does not need to pull off headline-grabbing saves.
“The 18-year-old me would have said that I want to make loads of saves. But now I would rather win every week and not have to touch the ball,” he said. “It’s not about me, it’s not about any individual, it’s about the team winning and getting the three points.
“I really believe in communication and organisation with the players in front of you. We all have to do that with every position on the pitch because it makes the job easier.”
As Maxwell works to keep things tight at the back, there is an ongoing issue with finding their way through at the other end and that has hampered the side in recent outings, as chances are created but, too frequently, squandered.
It has piled extra pressure on Maxwell and the defence, who have let leads slip in several games so far, costing them points. But with three games in the coming week, culminating with the League Cup semi-final next weekend, there is the opportunity to turn things around, according to Maxwell.
“Hand on heart there are no boys in our dressing room who believe we are on a slippery slope,” he said. “We all believe we are turning it around and one win will sort it out. This next week is a massive opportunity for us, I can’t stress that enough.”
Ross Draper, meanwhile, insists there is no chance of a lingering effect from Ross County’s 6-0 thrashing by Celtic last weekend.
“Morale in the squad is always high,” said the midfielder. “We make sure we don’t get too low when we get beat or too high when we win. The boys are grounded. We know last weekend’s performance wasn’t good enough and we get the chance to right the wrongs. The spirit in the squad never changes.”