THERE is value in recognising personal strengths and, for the more self-assured, there can be humour in acknowledging their own weaknesses too.
Hibs midfielder Marvin Bartley is a confident lad but he exhibited an element of that self-deprecation in the wake of last week’s victory over Alloa when he took to twitter to celebrate the three points and the fact he had managed his first shot at goal for three years.
“Yeah, it was on target to be fair so I celebrated it as if it was a goal! It was a bit of a rarity,” said the 29-year-old Englishman. “I’ll just let all the other boys go for that, I’ll just sit at the back and try to hold things together.
“It doesn’t really interest me, if I’m honest. I’m not even sure how many goals I have scored, it will be single figures, I’m sure of that. But I couldn’t even tell you when my last one was. So don’t expect goals from me.”
Manager Alan Stubbs knew what he was getting when he brought the former Burnley and Leyton Orient player to the Leith club in the summer. “I would be quite happy if he hit the target!” he said, “but you have to appreciate people’s strengths and, in all honesty, Marvin’s strength is not hitting the target from 20 or 30 yards. His strengths are doing the nitty-gritty bits for the team, that give the more technical players a platform to go and build on.
“He’s invaluable. He’s one of those ones where they do the job and people don’t realise at times how important they are for the team. But I do.
“He’s a player that goes under the radar all the time. There will be times where he puts in a man-of-the-match performance, but a more stylish player would get the award. That’s not right, but that’s the way it is. But it doesn’t go unnoticed to me.”
But the lack of glory doesn’t weigh heavily on Bartley’s mind. One of the older and more experienced members of the Easter Road squad, he knows his worth. He has settled in well on and off the pitch, contributing in all five games he has played thus far, even if that doesn’t include goals.
“I’ll let the strikers get on with that,” he says, well aware that the squad is now endowed with quite a number of men vying for that position.
The attacking options have been plumped up further over the past few weeks, rendering men like Bartley even more vital in ensuring there is a balance to the teams fielded by Stubbs, who will be without James Keatings and Fraser Fyvie for the trip to Livingston today.
But the current formula has served up three wins on the bounce and given the side a bit of momentum.
“I’m happy to go unnoticed as long as we win games,” said Bartley.
“The manager has asked me to do that for the team and I am happy to. I’m not really looking to be a glory hunter. I’ll let the other boys do that and I’ll pat them on the back as long as we win – and if we don’t I’ll be on at them! I’m more than happy to sit back and clean things up. They can have the glory. We win as a team and lose as a team. We have had three clean sheets now but that comes from the whole team. We defend from the front. Defending has been something we have concentrated on a lot, and long may that continue.”
Laughter and bonhomie interrupt Bartley regularly as his team-mates tease him and bombard him with cat-calls, inviting inevitable verbal retorts.
“Such camaraderie is important as Hibs seek to chase down Falkirk and Rangers and challenge for the Championship crown and. more importantly, promotion.
“The manager does his research to try to bring together a similar bunch and he’s done very well to do that, because he’s got some good players and off the pitch we all get on.
“We’re all pulling in the same direction, which is important. I have been in changing rooms where I’ve had the best team but the togetherness wasn’t there and it went the wrong way.
“There is competition for places but it’s healthy. There is good banter but the same boys slaughtering me are the ones I pin down in the changing room and I’ve actually got a video of it so if they keep going I’ll upload it to Twitter later and you can all have a look! There’s only one boss in that changing room – and it’s none of them.”