Hibs boss Paul Heckingbottom showed Scott Allan video of 4-0 defeat
Familiar surroundings, fans who adore him and what he brings to their team, and a manager who is well aware of his talents and knows how to bring the best out of him.
When Neil Lennon left, though, to be replaced by a newcomer to Scottish football, there was scope for either player or club to renege on the deal. But after new Hibs manager Paul Heckingbottom studied footage to judge the calibre of the player he had inherited, he did not want that to happen.
“We spoke to Scott a couple of times on the phone but I thought it was important that we arrange to meet up because, although he knows the club and everything about the place, he doesn’t know me and Robbie [Stockdale, Heckingbottom’s assistant]
“He was signed before we came in so I thought it was really important to put his mind at ease about where we see him. Just treat him exactly like a new signing and take him through a process of showing him how he will fit in. We told him what we expect from him and what he can expect from us.
“We have outlined where we see him in the team and what we think he can bring and we are looking forward to getting him in and getting him working. Scott is exactly the same. He says he has never looked forward to a pre-season as much in his life. That’s good – we’ve got a hungry player there.”
As has often been the case, the return to Hibs represents an opportunity for regular first-team football for Allan after the creative midfielder sat out most of his contract at Celtic. He was integral to the attacking prowess of the Edinburgh side during his previous spells, but Heckingbottom’s only personal insight into the player was during his spell at Barnsley, when his team beat a Rotherham side which included Allan 4-0. But he has studied plenty of further match footage and expects the 27-year-old to be key again next term.
“Yeah, I showed him a few clips when we beat them 4-0 with Barnsley! Put it this way, he was chasing about a lot without the ball… Regardless of what is said, you always make judgments based on your first impressions. But from the first conversation I could tell that Scott knows the game, that he is a sensible and bright boy. But then you sit down and speak to him, push him a little bit on the questions and see what answers come back.
“I think I was right. He knows the game, he wants to do well and now he knows exactly what will be expected of him. There is a plan – if you do this you will play and I think he liked that.”
The Hibernian management have quickly built a reputation for dealing with the detail and backing up words with examples and Heckingbottom found that approach was helpful when he met Allan.
“We showed him all sorts really, how we want to play, and took him through a process of how we work and where we come from.
“We showed him that when we give the players feedback it is a result of all the information we gather and not just me telling him what he needs to do. There is evidence there that I can show you on every occasion to back up what I am saying. I think he appreciated that sort of depth. He knows it is important.”
Finding ways to keep his fitness levels high, both the player and his new boss know that rarely translates as well as anyone would like when it comes to match sharpness, but projecting thoughts forward beyond the final few weeks of the current term, both are eagerly anticipating the next and the opportunity it presents to hit the ground running.
“Loads of players will tell you how different it is running, or working in the gym and trying to replicate that in a match. That’s what he has missed. But he will be on top of it and no doubt he will be as good as he can be when he comes back. Then it’s up to us to top him up and see what’s missing and what needs adding.
“He has been in a strange situation all season hasn’t he? He has not been playing, then got a good move that he wanted and then the manager changed. He’d have been wondering ‘do they still want me?’ He has been in limbo a little bit so we felt it was important that he feels a part of it and excited about coming back here.
“It’s important for him to be highly-motivated of course but also excited and that’s why it was important to show him where he fits in. We are looking forward to getting him in now and likewise he can watch us and have an idea of where he will fit into the team.”