Hibs' Scott Allan was like Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard, ready for his close-up

Jack Ross explains to Scott Allan that if he wants to be leading man in the Hibs blockbuster then he's going to have to tackle backJack Ross explains to Scott Allan that if he wants to be leading man in the Hibs blockbuster then he's going to have to tackle back
Jack Ross explains to Scott Allan that if he wants to be leading man in the Hibs blockbuster then he's going to have to tackle back
It’s another movie matinee afternoon down at the Easter Road multiplex and the local cineastes are anticipating a name-above-the-titles role for their silver screen idol.

Okay, multiplex is maybe a bit of an exaggeration. There are big screens at either end of the East Stand and two smaller ones on its walls so Easties don’t miss any of the action. But there can be no doubt who was the star of the inaugural weekend – Scott Allan.

He’s very well cast for a Hibernian-themed flick, is Scotty. A handsome chap, the way strands of hair fall over his forehead is evocative of Leonardo DiCaprio. And if that sounds like Hibee hyperbole, then really, what else do you expect of fans whose wee pigeon chests swell with pride at Leith innovativeness (first for floodlights, first for electronic scoreboard, first for shirt sponsorship) and flair passing like Allan’s heat-seeking delivery for Daryl Horgan to score at Ibrox back in 2019?

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Yes, Rangers went on to leather Hibs 6-1. Yes, Allan’s best-ever performance in green and white was the 2015 Scottish Cup semi-final against Falkirk which also ended in defeat. Yes, his chipped pass for Paul McGinn’s goal last Saturday probably couldn’t have been executed by anyone else in the SPFL, but Hibs failed to win that day as well.

And your point is, caller? Scott is Scott and Hibbies love him. They’ve loved him in three separate spells – the original feature, if you like, and two sequels. They reckon their love for his reverse balls and deft touches sets them apart from other supporters who, to keep the movie analogy going, seem to prefer their football Fast and Furious.

Really, the filmic connotations to be found in Allan’s relationship with his manager Jack Ross are simply too delicious not to be enjoyed.

In the first half against St Mirren last Saturday, Allan on the bench again, Hibs were dismal. If those screens are going to replay great goals from the past before every home game then I’m afraid the current team being this feckless will look even worse than usual. The only highlight from a Hibee perspective was the sight of Allan warming up. He was like Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard, ready for his close-up. Would Ross, the director, write the difficult actor into this flop flick to help save it?

Difficult? Not as far as the Hibs fans are concerned, but maybe if you believe that every player has to sweat buckets tackling back – maybe if you have that fetish – then he could be perceived as such. In Sunset Boulevard, Swanson was Norma Desmond, a silent movie star whose career was stymied by the advent of the talkies. Last Saturday Allan showed, with that delicious pass and more besides, that he can survive the advent of the “tacklies”.

Can I perpetuate the movie theme for a bit longer? I think I can. Bobby Williamson, when he was Hibs manager, was asked if the faithful were perhaps not revelling in the prosaic football being played by his team, and he countered: “If it's entertainment you're after then go to the cinema.”

It’s fair to say, I think, that Williamson didn’t survive that quip, just as Paul Heckingbottom, when he was the Easter Road incumbent and it was suggested that maybe supporters were unhappy at seeing their favourite player removed from the pitch, didn’t survive biting back with the equally sarcastic: “I didn’t know there was a rule against taking off Scott Allan.”

Is there a rule against moving on Scott Allan? So far Ross has not asked this, but imagine how last Saturday might have had a different plotline: Ross succeeds in sending Allan to St Mirren on transfer deadline day. The player performs like he did in the game, but as a Buddy. Then imagine it was the Paisley side and not Hibs in the League Cup on Thursday and a man-of-the-match display from Scotty propels them to Hampden instead. Would Ross have survived that? Unlikely.

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Thinking of classic partnerships formed either side of the movie camera, it’s safe to say that the relationship between Ross and Allan is not as intimate as the one involving Ingmar Bergman and Liv Ullman, or as knockabout as Billy Wilder and Jack Lemmon, or as primal as Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro.

For the time being, though, manager and player are stuck with each other but as countless films have demonstrated, odd-couple pairings can succeed. The two might even be handcuffed together, as in everything from The 39 Steps to Midnight Run. They may start off grumpy and barely on speaking terms but then come to realise that, being literally stuck with each other, they might as well make the best of it.

Allan after all does not want to suffer the fate of DiCaprio in Titanic and Ross does not want a similarly watery end like William Holden in Sunset Boulevard - face down and motionless in a swimming pool.

The Hibs role scripted for Allan by Ross may not be the same as the Hibs roles given him by Alan Stubbs and Neil Lennon where he had complete artistic freedom but then he is not the same player. He can still make the part work for him, however, and the fans will never be bored of him picking out a team-mate sensationally in an over-crowded penalty-box.

Equally, though, Ross must accept that it’s in the Hibby DNA to want their football to come with plenty of special effects and that these big screens aren’t there to store up footage of players tackling back or passing square. They’re for Gordon Smith goals, Pat Stanton goals, Franck Sauzee goals. And Scott Allan goals – those from before and the ones hopefully yet to come.

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