How Ross is right man to turn Hibs’ sea­son around

Evening Times - - LAST WORD - James Cair­ney

FOL­LOW­ING the dis­missal of Paul Heck­ing­bot­tom af­ter a poor start to the cam­paign in the cap­i­tal, former Sun­der­land, St Mir­ren and Al­loa man­ager Jack Ross was ap­pointed as the English­man’s suc­ces­sor at Hibs.

It isn’t dif­fi­cult to see why the new man­ager’s stock is so high in Scot­land.

Yes, Ross was at the helm when Al­loa were rel­e­gated to League One but he only took over at Recre­ation Park mid­way through the cam­paign and, un­der his guid­ance, Al­loa put up a spir­ited but ul­ti­mately un­suc­cess­ful fight against rel­e­ga­tion.

He then saved St Mir­ren from rel­e­ga­tion the fol­low­ing sea­son, and won the ti­tle the next. Things didn’t go ex­actly to plan at Sun­der­land, but Ross did not per­form al­to­gether poorly.

There is lit­tle doubt that Ross has plenty to do as he looks to guide the Leith side to­wards the top end of the ta­ble. So, what ex­actly are the is­sues fac­ing him?

Ste­vie Mal­lan is a frus­trat­ing player to watch. Any­one who can re­call his first ever se­nior goal for St Mir­ren – where the mid­fielder won the ball in the mid­dle of the park, beat three play­ers then curled the ball into the far corner – will tell you the 23-year-old has stacks of nat­u­ral abil­ity.

Mal­lan’s main strength comes from his abil­ity to strike a ball from range but all too of­ten the cen­tre-mid skews the ball wide or over the bar.

For an idea of how Mal­lan could de­velop un­der Ross, we should ex­am­ine Lewis Mor­gan’s progress un­der the 43-year-old.

Ob­vi­ously, the two play­ers play in dif­fer­ent roles but par­al­lels can still be drawn. Ross likes his teams to hit shots from out­side the box – at Sun­der­land, 41% of their ef­forts came from out­side the box while about half of St Mir­ren’s shots were from out­side the area – and there is no bet­ter Hibs player to cap­i­talise on this than Mal­lan.

Mor­gan scored 14 goals from St Mir­ren’s Cham­pi­onship­win­ning sea­son, with nine of those struck from out­side the box: the high­est tally of any sec­ond-tier player that sea­son. Mor­gan also ac­crued six league as­sists that year, sec­ond only to then-In­ver­ness mid­fielder Liam Pol­worth. If Mal­lan can fol­low this blue­print, he could be trans­formed by Ross.

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