How Ross is right man to turn Hibs’ season around
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.