Nick Montgomery wants Hibernian ‘up there challenging’ ahead of Celtic test
Hibs are fifth in the Scottish Premiership after three straight wins.
Inside Easter Road reminders are everywhere, including on the mouse mats, of what is expected at Hibernian.
Doing the small things, humility without an ego, and reinforcing a demanding but healthy culture sit alongside the desire to consistently qualify for Europe and close the gap on Celtic and Rangers.
On Wednesday, boss Nick Montgomery – three months into his reign – gets the chance to test their progress again.
Under chief executive Ben Kensell, Hibs’ internal mantra is to be the club which dares to do things differently. It is up to Montgomery to ensure it happens on the pitch ahead of the trip to Celtic.
“It’s very hard but you only have to look at Leicester in the Premier League, no-one really expected them to do that (winning in 2016),” the former Sheffield United midfielder tells the PA news agency.
“Every club in every league will see that as an inspirational story. Is it sustainable? No, it’s hard to be sustainable because look at where Leicester are now but that’s a one-off example.
“You can only try to achieve the best positions every season. It’s not easy to compete against the two giants of the division, but that’s something every team aspires to do.
“I’m not saying we can compete on any level with them financially, budget-wise that’s never going to happen.
“What we can do is make sure we have a team competitive enough to make sure we’re competing in every game.”
The long-term plans stem from Kensell, who has laid important foundations at Easter Road and was key in helping bring Montgomery to Edinburgh from Central Coast Mariners in September after Lee Johnson’s departure.
Former Reading manager Brian McDermott also joined as director of football in May.
Kensell was a driving force behind commercial and on pitch success at Norwich, as chief operating officer, before leaving in 2021. He helped oversee two promotions to the Premier League and guided them through the pandemic as part of the club’s executive committee.
Another of the 10 points at Easter Road which underline the demand on staff is “enjoy what you do, work hard, play hard and smile”. It is something which resonates with Montgomery and translates into what he is doing on the pitch.
“In the time I’ve been here we’ve had a lot of progress in terms of an identity on the pitch, off it we want people to enjoy it but also know it’s going to be hard work,” he says, from his office at the snow-covered training ground in Tranent.
“The first thing is getting to know people, what their strengths and weaknesses are and creating a team environment but one where everyone demands off each other.
“The boys are a tight-knit group, we have brought in a couple of speakers and sports psychologists to talk to them about bonding and how you can become stronger.
“That’s my job, to make sure that happens, to create an environment where everyone feels they can be themselves.”
Montgomery won Central Coast Mariners’ first A-League title in 10 years last season and has now been joined by wife Josie and daughters Eva, Chloe and Leah, who watched their first game, Sunday’s 2-0 victory over Aberdeen, after flying from Australia.
A third straight win left Hibs two points behind third-placed Hearts and Montgomery believes it is just the beginning.
“Everybody knows there are two massive teams in the league but you want to be up there challenging,” he said.
“We want to become a club with an identity, a club that develops players, one which can sell players to the biggest leagues in the world and reinvest back into the academy and the foundations.
“We want to keep growing the fanbase and the community and give everyone a club to be proud of.”