New Hibernian manager Shaun Maloney revealed “inspiring” discussions with the club’s hierarchy were the key factor in tempting him away from World Cup hopefuls Belgium.
Maloney has swapped the chance to have a crack at Qatar glory as assistant to Belgium manager Roberto Martinez for the opportunity to make his own name with Hibs.
The former Celtic and Scotland midfielder had not been actively seeking such an opportunity, but Hibs chief executive Ben Kensell approached him and further talks with owner Ron Gordon sealed the move.
“It was just very honest, inspiring discussions of the vision of where they want to take the club,” said Maloney after his first training session, which came 24 hours after the team’s Premier Sports Cup final defeat by Celtic.
“Obviously I know what this club, when they are successful, what the support can be like, it’s a very difficult place to come.
“When I started to look at the support and the semi-final and final, it was exciting and an inspiration. I couldn’t pass up the challenge.”
The 38-year-old believes his relationship with the boardroom figures will be “huge” and is setting about building more connections ahead of Wednesday’s cinch Premiership visit of Aberdeen.
“That connection will stay strong, it has to stay strong, and then you have to add the players and support into that,” he said. “If all of us can find a connection and inspiration with where we want to get to, then big things are possible.
“But it’s my job to actually create that. I have to give the support a team that they can be proud of. If I can achieve that, then that is a big success.”
Maloney, who has brought former team-mate and ex-Hibs player Gary Caldwell as his assistant, admitted it was “incredibly hard” to leave his former role with the world’s top-ranked national team.
“First up for the head coach there, Roberto, the connection I had with him was very strong,” he added. “I’ll be forever grateful for, one, the opportunity to work with him, and also the man he has been in the last week. He was the man I know he was and he’s been incredibly supportive in this period.
“It was very difficult and I will miss the players greatly, but I will be their biggest fan now and I really hope they can do great things in Qatar.”
Maloney, who started his coaching career with Celtic, feels ready for the step into management as a result of his three years with Belgium.
“I have worked with players who are at an incredible level,” he said. “It’s given me those experiences of working with the pressure of big games, where the smallest details matter, the pain, the joy.
“But hopefully I gave something back to the players. I dedicated my working life to them and I just tried to create a connection with them and make them as comfortable and give them as much information as possible.”
Maloney is looking to blend his experiences of playing and coaching outside of Scotland with the best of the domestic game.
“Scottish football, from being outside it for three years, we have to give ourselves big credit,” said the former Wigan and Aston Villa player, who has signed a contract until 2025.
“We have a national team manager that has seen how good we can be in terms of tactically and the structure of the team. We now create fantastic players that play at a really high level. So I have ideas but, in terms of the Scottish game, we are in a really good place.
“I have my own ideas about what the best way to win a game is, at the same time trying to give the fans something they enjoy watching.
“But the main priority is obviously players. Any decisions we make for staff is for the players’ talent, we have to let them show that on the pitch.”
Previous manager Jack Ross was sacked with Hibs in a cup final and having led them to third place last season and at least the semi-finals of every cup competition.
When asked what success would be, Maloney said: “We are obviously seventh and we have to push in the coming weeks and months to get top four. Then once we are in there we have to push for higher.
“Long term, we have to try and sustain those positions and hopefully that will bring European football to the club.”
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