Robbie Stockdale returns north of the border with Hibs and insists he loved playing for Scotland – even if the Tartan Army didn’t love watching him!

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BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport

ROBBIE STOCKDALE admits he enjoyed representing Scotland much more than the Tartan Army enjoyed watching him.

However, Hibs’ new assistant head coach is determined to make a positive impression north of the border this time after joining Paul Heckingbottom’s staff.

Stockdale, 39, played five times during Berti Vogts’ ill-fated stint in charge of the national side and, along with the likes of Paul Devlin, Kevin Kyle and Gareth Williams, rather cruelly became synonymous with caps being liberally handed out.

Stockdale has been named assistant to Paul Heckingbottom (Pic: Hibs TV)

Stockdale, born in Yorkshire but eligible to play for Scotland through his Campbeltown-born grandmother, is adamant he has no regrets about his decision after catching the eye of Vogts due to his form with Middlesborough.

“When you sign youth forms as a player I could obviously register my eligibility for Scotland,” he recalled.

“It was forgotten about until I broke into the team at Middlesbrough and it snowballed. People started to take an interest. It was a great experience and I really enjoyed it.

“I’m not sure the supporters enjoyed watching it!

“But was something I could look back on and say I’m glad it happened, even though the results were tough. Representing Scotland was a fantastic honour and something that can’t be taken away from me.”

Stockdale went on to turn out for the likes of Sheffield Wednesday, Hull and Darlington before hanging up his boots at Grimsby, where he also took his first steps into coaching.

He was appointed youth team boss at Sunderland in 2012 and went onto enjoy three separate stints as caretaker manager of the Black Cats in 2015, 2017 and 2018.

And while they are yet to officially work together, he built up a rapport with new Hibs head coach Paul Heckingbottom as they studied for their English Football Association qualifications.

“We’ve known each other for a long time and came through the FA’s system with our badges,” continued Stockdale. “Although we’re both relatively young we’ve got good experience and we’ve promoted young players. We’re really looking forward to the challenge and getting started.

Supporters should expect a team that will give their all, work hard and be attack-minded. If you look at Paul’s Barnsley team they punched above their weight for long periods in the Championship and he gave young players a chance with some really good experienced players around them

“It’s a good squad. They’re a hard-working group of players. We want to put our own stamp on the tactics. There’s a lot to work with and that’s the exciting bit. The training centre’s really good. I hadn’t been here before but it’s really impressive. There will be no excuses on that front.”

With both Heckingbottom and Stockdale boasting a pedigree in youth coaching, the latter is adamant they will place a focus on ensuring the Hibs academy bears fruit.

The likes of Oli Shaw, Sean Mackie and Ryan Porteous have already made an impact this term, while Fraser Murray is on the cusp of the senior side.

“The way football’s going, if you can produce homegrown players through your own academy that have an affinity with your club then supporters get behind them,” he told Hibs TV.

“It’s great for everybody. Add to that the experience from outside the building, hopefully we can build a powerful squad.”

Heckingbottom: I’m looking forward to working with Stevie Mallan again

Meanwhile, Hibs head coach Paul Heckingbottom insists he is relishing a reunion with Stevie Mallan – despite the mercurial midfielder struggling to make the grade at Barnsley.

The new Easter Road head coach was the man who took Mallan to Oakwell in the summer of 2017 following another sensational campaign at St Mirren.

However, unlike his compatriot Liam Lindsay, who also made the switch during that close season, the 22-year-old failed to make an immediate impact and played just five games under Heckingbottom.

Mallan returns to Scotland with a point to prove (Pic: Hibs TV)

The Yorkshireman subsequently joined Leeds mid-way through the season and Mallan found himself further out in the cold under new gaffer José Morais before joining Hibs last June.

However, Heckingbottom is eager to emphasise that he DOES rate the player and believes he is one of the cleanest strikers of a football he has ever worked with.

“Stevie was desperate to do well,” recalled Heckingbottom. “I saw a lot of him at his previous club, scoring goals – especially from distance. He has continued to do that this season. It is a really good quality he has. He is one of the best I’ve seen.

“But I worked hard with Stevie, and he worked hard when he was down south to improve his game.

“I left Barnsley before him so I don’t actually know what happened at the end and why he decided to leave.

“If he is anything like me, then he was probably impressed by Hibs and the set-up and saw it as a really good way to progress.

“I’m looking forward to catching up with him agains and seeing how he is doing because he certainly has some good qualities.”

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