PAUL HECKINGBOTTOM insists his job is to win football matches – not popularity contests.
That is why the Hibs boss has vowed to utilise Scott Allan however he sees fit.
Heckingbottom faced a backlash for hooking the fans’ favourite 61 minutes into the capital club’s 2-2 draw against St Johnstone last weekend, with the playmaker having turned in an underwhelming showing on the right flank.
While clarifying that he didn’t intend to be flippant – and revealing that Allan had been told to drift into a more narrow role rather than stay out wide – Heckingbottom has no regrets about his decision.
And he remains adamant that Allan, although a vital part of his plans, is not immune to being substituted, rested or dropped altogether.
Heckingbottom said: “You’ve got to make unpopular decisions as a manager. You make umpteen decisions through the week and on a game-day but it’s generally the decisions people aren’t happy with that get highlighted.
“Scott’s already got a good reputation here from before. We’ve challenged him to be higher up the pitch and get more goals and assists and he’s responded well so far. Everyone can see that.
“But he’s part of a team and it is unfair on Scott to put him on a pedestal and treat him any differently to anybody else.
“He can be really influential for us. If you’ve got a talented player who’s contributing goals and assists at the top end, and he’s also working hard to win the ball back, he can become a real leader and a real figurehead.
“We’re fully committed to getting him there – and so is Scott. Nobody’s more determined than Scott.
“But he’s not going to play every minute of every game. There are going to be times when he’s going to come off, or be on the bench, whether that’s tactical or through Scott not being 100 per cent.”
It prompted him to echo the sentiments of Edinburgh rival Craig Levein regarding the undue pressure being placed on bosses due to social media and the immediacy of opinions.
He continued: “You have that pressure all the time. In this job, it comes with the territory. I’m not trying to give what people write or what the fans say less importance, but you’ve got to keep everything in perspective.
“When you’re winning, you’ve still got to get better. When you’re losing, you’ve got to get better. You can never think that you’ve cracked it or you’ll get a kick in the proverbials!
“You have to ignore the criticism. It can’t be a part of your daily life.
“In the four years I’ve been a manager, I’ve seen it change a hell of a lot. Most of it is around social media. Everyone’s got a platform now to say what they want, what they think.
“Everybody wants things in the here and now and not everyone’s going to get that.
Nevertheless, the former Leeds United and Barnsley manager is adamant he has sufficiently thick skin to ignore the snipers – and is adamant there is still no job he would rather have.
Heckingbottom added: “The criticism of a manager is more personal and that’s why it’s not for everyone – but I love it.
“Although Saturday, as frustrating it was to concede that goal and send the fans home unhappy, was not nice, where else would you get that feeling of pressure and responsibility?
“When I was off in the summer, that’s what you miss. You can easily go and watch football or do a bit of coaching – but I like the responsibility of management.”
DAVID GRAY RULED OUT FOR UP TO THREE MONTHS
Meanwhile, Heckingbottom has refused to rule out returning to the transfer market after club captain David Gray was sidelined for up to three months with a knee injury.
Gray sustained ligament damage during the draw with St Johnstone and subsequent scans confirmed the club’s worst fears.
With Tom James already out, it leaves Heckingbottom light on options.
He added: “We need to be looking, whether that is before Monday or the best frees after the window.
“We’ve got enough bodies but it’s not ideal because not all of them have been training or playing since pre-season. We need to be ready.
“But if everyone comes through healthy from the weekend, then it’s the international break and Tom James will be a couple of weeks further down the line, then it starts to look a little different.”