STEVIE CRAWFORD has paid tribute to the maturity and mental strength of Kevin Nisbet after the Hibernian attacker spoke candidly about the tragic loss of his father.
Dunfermline boss Crawford coached Nisbet last season, helping the prolific forward to claim 23 goals in 32 outings and ultimately earn a £250,000 transfer to Easter Road during the summer.
He retains a close relationship with the 23-year-old and personally phoned him last Wednesday when he was informed of Thomas’ passing following a brave battle with terminal liver cancer.
Crawford was keen to emphasise that Nisbet could count on the support of everyone at East End Park and promised that he would only ever be a phone call away during a harrowing period for the player.
“It will undoubtedly be really hard for Kevin [Nisbet] to deal with what he is dealing with,” said Crawford. “Losing a parent or family member is one of the hardest things you will ever go through.
“My relationship with Kevin is one of absolute respect for him and his family, and I am so sad for his loss.
“I did phone him last Wednesday when I heard the news and told him that any time in the future if he needed anything, I’d be here.
“I may not be his manager any more, but that doesn’t change – and it goes for everyone here at Dunfermline.”
Despite the distressing loss last week, Nisbet honoured his late father’s wishes by lining up in Saturday’s Scottish Cup semi-final defeat against Hearts.
He missed a penalty in the second period of injury-time and saw a first-half header sensationally saved by Craig Gordon – yet his performance was nothing short of remarkable given the circumstances, unbeknownst to the public at the time.
And Crawford was astonished by the candour and level-headedness of Nisbet’s words this week.
“The eloquent way he spoke on Monday speaks volumes about his character,” lauded Crawford. “The fact he didn’t look to blame anything that happened in the game on his personal life shows the maturity he has developed.
“I feel like Kevin’s maturity really started to blossom at Raith Rovers under John [McGlynn] and continued when he came to Dunfermline.
“He has grown up as a person in those years and that is testament to him.”
Nisbet’s loss has lent footballing matters a sharp sense of perspective, with a disappointing evening at the national stadium suddenly feeling rather insignificant in the grand scheme of things.
Nevertheless, Crawford has been dazzled by Nisbet’s overall form since he made to move to Hibs, scoring eight goals in 14 appearances and narrowly missing out on a place in the latest Scotland squad.
The fact all of those successes have come against a backdrop of challenges in his personal life is extraordinary.
“The biggest pat on the back I can give Kevin is that he is believing in his own ability,” added Crawford. “He has gone to a big club, is working with good people and – speaking purely about football – has got himself off to a really good start.
“All we can do is wish him the very best in the future and long may his progress continue.”