Among the most telling insights into a new manager’s impact – has he made anyone better?

Overall, Hibs are not quite the finished article under Nick Montgomery, but it is undeniable that several individuals have already benefited from his arrival. Is it any guarantee of collective success long-term? Not exactly, but it is a valuable early indicator of behind-the-scenes impact when the full picture remains a little hazy.

The most striking example has been the reintegration of Jair Tavares. For context, there’s being out of the picture, and then there’s spending pre-season playing friendlies with the development squad while his senior team-mates prepared for European qualifiers. The ‘clean slate’ line is a standard early proclamation when there’s a change in management, but I’m not sure Tavares even had a slate to wipe by the time Lee Johnson exited stage left back in August.

It's why Montgomery’s early name-checking of the 22-year-old caused immediate intrigue in the Hibs support, and it wasn’t long before he was back involved in the first-team, nor was it before Montgomery saw fit to start him against Celtic, and in a Hampden semi-final. It’s been a startling turnaround for a player who was about as far out of contention as it’s possible to be without actually leaving the club.

And, crucially, it has been on merit.

Inconsistency remains an issue, and he would perhaps benefit from a concerted effort to build upper body strength, but it’s clear Montgomery now views Tavares as an important member of his squad. Brittle confidence was initially evident in his game, but the manager appears to be steadily building the player’s self-belief. Supporters’ belief in him, too, seems to be returning, even if he does still provoke the odd frustrated grumble at a higher rate than others.

Saturday’s win over Kilmarnock was the first instance since his return to the fold where it was clear an opponent was under specific instruction to limit his influence. It told, at times, with Tavares being robbed of possession a little more than he would’ve liked, but his value to the team is evident.

He is a player willing to take risks, to try something different and out of the ordinary. Attackers in this mould do tend to give the ball away more than their more conservative counterparts, and a degree of patience is still required as he adjusts to the rigours of senior football. It is easy to forget that, despite a prestigious upbringing in Benfica’s storied academy, Tavares has played, comparatively, very little senior football.

37 of his 55 career appearances to date have come in the Portuguese second tier for Benfica B, worlds away from the far more physically demanding SPFL. There are moments he still lingers too long on the ball, and finds himself dumped to the deck, but taking these bumps and bruises will be a valuable learning experience for a youngster who clearly has talent, and who the manager is clearly adamant is worth persisting with.

His influence on the current crop is not limited to Tavares, either. Unsurprisingly, the likes of Lewis Miller have thrived since falling under his leadership. As has been well documented, Miller and Montgomery go back years, since they were both involved in the Central Coast Mariners academy, and enjoy a close relationship.

More than once, Miller has described his manager as a father figure, who knows which buttons to press to get the best out of him. It’s no exaggeration to say Miller has become one of Hibs’ most important players since the change in the dugout, and his improvement has been recognised with call-ups to the Australian national team.

Others, such as Jimmy Jeggo and Rocky Bushiri, have grown in influence and importance of late, and that can be traced back to a manager who has put faith in their ability. Jeggo, in particular, has been assigned a clearly defined role which saw him become a regular fixture in a side which was otherwise regularly rotating. Dylan Levitt’s return to fitness has increased competition for those two central midfield places, but that’s healthy, and allows Montgomery to adopt a horses for courses approach, depending on the match context.

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As for who could be next, two goals in the space of a week for Josh Campbell suggests he’s ready to become an important contributor. After the draw with St Mirren, the academy graduate openly acknowledged that there is, perhaps, not an obvious place for his skillset in Montgomery’s 4-4-2, and that the challenge for him was to find a way to offer something different. There’s no better way to do that than in regularly finding the back of the net, but the 23-year-old is also showing a broader willingness to adapt.

Injuries to Adam Le Fondre and Christian Doidge have left forward options a little thin on the ground for Montgomery, but Campbell has helped assuage those concerns in taking to a hybrid role where he is neither a striker nor a midfielder. He turned up on the right flank at times against Kilmarnock, but there’s no doubt he is most effective through the middle. Behind him, Levitt and Joe Newell are most effective when stepping onto the play or building from deep, but Campbell offers a willingness to make line-breaking runs, as well as taking the onus away from Dylan Vente to drop into deeper areas.

Come January, Montgomery will no doubt look to the transfer market to further shape Hibs in his image, and things will likely look substantially different moving into 2024. But while the full package remains a work in progress, fans can take encouragement from how the manager is improving those already in the building who were previously unfancied.