HIBS boss 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 an excellent 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.

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The Yorkshireman subsequently joined Leeds midway through the season and Mallan found himself further out in the cold under new manager Jose 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,” said 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 again and seeing how he is doing because he certainly has some good qualities.”

Heckingbottom, who was named Neil Lennon’s successor on Wednesday evening, has brought former Scotland internationalist Robbie Stockdale to the club as his No.2.


And he revealed that it is a partnership which has been a long time coming.

“Robbie is someone I’ve tried to work with before,” continued Heckingbottom. “I spoke to David Moyes about bringing him to Barnsley when he was at Sunderland. I couldn’t manage to get that done but he is someone I have known for a lot of years.

“He is a good coach, has worked well with players, develops talent and has an experience of managing first-teams. I know Robbie understands what I am after and what I want – simply, he’s a good a fit.”

Heckingbottom and Stockdale begin their Easter Road reign tomorrow when Hibs host Hamilton, and the new man at the helm is eyeing a late surge into the top-six during a run-in that also includes a Scottish Cup quarter-final against Celtic.

“Short-term, the focus is to win games and push for the top-six - but for us to do that, our form will need to be top-two or top-three form,” he added. “We have two teams to overhaul in a short space of time. Can it be done? 100 per cent.

“There is a massive cup tie thrown in there as well, a big opportunity for the players, so there is all to play for and a lot of exciting games ahead. We want to start putting markers down for how we want to work going forward.”