NOT one negative word has been said about Paul Heckingbottom since his arrival at Hibernian in his two and a bit months in the Capital but his old gaffer and close friend Stuart McCall was happy to swim against the tide.

“The thing about Hecky is, he’s way too clever to be a football manager.” So, there you have it.

As McCall has been sacked from his last two jobs, by Bradford City and recently Scunthorpe, the former Scotland international would be forgiven if he thought anyone with half a brain cell would choose a profession in which the job has the lifespan of a mayfly.

Heckingbottom has no excuse for forging his career in football management. He’s way smarter than the rest. The 41-year-old has a Masters degree in sports coaching for heaven’s sake. Although even those with a decent IQ make mistakes. He agreed to become Leeds manager last year.

However, the supporters of Hibs are delighted that this son of Lancashire took a risk and moved north because, so far, the job he’s done is a remarkable one.

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Today’s Edinburgh derby at Easter Road will be Heckingbottom’s tenth Premiership match as head coach. His record so far is won six, drawn three, lost precisely none.

They have played some nice football, an improvement of the team were under Neil Lennon, and at the back have been rock solid. And to think when he arrived, Heckingbottom, for some, was seen as a cut-price replacement for the box office Lennon.

“I can’t speak highly enough of Paul as a professional and a man,” said McCall who signed the left-back for Bradford City. “We weren’t doing so well at the time, he came in and was a real leader even then.

“I could rely on him. I didn’t have to worry about Paul. He took care of himself. Even then I felt management or coaching would be a path he’d go down. He was always interested in the game itself.

“He phoned me when the Hibs job came up and asked what I thought. Fortunately, I had worked with Leeann Dempster (Hibs chief executive) at Motherwell and I thought she was fantastic. She let me get on with it. I told him to go for it.

“Paul had big shoes to fill. Lenny is a big personality and got Hibs back into the Premiership but he’s been brilliant so far. I’m delighted for a good guy.”

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And is Heckingbottom a football intellectual?

“Paul thinks deeply about the game. He studies formations, tactics, and this is when he was a player.

“He did a great job at Barnsley where he won them promotion. The Leeds move didn’t work out, he got no time to do anything, but I can see he’s found a home at Hibs. They seem to be a good match.”

Heckingbottom is from Barnsley and after retiring from playing, returned to his hometown and club he’s always supported, first as coach, then in 2015 caretaker manager on two occasions, before being given the job permanently in February 2016.

During his time at the helm at Oakwell, Heckingbottom led Barnsley to success in the Football League Trophy following a win over Oxford United at Wembley before guiding his club to promotion to the Championship via the Play-Offs at the same venue when they beat Millwall 3-1

After that, he led this small club to 14th in the Championship before he moved to Leeds 14 months ago. He lasted 115 days. But that’s Leeds for you.

“Paul is young for a manager but he’s packed in a lot in already and that will stand him in good stead,” said McCall. “I have been watching the Hibs games. To win at Tynecastle for the first time in six years was a big landmark.

“I thought they played well against Celtic last week. Again, they were organised and coped well against the best team in Scotland.”

This is why the Leith faithful have taken so warmly to this soft-spoken man who doesn’t give a lot away in his interviews. Not that he’s rude, in fact he’s as friendly as you would hope, but his cards are close to the chest.

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“I’ve been watching Paul’s press conferences and I think he’s still trying to work out you lot,” said McCall. “He won’t say something for the sake of it. He’s too smart for that. Everything will be carefully thought through.

“I keep in regular contact with him. In fact, he phoned me the other day and we’ve been missing each other. He wants to find out about a players he’s looking at,”

So, the plans for next season are already under way. Good news for the Hibs supporter who are set to break the club record for season tickets this summer, which shows the confidence they have in their manager.

Heckingbottom was not a great player. He was a steady lower league defender who did a job for every club he was at. He was no star but knew football and got the best from himself.

This is the CV of many top managers. Football didn’t always come easy to them. They had to work hard for their success.

“Listen, I can’t stress how much time I have for Paul,” said McCall. “When we spoke at the time when the Hibs job came up, I had a feeling that this would be good for him – and Hibs as well.

“He’s not lost a league game as of yet and this isn’t his team. Watching from afar, he has made the team play better and it’s going to be interesting to see what he does over the summer.

“And if we beats Hearts a second time…that’s not a bad start when you’re the manager of Hibs.”