THEY made history Down Under as the lowest-budget team ever to win the A-League.

But Nick Montgomery built Central Coast Mariners’ success on the premise that the thing for which they became so lauded didn’t matter a jot. “It was my job to make the players believe that despite the clubs with the big budgets, money has never won a game of football,” the new Hibernian manager said.

He will be all too aware of how money shapes Scottish football. Namely, that pretty much all of it resides on two corners of Glasgow.

Montgomery’s proven ability to punch above his weight will have been an attractive proposition for Hibs in their search to replace Lee Johnson, whom they backed relatively heavily in the transfer market. Nobody is expecting the new man in charge to suddenly end the Celtic and Rangers duopoly, but there’s a confidence about the 41-year-old that he can make the club consistently competitive once more.

Such ambition may come with considerable doubters, not least given the managerial revolving door at Easter Road in recent years, but Montgomery insists everyone wrote off his Mariners side every step of the way.

“It’s well documented it was the youngest team to ever win the A-League,” he said. “It was the lowest budget. To win the competition last season, I think everyone doubted it, but I never had any doubt. 

“On the pitch, players win you games of football.

“Of course, at the top level there’s a lot of money but in terms of the A-League it was a massive achievement for everyone at the club.

“The reality is I had to put the squad together. And after missing out the previous season it was important that I got the squad together and got the right players and right staff.

“It was a massive achievement. To win the final as emphatically as we did I don’t think anyone would have predicted that.

“But I’m definitely proud of what we achieved. Now my full focus is on Hibs and being head coach of a club of this stature and giving everything I can every single day to bring success back to the club.”

Montgomery knows he will need to adapt quickly. Joining Hibs brings with it an upturn in scrutiny and expectation, and there is certainly pressure to break this recent run of premature sackings.

In this corner of the football world, though, we can be unduly focused on what imported talent might find difficult, rather than what they can bring to the league. In Montgomery, Hibs have acquired a manager who has proven he can instil serious belief in his players, a trait his new charges seem to have lacked this season.

“I think you have to adapt to everywhere you go,” Montgomery said. “I had a very young team in the A League. My remit was to make them play without fear against the big teams that had the big budgets and that’s what worked for me over there.

“Of course, moving over here it will be more physical, going away from home it will be more hostile environments so it’s about educating the players, especially the young players and having a game plan, whether home or away.

“That’s what we’ll work on during the week and executing that game plan is ultimately down to the players, but you have to adapt. I’ve watched a lot of games of the SPFL so I know it will be different.

“I enjoy a challenge, anybody who knows me knows I enjoy a challenge. Right now the challenge is to pick up a team that hasn’t started the season well and to get the results and give the team belief that we can finish as high as possible. That is not easy.

“It is a very competitive league, the challenge for me is to come in now and get the team playing, have them believing we can have a really strong season because it’s really early. It was a fantastic result at Aberdeen that Dave got and hopefully can kick on from that and get some momentum going.”

Dave being David Gray, who took interim charge and conjured up a victory at Pittodrie before the international break. The Hibs legend has been retained on Montgomery’s backroom staff, a vital piece of continuity as another new era dawns.

Montgomery only landed in Scotland on Sunday evening but he arrives having done plenty of background. His immediate conclusion was the quality in this Hibs squad is not currently being reflected in results and performances.

The demands of Thursday-Sunday football in the early season Conference League qualifiers seems to have proven a little too much to handle, but Montgomery is convinced squad depth is good as he prepares to select a first XI for Saturday’s trip to Kilmarnock.

He will inevitably seek to put his own stamp on the group when the transfer window re-opens, and expressed faith in head of recruitment Ian Gordon and director of football Brian McDermott to help facilitate that.

“I did research on the squad,” he said. “I know come players out here and I watched a lot of games. I really believe there’s a lot of quality in the squad. There’s strength in depth. 

“There’s mainly two players in every position which is important for competition for places.

“But right now I just want to get on the grass and when the time comes I know Ian and Brian will back me. We’ve had some right good football conversations, but right now I believe the squad is more than capable of competing with everybody in the competition.

“So I’m not really thinking about anything other than the current squad and the young players at the club."