Jack Ross admits he is amazed by the strength of character Kevin Nisbet has shown in dealing with the pain of his father’s death.
It was revealed earlier this week that the Hibernian forward had chosen to play in last Saturday’s William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final defeat to city rivals Hearts just days after his dad Thomas had succumbed to terminal liver cancer.
But that came as no surprise to Ross, who has watched the 23-year-old block out his private anguish over these difficult past few months to produce some sparkling displays which have now put him on the verge of a Scotland call-up.
And the Easter Road boss admits he would have struggled to display the same kind of maturity and courage as shown by the former Partick Thistle, Raith and Dunfermline striker had he found himself in the same position at such a young age.
Vowing to put an arm around Nisbet in the challenging months ahead, Ross said: “What Kevin’s went through in the last few months was a tough period with his father’s illness. We’ve now got the ongoing period before he is laid to rest and that will take a bit longer at the moment.
“That doesn’t really change my responsibility to my player as I have that in good times and in bad to make sure they’re in the best possible frame of mind.
“Certainly this week he’s been upbeat, and I don’t mean that flippantly. He’s looked OK which is encouraging.
“I’ve known what Kevin was going through for quite a long time and throughout that he’s continued to train properly and play at a good level.
“I’ve got 20 years on Kevin and those years teach you things. How I would have coped at his age, I don’t know.
“So that fact he’s been able to deal with it and still produce those performances is testament to his strength of character.
“I do think that in the fullness of time this is something that’ll strengthen his resolve even further.”
Ross admits he had to sit down and discuss with the youngster whether it would be best for him to square up to the Jambos last Saturday just three days after Thomas’ passing.
Nisbet went on to miss a penalty in the game as Hibs lost 2-1 but the Leith boss was proud of the way the striker performed amid his personal turmoil.
And he hopes fans will now take time to consider what players are going through off the field before they dish out stick over performances on it.
“Kevin has played all season with concerns over his father’s health,” he said. “I’ve been aware of that and he and I have communicated regularly to see how he feels.
“When his father’s health deteriorated last week we had further conversations and between us, we felt as though it was the right thing (for him to play). I think his performance in the game merited that decision.
“It’s been a challenging decision. He’s a very young man and to lose his father – and have to deal with the responsibilities that will follow – has been challenging.
“But he’s handled it and I think he will take strength from it as well. People who are in the public eye go through the same things as every other person.
“Sometimes when things like this are made public then it does make people take a step back and realise there’s always things going on in people’s lives.
“Kevin’s example is the most severe of those but I’ve now managed 200-plus games and I could tell you countless occasions where a player has had challenging things in their personal life in relation to families.
“We don’t always see that but this is maybe a reminder that these things do happen and players are affected by it.”
Hibs can move into second place with victory over Aberdeen on Friday night and Ross hopes that is just the pick-me-up his team need after their derby disappointment.
He said: “It’s a brilliant carrot for us, particularly on the back of last weekend. To have such an incentive right away is a big one for us.”
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