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Joe Newell sets Rangers goal target as Hibs midfielder opens up on on European dream

The Easter Road playmaker has been one of Hibs' best players this term but he's not got many memorable goals to look back on.

Joe Newell doesn’t take long to go over the biggest goals of his career.

Fair enough, his first for Rotherham was special.

He bagged the winner in front of 26,000 fans at Elland Road against Leeds United back in 2015.

After that? An injury-time penalty in the South Yorkshire derby against Doncaster Rovers is about as good as it gets.

And even that strike resulted in a knee slide into a SMELLY supporter in the home end.

This season at Hibs he has only scored once – in a 3-0 win over St Mirren in Paisley.

So he’s due one. And the midfielder admits if he nets against Rangers on Sunday, and earns Jack Ross’ side three points, it would probably top the lot.

Goals are about the only thing missing from Newell’s game just now.

The cultured left-footer has been a revelation for the Easter Road men this season.

Having cemented his place in the middle of the park – for too long he was shunted out wide – Newell is now a key man for the Hibees.

He was terrific against Rangers on Boxing Day, the last time they visited Govan, despite leaving with a 1-0 defeat. He’s hoping for a better outcome this afternoon, with Hibs chasing third spot in the Premiership.

Newell has never been a prolific goalscorer. But having come close in recent weeks, he’d love to get one that really means something against the champions.

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The 28-year-old said: “That winner against Leeds was a header as well. That was a good one, it was my first goal for Rotherham.

“Then I got the penalty against Doncaster in the derby.

“I think that was in the 102nd minute or something like that.

“It was good – but I then did a knee slide into a fan who stank!

“I scored a play-off semi-final goal against Scunthorpe as well but there haven’t been too many memorable ones so far in my career.

“So scoring the winner at Ibrox would be right up there, definitely. I don’t think I’d even celebrate – I’d be too shocked, the way things have been going for me.

“I played up front as a kid but when I got to centre-midfield, I was never really a goalscorer. It’s something I need to add to my game.

“I’m trying to work on it but I’m close to giving up – the ball just isn’t going in for me!

“I’ve never been one for setting targets, that’s more for strikers. In my position you’re just trying to pitch in where you can.

“I know I need to add more goals because it will help Hibs if I can get even five a season.

“It’s something I’ll work on. But just now I’ll maybe try shutting my eyes when I shoot – and praying it goes in.”

Newell feels settled in Edinburgh and is thriving under Ross, who looks destined to be Hibs gaffer for the long-term.

At Peterborough and Rotherham, the Brummie midfielder got through nine permanent managers, including the likes of Darren Ferguson, Grant McCann, Steve Evans and Alan Stubbs.

Former Hibernian boss Alan Stubbs
Alan Stubbs was one of nine managers Newell worked under at Rotherham (Image: PA)

He’ll also never forget a short stint under legendary boss Neil Warnock at the Millers – not least for the veteran’s brutal honesty.

He said: “Neil came in, worked his magic, we stayed up – and he left!

“He was great to work with. I missed a chance at 1-0 down against Burnley with just 10 minutes to go.

“Neil pulled me into his office to tell me I’d be on the bench for the rest of the season.

“He said I’d be his first sub every week and if it was the start of the season, I’d be in the team.

“But with his way of playing, I wouldn’t be getting many minutes.

“He’s a great bloke and I had to respect his honesty. He was certainly fun to work with.

“He’s a bit different to the gaffer here but if a manager is honest then that’s all you can ask.

“I’ve so many stories about Warnock but they probably aren’t suitable for a newspaper!

“His record shows he’s a great manager but he’s a top bloke as well. He’s been saying he’s going to retire for about the last 10 seasons but obviously he has that buzz for the game.

“It won’t surprise me if Middlesbrough sneak into the play-offs this year and go up with him in charge.

“Warnock and the gaffer are totally different managers. Although Warnock probably dresses better than the gaffer!

“It’s fair to say we have a different style of play.”

Newell admits Hibs are on a different level to Rotherham in terms of size, stature and expectation levels.

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Stubbs found that out to his cost when he swapped Easter Road for the New York Stadium five years ago.

Playing European football is a big attraction for the English midfielder and a win over Rangers today could go a long way to sealing it.

He said: “Europe was a huge factor in coming here for me.

“I wouldn’t have a chance to play in Europe anywhere else – unless Liverpool had come in for me late on!

“So I’d look forward to that if we get there. We’ve had a good season and winning the Scottish Cup would nail it. That’s a big incentive.

“Or finishing high in the league, which was our target, so third would be a good season. Outside the Old Firm we’re the best team and we need to maintain those levels.

“We did well at Ibrox last time so that gives us confidence here. They’ve been good and deserve the title but hopefully we can get a win.”

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