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Friday, July 28, 2000
McManus a man beyond compare
By Roger Hannah

His affair with the Hibernian supporters was torrid and passionate but, given its fleeting nature, it still seems incredible that they are desperately seeking 'the new Kenny Miller'.

Rather than correspond with lonely hearts columns, Lovesick of Leith have chosen to pledge their troth to another wide-eyed teenager.

Tam McManus - he's definite it's Tam, not Tom - is the object of their desire. Should he leave Hearts feeling lonely after this Sunday's SPL opener at Tynecastle, the relationship will be consummated. McManus, however, is careful not to take this fledgling friendship too far, too soon. First and foremost, he is consumed with his own desire for first-team football.

His appetite was whetted on the final day of last season when Alex McLeish handed him a debut start, ironically against Hearts at Tynecastle.

And with Miller - his senior by only 14 months - now having departed for Rangers, McManus is keen to replicate the success enjoyed by the £2million striker.

Comparisons between Miller and McManus are startling, and have doubtless fuelled the feeling of Hibs fans that McLeish can find a successor to the Scotland Under-21 international on his own doorstep.

Miller, having spent three months on loan at Stenhousemuir during the 1998- 99 season, caught McLeish's eye on a pre-season trip to Denmark last summer.

McManus, recalled from a three-month loan spell at East Fife in May, was top scorer on this summer's pre-season tour of Germany with four goals.

Miller, now 20, was signed from the juvenile ranks as a 16-year-old in 1996. McManus, now 19, arrived the following summer from an identical, albeit west coast, background. And having kept Miller on the bench for the first dozen games of last season, McLeish has indicated a desire to use McManus sparingly.

Coincidence? If so, the Hibs fans who watched Miller score 13 times last season will hope it continues. The young man himself, however, is content to follow the advice of East Fife manager Rab Shannon by ignoring the inevitable comparisons.

'I don't want to be compared with Kenny,' said McManus. 'I can see why people make the comparisons but it puts more pressure on me.

'I scored four goals in the last two games in Germany but I'm not saying I should be in the team. I realise I will have to be patient. The manager has been great to me and, although he probably is going to sign another striker, he has told me that if I do well I will get my chance.

'He gave me my first start at Tynecastle at the end of last season and I never slept the night before. The atmosphere was unbelievable and I can't wait to sample it again.'

The Edinburgh derby atmosphere will be more rarefied than the air around New Methil on match days, although McManus remains indebted to Shannon. 'I knew Rab when he was leaving Hibs and I was delighted to get the chance to help their promotion bid,' he said.

'I'd been playing with Hibs' Under-21s but three months in the Third Division toughened me physically and mentally.'

Shannon, whose promotion push was in vain, was equally pleased to be able to offer McManus first-team football as well as career advice.

And, in McLeish, the former Hibs full-back asserts that McManus has a manager who will offer him protection from the SPL stresses.

'Tam is direct, fast and has a good touch and, even though he is slightly built, he is aggressive and doesn't hold back,' said Shannon.

'Tam and Kenny's paths have gone in similar directions but he's not the new Kenny Miller, he's Tam McManus. He could go further than Kenny, who knows?'

Taking adulation from the stands too seriously is a danger for impressionable young players. But if Tam does a Kenny, Easter Road could be transformed into Love Street.

 


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