Grant McCann has sung the praises of Alfie Jones, explaining how his midfield role allows others to get forward.
The 23-year-old returned to the side for the 5-0 victory at Wigan Athletic, operating at the base of midfield behind George Honeyman and Greg Docherty.
The Tigers didn’t win any of the four matches Jones missed through injury, with fellow holding midfielder Richie Smallwood also absent during that period.
McCann felt Jones’ inclusion gave the team better balance and enabled Honeyman and Docherty to play in their preferred positions.
Asked what he made of his performance, McCann said: “Top class. I’ve said this about Alfie from the minute he walked into the building, he’s such a great person to be around and coach every day.
“He wants to learn, wants to get better, can play anywhere and do any job in the team.
“The two positions he’s had this year, centre-half or midfield, he’s excelled at both and he brings a real calmness to the team.
“It was really pleasing to see him back. He was excellent against Wigan, having not played for four games.
“When we didn’t have Richie or Alfie, we were pigeon holing George and Doc.
“Both of them were great in their positions and with what we asked them to do, but it was taking away from what they’re actually good at.
“What they’re good at is their energy, running in between centre-backs, creating opportunities, their goals, their aggression. You saw that when we played Wigan.
“Freeing George and Doc up, with whoever plays in the front three, makes us more of an attacking threat.
“That’s the reason why we brought people like Richie and Alfie into the football club.
“They give that protection and let our full-backs get on, let our front three go and create, and let out midfield run and get in between people and get in the box.”