Its been a while since the last blog, but the week of a national semi final seemed like a good time to write a new one.
Since the last blog, theres been quite a few games, and although we have mainly managed to keep winning, it pains me to say that our performances have had a bit of a dip.
The Rangers game was largely dissapointing. I was actually down in Liverpool that day as I was taking my son to see Everton at Goodison Park. I made the decision that I was going to avoid the score completely and then watch the game in full on BT Sport at 11pm. I turned off all my notifications on my phone, advised all my friends not to text me any updates, and settled in for 90 minutes of football at Goodison, even although I could think of nothing other than what was happening at Ibrox. Around 30 minutes in, I went to look at my phone to check other English scores, and someone had sent me a Facebook message simply saying “1-0 Cummings”. Argh, Facebook messenger! I must have forgot to switch the updates off for that! I then managed to avoid any further updates, took my son out for dinner, and went out for the evening.
Back at the room, I set up my ipad to watch the match, even more excited now, knowing that we went 1-0 up! What an anti-climax that turned out to be!. We just didn’t turn up.
The double header against Raith wasn’t the greatest in terms of football, although the cup game was a LOT better than the league game, and then the first 45 minutes of the Falkirk game was one of the most boring 45 minutes I’ve seen in a while – it felt like I was watching 2 teams managed by Louis Van Gaal! The second half was a lot better though, and we seemed to need Falkirk to score to get us moving, and we were unlucky not to take all 3 points in the end. I think Jason Cummings will have been playing his 1 on 1 back in his head for the rest of that night. I don’t think he realised how much time he had. And as for the penalty appeal…….. Peter Houstons comments after the game just further proved what a bitter Jambo he is. His apology in the following days reeked of being forced by Falkirk to avoid any further action from the SPFL.
And finally, the St Mirren game. I thought this was our best performance in a while. Was it the early goal? The new arrivals giving players a kick up the backside? Players playing for cup places? I don’t really care. Our movement and passing was a lot better, and all 3 goals were very well worked. I have been really critical of James Keatings and Fraser Fyvie in recent games, but Fyvie played really well (maybe having Bartley in the team allows him to play further forward and get more involved) and I thought Keatings made a real difference when he came off the bench – again, maybe being centre forward rather than the top of the diamond role made a difference to him. The performance came at just a nice time tho with 2 big cup games in the next 2 weeks (along with a trip to Morton sandwiched in the middle), and hopefully we can take that level of performance into those games.
Now while I’m talking about cup games, there has been 1 hot topic in the lead up to these games – loyalty points. What a drama they are causing. Loyalty points was something a lot of fans wanted to happen to try and reward the fans that attended most games, so when it was introduced, it was given a fairly positive welcome. There was always going to be teething problems, and to be fair to Hibs they have tweeked it fairly recently, but there is still a lot of disgrunteld people. The main arguments seem to be that a season ticket has lost its value, that the points system actually discouraged people to buy tickets, and also some suggesting that the level of points rewarded was wrong.
I kind of agree around the season ticket point. I suppose it all depends what bracket you fall into. I buy my season ticket so that I know that me and my group have good seats together for all our home games, and saves me the hassle of buying tickets for individual matches. I use the payment scheme every season to save a big outlay. I also attend away games fairly regularly, so although I don’t have the maximum loyalty points, I have enough to be in the top bracket, as does my son and my dad, so I don’t have the issue about the season ticket losing its value. The thing is tho, the level of points needed to be in the first wave for the semi final was in fact the points you get for a season ticket. Some people have argues that only allowing those people to buy 1 ticket has discouraged other people from going. This is where I disagree. If all season ticket holders were entitled to 2 tickets, there may well have been no tickets left for the next wave – the walk up fans. So why should I be allowed to buy a second ticket for the semi final, maybe for someone that hasn’t been to a Hibs game since Hampden last April, over a fan that has been to a dozen games this season? At the end of the day, its a football match. 3 of our group had to wait till the sale to 1 point or more, so those 3 are seperate from the rest. Does that matter? No. We’ll all be together before and after the match, and maybe even at half time, the rest of the time, we’ll actually be watching the game.
And finally, I’ve read some folk say that away games shouldn’t get points as Hibs get no money from it. I think these folk are missing the point. This is a scheme to reward those that follow the team week in, week out, and thats what it does. The club will never please everyone tho. I actually think they’ve got the majority of things right regarding this, but as I say, thats easy for me to say when I fall into the top bracket.
It certainly has caused plenty of debate (bordering on tantrums on some of the fans forums. If our biggest problem with the club is the distribution of loyalty points tho, it shows we are in a much better place as a club!
And finally, its January, so that only means 1 thing – transfers!! Its been a busy month already for us Hibs fans – doesn’t Stubbs know that he is absolutely ruining Transfer Deadline Day for a lot of Hibees!! I have been known in the past to take a day off work for TDD, with a supply of booze and pastry based products, but there is no need this year as I very much doubt we’ll be doing much business on the 1st February. It’s been great to see us try and get business done as early as possible, and it looks like the players coming in will all be important in the coming months. Chris Dagnall was first in, and so far he’s looked good. He looks like a real pest and I’m sure he’ll get on the scoresheet sooner rather than later. Next in was Niklas Gunnarsson. We knew that Stubbs wanted to bring in a defender to cover David Gray, but like Dagnall, this one came from nowhere. We’ve only seen a brief appearance from him, and it would be unfair to judge him on that as he was clearly short of match fitness – he certainly has one hell of a throw on him tho. Next up was the eventual signing of Anthony Stokes. There had been whisperings of him coming on loan back in December, but it was faitly quickly dismissed, but fair play to the club and Stubbs for getting this one done. Although I still think 2nd place is where we will finish, this could give us a real boost for the coming months. Although we have won the majority of games this season, we definitely haven’t been scoring enough goals, and there will be a time where these 1 goal wins will end up a frustrating 1-1, so anything to boost firepower will help. It was great to see Stokes get a goal straight away on Saturday. The Rangers fans would have loved it if after 2 or 3 games he still hadn’t got on the scoresheet so that nice early goal will certainly help. I wonder how the Rangers fan that made that god-awful video about how they are not scared of Stokes because “he has never scored against Rangers”, (forgetting Stokesy’s goal of the season against them while in a Hibs top) is really feeling. Anyway, this signing was a real statement of intent from Hibs, and further proof that Stubbs is clearly very good at convincing players of his vision for the club.
Another unexpected one was the return of Kevin Thomson. I’m not too sure how many games we’ll see him in before the end of the season, but I’m sure his experience will be valuable around the place, and if we need a cool head in a game, he’ll be a good source to call upon.
And then finally, over the weekend, Hibs announced the signing of Finnish U-21 goalkeeper Otso Virtanen on a 3.5 year contract. Stubbs will have been pleased that 3 out of his 5 signings so far were announce without any leak to the media/club moles beforehand. Obviously it’s impossible to comment on this signing as he’s a total unknown, and at present, its unlikely we’ll see him this season unless Oxley picks up an injury. Good to see us planning for the future tho.
We’ve also seen a few players going out too, and I really hope the players that have gone out on loan get plenty games and come back better players. I have a feeling tho that we have seen the last of Jordon Forster, which is a shame as I think he’s got loads of potential, and Mcgregor and Fontaine aren’t the youngest, but I can’t blame him for wanting game time.
And now on to this weekend. The league cup semi final. I really can’t wait. It should be a really good game – both teams play good football, and although St Johnstone have been on a poor run recently, they are clearly a good team, and will give us yet another opportunity to see how we measure up against Premiership opposition (St Johnstone ran out 3-1 winners against Rangers earlier in the competition). The semi’s and finals of these competitions are about a lot more than 90 minutes of football tho, and I can’t wait for a big day out with friends and family again. Its just a shame it has to be in Gorgie!
I have a feeling this game will be close, and it would not surprise me if like the last time we played St Johnstone in a semi final, this game goes to extra time. My prediction is 1-1, and then who knows what will happen after that. Another trip to hampden would be fantastic tho, and Stubbs has done a great job of bolstering the squad so we are able to be strong on 3 fronts at the business end of the season!