The Winner takes it all

imageSo, we’re off and running. And already the Hibee rollercoaster has begun. We went into our first league game 10 days ago hoping that we put down a marker against a team that was likely to be not far off us throughout the season. Hoping that we could do something in our opening couple of games that we’d failed to do in previous seasons in the Championship, and that was to take maximum points. It’s been well documented that our slow starts to the previous 2 seasons meant we were playing catch up for the rest of the campaign, and although we had periods of great results, any slip up just widened the gap. The hope this season was that we are the team opening up the gap at the top, rather than playing catch up. And thankfully, by hook or by crook, there we are, 6 points out of 6. Now, some folk seem desperate to pick holes in it. Don’t get me wrong, our opening performances in the league have been far from perfect, particularly against Dunfermline on Saturday, but right now it is all about winning. I along with many Hibs fans were fed up playing well over the last couple of years, but failing to finish the numerous chances we created. Saturday looked like it was going to be a similar story with great goalkeeping saves, the woodwork and glaring misses the story of the afternoon yet again, but thankfully a calamity from the Dunfermline centre halves allowed us to get out with a 2-1 win. We certainly need to start making more of our chances created, but we have been saying that for a while. The refreshing thing is hearing Lennon addressing this in a radio interview last night. He also said he needs to address how we perform well as the underdog but not so well as the favourite. Good to hear. I also hope he addresses the fact that we are still too slow in the build up. In this league we really shouldn’t be playing with 3 centre halves and a defensive midfielder. Hopefully this is just a case of getting by while waiting on the likes of McGeouch and Fyvie coming back from injury, and adding the 3 players he wants before the window closes. I would like to see us bring a winger in and start him along with Martin Boyle. It’s his kind of pace that allows us to get behind deep defences, as shown with the winner on Saturday.

But while there’s clearly work still to be done, we are on maximum points, and already 5 ahead of Dundee Utd, Falkirk and St Mirren. We will get better, I am sure of it, so that has got to be a worry for the other teams.

Sandwiched in between those league games was our 2nd round League cup game against Queen Of the South. It is a strange position to be in where although you want to win, you won’t mind TOO much if we go out. It was dissapointing that a game we dominated for an hour was chucked away so easily. It would have been nice to already be in the league cup Quarter finals after just 1 tie, but ultimately, it is ALL about the league. Hopefully Lennon learned a few things from the performance, and it means between now and January, our SOLE focus is the league (as I would expect a complete 2nd string in the challenge cup).

As the season goes on, we’ll definitely need to be able to rely on our fringe players to step up and contribute, and our bench has been a bit of a worry so far. With playing Keatings in this number 10 role, its meant we don’t really have an out and out striker on the bench, and for Falkirk and Queens, there wasn’t really a creative influence that we could bring on either. Lennon has recognised that our transfer business has been fairly slow. If we’d dropped points in the first couple of games I think this would have been a real issue amongst fans, but the wins have meant he’s had a bit more time to get the players in. There’s talk that he wants 3 in before the end of the window. I think thats an absolute minimum required. Andy Shinnie seems to be close to being done, and thats a signing I’m really impressed with. I don’t think theres many sides in the Scottish Premiership that Shinnie wouldn’t be a first pick for, and I think he’ll fit nicely into the number 10 position that Keatings has been shoehorned into recently. It does look tho as if this signing puts an end to the Liam Henderson chat. And if thats the deal dead, then fine, lets move on. I like Liam a lot. He’s a cracking player with huge potential, and the passion he showed while at us was simply outstanding. But he was inconsistent and only really kicked on in the 2nd half of the season, plus his 2 deliveries in the Scottish Cup final have definitely increased his standing amongst Hibs fans, so it’s important that we don’t dwell on him not coming in and give Shinnie (if it is him) our full support.

As I’ve said above, we could do with a winger so that we’re not relying on our full backs for attacking width. I am a huge fan of both Gray and Stevenson, but the quality of our final ball needs to improve. We also need a foil for Grant Holt. I’ve not been completely sold by him yet. He really impressed me in the European games, but so far in the domestic games, he hasn’t really been up to pace. I’m not sure if he’s maybe been surprised by the pace & physicality of the game up here. His ability is clear as some of his passing has been excellent, but his main job is to win flick ons and hold the ball up, and he hasn’t really shown much of that so far. It’s early days tho, and he’s very experienced so I still expect him to come good. I don’t expect him to play every minute of every game tho, so a striker in a similar mould is handy so that we are not in the same position as when Farid was out injured. Brian Graham has been mentioned and I think he’d be a good addition. He certainly made a difference for Ross County in the League Cup final in March. But I’m sure there is plenty other strikers around that would fit this mould. And that would be the 3 areas I’d like to see us strengthen. I’m hoping to see more of Callum Crane this season. Hopefully he gives Lewis some competition for the left back position as he seems as tho he could be more of an attacking threat.

The 3 signings is obviously based on no key players leaving, and the one we will all be thinking about as we get closer to the end of the transfer window is Jason Cummings. Since we rejected Peterboroughs offer, he’s went on to score 3 in 2 league games and has worked hard in games. Lennon mentioned in his interview last night that he wouldn’t be surprised if another offer came in before the end of the window, so it will certainly be interesting. A striker that is almost guaranteed to score over 20 goals in a season is hard to come by at any level. When we lost Griffiths, we actually spent money to bring in James Collins. On paper he looked a good signing. Socred goals in league 1 in England. Was hard working and mobile, yet it certainly didn’t work out like that. If we got an offer of over £2m then it would be extremely difficult to turn down I would imagine, but we are then left with a gaping hole up front, where even if Lennon was allowed to spend money to replace him, no one knows if they will come in, hit the ground running and bang the goals in. Also, if he stays this season and scores 25 goals, with 3 years still to run on his contract, I’m sure the offers will still be in the same ballpark, maybe even higher due to his consistency. I think we need to stay strong on this one and keep him for 1 more year. Hopefully the cup finals runs will have given us a wee boost financially meaning we can hang on to him for now.

For all his goals, its amazing how Jason still splits the support. The amount of people that seem desperate to sell him for the first offer astounds me. Jason has his faults. He’s a young lad still learning his game, but I would much rather he was doing it at Hibs rather than somewhere else, and the improvements to his game in the last 2 years has been fantastic. He’s not alone in splitting the fans tho. Look at Lewis Stevenson. With Oxley departing, he will be back to number 1 scapegoat in a lot of peoples eyes. I feel for him. I think as a full back he is great. He is tenacious, has a good first touch and is faster than he looks. It’s the attacking side of his game that lets him down (even although he was possibly the top of our assists chart last season), which is why I’d love to see a winger in front of him so he can focus on being a full back. Fraser Fyvie is another. His good performances well outweigh his poor ones but folk are much quicker to jump on any errors by him than some other players. If only we still had the likes of Ryan McGivern, Joe Keenan and Rowan Vine at the club eh. I’m all for constructive criticism, but some are just desperate to have someone to moan about.

I’m delighted to say I’m still riding on the crest of a wave from the Cup win, and thankfully so are the club (lets not talk about merchandising tho), and I am thoroughly looking forward to attending the “Party with the Scottish Cup” this Saturday. I’m sure it will be bouncing as we all relive the highlights, and will be great to see everyone getting more pictures with the Trophy. I attended hospitality on Saturday and it was great to see the Cup brought out for the fans to see. I have to say I really enjoyed the hospitality experience on Saturday. I noticed a clear improvement from when the hospitality was ran by an external company. Service and food was great, Barrie Wilkins done a great job as compere, and the fact in was an inclusive bar certainly helped!!!

So finally, next up we have another tough game, and I think if we can make it 9pts from 9 against St Mirren, then that certainly sets down the marker. Hopefully Marciano can make his debut, but if Laidlaw plays again, then I’m fine with that. He’s done well mostly in the 3 games so far. Its great to have the season back tho, especially when we’re winning!