So the 1st September means that we’re now in Autumn (not that you can tell the difference from Summer in Scotland) but more importantly to Football fans, it means the Transfer windo has SLAMMED shut, and our squads are set for the next 4 months, barring the odd out of contract player.
Its been a really interesting window for Hibs. We’ve seen Conrad Logan, Mark Oxley, Liam Henderson, Anthony Stokes, Niklas Gunnarson, Farid El Alagui and Dan Carmichael leave the club permanently as well as Sam Stanton, Jamie Insall, Aaron Dunsmore and Lewis Allen go out on loan. In the other direction we’ve seen Ross Laidlaw, Andy Shinnie, Grant Holt, Brian Graham & Ofir Marciano come in. We’ve also seen Jordan Forster, Paul Hanlon and Jason Cummings sign contract extensions.
I will admit I did expect to see us bring in a couple more, but we’re probably only really short for cover at right back, although if needed, Forster or McGregor can play there.
I think when Lennon came in we immediately expected us to start playing with out and out wingers, so expected to see a couple of them come in. As it turns out, this hasn’t happened and we are still relying on our full backs for attacking width. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing if done correctly, so the fact we haven’t seen any new faces on the wings isn’t too much of a problem. If Lennon does need to change things in a match, he does have Boyle and Harris who can provide some width, although personally I haven’t seen anything recently from Harris to say he will be able to affect a game as he would expected to be.
The one thing we were screaming out for was more of a target man to help Cummings and Keatings, and we’ve addressed that in Holt and Graham. In midfield we lost Henderson, and while there’s been a clamour for him to return, as he is clearly a talented youngster, its worth remembering that although he was passionate, he wasn’t necessarily consistent, and I feel that for now, Andy Shinnie is the more complete player and will give us a better return this coming season than the legend that is Hendo.
Another problem area was in goals, although if we play like we did on Saturday, we could put Mickey Weir in goals for the rest of the season and not have to worry about conceding too many. In Marciano tho, on the surface it appears that we’ve brought in a very good goalkeeper. He is highly rated and some of the saves he’s made on internet clips are ridiculous. I predict a season of some absolute wonder saves mixed with a few clangers too. He has the makings of a bit of a cult hero. Any player you can sing the rocky theme to has that potential I suppose.
I know we’ve been linked to a few right backs in the last few days, Tom Hateley being one, so I reckon we’ll maybe still see this position covered in the next couple of weeks, but overall I think we’ve got a really strong first 11 with some great options on the bench. If our strongest 11 is Marciano, Stevenson, Hanlon, McGregor, Gray, Fyvie, McGeouch, Mcginn, Shinnie, Cummings, Holt, then that leaves players like Crane, Fontaine, Forster, Bartley, Martin, Harris, Boyle, Graham & Keatings waiting in the wings. Every one of those subs would be starters for any other team in our league so we should certainly have enough in the tank to be consistent til January. The biggest business for us has to be keeping that Scottish spine of Hanlon, McGinn & Cummings. The club obviously made it clear these boys weren’t going anywhere so well done for that.
Last time I wrote, we were 2 from 2 in the league. Going into the international break we are now 4 wins from 4. That is great. It is exactly the start we needed. We maybe had slight concerns about performances like against Dunfermline, but the Morton performance is hopefully a sign of the team starting to really click with what Lennon is looking for. 4 headed goals which all came from some nice play, and the final goal with a superb cross from Cummings shows exactly what we are trying to do, catch teams cold before they are able to regroup, and thats exactly why we needed strikers like Holt and Graham. After Dumbarton and Ayr, we have a VERY interesting run of games against QOTS, Dundee Utd and Raith which will complete the first set of fixtures and give us a real idea of where we are sitting. By the time we play Utd, I expect them to be more settled, and the likes of Tony Andreu will be up and running for them, so that could be a huge game to see if they are going to be challenging us. With us already 7 points ahead of them, winning that game could potentially put us out of site of them after just 8 games!
With the run we are on, and following on from that great day in May, it is no surprise to see our crowds swelling at the minute. We’ve averaged over 15,000 at our first 2 home games, and have over 10,900 season ticket holders now. A fantastic effort from the fans. And it has rolled over to away games too. Just yesterday we sold out our allocation for Dumbarton on the first day of sales. In the last two seasons, we had only sold out at that ground once, on the opening day of last season, and that only sold out in the couple of days before the game. Theres been huge debate about ticket costs, and while £22 is a tad too steep for a Championship game, it just goes to show that if the results and performances are there, the fans will be out in force. People always seem to find the cash when they think they’re going to see a winning team.
One game I’m not expecting a huge away crowd for is this weekends challenge cup game up at Turiff. The expectation is that we will send a mainly fringe side with maybe a decent spine, which should be more than capable of dealing with the highlanders, but with this sideshow of a game being selected by BBC Alba for live coverage, there will be no mad dash to be at the game on a Sunday, barring the absolute hardcore. Fair play to them. I will give this one a miss, as I expect to be nursing a hangover!
One hangover I had no problem with was the morning after the recent “Party with the Scottish Cup”. I thoroughly enjoyed the night. We spent the night watching the cup final goals over and over (and over) again, while listening to some classic Hibs tunes and having a good old bounce to Freed from Desire. The rendition of Sunshine On Leith at the end was a bit special too. Not to mention another photo opportunity with that beautiful beautiful trophy. I know there is another one of these parties tomorrow night. If the club put any more on, I was recommend it to anyone that enjoys bathing in all things Hibs!!
I’m going to go into a topic I’ve largely avoided while doing this blog. And that is the aftermath of the Scottish Cup. As we all will know, the compliance officer released the charges against both clubs this week. I think most people were a bit surprised to see what they were after what had been included in the recent report of the Pitch invasion. Most would not have been surprised to see the mention of Assualt in there, as we have seen evidence of 1 Rangers player stupidly being shoved. We also expected tho, to see mention of Sectarian singing and the use of Pyrotechnics. As it turns out, none of these were brought forward as charges. It came as no surprise that the Rangers PR machine again spouted a volcano of disgust in yet another “strongly worded statement”, which included the sentence “for the moment the board fully endorses the incredulity and ANGER of all Rangers supporters”. I find this line astonishing and for that alone the SFA SHOULD be looking to charge them with bringing the game into disrepute. I do not agree with any physical assaults, but to this day, we have 1 example of this, rather than the “several” being claimed by both Rangers and the Daily Record. The Record decided that the announcement of these charges was front page news, and again decided to focus on the assault of several Rangers players not being included in the charges. On top of them peddling that myth, they also chose to have no mention whatsoever of the Sectarian singing and Pyrotechnics not being in the charges, even although they had been in the official report. How this paper continually gets away with peddling such a one sided argument is beyond me. Keith Jacksons line of “Every Rangers player was attacked” led the way in this mythology, and he still has not been put to task for it. One argument that is being clung to by a group of Rangers fans is that the brave Rangers fans that entered the pitch were doing so to PROTECT their players. This is absolutely 100% incorrect. It was a story created by Rangers PR to make excuses for their fans. Every Rangers player had left the field of play by the time the first Rangers “fan” entered the pitch. Any Rangers fans that entered the pitch was doing so solely to fight Hibs fans. I’ll give the PR machine one thing, they have had their fans absolutely lapping it up. I am glad our board have not rushed out any statements and attempted to defend any fans that were fighting. It’s since been explained that the SFA do not have the ability to put charges in place for the fighting, as there is no strict liability rules – something that was decided by the clubs!. So with that in mind, it seems crazy that Rangers continue to throw out these wild statements. The police have continued to investigate the incident and as of this week, there was 64 arrests made (mostly Rangers fans for the record!) so if the Police are dealing with that side of things, and Hibs have shown evidence that they have done everything they can to avoid a repeat, then its difficult to see how the SFA could have punished them for it. The Daily Record won’t let that get in the way of their witch hunt tho! I’m sure with over a month til the hearings, this will continue to cause many debates, but I promise this will be the first and last time I mention it. It was just something I needed to say. I have no sympathy for anyone that went fighting or goading the opposition that day, but the arms and legs that have grown from this story has been deeply worrying and very damaging to our club!
So I’ll end on a positive. This Saturday sees the Testimonial dinner for Mr Hibs, the legend that is Lewis Stevenson. Lewis has been with us for 10 years now and thoroughly deserves this honour. To anyone that has a ticket, you lucky lucky people. I already had plans when this was announced, so I’m gutted. I know not everyone is his biggest fan, but the guy has never given less than 100% for Hibs, and is the only player in our history to win the League cup and Scottish Cup. Have a great night Lewis.