Any Hibs fan that fooled themselves into thinking we were going to “skoosh” this league have been severely brought back down to earth in the last few weeks. It’s been 6 weeks since I last wrote here, and at that point we were 4 wins from 4. The last 4 games have obviously been disappointing, for a number of reasons. Firstly we have seen the early season performances against Brondby and Morton tail off somewhat, and now Jason Cummings has hit a bit of a barren spell, we seem to be finding it desperately difficult to score goals. Secondly, we have allowed the likes of Falkirk and Dundee Utd to get right back in amongst the top – we have been ahead against Ayr, Dundee Utd (and even St Mirren in the challenge cup) and failed to win any of them, and if we’re struggling for goals, we really need to be better at seeing the game out.
The best we’ve actually played recently barring the Ayr game was when we’ve been reduced to 10 men. Against both QoS & Raith, we were by far the better team once down to 10, but couldn’t get the breakthrough. That surely has to give Lennon something to think about. I personally don’t think we should be playing Bartley and Fyvie in the same team. Bartley is excellent at breaking the play up but offers very little going forward, and I think having him in there stifles Fyvie’s game. It’s certainly a tricky one though because we seem to be playing some nice stuff at times, and in general, dominating games, but it’s really all about goals. Some weeks we are taking 20 shots and scoring none or 1 goal, other weeks like Raith on Saturday, we are struggling to create many clear cut chances. We’ve tried to say that we haven’t been giving the strikers much service, but against Raith on Saturday that was at least 4 or 5 superb balls into the box that either landed around the penalty spot or flashed across the goals, and we failed to get on the end of any of them. You keep hoping that eventually it’s going to click, but we’ve been saying that for over 2 years now (in the league) and still it seems to be the same problems. Lennon tried playing with wingers for a whole 20 minutes against St Mirren and it didn’t work, but is that really enough time to know if a formation is going to work? To me it’s more so Lennon can say “oh well we gave it a go” and go back to the same formation.
Our summer transfer business at the moment doesn’t look great. There isn’t a lot of depth to the squad. Marciano hasn’t been overly spectacular so far, Shinnie has been extremely disappointing after a promising debut, Holt has brought the experience expected but there has been no increase in goals from midfield that we were expecting with the hope that he was going to link the midfield and strikers more, and he certainly hasn’t been prolific himself and Brian Graham hasn’t really been given much time as of yet. We are still lacking any dynamite pace in the team which could hurt teams in this division. I think Lennon wanted to give the squad that was there a good crack of the whip, which would show why he’s given Alex Harris some game time, but I do think we’re in need of a couple of new faces in January to give us a real edge in the second half of the season. We seem to be lacking that one player with a real creative spark (McGeouch at times gives us this but he’s not been fully fit all season). You only have to look at Andreu at Dundee Utd and Stephen Dobbie at Queen of the South to see the spark having someone with a bit of extra quality can bring.
One of the big talking points in recent weeks has obviously been sending off’s. 3 red cards in 5 weeks on the face of it makes it look like we have a discipline issue, but in reality I think it’s fair to say that we are actually pretty disciplined. If we look at the 3 games we’ve had red cards in, we’ve committed an average of 9.3 fouls per game, and have been on the end of an average of 15.3 fouls per game. We’ve also received only 2 yellows in those 3 games (barring Lewis’s 2 yellows for the red card) yet the opposition have received 11 yellows. And then obviously we’ve had 3 reds against us with none the other way. Now in general we can’t have too many complaints with the Stevenson red – 2 silly yellows even if one was a bit soft. But as for Bartleys 2 reds……… As I type this, we are waiting on the decision regarding the appeal against the sending off against Raith Rovers. Now whether it’s upheld or not, I don’t believe for one second that it was worthy of a red card – if it is, then most games will be finishing 5 a side. I have watched 4 or 5 matches on TV since Saturday and every game has had worse incidents that haven’t even been worthy of yellows according to the referees in those games. In the Raith game itself, we watched Declan McManus commit around 5 fouls before getting booked, and also we saw the Raith right back get booked for a cynical challenge to stop the hibs player getting away from him, only to commit EXACTLY the same challenge later in the game and escape punishment. Absolutely no consistency at all. I really do hope that if today’s appeal results in our favour, we put pressure on the SFA or referees for forthcoming matches. Whether we should be winning these games anyway is another topic, but having fewer players on the park is always going to put you at a disadvantage.
But on we go to Dunfermline on Saturday. I always enjoy going to East End Park, it’s like a home game for me, we always take a good crowd, and we tend to do ok there, so hopefully more of the same. The second half against Raith was more promising, and Dunfermline do tend to leak goals, so hopefully we can find our shooting boots and consolidate our position at the top of the league.
Away from the park, it was good to see some positive results from the End of year accounts this week. It was always hoped that there would be an improvement in a year where we sold Scott Allan, reached a League Cup Final and won the Scottish Cup as well as having money coming in from the share issue, so it was great to see a £200k profit posted which was a £1m swing from the previous year. It certainly highlights the importance of good Cup runs. Hopefully this year will continue to see solid results. With the majority of our Cup winners merchandise being sold after the end of June, money from the Europa league coming in, increased season ticket sales as well as increased walk ups, money from Cup winners parties and the boost there will have been in Hospitality, this should help us at least break even, and then of course there is the defence of our Scottish Cup. We’ve been spoilt with trips to Hampden in recent years (7 in 4 seasons) but hopefully we can add another this year, although I’d happily trade a Hampden trip for promotion.
The other thing that should bring in more profit for the club is the eventual release of the Scottish Cup winning DVD. I genuinely can’t wait to watch this next Friday. Now there’s been some attempted mocking from fans of a certain Cup final opponent, but all this does is remind you how bothered they still are by that defeat. Remember, this is the club that brought out a DVD for winning the Scottish 4th tier, and also a DVD for LOSING the UEFA Cup Final. Bet that movie didn’t quite have a happy ending. As for ours, I’m delighted to hear that a lot of effort has gone into making it a strong production, and that the feature is around 2 and a half hours long. I might need more than one case of beer to get through that. And tissues, lots of tissues. There were question marks over the price, but I’m not entirely surprised at the £25 price point. Its a double DVD for a start, we’ll have had to pay Sky Sports for rights I’d imagine, and also the production of this is a lot smaller scale than a movie DVD release, and its been done independently. Taking all that into account, and remembering that the club still want to make a decent profit from it, the price isn’t that surprising. Lets be honest, if a year ago we were told we could buy a DVD of us winning the Scottish Cup in May, we’d have told them to name their price, and any movie or stand up DVD’s I buy tend to get watched a maximum of twice. There is a chance this could be the first ever DVD I actually wear out!!
And the final words this week need to go to Alan Stubbs. I have to admit to being disappointed at the news of his sacking yesterday. I know a lot of people don’t care as they feel they jumped at the first opportunity, but to most fans, he is the manager that finally brought the Holy Grail. A lot of people tend to watch the movements of Tony Mowbray, a man that essentially won nothing with us, so I think it’s more than warranted that we keep fond memories of Alan Stubbs, Hibs manager. Yes Rotherham was a strange choice, but it’s believed he wanted to get closer to home, and maybe he genuinely thought his reputation as Hibs manager could only go downhill after the Cup win. His rushed decision to take the first job going has come back to bite him though. He took a job with a club who were overwhelming favourites to get relegated after staying up by mere miracle last season, and tried to make wholesale changes to the playing staff and style. He took quite a few players there who made their name plying their trade in Scotland, and we are all well aware that the transition between Scotland and England tends to be quite hit and miss for footballers – especially those with the poor attitude of Scott Allan. Unfortunately for Stubbs, he will now need to rebuild his reputation again, most likely at an English league 1 or 2 club. But wherever he goes in his career, he will always be remembered as the manager that won the Scottish Cup for Hibs in 2016, and that is why his name will still be fondly mentioned by Hibs fans 100 years from now