We returned to training in January with a dramatically changed squad from the previous season after no fewer than eight players departed the club including our retired captain Laura Kennedy, who after 13 years at the club, had hung the boots up.
There were another two who were still undecided (one stayed and one left) and I had received half a dozen knock backs from players at other clubs. Word quickly got round that ‘Hibs were in crisis and would struggle with a very young team’.
We promoted eight players from our reserve squad and signed three players from other clubs; Jenna Fife, a 17-year-old goalkeeper from Murieston, Katey Turner, a 16-year-old striker from Forfar Farmington, and Laura Murray, a 20-year-old centre back from Hamilton Accies.
Of the eight promoted from the reserves, only two were older than 20 years old, and three of them were only 16.
We would be starting the season with a squad of 20 players, with an average age of just under 20-year-old. I was slightly concerned at the lack of experience we had although no doubts in the ability of the players. This was highlighted when we had 10 players selected for the Scotland U19s and Scotland A squad national camp at the end of January.
My concerns were quickly eased after only four weeks of pre-season as this new group of players we had assembled were ‘different’ from previous squads. For a start, training attendance was impeccable. The work ethic and attitude of every player was outstanding and the feeling of unity within the squad was one that I hadn’t felt before in my previous three seasons. Pivotal to this, was how the senior internationalists at the club, Shannon Lynn, Frankie Brown and Joelle Murray (the new club captain) had embraced the new challenge that faced them having lost so many familiar faces. The three of them collectively, treated every player the same and made every new signing or youth player feel welcome and part of the ‘Hibernian Family’.
We had also re-structured the senior end of the club, going from three squads down to two. This allowed us to add Pauline Macdonald to the first team coaching staff, and she has proven to be a very valuable addition to the backroom team.
Having completed our pre-season training schedule and friendly matches, we started the season with a quiet confidence and there was an excitable buzz around the squad.
We started off with six wins on the bounce, which included very good victories over Spartans and Celtic. We took our first knock, losing the league cup semi-final to a very impressive Spartans team on the night, although felt that this game would prove to be a big learning experience for us.
We completed our league fixtures with a solid 4-1 victory at Forfar last week, a place where we have struggled in the past, and sit 2nd in the league having taken an impressive 28 points from a possible 33.
A quick pat on the back has now been issued to the players, but we don’t want to stop at that, and they are determined to improve further during the second half of the season. We aim to accumulate as many points as we can in the league and see where that takes us, and of course, there is the Scottish Cup to play for, which the club has won five times in the past.