When Hibs collapsed to defeat at home to Hamilton and were relegated from the Scottish Premiership most fans thought it couldn’t get any worse. A meek surrender at Palmerston proved it could. Whilst no one expected Hibs to steamroller the most competitive second tier in living memory in similar fashion to after their last relegation, Hibees expected far more than 6 points from their opening 6 league games. So what is going on at Easter Road?
Hibs were always playing catch up in their preparation for a difficult championship campaign. The minute Jason Cummings missed the decisive penalty against Hamilton should have been the end of Terry Butcher’s managerial reign. Instead changes at board room level meant Alan Stubbs was only brought in after pre-season had started. Preparation and player recruitment suffered as a result. Meanwhile promotion rivals Hearts were streets ahead in terms of assembling and fine tuning their squad. This is now reflected in the league table.
Much has been made of the mass clearout at Easter Road over the summer. Whilst the intricacies of player’s contracts will never be known it would appear the wrong players were released. The likes of Ben Williams, James McPake and Kevin Thomson all publicly stated they would have stayed at Easter road and all would improve this current Hibs team. Meanwhile the likes of Liam Craig, Paul Heffernan and Paul Hanlon continue to offer little. Also nine of the match day squad against Queen of the South were at the club last season.
The lack of confidence and defeatist attitude which plagued Hibs during the second half of last season is still there for all to see. Alan Stubbs deserves a chance to reverse this and he is obviously trying to bring passing football back to Easter Road. However he is far from blameless. His passing philosophy lacks tempo and off the ball movement. Stubbs has also assembled a massively unbalanced squad short on attackers who can score goals and defenders who can prevent them. Hibs have a plethora of light weight attacking midfielders but no one to shield the defence behind them. A ball winning defensive midfielder is a must and would help protect a fragile defence. Hibs failure to keep a single clean sheet in six championship games is a massive concern. Paul Hanlon continues to get bullied by strikers with any sort of physicality and his partnership with Jordan Forster is the same one which was torn apart by Malmo in one of the most embarrassing nights in Hibernian’s history. All the sides Hibs have come up against so far this season have a big, dominating ball winning centre half. Hibs don’t. Whilst he was never the quickest or best footballer allowing Michael Nelson to leave seems a poor decision.
At the other end goals have been frustratingly hard to come by. Luck has played its part as when Alloa’s suspect artificial pitch claimed the Achilles of Farid El Alagui Stubbs lost probably the only irreplaceable member of his squad on the same weekend a loan move for Leigh Griffiths fell through. Both were crushing blows. However Hibs should have more than enough to comfortably see of part-time opposition.
Despite the gaps in his squad Stubbs does seem to have recruited fairly well. Despite a recent down turn in from David Gray and Scott Allan are excellent acquisitions and before his injury Farid El Alagui looked the part. Dylan McGeough and Jake Sinclair, whilst not exactly what Hibs needed are both quality footballers and the exciting Matt Kennedy has consistently been Hibs best performer this season.
Hibs once again are a club in transition and Stubbs deserves the time to oversee it but as the poor results and performances stack up and the novelty of standing on terraces in towns never visited before wears off patience may wear thin.
Disgracefully automatic promotion may be beyond Hibs already. The promotion playoffs are an absolute must. Worryingly Hibs are currently closer to the relegation ones.