Is your club prepared for the season ahead?
ALMOST, I think this week will see Hibs do a fair amount of business as we aim to bolster the current squad and fully settle us down going in to the new season. Saturday’s disappointing defeat was just that, disappointing. It’s being over-hyped as it was a match between the two club’s expected to go head to head for the Championship title but it will not have any bearing on the where that honour will lie come May 2016.
I think we need four new players. A controversial one to start off with as no Hibee is apparently allowed to castigate ‘fans-favourite’ Lewis Stevenson but we need a left back to at the very least come in and challenge him. Callum Crane is a fantastic prospect but we seen what can happen on Saturday if you chuck young boys in too early.
We are light in midfield even with Scott Allan. We need two centre mids in and we probably needed them in yesterday as opposed to when they do finally appear. Young Scott Martin was terrific in the engine room for 30-35 on Saturday before losing his way much like the rest of his teammates. Of course we are awaiting for Marvin Bartley to appear since his move up to Edinburgh and he will provide the base of our midfield.
Lastly I’d say we need a winger who can play on either side, someone who is able going forward but just as adept when playing wing-back and in defensive situations. Danny Carmichael is a creative, attacking midfielder and I wouldn’t want to nullify him as a wing back so I think we need that option.
Carmichael’s return from injury would be a boost alongside fellow new boy James Keatings and the permanent return of Martin Boyle.
What signing are you looking forward to seeing?
MARVIN BARTLEY, of all the signings he’s more of an unknown. Defensive midfield is an area which is over-looked but it’s a position which comes with it’s own specific job description. A player who has had an efficient playing career in the lower leagues of English football. Bartley is by all accounts a hard-working midfielder and the scouts have obviously been impressed. Numerous clubs appear on this man’s CV but a £325,000 move to Burnley in 2011 stands out. Bartley will also provide much required experience along with his steel and bravery in the midfield to give the platform for our more creative players to go and stand-out.
If Bartley does his job well then his effectiveness will be a stand-out on it’s own.
ALLAN, FYVIE or GRAY? This was toss up between these 3 players. Scott Allan – technically our best player. The technique he possesses with a ball at his feet is second only to Russell Latapy in my years of watching Hibs but is he as consistent as I would like? The answer would have to be no but the lad came on on Saturday and despite the unsettling tactics of our opposition he was still by far and away the best player on the pitch.
David Gray will be the main guy for me though, both on and off the pitch. He’s been handed the capain’s armband which in itself brings responsibilities and I think we will require unity more than most this season.
Hearts were a strong, well-oiled machine last term. A unit which powered past the sides in the lowere half of the league with ease. That’s where we need to show a mental toughness and it’s games away at the likes of Morton and Alloa where we will require leadership over skill and technique.
That’s why I think captain David Gray will be our key man just edging out Allan and Fraser Fyvie who I think will be a tremendous permanent addition to the team and the squad as a whole following his six month loan spell at the end of last season.
CHANCE CONVERSION, the amount of goalscoring opportunities we missed on Saturday before our capitulation was enough for me to see that we urgently need Farid El Alagui back fit alongside James Keatings. Malonga is a fantastic player with a wonderful first touch and a good range of vision but what he lacks is the finishing prowess of a penalty box striker.
Young Jason Cummings has that without the ability to know when and where to make the right runs, often on his heels and waiting for the ball to come to him with a bit more coaching and game time that will come hopefully.
For your two main strikers to only score one in eight or nine chances is not good enough. A bit more competition for the striker berths will hopefully see us eradicate this weakness and push us on to achieving our goals in more ways than one.
Manager – How would you rate him and can he improve upon last year?
6/10 – Alan Stubbs had two jobs to do last season and he more than succeeded in one with the second job being marked down as room for improvement. Along with his coaching staff and the footballing department he has helped to turn this club around, the place was an absolute shambles when he joined and the subsequent turnaround has been remarkable.
He will need to make further marked improvements if he is finish the job he set out to do. It was a two-year project no doubt about that but to come up short last season will have hurt him and his staff.
I don’t know why he changed formation against Rangers when we were completely dominating the game and it’s this naivety with tactics and failure to make a substitution when one is required that are the only negatives when summarising Stubbs’ time in charge.
Can do better, will do better.
Anyone or any club you are worried about that may cause problems for you?
I THINK we seen last week which club was seriously worried about us that’s for sure. The unsettling tactics of them and their friends in the media worked on Saturday and will no doubt be ramped up in the next few weeks but rogue agents and Rangers love-in’s aside we will come back from Saturday’s poor second half showing where mental fatigue definitely took it’s toll rather than anything untoward.
Rangers cannot afford Scott Allan, they know that, we know that but what they have done is unsettle our player, our plans and more importantly they have unsettled what has been a far more productive pre-season than last.
We will recover and whilst not being worried about any team in the league I do think St Mirren will pose more problems for ourselves than many people believe. Ian Murray is a fantastic coach and I am sure they will go well this season.
Expectations for this season?
LEAGUE WINNERS, nothing else will do.
Where will your team finish in the league this season?
1st, Saturday’s result against Rangers done nothing to temper my expectations of this season and I fully believe Alan Stubbs is putting together a squad not only capable of winning the league but one which can go and compete in the Premiership.
What was the highlight of last season?
A SEASON in the Scotland’s second tier should never be a highlight no matter the goals, results or performances but for me the highlight was the transformation of our club. We have basically stripped right back to the bones and have started a rebuilding process which holistically will take a good few years but the blocks that are being put in place bit by bit are giving several thousand Hibs supporters and I a reason to be proud of this great club once again.
What was the low point?
FAILURE to achieve promotion. Having worked so hard to get into second spot, relinquish it then claim it back again the players would have been hoping they could get us back up in one season alas the legs ran out of steam, injuries took their toll and the missed chances seen us fail to follow capital rivals Hearts back in to the top league.
Who will win the Premiership?
CELTIC, by 8-10 points. Aberdeen will push them again with Dundee not far away. Hartley has built a strong squad and is a coach who is building himself a very credible reputation. Exciting young talent mixed with experience and players with a point to prove they have the opportunity to build on their top six finish last season.
Who will be relegated?
KILMARNOCK, I got this wildly wrong last year when I backed Inverness to be relegated (the bookies love me) but Killie won’t be far away this time around. They’ll be in a dogfight with Hearts, County and Partick Thistle and I don’t think Kris Boyd’s goals will be enough to save them this time around.