Losing the opening match of a new calendar year is always a hard one to take. It is an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and rediscover some freshness and optimism around the camp.
Unfortunately for Hibs, yesterday’s 3-1 defeat to our city rivals condemned us to yet more derby misery. It would be fair to say the game was hardly a classic but it’s the final result that ultimately goes down in the history books.
Heading into any Capital clash on such a poor run of form is going to require a monumental task from all 11 individuals taking to the field. At this moment in time we need any luck that comes our way but it would appear even this aspect has decided to desert us.
To be fair to Hearts, they have a group of players who possess a strong mentality and, despite their current predicament, they have the bottle to knuckle down and grind out a result in a game that means so much to both sides of the city. We must, however, dust ourselves down and face our biggest challenge ahead which is avoiding relegation from the SPL. The history and traditions of any football club becomes irrelevant as it’s all about what you do on the park between now and the end of the season.
It would appear at the moment that some individuals of the Hibs squad are finding the expectations placed on their shoulders a little too much but we simply can’t afford to carry any passengers with our Premier League status in jeopardy. The players need to find the strength and courage to go out and win games. The slow decline of the club has been extremely alarming and the naivety in thinking we are capable of producing a conveyor belt of raw talent may just come back to haunt us.
You have to be 100 per cent sure the players coming through can display the talent that this league demands. A sharp piece of advice offered to me in the early stages of my coaching career taught me no matter how functional you think your youth system is operating at, investment is a necessity at any club to balance any shortcomings and downfalls.
Watching last Wednesday’s equaliser against Inverness really exposed our frailties, none more so than a lack of leadership which is currently evident throughout the team.
The reluctance to close down the opposition by allowing their goal scorer to advance in on goal unchallenged was extremely hard for all Hibs supporters sitting in the stands to accept. We seem to be gifting goals at the moment, especially at home, and this must be addressed immediately. From a personal experience, I shudder to think how anyone guilty of underperforming would feel walking into the dressing-room and seeing the reaction of an Andy Goram or a Gordon Rae, as many a strong word would have been exchanged between all parties concerned. However, after all that is said and done, if a bitter confrontation is what it is going to take to ignite some urgency and passion among the squad then so be it.
The manager will need all the support he can muster from everyone connected with the club to enable us to fight this challenge head on. The battle for survival is sure to take many twists and turns over the course of the next four months but we must not find ourselves detached at the foot of the table. We now face a tricky Scottish Cup tie away to Cowdenbeath but I think most would agree our next league fixture the following Saturday will be our biggest test of the season to date. We must look for nothing less than three points against Dunfermline where anything else could prove catastrophic.
Our latest signing Eoin Doyle wasn’t given a significant amount of time to impress in his debut for the club but I am sure he will be given the opportunity in the next few weeks. The transfer window is now open for business where I’m sure both Hibs and Dunfermline, in particular, will be eyeing some fresh acquisitions with the capabilities of dragging them out of the current mess they both find themselves in.