We made it to Hampden for consecutive Scottish Cup finals – we’ve left on each occasion as runners-up. Is the pain just as raw as it was last year?
Some Hibs fans may think we suffered more in the defeat by Hearts, but reality still stared at us all when we awoke this morning. Our search for Scottish Cup glory continues.
A huge Hibs support was once again present at the national stadium hoping to return to the Capital yesterday evening as Leith waited to host the biggest celebrations of all time with the cup in tow. However, after a decent opening spell, we lost two very soft goals which allowed Celtic to find their rhythm and use all their experience to control the remainder of the first half.
From then on, it was always going to prove an uphill struggle for the Hibs players and although there was plenty of desire and commitment on show, we came up against a side which has invested heavily over the past couple of seasons to get the standard of player on the pitch their club demands. Our opponents, quite simply, deserved to win the match and I don’t believe many Hibs fans would argue otherwise. However, in saying that, had Eoin Doyle converted his header after just five minutes, we may have witnessed a different game altogether. The first goal was always going to go a long way in determining the destination of this year’s Scottish Cup.
The young players will benefit greatly from such a big test, but there are sure to be some fresh faces in the squad when the new season kicks off in August. I still feel there isn’t enough quality in this Hibs side, but there is an opportunity to rectify this if we find the right personnel in the transfer market over the summer.
When you take into account the likes of St Johnstone earning a place in Europe through their league performances, this is where improvement on our part must be shown. We all know the Scottish Cup means so much to Hibernian Football Club and these occasions are very special, but not finding the consistency in the league to be ahead of sides like St Johnstone and Ross County for that matter is, quite frankly, not good enough.
There are no shortcuts in this game and if we are to rediscover the heights of the past, we must invest in the playing squad. There certainly wasn’t as much disappointment yesterday leaving Hampden Park as there was 12 months ago, but it did hit home that if we can build a positive, entertaining and winning side on the park, then the potential is still there for us to achieve what we as Hibs supporters all desire.
A special mention has to go to all the supporters who sang their hearts out for the entire duration of the game yesterday. Despite the final outcome, the players still received a warm reception from one half of the ground who wanted to show their appreciation for what has been a long, hard season. The atmosphere was quite simply fantastic and one can only imagine the reception had we managed to find a victory.
There are now some more pressing issues that face Pat Fenlon during the close season, none more than trying to retain the services of Leigh Griffiths. Keeping our best players is paramount to improving next season and we must do all we can to maintain Griffiths in the green and white of Hibs.
Our post-split results produced a five-match unbeaten run which enabled us to finish in seventh position, but winning matches against Dundee and Kilmarnock did nothing other than lift the morale ahead of the final itself and add a few extra noughts to our prize money. Of course, it was important to head into the match with Celtic with a bit of momentum, but reviewing the season as a whole, I think it would be fair to say it promised so much more when you consider the start we made. We will, of course, face European competition as a result of finishing runners-up in yesterday’s final, an experience both players and supporters relish as they prepare to come up against some stern opposition from the continent. However, we must assemble a squad that is equipped to cope with the demands of playing in both domestic and international competition should we progress through the early rounds.
I would like to thank everyone who made yesterday’s showcase event so enjoyable for myself and the members of my family, but for now, we must begin the process that will ensure next season’s campaign delivers a lot more positives that can move us forward as a club.
Finally, I wish every Hibernian supporter a happy summer break and hope everyone returns to Easter Road in August ready to get behind Pat Fenlon’s green and white army.