Ben Williams today insisted he and his under pressure team-mates need to keep their heads at a time when everyone else is in danger of losing theirs.
Four straight defeats, 11 goals conceded and none scored has set the alarm bells ringing around Easter Road but while accepting supporters are far from happy, the goalkeeper believes there is simply no need for panic.
And as disappointing as losing, by a single-goal margin in each case, to Motherwell and Hearts might have been, Williams urged fans to look beyond the bald statistic of the final scoreline and recognise the fact that those encounters could easily have gone the other way and Pat Fenlon’s side would be going into tomorrow’s match against Dundee United with a maximum six points.
Reality, of course, shows Hibs are pointless but Williams is adamant the current maelstrom which appears to have engulfed the club has it’s source in the humiliation inflicted upon Fenlon’s players by that 9-0 aggregate scoreline Swedish outfit Malmo ran up in the Europa League.
He said: “Malmo should not have happened. We were a young side up against a good team halfway through their season but should have managed the game a lot better, realised that, having lost 2-0 over there, that when they scored again the tie was beyond us and shut up shop.
“We shouldn’t have kept chasing the game trying to score a goal of our own leaving ourselves open which allowed them to pick us off. They were very clinical and took their chances.
“If we had come away with a three or four goal aggregate loss there wouldn’t have been half of what’s been said. The other side, of course, is that it happened and there is no hiding from it. We gave them the opportunity to score those goals. They were good, but not a 9-0 aggregate side.”
As such Williams, acting as captain in the absence of the injured James McPake, is adamant that debacle has cast a long, dark shadow over the start of the domestic season, reasoning that to stand back and take a dispassionate look at Hibs’ performances against both Motherwell and Hearts would result in the conclusion that while Fenlon’s players had been far from world beaters they aren’t half as bad as some would paint them.
He said: “Of course the lads are disappointed with the start to the season but in these games I think if we had scored first we would probably have gone on to win them and everyone would be saying what a good opening we’ve had. Last year we only had one point from our first two games but we hadn’t played that well.
“In my opinion we’ve played better but we just need to work that bit harder in games to create clear-cut chances and to take them. I can understand the reaction to the derby, form goes out the window as it means so much more than football. Our fans have had to listen to Hearts supporters all week telling them they won with a team full of kids.
“But we controlled the game, we should have created some more chances. Hearts created one good chance, one little bit of quality in the 90 minutes and credit to them they took it. We should have dominated the game more, we should have scored when we were in the ascendancy and if we do that we win the game comfortably.”
The headlines and flak which has been directed at Fenlon and his players hasn’t made these past five days comfortable in any way for anyone at Easter Road but, Williams argued, some of it had been more than a little over the top.
The former Manchester United trainee, however, accepts it as going with the territory. He said: “Fans are allowed their opinions, they pay good money to come and watch and that gives them the right to voice their opinions whether we feel they are right or wrong.
“In today’s world social media, newspapers, radio, television means everyone can become a critic. Everyone thinks they can become a coach but being a football manager is a difficult position. Fans of every club go to every game expecting to see their team win, that’s what they do and there would be little point in them going if they didn’t believe that was going to happen.
“But we know every team can’t win every game as much as you’d like to as players, supporters and a club. It’s impossible over the length of a season. We are only two games into a season of 38 matches, there’s a long, long way to go. Last year we had one point at this stage, by November we had gone top at one stage and were sitting comfortably in the top four.”
Such a situation throws the summer signings made by Fenlon in to sharp relief but Williams defied anyone to suggest the Easter Road outfit didn’t possess a healthy squad of players although injuries to key players such as McPake, Ryan McGivern, Paul Cairney, Tim Clancy and, most recently, Alex Harris have taken an obvious toll.
Williams said: “The manager has assembled a very good squad but it is a case of finding the right formula, the right way to play. It does take a bit of time although we obviously hope to gel quickly and have an impact. That’s what everyone wants and that’s what is going to happen.
“Football is all about fine margins. We have to work hard to create the opportunities to create that margin. We have to score first and get ourselves into a dominant position rather than leaving the game so tight it can swing the opposition’s way.”
Jackie McNamara’s side will arrive in the Capital in much the same position as Hibs, United only a point better off and having drawn criticism from some quarters of their own support following their narrow defeat by Inverness Caley last weekend, prompting Williams to observe: “We’ll have two teams looking for a positive result to kick-start their season. “But get a run or three or four wins in five or six games and you are right up the table. It’s a case of getting it right quickly, of getting the points on the board. Once that happens there will be a sense of relief all round and with a win under our belts we can move on and built on it.
“However, it is important we keep level heads, have the right work ethic and things will turn. Once that happens confidence spreads and that’s a very good habit to get in to.”
SQUAD NEWS: Ryan McGivern should expect to start for HIbs, the Northern Ireland internationalist having played the second 45 minutes of the derby after recovering from the knee injury which ruled him out of the start of the season. However, skipper James McPake, Tim Clancy, Paul Cairney and Alex Harris all remain sidelined for the immediate future.