Falkirk assistant James McDonaugh admits it will be a formidable task for his side to stop Hibs running away with the Ladbrokes Championship title this season.
The Bairns finished ahead of the Easter Road side in the league last term before defeating them in the Premiership play-off semi-final, but McDonaugh views his old team as worthy favourites for the title this time round.
The former Hibs youth coach, who became Peter Houston’s No. 2 at Falkirk Stadium two years ago, believes the Edinburgh club will thrive under new manager Neil Lennon as they bid to win promotion from the second tier at the third attempt.
“The bookies don’t get it wrong too often and I think Hibs as clear favourites is justified,” McDonaugh told the Evening News ahead of Falkirk’s Championship curtain-raiser at home to Hibs on Saturday.
“They’ve been in the league for the last two years and they won’t have Rangers or Hearts to contend with, so they’re definitely the red-hot favourites. They’ll be hard to catch.”
McDonaugh believes his old club have done well to land Lennon as Alan Stubbs’ successor. He expects the Northern Irishman to implement subtle changes that will make the Scottish Cup winners an even more dangerous side than they were last term.
“I’ve always been an admirer of Neil,” he said. “I think he’ll be a great appointment. I know people tend to love him or hate him, but I met him when he was doing his B Licence and I really warmed to him. He might not remember it but we chatted away and I thought he was a gentleman, just an all-round nice guy. He’s a manager I want to do well wherever he is.
“I wouldn’t expect a massive change from Hibs from last season, but I think there will be little differences in the way they go about their business. Neil will put his stamp on the team and we’ll see certain bits and pieces where you’ll say ‘they weren’t like that last season.’ It looks like exciting times ahead for Hibs. I think they’ll have a good season.”