Farid El Alagui today revealed the hard work to take Hibs back to the Premiership has already begun with the striker determined to play his part after having his first season at Easter Road wrecked by injury.
El Alagui had scored four goals in his first six matches for the Capital club but then ruptured his Achilles tendon, putting him out of action for seven months.
The former Falkirk and Brentford hitman returned to play a bit part in the Hibees’ final push for promotion but he and his team-mates were left devastated as they failed to overturn Rangers’ two-goal advantage from the first leg of their Premiership play-off semi-final, Jason Cummings’ injury-time strike proving too little too late for Alan Stubbs’ side.
El Alagui insists everyone shares head coach Stubbs’ belief that, having missed out this time round, Hibs can succeed next season although he conceded keeping key players at Easter Road was paramount.
Pointing to the changes made since last summer when Hibs crashed out of the top flight, the Bordeaux-born star said: “We are very disappointed not to go up especially with the type of players we have. When you look back to July where the club was and today I think we’ve come a long way, a lot of changes have been made.
“We missed a bit of preparation at the start of the season, some players came later but I think we have been outstanding. Obviously there was a lot of disappointment but I think we showed over the games with Rangers that there’s not much difference between the two teams. They took two clincial goals last Wednesday but we were at them from the first minute.
“It was close, but not enough. But the players want to do their best, everyone is looking forward to next season and I think we have a good chance. We will have more time to prepare to have a good start.”
Stubbs now has a string of players out of contract while the loan deals of others are also about to expire but El Alagui believes the attraction of playing for Hibs will outweigh the fact they’ll again be playing in the second tier.
He said: “That is the key in the summer break – who we will manage to keep and who will leave. Scott Allan, for example, has had a great season and there will be a lot of interest in him but I hope we manage to keep key players because we have to build up a strong team.
“I know it’s the Championship, but playing for Hibernian is something different. Players have to realise how lucky they are to play for this club and sometimes the grass is not greener somewhere else.”
On a personal level, El Alagui is determined to have a season to remember. He said: “This season wasn’t good for me in terms of playing. I want to get ready, I will start right now to build up for next season. It will be a short break, I will do everything right to come back strong, to stay fit and play the whole season.
“We finished second but we want to be better next season – to finish first. If we do the same it’s going to be second again but we want to do better and go up directly.”