Hibs have admitted the “devastating” Scottish Cup defeat by arch-rivals Hearts has reinforced the scale of the rebuilding task now facing boss Pat Fenlon ahead of next season.
Fenlon faces losing an entire team of players with loan deals and contracts for many now at an end and, as yet, no sign of moves being made to persuade them to stay.
Five of those who featured at Hampden – James McPake, Matt Doherty, Tom Soares, Leigh Griffiths and George Francomb – will return, along with Roy O’Donovan, to their parent clubs with their Easter Road loan deals having expired. In addition, goalkeepers Mark Brown and Graham Stack are out of contract, as are striker Garry O’Connor and club skipper Ian Murray, who has already said he believes he has played his last match for the club. Martin Scott appears to have no future in green and white despite having another year of his deal to run.
Now the club has conceded Fenlon has a huge job over the coming weeks to piece together a squad which fans will expect to compete for a top-six place rather than, as they did over the course of the season just ended, scrap to avoid relegation.
In a statement thanking their fans for their “commitment and backing” not just on Saturday but over the course of the season, Hibs said: “The match [the Cup final] and the result were devastating to everyone associated with Hibernian, especially after such a colourful and exciting build up to Hampden Park.
“The board and manager recognise that the nature of Saturday’s defeat reinforces the scale of the task that faces us in rebuilding the squad in preparation for next season.”
Fenlon, meanwhile, has been hit by a misconduct charge by the SFA following the gesture he made in the dying seconds of the 5-1 hammering. Although Fenlon insisted his action was simply a display of frustration at his side’s inept performance it came at a time as he was being taunted by Hearts supporters chanting: “There’s only one Pat Fenlon.”
The SFA’s compliance officer Vincent Lunny has issued a note of complaint against Fenlon who now has until Tuesday to respond to the charge ahead of a Judicial Panel hearing at Hampden on June 14.
Fenlon, who could receive a touchline ban of at least two matches, has been charged with a breach of rule 203 which deals with “offensive, abusing and insulting behaviour” by a member of team staff.
McPake has been handed a surprise call-up by Northern Ireland for their friendly against the Netherlands a week on Saturday following his impressive performances at Easter Road, The centre-half qualifies through his grandfather, also James.