Paul Hanlon today insisted Hibs’ improving results will pull the fans back to Easter Road, while admitting it’s up to him and his team-mates to keep producing the performances required to convince stay-away supporters to return.
Other than the visit of Capital rivals Hearts, gates at Easter Road haven’t topped 10,000 this season despite Pat Fenlon’s side remaining unbeaten at home, a record which has helped Hibs soar up the SPL table having finished last season in second bottom place.
But while accepting some fans may remain sceptical, fearing another false dawn, the 22-year-old defender believes Fenlon’s new-look side can help persuade them they’ve got a team worth watching again.
The former Scotland Under-21 skipper said: “It’s a bit disappointing crowds haven’t picked up along with our results, but if we keep doing our job there’s the potential here to be a massive club with massive crowds every week. It proves how bad the last couple of seasons have been that although we have picked up a bit the numbers are still not coming through the doors but that’s up to us to put right.
“We are the only ones that can put it right, we need to get wins on the park.
“We are unbeaten at home so hopefully if we can keep that going more and more will come to the games.
“I don’t think the fans are expecting miracles but they appreciate the hard work and passion we have shown in the last few weeks.”
Fenlon has already appealed to those fans who may not have seen Hibs in action so far this season to have a look for themselves as they entertain Dundee this afternoon while Hanlon believes those who have been turning up appear to believe the club is finally moving in the right direction, citing the reception they gave the players at the end of the recent draw against Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
He said: “To me that’s been the biggest difference. The fans clapped us off the pitch and it was brilliant to have that as we were all obviously disappointed to have lost a two-goal lead. But the fans acknowledged the hard work we had put in.”
Today’s visit from SPL basement outfit Dundee presents Hibs with the opportunity to pick up a third win at home, surpassing last season’s paltry return of just two victories at Easter Road. Not, perhaps, something to boast too much about but, nevertheless, should they emerge with three points, a significant indication of improvement.
Hanlon agreed, saying: “At the start of the season that was one of our main aims, to improve the home form. It is not good enough for a club of this size and our fans to see us win just two home games in a whole season, it’s a record we are trying to beat.
“I think last season there was a real nervousness about playing at Easter Road in front of the Hibs supporters. We wanted to produce good results but people were panicking and just worrying instead of getting on with playing good football.
“Apart from our opening game against Dundee United we have competed in all of our games and have been right there with a chance of winning and taking points. There were times last season when if we went a goal down then the other team would get another and it was game over whereas now we are staying in games and that’s why we are picking up points.”
Hanlon could offer no better example of the new-found belief – although Fenlon insists even more is needed – which has permeated through the Easter Road squad after the battling draw at Celtic Park. He said: “It gave our confidence a massive boost especially after going behind twice. To come back as we did shows we have a good spirit in the squad and that’s a big factor.
“The mindset has also changed. Because of the decent results we have had, we are going into games thinking we are going to win rather than just hoping to win it as we did in the past.”
And Hanlon issued his own plea to supporters who haven’t been to a match recently to come along today. He said: “There has been a lot of changes and we have a lot of new players. If they turn up then hopefully we’ll produce the sort of performance that will keep them coming back for the rest of the season.”