John Doolan insists on-song Hibs have achieved nothing yet – but the first-team coach believes they now have the squad and the winning mentality to change all that.
The Easter Road management team of Alan Stubbs, Doolan and Andy Holden have earned rave reviews for restoring pride to a club which was in disarray following relegation from the Premiership 18 months ago.
They finished second in the Championship and made the semi-finals of the Scottish Cup last season. And now they have a League Cup semi-final to look forward to and, buoyed by a 13-game unbeaten run, have the chance to close to within two points of Championship leaders Rangers when they host Livingston tomorrow.
Doolan, however, insists he won’t be remotely satisfied until promotion is achieved and silverware is arriving in the Easter Road trophy cabinet.
“You take the pats on the back and it’s nice, but we’ve got to keep it going because at the minute we haven’t done anything,” he told the Evening News. “We haven’t won anything and we haven’t got promotion. At the top end of football, it’s about winning leagues and cups. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
Doolan believes one of the main accomplishments since he, Stubbs and Holden arrived in June 2014 has been the instilling of a strong mindset in the squad.
“Hibs used to be seen as a soft touch but I don’t think that’s the case any more,” he said. “I think the lads have got a winning mentality now and the competition for places has brought that even more. Last year we had a strong starting XI but we only had a few first-team players on the bench or a few loan signings. This year, it’s good senior players on the bench and it means the ones in the team just don’t want to do anything wrong.
“The lads just don’t like getting beat now and you can see that. When St Mirren took the lead last week, people might have thought ‘here we go’, but the lads just don’t want to get beat. With Dave Gray, [Liam] Fontaine and Paul Hanlon, you’ve got some good senior players there who you can hang your hat on. But even with the young lads, the likes of John McGinn, Dylan McGeouch or Liam Henderson, they’ll do something in the game that just seems to lift everybody. We’ve got a brilliant group and they’re tough to beat.”
Hibs are aiming to make it seven consecutive league wins tomorrow, while leaders Rangers have won every one of their Championship matches apart from the trip to Easter Road two weeks ago. Doolan anticipates this trend of victories continuing from the top two in the division and believes the two remaining matches between the teams will be crucial.
“I think the head-to-heads will be important,” he said. “Rangers have got the points advantage so we just have to keep winning games. But I’ve got 100 per cent belief in these players and what we’re all doing as a team.”
Meanwhile, Dominique Malonga was an unused substitute for Congo on Saturday as they won 4-3 away to Ethiopia in the first leg of their World Cup qualifer. The striker will miss the Livingston game tomorrow as his national team play the return leg in Brazzaville.
On-loan Hibs striker Jamie Insall had an eventful first start for East Fife after he scored and was subsequently sent off for a rash challenge in their 5-3 win over East Stirlingshire. The 23-year-old is in the midst of a 28-day loan with the League Two side as Stubbs looks to get the former English non-league striker, who is viewed as a development project, acclimatised to professional football.