After making a name for himself as a potent goalscorer, Keith Wright is only too familiar of the expectations Hibs striker James Collins encounters on a game-to-game basis.
Monday’s 2-0 defeat at home to Aberdeen afforded visiting goalkeeper Jamie Langfield a quiet night with no Hibs shots on target, the fourth opposing ‘keeper to earn a clean sheet in five league encounters.
A lack of firepower in the Easter Road side’s frontline has contributed to a slide towards the relegation play-off spot in recent weeks, but Wright, pictured right, who netted over 50 goals for the Hibees during a six-year spell, says the responsibility does not solely fall at the feet of Collins.
He said: “I was at the game on Monday night and I felt sorry for James Collins. He was so isolated at times where he had three or four Aberdeen players around him and when he did lose possession, he was getting a bit of stick from the crowd. I felt for him. Could other players not have helped him out by making his mind up by either going beyond him or supporting him quicker?
“Terry (Butcher) and Maurice (Malpas) will be looking at everything closely now because it’s come to that crunch time. I’m not trying to tell them how to do their jobs but maybe a draw at some of the venues might suit them as it means it will keep that gap between the clubs.
“So that could be an advantage for Hibs to stick with just one up-front and then pick teams off. A draw will suit Hibs more than the other teams.”
He continued: “There is a tendency to then play safe and don’t be too creative and I think that has crept in. The midfield players want to make sure they’re not going to be caught out of position and lose a goal from there. But the fans demand that the players go forward and try and win games as early as possible.
“The game has changed so much now with formations that you need to look closely at how the other teams are going to play.”
Derek McInnes’ side’s triumph in the Capital reinforced a damning statistic that does not sit well among the home support, just four victories from 17 attempts this season. Wright, therefore, believes it is a stong possibility Hibs’ next three points will be delivered on their travels – starting at St Mirren Park next Saturday.
“I’ve been there before and, although it shouldn’t affect them, I think the players will look more forward to the away games because you’re under more of the spotlight when things are not going well at home.
“But that’s something as a Hibs player you need to handle that when things aren’t going well, you need to be more brave and it takes a brave player to play at Easter Road.
“Hibs are the team out of form but I think they’ve got one good result in them and I think it could be at St Mirren which would be enough to keep them away from the 11th place. I just think the setting with a big following will produce a cup-tie like atmosphere and one that the Hibs players will respond to. They’ll not play as well-drilled a team as Aberdeen were again this season so that counts in their favour.
“It’s about survival now and just keeping that gap between the teams below them. The other teams are under more pressure than Hibs so that will be the good thing that stands in their favour. I just hope the players realise the importance of these five games coming up and treat them as cup finals.”
Wright saw enough during the defeat to Aberdeen to convince him the younger contingent of the squad, in particular, carry that enthusiam that could just give the club the rub of the green needed.
He said: “I think there was a wee buzz the other night with Sam Stanton and Alex Harris, who didn’t have a great game, but I just feel he is the one who could turn a game. If you go with experience then it’s good to have that on your side, but I think it’s best to stay with the young boys who have come into the team at a difficult time and who are creative.
“If the younger ones are the guys who can turn the game with a wee bit of flair then so be it, but it’s how the manager looks at it. Is it a step too far for these young boys? I don’’t know, but pesonally I would stick by the players who have got something going forward and I’m sure they will be able to handle the remaining five games no bother.”
Wright, an avid supporter of a club he helped guide to League Cup glory in 1991 by scoring the second goal in a 2-0 defeat of Dunfermline, expects wholesome changes to the squad across the summer months when Butcher will again come under further scrutiny regarding his recruitment policy.
He added: “It will only be when the season has finished that Terry can think about the right type of player he wants to bring in for the start of the new campaign.
“I think he will be looking forward to breathing a sigh of relief when the season is over and Hibs’ place in the league is secure.”