Few would disagree that Hibs were seen very much as an attacking side last season but, as the statistics show, that perception wasn’t born out by the bald facts of the ‘goals for’ column.
Although their defensive record in the Championship was as good as anyone’s, Alan Stubbs’ side managed to score just 59 times in 36 matches, the underlining reason why they were pipped to second place by Falkirk, who then went on to end their promotion hopes again in the play-offs.
It’s little wonder then, as Martin Boyle revealed ahead of the new season beginning tomorrow, that new boss Neil Lennon has immediately identified that as an area for marked improvement, the 16 goals in five pre-season games perhaps an early indication that his demands are already being taken on board.
Boyle readily conceded Hibs’ lack of goals last season wasn’t good enough but, the forward insisted, the squad will prove to be a far more ruthless unit in the coming months.
He said: “For such an attacking team not to score more goals than we did was quite shocking. When you look at the players we have, we should have scored a lot more given the chances we had. Sometimes opposition teams would come, camp in and make it difficult for us but that’s something we have to work out and ensure it doesn’t become a struggle again.
“The manager has already mentioned the lack of goals to us and you can tell that if we are 2-0 up at home he won’t want us to sit back and try to hold on to that lead. He’ll be demanding that we go and get as many goals as we can. If we get two, he’ll want three. If it’s three, he’ll demand four and so on.”
As fate would have it, Falkirk away gets Hibs’ season underway, memories of the closely-fought games of last time around still very much fresh in the mind as, for Lennon’s players, is the recollection of how it all went horribly wrong in the play-offs.
Victory tomorrow would, undoubtedly, lay down a marker to Peter Houston’s side but, argued Boyle, the need to get off to a flying start was of paramount importance for a club which, in each of the last couple of seasons, had lost two of their first three games.
The 23-year-old said: “Obviously, it would be good to start with a win but I don’t think it really matters who we face first up because we know from experience that every game is going to be tough. We know what we are up against in Falkirk, we know what we experienced last year and we don’t want it to happen again.
“Falkirk is a hard place to go but we want to hit the ground running and not fall behind straight away as has happened. We’ve had a good pre-season under out belts, we’re brimming with confidence, raring to go and feeling good about ourselves.”
Although Hearts and Rangers no longer present an obstacle to Hibs’ promotion hopes, newly-relegated Dundee United pose a fresh threat with former Raith Rovers boss Ray McKinnon now back in charge of his old club and talking of an immediate return to the Premiership.
Boyle said: “Speaking about going straight back up is something you’d expect from a club which has just been relegated, but it’s easier said than done. Ray McKinnon did a great job with Raith, he has a good squad at United but he’ll know from having managed in the Championship just how tough it can be.
“We know how hard it can be. We’ve been here for a couple of years now and we don’t want to be in this league any more. It’s a case of us finding greater consistency, of keeping it tight at the back, taking the chances that come our way and when we have the opportunity to win games to make sure we win them.”
Boyle and his team-mates, of course, managed to shake off the bitter disappointment of failing to win promotion last season by winning the Scottish Cup for the first time in 114 years, creating memories of the parade from the City Chambers to Leith Links the following day which will be remembered forever by the 150,000 or so who witnessed it.
But, Boyle insisted, the Hampden triumph is now no more than a memory, albeit a pleasant one. He said: “We finished the season on a high but we wanted promotion. The cup was a bonus, an absolutely brilliant bonus, but we want to get up. Some people might say we are favourites this season, but we are not looking at it that way.
“It’s a tough league, it’s a long, long season but we are aiming to hit the ground running and to keep producing week after week.”
And, as far as Boyle is concerned, there will be little escape from football, his fiancée Rachael Small having signed for Hibs Ladies only a few weeks after he proposed to her in New York’s Central Park.
He said: “It’s been quite a summer for me. Rachael moved down here from Aberdeen with her work, the opportunity came for her to sign for Hibs Ladies and she’s delighted to have done so.
“Rachael has European football to look forward to as Hibs Ladies are in the Champions League. I enjoyed my experience in the Europa League with Hibs although we were disappointed with the way we went out against Brondby.”