There will be renewed confidence in the Hibs dressing-room after a very creditable performance at Celtic Park on Saturday against the reigning champions.
Although we failed to take any points from the match, the players gave a very good account of themselves at a notoriously difficult venue after creating several opportunities in front of goal. I think this shows there is a growing belief within the squad and a bit of grit and determination has also become evident since the new manager took over last month.
Having only known his new playing staff for such a short period of time, it must have been a difficult choice for Terry Butcher to select his starting XI and the personnel capable of handling such a hostile and intimidating arena such is Celtic Park. Under previous regimes, we have perhaps tended to be a little naive in our approach when through in the east end of Glasgow and have inevitably suffered a few heavy defeats. This certainly wasn’t apparent during Saturday’s fixture as we looked assertive going forward and, at times, had the home side on the back foot. The starting XI selected by Terry Butcher was certainly a positive one, his selection process perhaps centred around trying to capitalise on a Celtic side who were so convincingly taken apart by Barcelona last midweek in the Champions League.
If this was indeed the pre-match plan, then the manager wasn’t too far off the mark. I think the most interesting alterations to the squad have been the players who have been given their chance in the first team when it looked as if they may have been soon seeking alternative clubs. Those individuals will now feel part of the manager’s plans and will continue to seek more game time. Of course, a change at the top can be an uncertain period for all members of the squad and as a former professional myself, I know that the sooner you learn your fate, the better.
But I am sure Terry Butcher will be in no hurry to make any announcements regarding his players until at least the opening of the January transfer window.
During his tenure with Inverness, the manager was very receptive in giving youth its chance if he felt they had something to contribute. Putting his faith in the likes of young Jordon Forster and Danny Handling in the cauldron that is Celtic Park indicates he may see a long-term future at the club for both those players.
We don’t want to be branded a side that plays attractive football, but fails to pick up regular wins both at home and on the road. I’ve felt for a long time now that there is an obsession of tactics and strategies in modern football when, in fact, great stats and possession don’t really stack up if you have no end product to your play. Being in control of any game only happens when you are creating and taking chances that come your way. Collecting points should always be the primary concern; analysing team and individual performances can come in the aftermath.
We have a good run of games ahead over the Christmas period, where we should be looking to pick up some points than can help raise our position in the league table.
Playing against teams in and around us also adds that extra incentive for the players and the next three or four weeks could really define the remaining months of this season. St Johnstone are first to visit Easter Road on Saturday and a victory would propel us to just one point behind the Saints.
However, our opponents are a well-organised side and carry a threat with young Stevie May on fire just now, so we must stop him in his tracks if we are to give ourselves any chance.