Another season is upon us with a new league structure in what promises to bring a new generation to the Scottish game. Most football supporters were in agreement that changes were needed as the entertainment on show had become a little stale.
Irrespective of the leagues undergoing a much-needed restructure, somewhere along the line the players of the SPFL are going to have to take responsibility and express themselves as footballers. Every manager is within his own right to dictate the mentality in how his side approaches a game, but once you cross the white line, you must be prepared to think on your feet and adapt to your opposition – looking at the bench for consistent guidance and direction is no way to play the game of football.
The modern game has become too reliant on tactics where players no longer have that freedom to showcase their true ability. Players should not be hesitant to go and play their natural game and learn from their mistakes.
The Hibs players will have most certainly been despondent about their display against Malmo over the two legs. The atmosphere inside Easter Road prior to kick-off was absolutely fantastic, but this excitement and optimism soon turned to despair as the Swedish outfit reinforced just how mammoth a task we faced in having any hope of progressing through to the next round of the Europa League. This result, in itself, applied huge amounts of pressure going into yesterday’s fixture against Motherwell for the players to produce a performance that could earn us our first three points of the season.
The early-season results can sometimes prove misleading as some clubs are still trying to maximise their fitness levels, which you can only really achieve through regular competitive games. But it would be fair to say there needs to be a steady improvement across every department of the Hibs side after watching us lose at home in what was a hugely disappointing outcome to the new league campaign. The players, however, will need to put this latest setback behind them and rise to the occasion before the Edinburgh derby at Tynecastle on Sunday.
Both Hibs and Motherwell failed to show much in the way of a threat in front of goal and I always felt it would only take one goal to settle the outcome. Motherwell had too much time in possession for my liking and I am sure the supporters would have expected the Hibs players to have pressed them that little bit further up the field, especially being at home.
Of all the problems we have encountered over the past two or three seasons, the one that has caused me most concern has been our home form. Travelling away from home, no matter the venue, is always a difficult challenge and this is why it is imperative clubs pick up as many victories when playing in front of your own supporters. But to give yourself such an opportunity, you must be prepared to select forward thinking individuals who can create cause for concern within the visitors’ rearguard.
Pat Fenlon was without a number of first-team regulars yesterday and, coupled with a number of league debutants for the club, it was perhaps always conceivable that we would struggle. The demands of their new club is something they will have to accept, but if they can produce the goods out on the park, then their stay at Hibernian Football Club will be the best of their careers.
Finally, I would like to pass on my condolences to the family of the great Lawrie Reilly. He was a man who you could listen to for hours when enjoying his company and he was a real gentleman. He set the standards for all players who have, or will, wear the Hibs jersey in the future to aspire to.