I must admit to be feeling extremely envious of the professionals at this time of year. No sooner are you recovering from a demanding 90 minutes before the next game is upon you ready to go again.
The demands of playing four games in ten days can take its toll on some of the players and this poses a concern with such a threadbare squad. The games over the festive period are certainly going to be a test but the manager can only use what he has at his disposal.
Once again the unpredictable nature of the league will ensure there is little room for error, with only Inverness showing a real level of consistency recently. A share of the spoils in yesterday’s fixture at Rugby Park was probably a fair result. I felt we passed the ball with confidence, particularly in the first half, and some of our football was of a high standard. The return of Gary Deegan to the side added more intensity and he looks to be a real leader in the middle of the park. Stopping the rot was the main objective against Kilmarnock as a third straight defeat would have been disastrous so the players deserve some credit for the point achieved.
In Paul Cairney we have a player that has shown there are maybe one or two stars in the making who are currently plying their trade in the lower divisions and, given the opportunity, are capable of making an impact at a higher level. So far this season, the most striking aspect of Cairney’s game has been his natural enthusiasm to perform.
When others at times can be a little wasteful in possession, he has the ability to pick the correct pass and reinforced this yesterday when playing in Leigh Griffiths for the striker to square the ball across for Eoin Doyle to score. Many players have arrived in the top division looking to enhance their careers but have failed to show the desire that can keep them at the peak of the game.
The January transfer window is due to open next week and is sure to be an interesting month not just for Hibs, but throughout the SPL. It would be fair to say most sides will be looking to improve the personnel within their squads. I have confidence we will see some new faces heading into the second half of the season but the focus should be on bringing in quality rather than quantity. The club’s desire to retain the services of Griffiths, Ryan McGivern and Jorge Claros has been well documented and I am sure I speak on behalf of the supporters that agreements can be reached with the trio. However, I am sure the manager will have a plan B should these deals not materialise.
The return of one or two key players to the squad can only benefit the team and give Pat Fenlon further options when picking his strongest side. We now have two home matches to come starting with Ross County making the long journey from Dingwall on Wednesday.
Our opponents will prove to be a stern outfit but we must make our home field advantage count.
The visit of the champions to Easter Road on Saturday will be a real test for the players. Celtic have certainly come alive since they qualified for the next stage of the Champions League. Neil Lennon’s players will be desperate to be involved against Juventus and will all be eager to show their worth to the team. It would be fair to say we will need to be at our very best to get a positive result but is a fixture all the Hibs players should be relishing.
The Edinburgh derby at Tynecastle is also looming and we will want to head into this encounter with some confidence. We can take heart from our Scottish Cup victory over Hearts at the beginning of the month but heading across the city will be a new experience for some of the players. It has been quite a while since we have been going into a derby looking for back-to-back victories but victory would be the perfect way to begin 2013.