PAUL HANLON reckons that getting off to a good start this season could see Hibs finally start to realise some of their potential.
The Easter Road defender wants his side to begin the 2012/13 campaign with wins against Dundee United tomorrow and Hearts the following weekend, to encourage supporters to flock back to their games.
With their stadium, state-of-the-art training facility and thousands of fans waiting desperately in the wings for the first signs of success, Hanlon believes that his team have everything at their disposal to become a real force again in Scottish football.
Hanlon recalled the number of people and the electric atmosphere that greeted Hibs as they ran out for the final home game of the last season against Dunfermline.
That night saw Hibs avoid relegation, while they consigned Jim Jefferies’ men to the First Division, in front of a sell-out crowd.
While that was a battle to avoid relegation, Hanlon is keen for the Hibs fans to give them that same level of backing over the course of the season to come and hopes that could provide a snowball effect which would see them go from strength to strength on and off the pitch.
He knows, though, that the team have their part to play in convincing fans to put their hand in the pocket and go back to games.
He said: “The last home game against Dunfermline, when they turned out in their thousands, it was great to run out to a crowd like that.
“It just shows the potential that this club has got, if we can put a good run of results together and put a decent side out on the pitch then we have got everything here to be a massive club.
“But we need to get the wins on a Saturday and get people back through the door to fulfil the potential that we have got.”
Hanlon has been used at left-back instead of his favoured central defensive role throughout Hibs’ pre-season campaign.
He is likely to find himself in there again tomorrow at Tannadice, although he admits that he would much rather be utilised in the middle.
Wherever he plays though, he knows that improvement is the key word for Hibs over the next few months.
He continued: “I have been left-back in most of the games. Obviously I would rather be at centre-half but it is going to be a tighter squad this year and if the manager needs me to be playing at left-back or wherever else then I’ll do that.”
“I think the main thing for Hibs is to improve on last year. We can’t be in that position again towards the end of the season.
“First and foremost we want to try and push into the top six and then take it from there.
“We need to get off to a good start in the first league game before we can think about that though. We are not going to go into games fearing anyone, we are going to be full of confidence and obviously trying to get the win.”
After a good pre-season, Hanlon conceded that he and his team-mates can’t wait to put the disappointment of the last campaign behind them and start with a clean slate.
He added: “Everyone is determined to put things right. Last season was disappointing for the club as a whole.
“Financially it has affected the club and we have to put that right.
“I’m feeling good. I think that pre-season went well for us all and we’re delighted with things right now. We just can’t wait to get started.
“The end of last season was tough, in fact probably most of it was.”