FANS’ chief Mike Riley today claimed the speed at which Hibs boss Pat Fenlon can revamp his squad will hold the key to the club’s season.
Riley, chairman of the Hibs Supporters’ Association, believes the Capital club have been handed a tough start to the new campaign, opening with a trip to Tannadice before playing host to arch-rivals Hearts with that 5-1 Scottish Cup hammering still very much in mind.
But while revealing he’s anticipating a hard season ahead – based on the evidence of the past two years in which Hibs finished tenth and then 11th – Riley believes much will depend on the quality of Fenlon’s summer signings and how quickly he can get them in.
Fenlon has yet to strike a deal since the transfer window opened at the beginning of this month although he has been linked to a string of potential targets such as Motherwell’s Tim Clancy, Slovakian internationalist Lubomir Michalik, Jonny Hayes of Inverness Caley and Partick Thistle’s Paul Cairney.
And he’s well aware supporters are clamouring for James McPake after the Coventry City defender’s successful loan spell in a green-and-white shirt.
Riley said: “It’s a tough start but you have to play every team no matter when so we have to hope the manager is on the ball and has his team ready for it.
“If we can get good players signed, get them in for pre-season training and the friendlies we’ll have then we’d all be happier but if he’s still signing players two or three days before the season starts then that will be a problem. We’ve had a tough time over the past couple of seasons and I don’t think this one is going to be any different.”
Hibs also face the prospect of starting the season with two Sunday matches with the potential switching of the first Edinburgh derby to accommodate television, something Riley believes will upset supporters as will the thought of a trip to face Ross County in Dingwall on the last Wednesday of January.
Last season Hibs had no fewer than 14 different kick-off times and dates and Riley fears it could be the same this time round. He said: “It’s disappointing to think we could have two Sunday games right away. It was really terrible for the fans last season but I think the supporters will appreciate our first game being on the Sunday because Dundee United are playing in the Europa League on the Thursday night.
“But to be away to Ross County on a Wednesday night in the middle of winter is absolutely ridiculous although we’ll no doubt be told someone has to play them that night.”