KEVIN THOMSON knows that only hard work will help push Hibs back up the table – and he says that there’s no-one better than Terry Butcher to squeeze every last ounce of effort out of his new charges.
The Hibs midfielder was delighted with the appointment of the former England captain, who was brought in to replace the departed Pat Fenlon, and he is hoping that this can be the beginning of an upward turn in the club’s fortunes.
Boyhood Hibs fan Thomson is as keen as any fans to see his side realise their potential after finishing second bottom two seasons ago and seventh last term, with his goal being second place.
He said: “The manager asked us in the changing-room on the first day that he came in where we thought that the team could finish this season. I was the first person to answer and I said ‘second’. Can we do that? I don’t know, but we will give it as good a go as we possibly can.
“At the start of the season I thought that we had as a good squad as any. I am not one for looking at tables, but it is up to us to pick up as many points as we can and get ourselves right back up there.”
“It is frustrating and it is hard to think that Hibs have not been a top-six side recently. It is only going to be hard work that gets you into these kinds of positions and if anyone is going to get hard work out of the boys then it will be this manager.”
There has been a feeling among Hibs fans that their club has failed to fulfil their potential in recent years and Thomson knows how desperate the club’s supporters are to finally see their side achieve something.
They won the League Cup back in 2007 but since then have suffered defeat in two Scottish Cup finals and qualified for Europe on just three occasions.
“Being a Hibs fan myself, I know what they want because I want the same things. They want to see the ball passed around at Easter Road and they want to see the game played at a certain tempo.
“I was lucky enough to play in some good Hibs teams and I know they want attacking football and to see the ball getting banged in the net. It is up to this manager and this group of players to bring that back.
“We all know that the performances have been patchy this season. The team were up against it a bit after the start that we got off to, but it’s now a time for everyone involved with the club, fans, players, staff, to come together and do everything that they can to make this club successful again.”
The spotlight will certainly be on Butcher and his assistant Maurice Malpas this weekend and how they fare in their first match in charge of the side.
Around 2000 Hibs supporters will be in Paisley to see Butcher’s first game, although the manager himself won’t be in the dugout after receiving a one-match ban from the SFA last night. The expectations are high, but Thomson insists that he and his team-mates will not suffer any adverse effects.
In fact, it’s just the kind of pressure that he thrives on.
“When I spoke to the manager last week and told him that I fancy myself to win every game, it’s just the way that I am,” continued Thomson. “I am a winner and because of that I maybe put myself in a bit of a surreal situation.
“If the team doesn’t do well then I think that it is Kevin Thomson’s fault and vice versa, if the team do well then I feel that I have done well.
“I feel like I have to take responsibility and it is good that we have now got a manager who is happy to take responsibility.
“There will be pressure on us, but that’s football for you and I am sure that we are all comfortable with that.”
There’s always the danger that Butcher’s first game in charge will fall flat on it’s face after all the hype, but, even if the worst does happen, Thomson is not overly concerned and instead says that the players must look to the long-term and to getting their fans back on side.
“If we go to St Mirren and we don’t win then I am sure that the fans will be grumbling a bit,” he added. “That’s obviously not what we would want for the manager’s first game in charge.
“But if things don’t go to plan and the fans are unhappy, then you have to expect that because there have been a few disappointments for them. We need to get them on side and we can do that by performing well out on the pitch.”
Unlike previous appointments, Butcher’s arrival at Easter Road has been welcomed almost to a man by the Hibs support. There certainly hasn’t been an enthusiasm like this or such high expectations of what lies ahead since Tony Mowbray’s young team started making headlines.
Thomson, too, has high hopes for the future, although he insisted that Butcher is his own man and that the supporters shouldn’t expect a similar approach.
He said: “Tony and the manager are obviously different in the way that they set up their teams. I don’t think that their styles are the same, but the new manager did fantastically well up at Inverness and he plucked players out of nowhere, signed guys that no-one had ever heard of, and they went on to do really well.
“I know Maurice really well from the Scotland Under-21s. They are both hard-working and honest people, the manager was like that as a player.
“I think, first and foremost, he is trying to instil a bit of steel into the side and trying to get the performances on the park right.
“Obviously the fans want that and they want to see some points. If we can put in the kind of performance that the boys have been generating in training, then the results will come.”
Butcher is clearly at a bit of a disadvantage in terms of turning things around for his new side. He has come into the club part-way through the campaign and has had very little time with his players to get his philosophy over to his new charges.
Butcher and his squad have been using the time during the recent break for internationals to get used to each other and find a way of working together. And while the basics of training for tomorrow’s match have remained the same, Butcher’s philosophy is clearly different from that of Fenlon.
Thomson says that this week has been “refreshing”, but admits that the Hibs players will need a little bit of time to adjust to the new approach.
“It’s different, obviously,” Thomson conceded. “He sees the game differently and has his own philosophy, as you would expect. When a new manager comes in with his own ideas and different tactics, you have to try to do what he wants – and get used to his ideas as quickly as you can.
“The boys have been adjusting and working hard all week and it has been refreshing. It’s hard whether you move to a new club or if a new manager comes in and inherits a squad.
“We don’t have the same style of player that he had up at Inverness, everyone has their own style. We know that we are going to have to work hard to put into practice what he has been preaching. We need to put his ideas into our play out on the pitch.”
While now seems to be an exciting time to be a Hibs player or supporter, Thomson admitted that he felt for Jimmy Nicholl, who took charge of the team following Fenlon’s departure but then found himself out of a job.
Having worked closely with Nicholl during his few short months at Easter Road, Thomson was sorry to see him fall out of the game as part of the managerial changes.
“The last couple of weeks have been quite difficult because we were working quite closely with Jimmy. I felt for him and felt that he was kind of caught between a pillar and a post.
“I have got nothing but admiration for Jimmy, he is a fantastic guy and that is probably the down side of football because he is now out of a job.”