‘Crossing continents’ - Hibs boss explains reasons why some of his new signings are finding it difficult to settle
Hibs boss Paul Heckingbottom has admitted that coming to Scotland has been almost like moving abroad for some of his summer arrivals.
Six of Heckingbottom’s signings arrived in Edinburgh having gained a wealth of playing experience in England but, agreed the head coach, the evidence so far points to a number of them are still adapting to life north of the border.
The Easter Road side go into tomorrow’s match away to Kilmarnock – the start of “a really exciting month” according to Heckingbottom who will see his players return to Rugby Park for a Betfred Cup quarter-final tie sandwiched between the first capital derby of the season and a visit from champions Celtic – looking for their first league win since the opening day.
And with supporters beginning to signal their impatience following a disappointing draw at home to St Johnstone and a miserable performance against Motherwell, Heckingbottom, who has since made Jason Naismith his tenth signing, conceded he can’t wait forever for his new-look squad to gel and return the results expected.
However, he insisted the quickest way to bring everything together will be by getting that winning habit.
Asked if he’d detected a reaction from his players to the 3-0 defeat at Fir Park before the international break, Heckingbottom said: “You can gauge, but it means nothing. We will see at Kilmarnock.
“The reaction has been good, it was pretty easy for the players and me to see why we were beaten. But the only way we can put it right is at Kilmarnock. The players are committed, but there comes a point where it’s down to that mentality, when you cross that white line you do everything you can to win a game – and that’s it.”
Joking his job would be easy if he could just take his players go-karting every day as a bonding exercise, Heckingbottom said: “When you bring new players in probably the biggest thing you have to get is that team spirit, a togetherness there.
“The best way to get that is to get results, winning together brings confidence. It’s a case of doing it over and over on the training pitch and everyone knowing their roles.
“As long as you do that then I’m comfortable being as clear as I can with the players and when I leave them out they know why I have left them out. You can get them to understand it, do it every day on the training pitch – but then it doesn’t happen on a Saturday.”
Heckingbottom, however, was adamant there were mitigating factors as far as some were concerned, both on and off the pitch.
“It’s different,” he said. “The game is different and there are that many variations of how people play for such a small league with 12 teams. It’s refereed differently, it is a different product.
“You’re just crossing the border so it’s not like playing abroad but it’s a totally different type of football, just like if you were going across to the continent. There are those adaptations but that’s all they are, it’s still the same game.
“It’s not just here, at every club when you change it you know you’re going to put more demands on them. The fact they’re moving, it’s big transitions in their lives.
“A lot of them are moving families or moving away from families. It all has an impact, it would in any job. There are wider things and as a club I think we’re pretty good at trying to ease that transition.”
Heckingbottom, though, revealed he’ll continue to tinker with his starting line-up until his side begins to win on a consistent basis, having made a number of changes for each of Hibs’ past three games.
He said: “I expect them to be winning from game one because it’s a game of football. But we have to make sure we have things in place to help them settle and help them do that.
“All we can do is push and push and work and work. The team will reflect that, if the players can’t perform and we can’t get consistent wins then we’ll make changes until we get that.”
Heckingbottom knows, however, the importance of the next four games, saying: “As soon as you get the cup draw and it slots in with the fixtures it becomes a really exciting month.
“Before that you were looking at it and thinking we’ve only got three games in September. They might be three good games, but now all of a sudden we have Killie away twice, one of them a quarter-final, a derby, and Celtic away.
“All of a sudden it’s a month that looks a lot more interesting. You’d like every month to feel like this with games like this and a chance of getting to a semi-final. The mood changes from game to game, doesn’t it? We have a semi-final to play for and three really good league games, against two of the teams that were above us last year, and the other one is a derby.”