Grant Holt reckons historic Cup win can drive Hibs to the title
Grant Holt believes Hibs' Scottish Cup triumph has given his new team-mates the taste of success that will drive them towards the Championship title this season.
The veteran striker revealed he has come into a dressing-room “on a high” following that historic victory at Hampden but one which is also determined for more days of glory.
And he insisted Neil Lennon’s team have already displayed their intent with an impressive pre-season programme allied to their performances in the Europa League against Brondby who have now made the final qualifying stage after their 3-2 aggregate win over Hertha Berlin this week.
The 35-year-old, who is well aware of the Scottish football scene having lived in Carlisle, said: “I think that without the cup final and winning it, the end of the season could have been a low because the lads hadn’t got promoted but now they have come back feeling good and ready to right the wrong from last season.
“It was fantastic for them because it has given them that bit of impetus to say ‘look, I liked that bit of success and I want more this year’.”
Although today’s opening game at Falkirk will give Holt his first experience of Scottish football, he was adamant he was well acquitted for it having played throughout the English leagues, at one stage helping Norwich achieve back-to-back promotions from League One to the Premiership.
He said: “Football is football, it doesn’t really matter what division you are in. You want to go and win no matter what level you are playing at. Lucky for me I’ve played in quite a few different divisions but, yes, this is a new challenge but I’m looking forward to it.”
Hibs have been made favourites to take the title despite the presence of Falkirk, who pipped them to second place last season before ending their promotion hopes in the play-offs, and newly relegated Dundee United but, insisted Holt, Lennon’s players will ignore that tag as they will the claim that today’s match gives them the chance to “lay down a marker” to the Bairns.
He said: “Anyone could put anyone as favourites. You only need to look at the Premier League last season. Everyone put Leicester down as favourites to go down and they went on and won it. So it means nothing. We are happy with what we are doing, we have performed well in pre-season but it doesn’t matter what the betting is, we want to get promoted and that’s our aim from the start.
“You don’t lay markers down now, that’s later on and there’s a lot of games and a long way to go. It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish and although we want to win every game, the boys know what we need to do.
“If we can keep hitting consistent levels week in, week out – and we know we can achieve that – then we will definitely be there or thereabouts.”
As a close observer from over the Border, Holt admitted he’s aware of the past rivalry between Hibs and today’s opponents but, he insisted, it will be just as intense when it comes to other clubs.
He said: “When you are a good team and you have two sides like that you always end up going head-to-head. There is always a rivalry because you both want to achieve the same thing. Unfortunately last season neither team did it and they are here again to do it all again and I’m here to make sure that this year we come out on top of the pile.
“There will be rivalry all year. It just won’t be Falkirk, there will be other teams and we will treat every team with respect. It doesn’t matter if you are playing teams at the top, those who have come down or those fighting not to be relegated, they are all going to be a tough test and anyone who watched Hibs last year knows how well teams perform when they come to our stadium.”
Holt believes consistency will be the key for Hibs, adding that while they are happy with their preparations, some work remains to be done before everyone will be completely satisfied.
He said: “When we did it with Norwich no-one in the division expected us to do it, but we had a good group of lads who wanted to win and wanted to achieve stuff. We are happy with the performances in the pre-season games, we have shown a good level of togetherness.
“Against Shrewsbury we were 2-1 up, had a little wobble but got through and could have had five or six in the end. The performance against Brondby away showed what this team is going to be about this season. The one thing we have spoken about is finishing teams off, working hard when you need to get the nitty-gritty 1-0s and then seeing them out.”
Holt, who played alongside Lennon at Nottingham Forest, has been recruited by his former team-mate not only for his goals but the influence he can bring to bear on what is a relatively young dressing-room. But, he revealed, he likes what he’s seen.
“I think you always have to be open minded when you come into a dressing-room,” he said, “You hear stuff and read stuff about your new team. I’ve played against a few of the lads in England and read about Jason Cummings, John McGinn and James Keatings.
“It would be foolish to go into a club blind, you do your homework. We have lads here who know they should be at a higher level. As a group, it’s very good, People are vying for positions and competition is healthy.
“There’s a good calibre of player in the dressing-room. You only have to look at the cup run last season to see they can do it. They only didn’t do it against the so called lesser teams that came here and got points they shouldn’t have got. There are teams that are relegated now [Alloa and Livingston] we didn’t take full points from – that tells you where Hibs went wrong last season.”