Terry Butcher today apologised to fans for Hibs’ “wretched” first-half performance against St Mirren, admitting he believed such dismal displays were a thing of the past.
The Easter Road boss was almost left lost for words having witnessed Saints race into a three-goal lead in the opening 26 minutes, only the crossbar preventing the Buddies claiming a fourth before the Capital outfit restored a measure of pride with two second-half goals from James Collins.
Referee Willie Collum denied Butcher’s players a last-gasp penalty when Saints midfielder Adam Campbell clearly knocked the ball away from Alex Harris with his left hand, but while a point would have been gratefully received, the Hibs manager admitted it would have been “stolen”.
Butcher, though, was more concerned with his side’s ineptitude, so incensed he cancelled today’s day off to hammer the players in training, saying: “I am going to work them hard. If they are going to give the ball away and defend as poorly as we did in the first half, then we are going to have to work hard to get the ball back and that means extra fitness. That means extra work, so we will do that.”
Butcher professed to being “baffled” as to why his players were, in his words, so “abysmal,” the nature of the defeat undoing much of the good work over the Christmas period in which Hibs took ten points out of 12 to push their way towards a top-six place.
And, he admitted, he felt for the supporters as Hibs passed up the chance to win three home league games in succession for the first time since 2011 following victories over Kilmarnock and Hearts, the derby having pulled in a bumper crowd of more than 20,000.
He said: “The fans have suffered a hell of a lot this season, all of 2013.
“I thought performances like those first 45 minutes were behind us, I thought we had gone past that, but obviously not.
“I very rarely criticise players, very rarely criticise individuals and I certainly won’t start doing that. But I will criticise the whole team because from goalkeeper through to centre-forward the first half was abysmal.
“It was a big let-down for everyone. They have let themselves down, there’s no doubt about that. I can only apologise to the fans. I don’t do that very often but I rarely call my team’s first-half performance wretched. I have hardly ever done that, but that was appalling. I can’t think of too many other adjectives like that, but I am sure there are more.”
But if Celtic’s impending visit to Easter Road was today being viewed with more than a sense of trepidation by Hibs supporters, Butcher insisted he’ll be looking for his players to “have a go” against the Scottish Premiership’s leaders.
He said: “We will regroup, we will work defensively and offensively in training. We will work, simple as that.
“I think the only way to get through that and come out the other side is sheer hard work. We are all hurting but we have to stick together which we will do. But we cannot have too many more 45 minutes like that.”