Celtic offer Butcher best test of Hibs strengths

St Mirren brought Hibs back to earth
St Mirren brought Hibs back to earth
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CRAIG PATERSON insisted today that the Hibs players must use this weekend’s game against Celtic to prove to Terry Butcher that they have the right character to merit a place in his side.

The Easter Road outfit play host to Neil Lennon’s men on Sunday lunchtime and are looking to bounce back following two straight defeats in the SPFL Premiership at the hands of Aberdeen and St Mirren.

The home loss to Paisley side Saints, in particular, made disappointing viewing after Hibs found themselves three goals down with less than half an hour gone and Butcher used words such as shambolic and abysmal to describe how he assessed their first-half showing.

Paterson knows the Hibs manager will not accept a repeat of that performance and says that seeing exactly how his players respond to their last two defeats will give Butcher a valuable insight into their strength of character.

Paterson said: “Normally it’s a good thing to have another big game just a few days after a disappointing result. There will be a lot of attention surrounding this match, the press will be all over it and it is going to be on television, too.

“From the Hibs point of view, obviously the fans will be expecting them to do something. They’ll be looking for a good result, particularly with their last two matches in mind, but almost everyone outside of the club will have Celtic down as favourites to win this one.

“If you want to show people that you can play then the best way to do it is to perform against the likes of Celtic and Rangers.

“How the Hibs players perform in this fixture will show Terry Butcher what kind of character they are. That will be important to him because he was a determined character as a player himself and he will be looking for the same from his squad now.

“After a couple of disappointing results, he’ll be looking at each one of them to see how they respond because sometimes you learn more about players from a defeat than you do a victory.”

While Butcher may have some changes in mind further upfield for this weekend’s game, his hand will be forced when it comes to his defensive line-up.

Both Paul Hanlon and Ryan McGivern have been ruled out of the match because of injury and their absences will cause Butcher a huge headache. Hanlon has been one of Hibs’ best performers under Butcher so far and Paterson reckons that the Hibs boss will find him difficult to replace.

“In the games that I have seen this season,” assessed Paterson, “Paul Hanlon has been the pick of bunch – and particularly since Terry Butcher came in. He’s still a young lad but you have got to remember that he is an experienced player now, too, and I think that he looks really comfortable in there beside Michael Nelson.

“I remember Michael from his days at Kilmarnock and he always impressed me. He’s a steady player and I think that Paul has benefited from his presence and the pair of them look very assured in the centre of that defence.

“They work well together and they have also got a good goalkeeper that they can rely on.

“The foundations are there for them to build a really good side, but the last couple of matches have been awkward ones for the manager because, prior to losing those goals, his defence was the one area that he could count on.

“He’s really going to have to change things around and this is definitely not the best game for him to have to do that because Celtic are unbeaten so far this season and have scored in every single league game.

“I am sure that he would have loved to have had a run of a few good results going into this one – but he has got a decent record against Celtic, so he will be hoping that he can continue that this weekend with Hibs.”

With injury worries piling up and Scott Robertson also set to miss the clash with Neil Lennon’s side through suspension, Paterson believes that Butcher will be keen to add to his squad before kick-off on Sunday.

Less than a fortnight of the transfer window remains and the former defender knows that Butcher and the Hibs hierarchy will be working away feverishly behind the scenes to strengthen their squad.

Paterson continued: “I would have thought that they would be keen to bring someone in as soon as possible and particularly with so many of their first-pick players ruled out of this match.

“They’ll be working extremely hard behind the scenes, but the problem is that the other clubs are going to try to hang onto their players for as long as they possibly can – and maybe even take it up to final day of the window – to make sure that they are getting the best deal possible.

“I am sure that Terry Butcher will have more than a few names in mind, and if something can be done before the Celtic game then he’ll be delighted with that.”