Ex-Hibs player blasts 'bombscare defending' as he claims club didn't deserve European football
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Stuart Lovell, who played for the Easter Road side between 1998 and 2001, was giving his take on the current state of affairs at the club and while he admitted he wasn’t personally a fan of seeing managers lose their jobs before the end of August, he suggested that there was a ‘strong consensus’ that Lee Johnson hadn’t been making enough progress with the players at his disposal.
"When you start off the league campaign with games against the likes of St Mirren and Livingston at home and Motherwell away and you don't pick up a single point against any of them, leaving you bottom of the table, it leaves the board with a decision to make,” the former Australia internationalist told Sky Sports.
“There was a lot of mediocre football last season. Did Hibs deserve European football? In my view, absolutely not. The biggest question mark over Lee Johnson's tenure was whether he had been making progress, and if you could see what they were trying to develop within the group, and the most frustrating thing from the Hibs fans' point of view is that they see the same errors being made week in, week out. Hibs are an absolute bombscare at dealing with cross balls. They allow balls into the box, and they allow people to score with impunity.
"The first job any new manager has when he arrives at Easter Road is to fix those problems because they are not capable of keeping clean sheets, and you're not going to make too much progress if that's the case.”
Lovell, who currently works for Street Soccer Scotland, doesn’t believe first-team coach David Gray – about to embark on his third temporary spell in charge at Hibs – will be in the reckoning, but warned supporters that the financial cost of changing managers can be huge.
"The thing that fans forget sometimes is that there is a massive cost to changing the manager. You've got to pay up the guy and his staff who have just left, and bring in the new guy and his staff. You're talking a lot of money to do that, and it comes out of the football budget.”
While Lovell can see merit in going after cinch Premiership managers such as Derek McInnes or Stephen Robinson, who have had strong starts to the domestic season with Kilmarnock and St Mirren respectively, he reckons Hibs might take inspiration from the appointment of Tony Mowbray in the summer of 2004 – but did state his belief that a portion of fans would be in favour of previous boss Neil Lennon making a comeback.
"I think back to managers of the past. Hibs took a big punt on Tony Mowbray way back when, who was an unproven manager, and he did a fantastic job,” Lovell continued. “So maybe they might be looking at a blueprint where a younger manager, someone who hasn't had an opportunity, is capable of implementing a style of play and coaching the players – because I think this group of players really need that."