Darren McGregor has insisted he and his Easter Road team-mates are determined not to let all the hard work of last season go to waste by suffering a shock Europa League exit at the hands of Faroese minnows NSI Runavik
But the Hibs defender agreed with assistant head coach Garry Parker that they’ll have to up their game following the disappointment of losing the last of their three warm-up matches, going down 2-0 to Blackburn Rovers in Paul Hanlon’s testimonial match.
McGregor, however, believes that defeat will act as a wake-up call ahead of Thursday night’s home leg of the first qualifying round against the part-timers from the Faroe Islands.
He said: “We can do a lot of things better, if we can improve in sharpness and ball retention, trying to go forward rather than sidey-ways, than we won’t be too far away. We’d had opposition in Linlithgow and Berwick Rangers, but Blackburn was a huge jump. Maybe we got caught out a little bit.
“I said to the lads you can look at it two ways, you can either come away from that game with a win and it maybe creates a sort of complacency, but for me the second half especially was a bit of a lesson in application and how to pass the ball and retain it.”
Hibs boss Neil Lennon has made no secret of his desire to steer Hibs into the group stages of the Europa League and with Greek outfit Asteras Tripolis awaiting the winners in the second qualifying round, McGregor revealed his players share that ambition.
He said: “We are looking to progress. The gaffer is adamant that all the hard work we did last season is for what starts on Thursday. It will be a tough game. In Europe there is always an element of the unknown. They are a part-time team, but you can’t take anything for granted.
“We’ve trained extremely hard, pre-season has been difficult – as it should be – and we feel good. That was a really good Blackburn team but we won’t be measured against them, we’ll be measured on Thursday.”
Hibs’ last European outing saw them lose on penalties to Danish side Brondby after they’d won the second leg in Copenhagen 1-0 but, insisted McGregor, that while it was “an incredible result”, Hibs can’t use it as motivation two years on.
He said: “With the way we are now, we’ve got the fitness levels. We’ve just recruited Stevie Mallan, who I think will be a great addition, and we need to go in with confidence knowing that we should win with the quality we have. It’s a chance to play in Europe which, for some of the lads, it will be the first time.”
Obviously the hope is that Hibs can all but ensure their qualification before next week’s flight to the Faroes, but McGregor claimed he’ll just be happy with a win. He said: “Obviously as a defender, to keep a clean sheet is what I look for. If we can do that and score a couple of goals, then we’ll be in good stead to go through to the next stage.”