Hibs: Does streamlined approach to recruitment suggest club is finally learning from past mistakes?
Recently, the R-word has been a bit of a taboo subject down Easter Road way.
No, not relegation. Recruitment.
Call it poor planning, bad luck, or a mixture of those and other factors, but Hibs probably shouldn’t have had to play three months of the 2021/22 season with a 19-year-old rookie and a 21-year-old loanee as their main striking options, and yet that’s where they ended up.
But the new management team seem determined to avoid making the same mistakes.
Summer of discontent?
Last summer it took the club until June 30 to make any new signings, with Jake Doyle-Hayes the first through the door.
Dan Mackay and Jamie Murphy were confirmed in early July but didn’t come as big surprises, Murphy having signed on a loan-becoming-permanent deal the previous summer while Mackay’s signing had already been announced.
The final ten days of the summer transfer window saw James Scott and Nathan Wood arrive on loan from Hull and Middlesbrough respectively; David Mitchell sign a permanent deal, and Dylan Tait sign from Raith Rovers before returning on loan to Stark’s Park.
There is an argument that, given the team’s performance the previous season, the squad didn’t need much surgery. In fact, bringing in Matt Macey with a view to him taking over from the departing Ofir Marciano looked an eminently sensible and well-organised decision.
Martin Boyle, Christian Doidge, and Kevin Nisbet had such good individual seasons that the attack looked sorted, the defence had conceded just 35 goals, and the midfield was more or less sorted.
The best-laid plans, and all that.
A mixture of illness and injuries to key first-team players took its toll on the team, and eventually manager Jack Ross. Those in charge of recruitment were questioned, and castigated by large sections of the support, some of whom still remain unconvinced.
Something Lee Johnson said in his first press conference as Hibs manager suggested that lessons had been learned from last summer.
“You're always at the mercy of losing players. That's when your recruitment becomes absolutely key,” he explained.
"You've got to be ready, you can't stop it, and particularly if a player has ambitions to move on, sometimes it's just a natural cycle and you have to evolve.
"If your recruitment is really good, you're ready and if it's superb, you're ready two windows ahead.
"That's the place we've got to get to, so that the names coming in are not just agent-led, or scout-led, but are dynamic to the way we want to play.”
We are just halfway through June and Hibs have already brought in players for the first team. And not just one or two – several.
The club faces an early start with the Betfred Cup group stages, and aren’t done in the transfer window yet with at least another winger, attacking midfielder, and striker still on the cards.
Promising signs and lessons learned?
It is early days but Hibs appear to already be in a better place at an earlier stage of the summer.
Johnson said recruitment is key and he has a point. Get that part right and many other things – performances, results, final league placing, relations with the fans – will improve.
It’s a start – but supporters will need to see evidence of progression on the pitch as well.
And another striker.