Hibs fans identify key summer transfer target as supporters back Ron Gordon's vision for club
Hibs fans remain optimistic about the 2021/22 season despite the bitter end to the previous campaign.
In the Evening News’ Big Hibs Survey we asked you, the supporters, a series of questions looking back at the 2020/21 campaign and looking ahead to the 2021/22 season.
Followers of the Easter Road side were able to have their say on a number of issues including summer transfer targets and the direction in which the club is heading.
Nearly 84 per cent of respondents are either very confident or somewhat confident about the Hibees’ progress under chairman Ron Gordon while 73 per cent are either “a little bit optimistic" or “very optimistic” for the new season.
At the same time, more than half of respondents (54 per cent) believe the side should be aiming to strengthen the central defence, with 22.3 per cent suggesting the attack needs work and 15.5 per cent hoping to see some surgery on the midfield.
Nearly three-quarters of fans who completed the survey (68.6 per cent) are of the opinion that Hibs need to make between four and six signings to be able to build on last year’s third-place finish while just over a quarter think between one and three new faces will suffice.
Unsurprisingly, a striker and a central defender feature highly on fans’ transfer shopping lists.
Just over half of all respondents (51.6 per cent) want to see boyhood Hibee Leigh Griffiths return to Easter Road while nearly one third (27.8 per cent) would prioritise the signing of St Johnstone’s double-winning captain and central defender Jason Kerr.
Just under ten per cent (8.8 per cent) would like to see former Motherwell midfielder Allan Campbell brought to the Capital, which is more than the 6.8 per cent keen to see Jackson Irvine sign a new deal.
Last summer’s best signing?
Fans haven’t been at Easter Road since March 3, 2020 but will hope to return next season and see some of the new signings in the flesh for the first time. A combined 82.5 per cent of respondents responded favourably to the question: “How likely are you to return to Easter Road as soon as is possible?”
Key players such as Kevin Nisbet, Alex Gogic, and Matt Macey are yet to play in front of Hibs fans at Easter Road but supporters still rated the Scotland striker (51.1 per cent) as the best signing of last summer.
Gogic, who is currently on international duty with Cyprus, was viewed as the next best signing with 24.9 per cent of respondents identifying the former Hamilton Accies man as a key cog in the midfield.
Macey (10. 5 per cent) was rated slightly more important than Jackson Irvine (8.8 per cent) in terms of importance despite both players playing important roles in the side’s run to the Scottish Cup final.
Give youth a chance
Hibs’ Under-18s finished second in the league last term and a number of youngsters were handed opportunities to train with the first team, while the likes of Stevie Bradley and Ryan Shanley made their first-team debut.
However, the player most fans are keen to see given gametime next season is yet to make his senior bow although he has been named in matchday squads.
Nearly 30 per cent of respondents believe 16-year-old Ethan Laidlaw should get a chance in the first team next season, with 22 per cent hoping to see Josh O’Connor feature.
The forward netted five goals for Eddie May and Gareth Evans’ side and has spent time training with the first team at East Mains.
Bradley made four appearances for Jack Ross’ side during the 2020/21 campaign and 21.5 per cent of fans are keen to see more of him next term. Goalkeeper Kevin Dabrowski is another who has been in and around the first team but is yet to make his competitive debut – but 15.4 per cent of supporters who completed the survey would like to see the towering shot-stopper in action next season.
Under-18s forward Connor Young scored just 2.5 per cent despite netting 13 for the wee Hibees. The 16-year-old impressed on loan at Lowland League side Civil Service Strollers along with fellow Under-18s squad member Jack Brydon.
Hibs are keen to build on last season’s third place – their best finish since the mid-2000s – and 85.8 per cent of fans have backed the club to at least equal, if not better their “best of the rest” status next season, provided the right signings are made this summer.
Just 32.5 per cent believe Hibs could equate their third-place finish next season with the same squad, although 58.2 per cent believe the same group of players would at least finish in the top half of the Scottish Premiership.
In terms of silverware, 68 per cent of fans have backed the club to go one better next season by winning a trophy. Hibs reached the semi-finals of the Betfred Cup and the final of the Scottish Cup but were beaten by St Johnstone on both occasions with the McDiarmid Park side going on to lift both trophies.
Heading in the right direction
Lastly, 68.4 per cent of supporters are confident that the club is heading in the right direction on and off the pitch. After two seasons without a shirt sponsor the club has struck a deal with Utilita Energy to the tune of six figures while the Hibs hierarchy has vowed not to lose the team’s top talent on the cheap.
A return to Europe coupled with the highest league finish in 15 years suggests the club is taking steps in the right direction – and the fans appear to agree.