How Hibs are shaping up in pre-season ahead of 2021/22 campaign
Two friendlies down, another two on the cards, and plenty to talk about from Hibs’ pre-season preparations so far.
A resounding victory over Dunfermline followed by a narrow defeat by Accrington Stanley proves that while there are a lot of positives to be taken, there is still work to be done – something head coach Jack Ross highlighted in his reaction to the Accrington loss.
“Results aren’t the most important thing in pre-season friendlies but they still matter,” he said.
"We want to form good habits as quickly as we can so we’re still disappointed to lose the game but in the context of pre-season and our preparations it was good.
"There were a lot of positives for us. We had a fairly young team playing for the first hour of the game; we could have been a little bit better in the last half-hour but a number of the players who came on will get a chance to fine-tune their preparations on Friday [against Stoke].”
Working on a plan B?
This will likely mean players such as Martin Boyle, Jamie Murphy, Joe Newell, and Alex Gogic starting, while Josh Doig and Melker Hallberg could also feature for the first time in pre-season having joined up with the squad on Tuesday.
Gogic actually played at centre-half for the final 15 minutes against Stanley and while it may have been a stop-gap solution rather than a tactical decision, it once again demonstrated the importance to this Hibs team of having players who are comfortable playing in more than one position.
It is an approach that could pay off if the Easter Road side is to build on last season. If there was one lingering criticism of the team last term it was that they could be too predictable, often making it easy for opposition teams to snuff out the attacking threat.
The signings of Jake Doyle-Hayes and Daniel Mackay suggest that work on a failsafe plan B is well under way. The return of Scott Allan, too, will give the side something different going forward while Chris Cadden’s return from injury will allow Ross to deploy Boyle up top while retaining pace on the wing. In short, by the time the league campaign gets under way, Hibs should have a lot more options compared to last season.
Transfers and the return of fans
We likely haven’t seen the end of transfer speculation about the futures of Doig, Kevin Nisbet, and Ryan Porteous but equally, Hibs will be actively seeking reinforcements regardless. A striker remains high on the wishlist as does a centre-back – regardless of whether Gogic is reassigned.
Hibs fans may be nervous at a perceived lack of transfer activity beyond reported interest in a handful of players but as the club proved with Doyle-Hayes, signings can very often come out of the blue.
As things stand, with players returning from injury and loan spells and work on new recruits continuing in the background, Hibs would appear to be in a good place.
While there was disappointment at getting the green light for just 2,000 fans at Easter Road for the Arsenal friendly, it will mark the first time since March 2020 that Hibs supporters have been able to watch their team, in person, in a stadium.
Regardless of final score and the small attendance, it will feel like a step forward.