Hibs' curious case of the three goalkeepers - who will take the No.1 spot long-term?
Marciano, Maxwell and Bogdan all vying for the Easter Road gloves
Hibs’ goalkeeping situation continues to be a source of fascination.
From the moment former head coach Paul Heckingbottom recruited Chris Maxwell – a senior keeper with notable English Championship experience – on a season-long loan from Preston North End in the summer, this campaign always had the potential to be a rocky one for Ofir Marciano, the Easter Road No.1 for the majority of the previous three seasons.
And so it transpired, with the Israeli dropped just five league games into the season after conceding 13 goals in four games, a few of which he should have done better with. As he was left on the subs’ bench for 13 consecutive games in all competitions (a period when Hibs’ generally enjoyed an upturn in results), it seemed the 30-year-old’s largely fruitful alliance with Hibs was drifting towards an unseemly ending.
Marciano was clearly unhappy at being dropped by his club at a time when he was in the process of re-establishing himself as Israel’s No.1. In each of his last two international gatherings, in October and then November, he gave interviews to Israeli journalists that cast some element of doubt on his future as a Hibs player. Indeed, even before Maxwell had arrived to take his place, Marciano had suggested that he felt ready for a new challenge at a bigger club than Hibs. The sense that his time at Easter Road has been nearing a conclusion has lingered throughout this season.
Adding a further dollop of intrigue to the narrative, Adam Bogdan – who vied for the gloves with Marciano during a season-long loan at Easter Road last term – returned to the club recently on a short-term contract, bringing Hibs’ quota of relatively high pedigree goalkeepers to three.
In the eyes of many, the arrival of Bogdan on the scene was a sure-fire sign that Marciano would be on his way out of Easter Road in January. The return of the Israeli to the starting line-up for last weekend’s match against Aberdeen, following a game-changing error by Maxwell in last week’s 2-1 defeat by Ross County, has altered the landscape once again, however. As Jack Ross has pointed out when asked about the goalkeeping situation over the past couple of weeks, the move to bring Bogdan in was initiated before he had been appointed as manager. In each of his five games in charge, the Hungarian hasn’t made the 18-man squad, so there is no guarantee at this stage that he will be offered a new contract.
Ross has generally played it safe when asked about the goalkeepers, basically saying it is good to have three strong options at his disposal, but it is clear that keeping all three happy, when two are likely to remain idle for a lengthy period of time, would be a difficult task for any manager. All three are headstrong, confident men who are in their prime as goalkeepers and will be intent on playing every week at this stage of their respective careers. Unless one of them has fitness issues, a club of Hibs’ size cannot justify carrying three goalkeepers of such status over a long period of time.
January has been a busy month for Hibs in each of the past two seasons in terms of transfer activity, with notable departures in the most recent winter transfer windows including Simon Murray, Anthony Stokes, Liam Fontaine, Efe Ambrose and Jamie Maclaren. It seems likely there will be some activity when it comes to the Hibs goalkeepers next month. With Ross playing his cards close to his chest, it remains to be seen whether that would involve Marciano landing a coveted move away, Maxwell cutting his loan deal short in light of Heckingbottom’s departure or Bogdan, who is yet to feature but did well last season, not having his deal extended.
For the time being at least, Ross appears to have nailed his colours to the Marciano mast, much to the delight of most supporters who view him as the stand-out option of this reputable trio.