Hibs defender Tom James encouraged by no-holds barred post-mortem following defeat by Hearts
Tom James has admitted he welcomed a “clear the air” session in which Hibs’ under-performing players were given the chance to air their views on what’s gone wrong so far this season.
Easter Road boss Paul Heckingbottom threw the floor open following the derby day defeat by Capital rivals Hearts, the third successive match his side had lost and a result which leaves them second bottom of the Premiership table.
Tonight’s Betfred Cup quarter-final against Kilmarnock offers some respite from the trials and tribulations of the league, Hibs having not won since the opening day of the season while Heckingbottom’s record is only one league win in 11, a run stretching back to a victory at Tynecastle in April.
But ahead of it, the former Barnsley and Leeds United manager let his players have a full and frank discussion among themselves, one which he hopes will help lead to an upturn in the club’s fortunes.
While, naturally, the more experienced in the squad led the conversation, James, who signed from Yeovil Town before the start of the season, insisted it was a worthwhile exercise.
“It can be good when we get together like that,” said the 23-year-old defender. “It gives us the chance to be open and honest with each other.
“We did that. It was the chance to talk about a few different things. It was positive to have that meeting and, moving forward, can be good for us.
“The things we identified were fixable and we’re all on the same page with what we need to do and change to make it happen.”
Although things can often get heated when players address the shortcomings of both the individual and the collective unit, James insisted any fighting that needs to be done will be confined to the pitch.
He said: “There was no bust-up or anything like that, it was all calm and easy to get through. It was fine.
“We have quite a few older players in the squad and they had a big say in what was going on. But we have a bit of experience throughout the whole squad and I think the gaffer is looking for us all to step up and be a leader in our own different ways.
“It might not be a case of talking all the time, it might be about doing your talking on the pitch, but as long as we are all doing our bit, it’s all good.”
The fact nine of those involved were new faces brought to the club by Heckingbottom over the summer – playmaker Scott Allan having been pencilled in for a return by signing a pre-contract before he replaced Neil Lennon in the Easter Road hotseat – had, claimed James, not inhibited their input in any way.
He said: “We are all here for the same reason. we are here for each other, for the club. As a new boy, we all have our opinions and are making that known. It’s a competitive environment, we can’t be thinking ‘oh, we’re new, we can’t speak up’. If we’ve got a point to make, we’ll make it.”
And, insisted James, no-one should be holding back from making those points during the heat of battle. “Do you want bust-ups?” he asked, answering his own question by saying: “On a game day, yeah. But, after it, it becomes the past and you need to move on to the next thing.
“So when we had that meeting the other day there was no need to be fighting. It’s happened. Now we need to fix the problems and concentrate going forward. One of the simple things is fighting on the pitch, get the ugly side of the game right and then we have good enough players to outplay teams.”
Heckingbottom has spoken of the need for players who have arrived from south of the border to adapt to the intensity of the Scottish game and, having come from League Two Yeovil, James admitted he’d found it a “big change” while insisting he has come to terms with living under the close scrutiny that comes from playing for one of Edinburgh’s big two clubs.
The Welshman said: “It’s a little different to what I’m used to. It’s not so much the out-and-out physicality, it’s more the intensity of it that takes a bit of getting used to. But once you are up to it, it’s not a major problem and all the training we do helps with that; it’s all intense, high-speed stuff.
“For some of the other boys who have come up here, they’ve come from bigger clubs. But for me the size of the club and the city and where I am living now is a big change.
“But that’s part of the reason why I came up here, I wanted to challenge myself at a big club like this against big teams. I realised how big a club this was soon after I came up here, I probably didn’t before. So it’s not something I’m shying away from, it’s something I am looking forward to.
“All the scrutiny is to be expected with the form we have been in recently. That’s something we have got to fix now and put right.”
James has had little chance to play his part, picking up an ankle injury on the opening day of the season as Hibs defeated St Mirren 1-0, which has restricted him to only 45 minutes of action but, now fully fit, he is relishing the opportunity to play again.