Paul Heckingbottom – My Hibs did so well to be in European hunt for so long
Paul Heckingbottom has claimed his players should not look on missing out on a potential Europa League place as a failure, insisting they have come a long way since he took over as head coach.
Heckingbottom suffered his first defeat in 11 Premiership matches as Jermain Defoe’s goal clinched victory for Rangers, the game ending in controversy as Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor was sent off for kicking Hibs striker Marc McNulty.
It was a result which puts both Kilmarnock and Aberdeen out of reach of the Easter Road outfit but, having taken over when the Capital club were sitting in eighth place, Heckingbottom believes his players have come a long way in a short space of time, clinching a top-six finish with a game to spare and remaining in the hunt for Europe until this stage of the season.
Admitting it was “always going to be a big ask” given the situation he had inherited, the former Barnsley and Leeds United boss conceded drawing last week’s Edinburgh derby with Hearts had been damaging, particularly with matches against both Killie and the Dons to come.
He said: “It’s disappointing but I said to the players they have done well to take it this far. We have been speaking about it a bit lately but when I came in no-one was speaking about it.
“It was being hopeful of getting top six, we did that with a game to spare and then kept in the hunt. It was always going to be a big ask. Last week was a big one, if we had those two points it would have been more in our own hands and we could have taken it right down to the wire with a big win next week [at Kilmarnock].
“That’s the disappointment, but looking at the bigger picture I’ve been really pleased with the progression, really pleased with what the players have been doing and I think they should be as well.
“I don’t want them to think that it’s been a failure. We are pleased, they have come a long away.
“We want more of that, coming to big clubs, clubs who are above us in the league and take them on and try to win games. That’s going to be our approach.”