The single most impressive aspect of Paul Heckingbottom's turnaround at Hibs
The Paul Heckingbottom express rolls on as Hibs made it nine games undefeated in the league since the former Barnsley manager took charge with a 0-0 draw against former boss Neil Lennon and his Celtic side.
This has now gone beyond a simple flash in the pan; a new manager bounce borne out of being a widely different character and manager to the emotional and provocative Neil Lennon. By the week Heckingbottom is showing himself to be a highly astute reader of the game, while his work away from the pitch continues to help those tasked with carrying out his instructions on it.
Looking at the Hibs team against Celtic, it was hard to believe these were the same characters who dropped to eighth in the league table before his arrival. The additions of Stephane Omeonga and Marc McNulty have certainly helped lift the quality of the squad, two players who came to the club just before Heckingbottom came in, but it's now common place to see excellent performances from David Gray, Paul Hanlon, Stevie Mallan and Daryl Horgan, four players who had struggled for form prior to his arrival.
So often in football these days we see managers take over clubs and make wholesale changes to the team personal. "They are not his players" is the typical get-out-of-jail-free card offered by pundits for new managers that are struggling to lift performances compared with their predecessors. Instead, we quite often see clubs continue to struggle badly even when a boat load of new talent arrives on the scene.
That's because managers are supposed to raise the performance of the team and the individuals within it regardless of whether they are their type of footballers or not. They're supposed to look at the squad, identify the strengths, identify the weaknesses, and shape them in a manner which heightens the former and conceals the latter.
Then on the training pitch it is their job to teach and enhance. Heckingbottom didn't have access to a transfer window when he took over this struggling team, so perhaps we're giving him too much credit here. Perhaps he would have tore it up and started again if given the chance. But considering the way he operates, his enthusiasm for tactics and teaching, it seems unlikely that would have happened.
The unbeaten run cannot last forever and there will be more difficult and trying times to come under his tutelage. But when they finally come across rough terrain, Hibs supporters should be placated with the knowledge that they have one of the best head coaches in the country behind the wheel.