Liam Fontaine believes the presence of Scott Allan and Martin Boyle at the start of next season will help Paul Heckingbottom elevate Hibs to a new level.
Supporters are excited by the prospect of seeing the key duo back in a green-and-white shirt, with talismanic midfielder Allan due to return to the club from Celtic in a permanent move after two previous stints at Easter Road and burgeoning attacker Boyle close to completing his recovery from long-term injury. Fontaine was a team-mate of both players during his three-and-a-half years at Hibs and the Scottish Cup-winning defender has no doubt that both players will flourish under Heckingbottom, who has hauled the Easter Road side from eighth to fifth in the Premiership in his opening three months at the helm.
“We all know how good Scotty is,” said Fontaine, who played alongside Allan in the 2014/15 season. “He just brings nothing but quality. His own standards are very high. He’s one of these players who is consistently good. From what we’ve seen of certain players under Heckingbottom so far, I think he will just improve Scott again. You know what Scott’s like with his passing. Once he gets his passing going, and with the players Hibs already have and those they will potentially bring in, they are only going to get better again.”
Hibs have struggled in attack in recent matches, with only three goals in their last six matches. Their cause this season hasn’t been helped by the fact they lost Boyle – their most important attacking player in the first half of the season – for the last five months of the campaign after he tore his lateral meniscus while on international duty with Australia in December. Fontaine, who was a team-mate of Boyle’s for three years, said: “Martin’s rise at Hibs has been incredible. When he first signed, everyone just saw him as fast. But over the last couple of years, he’s added so much quality to his game. He’s added end-product and goals, and he’s become one of the main men for Hibs. He got the reward with his international call-up even though that led to his injury, but he’ll come back strong and he’ll be another arrow within their arsenal.”
Fontaine, currently playing for Ross County, has been impressed with how Heckingbottom has set about galvanising Hibs since replacing Neil Lennon in February. “It’s been another great appointment by Leeann Dempster and George Craig,” he said. “You can see already what he’s brought to Hibs and how good a manager is. You can see from the outside the vibe he’s bled through the whole club. I still chat to Marvin (Bartley) quite a lot and he has nothing but good things to say about how the club is right now. The signings of Daz (McGregor) and Dave (Gray) again is another good thing because having players like that who know and love the club is only going to stand them in good stead. For the time Heckingbottom’s been at Hibs, until the last couple of games, they were right up there with Celtic in terms of form. They’ve finished the season strongly so hopefully they can start next season well and be up there battling again.”