Liam Criag believes Hibs are well on their way to rebuilding their shattered confidence but the club captain admits there is still plenty work to do to convince supporters that brighter times lie ahead under new head coach Alan Stubbs.
Craig was one of those Hibs players blighted by the negativity which engulfed the club in the closing months of Terry Butcher’s doomed tenure and the skipper looked set to be part of the mass exodus amid the acrimony which followed relegation.
However, the arrival of Stubbs, who has proved to be a popular figurehead among the players, has afforded everyone still at Easter Road a second chance and helped lift the gloom ahead of their venture into the SPFL Championship next month.
Hibs haven’t conceded a goal in their four friendlies so far and Craig, who has retained the club captaincy, said: “Our belief and confidence is growing – hopefully the supporters who have watched us in pre-season so far have already seen some encouraging signs.
“Our pre-season has been first and foremost about building our fitness, but it’s been a valuable opportunity for us to build our confidence up too. There is a big difference in the way we’re playing – we’ve enjoyed how the pre-season friendlies have gone so far and it seems as if the supporters have appreciated it too.”
Craig, however, knows there are Hibs supporters who are still scarred by the trauma of the club’s relegation two months ago. On Sunday, the players will run out at Easter Road for the first time since their harrowing play-off defeat by Hamilton when they host Dundee United in one of their final preparation games before facing Rangers at Ibrox in the Petrofac Training Cup a week on Tuesday.
“Sunday will be a great test for us against a good Dundee United side, but we’re confident that we can produce another decent performance leading towards the cup tie at Rangers,” he said.
“We’re making progress, but our next task is to get the Easter Road crowd back onside and make our supporters believe we’re capable of achieving success this season. At every home game, we want our fans to go home happy after watching us win and win in a way that’s good to watch.
“Of course, some weeks we may win and it won’t be pretty, but we want to bring the feelgood factor back to Easter Road. When it is full and we win it’s an incredible experience and that’s what we want to see happen time and time again.
“We can’t disguise it was a tough summer, but we’re all looking forward to the season and confident we can achieve something memorable.”