The second leg against NSI Runavik may have been a bit more kamikaze than we would have liked, but I’m confident Hibs are equipped to handle the step up in quality when they face Asteras Tripolis at Easter Road on Thursday.
It will be a significantly harder challenge than we faced in the last round, but we’ve got plenty goals in us and, as has been the case over the past few years, we are generally at our best in the big games. I’d imagine it will be quite a tight game at Easter Road but hopefully the home support can help give the team an edge.
Even though it’s well documented that the squad is a bit short in certain areas, I feel we’ve got enough quality to cope with this tie and have a chance of qualifying. It’s important to make the home leg count, though. Ideally, we want a win on Thursday, but the main thing is that we don’t get beaten and still have a realistic chance of going through when we go to Greece next week.
We were very strong at home in the second half of last season so hopefully that carries on in our European campaign.
I’m feeling upbeat about the season ahead in general. It will obviously be challenging because of the quality of players we are losing, and we clearly need to add a few new faces in certain areas, but we’ve still got the core of the squad intact. Keeping Florian Kamberi was massive for us because we had to keep at least one of the strikers. We know Kamberi will get us goals, which is obviously a big thing. Stevie Mallan looks like he’s going to be an excellent addition as well and he’s already chipped in with a few brilliant goals, so I’m reasonably comfortable with the way things are shaping up at this stage.
I’ve got no doubt at all that the manager will deal with the situation and get the squad where it needs to be over the next few weeks. Things have been complicated by the fact we haven’t known exactly how things are going to pan out with certain players, such as John McGinn, so we’ve had to play a bit of a waiting game.
The club would have wanted a swift resolution to the McGinn situation so they would know exactly where they stood and could concentrate on strengthening the squad in the likely event that he moves on.
It’s all very well wanting the club to get new players in quickly, but I think the McGinn situation has been a bit of a problem in terms of the club not knowing exactly where they stand with regard to what they’ll need for the upcoming season and how much money they’ll have to spend. As well as causing a bit of a problem for Hibs, the uncertainty about McGinn’s future will also be playing on his mind, and I have sympathy for him because of that. He’ll be wondering if the transfer’s going to go through and it won’t be easy for him, but he’s a strong character and I’m sure he’ll be able to put it to one side for as long as he’s still playing for Hibs.
One thing for certain is that, whatever happens, McGinn has been a great servant to Hibs and he owes the club nothing. He has delivered in spades for us and has earned the right to move on with the blessing of all the supporters.
If he does leave, we’ll have lost the heartbeat of our team, with McGeouch and Scott Allan already gone, and replacing that level of quality is never going to be quick and straightforward, especially when you don’t have loads of money to throw at it.
You can’t just bring in three new players and adequately replace these guys just like that – it takes time. These players will leave a big void, but I’m sure the manager will have a good idea of how he’s going to go about replacing them.
Mallan is certainly a good start. Much the same as McGinn when he came to Hibs three years ago, Mallan is a player with real potential who’ll be relishing the chance to kickstart his career again.
Hibs have been good at picking up young Scottish players and helping get them back on track after a sticky patch. Fraser Fyvie and Scott Allan are two other examples of players who have benefitted from coming to Easter Road in recent seasons, and it looks like Mallan will do exactly the same judging by the excellent start he’s made.