New Hibs signing Jair Tavares vows results will improve after debut to forget
While every footballer would like their debut to be memorable, they’d certainly prefer it wasn’t for the wrong reasons.
Jair Tavares didn’t score an own goal or receive a red card or even do anything particularly wrong in his maiden Hibs bow – he was even eligible to play! – but it was still an inauspicious start as he and his new team-mates get the finger of blame for being partly responsible for a particularly embarrassing moment in a year that’s already had its fair share.
The Portuguese winger was a half-time substitute in Wednesday’s 1-1 draw with Greenock Morton in Edinburgh, a result was changed to a 3-0 loss after it was discovered Rocky Bushiri played while suspended, confirming the club’s exit from the competition.
The group-stage beginning to the Premier Sports Cup should, in theory at least, make it easier for top-flight clubs to advance. Should they suffer a setback then there are three other games against supposedly weaker opposition to put it right. Nine points is typically enough. But Hibs’ defeat to Falkirk two matches prior meant there was no margin for error. Even though they racked up a couple of heavy victories over Bonnyrigg Rose and Clyde, Lee Johnson’s side are out after lacklustre displays in two of their four games against lower-league opponents.
Tavares initially injected some life into proceedings after coming off the bench at half-time against Morton. Hibs began the second-half with what appeared to be renewed vigour, only for the spark from both player and team to soon fade away. In the end, Ewan Henderson was required to save Hibs from the ultimate embarrassment of losing on the night following Grant Gillespie’s opener from the penalty spot, though it still had the stench of defeat inside the ground when Henderson, Aiden McGeady and Ryan Porteous all missed in the shoot-out to hand Morton an initial bonus point.
“It was good but not good enough,” said a despondent Tavares about his debut after the game. “I don't think just about me. We are a team, we are a group, and that's how we have to think.
"It was good to experience [Easter Road] for the first time. I felt the energy that was passed down to me from the stands. But it wasn't the most important thing. We didn't win.”
It’s a worryingly poor start to the Johnson era with pressure already building following the lacklustre 2021/22 season and departure of predecessors Jack Ross and Shaun Maloney. Having been do frustrated and disappointed by their favourites over the period, Hibs fans are almost being conditioned to expect the worst from the new manager before the Scottish Premiership has started.
Though difficult to remain calm after a performance and result like that, there are a few external factors to consider if one wishes to be optimistic that things will eventually right themselves and Hibs will go on to enjoy a season which, at the very least, is an improvement on last term. The recent sale of Josh Doig and a knock to Lewis Stevenson left Hibs without a left-back against Morton; the club are still looking to recruit another centre-back; several players have come from either abroad or under-23s football and will need a bit of time to adjust, and they’ve been constantly held up by red tape with a few of their signings, including new left-back Marijan Cabraja and striker Elie Youan.
It’s the reason why the club had to wait until July 20 to give Tavares his competitive debut as he registration couldn’t be completed due to a delay with the paperwork. The player himself isn’t interested in excuses, however, especially after failing to win at home to a team in the division below.
"No it doesn't affect nothing,” he said when asked if the work permit issues had played a part in Hibs’ sluggish start to the campaign. “There are more players with quality here, so we have to trust each other and that's it.
"The wait was a bit frustrating, but now I'm in and I'm on. Now that I'm here I just want to enjoy every moment I'm on the pitch with my team, with the group, that's it.
“In my instance, I'm new here. Scottish football is so different compared to Portuguese football. I'm here to improve, I'm here to learn. Everyone else is here to learn too. So we just need to think about the next games and improve.”
The other silver lining is that we’re only four matchdays into the new Scottish football calendar. Hibs have brought in 11 players. No other club in the top flight has made so many signings – a necessity after the disappointment of last term and wanting to bring in a manager with a new style. There’s still time for the unfamiliar squad to gel. They just need to make sure they do it soon with the league season just over a week away.
"We know the mistakes that we made. We know the first half wasn't the best. Now we just have to keep improving. The season isn't over and there's a lot of games to play,” said Tavares.
“We are focused. The weeks that we've had together were good, we worked good together with effort and the players are focused. We have to forget this game and think about the next ones.
“Hibs is a historic club here in Scotland. We have to take that responsibility. We just can't disappoint the fans. We just have to think forward to the next games. We made some key mistakes that we can't make any more because we don't have time for this. We know that we are a good team.”